Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Slice of heaven...


There is a kind of magic in the Bangla word 'mamabari' (the house of maternal grandparents). For me they conjure up images of a bygone era, filled with fun and food.

Every year during the summer holidays, I took the train from wherever I stayed to Calcutta (which was the penance part), and then from there, another overnight train took me to my 'mamabari' in Patna.

As the train slowly rumbled towards Patna Junction, I would try hard to screen the platform for the familiar figure of either one of my three mamas(maternal uncles). Being the eldest grandchild and for quite a long time, the sole grandchild of that family, I was a prized possession. Those were days of transistors and cricket commentary, and I would soon spot my mama standing with a transistor to the ear, looking at the compartment numbers passing by. Travel was by ordinary sleeper class, and hence the open window would glee fully carry my shout to him and everybody else on the platform. "Mama moni.. we are here, come on we are here, come fast, get us.."

My excitement could barely be with held as my mama walked in to the compartment and took me up in his lap, while the coolie handled the luggage and my mom asked after the well being of my grandparents. My days of paradise always thus began. Days where I was to rule, where everything would revolve around me. For every child such a place of pure indulgence is a must and I was extremely lucky to have it.

The house with its courtyard and gardens, carefully nurtured by my dadu(Grandfather), the guava tree that saw me on its branches for many an idyllic afternoon, the kitchen cabinet with its net door, hoards of pickles and chutneys, specially made by Didima(Grandma), the beds that I jumped on, the cats that I befriended , were all symbols of love and being wanted. That house and everybody there made me come alive with joy each summer holiday.

Mornings. I would sit in front of my dadu's bicycle and go shopping for the days fish and vegetables. It felt great to be asked, "what fish would you like to have for lunch today?" On return from the market, I would sit on Dadu's lap and would have a breakfast of luchi torkari(puris/Indian bread and sabji/vegetable) followed by kalojaam(Gulabjamun/Indian sweet). Pure bliss. More so because mom was always busy with my mashis(maternal aunts)and hence she did not scrutinize my plate at any of the meal times. Didima always came with a spoonful of sugar by the time I had reached my last luchi, the timing was always right, I wonder now how she managed?

Till the time for my bath I was free to do as I please. Most days I would play with my youngest mama who was still in high school then. Games included carrom, ludo, marbles and scrabble. This was followed by Didima coming to get me for my bath. The most exciting part of the day - as there was not just one but a series of bathrooms and all outside the main house. The bathrooms and the toilets stood in a line at the backyard of the house. Sitting on a pidi(a flat low stool), in the sun, I would be rubbed with oil and my hair would be brushed off its tangles. This time of the day, when I had my Didima to me was a precious time. I can still see her like she was then. So beautiful in her white and red bordered saree, her head always covered, her eyes always full of love and the the enchanting smell of pan and zarda that surrounded her. She always had a story on her lips.

The Lunch was always a lavish affair. I along with my Dadu and my three mamas sat at the dining table in the kitchen. I still remember in every detail, how the food was served. Big shining plates would be laid in front of us, with a perfect mound of rice very neatly placed. There would be a little ghee and always a bit of crunchy 'neem begun'( a bitter appetizer). This was followed by a dal and a bhaja(some vegetable, usually poatato, or bringal deep fried), and then the torkari(vegetable cooked in a gravy) and the maach(fish), ending with chatni(chutney) and doi(youghurt). Those were days when nobody seemed concerned about heart problems and weight gain. The amount of physical activity that was done ensured a fit and healthy body.

An image that I cherish even today, is that of sleeping with my Didima on her four poster bed, under a wheezing ceiling fan. She, telling me mythological stories and her fingers caressing my hair and soothing me to a peaceful sleep. The days, now are so fraught with unnecessary tensions and complexities that most nights I lie awake for no particular reason, feeling tired and drained and yet devoid of slumber, it is at such times, that I go to my childhood days on that bed with my Didima, and the memory of that simple room, so full of warmth and love, lulls me to sleep.

