Friday, 9 November 2012

Stanley Road Chronicles

It is an imposing structure for a home, but to me it was a place full of warmth love and laughter even in the bitter December cold.

I was introduced to its grandeur when I was nine months old, it had always been Mom's 'maika' and it was there that she went when Dad had to go on a foreign tour. There are some photos of my much older cousins looking at a baby, taken to keep my father updated of my well being. Those are photographs of other people's memories. My earliest ones are of reaching Allahabad station by train, to be received by a waiting crowd of cousins all older, and my masi who used to come there for the vacations from Benaras during her school break. A short drive and we were there, at the Gothic entrance, running into the cool haven of the high roofed house. Book shelves line one wall and on the other side was a grand carpeted staircase which led up to the room we stayed in. It was the room where my grandfather liked to stay ... with a study one one side, and a dressing room and huge bathing area on the other. The balcony attached to the room looked on to the lawns which were at two levels. The easy chairs must have been the ones in which he relaxed on a quiet evening.

Chameli would come running to meet my mother, she had looked after Mom after both her parents died, attended to all her personal needs when the young child girl needed tending  and care. Chameli was always happy to see the children of the one she had tended to with so much care and we were happiest to run to her quarters in the servants quarters and play with the children there, there were many... those of the driver, the cook , the games and simple, hopscotch and seven tiles were favorites.

There is an 'imli' tree which is right in the center of the huge courtyard where we used to spend hours throwing stones to enjoy the sour fruit. Just outside the huge drawing room is a smaller garden, where my cousins used to fly their kites... I wanted to be part of the exercise, and was handed over the spool much to my disappointment. After badgering them to let me fly a kite, I was finally given one which was one tenth the size of the normal one, much to my dismay.

Summer nights in small towns in those days were always spent sleeping outdoors....the charpais were laid out in a long row with the mosquito nets and after dinner and play we would retire there, the elders would come much later. Night sounds would be all around us.. the "siyaars" who we were told took away small children if they did not sleep early. One night I found that this true at all, although they came quite close and I had my eyes tightly shut with fear.

Meals were an event in Stanley Road .... a table for twelve could at times be too small for the number of people dining there. There would be ten at the minimum and the number would increase to fourteen or more when more cousins or aunts and uncles came there. But let me start with the breakfast first. There is a takhat  in the passage which goes around the bedrooms the steps of which lead to the courtyard. As children we sat on the takhat and ate our breakfast ... the kitchen was a good 100 meters away at least , shouts of 'Khansama.... toast le aao"  Khansama... fried egg banao".. my older cousins at their gracious best. The toasts would arrive crisp but cold having traipsed the distance from the western kitchen. I have since then always loved cold toasts!! I don't really remember any elder sitting there with us, perhaps they were in the dining room and possibly that was the reason for the temperature of the toasts.

The evenings would spent be in the "Gol kamra" or the round room, where uncles and aunts would sit together on another takhat  playing cards. A white cloth was spread to mark the start of the proceedings. We would watch with great enamor, each child attaching himself or herself to one as a lucky mascot. The mock anger and the shouts were amusing and great fun to witness. The game of cards was only abandoned when dinner was served and sometimes when the game was continued well after that. Most of the time though, everyone would sit and chat and then retire to the many rooms.

One thing which always bothered me as a child was the number of doors which led outside, each bedroom had a door, the bathrooms had a doors, the main entrance, the dining room, the entrance to the drawing room, there must have been someone to make sure all the doors were secure before leaving for the night and handing over the keys to the last man out, but I don't remember this very clearly, children normally are not concerned with the technicalities of how household are run.

My birthday used to fall in the winter vacations I remember a table placed in the upper garden laden with goodies in the evening. The party in the evening was for the other celebration but we used to watch from the "gol kamra" and wait for the wonderful dinner afterwards. What a feast it was, with the best of western and Indian food on the table, both kitchens must have been overactive since morning for this generous well laid meal.

The summer vacations were the longer ones, we would run to the "amrood ki bagiya" to buy the fruit for 5 naya paisa or was it 2? The shaded glade was like heaven in the heat of the afternoon. The dining room had a corner which had two pails filled with water in which mangoes were kept to cool, and while running around paying tag many a mango would disappear in the blink of an eye.Some of the games involved hiding and we would go upstairs and climb a rather small wall to reach the tiled roof used to be almost an adventure to climb up to the sloping tiled roof and balance oneself while pretending nonchalance.

The only restaurant was "Kwality" then and we would go there for a meal or an ice cream,all bundled into one car, the taste of the 'softies' still lingers.

There are so many memories attached to this almost home, a place which will remain dear to me for all the happy memories which make up my childhood. It is not really possible to put them all down,perhaps another chronicle will do the job.


austere said...

photos please!
you've captured another time so very well!

vishan lal said...

Just loved reading the whole article. Imli ke neeche, Amrood Ki Bagiya...and all. So engaging. Thanks for sharing. Would love to read more from you. regards. vishan lal