Serial Bus

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Between ‘Pahad’ and ‘Terai’

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My father hails from the village of Joshidhura (near Jalna, Lamgarha) in the district of Almora and my mother grew up in the village of Kande (part of Satraali, near Takula), also in Almora. Currently, they live in Kathgodam in the district of Nainital – which, like Almora, is also in the state of Uttaranchal, India. I am told I was born in Joshidhura but memories of first 4 years spent there are all but hazy. My parents shifted base to Bhavar, the foothills (between ‘Pahad‘ – the hills and ‘Terai‘ – the plains), when my sister and I were young and that’s where we grew up – first in Kashipur and then at Kathgodam. With his few savings and a huge loan, my father built a house in installments in the colony of Tulsinagar, Kathogodam in 1984. I know this because during a renovation, I was the one who wrote ‘1984’ upon wet cement above the entrance, inspired more by George Orwell than the actual year of the construction, however I believe I kept the error of margin within plus/minus one.

Our house stayed at the same place however the address kept changing as its frame of reference kept moving from one landmark to another. In the beginning, we used to write ‘Near Polysheet’ (a reference to some defunct polysheet factory that may have been in the area), then we wrote ‘Behind Chaudhary Bhavan’ (some famous Chaudharies built a mansion-like residence on the main road abutting the colony). After a few years, when newly-constructed shops crowded out the facade of Chaudhary Bhavan, we said ‘close to Amarpali Hotel’ that was apparently constructed by some Kalkatiya Seth (a rich man from Calcutta). Then came ‘Naini Valley School’ and nowadays, people have moved the frame of reference to Vishal Megamart, the first supermarket of the Haldwani region which has been built mid-way from Chaudhary Bhavan to Polysheet. I am not sure where it will move next. (Of the numerous places I named above, only one is well-known in the USA where I currently live, so I just say ‘India’ when someone asks where I am from. And that is so lame!)

My Aama (paternal grandmother) could never reconcile to the idea of moving from ‘Pahad’ to ‘Bhavar’ – she always considered it a sort of debasement. Pahad was as much sublime as Terai was profane and ‘Bhavar’ was even worse – neither here nor there. She joined issue with water, climate, Hindi-spewing people, tall houses, lack of livestock and above all, distance from ‘aanpu ghar‘ (own home) that was locked away in hills and still is.

The last I lived for more than a month in my Kathgodam home was in 1998 when I left for Delhi to join college. Since then, I have been on the move, a bit like the frame of reference for my Kathgodam home.

After three years of college in the University Enclave, North Delhi, I lived 2 years pursuing MBA within the appropriately-named campus town of Prabandh Nagar (“Management Town”) in the outskirts of Lucknow. When education was deemed complete, it was time to start earning my living and my first job took me to Calcutta (which was Kolkata by then). I was already a Kolkata acolyte when after one and a half years of living near Rabindra Sarovar in South Kolkata, I moved to the Boat Club Road in Pune. In Pune, many locally-bred Maharashtrians assumed I was one too – which, by a strange reckoning I was, since my forefather ‘Joshis’ had apparently moved to Kumaon from Maharashtra 4-5 centuries ago via Kannauj in Uttar Pradesh. The brethren spirit did not last long and my feet were itching again – it was time to move to Gurgaon, south of Delhi. After an year of being there, perhaps India started being too familiar and I relocated about 180 degrees away to New York.

In all of this frantic city-hopping, I have not yet paused to think about what home means to me. I guess my Aama’s lament was futile – one can never escape Bhavar. If my past record is any indication, in one way or other, I will perhaps always be stuck somewhere between Pahad and Terai – neither home nor totally astray. And come to think of it, I do like the Bhavar!

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Written by serialbus

April 19, 2009 at 9:00 pm

Posted in Anecdote, India

Tagged with , , , , ,

One Response

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  1. Well….First Of All I Must Say Am Amazed….Not Becoz U Have Written Well(Well U Have Actually!!!)

    Amazed Bcoz Even My Roots R Same….Joshidhura….Used To Go There For My Summer Vacation To Meet Amma-Barbajyu…
    Am In Doha,Qatar Right Now(Hotelier)….

    Keep Ritin….Roots Will…Always…Be…Roots..

    Gaurav

    September 6, 2009 at 1:22 pm


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