I don’t have no time for no monkey business….

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Dee-do- de- de..dee-do- de- de…. so sang Freddie Murcury. And so sings me, too. Been humming this song since the morning, after narrowly escaping an attack by a hungry monkey! It’s been drizzling here and I decided to enjoy my breakfast, sitting in the verandah. Took a bite from the toast, a swig from the cup of tea and started to think of the things to be done in the front yard. Along with the image of pretty flowers came the vision of a huge monkey, advancing towards me fearlessly. His eyes focused on my plate, and then on me. I sprang up from the chair and started chanting “shoo”.. “shoo”. But it kept advancing further and I had to retreat inside the house. Just in time, as three other smaller ones started walking towards me from another direction. Phew! Still wanting to enjoy my breakfast, I sat on a chair nearest to the tall glass doors that lead out to the verandah, and took a bite of the omelette. One of the monkeys plonked himself on a chair in the verandah and started a game of “staring in the eye” with me. Not wanting to be outstared by a monkey, I glared at him and tried to make a monkey face myself, but he won hands-down. So much for a leisurely and peaceful breakfast, and that too, after so many busy days! Chatter-chatter, Gibber-gibber.( just me, cribbing).

These monkeys hang from the branches of the trees around our house, sit on the culvert at the end of the lane, on the houses’ roofs; and seem to really like the place- considering the fact that people run after them with air-guns and wooden clubs daily, and still can’t scare them off. My maid has to be escorted out of the lane almost daily and the kids can’t be left outside alone, at all. One brave monkey-soul entered our home through the front door that had been left ajar by the carpenter. He rushed inside, grabbed a packet kept on the dining table, gave a triumphant look to the maid who was screaming, and ran away. A couple of days back, they attacked two men who had climbed the roof to check the wi-fi connection. Burly men, reduced to shouting for help and falling on top of one another in a bid to escape unhurt.

My age old practice of going for evening walks has been brought to an end after I and my husband encountered about fifteen monkeys ( big & small ) approaching us on a comparatively deserted stretch of road. Mercifully, there was a block of houses nearby and we went there, taking a U-Turn. Two weeks back, I had to rush and visit a family whose five year old son had been bitten severely on the head by a monkey. These deceptively funny-looking creatures are as irreverent as they make them. You try to scare them away with a stick or an air gun and all they do is bare their teeth, chatter and run around, as if saying “I’ll be back” (Arnold style). Sometimes, they can be seen sitting on the walls around the swimming pool, ogling at us poor swimmers. They seem to be saying, “Hey you, I don’t like your skimpy swimsuit. Get a new one.”Or, “Hey you, after two months of swimming daily, you are still pot bellied. Stop drinking beer.”

Nowadays, I am not singing one particular rhyme to my daughters at bedtime; a rhyme that they ( and me too !) have always loved. Which one?
“One little monkey, eating ice-cream” !!!

© Jul 2016 Sapna Dhyani Devrani

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Oh, my childhood in Dehradun! How I wish I could relive you!

dehra-childhood

Speeding bicycles and the tinkling sound of laughter, is what comes to my mind immediately when I think of my growing up days in that wonderful city- Dehradun. A beautiful valley nestled amidst mountains, it was a serene haven for us children. It was totally safe for nine year old kids to walk back from school, alone or with friends. We would stop midway for the delectable “ganney ka juice “(sugarcane juice) from a road_side farer. It cost Rs 1 per glass, way back in the late ’80’s. A year later, cycling was learnt on the lanes of our locality in the evenings. Almost all kids my age could be found doing the same, and having a whale of a time. The day I fist managed to rise up to the seat on my cycle and ride the whole length of a lane, is firmly etched in my memory. That heady feeling of achievement has been difficult to replicate. Finally, I was allowed to go to school on my bicycle the next day, with my dad following me on his scooter, checking if I would manage well on the main road.

We were plenty of kids of the same age in the locality where I lived and we would be out in the evenings, roaming around and thoroughly enjoying ourselves. Every year, during our summer vacations, we would cycle our way to Robbers’ Cave, a picnic spot located near the cantonment area. We would ride hard, taking turns to pedal or ride pillion, singing all along. We would explore the caves there, eat the “Momos” and then speed-pedal back to our homes, stopping at various places enroute. This trip we managed to take at least thrice every summer.

