Kashmir

Chinaar & my cup of Nun Chai

As I sip through the last of what remains of my Nun Chai reserve, streams of thoughts flow through my mind – from the glittering streets of Paris to my childhood spent in green meadows of Batote.

Sometimes, I hear people saying – “I hate travelling, it’s too much of a hassle for me.” The thought really surprises me. Aren’t we all travelling to the end? Some choose to tread through the much-taken, skewed and really crowded lane towards the light with the customary milestones in between – school, graduation, employment, a strange wedding, a kid, more kids, investment, retirement, ailment – the ent. But some choose the lane less taken. It may be the same but it is done differently. The eyes are different, the wrinkles are weird – and usually, they have more to talk about.

I have a great boss. She often says, experience enhances a person. Experience could be anything, as simple as trying a new ice-cream to as complex as trying a new gender. I feel people also enhance people, for better or for worse. My life has been the best of the lot in my opinion. Before you ask me to gulp a sip of humility, why not experience it with me?

The one with the hills: Mom, rebel. Dad, wise. Marriage arranged by love. She was 30 when she got married. The first in her town to become a post-graduate. A lovely town in the state of J&K. My Dad was searching for someone to share his loneliness after his first wife had passed away. He told me she was like a breath of fresh air one moment – and a fireball next. His search was over. They got married and she forced him to settle in Srinagar. She told me how she would go to Hazrat Bal and cry her heart out for a child. Her prayers were answered – she spent 8 months of her pregnancy in Srinagar. They often used to tell me “You have the blood of the Dal, we took you out of Kashmir but couldn’t take Kashmir out of you”, when I complained of haak-cravings.

The one with the Ek-Tho: I was born in Delhi in the month of February, 1990, when terror and turbulence struck the Valley. My parents then moved to Jammu for a while. My Dad was awarded with a transfer to Patna after a spat with his boss. I do not remember much of Patna except our 5th floor apartment where tamarind trees would wrestle with our windows during dark, rainy nights of power cuts. I also remember Family friends feeding me aloo-bhaji with roti and chai (weird!), the then-too-spicy litti chokha and my neighbours homemade stick dolls. My tryst with education started in the St. Karen’s convent school. Pretty sure that is where I started getting my way with words.

The one with No Nawabs: We moved to Lucknow after spending a good four years in Patna (yep, we had the accent). I spent most of my childhood between my school (City Montessori, Gomti Nagar) and home in Indira Nagar. My food memories of Lucknow are enriched with lots of Handi mutton (bless the local handyman) and basket chaat in streets of Hazrat Ganj. When I was 9, I got selected for a CISV summer village camp – the youngest student to get this opportunity. My parents were keen but finances were not. That is when Mrs. Jagdish Gandhi offered to help, along with my Mother’s dream of gold bangles. Anyhow, I managed to reach the land of Americans to live with kids of 16 different nationalities for the next 2 and a half months. First piece of pizza, hatred for chocolate, first ferry ride, first beach, first crush – I owe the beautiful state of Maine a lot. By the time I was back,I was a ‘World Citizen’, I had developed a love for food and a weak american accent.

The one with the pink: Lucknow was unforgiving. Dad met with an accident and we had to take him to Delhi for treatment. In the process he would lose 90% of his liver, which we would come to know of four years later. Between extended family feuds, Dad’s health issues and the ever-lasting night power cuts, Jaipur seemed like a friend in waiting. Lush green with broad roads, clean pavements, ‘pyaus‘ everywhere – very different from what I had imagined – going to school on camels in the scorching desert heat. My switch to CBSE from ICSE was so cool, I was the new geek in town. Between awkward teenage crushes and wearing lehengas to birthday parties, life just happened. I got my first taste of feeling like a star when I topped my X boards. For anyone, anyone in their life, the best feeling is to see their parents genuinely happy. That look on their face – we did not goof up our kids, it’s invaluable. They really did not goof us up. A mediocre end to my school life in a girls school was more challenging than the entire rest. I learned more, and became more. Winning personal battles made me stronger, and wiser.

The one where it all got bad: Reluctance gets the better of me even while I write this. This happens to us Indians, I feel. Since childhood, we get trained in the ‘move-on’ course. See a mother hitting her child, move on. A seth treating his employee bad, move on. People littering on the street…people peeing on the street…huh…move on, bruh! I guess it makes us stronger and ignorant. A friend of mine often tells me, “you’re an old soul in a 26 year old body”. May be she is right. As a kid, I knew all about the household finances. I knew my parents had major issues. I knew life was hard.  I kind of wondered and worried about my parents since I could see how young my friends’ parents were. I never had a fairy tale, blissful in ignorance kind of childhood, but I was treated fairly. I was loved and my accomplishments were cherished. But, I was also made responsible. My father sent me to the bank when I was 11 years old. My father thought me how to drive by the time I was 13. He taught me simple lessons of life – make a budget, jot down your finances, stick to your goals, marry late (Ha!), learn to be a loner – there is only one good friend in life, rest are phases. My stubborn mother forced me into engineering and I happily did. A smile on her face would mean the world to me. In the first year of my engineering, my Dad passed away. In the second year, I lost my Mom to cancer. Life changed. Everything changed. Galaxies changed.

The one with the green grass: For a 20 year old, the world is a tough cookie to crack. The many, many trips to banks, the police, the courts, the lawyers after the incessant trips to hospitals are bound to break your soul. As the elder one, I also had the responsibility of preventing my little brother of going into darkness. Death is the saddest thing ever known to human kind. I tell this to all my friends who have a hard time understanding their parents – they are the most precious assets, everything comes later. The biggest setback for anyone is losing their heroes. I remember, one of those curling-up-and-crying-in-your-pillow nights, I wondered if it could get any worse. I thought, no, it really could not. The worse has happened. Rock bottom. Only way left is up. I joined AIESEC a month later. I could write ballads appreciating this wonderful organization. For me, it really did change my life. By the time I was in third year, I knew I wasn’t going to be an engineer and I knew what I was going to be. My experience as a freelancer in event organising, content writing, social media management, video editing and graphic designing gave me a real life crash course on digital marketing. Work, college and life got me going.

The one with the now: A sneak-peek experience, the above doesn’t say a third of my drama story. My now is a picture-happy scene. I’ve always been some one who always wants more. That’s how it should be. I never cease to dream, be it my career or my personal life. I have had the privilege of working with more awesome people than I can count. And I’m still left with a 3/4th more to go. I am a staunch believer of experiencing than doing. 5 years after my Mother passed away, I collected all of what I had and spent it on a trip to Europe – Solo. So many fabulous (some not so much), glorious moments live inside of me – my own treasure of memories that I can pick up and savour with a sip of my favourite nun chai.

 

 

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