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Going to Poona - Part One: Shivaji Nagar
One morning, when I'd had my breakfast, Mummy told me that we were going somewhere special for the day and that I had to wear my special clothes for going somewhere nice.
I was in my khaki shorts and the yellow and white striped top that I liked, and of course, my chappals, because if the scorpions. Krishna had laid out my grey shorts and the yellow and white top, ready for me when he woke me, as usual. But we were going somewhere special and I had to change.
So I went back into my bedroom and there, on my chair, were my grey shirt and shorts; all new and clean looking. Krishna and Mummy had laid out my clothes and I thought that he was waiting on the other side of the door; ready to help Chota Sahib if he needed him, but this Chota Sahib dressed himself properly. When I had dressed myself, I went out to look for him, to show him how I looked in the grey shorts and shirt, but I couldn’t find him.
Usually, at this time, I would have heard Krishna in the dining room clearing the breakfast dishes. But he wasn’t there. But there was another noise, a “Squeak Squeak” noise that I didn’t recognise. I went out onto the verandah and Krishna was standing at the bottom of the steps in the sunshine. It was getting hot already, but the “Squeak Squeak” noise was coming from him. He was polishing my black chapplis; my special new black chapplis for special occasions,
I looked down at my brown chappals that I was wearing; Krishna looked down at my brown chappals that I was wearing; my comfy brown chappals.
“These for today, Chota Sahib” said Krishna and he held out the black chapplis. I looked at him, deep into his eyes. He knew what I was thinking; those new black chapplis were hard, and would hurt my feet.
He just held them out; a little bit further. I knew I had to wear them. I sat on the top step and he squatted down in front of me and put them on for me and tightened the strap; just enough. He knew how much.
Mummy came to the door of her bedroom and asked if I wanted any help, but I said “No, Krishna’s doing it”.
Krishna went into the bungalow and it was so quiet.
And then I was ready. Then when I was really ready and looked nice, I called Krishna to come and inspect me.
Krishna came and smiled and told me I looked like a real Sahib. I waited on the veranda while we waited for Daddy and Mummy to come.
We left the bungalow, and as I did, I turned and said, “Goodbye" to Krishna, but Mummy said he was coming with us for a little way and then coming back home. I liked that.
We left the compound and turned right as we came out of the gate. We walked a little way towards the cinema. When we got to the area near the cinema, there was a big open space between the side of the cinema and the swimming pool buildings; a place where there were tongas and tonga wallahs. I loved travelling in a tonga. It was a strange and very old fashioned vehicle to my mind; even the mind of a young boy. The completely black trappings, the canopy, the wheels and often as not, in my minds eye, the horse was black.
Tonga or Tanga
We found a tonga wallah and Daddy negotiated a price and then we boarded. I thought that Krishna would go home then, but I was so happy, because he told me he was coming to the railway station with me. My parents sat inside and I sat at the back with Krishna; our backs towards the horse and looking back at the road we had driven along. Sitting on the hard black cushion; our legs hanging over the back and holding on to the iron rail so that we didn’t fall off. Krishna made sure that I was safe. I could see the people on the road getting smaller and smaller and then the road to our bungalow was so far away I couldn’t see it anymore. I couldn’t even see the big tamarind tree on the corner. A couple of young Indian boys made a half-hearted attempt to run along behind us, but Krishna waved his hands at them and they veered off and walked back towards the tamarind tree, whistling and laughing loudly.
The tonga took us all the way to the railway station for Dehu Road Cantonment. We got out of the tonga and then I waved Goodbye to Krishna; a real Goodbye this time and he stood and watched as we went through the big doors to where the platform was.
But when we got into the railway station, Mummy suddenly realised that she wasn’t very well at all. She said that she still wanted to go to Poona, but that she might feel better when we got inside the train. We were waiting on the platform, but then Mummy said, in a very little and quick voice, that she needed to “go”.
Daddy walked up to an Indian lady; spoke to her briefly and quietly and he put some money in her hand… I think it was one Anna, but I’m not sure.
The Indian lady then went and stood against the white painted fence; waiting. It was near a bench and Daddy told a man and a lady who were sitting there to go away and then the Indian lady held her sari up so that Mummy could hide herself behind it, because she had a very upset tummy and she didn’t want anybody to see what she was doing. She needed to go to the lavatory, but she couldn’t go into the real lavatory at the station because it was very dirty.
The Indian lady held her sari up on either side, like a big, bright red butterfly’s wings. Mummy squatted down behind it and then she was better and the train came along and we boarded it.
Mummy smiled a funny smile, and said that she was feeling all right, but her face was very white.
When we were in the train, I was sitting on the left hand side, with Daddy; facing the way the train was going; our faces towards the engine. We were looking out of the carriage window as we were travelling along. We went past a little village which was right close to the railway lines. The train was travelling quite slowly. The train was very high up, and we looked down and could see little houses; little huts and there were people living in them and I could see children running and playing and a lady cooking on a little fire outside her home.
There was a cow, just standing there, doing nothing, and some goats, just like the goats at the back of our bungalow. Our sweeper lived at the back of the compound, with his wife and their children and Daddy said that they could keep goats there so long as they didn’t come into the house or eat the Mali’s flowers.
Daddy pointed to the village we were passing, and he told me that the people who lived there spread cow poo on the walls and the floors of their houses.
“Doesn’t it smell?” I asked,
“No! When the cow poo gets dry it gets very hard and the floor gets as hard as the floor of our bathroom in the bungalow”.
Daddy said that the Indian people in that village used dry cow poo to burn on their fires and did their cooking with it. He said that if they had realised they could put it on their gardens and it would make things grow better.
But everything seemed to be growing properly anyway, so I didn’t know why they needed to. But I didn’t like the idea of eating food that had been cooked on a fire made from dried cow poo.
Shiva on Nandi
“Do you know what the name of that village is?” Daddy asked me.
I did know, because Daddy had told me before but he liked to tell me so I said,
“It’s called Shivaji Nagar”, he said.
And I said, “Yes!” because I knew what it was called.
Then he said, “Do you know why it’s called that?”
And I said, “Yes”.
“Then; you tell me”, said Daddy, and I wonder why he smiled that way.
“Shivaji Nagar means: This is where Shiva fought because this is where the god Shiva had a battle and he won; and you could tell he was a god because he had a blue face”,
And then Daddy said, “Yes!” because I was right
And then he said
“Always remember this is where Shiva fought. And what’s the name of this village?”
“Shivaji Nagar” I said in a big voice, and it sounded to me just the way Krishna said it.
“You said it really nicely”, said Daddy and he smiled and looked out of the window.
A Glossary of Words used in this three part Story
Sahib:Used formerly as a form of respectful address for a European man in British India
Chota Sahib: Little Sir. Term of respect for a small boy
Memsahib: A married white or upper-class woman. Respectful form of address
Chapplis: Form of sandal with two broad leather straps: left to right and right to left meeting at the heel of the foot with a buckle. Leather sole.
Chappals: Open type of outdoor footwear, consisting of a flat sole held loosely on the foot by a Y-shaped strap, like a thin thong, that passes between the first (big) and second toes and around either side of the foot.
Degchi: A deep round saucepan traditionally made of brass or copper, but stainless steel is also available.
Tonga (Tanga) A light horse-drawn carriage used for transportation in India and Pakistan
Bearer: Man in charge of the running of the household; under Memsahib, or Sahib. Also given the responsibility of caring for a male British child.
Poona: (Present day Pune) The eighth largest metropolis in India, the second largest in the state of Maharashtra after Bombay (present day Mumbai).
Nandi in Maharashtra
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