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Living At Constance Lodge——Part 4


In between those morning tunes and songs I used to wake up. Sometimes I would hear mother’s voice calling me. Kakaaaaaaa, ve Navneeeet- that’s how she used to call me. I don’t remember hearing my pet name Bhola from her. She used to be in the kitchen and the aroma of preparations for the breakfast wafting through the air aroused hunger. She had a lot of work to do in the morning for four of her children and a short tempered husband had to served their breakfast and given their lunch packs. It wasn’t easy as such but that wasn’t all. The children were young, some very young too. They needed help for dressing up, even assistance for finding the things they needed, because the house was a two room tenement. It had no shelves or cupboards for keeping things. She didn’t have any maid to help her with her routines. The clothes were washed regularly by her, but the laundry wasn’t folded and segregated. It was dumped in a pile on a discarded chair kept in the back room for the purpose. One had to look for the things one needed and in the course of his mission he/she had to be careful to give due respect to the belongings of the other people he shared the small space with or their could be fracas ensuing, a cold war over the unsettled issues of the previous day blowing up in to full fledged fist-fight. She had to take care of that. She was all eyes and ears, like Goddess incarnate. Although she would be invisible to us, because the kitchen was outside, partitioned from the long verandah, it was separated from the rooms where perpetual arguments between the acrimonious incumbents threatened to blow up in to serious fights. The only deterrent that stopped the vowed, bitter enemies from reaching for each other throat was the imposing presence of a burly, ferocious father, who mercifully was hard of hearing, but the mother wasn’t. She not only could hear the argument heading for a crescendo, she could actually gauge the heat it was generating and in using her quick wit she used to resolve the issues while stuffing the Parathas with her secret ingredients and ensuring they don’t get overdone. And the contents she filled them with were not exotic but mostly the leftover vegetables of the previous night or even Burfi or Namak and Ajwain ( Salt and Trachyspermum seeds- thanks to Google) or just a lump of granular sugar, but there was an unmistakable richness of mother’s love in it. Today, when you can order food online, to be delivered at home and you have expert chefs promising manna from heaven, you can’t get that taste of a paratha stuffed with cooked vegetable of the night before because it won’t have that flavour of mother’s love in it, because it’s not a buyable commodity.

And that burly, ferocious man was the terror personified, not only for four little kids fighting over some issues and their mother putting her best in her culinary preparations but also for the entire neighbourhood and he could make subject or should I say an object before him shiver by the mere pitch of his discourse which was often short. So powerful was his presence that oft I attributed the shaking of the leaves of the spindly, lonely tree that grew outside our house to his demeanor and its thinness to his overbearing personality. Agreed, that his hearing was affected by typhoid he contracted when he was a child but his other senses were extra ordinary. He wasn’t able hear the what went between his children in whispers but he could sense it and from time to time he would let out a roar for the lesser mortals to refrain from breathing easy, but he used to busy with his own routines, which including listening to both English and Hindi news broadcast, shaving, getting ready and then sitting and saying his morning prayers which used to be a long drawn affair. The routines stretched for a period of about two hours which was enough for us to get ready, have our breakfast, pick up our bags and run to the school.

There was some programme in between and some songs based on Indian classical music and a tune by S. Hazara Singh or a deshbhakti song were played before the morning eight o’clock news. It was difficult to catch a good reception of Radio Delhi but Jallandhar AIR transmission was better. Radio Ceylone would give old songs from 0730 hrs. until 0800 hrs. and K.L. Sehgal’s song would mark the end of the programme.

My mother would often tune to radio Ceylone to keep track of time and then switch over to All India Radio at 8 O’clock. The familiar jingle played by Ceylone radio at 8 O’clock still rings in my ears. The station had to be changed over to Jallandhar before the news to avoid my father’s early morning flight in to a rage. This however was unavoidable because he would always be fluttering his wings in preparation for the imminent flight. I would keep an eye on his actions, the harbingers of his temper while doing my work and feared that this constant simultaneous watch while doing my work may not give me a squint. I don’t distinctly remember the names of the English news readers but I remember Devaki Nandan Pandey of Hindi news and his strong high pitched drab voice of a disinterested newsreader (which anyone doing that job would understandably become).

After Chinese aggression in 1962, the Tibetians had started coming to India. Loads of refugees from Tibet came over to India. I have some memories of the war which didn’t go well with us. I remember Papaji listening to the morning news broadcast in English first and then in Hindi from All India Radio. Hell would break out if some portion of the news was missed by him because of the radio being tuned to some other programme. During the Chinese aggression Mr. Nayyar who stayed in the first floor apartment would come down to listen to the news with him. From deepening lines of worry on their faces and some sense that I could make out from their discussions, I could make out that India was doing poorly against the Chinese both on NEFA and Laddhakh fronts. Patriotism was whipped up in the masses by playing “Desh Bhakti” songs by Vividh Bharati.

Nana Munna Rahi hoon, Desh Ka sipahee hoon bolo mere sangh Jai Hind, Jai Hind was my favourite.


Many patriotic songs became popular. People really loved their country in those days. The nation rose to the call for support and sacrifice.

