It is the 5.30 pm alarm, the one I have set as a reminder to call Amma.
I’m at work reviewing the work done that day and simultaneously making a list of tasks to be completed the next day. I still have about 30 minutes of work left before I can really call it a day and head home.
It was close to noon sometime last week. I was at work and wrestling with some pending bills, my least favourite task in the world.
“The morning mail’s here and there’s a packet for you,” announced G, my office assistant as she came into my room and handed a medium-sized envelope to me.
“Personal or official?” I asked, glad for the distraction.
“I think it is personal,” said G as she turned to leave.
“It is. And I know what’s inside too,” I said when I saw the return address on the envelope. “Go, get the others. I think all of you will like to see this.”
Within minutes my office team had gathered gathered around my table and the envelope had been cut open and its contents spread on the table — lots and lots of photographs of my family, many of which I was seeing for the first time.
“So many photographs!” exclaimed a team member. “Someone in your family must have been very fond of photography.”
As we went through the photographs, I told them of the two photographers in the family who had taken the bulk of the photos. I also shared the memories and stories behind the ones I could recognise, and how the photographs in the envelope came to be sent to me.
Every traveller has a story or two or maybe more about chance happenings that led to something more, something interesting. This is one such story. 🙂
I had just finished my tour of the Dr. Ramnath A. Podar Haveli Museum at Nawalgarh and had walked out of the main door. Unlike other havelis, the entrance to the Podar Haveli Museum is not level with the road and is situated about 15-20 feet above ground. From where I stood, I had the advantage of height and could look around and into the compounds of neighbouring havelis.
One such pastel-coloured haveli caught my attention. Located opposite the Podar Haveli Museum, its architecture exhibited colonial influences. It also had a large painting on one of its walls which, from where I stood, looked pretty interesting. But the high walls, closed gate and the freshly painted look of the haveli indicated that it was perhaps inhabited. I decided to check with the Museum staff if they knew anything about that haveli and if it would be possible for me to visit it.
Turned out that the Museum staff knew quite a bit. The haveli was the private residence of the Podars, the very family that owned the Museum. This was where the family members and their friends stayed whenever they visited Nawalgarh. Currently, the haveli was undergoing repairs and renovation and was, therefore, unoccupied. And yes, I could go and see the haveli if I wished to.
Of course I wished to ! I didn’t need any further encouragement and off I went. 🙂
It is mid-morning on a December day in 2013 at Daulatabad Fort. I have been climbing for about an hour or so in an attempt to reach the top of the hill Fort, pausing only to take photographs or sips of water to keep myself hydrated. It has been a never-ending climb; every time I think I have negotiated the final set of steps and reached the top, another set appears almost as if by magic ! It doesn’t help that the access way is built in such a way that only part of the route is visible !
When I spot a dome as I negotiate yet another set of steps (see photo on the left), I think I have reached the summit. I am so happy and relieved that I run up the “last” few steps.
But no ! Another set of stairs looms ahead ! I am so breathless and winded by then that I can’t even cuss in frustration.
I decide to take a longer break before resuming with the climb and move to the shade of some trees. I notice a middle-aged woman sweeping the area outside the domed structure.
Before I can ask her about the structure, I get distracted by the antics of a squirrel, and then by the requests of a group of school children who want their photographs taken, when they see my camera.
“Would you like some water? It is from a spring close by and very refreshing, ” a soft voice asks.
It is the woman who had been sweeping earlier and she is holding a bottle of water. Even though I have water, I don’t want to offend her by saying no. The water is as refreshing as the woman promised and surprisingly sweet as well.
“What is this?” I ask, pointing towards the domed structure.
“It’s a Ganesha Temple.”
“I saw you cleaning the temple and its premises. Are you the caretaker?”
“How could you be so careless?” Amma glares at me.
“Well… you know, I just forgot.” I try to look nonchalant and cool; needless to say, I fail miserably.
“Forgot? How can you forget your mobile in the office? You have it attached to you like an appendage at other times !”
“I do not !” I protest.
“Amma, don’t exaggerate,” pipes in my brother, who’s visiting from Pune and is busy surfing on my Dell Venue Tablet. “This is not the first time your daughter has forgotten her mobile in office. You should know by now that she does it quite regularly.”
I glare at my brother and he grins back cheerfully. Really ! Is this the time to bring up this habit of mine?
“Yes. But is this the time to forget? What are we supposed to do now? How will we know what time Dr. Shashank’s coming? Or even if he’s coming today.” Amma is, to put it politely, in a flap.
“Of course, he’s coming, Amma. Dr. Shashank did say the last time he was here that he would be here today at 8.00 am,” I say soothingly
“He also said that he will confirm with you,” Amma snaps at me. “And in case you haven’t realised, it is 8.30 am and he isn’t here yet. He must have sent a text message to you about today’s session.”
I wisely keep quiet.
In case you’re wondering who Dr. Shashank is, and why my mother is in such a dither over him at 8.00 8.30 am that morning, read on.
“Can you play the tanpura before you go?”, Amma (my mother) asks. I have just settled her in bed for the night and have switched on the night-light when she makes this request.
“Of course,” I say, reaching for the Tablet kept on the nightstand. I switch on the Tanpura App and within seconds a soft, sonorous drone fills the room. Amma smiles with pleasure and within minutes she’s fast asleep. I wait for a little while before leaving the room, reducing the volume a bit.
“Paati’s (Tamil word for grandmother) asleep?” asks AA, my niece, as I pass her on the way to the kitchen.
“Yes. Let the tanpura play for another 10 minutes or so and then you can use the Tablet if you want to,” I tell her.
“Okayyyyyy, ” AA drawls out her thanks.
“And after you finish, AA, I’d like to use it for a while. I want to catch up with the news,” calls out her mother and my sister-in-law, SV.
“Okayyyyyy. I won’t take more than 10 minutes; just want to check my FB and mail,” AA replies.
When I look in to say goodnight to SV and AA about half-an-hour later, I find that they are sharing earphones and watching something on the Tablet intently. I smile and head for bed thinking how quickly a device that everyone in my family had not shown any interest in, had suddenly become the most convenient and coveted thing in the household.
That device was a 8″ x 5″, book-sized, Dell Venue Tablet sent to me last month as part of the Dell blogger review programme.