Thursday, February 23, 2012

Growing Up in Bamrauli







Bamrauli is a suburbs of the great city of Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh where i spent the first twelve years of my  life. Bamrauli is  home to CATC, (Civil Aviation Training Centre), a Division of Airport  Authority of India. Since Dad was  in Government Service, we lived  in the CATC Colony, a sprawling complex spread over 106 acres.

106 acres is a lot of space, and besides the official, residential and recreational buildings, there was greenery at every nook and corner.  Be it in the form of shrubs, hedges, age old towering trees, creepers, manicured official gardens or quaint home gardens in the colonial style barracks , kitchen gardens in residential areas,  a huge Swimming Pool cum Open air amphitheater with painstakingly  maintained Rose garden, Guava orchards,  papaya orchards and khet of chana in the vicinity of  our colony.

So, i grew up along with my siblings, smelling the scents, hearing the twitter of birds and experiencing the beauty of Mother Nature in all its glory.

This post, is a great opportunity for me to share the little joys of growing up, close to Nature.

Our home had a courtyard which had three fruit trees, Sharifa (Custard Apple),




 Guava and lemon.

Climbing on the Guava tree and hopping on  to the boundary wall was a regular activity.  It is a different matter that the guavas never got a chance to ripen , as most of them would be plucked by us much before that. The guava tree also came in handy when it was time to  mug up History lessons. Perched up on the branches it was easier to understand and memorize about the campaigns of Mahmud Ghazni.

With the Custard Apple tree  it was a different story. Under Dad's supervision we would carefully wrap the custard apples in newspapers, giving them a weeks time to ripen. And then the ripe,  sweet fruit would be savored by all.

 The Lemons came in handy for making nimboo pani and pickles.





 And sometimes,  for innovations like a Pedicure :)

A simple metallic bar was lodged on the custard apple tree and the adjoining wall ,which served for a humble swing.  Here, swinging on the swing, i would memorize  the dohas of Kabeer and the shlokas  in Sanskrit.

In an additional courtyard was an elaborately made structure for a Tulsi (Basil) plant. At a young age, Mum  taught us that it was a sacred plant with many medicinal qualities.




The front of the house had three creepers, Bougainvillea, Ivy and the Rangoon creeper. The way the Ivy trailed all over the veranda wall would surprise us no end.



 The petals of the Rangoon creeper




 happily made  for a ready to put on nail paint. The Caterpillars on the Lily leaf





 , would hold our attention for hours.The thorns in the Bougainvillea taught us to be careful.

The vivid Red Hibiscus and its elongated pistil would cheer us up,






 just as the scent of Jasmine bushes




 in  Summer reminded us that it was time to make a veni for Mum.

One of the most abundant and common plant was the Periwinkle




We would pluck leaves of Oleander bush, two at a time. 




Joining them at both ends we would delight in  the sound it created on tweaking.

Since ours was a corner house, we had a much bigger garden than  our neighbors. The entire boundary of our garden was covered with Henna bushes.  We would watch in fascination as Muslim women wearing burkas would stop by to collect  henna leaves for mehndi, on their way home to their adjoining village.

And of course my Dad's love of gardening and his green fingers. He would spend a great deal of his spare time in growing vegetables. Mint, tomatoes,






 potatoes, beans and more.

Our neighbor's had a Jamun tree.




 When the tree would bear fruit, instead of asking them to share the fruit with us, we would happily climb on the roof, balancing  precariously on the sloping front, without a care of a fall, and  skilfully gather jamuns in our frock, completely oblivious of the fact that the jamuns  left stains on the new frock Mum had  stitched lovingly for me.

The Kindergarten school of our colony doubled as the evening park for kids.  While the boys would get busy with a game of cricket, we would pick flowers from the Lantana bushes which lined the boundary of the school, throw the petals gleefully over one another, shouting...'....Holi hai!' .




Our hair bedecked with these tiny colorful flowers, we  would rush to the swing, aiming higher and higher , our hair flying wildly.

Come Summers, the Allahabad loo (hot winds) would make life miserable for all.  But not for us.  In the peak of the afternoon we would sneak out of the house while Mum was having her siesta, and armed with sticks and stones, we would run towards the Mango trees,




 to taste the first raw mango or ami,  of the season.

Summers also meant  daily trips to the Swimming pool. We would admire the carefully tended Rose garden,





marveling at the variety of colors, and enjoy watching movies in the Open Air Theatre  amidst greenery.

Summers also meant school vacations.  We would be loaded with Holiday Homework. Handwriting pages, charts, projects. But one activity i enjoyed the most was preparing a Herbarium. 




We would scout the entire colony, hunting for the  widest  variety of flora and would patiently dry them in old  notebooks.  To be later assembled in a file and proudly presented to the Science teacher.

And once Monsoons came, it was time to do a rain dance. With gay abandon we would run wildly in the little square next to our home and enjoy the seasonal Dassehri




mangoes. Monsoons also meant wading through shallow water bodies, floating our paper boats




 and collecting red velvety insects,







 which i now know as Trombidium which make  their presence only during Rains, spending most of their time buried in the soil.

