Category: Childhood

Melodies in Vinyl

If somebody in your family has been a music lover, a connoisseur of music, chances are you may have been handed down a collection of vinyl records. You may have wondered for a while what to do with the huge collection – they are heavy, they take up space, and gramophones and record players have long ceased to exist. You can’t junk them because there’s huge sentimental value attached. But, thank god some good old things do come back! Yes, I am talking about the Vinyl Turntables with USB Digital Conversion audio that are now available both offline and online, making it possible to enjoy the retro melodies with a modern twist.IMG-20190125-WA0011-1.jpg

When I went home last year, I was bequeathed with a huge collection of vinyl records – a rare collection put together by my late uncle to which my mother later added, now lying locked in an almirah. “Your father wants to throw these records away, such great music,” my mother complained. “They are just taking up space, your gramophone doesn’t work, and you don’t even play them anymore,” retorted by father. “I will take them,” said I, to my mother’s great relief.

The sight of those records brought back memories of my late uncle, a music lover, an amateur poet and an actor by passion. Though he had a regular job, he was fairly well-known in the literary and theater circuits. The ‘Radior Ghar’ or the Radio Room in our ancestral home, the cultural and entertainment hub for the entire extended family, was carefully put together by him. The long table along the wall had a Murphy radio and an HMV record player lying next to each other. In a shelf the vinyl records, both the smaller and the bigger ones, were carefully arranged. The room also had a book shelf with volumes of poetry, English and Bengali classics. That book shelf was my first window to the world of literature.

My mother often talked about the ‘Radior Ghar’ and the lively gatherings in that room every evening. My uncle and his friends, many of whom were connected to the world of literature and music, would get together in that room after office. The HMV player would play yesteryear greats like S D Burman, Bhupen Hazarika, Hemant Kumar, Manna Dey, and the list went on. There would be music, poetry, laughter and discussions over numerous cups of tea. A newly wed bride from Lucknow, a brilliant singer and a music lover herself, my mother was warmly welcomed into that circle.

After my uncle’s untimely demise, the ‘Radior Ghar’ and its collections fell into disarray. Some of his vinyl records and books were borrowed never to be returned, some were broken, and many got damaged. The shock of his sudden demise was too much to bear and for a while nobody cared for his vinyl record collection. Finally, my mother took over what was left behind and added to it. Growing up I remember listening to the yesteryear greats playing on the HMV record player. My taste for music, that developed in those days, is still tilted towards the melodies of the yore.

The HMV record player one day gave away. By then there were tape recorders and cassettes, and vinyl records seemed old fashioned. Soon there were two-in-ones, the much-coveted Sony Walkman, fancy music systems, CDs and CD players. When I started working, I bought myself an expensive music system that played cassettes, CDs and FM channels, with fancy speakers and all. It was my prized possession for a while. Then suddenly one day music went online, and nobody cared for music systems or cassettes or CDs anymore. When my music system started giving trouble, I didn’t even bother to get it repaired, just gave it away to the society care taker (maybe I will regret this one day).

IMG_20190126_123329.jpgAs a music lover, I am glad for the range of music that is now available online, but listening to ageless strains of  yesteryear’s masters’  on vinyl LPs was a different experience all together, something that I had long forgotten. The very mention of vinyl records during my home trip, brought back those memories. Thanks to my new vinyl turntable and those magical vinyl records which my mother carefully kept all these years, I can now recreate the immortal melodies of my childhood!

Savouring the flavours of childhood

Tiya bit into the murir moa (laddu made out of murmura and jaggery) with delight! She was visiting home for Pujo and her college friend had called her over for Lakkhi Pujo (Laksmi Puja). Goddess Lakshmi is worshiped in every Bengali household on the first full moon night after Bijoya Dhashami. As her mom didn’t do much at home anymore, she decided to go to her friends’ place in the evening. To her surprise, her friend Piyu had followed all the traditions in her adulation of the Goddess, right from the clay idol of Lakshmi to the rangoli to making naru (nariyal laddu made out of jaggery), moa, sandesh and all the other delicacies offered to the goddess at home.

Tiya hasn’t eaten a homemade moa or naru in ages. There was a time when they were served murir or chirer (chirva) moa as evening snacks, with a glass of milk of course. She particularly liked khoi er moa or khoir er upra (sweetened parched paddy) which was no less than caramel popcorn, and far healthier. And sometimes there would be muri makha or tel muri, narkel muri (murmura served with freshly scraped coconut) or chire bhaja (roasted chirva with onion and peanuts).

There was a time when her mom and grandmon would make moa and naru in the afternoon. She remembered the whole process of melting the jaggary to the right consistency, putting muri or chirva in the hot jaggary and mixing it well. She remembered them shaping the hot mixture into round laddus, their palms would at times go red. Her mom continued to do these alone for a while after her grandmother passed away. She probably she stopped after Tiya and sisters left home.