Then there are the Holi memories. A few days before the festival, we would start collecting the wood for our “Holika Dehan”and plan out for the big day. The rendezvous would be at Baba didi’s ( my neighbour ) house every year. I would jump from my house’s roof to our garage’s roof, and then to the orchard which started at the same level . Then I would start running upwards and would reach the small gate that opened up to their lawn. Their huge alsatian dog, Oscar, would have to be tied up and then we would all gather in the verandah. The whole night would be spent dancing and the highlight would be Mahendra bhaiya dancing to “Jumma Chumma” ! Babloo bhaiya would narrate horror stories to us and we would all sit huddled and scary-eyed in the verandah. Then, we would start lighting the Holika and beating an old tin canister, shouting “Holi hai”. The best part was, not a single neighbour complained.The next day, we would run around , calling out to friends and would begin the “wet” Holi! One by one, we would be unceremoniously dumped in the “Haudis”( cemented water tanks) filled with coloured water. Then, off we would go in groups to all the houses in the area, devouring the dahi-bhallas, ghujiyas, gol-gappas and jaljeera offered to us. Any Holi played now, pales in comparison to those wonderful Holis that we played, year after year.

It was first on my bicycle, then the Luna (a moped), and then on my Kinetic Honda (a scooter) that I scaled the roads and discovered every nook and cranny of my beloved town. Back then, it was not compulsory to wear helmets, and we almost always rode Tikdi (three persons on a two-wheeler). We would ride straight upto Rajpur, a small settlement at the end of Rajpur Road ( the main road of the city which leads to Mussoorie). Then, while returning- hold your breath- we would ride the scooter on “Neutral”( meaning, engine not on) right till Ghantaghar(clock tower), a few kilometres down the road! I would tell my mom that I was going to “Rajpur road” with my friends as most of our hangouts were located on this road. We would often sit in the road side restaraunt “Yeti”, and then would shout our greetings to other friends who would also be riding up and down the road on their Hero puchs , Kinetic Hondas or even bikes ( only a few though). Back in those days, it was quite possible to ride our vehicles side by side, as the roads were not so crowded. Cars were few and we would often take walks on Rajpur road ( there goes the name again! ). A common invite among friends would be- “Chal, Rajpur road ka chakkar lagake aate hain”.

One article is not enough to contain all the beautiful memories of my lovely childhood spent in the most wonderful city called “Dehradun”. Though, it is crowded and very different now, since it became the capital of Uttarakhand in the year 2000; it is still the best place place on the earth for all of us who grew up there. It is said, “Önce a Doonite, always a Doonite”. I want to go back in time and relive my fun filled childhood in this gracious place.

If only I could be a child again!

© Jul 2016 Sapna Dhyani Devrani

Wings to fly…and a nurturing lap

Come, rest in my folds…says the sea to the fish;
I can’t, I want to play with every wave of yours,explore every spectacle inside you…says the fish.

Come, see the beauty of the earth through my eyes…says the sky to the bird;
I can’t, I want to soar high, reach new heights,explore your vastness, and then see the wonder that is the earth, through my own eyes…says the bird.

Come, let me show you how to flap your wings…says the bird to her baby;
I can’t, I want to leave the nest, unfold my wings,and be a free bird….says the young bird.

Come, I will teach you the ways of the world, so that you are safe from harm…says the mother to her child;
I can’t, I want to fall, rise; witness the magic that is life and exult in it’s glory…says the child.

And this, is how it was always meant to be;
for every being to revel in it’s freedom, with a doting lap to fall back into, when the soul needs nurturing.

© Jul 2016 Sapna Dhyani Devrani

The address of loneliness

I have been alone, but never lonely in my own company;
And at times, in a room full of people, I have felt intensely lonely.

When single, I never felt the pangs of loneliness;
Being married, there have been times when I felt it couldn’t get lonelier.

Become parents, they say, and you will never be lonely;
But ask a young mother, how lonely was the night, spent alone with a wailing infant.

