Saturday, 29 March 2014

Shifting to a smaller town - Delhi to Meerut

Sanjay Van the oxygen supplier
We were in Delhi for over 35 years. As date of retirement approached we decided to shift to a quieter & smaller town. NH - 58 or Delhi - Dehra Dun highway area suited us as it was quite familiar. After having done a recce of various places we landed up in Meerut. Neighbours here as well as in Delhi have differing views on Meerut being a good choice over Delhi after retirement.

The 3 bhk flat is in an Enclave which is surrounded on three sides by Sanjay Van a reserved forest. Sanjay Van is having inter-alia Kikar or Babul (Vachellia Nilotica) trees, foxes, jackals, neelgais, snakes, monkeys, peacocks & huge variety of birds. Day breaks with chirping of birds & evening comes with howls of jackals. These sounds are better than that of honking of horns in Delhi.
Regular visitors
Demography of our neighbourhood is a cocktail of Vaishs, Jats, Jains & to lesser extent Gujjars, Punjabis, Uttarakhandis etc. In Delhi people were less curious to know your family details. Here they would like to know more about your caste, gotra, your 'title' or surname, ancestral village, brothers & sisters. Same caste affinity is more & 'Love thy Biradari' rule is generally followed during elections also.

Being non-vegetarian is an issue. The subzi vendor who does daily rounds inside the colony, informs that he does not keep garlic as there is no sale. Most of the families do not consume garlic though most of their youngsters do enjoy non-veg dishes outside of home. So frying fish in home quickly circulates your status.

Just 70 km away from capital of India but one feels that civic services have evaporated. During last one year there were disruptions in electric supply over 500 times. You never know how many times a day the supply shall trip & for how long.

Water supply is abundant but of course subject to electricity being available. People love to wash their vehicles, sprinkle water around their houses & in little kitchen gardens in gallons.

As for traffic it took me a month or so to get adjusted to chaos. Everyone loves to blow horn, to overtake & to take traffic lights as decoration items. Seat-belts & helmets? What are they? Roads have variety of animal driven carts, jugaads & autos. All overloaded & trying to race with each other. Road signs are used for pasting posters & ads. Signs of love & friendship can be seen between bikers & drivers talking to each other standing in the middle of the roads. Chalta hai.
On NH 58 near Murad Nagar

Save petrol & pollution

At your service
Roads are for one & all

Where are you going today?
Life is a more leisurely here as travel time to offices or shops is considerably less than in Delhi. No corner of city is more than 20-25 minutes drive. It could be less if you are familiar with narrow gullies & short cuts. So no need to hurry & get up at six in the morning even 8 AM will do. Like wise marriages or parties can be enjoyed up to mid night & beyond. No hurry cool!
Holika Poojan 
What I love is that here you are addressed as Bhai saab or Bhabhi ji - depending on your gender of course. Kids are trained to say Uncle ji Namaste & to touch your feet also. Well there you are in an extended family - Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. If you are not seen for a day or two neighbours do ask 'where were you Bhai saab?' unlike in Delhi where time for such pleasantries is less & no one is bothered about your absence really.

Meerut is a place where first freedom struggle started in 1857. Also known as Sasural of Ravna as his wife Mandodari was born here.

Welcome to Meerut.
Meerut Cantt has several such displays 

Monday, 24 March 2014

Boss The Baldy & gifts

Our Regional Manager is very methodical person both in his work & in his personal life. This makes him world famous in all 27 branches of Jhumri Talliyya region. But before proceeding further & elaborating on his qualities, let me describe him to you. He is 55+, short of height, a bit dark complexioned, pot bellied or rather beer bellied as he loves beer, with a few strands of hair trying to stand upright on his bald head. Because of his hair & because of our affection we have awarded him a nick name: The Baldy.

That he is methodical can be illustrated thus. If he remains on leave say from Jan 1 to Jan 9, his PA is to ensure that newspapers & official papers are neatly placed in chronological order. When he resumes office after leave, he will first open up newspapers of Jan 1 then office papers of Jan 1, then of Jan 2 & so on. No jumping the Q. Similarly as a matter of habit he would read a letter put up to him, sign it & then keep it in drawer. Next morning he would take it out, read again & then send for despatch.

