Ram Mohan fun days in ’60 s! -Part 1

 

Folks  this was our prayer or our प्रार्थना in Ram Mohan School!

This week appears to be one full of nostalgia. At the beginning of the week, my school friend Pradeep Gavankar was in India; we met in Thane over lunch with friends. Later my brother Shrikant (1959 batch) came and stayed with me. Both live in the US, and both were in Ram Mohan school in Girgaum, Bombay. Naturally, we remembered and chatted about friends and the school. I am into a long nostalgic trip, and I thought the only way to try and come out of the trip is to write a few things in the form of a blog. So here goes.

I joined Ram Mohan in the 7th grade and passed my SSC exam in 1965. It was sheer fun all through. First and foremost, I was not a “scholar” and was considered one of the naughtier students. Most teachers were ok with the naughtiness. When I overdid it, it was gifted a slap on the hand or standing outside the classroom! After joining the school my first friend was Abhay Kelkar, he was very similar to me in most things. We had a great time all through those years. In a few days after joining the school, I had a reunion with Pradeep Gavankar who traveled with me on the same bus. There were rarely any school buses in those days; I would catch a bus at 6.15 in the morning.

Our judgment about teachers was restricted to understanding if they were interested in us; yes they were all interested. We were too young to understand as they were all excellent humans and humane to the core. But we rarely found any teachers who showed their human traits while dealing with us. The whole world was so bright, so shiny for us that we never realized that teachers could have had their problems in life. For us, nobody had any issues in this world.

Among the teachers, we had Kuwadekar sir, who had a great smile and would wear coats made of Sharkskin fabric. Then we had Ashok Karhade sir; he was very young and pleasant. He died at a young age, a few years later. We had Vaidya teacher, she was always smartly dressed, and she had different wristwatches of various shapes. That was a real novelty in those days. I forgot to mention. We used to call male teachers as “Sir” and lady teachers as “Teacher”!

I have seen the world, and I am now nearing 70. I can proudly say that we were lucky to have some outstanding teachers in the school! Mayekar sir for English, Joshi sir for Sanskrit and Kundaikar sir for Maths are some of the names that come to the fore. Pandit sir for Hindi was equally good. In those days, we did not understand much, but now I know the dedication these teachers showed.

I have some different memories of the Ram Mohan. Apte sir was my father’s classmate in S P College in Pune. When we went for a trip to Matheran while in SSC, he told me the story of how he remained thin due to some ragging during his college days. Wadke teacher never taught me as I came in Ram Mohan in the 7th grade. But I somehow had a special affinity for her as she was involved in sports activities on the grounds on Marine Drive. Her daughter Mangal was my classmate, but I remained in sporadic communication with her. More than ten years back she came and stayed with me in Pune, for a couple of days.

Another exciting memory that I have is an incident. On the last day of a month, one of the teachers could not take a class due to ill health. We made a lot of दंगा (noise). Kukalkar teacher was passing by, and she came to the class. She punished us by making us wait for the full timing of the school. On the last day of the month (it is called महिना अख़ेर in Marathi) we used to have half day school. After about 30 minutes I told all that I will manage to get us free. I went to the teacher and said, “ Teacher, we don’t have tiffin as the school timing was half day! We are hungry. Please let us go.” Kukalkar teacher was a very kind person. As I broke the rule by leaving the class, she punished me with two slaps on my hand. Then she said with false anger, “Ok! You all now go home!”

Looking back, the teachers had a lot of work besides teaching. There was administrative work about the students. Managing teacher training courses, checking notebooks for homework. Setting and correcting papers for four examinations held during the year. They used to help and guide students in elocution competitions, dramatics, annual gathering, sports. Ram Mohan did not have own ground, so we were taken to Wilson high school ground, a mile away from school! There we would perform marching practice. Marching practice was the responsibility of the PT teachers. That reminds me of Malekar sir! Outwardly he looked very tough, but if students had some personal issue, he would guide them with love. I met him once after passing out, and he was very  soft with me! He reminded how I used to be naughty during PT period too!

From the friends, I remember Prakash Naik distinctly. He used to play cricket for school. Later on, he played for Bombay University along with Sunil Gavaskar. He was very agile on his feet and a great prankster. He used to make paper arrows in class and had a good aim. Once a while, he would fit a pin the front! This made the arrow a lethal weapon. Another thing is that he would always be having bandages somewhere on the body. I remember one incident specifically. He had a fight with someone. Prakash was chased for two stories and was cornered in one of the classrooms. This happened during snack break. We thought that finally Prakash was caught by someone. You will not believe what happened next. Prakash simply ran towards a window, slipped out of it, he grabbed the rain pipe and slid back to the ground floor! All of us were aghast!