You might have a spouse, children and friends in your life;
But the absence of a loving parent will make a part of you lonely forever.

And I have come to realize that the lack of unconditional love ;
and the realization that there’s nobody you can blurt your heart out to;
is what makes loneliness take a permanent address in a corner of your soul.

© Jul 2016 Sapna Dhyani Devrani

The saga of shifting into a new fauji home

Topsy – turvy is how I would describe my life right now. We left Jaipur two months back, lock, stock and barrel, to begin a new phase of life in Fatehgarh. The whole household was packed and sent off in two trucks to our new posting place. We went to our hometown Dehradun for ten days and from there, we came to Fatehgarh. On reaching the two sets of guestrooms which would be our home for the next two months, we were informed about the ” casualties “.

Thirty garden pots broken
Fabric torn of a living room chair
Wood cracked in another chair
Some items of the crockery broken

The chairs have been repaired by now and I have taken the rest of the damage in my stride. There is a long waiting period for houses, so we have decided to shift into a temporary accomodation for the time being. It being a Captain’s quarter, which is a 2BHK , but with a spacious front yard as well a backyard and also a servant quarter. To many, and specially those living in the metros, this might seem good enough; but we are shifting from a very spacious house to a much smaller one. And this is what requires big_time home making skills ( of the wife and the husband both ).

The length of the curtains needs to be shortened and the M.E.S. yard has to be visited to hunt down beds that are new, or at least freshly painted and in a good condition. Some of the kitchen shelves need to be fitted with doors and I can’t fathom how to fit in the various kitchen items in this much smaller kitchen. Many items will have to stay packed for lack of space. For the same reason, we will have to keep some of our living room furniture packed too. The beautiful study table sets of my daughters will stay packed , and so will some of their toys and games.

We go to the new house daily, to set it up properly. I look at our dearly loved garden swing, a swing that has brought a lot of joy and peace to me, my kids, their friends, and wonder if I will be able to sit on it freely as there are hordes of menacing looking monkeys all around. Monkeys, who have become infamous in the area for biting grown-ups and kids. The picket fence needs to be put up around the yard and flowers need to be planted. Hopefully, the yard will soon look like a garden. The flowers in our garden pots and the hanging baskets have all died and the plants look lifeless, though they are being watered daily. They are all lying huddled and cramped in a rundown shed and begining to wither. I can’t wait to shift them to the new house and nurture them back to life.

But I know, that once we start to live in the house, it will soon turn into a home. The lifeless structure will develop a soul and will witness our love, squabbles, laughter and tears. When the first meal will be cooked in the kitchen, many wonderful smells will waft from the kitchen, fill the air in the whole house, slowly turning it into a home. My children’s laughter will make the house smile and soon it will find itself turning into a smiling and happy home.

Hey new home, here we come!

© Jul 2016 Sapna Dhyani Devrani

Bring on the olive green ” CHULLU BHAR PAANI ! “

Ever since I got married into the Indian Army family 12 years back ( In India, you don’t marry just the person, you marry the entire family ), I have wished for chullus full of paani, so many times. Really, they should be conveniently placed around the Officers’ Messes, Barra Khana locations, Welfare centres and other fauji places; for people like me to dive in, whenever the need arises.

Just four months back, I addressed the Commander in the previous station as Colonel V instead of Brigadier V , and I was being a second time offender here. The first time I merrily said, “Good Evening Col V”, he threw a blank stare at me. The second time around, he just smiled back in amusement. ( CHULLU HUNT ! ) But I blame this on a chemical imbalance since childhood. Whatever the time of the day may be, I have always greeted teachers and doctors with a “Good morning Sir/Ma’am.” When living in the Dehradun cantt, we had an army doctor’s family living in the house opposite ours. Even after being neighbours for almost 3 years, our children being friends , me being good friends with his wife and he himself being a very unassuming person; I would go tongue tied when it came to greeting him. I would say “Good morning Col ” , no matter what time of the day we would meet at and wouldn’t be able to recall his surname at that precise moment. ( CHULLU HUNT! ) Finally, one fine day I mustered up enough courage to tell him that this was how I always behaved in front of all teachers, doctors and people in uniforms ( a recent addition). He was a doctor And a uniformed one at that! He kept smiling ear to ear and nodding his head. The next day onwards, he always greeted me with a “Hello” and maybe I imagined it, but it always seemed as if he would burst out laughing.

