Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Return of the Native

It is only befitting that i talk about him first. Mainly because some of my next series of blogs will be centered around what i have only gained from him.
i need to acknowledge then that it truly is a very satisfying and rewarding experience when you visit a new place where you are chaperoned around with a friend who not only belongs to that place but is also a true son of the soil. For you are blessed not only with all the needful requirements duly attended to right from the time you disembark the train till you board the train again to be back home but also with the finer details about the new place which only a magnanimous and very patriotic local host can impart and share.

Yes we had been to Indore recently motivated by the fervent invitation of a friend who has managed to sneak into our hearts unawares in such a manner that it is difficult to ascertain what he and his family mean to us. Sometimes he is a dear friend, a bum chum with whom we are only just too relaxed to set aside the facade of sophistication and be our original self. Other times he is a family with whom we share our deepest traumas and secrets without any fear or doubts. It is rather very difficult to say which role he performs with greater finesse and panache. Whether he is better as a family more on whom we can bank on blindly or best as a dear, full of fun and life, FRIEND.

On being apprised by my husband over the phone of my intention which was a rather religious one instead of the regular sightseeing holiday, this friend/family apart from planning our weekend itinerary applied all his sincere efforts in giving us the very best of all the worlds in those two limited days. That too when he was playing host to some 50 family members who were stationed at his place on his behest to enjoy a full- family- at- one- place- Raksha Bandhan.

Unlike us who in the name of motherland offer only lip service and in fact know very little of our own native place, he is an ardent devotee of the place he was born and raised. Today he feels more blessed than happy on being fortunate enough to finally manage a posting after 20 years of serving miles and miles away from home. Although even when he was miles away he made sure not only for his family and him making visits to his native town as often as he could manage but also that we were not bereft either of getting some real taste of Malwa. For thanks to his electric enthusiasm and leadership we could enjoy all our festivals with the same gaiety and hurdang ( boisterous fun) as we would have in his native place Bagli which is a small town in the district of Dewas  Madhya Pradesh, India .

Even otherwise we were often invited home to savor and get acquainted with both his adorable family members whom he would regularly invite for a Southern Sojourn and the local delicacies like Dal Bafla, Dal Bati Churma, Besan ki chikki, Sev tamatar ki sabji , Besan ki sabji  plus many other exotic local dishes the names of which i can't seem to recollect right now.
Amidst good cohesive gathering and delicious food he would then regale us not only with jokes, stories and tales of his land but also about unknown facts which would provide us with some lesson in anthropology. How else then would we even know the name of this festival called Bhagoriya and the songs sung in regional dialect during that festival?
With him and his family it was always laughter and fun of such magnitude that the daily stress of life seemed  dormant and diminished. Whether it concerned the dull and severe competitive educational regime of school going kids or was related to the awful and sometimes traumatic Hari Sadu- boss- ridden- career- in- doldrums at the office. All of us would be seen laughing our worries away. His explanations, observations, mimicry, some unbelievable original anecdotes made us roll with laughter so much so that our stomachs cried out for mercy and tears would start to trickle from the corner of the eyes. 

Almost the entire department can never have enough of his extempore transliterated farewell speech which he was requested to give suddenly in his first posting as a very young officer at Chennai. Fortunately for us and unfortunately for him he was the senior most officer in that particular department. Still inexperienced in such matters that required one to wax eloquent about someone and ill-equipped not only with Tamil and some fluency in English but also with enough familiarity to even remember the name of the retiring gentleman this extempore has become a convention now in all our farewell speeches. After the regimental formalities are over and if  Rathore is present he is requested unanimously for a re-wind and when he is not around someone else does the honors A la  Rathore style as laughter dispels the somberness and sadness much associated with farewell parties especially when the outgoing gentleman is not exactly the one who belongs to the Hari Sadu genre. 

All our kids who grew up having him around still cherish the poignant memories of the complete full package fun times spent with their favorite Rathore Uncle. My son still uses Rathore's typical" Hoy! Hooye!" happy exclamations of joy whenever he joins in any fun or revelry especially when India or any of his favorite team wins a match. He finds the Hoy! Hooye! and the rhythm with which it was pronounced by Rathore Uncle as the best form of expressing his own extreme joy still. He emulates his Rathore Uncle in this and i hope he emulates other attributes as well.
My son is 22 now and although he has his own fun times so typical of youngsters today yet Rathore Uncle and those moments of jolly togetherness will forever remain etched in his heart and mind.That memorable visit to the Vandalur Zoo or to the nearby Kanchipuram Temples, the long drive to Mahabalipuram on a full moon night or a movie show with the whole zing bang crowd when all went berserk, a casual family visit or the combined family get togethers  in which we shared each others bits and bites and last but not the least the mother of all such fun packed events, the festivals when nothing not even the dhol , tabla and manjira was overlooked and none of us would be free enough  from food, drinks, dance, music and buffoonery to miss home and family. Judging from the way my son's eyes light up and sparkle with joy at the mere mention of Rathore and the ease with which he goes down memory lane recollecting all his vivid memories i somehow get this feeling that not only the Hoy Hooye but every single event shall be passed on with gleeful delight to my grandchildren.
So far as we are concerned we are not any different either, rather quite eccentric in our behavior. For sometimes even when there's nothing to be boisterous about, we nurture and chant Rathore's rhythmic expression with religious fervor. 