I remember that I used to remain away from essay writing competitions, elocution competitions. But later in my life, I had created a lot of documents. I conducted meetings and had to speak and explain various subjects regularly. When I picked up these skills, I am not sure. I find that blogging and essay writing are quite similar. But I remember one thing; even the school I was a good storyteller!

I can go on and on and on. I will share a great surprise I had in school. One of the teachers thought I was good enough to sing सुसंगती सदा…

Maybe that was the only way to keep me away from mischief!

Five Season’s of Beauty!

There are different ways of naming seasons, people, trees. Seasons in India are Summer, Monsoon and Winter. People are described by their heights, their likes and dislikes. Some are coffee folks and others are tea folks. Some are beer guys or wine folks. Some love whiskey and others like their Vodka or Rum! Some are morning types and others are night owls! Trees are classified as coniferous, perennial, shady and so on. My favorite method of differentiation of people is based on the seasons they like.

Seasons based on Calendar are winter, spring, summer and autumn. In tropical areas the seasons are only two, wet and dry seasons. But in India seasons are Summer, Monsoon and Winter. Monsoon season is very different in India. When did I really start understanding seasons? I was in school maybe 5th grade and one day I needed an umbrella to go to school as I had exams on that day, hence I needed to go to school. This thing had never happened before so when it rained, I simply used to skip school if it rained heavily.

Names of seasons are also used to describe somethings in our life. Winter of discontent, there is a spring in his stride, are some of the terms come to mind. Summer of discontent is another term, that is used. What do these indicate? Winter of discontent indicates that bad days or times are at an end and they change for better, in the form as spring is coming soon! Summer of discontent is the term used when unhappiness or sadness of life is at the peak! Spring in stride indicates the fresh air or exuberance.  The reappearance of robins. The disappearing snow.  The longer hours of daylight. The emergence of flowers.

I started thinking in terms of Indian seasons, am I a summer guy or a monsoon guy or a winter guy. In India, the weather conditions are different in various parts, simply because of hugeness of the country. In summer, we have temperatures nearing 50 deg C in certain areas to minus 10 deg C in cooler climates in winter. Monsoons can bring rains to the tune of 1200 cm in a season. Weather in the country can be moderate to extreme like the human beings. Pune, where I normally live, is known for moderate weather, all the seasons are comfortable. Has that made people in Pune reasonable people? Does extremism or moderation in people happen because of the weather? I think it does. I am talking of general populace and not the wrong kind of people! Wrong kind of people are omni present where ever they want to be, irrespective of seasons or weather.

Summer, for me is lovely Alphonso Mangoes, Sugarcane Juice, Raw Mango Panna a kind of home-made sherbet! In childhood, it also meant school holidays, round the day playing cricket, table tennis and badminton! I used to live in Mumbai in those days. Once in a while there used to be a trip to relatives’ homes in Bombay or sometimes to Pune. That was the farthest we would travel in those days. There were no summer holiday trips to cool climes. Those were outside means of our family. And did I enjoy my trip to Pune by train? Eating Batata Wada (a potato patty) at Karjat!  That used to be the high point of the journey! End of summer also meant excursion to markets with mom to get new school uniforms especially when I out grew the older uniforms! Then of course there would be a trip to stationery shop to buy new notebooks. Followed by a session of covering the notebooks with brown paper, followed by sticking the labels for the names! Of course, there used to an occasional day of punishment when we overdid things! There used to be pinching of small coins from home to drink ice cold lemon sherbet on cricket ground.  But now in golden phase life things have remained more or less same but with one big difference. Diabetes makes things a little bit tricky for Mangoes and Sugar cane juice!