Flashback- to a formal dinner at an officers’ mess many years ago. I was seated next to a bachelor officer and got chatting with him ,feeling mighty pleased with myself at having put him at ease. I looked up and saw everyone looking at me. I grinned, nodded and continued chatting and eating. After sometime, someone cleared his throat loudly and I looked up to find everyone looking at me again. To my mortification , I saw that everyone had closed their plates and were waiting for me to do so, for quite sometime. I quickly shoved the remaining souffle ( yes,I remember ! ) down my throat and closed my plate. ( CHULLU HUNT ! )

Now, an incident that required a very big chullu indeed. Newly married, we reached Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh at 8 p.m. on the 2nd of June ( yes, I remember ! ). We reached the market place and just then, an officer who was there for the weekend, saw us and asked us to accompany him to a cafe nearby. I got down from the car, straightened the wrap-around skirt that I was wearing and started walking ( grace personified ) towards the cafe. The next I knew, I stumbled and was falling down in stages.
First stage- “Oh my god! not like this! “.
Second stage- “Thank god! I didn’t fall.”
Third stage- ” Mummyyyyyy ! ”
( CHULLU HUNT ! ) I still maintain that the third stage happened only because I held the panels of my skirt together. Ladylike, isn’t that ?

There are too many incidents like these to fit in here. So, I am just going to write a letter to the senior officers to kindly order for olive green chullu bhar paani to be placed at strategic locations in the cantonments everywhere. Wait, whom should I address the letter to- Brigadier? Commander? Sir? HELP!!! ( CHULLU HUNT ! )

© Jul 2016 Sapna Dhyani Devrani

Our morning odyssey

” Wake up, wake up, wake up- it’s a brand new day “. I wake up in the mornings to the tunes of this song. A song that I’ve come to hate with fervor. My husband’s cellphone religiously sings this horror of a song every morning at 5 0’clock, when he has to wake up  for the morning P.T. drill. He leaves the room, telling me to go back to sleep. But I am not one of those lucky ones who can invoke sleep again easily, once disturbed. I toss and turn for half and hour, grumbling and mumbling , till it’s time for me to get out of the bed too. And the race against time starts!!

I approach my girls with glasses of warm milk and start to wake them up. They look like guileless angels, sleeping peacefully and I don’t feel like disturbing them. But wake up they must. So, I call out to them, telling them to rise and shine. They sit up, gulp down the milk and lie down again, requesting for ” just 5 more minutes “. Time limit up, the elder one goes off to bathe and the younger one has to be playfully dragged down from the bed.

Bathing time:

Taidu (my younger brat) : I will be nahaaing myself. Anya is nahaaying herself.
Me : You mean “bathing”. And I know that you can bathe yourself. Let me just help you.
Taidu: I am roaring water on myself now.
Me : Very good. “Pour “water quickly.

After having sung “it’s raining, it’s pouring”, “rain rain go away”and two other similar rhymes, finally she is all wrapped up in a towel. The dressing up procedure starts.

Me : Pull you your socks Taidu.
Taidu : I am pull upping them mamma.
Me : Very good, “pull them up “.

To keep them in good humor and to make them laugh, I stretch my facial features into various comical expressions. The reward-

Taidu : Mamma, you look like Gian and Suniyo.
Anya : Mamma, you look “yuck”, your face will freeze like this for ever.

I quickly bring my face back to normal, give them mock whacks on their bums and send them off to the school. I say a quick prayer, hoping they adjust well in the new school, and go back inside. Although I know that this is the “ME “time that I wait for, when I sit outside, put my feet up, read and sip tea; a part of me still looks forward to the afternoon, when they come back from school. When I see their joy and enthusiasm, running towards me and flinging themselves with full force at me, hugging me; I feel warmed to the cockles of my heart. And feel reassured that yes, I must be doing something right.

Thank you God.