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I Remember, She Remembers, We All Remember

By Kritika Tandon

I have always wished to have been born as my mother’s sister rather than her daughter, not that I dislike being the latter. But as her sister I would have been able to cherish the kind of childhood that she had back then. I have often been accused of being highly mental for always craving for the past, of which I wasn’t even a part. But then, including all the setbacks, life was pretty easy with minimal dependence on technology, with no VAT and Service Tax, and with a thriving individualistic popular culture.

I am not writing to quetch about the present world scenario, but to diverge from its fast pace for a while. I have always had a kind of an antisocial life and have never cribbed about this fact. There are very few places in my own city that I like, not that I have explored the whole of it, and a very limited number of friends with whom I hang out. So during my slugging-time, which constitutes a major part of every day, I love to have a nice chat with my Mother. She tells me about her times, her life.

Mother’s paternal side migrated from Lahore during the partition and settled in Purani Dilli. Her maternal side resides in Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh. Almost all of the summer vacations of her childhood were spent in Vidisha. Here she would play around with a big gang of cousins. They would catch sparrow chicks, bathe in the river, chase every baelgaadi (bullock-cart), and get treated to all kinds of fables at night.

The house, she says, was extremely huge and every room had a name – hava mahal (the room with many windows), radio wala kamra (entertainment room). Then there were separate rooms for keeping the fasal (harvest) - a separate room for keeping all the onions, a separate one for potatoes, another one for jaggery and so on and so forth.

Mother says that the whole bunch of kids would run in scorching heat with burning feet in the aangan (courtyard) to pluck khajur (dates) from the tree. They also plucked mangoes and hid them in their clothes to escape from the prying eyes of their grandfather; Mother hid them in the puffed-up sleeves of her frock.

The elder bunch of cousins fooled around with the younger ones. Once they even advised them to collect and mix bird shit in their mehendi (henna) to get a richer colour, and the little kids did that. She says that the large family went to watch the film Mera Naam Joker (1970) in a nearby cinema hall and sat on a wooden fatta (plank).  

Back home, in the Walled City, Mother’s house used to be the tallest of all (now it is the shortest). As she became a teenager by the 70s, she would watch all films (especially the ones starring Neetu Singh) and tell my Nani(grandmother) to stitch the same kind of designer clothes – maxies, skirts, trousers, kurtas, shirts etc.

Radio was a major source of entertainment and most of the time was spent listening to AIR and Radio Ceylon. In the early 80s, when my mother and father met, they roamed the city on the motorbike (Java, I guess) of my father’s cousin; having their zindagi-ek-safar-hai-suhana moments.

When I sum it all up, I feel like living exactly the same life. But then I guess even my childhood wasn’t that bad. Since I remember most of it (post 3 years of age) I will jot down some instances:
  • I cherish all of my visits to Agra, my paternal home.
  • There, I had my own tattered-yet-strong tricycle that I rode in the entire house, while speaking to myself about some adventurous voyages.
  • My Baba (grandfather) brought Diamond Comics for my sister and I on rent.
  • He showed us the Taj Mahal from the terrace. He also told us some of the finest stories, taught TesuRaja poems and made us watch all of his favourite actor Raj Kapoor’s films.
  • We also regularly visited Mathura (Vrindavan and Govardhan) every year.
  • We once had to take a taanga (horse-drawn carriage) from the railway station to reach Vrindavan, that too in the pelting rain.
  •  I did the whole Parikrama of the Govardhan Parvat with my father and his siblings. When the whole crowd was walking, two of my cousins and I were driven by a rickshaw puller. I’d get down from the moving rickshaw at every stall, buy some tidbits and hop back on it. When I woke up in the morning, I was treated to the wonderful sight of peacocks sitting on most of the terraces of the nearby houses. And to my surprise, the rickshaw puller was still riding (obviously he didn't ride in a continuous pattern, but still).
  • Mother stitched a beautiful ­lehenga-choli in red-orange that I really liked. I got to take full continuous circles and watch it flare up. Only ending this with a great fall or banging my head in the wall.
  • But I witnessed two dreadful instances with the ­lehenga-choli on – my mundan, and the time when abandar snatched away my choli (I was already wearing it), ate the buttons and threw it back at our balcony in Agra.
By Kritika Tandon
  • Last, but not the least, my visits to the homes of my Nani and Masis in Purani Dilli, where I was often bullied when my sister and crazy cousin brother teamed up.
  • They scared me at night by saying that the moving light in the sky was not of an aeroplane but that of anudan-tashtiri (UFO). Now who does that!
  • I fell into a tub full of water in a sitting position while trying to fly a kite in an amateurish way. And my brother didn’t save me for he was busy laughing.
  • Oh, and I almost forgot my family’s wonderful 3-year stay in Mussoorie, where I was once dragged to a couple of metres by a dog only because I lacked the common sense of releasing the leash from my hands.

Kritika Tandon is a student at Delhi University pursuing Journalism(Hons). She writes also at


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