Hi everyone. The story I am going to tell you has no hidden agenda. This is not an article for selling any product. This is just when I get nostalgic and enjoy the warmth some of the past events give.
I was brought up in a typical lower middle class Indian family. Though my father was an MBBS from the prestigious Grant Medical College of Mumbai, he responded to Mahatma Gandhi’s call for doctors to go to villages and consequently we landed up in Nasik Road, 200 Kms from Mumbai. Today this sprawling city won’t give any inkling of what it was like 60 years ago. Suffice to say, there were no tar roads, no electricity and no water taps and we lived the life that is shaped with such without of basic amenities.
We lived in a chawl. These are block of apartments with just two rooms having no toilet. There was a community latrine for all with dry sanitation. The residents were a mix from all regions. There were Sindhis that came to India after independence, there were Bohara Muslims who spoke Gujrati, there were South Indians who had learned Marathi well and Christians too. Some bachelors from UP shared one flat. One of them used to sing. We loved our chawl. There is no privacy in such locations. already if you sneeze in one flat the complete floor would know. So everybody knew everyone’s secrets.
We occupied a corner flat. Our immediate neighbor was a Christian family named Kureshi,his wife Ratan and daughter Jyoti. He was a violinist and often did the background score ex tempo for many roles. Next to them was a Bohara Muslim family. The man of the house Hasan Bhai ran a gas shop on the ground floor. The associate was childless for a long time. Then came four girls over a period of ten years. The eldest was Nafisa, next Nilofer then Yasmin and finally Nasreen. Their mother Shirin ( we called her Shirin Aunty) was a beauty and a terrific cook. The girls shared handsome features from their parents and were good looking themselves. Nobody had any maids nor were any crèches where children are sent now a days. Shirin Aunty was a housewife but with hundreds of chores to do and young children to attend to, she always dumped the girls in our house. She would tell me that I must continue studying and that the girls would just play around and had been strictly warned not to upset me. A tall order indeed. I always landed in the school without completing my homework..
We enjoyed their presence and their childish prattler was music to our ears. They loved diwali and had to be included in the fire crackers’ squad. Bhaiya Dooj was a special event for them since both me and my elder brother would give them gifts. In turn we used to look forward to Id and Biryani cooked by Shiirin Aunty.
My mother was a devote Hindu, observed all the rituals. Then once she wanted to perform a Hindu ritual called havan right in our tiny house. I don’t remember what the event was but the havan was laid out, pundit was called, my parents sat across the holy fire and the pooja was well under way. Nilofer, the second girl was about four years then. Something was happening in our house and how she could be not a part of the fun?. She walked in and went straight to my mother and sat in her lap. Someone spoke something in pundit’s ears. Pooja halted. My mother looked at him and her eye brows raised, “what’s the problem sir?”. Pundit pointed at Nilofer and said “Madam, she shouldn’t’t be here”. “Come on now, she is just a child and what harm there can be?” “No madam, our shastras don’t permit this”.
Nilofer, of course, had no idea that she was the cause of the interruption.
My mother thought for some time and then said,” at all event it is. She is in my lap and nothing can take her away from me. You have to take your decision. The pooja will go on with her in my lap or there need not be any pooja”.
The pooja went ahead with this small hitch resolved.
Soon I finished school and was in a college for about a year or so in Mumbai. I was chosen for Pilot’s training in the Indian Air Force and joined Air Force Flying College at Jodhpur. Six months of hard training had transformed me. A new and exciting world had opened for me. I completed first term successfully and was a pilot though of small aircraft. When I returned to Nasik Road during the 2 months’ break, everybody was excited and I showed off a lot and was given special treatment.
After associate of days I was showing my flying kit, my uniform and what not to the Bohari girls. The eldest was about 12 by then. They were all zapped and their eyes told me their admiration. On their need I wore my flying overall and was appreciating myself in the mirror with this lot all appreciation. Suddenly I said,
“Nafisa, don’t you think I am the most handsome guy this side of Suez canal? I look so good”.
There was a hindered silence. Nafisa’s confront showed a surprise, she could not control her giggling and then ran to the kitchen and blurted out, “Ai, look at him, he says he is the most handsome man in the world, ho ho ho”.
Nilofer, age 9, started arguing, “If you think you are handsome, what an idiot you are. You will be sorry if you carry on like this”.
Yasmin, age 6, started hitting me in rage.
For the 4 year old Nasreen, the situation was so tense, she started sobbing.
I was getting really annoyed. I asked them in a stern voice, “Now tell me once for all, am I or am I not the most handsome man, yes or no”?
“NOOOOOOO” was the emphatic chorus.
“no” came the sobbing echo from Nasreen.
All right, I see about that, Sabko dekh loonga.
During my marriage about seven years later, I introduced them to my bride.
“Nina, meet my admirers. As per them you are married to the ugliest toad that ever was borne this side of Suez canal”.
That hit them bad.
“No No No No, My God, he is such a liar! Don’t believe it. We never said any such things”. But then they knew what I was hinting at and somehow their outburst was not convincing. I had taken my revenge.
All these girls did well in studies and graduated. Nafisa right now is a HOD of English in Udaipur University. She is a guide to PhD students. Nilofer was a school teacher but has settled down in domestic affairs. Yasmin is a high businesswoman and Nasreen is teaching. Who says Muslim girls are not allowed to study?