This makes life interesting for some but makes life miserable for us juniors. It is learnt in confidence from his driver, maid servant & peon that same type of methodical accounting goes for Diwali gifts also. First of all gifts from 27 branch managers are to be separated, then opened one by one after Diwali, contents commented upon & noted carefully. Plastic items are dumped in store & contents of dry fruit trays placed in air tight containers.
In one of the gift packets from Gupta there was a gold chain which was referred to the jeweller & found to be 18 carat stuff. The Baldy commented 'hmm baniagiri dikha di Gupta toone'. He immediately fixed rating of Gupta at 'B' for forthcoming Annual Review.

Singh always presented interesting items. This time his gift box contained besides tray of dry fruits, a large sized 2.50 litre bottle of Teacher resting on a stand & purchased from duty free shop. 'Wow Singh is real king' said The Baldy. He was mighty pleased & was ready to give 'A' in Annual Review to Singh.

Another gift box was from Sharma which contained beautiful set of cutlery seeing which The Baldy frowned but madam was pleased. And if memsaab is pleased saab eventually has to smile & that meant that Sharma had a chance of getting 'A' in Annual Review.

Gift box from Verma had a suit length in it with usual pack of dry fruits. The Baldy was not pleased as several similar packets had already been received & how many suits one could wear in a season? And then one has to bear exorbitant stitching charges no?

Diwali gift box from Goel was rather heavy as it contained a pack of dry fruits, carton of beer cans of a brand liked by The Baldy & a pack of playing cards on top. Beer & dry nuts were acceptable & good but playing cards reminded The Baldy of having lost a cool sum of 5k to Goel in Diwali. The Baldy was perplexed. Could you help The Baldy in deciding the rating of Goel for Annual Review?           

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Posted to Jhumri Talliya

Congratulations dear. I heard you got promoted & that you are being posted in Jhumri Talliya. I understand acceptance has to be given next week to seal the deal. In case you are getting posted to Jhumri, I would suggest you to accept this posting without hesitation. I am here for about two years & am comfortable. Of course you must be keen to know about this place & about the Regional Manager of Jhumri, I can fill up the details for you.

Jhumri is a medium sized town known for its ponds, hillocks & bullocks. Every kilometre or two you shall see a small or large pond with plenty of small & large fish in them. Drive your official car in the night carefully. I may tell you in confidence that last year one Chief Manager could not control his car & swam with the fish under the starlit sky. Of course not to mention that he had had a peg too many on Holi. These things happen once in a while you see & need to be taken in your stride. This January it was turn of a pilot who coolly landed his plane & taxied it up to a pond so that passengers could have a quick wash.

Things like fish, ducks & mutton are cheaper here compared to say in Delhi because of taal talliyas & so is local brew which is real kicker & fixer. But I understand you are a vegetarian & don't like drinks even. You are missing things really my dear & perhaps inviting mosquitoes also as latest researches have shown that mosquitoes like vegetarians. And most of the houses are in the vicinity of ponds full of mosquitoes. Never mind plenty of doctors are available as most of them have deposits in white or in black in our branches here.  

Regional Manager  Jhumri is a fine gentleman. He is 55+, short of height, with large beer belly & a few strands of hair standing on his bald head. Out of affection only he has been nick named The Baldy. He is a jolly good fellow who can crack jokes on you & laugh loudly you see. The other day he said, - Gupta has 4 safari suits - on Monday it is grey, on Tuesday it is brown, on Wednesday it is grey pant & brown shirt & on Thursday it is brown pant & grey shirt so 2 x 2 = 4. Hahahaha'. Everyone laughed & Gupta also laughed. Great sense of humour you see.

Another of his qualities is keeping sharp eye on expenditure. That's how banks make profits no? Once a file containing travelling allowance bills was put up to him. He passed all the bills in the file within minutes with the remark 'Passed for 50 %' scrolled on each bill. This included his own bill also (which was quietly rectified for 100 % payment later). Such acts make you feel his commitment to the bank my dear.

You make a mental note that The Baldy likes to attend parties hosted by others you see. Also note that he does not accept gifts in Diwali unless of course it is a gold item for the Madam you see.

So you can sign the acceptance bindaas & join here. I am organising a 'Welcome to Jhumri' garden party with The Baldy as Chief Guest.