Chalo jhoomate sar pe bandhe kafan, lahoo mangti hai zameene watan.

Women thronged the railways stations where the trains carrying the soldiers halted. They tied Rakhees on their wrists and gave away their jewellery for the poor nation to buy arms for fighting the enemy.

Ai mere watan ke logo sung by Lata even today brings tears to my eyes and I am sure there won’t many Indians born during that period who still don’t shed tears while listening that song. Film Haqeeqat became a hit and all it’s songs became memorable

Kar chale hum fida jan-o-tan sathiyo


Hoke majboor mujhe usane bhulaya hoga

Zhahar chupake dawa jaan ke khaya hoga

But before the war and sometime after that the days were filled with pleasant songs sung by Mohd. Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, Mukesh, Hemant Kumar, Asha Bhonsale, Manna Day. The sweet melodious and meaningful songs were silently being written on the pages of my heart. Half a century has passed since and they haven’t stopped bewitching me. I know all of them by heart and even today tears of joy and sadness fall from my eyes akin to those that would fall on meeting “Goga” my childhood friend or that little sweetheart who made my heart so sweet with all her memories and innocent love that I am sure that the tears that fall from my eyes are sweet.

Tu chhupi hai kahaan, main tadapta yahaan

Maang ke saath tumhara maine maang liya sansar

Pyar par bas to nahin hai mera lekin phir bhi tu bata de ke tujhe pyar karoon ya na karoon


Milta hai jahaan dharati se gagan, aao wahin ham jayein

Tu mere liye main tere liye, is duniya ko tthukrayein

Door basa lein dil ki zannat, jis ko zamana loote na

Pyar ka bandhan janm ka bandhan, janm ka bandhan toote na

Every evening on the terrace at Modinagar where we would go on alternate years to spend our winter vacation, we used to play Antakshri. I and my elder sister would be in the rival groups. So good were we in our knowledge of the songs that we could play for hours without losing a point. Even today I bet I can give a challenger a taste of defeat. I may not win but it will be hard to beat me.

Ameen Siyani would give half an hour’s programme “Binaca Geet Mala” on every Wednesday and we excitedly waited for it. Bhayeeo aur bahano…aakhri paydhan par hai…and then a trumpet would play. In shimla often the reception used to be very poor and to our disappointment we would miss last part of the programme.

Binaca Geet Mala was a very popular programme. Kishore kumar was my favorite singer not for his sad songs but for his yodeling. The meanings of the songs in fact started becoming clear to me years later like sweet aftertaste of anwla (Indian goose berry).

Yahaan chalti ko gaadi kahate hain pyare horan pukare pump um pum

Haal kaias hai janaab ka…

Nani teri morni ko more le gaye, baki jo bacha tha kaale chor le gaye.

Sometime in 1958 AIR started Vividh Bharati and some of the Ads I remember were

Mummy, mummy modern bread.

Sirf ek Seridon aur Sirdard se aram


There were other song programmes during the day like sabras, aap ke anurodh par and even though the people requesting the songs were the same like Naya Jalna se Mangal Maan Nepali and  Purana Jahlna se Pappu, Bitti aur unke mata pita but the songs invariably were good.


I don’t know how public awareness and character building programmes were undertaken and which ministry was assigned the job but from time to time movies with strong social messages were shown in localities. Jagriti, Jaagate Raho, Bhabhi, Dil Ek Mandir, Ek Ke Baad Ek, Naya Daur, Boot Polish and many beautiful movies I saw at such screenings.

Insaaf ki Dagar pe bacho dikhao chalke

Ye desh hai tumhara neta tumhi ho kal ke


Insaniyat ke sar pe izzat ka taj rakhna

Tan man ki bhent de kar bharat ki laaj rakhna

Jeevan naya milega antim chita me jalke

And then

Saare jahaan se achha hindostan hamara..

A child who has grown up listening to such songs can have nothing but sublimity in his heart.


Fauji Bhaiyon ke liye.. Jai mala was broadcast at 1900 Hrs. and Saturday evening would be special because that day it was presented by a famous film personality. Then there were film soundtracks and Bachon ka karyakram on Sunday and Hawa Mahal everyday at 2115 hrs. I haven’t written about the cricket commentary we would stay glued to the radios to listen to. There is so much to write, don’t know what to mention and what to leave. It was so good and so different from all the trash the children get to see on TVs these days.

AIR Jallandhar on Sundays would give play Punjabi Songs. I knew all of them by heart. I still do. They were simple and simply beautiful

Teri kanak di raakhi mundya hun main nayion baindhi. The programme was followed by Dehati programme for the farmers. One of the Radio artist played a character of Thandu Ram a simple village bumpkin who would ask many questions to the expert agriculturists invited for giving talks on valuable subjects. The progamme would end with Mandia de bhaa (Wholesale rates of crop in various commodity markets around the state).

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Navneet Bakshi

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10 months ago

Packed with nostalgia..
can remember Binaaca Geetmala, the signature tune, the 1962 war with China etc.etc. Awaiting the next pat:)))

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