Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Chai Bagan Nostalgia

Whenever my parents visit, Joy and I look forward to the interesting conversations over mealtimes. Once they get started, dinner can go on upto 2 hours as it's so lovely listening to their anecdotes of the north east and the simplicity and warmth of the life they lived, that we forget the time. :) A life that I had the privilege of experiencing and am extremely grateful for, as today it's only the memories and a few photographs that remain.

After listening to a few of Dad's anecdotes about his life in the hills of Mizoram and Assam, Joy turns to me and wonders what will we reminisce about at their age. :) No answer. What do I reminisce about our existence in the city? Maybe an old restaurant, a mall, a movie hall? I have no clue but there is definitely something about living in small remote areas far away from civilization, something so enriching, so difficult to define.

Life in the Chai Bagan - One of the tea garden bungalows we lived in

What I miss most of my childhood is our mini-farm that were a part and parcel of tea garden living; the tiny zoo of cows, goats, ducks, chickens, dogs and even a talking mynah, growing your own organic vegetables and beautiful exotic plants and flowers. I remember vacation times when I would be home from boarding school, if it was not club day, mornings and evenings would be spent tending to the garden; helping the gardener or my Dad plant some vegetables or fruits, watering the plants, feeding the cows grass, or stirring cowfeed in a large aluminium pot placed over a wood fire in the shed outside. Yeah, I was and still am a village girl and though it's been several years since I did any of the above, I will always miss and cherish those days.

Dusky our precious lhasa apso after giving birth to 3 puppies

Living in the midst of nature in the 80s and with forests all around the chai bagan, it was but natural to spot abundance of wildlife. I remember as kids when on drives back from the clubs or when cycling around the tea garden jungles, we would sometimes spot deer, wild boars, elephants, and even tigers.

These were the things that I took for granted during my childhood and I definitely couldn't have visualized how my life would change and that in later years to see wildlife, I would need to visit wildlife sanctuaries.

The earliest memory I can recount is when I was around 6 or 7 years old. Some labourers found a couple of abandoned tiger cubs in the tea bushes and brought them over to Dad. Still have vivid memories of feeding those cubs tiny drops of milk with an ear drop syringe till the forest officials arrived to take them back to their habitat. And the train of elephants that would silently and mysteriously appear out of the darkness many a club night when returning home. Dad would quietly switch off the ignition and we would patiently wait for the herd to cross and then resume our journey back home.

Dad with a leopard cub rescued from the tea gardens and handed over to forest officials

An elephant cub pushing our gypsy with its trunk

The last time I remember spotting a tiger was in the late 90s when Dad was posted in a picturesque tea garden called Jainti in Dooars nestled in the midst of the Buxa Tiger Reserves and bordering the hills of Bhutan. We were returning from a barbecue at the nearby Karthik Club around 11 pm when Dad suddenly braked and the car screeched to a halt. A majestic tiger appeared out of the jungle staring at the headlights of the car dazed for a minute or so, and then sauntered off to the other side of the jungle.

I also remember Ranojit Uncle in the neighboring garden narrating this incident. He heard a rustling sound outside his window one night and got up and peered outside. All he could see was darkness and there seemed to be no lights on the lawn so he thought there was a power cut and went back to sleep. Next morning, they found the garden in disarray with plants and trees uprooted. After closer inspection, they find elephant footprints right on the flower beds outside the bedroom window. That's when he realizes that at night when he had woken up and couldn't see a thing, the elephant was standing right outside his window.

Anyways, today over lunch we were eating fish and my Mom wondered what my Dad's cats that grew up in a shoe box in our veranda would be eating since he is not there to give them lunch. Dad instantly started missing his cats and informed me sadly that one of his favorite cats who used to sleep on the flower pot was run over by a speeding car just two days before their trip to Hyderabad. What is it about the bonds that are created with animals? They are so special and so difficult to let go. Even I miss this little fellow. Had taken this pic just 3 weeks ago when I visited home en-route to Assam. Life is so unpredictable.

RIP dear beral


Pratima said...

Loved the blog!!! It has made me relive the days spent in Shillong and other cantonments across the country. Sigh!!

Kateview said...

Loved reading it...felt like I was traveling with u in time memorablia ...

Nikki said...

You have some stories to tell!:) Loved reading this one! :)

Anonymous said...

very well written.. loved reading it.. brings back ones childhood memories of boarding school and waiting to go home on these vacations..

Papia said...

very well written.. loved reading it.. brings back ones childhood memories of boarding school and waiting to go home on these vacations..