Saturday, June 17, 2006

Aditi learns about ‘those days long past’ from Ujwal.

This post too is family lore gleaned from the replies Ujwal gave to her elder grand daughter for her Chicago school project.

Home & Family as a Child

1. Date of Birth: 10 August 1938.

2. Where lived, siblings: As a child, I lived in South Mumbai, Thakurdwar, a predominantly “Marathi” area at that time. No siblings.

3. Growing up, entertainment, books, games, etc.: Growing up wasn’t too bad. But I was lonely. Our games were simple. When it was too hot to play out or it was pouring, we played card games, checkers, carom. Other times, we played robber-and-police, running races and the like on our huge terrace. In the front yard, we played kabaddi (hu-tu-tu) and kho-kho. I read books in Marathi, my mother tongue, as well as comics, Enid Blyton and stories from Shakespeare and abridged versions of his plays in English.

4. Parents, family values/rules, own reaction, how they moulded me, etc.: My father was the Principal of a well-known school. My mother was a general physician who passed her medical examination in 1926 when hardly any women went in for professional training. Her colleagues were British and she the only Indian woman in the group. Discipline and punctuality were very important for my parents (One day she was scolded by her boss for being late for work by three minutes.). Work is worship. Duty is religion. Extending a helping hand to others should be a way of life. Such were the lessons in the art of living I learned from my parents. If my mother called out to me, I had to be in front of her before she finished pronouncing my name. Such was her demand for punctuality. I hated this. I would say, “Wait a second!” and would be angry with what I felt was an unreasonable and too finicky a demand. (In retrospect, though, I feel it has helped me so that I am able to finish my chores faster than most today and have time for other things while my friends are still toiling in the kitchen.) If I said I would be home by 7-30, I jolly well had to make sure it was 7-29 when I rang the doorbell and not 7-31. (I didn’t realise the importance of this rule until I had my own children and I started worrying about their coming home late. I never had to sit down and enumerate the rules to my children. Somehow, they sensed that respect for elders, value of hard work and being a caring-sharing person were important to me.) I belonged to a middle class family. So, spending money just for the sake of spending was a no-no in our house.

School and college

1. School: St. Teresa High School College(s): Sophia (till B.A.); St. Xavier’s College of Education (for B.Ed.)

2. Subjects: (School) English, French, History, Geography, General Science, Math. My favourite subject was English because it opened up a new world to me which otherwise would have remained unknown. (College) English Literature, French. (B.Ed.College) Apart from English and Marathi, I read Sociology and Psychology with special stress on Child Psychology.

3. Dating scene in college: Not a common phenomenon in my college days, though some of the ‘forward’ girls and boys did date with fairly stringent ‘dating protocol’ rigidly enforced by parents.

4. My parent’s view on dating and my reaction: Parents, mine included, generally frowned on dating. I did not dwell on it overmuch as I did not have a special boy friend.

5. My dating: After I started to date the person I eventually married, there was opposition from my mother although she knew his family well. She didn’t mind my marrying him but did not relish my being out with him late. A matinee or early evening movie show was okay: late night show, unthinkable. Although I was forced into telling lies at times, I didn’t resent her attitude as I felt that’s how moms were supposed to behave.

6. Friends’ dating and my feelings: Yes, a couple of my friends dated on the sly. I was not judgmental about their behaviour and even helped them as a friend is supposed to. On the whole, though, we usually moved in mixed groups rather than as couples on their own.


7. Most popular, my choice: The most popular music when I was growing up was from Hindi films. In English teaching schools, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Pat Boone were top of the pop.

8. Impact on youth: Hindi film songs were a great hit with young people. They were sung at parties, picnics, school and college get-togethers. Some of the patriotic songs from films were also believed to have moved young folks into sacrificing their careers in the freedom struggle. With the elite among the youth, rock and roll which had just made a debut too held a certain amount of sway.


9. Popular with college kids: In the circles I moved in, skirts and blouses, dresses and, to a small extent, salwar kameez. The hemlines had started to go up gradually.

10. How I dressed: Dresses, skirts and blouses.

11. Views on fashion: I was not very fashion-conscious. I dressed for comfort and what went with my somewhat generous figure.


