There are very few things I remember about my childhood. One of them is my great grandmother and her wada. When I was in primary school, I used to visit her quite often after the school. That time she used to stay in a old wada in sadashiv peth. It was an Old house, with wooden roof and old tiles. The hall wasn’t bigger than 15 square ft. there was old TV in the corner, which was later replaced by a new one. Next to the TV there was white cooler and on top of that cooler there were god idols, small bed on the left side and two old wooden chairs next to the window, the window was next to the door it self. The door had old board saying ‘Nanal’ with floor covered with moss in the front yard. The kitchen was actually as big as a corridor. The house had two entrances, one into the hall and other directly into the kitchen. Near the kitchen entrance there were stairs to go to the second floor. They were dark and scary, with small 10volt bulb. It had a string attached on both sides for support. On the second floor there was small room with balcony. As u enter the kitchen there was small corridor leading us to the shani’s temple.
I still remember the smell of the wada. If you enter the kitchen first, there used to be this strong oil fragrance, which used to come form the temple lamp and then smell of rice and dal cooking in the kitchen. In the small corridor there used to be people, preparing prashad for the temple. The first thing I used to eat as I enter was coconut and sugar, which always had a smell of oil on it. There used to be a man outside the temple, selling flowers and different other things for devotees. The smell of flowers, oil and Prasad had a unique characteristic. I never believed in god, but I would like to say it was indeed a smell of god.
Temple had shani’s idol, dark black colored idol with two white eyes starring at you, always overflowing with flowers, coconut, sugar and coins. There was huge white box in front of it, for donation, I always wondered about the owner of that box. There was a bell on top of the box, every evening it used to ring continuously till the dinnertime. I always felt bad for the shani, as the temple had metal bars on two sides and it almost use to feel like a jail. I remember sitting there and drawing in the noontime, when it use to be empty.
After school as I use to enter the house, Panji aaji (great grandmother) would ask me to wash hands and then used to serve me lunch. I would never forget the taste of varan bhaat (dal rice) she used to make. Dal used to be little sweet and thick, she used to mixed it properly with rice and squeeze a lemon on top. Then she would put little salt and pickle in the side. Sometimes she used to serve curd rice along with lemon pickle. I still get craving for it sometimes. In summer vacations after lunch I used to go to watch a children play with lila aaji. There was a small theatre near by the wada. This place was full of positive energy and rich family history. My mother, her elder brother and all her cousins stayed in this place. They finished their education and many other got married in the same house.
The house has a huge veranda. And there were other houses surrounding it. Our modern idea of family is so restricted that everything is personal in it, there is no feel of family to it anymore. But in our wada it wasn’t like that. All families staying in the wada were part of one big family, though they weren’t related to each other directly. I remember as a kid I used to go with my mother for ‘mangala gauri’ where all the ladies in the wada would come and play different games and sing songs whole night. We will celebrate all festivals together. But when I was in secondary school, everyone shifted in apartments and my great grandmother started staying with my grandmother in a bungalow in warje. And everything stopped, I dnt have any memory of family functions other than occasional ‘kojagiri pornima’ nights.
Once for my history class I asked Panji aaji about her memories of freedom struggle. Now I remember it vaguely, but she mentioned about my great grandfather staying in Lahore and after partition shifting to Pune. She also told me about her meeting with Vir Sawarkar, when he returned to india after running away from the British custody. My grand mother was one of the ladies who welcomed him with flowers and aarti.
Now the whole chapter of history is vanished, memories are erased, untold, unanswered. Last time I met panji aaji was in December. She could hardly remember anything or anyone, but her past memories were coming back and she used to sing about Pandharpur , about how it is going to drown soon. And then she will cry like a small kid, as if she had her own world of memories following her. It wasn’t easy to see her in that stage. She had always been very healthy, only past three year she was on constant bed rest. I think she was the luckiest mother to have daughter like Lila aaji. Who took care of her, like a child for past 10 years and stayed there with her until today.
No one knows panji aaji’s age; she should be more than 90 years old. She had seen the whole world around her change from the british rule till todays so called developing India. She has been witness of almost four generations.
Today as she is not here, I am sitting here in Bangalore and these memories are coming back to me as if it was yesterday that I used to listen to her stories and visit her as a child. Now in this summer when I will go back to pune there will be a vacant bed in the hall, but I am sure she will be present through, her aroma, her words which are echoing in my mind and her belongings. She will be waiting there to meet me.