Category Archives: Grandma

Vizag_city_aerial_view

Goodbye Vizag, you beautiful, beautiful city!

If there is any place that I have a strong bond with (after of course Bhubaneswar, where I was born, and Puttaparthi – where I studied), it is Vishakapatnam.

A city with so much character that it needs three names to go by – the traditional Vishakapatnam, the outdated Waltair, and the more modern yuppy name – Vizag.

All through my childhood, Vizag was a relief from the mundane life that I led in Bhubaneswar and Puttaparthi. Puttaparthi was where my school was, and it was criminal to stay there during vacations. Bhubaneswar back in the 90s was so hot, even cold cakes sold like hot cakes. Every summer vacation brought with it news of 50 deaths due to sunstrokes. Also, my parents were conservative and their idea of vacation fun was to lock up the television when I visited home. The television was considered an obstacle in my pursuit of moksha.

The only relief from these troubles was going to Vishakapatnam – eight hours away, with four trains everyday – one for each of the platforms at Bhubaneswar railway station.

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Vishakapatnam wasn’t much bigger than Bhubaneswar, but offered so much more than temples and street food. My cousins lived in MVP colony, a sleepy residential colony that was large enough to qualify as a town by itself.

Nimmakai soda was sold on the streets for two bucks, and the said amount could be easily fleeced off grandmother by singing her a Mohd. Rafi song. It was a different matter that my cousins ran up a baaki  bill of 10,000 rupees in the neighbourhood goli soda shop!!

The BPL TV at my cousin’s place could not be controlled by my mother and was the source of some of the earliest movies I watched – Kondapalli Raja, Premikudu, and Baaghi.

Large, spacious roads shielded by trees on both sides, Vijaya milk delivered in the morning as MS Subbalaxmi’s Bhaja Govindam wafted out of every single house.  

The Young Rising Star Youth Club where my cousin played cricket every evening as I sat awkwardly at the boundary. Daspalla Hotel, where Kashmiri Pulao and Paneer Butter Masala was ordered every single time, as I hadn’t told my folks that I had turned non-vegetarian (still haven’t!).

But most of all, Vizag has that one feature that adds immense character to a city – a beach. The beach in Vizag is accessible, with every place in the city about ten minutes away from the other. The beach is a curious spectacle, with people from all walks of life getting on the rocky shores for a few moments of solitude. A beach allows you to switch off from the humdrum of everyday life and tune in to the sea. How can you remain in a bad mood as waves crash at your feet majestically?

Every trip to Vizag has been memorable – a welcome break from the mundane life that I was living. It was in Vizag that I serenaded a breathtaking woman, travelling to the city on the pretext of meeting my cousins, and singing Pehla Nasha on a sea deck restaurant. Ever since I entered my teens, Vizag provided me with excellent weed sourced from nearby Aruku. I once offered a man a joint while getting on the bus to Hyderabad, only to look down at his shoes and discover he was a cop!

Vizag was fun, eventful, and dreamy.

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After many years, I was travelling to Vizag – this time as a stand up comic. Me and Rohit Swain are travelling across the country with Silly Point – India’s First Cricket Themed Stand Up Comedy Show (Wow! What a subtle plug in – I’m Subtle Behari Vajpayee!!).

This time, I was not travelling to partake of the city’s beauty and serenity, but to give it something of my own – something I had created and curated. I was going to peddle my wares to the city that has given me so much.

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Of course it wouldn’t be a sellout show – it’s Vizag we are talking about! But in the same way that a parent ignores the kid’s spelling mistakes while showing her off to relatives, I was prepared to let it go. The show was organised in Kala Art Cafe, a tiny location with a seating capacity of 50, lemonade served to the guests, and a white screen for film screenings.

The stage was sweaty, and the mics refused to work after fifteen minutes – this was going to be a struggle! And yet, we persisted. The laughs came slowly at first, but grew stronger and stronger from there on. By the end of the show, we had won over the audience. It was like an India vs Sri Lanka One Day International at Vadodara where India needs to chase 287 but takes 48 overs to get there – bumpy, but successful.

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As the plane lifts off from Vizag, and the doors of the plane are shut to the salty, humid air of Vizag, I take a final look at this city that has given me so much!

With Andhra Pradesh now a separate state, Chandrababu Naidu has grand plans for the ‘City of Destiny’. The roads are getting wider, the buildings shooting out of the ground are taller, stronger, dapper.

And yet, in a strange, selfish way, I do not want Vizag to become a hotbed of development.