The house that once was so full of fun and joy, has over the years lost its occupants one by one to the greater world. My mamas are now settled in different cities in and outside India, with grown up kids of their own. My mashis, likewise have gone away with their husbands. Dadu has long back left us on his solitary journey. The only person who remains as the custodian of my childhood paradise is my Didima. She is bent with age and can hardly see properly, but the unmistakable beauty and love in those eyes still bring a sense of peace to me like nothing else can.

We all need a disciplined upbringing to fit in society, But the indulgence of a mamabari is what makes us each a king!!

61 comments:

Priya said...

sujata..word fails to praise your expertise in penning down the memories of the by-gone days....your writings made me visualize you as a child and the place and the "mamabari" in particular....doubtlessly...a neat and loving appeal of your "didima".

i could relate so much with my summer holidays that i spent at my "mamabari" in Konnagar (a suburb near kolkata)

How i love your way of telling stories..."golpo holeo sottyi"...kind of a charm you express in your writings....

SJ said...

Sujata, I know how you feel. We did the same things- levae hot Madras and head to Bangalore so many cousins so many aunts, the whole day spent playing not a care not a worry sigh. Its very different now-just like you said, all my cousins are married, my grandparents no more, everyone has moved out. But at least I had a chance to have all this, I am just sad that my kids will not have an opportunity like this! Beautifully written !!!

Rush said...

You took me back to my childhood memories...if there is a heaven , it outta be like grandpas place.
u are so right, and we need to keep it alive...generation after generation, embedding the king factor forever!!

The Survivor said...

You seem to have lot of fun...

Pesto Sauce said...

Very well written...realy conjures up images of your grand parents

My grandmom was perhaps the most affectionate person I have ever met...a real sweetheart

Gymnast said...

I have extremely fond memories of my childhood spent at my mother's house too.
You might call it "mamabari" , i might call it my "tharavadu" , the languages and cultures vary , but the love that nurtures our fond memories are the same. Is it not?

Beautifully written , like i always say , you are a great writer.

Debopam Chaudhuri said...

Let me translate the Title:
A Slice of Heaven will be more like Mamabarir Abdar in Bengali.
I never had the Mamabari that you had, but it brings back memories of me going to visit my paternal grandparents in bankura, especially the one when we were there during the Durga Pujas, 1991 may be.

R. Ramesh said...

down memory lane!! past is always beautiful right..btw, S, who's the guy who makes lakhs thru blogs yaar?? inquisitive..haha..

ZiLliOnBiG said...

wow, wonderful and candid. Absolutely no words to praise this writeup. Warmth and expressiveness in every word. hats of to you.

reminds me of my maternal grandparents.The gifts, toys, i used to cry for Gold-spot(orange softdrink) and the only person who used to buy me was my maternal Grandpa....God always make his soul rest in peace.
Delightful read.I had to come back for this, since i was having a terrible headache , since afternoon, much better now.:)))

Nona said...

Truly a slice of heaven. You made me nostalgic too and (also hungry by mentioning kalojaam, maach..)

Jyothi said...

Beautiful post. I can really visualize those memories of yours. I love the way you write. So much peace in it.

When I try to put down something like this, it always ends up a disaster. Can't get hold of the memories as vividly as this.

Shivi said...

everything so well pulled out of memory lane and jotted down! splendid!

Roshni Mitra Chintalapati said...

beautiful! I'm so happy you remembered each detail as that triggered similar memories of my and my ma's mamabari which I was lucky enough to visit. A different 'slice of heaven' from mine, eh?!

A memory I have which I am not sure you had too was the red stone floors of those days, which were so cool to lie on with a paash balish in summer!! Also, the central courtyard with the tulsi plant and the chhaat where all us kids used to hide when it was time to go home and our parents were shouting for us throughout the large house!!

Momma Miller said...

So vividly written, sujata! I love the descriptive imagery. I felt I was there. Just wonderful! You're right, we all need a place like this...a place to be treasured. Thank you, my friend!

~Shaye

Aw.S.M said...