Mom would even make samosas at home, phulkobi samosas were her speciality, and green pea kachori (puri stuffed with green peas) served with aloor dum. Tiya remembered as a child her family would rarely eat out. Her mom made delicious food at home, there was always such variety. Even pickles and jams were all homemade. Her nani also made aam padad and chiki at home. The homemade moa and naru served by Piyu brought back the almost forgotten delicious flavours of her childhood.

poppins

Who eats moa and naru now, lost in the world of candies, popcorn and burgers do today’s kid even know what they taste like? When Tiya was a little girl she was so much easier to please, few orange toffees would make her day. Yes, round wrapped orange toffees that you rarely see now. Parle did try their hands on it but it wasn’t the same. And there was Poppins and Gems that came in different colours. Then came five stars and milk chocolates that were more expensive, and Tiya and sisters were allowed to indulge in them only occasionally.

The pink bubble gums came next. Tiya remembers chewing those gums endlessly till her jaws ached and blowing them, most of the times they would blow up on her face. Those chewed gums created lot of mess in the school – she would find them stuck under the desk, in the books, worst was boys sticking those gums in her long hair.

As Tiya grew up and went for tuitions with her friends they would occasionally indulge in chanachur (Bengali mixture with onion, mirchi, nimbu & stuff) or the roadside mutton chops. Tiya and her friends would walk to the tuition classes, saving on the rickshaw fare so they could feast on chanachur and mutton chop on their way back.

Probably Tiya’s generation saw the advent of fast food or junk food with the launch of Maggi, it was such an instant hit. Tiya still remembers looking forward to Maggi as school lunch or Sunday breakfast. When she left home, she was introduced to the world of pizzas, burgers, pastas, wraps, rolls, tacos and what not, and the humble narus, moyas and samosas were soon forgotten.

Once Tiya started working and living on her own she started cooking, in fact started enjoying cooking, but not the typical Bengali stuff. She would dish out international cuisine, sometimes Italian, sometimes Lebanese. She started baking and her cakes became quite a hit with her friends and colleagues. Looking at the array of traditional home-made delicacies laid out by Piyu, Tiya suddenly felt a twinge of guilt mixed with nostalgia. It’s time to dish up the traditional flavours and surprise her friends with naru, moa and jhalmuri and kachori!

Happy Diwali, Mitti Ke Diye Wali!

Remember the days when Diwali was about earthen Diyas, making wicks the night before, pouring oil in the Diyas and getting them ready so that they could lit up the dark Diwali night. And of course, rangolis and home-made sweets and simple pathakas like phool jharis, charkis and anars. We would watch from a distance as mom and grand mom would make the wicks and get the Diyas ready. We were allowed to place the Diyas and light them once the sun went down, under the supervision of adults.

I remember lighting the Diyas and watching our house and the entire neighbourhood lit up beautifully the dark Diwali night. As kids our real challenge was trying to guard the flames from the gentle autumn breeze, stoking the wicks and ensuring the Diyas would stay lit as long as possible. Of course, the flames of Diyas lasted only a few hours. They were not as strong or colourful as the artificial lights decorating the buildings and houses during Diwali and other festivities these days, but their flickering flames had a beauty and simplicity that cannot be matched by these artificial lights!

So, let this Diwali be Mitti ke Diye Wali! These days mitti waale Diyas are available in different designs, wicks are readily available in the market, making it much easier to light a Diya. Let’s bring back the charm of those flickering flames and breathe life into the dying profession of pottery!

Making of Diyas & other decorative items: Project Why

The Address Book

cropped-address-book.jpgWhile cleaning my bookcase I came across my old address book, a farewell gift from my hostel friend in the university. Brought back a flood of memories… the hostel days & nights, going to the Gops (Gopal who ran a small tea shop and grocery store in the campus) at 12 am for the last cup of coffee, girly gossips, staying up all night and so much more…

Ours was a campus beautifully laid out in the rocky green terrain of Hyderabad. Since the hostel was inside the campus there were not too many restrictions. As long as boys didn’t enter the girls’ hostel it was fine. We would often stay out the whole night, dancing away around a campfire or just lying on a rock and counting the stars. Occasionally nights were also spent studying, group studies in the hostel or in the library.

The address book brought back those heady memories, I spent hours browsing through the pages. It felt like yesterday when I passed the book around to all my friends and hostel mates before leaving campus. Their names, addresses and phone numbers were alphabetically listed. We vouched to stay in touch, we sincerely believed we would As I went through the pages their faces flashed before my eyes. There were a few letters and phone calls then we lost touch, got busy with real life, I guess. I reconnected with some of my college friends years later on Facebook, though the warmth fizzled after the initial excitement.

I had a sudden urge of dialling one of those numbers listed in my address book. Maybe, just maybe the number hasn’t changed, or the person hasn’t left…maybe the voice will bring back the warmth and the excitement of the college days…