The first four years of my life!
When I was born in Oct 1951, the country had been experiencing the euphoria and flush of enthusiasm created by Independence which was only four years old by then. The place of my birth was the district hospital at Dharamsala in Kangra district of erstwhile Punjab. Nevertheless, it was an ideal hill station of Punjab and the dialect spoken was Kangri. Most of the officers, who were allocated on their request to Punjab after the Reorganization of States on 1st November, 1966 had served at this privileged station at some point of time in their careers.
Dr. M.S Randhawa, the renowned folk-art connoisseur and visionary planner-cum-administrator of Chandigarh and later the Vice-Chancellor of Punjab Agriculture University, Ludhiana was the Deputy Commissioner of Kangra those days.
Perhaps, it was as a result of that buoyant faith in a bright future for the land, just librated from the foreign rule, that I was given a patriotic name ‘Desh Bir’. When I was explained the meaning of my name, I often felt proud and continued to do so for years before my name was borrowed by many and I felt bad. Recently the age of ‘goggling’ made all my pride vanish into thin air when I noticed that I shared such a name with so many in India. Anyway a child had that right to feel pampered!
I opened my eyes to the idyllic background of the Dhauladhars and loved the habitation called Depot Bazaar when I could somewhat connect with the place around the age of three. I have no idea if at that stage I knew a thing like a bus or a truck or did consciously notice these automobiles at all.
Now I am told that my father’s eldest brother and his family also lived somewhere in the neighbourhood, but I don’t remember anything about any interaction with them. It was not my age to understand how’s and why’s of things yet. The only thing I appreciated about the place was that it was a lively setting with a sloping terrain, enough people around, fast running drains and plenty of Lantana hedge and Stinging Nettle plants at the outer edge of the locality.
Next I found myself at Lamba Gaaon , a small town again, though with only a dozen shops which could also boast of being the seat of an erstwhile King. My father had just joined job as a Trained Graduate Teacher at the Govt. High School here.
Here we shared a small house with the owner’s family. The head of the family was a fisherman. I remember his wife, a doting aunt to me, was named Sandhi and they had two daughters one of whom was Kesari who, later on, one morning saved me from being seared by the fire from the hearth even though she herself was hurt while she was hardly ten or eleven years old.
Here I got the chance to grasp the local dialect called Kangri which has several variations as one travels ten miles north, south, east or west. Those days the measure of long distance was mile and for those versed in old school it was ‘koh’ for the Hindi word ‘kos’, which today should measure up as 1.8 kilometers. From this place I carry the memory of a halwai’s shop who had been instructed to get me sweetened milk when demanded and I had bungled by misusing the open offer by demanding sweetmeats at will and then faced the termination of the offer for breach of faith. That was my first lesson in cultivating good faith!
(The author is a Retired Principal Govt. College, Hoshiarpur (Punjab). He is a regular contributor to Kashmir Vision)