Su..when u tell a story..u REALLY tell a story dont u :)...loved it...but then thats normal..i usually luv everythin u churn out ere...

Well i guess i ve had my version of the mamabari too being the only male grandchild and all..so yeah..it was the awesomest feeling in the world...everyone catering to ur every need...the world revolving around u..and now all my grandparents r dead..my mamas and mamis all separated and living in some nook n corner of India..sighhh

But thanx for taking me back in time su..and esp in such elaborate detail :)

luv
amith

Kishore Choudhary said...

Sujata ji bahut khoobsurat hai, main bhi kabhi kabhi aesi cheejen likhta hoon par aap to meri bhi guru hain ...

KParthasarathi said...

So well written,it brings back nostalgic memories of my childhood days.You have described so well,that each frame, your alighting from the train,on the cycle perched on handlle bar to the bazaar,the bath,the dining table with its large spread and your lying on grandma's lap, comes before my minds eye.

Sapna Anu B.George said...

Good read and great to know that you are in Muscat as well.

Arun Meethale Chirakkal said...

Haaa…

Thanks for the trip down memory lane. That was a world where one could always coax for sure a ‘no’ into ‘yes.’ I once saw a toddler wearing a T with this slogan; “If mom says no ask grandma.” I think that sums it up pretty well.

Though you have in my blogroll it doesn’t show updates.

sujata said...

Thanks @priya, I know konnagar quite well, when I got married, my husband was working at the ICI paints plant in Rishra..so konnagar was just next door.

@SJ I can understand what you say..me and my husband are both single children, so though my kids enjoy the company of grandparents, they dont know the fun of being the centre of attention of a whole brood of young uncles and aunts.

@Rush This guarantees a trip home every year..we can tell the hubbies..kids need to be Kings..so take me home...

@Survivor..Yes, I did have a lot of fun.

sujata said...

@Pesto Sauce Thanks. Grandmoms are definitely the best!!

@Gymnast mamabari or tharavadu its not in the name but in the love we get from these places. Really its like soul food. At my mamabari I was the lone grandchild for a long time..so did not really have cousins..but the uncles and aunts were all so young they made up for it..and I was too happy just being loved and pampered. The fun and bonding with cousins is what I have on my paternal side.

@Debopam Chaudhuri yes mamabari r abdar or ador e bandor howa was all here, I just hope our children get that too. But nowadays we parents interfere a lot with the affections of the grandparent.

@Ramesh yah the memories are quite precious. The guy whom I was talking about is in Mumbai, his dad was here in Muscat, so had heard from him, the boy is pretty young has got some best blogger award or something as well..dont have much details as did not know the blogging world very well then.

sujata said...

@Zillionbig, hope you are feeling well now. Yes in fact my eldest mama had taken me to the goldspot factory as a kid..I still remember the bottling plant..I loved that drink as a kid.

@Nona hahha have a nice meal!

@Jyothi thanks a lot, I have memoriy problems too but they are restricted to the present..meaning I cannot remember names, and stuff, or an incident maybe of the recent past, but the childhood memories are very clear, as of now...so i thought better write them down, never know when they too vanish.

@Roshni Mitra Chintalapati yes I remember the polished red floors with a black border and the afternoons when the current went kaput..we lay on this cool floor with just a kol baalish to play with, and I can never get the softness of that kol baalish anywhere now, whatever I buy, it doesnt feel the same, and also do you remember the soft and pure white covers that each lep and kombol had with neat knots at each end, usually made from dhutis I think..wow, You brought back more heavenly memories, thanks!

@Momma Miller thanks. Yes I feel that kids definitely need a love that is free of the burden of responsibility. We as parents get so busy in teaching and bringing up a kid, that we most of the time forget to have fun with them, this place is filled by the grandparents.

@Aw.S.M. If i tell a story and it sounds like a lecture..you wont be commenting right? So I try to make the memories come alive so all of us can together participate. Thanks a lot for liking the style and enjoying the details!

@Shivi thanks a lot.

kavita said...