Monsoon in Mumbai and Pune are totally different. Most of the monsoon, one could manage without an umbrella in Pune! In Mumbai, many times it hardly mattered whether you wore a raincoat or had an umbrella; you would get drenched. Weather in Pune in Monsoon would bring a bit of chill but in Mumbai you were not sure whether you got drenched in rain or sweat! In Mumbai, going to Marine drive to walk on the sea wall, with heavy rains with heavy rains lashing and sea waves crashing on the wall! Oh, what fun we had! Mumbai’s rain fury is seen to be believed! As the British say, it rains Dogs and Cats in Mumbai, sometimes. Though it is a bit difficult to handle, it should be enjoyed at least once. It should be added to your bucket list. One day, I had pinched some coins from home and it was raining heavily. Heavy rains could sometimes create havoc in Mumbai. This was great opportunity to come home, from school,  ( we used to lie about lack of buses) walking in heavy rains and on the way, going to our favourite restaurant to eat a Dosa! That was the biggest heist in our lives!

Winter, of course is a special season for Pune. Cool breeze, some mist, some fog, everybody going around in their woolens with seniors using mufflers and woolen caps! Drinking hot tea with Salty biscuits at the road side kiosk was equivalent of reaching the heavens! In my younger days, Pune would almost shut down around 7 pm, like it happens in cold climates. I remember that my grandfather used go to sleep at 7 pm! Going up the hills in winter was another of past time in Pune. In all my stay in Mumbai, I was required to wear a sweater may be a few times but in Pune, for 2 ½ months sweater was a must!

Which is my favourite season? Cool climates are what I love the most but then monsoon chill in Pune is also great fun and as temperature don’t go down like in winter. Recently in Switzerland, we were caught in Bern, with reasonably cold weather accompanied by a light drizzle. We were geared for both rain and cold but found it very difficult to handle it!  That is when I realized that I love dry cold and not wet cold! I love winters in Delhi too but these days pollution has made things tough to enjoy. So finally, I am a winter guy, in hot countries!

Folks, there is one season that we forgot! Its season of love! Well, romantic love is what I am talking about. This is one season that never goes away, its beauty never feds!  It has its own low tides and high tides! All the things mentioned above, get turbocharged when you are in the love season! Seasons of nature and season of love merge. The season of love never changes into next season, but has its ups and downs! This has its highs and lows! But how many of us are lucky enough to have season of love in the life, throughout life? Season  of love in life, is a great elixir and is supported by small doses of nectar provided by the natural seasons! Lets get a bit philosophical. Do you have five seasons in your life?

I will share with you a lovely Hindi film song. It talks of natural seasons and the season of Love! Enjoy!

Abode- Musings about first phase of my life!

Dictionary meaning of Abode is a place of residence; a house or home. The meaning is given in a few words but how much hidden meaning is there in this word. The life that we live is fully covered by this word. Attached to this word there are many hidden gems linked from everyones life. The abode can be a very small tenement to a big palace. One may be a pauper or a king in his life but in ones own abode you are always the king. There are joys and sorrows, love and hate, births, deaths, birthdays, weddings, preparations studying for exams and what have you. I could probably write about my each abode, one big episode but I thought writing about distinct memories and events from each phase would be more appropriate.

My first abode that I remember was in Andheri, a western suburb in Mumbai in early 50’s. It was a set of buildings and I don’t know what these clusters of buildings was called in those days. It was my first abode. That is where I made my first friend, Pradeep Gavankar. Pradeep and I are in touch with each other even today though infrequently. Pradeep has settled down at Houston in USA. Thirty years later I visited Sharad in Andheri; I went to see these buildings which naturally had become dilapidated structure but I could see myself playing cricket (by playing I mean hanging out as I was too small to play) or playing hide and seek. I also remember going to school walking in the direction of the railway station.

As I am writing about my different abodes  many thoughts simply rumble through my mind, so many memories, new experiences and new people. We humans are hoarders of experience, friends and memories. They are all hidden in our gray cells somewhere; you only need a little input or a tinkle in some format to get it to display in your kaleidoscope.

My father was a Police Officer with transferable job. From Andheri, we went to  then small town called Ahmednagar about 250 kms from Mumbai. We had a small bungalow quarters. A couple of things I remember distinctly are that I had won some kind of running race in my age group and people were clapping when I received the medal, I was probably the youngest in the group! Then surprise of surprise! Some dacoits decided to make a house break and steal things from our home; diwali had just ended so dacoits must have thought there will be some stuff worth stealing at our home. When dacoits came in at night, I was in bed with my mother and I still distinctly remember hearing a hissing sound as if something was being pulled out. I told my mother that I heard something but luckily she thought I was dreaming and put me back to sleep. The dacoits, when they were caught, were obviously shocked to know that they had broken open a Police Officers home; they said that they had planned to kill any person who woke up during the event. Luckily my grandfather also did not wake up though he was a very light sleeper.

