Forgotten summers

There’s still a summer from long ago in my forgotten lane. It finds a voice in the golawala’s bell that rings loud around noon, the proverbial pied piper’s music and children tumble out from buildings, helpless to the sweet-sour tastes of his golas.

His bottles line one end of the cart, a tantalising world of possibilities of colour and taste and the little humans fall under the spell of the array. Sometimes, they sneak out and at other times, they pester their folks no end till it’s just easier for the hot and bothered adults to say “go”.

My daughter is the same age as his, 11 and she asks if she can go and get a gola. Her need is so great and her suffering so huge that I smile and say ‘Yes’. The little mite gets me one too and we spend a summer afternoon in secret pleasure, our mouths stained the colours of wine and hearts filled with happiness. It’s a pleasure unlike any and brings back memories of sweet summers as a child. The heat doesn’t bother children, it’s just the adults who sweat and swear while the mercury rises. The kids just enjoy the season and make merry with crushed ice.

The other day, I asked the youngling about the golawala and her only important piece of information was that he gave free golas once a year to all the kids. It piqued my interest enough to want to know more about this man who so obviously seemed to love his job. I succumbed to the bell and ran down to catch him and find out who was this magical man. His name is Kailash like the mountain and I thought he couldn’t have had a more appropriate name.

Now, Kailash has been selling golas in the neighbourhood for 18 years. He plans to retire in a couple of years since he says, a man pushing a cart should work for only 20 years. If only, retiring was that easy for the rest of us. He came to the city from Jalgaon and joined his sister-in-law who had a cart. A few years later he branched out on his own. Perhaps, the birth of his son might have necessitated the need for independence and a little more money in the pocket. His son is 18 now and a college dropout. He works in a mall though and Kailash is a little sad that the boy hasn’t chosen to complete his degree. He has high hopes for his little girl and proudly says that he will educate her. “Main tho use padaoonga (I’ll educate her)”.

It’s a harsh life, selling golas in the punishing heat of Pune. There is also the added hardship of having his cart impounded by the municipality and the loss of business until he manages to release it or get another one. He sells anywhere between 50–100 golas a day and has no fixed income. He nets about 200–300 rupees a day and the family’s income is supplemented by his wife who also works. He used to work in a restaurant but prefers the freedom to be his own boss.

He sells golas for 10 months of the year. In the monsoons, he takes a break and sells butta (roasted corn) instead. He makes his own syrup and is proud to say that his concentrate stays as is for a year without getting spoilt. It’s basically a sugar concentrate which is cooked and left to cool before the fruit extract is added and mixed. The crushed ice is packed onto an ice-cream stick and swirled in the liquid before it is served.

I wonder if anyone else was interested in his life and day. He was happy to chat and had a smile even when not smiling. Perhaps, it was the honesty in his heart that shone through. I wonder if he went back home and told his family about a tall, lady in a saree who was mad enough to want to know about Kailash the golawala.

These are the magic people of our lives, the unsung heroes to our little children, the ones who make memories for them that they can turn to as adults. I know many mothers will be aghast at the thought of the unhygienic conditions etc. but none of the kids have fallen sick eating his colourful golas. Not yet.

Summer is gone and the rains are going. He’ll come again with his magical bottles and sunshine smile to create magic with ice and colour and you’ll be helpless and say, “bhaiyya, ek gola de do (Brother, please give me one gola)”

A night of songlight

An old saree picture and a scribble for a Saturday

Shakin Stevens is crooning because I love you, it must be from the house with the boy. It’s the radio playing, nice. I should play the radio too.

Unbreak my heart now and Toni Braxton sounds soulful and sensual all at once. I slip out of my dark bed and stand unseen behind the curtains in my bedroom. I think I see the man-boy’s shorts. It is him and he stands behind the curtains of his room.

I’m lost in this pointless moment where two people stand behind curtains looking and not looking. I’m a voyeur while he’s trapped in a wordless mind. His days are mostly spent on a dusty terrace where he makes distressed animal sounds and ranges like a wild one.

Now it’s James Blunt on that radio, my mind drifts to the firstborn. It’s our song, the one she uses to deflect my telling her she’s beautiful. Mais oui, she is!