BEAUTIFUL BLOG......i truly agree with your last line ....very soon leaving for my mom's home...kids are too excited to go to ..mamabari.

sujata said...

@kishore coming from you thats a huge compliment..will cherish it for a long time. Thank you!!

@K Parthasarthi Thank you very much.

@Sapna Anu B George thanks for liking the post. Yes a pleasure indeed to find another blogger from Muscat.

@Arun Meethale Chirakkal thanks for enjoying the post. Maybe you have to refresh the blogroll from the blogger once again..I am not sure, at times the blogger does act weird

Nazish Rahman said...

Wow well that was something really nice n taking me back to my childhood days too. Thanks!!! My grandparents are from Bihar as i am from Kolkata and two of my Aunty's stay in Patna n i rem how i used to wait for my vacations to come so that i would go thr. Ohh i used to b excited just the way u used to b...but somewhere down the line its all over now. Now its been nearly 6 yrs that i have been to those places where i always wanted to be in.

When your big its these things tat u loose which i think are invaluable!!

nice blog n very well expressed!!

Zeba Talkhani said...

When I read your post I feel as though I am the one experiencing what you have gone through. That's how well you write. Love reading you.

Babli said...

Very nice post.Infact your each and every post is unique and the presentation is absolutely mind-blowing.I still cherish those memories of my childhood which I have spent with my grandparents and during holidays every year I used to visit my Mamabari and that was the happiest moment and never felt like going back.

Sumandebray said...

It is a great narration as usual. In fact it is as good as a script of a movie. The black and white picture at the top particularly set the mood for my imagination as my childhood memories flash by in front of my eyes while I read through the text.
Mama bari is analogous to total freedom and comfort. You did have a perfect mamabari experience ... perfect to the letter T.
I did attempt to put my comment in the morning but it seems to have gotten removed!

kochuthresiamma p .j said...

pity the days have joint family have gone. what to do? old order must change - - -

sherin said...

our description was heart-rending..made me nostalgic..

sujata said...

Thanks @Kavita have a wonderful trip and keep visitng the blog.

Thanks @NR welcome to my space. Keep visiting.

@Zeba Talkhani thanks dear.

@Babli Thank you and I know exactly what you mean.

@SumanDebRay Thank you very much really flattered by the praise. How about translating..tai tai tai mamabari jai, mamabari bhari moja, keel chor nai.. (want a yo version as well!!)

sujata said...

@kochuthresiamma p .j The yearly travel to our parents is not a tall order isnt it? Its only that now our travel plans have a lot of Foreign lands on the agenda and we usually keep as a last option the flight back home.

Thanks @Sherin love your writing..keep it up!!

sunil fasih said...

hmm. had the feel of a movie being watched..

PURN!MA said...

beautifully written! I never got to stay with my GPs as you did. though I have certain memories of them pampering me.

prithvi said...

Bengal is pretty much an expert state in preserving culture and history. I won't go much into details of how lavish was the affair at my mamabari, because it is pretty much the same as your description, this winter I had gone after 5 years to my mamabari, the whole world around me had changed but the affection of mamabari still remains the same. Bengali dads often use the phrase "mamabarir alaad payecho" while scolding their children, which pretty much, explains everything.....well written.....

JD said...

i absolutely agree.. This piece has been beautifully written. It reminded me of 'namesake' - the novel.. u have a way with intricate descriptions..

Sujatha said...

Hey Sujata, thanks for your comment on my blog. Am doing fine. Just very busy with the kids and some other stuff online - all good. So glad to know your scare was just that, a scare and nothing more. Am missing all of you guys and hope to make my rounds in the next couple of days. Cheers!

Tiger said...

You painted the picture so nice and teased all of us with nice delicacies.. though they age the love never diminishes.. too bad our generation is going to miss it all

A New Beginning said...

Very True Sujata!Likes your blog alot!Keep up the great job!

Indrani said...

Reminds me of my vacations! Alas, they are no more.

A New Beginning said...