Then we moved to Pune for a couple of years. Pune is half way between Ahmednagar and Mumbai both distance wise and culture wise. We stayed in a rented home this time; I was in 3rd/4th grade and made some good friends whom I remembered later in life when I shifted back to Pune again 10 years later. I used to go to school walking through small lanes with friends. You will be surprised to know that almost all the lanes have hardly changed except some homes which have been rebuilt. Once we heard that some army tanks were going on the main road (those were really different days!) . ¾ of us were running along with tanks on the footpath. After sometimes, we were so engrossed, we did not know that we had crossed our school. We had never done that before! In those days it was almost end of town. For benefit of those from Pune/Mumbai we were running on Jangli Maharaj road and had crossed Modern High School. Today this road is one of the busiest road and right in the center of the city and not end of city! Then there was one big fire about ten Km from where we stayed. We could see plumes of smoke from fire in the timber market. Those days buildings were so small we could easily see the smoke at that distance! Later I came to know my father as a Police Officer had to get involved in handling many things with that fire. Two more incidents I distinctly remember from this abode. We had a remote room to ourselves on the first floor. While playing there with a friend, I had inserted a screw driver in an electrical socket and boom….. I don’t know what I did but our fuse had blown off, luckily no injuries for both me and my friend. In another incident, near our home there was a motorcycle accident. Motorcycles were not so common in those days. There was a small crowd to see this and luckily the injured person was moved to the hospital but I can still visualize the mangled vehicle, my first!

We changed a few homes during my life time and but I always moved on when the change happened. I know of people who keep on having a great affinity to their native place and the home there, even after 30/40 years. I think people are made differently. When I lived in a particular home, I of course had a great affinity for the place but I could handle the change effortlessly and always moved on.

From Pune again we moved to Mumbai again and for about ten years lived in Dhobi Talao area just behind Metro Cinema. What days we had in that abode! In this abode I completed my school education and joined college too! Those were my formative year in my life and what fantastic facilities and set up we were lucky to have. It started with my re meeting my friend Pradeep as we went to same school (we did not know that) and met in the bus as he had moved from Andheri to Colaba. I went through my adolescence pangs in this abode. The typical awkwardness in dealing with female species, rebellion for and against everything parents would say, craze to do everything possible and playing sports all the time, exams were just a nuisance. Near our home there were three sports grounds, Cross, Azad and Oval but for some reason our favorite was Cross Maidan. We had Brabourne stadium, where I watched a few cricket test matches, close to our home and Marine Drive promenade was also close by. We had facility to play Badminton and Table Tennis in Police Sports club. This facility allowed me to be a part of my school team which won the tournament when we were in 11th grade! During holidays we were in the Police club all day. All these Maidans were used by us to play cricket and during monsoons we used play football. Monsoon was also a golden opportunity to hang around the Marine Drive with huge waves breaking on the retaining walls. ( We used walk on retaining walls!) On the Maidans there used to be Ramlila program during Dassara festival, we were allowed to go and see those religious dramas. But our main aim used to discretely watch the couples, who used the Maidan to meet for a bit of privacy! Our building was bang opposite Metro cinema on back side. We used to get excited if we were allowed a movie there. What style it had! The ushers used to wear Gray Jacket, Light brown trousers and bow tie as uniform! We used to be suitably impressed. The theatre was air conditioned and used carpets all through! Later on we became friendly with an usher Sawant. He was multitasking at Metro. Ushers had to work for a short duration during the show. In remaining time he was an artist, he used to paint the posters that were displayed at the theater. Our friendship helped us once in a while, as Sawant would allow us to watch movies on the sly via back door if there were empty seats! Eating out was considered sin in those days especially with road side vendors. Near our building, there used to be a Ragda Pattice walla but we were never allowed to eat with him. Even today I love to eat Ragda Pattice!

I know I can keep going on and on! There are so many things I can share with you but I may end up writing a book! I realized that our life is a combination of experiences that we gain. Our abode is the base that nurtures all our thoughts, helps inculcating different values, nurtures bonding which sometimes last all through our lives. You meet so many different people when you change abodes, this helps you to take the best from different people. I have become Cosmopolitan as I lived in Mumbai during the formative years. This has helped me largely in my future life. I think that will have to wait till next one!  Cheers till I talk of Elphinstone College, COEP and so on…