November evenings are warm comparatively speaking. The times are a changing. Sitting and just flipping over channels on television aimlessly. Suddenly a very soothing refreshing feeling comes about. Thoughts slide back home. Then I’m saddened and depressed. Firstly this horrible weather, never faced or braved. It is the retreating monsoon they say. Retreating and raining cats and dogs. Just recently there was waterlogging and somewhat flooding as well. Part of living in a big city. This makes me think more of home that I left behind. Well some of it was in pursuit of bigger goals, some circumstances.
I remember well, Nainital too had monsoon and its share of retreating monsoon. It definitely rained cats and dogs. I think it no more does, thanks to the warmer weather now and somewhat to the hot subject in today’s time global warming . Like I said it rained cats and dogs. It was the period of the year when it used to rain and boy it rained. Rain poured not came with the same speed and tenacity for 7 days of the week. It was round the clock. Rain rain and only rain. “Rain,Rain go away….” did not work one bit. But we (me and friends) could hardly stay put! How could we miss the everyday walk, the malli to talli one, the hourly doses of chai and smoke at Ashok restaurant, the one behind the mallital rickshaw stand (old location) despite getting wet, and preparing to get more wet . There was yet a trip to mandir (naina devi) well the important aspect here was that after paying obeisance to the Goddess, money was collected for chewing gums, meetha paan these formed accessories to the packet of cigarettes that was bought. All of this came from a single shop, one shop adjacent to the temple gate. Now the band of boys made their march to the summer house on Thandi sadak, for the most important task of the day. We had to have our smokes. We had created our own security guards, two gus stood on either side keeping a watch on each passerby. Any known person seen, dropped smoke but not stubbed. The task had to be completed. Important things cannot be left alone or side stepped.
This was in a way a ritual everyday. On the Mall road just about 500 meter form where we lived and had our restaurant was Naini Billiards (it is still there, I believe) this was my regular haunt, 10 am to 12 noon table was booked for me. Those were the days and times along with smoke, hard hand bangs(not fist) on the table, a couple of frames of snooker and billiards. Mid-day came and it was back to business (restaurant). To someone new visiting the place or observing it would seem a constant chaos and, confusion. Yes, to the unknown naked eye, but here it was systematic and synchronised yet everything moved like clockwork and reflective actions. Well, there is always some tit -bit. But the sailing overall was smooth. This was summer time and season time and also to make money of all other things. Well got to keep afloat 6 months, before the next round.
Now, memory has faded I guess. But there was a time when sitting in my restaurant I could tell you of the number of people staying in “iconic” Grand Hotel. There were regulars and with their preferences of rooms. I use the word regular because they came every year and the period of stay too was in a way fixed. April last week – May first week all regulars were there, The tentative rooms fixed, the regular morning and evening trips to the Boat house club,, the number of days to stay fixed, sort of regularity. Sitting 500 meters away in my restaurant I could tell you who had arrived and which room (approximately) would he be in.
The winters had yet another charm, sweaters jackets caps worn at almost all times and kept in very close proximity. Never know when might need them. The warm winter sun, almost no business so no work, thus time to bask in the sun. This is not as most do, we in the hills used go on rooftops.
The rooftops in hills are slanted tin roofs, we would go up on them, sit with back facing the sun. Now not to move, just savour, soak the sunlight. Well, turns would be taken to make tea. Having tea that too in winters, was hourly. There was no dearth of the warm bright sun and tea (with cookies, of course)
It was like living in paradise (almost) easy relaxed pace of life, almost carefree, relaxed in more than many ways. Almost everybody knowing everybody. A helping hand always around to help.
The warmth, simplicity, honesty in almost everything right from ways of doing things to conversations to relationships. Why am I caught here in this concrete jungle? I’d have been happier in staying trapped, caged home (paradise). Home is bliss……how I miss.
Writer: Paresh Chanchalani