 As also taking delight in watching the Earthworms




 crawl into our veranda from the garden.

With the arrival of Monsoons, it was time to surrender to the  sounds and sights from  heaven. The arrival of dark clouds, the roaring thunder, the electrifying lightning added up to the excitement of the most romantic season. Not to forget the pitter patter of the rain drops, the thud of the hail storms,  Petrichor, the ecstasy  of the Peacock and the most beautiful sight on earth, the Rainbow.

And yet, there was a music of another kind to be experienced. 

 The courtship ritual of the Frogs and toads. 





The croaking of the male species to impress their female counterparts  became part of the backdrop of Monsoons. Perhaps the not-so-exciting part :). And  one  day  my elder sister, excited about her newly acquired Dissection box decided to put her skills to test.  She managed to catch hold of a frog, pin him up on the board and set forth with her scalpel.  It was indeed an encounter of the close kind that day.

Our other  neighbors had a Neem Tree.




 Many times, Mum would boil the Neem leaves and mix it with water and ask us to bathe  with it, as it served as an antiseptic.

And then there were other lazy,  unhurried days  without  a care in the world, when  we would explore nooks and corners of  the colony. An abandoned well. The haunted house. The beggar.  The mad woman. 

Stopping by the Tamarind tree for a bite of the raw sour fruit, gazing at the mighty Pipal  and Banyan,



the fragrant Frangipani



  Plucking  Falsa (Falsa Grevia)






from the CPWD Office, admiring the seasonal potted plants like Chrysanthemums, Marigold, Zinia, Pansy, Sweet Pea, 



in the Welfare Officer's Office,  picking up bers from a friend's home which had fallen on the ground much to our delight, biting into shahtoot





(Mulberry) which grew in a friend's backyard.

It was during one of our leisurely jaunts that i chanced upon the Mimosa Pudica plant, or chui mui.  




What joy it was to see the leaves  close at  the touch of your finger!.

Discovering new varieties of Butterflies




was always  a challenge  and chasing them, a thrill.

Getting up in the morning to the scent of Harsinghar




and collecting the pretty little flowers with bright orange stems for mum for Pooja,  is yet another memory.

Post Summers the Swimming pool itself would be closed, but the complex continued to be the hub of the colony.  Cultural programmes were held regularly.  On one such occasion, three Nigerians  training at CATC gave a heart warming rendition of the song..... Ye dosti, ham nahi todenge.... from the film Sholay.  It was within the complex's massive amphitheater that movies were screened.  Dosti, Pakeezah, Sampoorn Ramayan, Mughle- a -zam, Documentaries on Eskimos etc.

As the weather changed, it would be Picnic time. We would go to the Swimming pool complex with food , spread our sheets on the dry fallen leaves



and  watch nature rest in its dormant season, preparing to renew again in the new year in  Spring.

And how can i forget the Guava orchards. Allahabad is famous for guavas.  Dad would carry bags full of them for his brothers in Delhi.  Even today, the vendor in my neighborhood will call out, "Allahabad ke pede le lo"



 There were two big orchards, where one could  hear the melodious cooing  of  the Koel ,




 the raucous cawing of the Crow,  the chirping of the common Sparrow, the shrill sound of the Parrots





and more sounds from occasional birds like  Magpie, Woodpecker, Mynah and Kingfisher. With the mention of Kingfisher






 is another childhood memory. We would sing a little prayer on sighting this exotic Blue bird and make a wish. It was something on the lines of..... Neelkant tum neele rehna,  jaagte hui  bhi  neele rehna....

 It was a joy to walk through the shaded, calm and serene environs of the guava orchards or baagh.  And yes, we would happily ask the Mali to  share the  tempting and ripe guavas with us.

We would  be on the hunt to discover nests






 perched up high on the branches, and sometimes well within our reach.


And lastly, a post on Allahabad without a mention of the Triveni Sangam, the confluence of three rivers Ganga, Jamuna and the mythic Saraswati  would be incomplete.





 Many times, we would get up early in the morning to  visit Triveni  Sangam for a holy dip as per Hindu beliefs, a dip  is said to wash away all of one's sins and free one from the cycle of rebirth. One more  of the countless elements of Mother Nature.

We would also spend time playing on the wet sand.

Before writing this post, my daughters never knew the extent of my closeness with nature as a kid. And now, i want to take them for a Natue Trail holiday.

As a parting shot, i'll say  that  with rapid urbanization , population explosion, the crunch of space is felt by one and  all.  Not every home has a garden today.  So the onus is on all of us to conserve our Natural Resources and emphasize the need to do this to our children. This generation which has grown up with Technology and a large chunk of the virtual world needs to connect with Mother Nature all the more.

It was great going down memory lane. Yes, my childhood felt like 100% in the lap of Nature and i feel blessed i did not grow up in a concrete jungle. Thank you Kissan and  Indiblogger.

[This Post is an entry for the Kissan 100% Real Blogger Contest organized by Indibloggger in association with Kissan].