The rituals, the attire, the local delicacies, the regional songs, the fun fare all planned and executed in a jiffy which apparently seemed effortless made us wonder often about the quality of our social life sans him and equaling him none the less in their hospitality and warmth his affectionate family. Sure his absence in Chennai must have created a deep and painful void but knowing his nature fully well i am sure he must be staying in touch with one and all, emitting and enthusing the same exuberance when he was around. His invite and his devotion to our friendship is a testimony to the fact. i have before me his handsome princely face right in front of my mind's eye and as i blog i feel this extreme humbleness trickling down on me from him.

On recently being felicitated in his home town Bagli he felt quite embarrassed when the town took him quite by surprise. Deeply humbled by their gesture in honoring him with a citation that speaks volumes in favor of their very own Commisioner he felt unduly appreciated. He told us how he felt and his own words were " If I had known they would be doing this I would have skipped going home this time for I feel guilty of Palaayan (migrating)...what have I done for my native place...nothing...
i saw the silent film of accumulating but unshed tears justifying his angst. But before his self confessed guilt i had also chanced upon a file while i was going through his album which had pictures of him cutting the ribbons inaugrating this and that. This file was thick and replete with newspaper clippings giving details about his committed and dedicated service to all the new projects under his purview. Perhaps it must be his doll like wife, collecting his achievements with pride while her husband seems to be getting humbler with each addition.

Both of us were too overwhelmed to say anything but the words that escaped my tongue sounded something like , " Oh! Rathore you shouldn't feel like that. Your native place feels proud to have their son returning to the homeland equipped with such a prestigious and powerful is a matter of extreme pride for a small town..."

Now sitting here i think i should have said, " Not at never left Bagli ever and you never will for where ever you go Bagli will go with you dear Rathore. We thank our stars that through you and your family we know this wonderful and lovable place called Bagli where outsiders are treated like family following the Hindu philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (The whole world is one single family) and associated with the same spirit the most endearing and glorious tradition of Atithi Devo Bhava ( The guest is God)."

                                        Humility is a strange thing~
                                        the minute you think
                                        you've got it,
                                        you've lost it ~

Would love to share this clip from you tube of the Bhagoria festival before i quit although i wish i could have also possessed a recording which had Rathore's voice crooning in the local dialect...
However even reminiscing is enough...making me smile as i try and remember how he sang while we laughed with joy at his stunning performance which sounded funny but was one of his many entertaining spectacle.

 Ayam nijah paroveti ganana laghu-chetsam 
Udara charitam Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam
"This is my own and that a stranger"- is the calculation for the narrow minded
For the magnanimous hearts however, the entire earth is but a family

                                                      - :Glossary of terms used:-
   Hari Sadu Boss- The acronym taken from a TV commercial and generally applies to tyrannical bosses.
   Bosses who are not only angry, self centered and abusive but also very miserly with appreciation.
   H- Hitler, A-arrogant, R-rascal, I- idiot, S-shameless...

   Dal Bafla, Dal Bati Churma- a popular delicacy of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh                                                                                                                                
Dal in the bowl and bafla
Yellow Dal in the first small bowl, Bati and churma in the big bowl

Sev Tamatar ki Sabji- a curry made with a dry snack called sev
Besan ki chikki- a sweet made from chickpeas flour
Besan ki Sabji- a curry made from chickpeas flour
          Dhol- a large typically two headed drum used in India especially in folk songs.
                                Tabla- a pair of small drums used in Indian classical music.
                                          Manjira- a pair of small hand cymbals


  1. This guy made your sojourn a bliss.Cherish his friendship.This is a nice way to show your gratitude.Friends like this are few.

  2. @Gauri yeah friends like this are not only few but rare too.Thank you sweetie for sharing your views.:)

  3. Wow, what a wonderful friend you have. That's exactly what you need in a friend, I quote your words - "with whom we are only just too relaxed to set aside the facade of sophistication and be our original self". That's who I call a true friend and would love to hang out with. Hard to find such people in this day and age.

  4. @Preeti...Hey!
    So nice to see you here. Thank you for taking time out to go through my exhaustive thoughts.
    Yes, i sure feel fortunate to have some "hard to find..." still in my life...these who are my most valued treasures.

  5. U r fortunate to have friends like this.Nurture it well.

  6. @Anonymous yes i do feel blessed and shall be honest in my attempts to value it most.
    Thank you for stopping by :)

  7. ya Rathores r very nice ppl....:)