It’s midnight and I’m still enjoying the music. They are strains of my youth coming out through a busted speaker. I think of getting the radio from the Kid’s room to mine and playing the same channel but somehow this is better, a tenuous intimacy between unseen people.

The volume is down now, maybe the father has retired for the night and the boy still needs song. The neighbour’s air conditioning has stopped its loud whirring and Leo has found his pillow on my arm.

Let her go by Passenger spikes up the volume. I wonder if anyone else is enjoying this night of mushy love, unrequited love. They no longer make me yearn for languorous lovemaking but wash over like a pleasant breeze.

Their window is shut now and I can only hear faint crests and troughs of music. A cue to fall asleep but I’m still listening.

The radio is silent now and I’m wide awake…

Instagram memories

I’ve had many blogs over many years, always zealously private until something started to loosen up. Perhaps it was a sense of growing older and figuring out all of us had the same loves and losses. We guard our secrets from friends and family but let them tumble in front of strangers.

Some of my ramblings have been like this space, a kind of chatting over coffee and some have been anonymous journals of solitary roads that could be found only by those travelling similar paths. Most of the time, these writings are invisible and it’s only ever an offering. The words may flow through my pen or screen but their authorship comes from a source that has no beginning and no end.

It felt good to be acknowledged by someone who has been a practitioner for more years than I may ever be and a writer to boot. So, someone may be reading my musings after all. It’s a humbling moment and one of joy too. My next instinct is to duck under and hibernate until every one disappears. It’s the paradox of a solitary passion, the necessity of silence and the desire to be heard. Have I shared too much… Blame the grey day.

The youngling and I have time on our hands now and I imagine there is no school. In this make believe world, we spend cocooned days learning new words and making new ones up while not climbing trees or running free. Sometime during the pretend day, we will sip on a Pink soda with a dash of lime, kind of like today’s pop pink and lime green khesh and her tee.

Little K has got the mischief back in her eyes after a long snooze and will be a whirling mass of energy before I know it. Thank you for all your love and warmth, that’s just the magic we needed. .

📷courtesy: the youngling

– written in February 2018

#ghadimodane

I first heard of ghadi modane from Rupali, a saree enthusiast helplessly in love with the six yards. She mentioned an old Konkan tradition where a new saree was worn by a woman in the family or extended family before being used by oneself. Loosely translated, it means to open the folds of a new garment. Anyways, soon after, I happened to mention this to a dear friend in my neighbourhood. It jogged her memory and since I had a new saree that sat guiltily in my cupboard, I gave it to her. And just like that an old tradition bound within familial ties spilled into a virtual world.

As with most traditions, this would have been a way to strengthen and nurture bonds of sisterhood. And you can’t argue with the fact that showing off a new saree is a delightful experience. It would have been the Instagram equivalent of those times.

Another reason could be good old economics. Many decades ago before we became a wildly consumerist populace, new clothes were probably bought a couple of times a year for festivals and birthdays or then special occasions like a wedding or betrothal. Sharing a new saree meant a change from a limited set and some happiness in an otherwise hard existence. Of course, this is complete conjecture and there may not have been this aspect at all.

Another reason could have been sharing out of respect or affection. It is one of the garments that has always been a storehouse of memories quite like how festivals and natural occurrences mark the passage of time for the elders.

As I share with more people about this, I’ve been discovering a similar practice across a wider geography. Anyways, circa 2017 a new version of an old custom started to emerge, largely due to a sense of community amongst saree lovers on Instagram. Since family members may or may not dig sarees, why not widen the circle of love with those who love the six yards.

I spoke to a few ladies who opened the folds of my sarees and they were unanimous in the pleasure they felt. I’ve also been the recipient of many gorgeous sarees and have been grateful for the love and consideration. It is a slightly mad almost girlish excitement which the menfolk don’t quite get, especially the fact that these sarees are whizzing all over the place!

The recent saree I wore, a gorgeous blue handwoven irkal was handed to me by a fellow Instagrammer’s husband who visited my home! Strange are the ways of this ether world that connect absolute strangers and make them saree sisters.

Some of the ghadi modane sarees

I’m not an expert and have taken the liberty to imagine about the tradition. In case you have any additions or would like to correct something, please feel free to do so in comments. I would be happy to ammend the post.

edit: A tamil phrase, pirichchu kattikko means pretty much the same, open the folds and wear is something Lakshmi mentioned.