I want Vizag to remain as it is. A beautiful chutney of the new and the old. Mom and pop stores with intricate muggu outside the doors, goli soda bottles being bought by thirsty kids, Venkatesh films playing on tiny TVs during sleepy afternoons, Ladies Tailor – Fall & Pico centres next to Apple showrooms. And the outdated Bunny dustbins in VUDA Park.

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Of course these are but a nostalgic man’s fantasies. The City of Destiny is destined to transform into a zip-zap-zoom city. The muggu in front of houses will be replaced by cold, impersonal placards saying ‘NO PARKING IN FRONT OF THE GATE’.

But even then, I’ll come back and visit you. I’ll love you for who you are, Vizag.

Until next time then, Vizag!

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MY GRANDMOTHER and her HUBBY !!

My grandfather was a terrific person.I have never met him.He passed away 2 years before I was born.But I have seen his pic.And read his diaries.I think I got my cynical sense of humour from him.And his handwriting was beautiful,like those sophisticated British handwritings.Whatever I know of him is through his diaries and through my grandmother’s tales.

My grandmother’s earliest memory is of having her own jewellery as a 5 year old.(She may be 77 years old, but a girl will always be a girl !!).She was the eldest child and had 5 brothers under her.Her dad worked in the railways and so her childhood was spent in many places.When she was 15 years old,she started hearing talk of her marriage.She couldn’t complain, as in those days girls were married at the age of 11 or . Her dad,however, was against the idea of getting her married that early.All her friends (except one, Kamala ) were already married.
When she heard who it was,she was in 2 minds.He was a family friend. They knew each other,but had never spoken even once.He was the boisterous kind,the centre of attraction wherever he went because he was extremely witty.My granny however, was an introvert.

Tales of my grandfather’s brilliance were well known within the family.He was a ‘scholarship’ student (In those days ,the British government gave scholarships to bright students and later drafter them into the administrative positions ). He was tall ( in one of their marriage pic,he is sitting on a chair and my grandmother is standing by his side,and they are of the same height !!).He combed his long straight hair back and always wore tailored suits.Not only that,he knew how to play the violin,the accordian, and had a deep,melodious baritone.In those days,there was a custom that the bride had to sing a song for the groom.My grandmother isn’t exactly melodious ,so my grandfather sang some song.In his own marriage !!! He was an expert mimic and spared no one .

He was also into arts and dramatics.During his college days,he had staged a play.In those days,British officers were given administrative positions.There was this one officer who bred huge,Alsatian dogs and proudly showed them off when he went on his morning walks.In the play,my grandfather was supposed to be spoofing that officer.So he put on a hat,shorts,and a huge artificial moustache much like the officer.

The only thing that was missing was the huge Alsatian dog.After many futile attempts,nothing worked out.So he got a brainwave.He bought a packet of biscuits and went scouting for a street dog.The only one he found was skinny and miserably malnourished,a far cry from the Pedigree-fed Alsatian that the officer bred.However,he managed to tie a rope around the poor creature’s neck and dragged it onto the stage.

When he got to the stage,the crowd went berserk.Amidst all the loud cheering and whistling,the poor dog was scared out of its wits.It raised its head in the air and started howling.This made the crowd cheer even louder.Breaking free from his clasp,the dog ran away and jumped straight into the crowd !!!
The play continued as usual,but my grandfather had stolen the show with his “pet” dog.Rumour has it the officer never took his dog out on a walk after that.

And my grandmother was getting married to such a person !!! Anyway,she was initially scared of him because he seemed intimidating.However,he insisted that she stay at her parents’ place til she turned 18.After that,it was a lifetime of wit,humour,fun,and yeah,sarcasm.

Amamma

Everyone says “my grandma is the sweetest one in the world..blah blah blah..” but i seriously think she’s the sweetest.or at least comes quite close.All through my childhood,I used to mistake another woman as my grandmother.she was a complete bitch.so i had this aversion to grandparents in general.and then after my 12th i really got to know her.
She’s amazing !!!! She can listen to a song and tell u who’s singing it.she knows to cook really well,and never gives up hopes of me being a good cook someday.and she makes the most amazing coffee in the world !! She can survive without food,but she has to have coffee.and u should smell it when she makes it….SUPERB !
Today, I was asking her,”Amamma,if u were to live alone on an island,what are the 3 things you would take along?”.She gave it a serious thought…”Am I allowed to take books…?” “Yes.” Then she asks me,”Can i take cassettes..”? (CDs) “Yes.” She keeps thinking.So I ask,”So,what are u gonna take with u ?” She says,”Milk,Coffee,and Sugar !!!”