Garden Party

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Searching for the family roots

During my childhood I had been listening to stories told by parents who had come from western Punjab after partition of India. These were not very happy stories but tales of loss of homes, hearths & dear ones. These tales brought sadness, hatred, anger & at times a sense of helplessness. Therefore we the kids had no interest in them. At times we wondered how a country could be partitioned overnight with a simple line on the map - this side is mine & that side is yours & now get off from my side or else. At times we thought it was an act of fate that parents lost their houses, shops, jewellery, savings & their brothers & sisters. On some occasions we brushed the horror stories aside as nothing could be done about the nightmare which engulfed not us but thousands & lacs like us & we were not alone in this suffering thrown by God as punishment. At times when some elders visited the house the stories on same theme would crop up again & we would just laugh it off - oh another one from partition days.

As of now father, mother & grand mother have left for their heavenly abodes. I have since retired from bank service. With sufficient time in hand & out of curiosity I am looking back & searching for the family roots. This search has also been prompted while reading similar stories in social media or in or in Notable among them is my senior colleague Shri Yash Pal Sethi who is writing his autobiography.

Most of the information is from the tales told in childhood by father, mother & grand mother (dadi) & as told by Shri Vinod Kumar Bharara my uncle - chacha, of my age group & putting up at Meerut.

Here is the family tree :
* Wazir Chand ji, resident of Hujjan, Sargodha, Pakistan.
* Ram Singh ji ( married to Ishar Devi ji)
* Lajwanti ji (married to Kirpa Ram ji)
* Jagdishwar Lal ji (married to Sushila Devi ji)
* Harsh Wardhan (that's me married to Gayatri)

And here is an outline of the above family members:
*Wazir Chand ji was resident of the village Hujjan near Bhera in district Sargodha now in Pakistan. He was faced with a problem that his infant children did not survive. He prayed in Gurdwara & offered to make one son Sikh. Accordingly his son Ram became Ram Singh.

*Ram Singh ji was married to Ishari Devi ji. He was working as munshi of a zamindar in Hujjan. They shifted after partition to Mumbai & joined eldest son. Ram Singh ji died in Jan 1948. Ishari Devi ji breathed her last in Mar 1964. They had two sons & two daughters as under.

*Lajwanti ji ( my grand mother - dadi ji) was the eldest one & was married to Kirpa Ram ji at the age of 14. Kirpa Ram ji died when their son Jagdishwar Lal ji ( my father) was two years old. That made Lajwanti ji go back to her parents again. She did not prefer to be dependent but wanted economic freedom. Being strong willed & upright she decided to break free & to go to school again for finishing class fifth. Thereafter she took another bold step & opted for training of midwife (daai) in the local hospital despite stiff opposition of parents & in laws. She frequently used even burka to commute to hospital for duty at odd hours. Till the age of 75 or so she attended child births independently & without caring for caste & status of the would-be mother & without charging any fee. She died in April 1999 in Meerut.

*Chaman Lal Bharara ji was born on 04 Dec 1912 being second child of Ram Singh ji & Ishar Devi ji. After finishing high school from Kirpa Ram Anglo Sanskrit School he joined army in 1932. In 1936 he got married to Karmawali ji daughter of Ram Javaya Shah ji & Bhagwanti ji & sister of Raghbir Lal Behl of Behlan Da Veda, Bhera. Chaman Lal Bharara ji was granted Viceroy's Commissioned officership in 1943 & later posted in Indian Naval Hospital Services Mumbai. He retired as Subedar from Army Medical Corps. Chaman Lal Bharara ji breathed his last at the age of 95 in Meerut.

*Mangat Ram Bharara ji, second son was born in 1928 in Hujjan & completed his High School in first division from Kirpa Ram Anglo Sanskrit School. Subsequently he joined Punjab National Bank in Lahore. He was married to Sumitra ji who was from Bannu region. After partition he rejoined the bank in Bombay & then after some time got transferred to New Delhi where he remained till he breathed his last.

*Phulan Rani was the fourth child born in Hujjan. She got married to Vidya Sagar Nayyer ji of Sialkot. They were in Noida during their last days.

As mentioned above Lajwanti ji & Kirpa Ram ji had a son Jagdishwar Lal ji (my father) He too did his High School in Kirpa Ram Anglo Sanskrit School Hujjan. Subsequently he got employed with Military Dairy Farms. He got married to Sushila Devi ji (my mother) who was daughter of Mohan Lal Kapoor of Miyani in district Sargodha.

This brief  is being published in the hope of gathering more information about the above mentioned elders. This shall help in compiling a better & fuller family history.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a small step - Lao-tzu, Chinese philosopher, 604 - 531 BC