Beautifully written, gets u back in time:)U have a great blog here!All the very best to you, Keep up!

http://aspaceofonesown.blogspot.com

अनिल कान्त : said...

बचपन की यादें....और वो भी नाना और नानी जी के यहाँ की ...वाह...मुझे भी अपने नाना-नानी याद आ गए और उसके साथ ही वो बचपन ....जो कहीं खो गया ....बेहतरीन पोस्ट

Bhavya.B said...

Fantastic.You took me to my childhood ,so nostalgic....What I felt while reading this is beyond words.

sujata said...

Thanks @Sunil Fasih. Welcome on board.

Thanks @purnima, such memories are always a treasure.

@Prithvi thanks, yes that statement does sum it up.

@JD wow am flattered!! I loved that book, the film could not do justice.

@Sujatha good to see you, yah I really did get a scare. Thank God its over.

@Tiger thanks, I try hard to preserve this for my kids, I might disagree a lot with my in laws and even my mom on things, but I know for sure the love they have for my kids and the love my kids have for them is 100% pure and that has to stay.

@New Begining Welcome to myspace, thank you for liking the posts, do visit again, I will drop by very soon.

@Indrani thanks

@Anil Kant thanks a lot

@Bhavya B thank you

Dipankar Sarkar said...

A neat portrayal of a bygone era...very interesting reading indeed...took me down memory lane to my own Mama bari...it was always fun.

Sumandebray said...

Sujata,
I wish I was capable enough to translate those beautiful "choras" with which generations have grown up.... it is my audacity that I have even attempted to translate them ... maybe one last time before the protectors of the Bengali language ostracizes me ..

Let’s clap and clap a tat a tot,
To mama's home we shall trot!!
There we all shall shout and quack,
With no one to scold or whack!!


(mama bari as in mother's house)

the Yo version .. why don't you try your hand on that...

sujata said...

@dipankar, ekebare hariye gele cholbe?thank you bolben for taking out the time and commenting.

@SumanDebRay, thank you for making that wish come true. You are great at these translations, its a fact am not exagerrating, there are a few bangla translations of the english rhymes that I have read..jack, jill dui jon
haat dhore bhai bon
jol nite pahare je uthlo..

I wont even dare try, thats your forte completely

amrit said...

Aur kitne comments chahiyen aapko? :D

sujata said...

@Amrit yeh koi comment nahi hua..unacceptable! try again. BTW did your dad comment on the mother earth shitoon?

Sharad Sharma said...

brilliantly written :) brings back a lot of wonderful memories for me too

Thanks!

Cheers,
Sharad
Medley

Santanu Sinha Chaudhuri said...

To me, this is a slice of the past that has touched me. Nice piece, thanks.

Kishore Choudhary said...

well written and agree with nona "Truly a slice of heaven"

Suraj said...

Wow ! you realy took me back to my childhood days all i can say is for me my home is where the hugs are.

Little Girl Lost said...

mamar bari bhari moja keel chor naai :)

loved it ...

sujata said...

Thank you @Santanuda it means a lot.

Thanks @kishore

It always feels good to get a comment from you Suraj, thanks a ton.

Thanks @LGL, welcome back.

Swatantra said...

Hi,

Very touching post!! Reminding me of my days!! You have nice blog!! Would like to visit it again..

Nikki said...

I am so touched and teary eyed! I so miss my dadu and thakuma! My childhood is full of aloo bhaja, posto and dal-bhaath!

I miss the afternoon golpo sessions too!

Awesome post!

Mystic Margarita said...

I found your blog through Aparna's and boy, am I glad! Your post made me a tad heavy-hearted because both sets of grandparents had passed away when I was very little and my mamas lived far off. But, I did have a mashi and I have fond memories of time spent with her and the cousins. Lovely post :)

Yword said...

what a sweet, nostalgia-evoking post. those were the days allright. the food,the people and the sheer space to be :)
cheers
M

Ashwadhy said...

Beautiful... absolutey enjoyed every single line! Dropped by from @Gymnast. Waiting to read more.

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