12. Ideals, goals, life-view in youth: Being a good human being was very important to me. Being a caring, sharing person aware of the needs of another human being mattered. I had no academic ambitions. Being a good daughter-in-law, a good wife and a good mother were my goals.

13. View on achievement of goals/ideals: I believe I am a caring, sharing, warm human being but what makes me most happy is how my children have turned out to be: helpful, hard working, sensitive and responsible family men. But I have not achieved my dream of owning a small house of my own by the sea.


14. Sports popular when I was in college: Cricket was all the rage even then. (Our college had an all-girls’ team – a rarity at that time.) Also popular were table tennis, carom and badminton.

15. What I played: Table tennis.

16. Anything else?: I would have loved to take up riding and swimming. But we didn’t belong to a club, so swimming was out and riding would have been too expensive to learn in Mumbai at that time.


17. Movies in my youth: Love stories and socials in Hindi with lots of songs. English: Martin and Lewis (comedies); Hitchcock; Doris Day/Gene Kelley (musicals).

18. How often seen: About twice a month.

19. Impact on youth: Hair styles and dresses set the fashion trends. Songs were hummed and hit parades on Radio Ceylon were popular. Not every second collegian wanted to be a Shammi Kapoor or a Dev Anand, though.

20. Favourite movie and why: “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (James Stewert and Doris Day) for Day’s rendering of “Que sera, sera”, apart from the inimitable Hitchcock touch.


21. What kind of marriages? Love marriages acceptable: In the society I lived in, most marriages were arranged. Love marriages were acceptable and not uncommon. The trouble usually arose when people married out of their community (caste/sub-caste) or religion.

22. My marriage: Mine was a love match. I knew my husband-to-be for about five years but got engaged just a year before the wedding. I was allowed to go out with him but had a fairly strict ‘curfew’ (reporting home time).

23. Family resistance, own say: No resistance from my family about the person I chose to marry. Yes, I had a say in the matter.


1. How old: At the time of the War of Independence (1857), I was not born. When India was partitioned, I was nine.

2. Any memories? I remember my mother saying, “I wish you were born in happier times”, probably referring to the vivisection of the country and the violence accompanying it. I also faintly recall going out round the city in a truck to see the illuminated building on 15 August 1947.

3. Personally affected? No personal loss such as what the people in Punjab and Sind who had to leave their homes and migrate to India suffered.

4. Opinions, thoughts, feelings: My mother who had a lot of Muslim patients tried her best to keep on an even keel about them. But there were such strong ‘hate’ vibes in the air that they affected the children like me also. I was too young to really understand how and to whom to mete out the responsibility for the bad happenings all over India: the killings, the looting, the riots, the refugees. As I remember, we were deeply affected by all the talk going around us. Two people emerged as the principal villains: Jinah and Gandhi. (Though today I know that the latter had nothing to do with partition, I can never persuade myself to hail him as ‘Father of the Nation’.)

World War II

1. How old: One year old when it started and seven year old when it ended.

2. Personally affected?: Not really. Except from hearsay around the time the war was nearing its end, I felt that India had unnecessarily been dragged into it and that it was unfair to expect us to fight for Britain when we were fighting her for our independence. Also, vague memories of rationing and shortages again from what I remember my mother or neighbours saying about how it was tough to get this or that.

3. Pearl Harbor?: Too young then to really understand all the implications.

4. Hitler?: I was no fan of his, although I admired a compatriot of mine, Subash Chandra Bose, who fled to Germany hoping to raise a liberation force to free India. Also, I have heard in later life people saying that the Holocaust was a Jewish ‘invention’ perpetuated by Jewish-controlled Western media .


1. Family recipe to share: The much celebrated Prawn Green Curry by Ujwal Mankar.


One fresh coconut 15 medium sized prawns, shelled and de-veined. One small bunch of coriander leaves (cilantro). 2 long green chillies. 6 black pepper beads. 8 cloves of garlic. Juice of one medium sized lime. Salt to taste.

How to make

1. Grate the coconut. 2. Grind ¼ grated coconut along with the coriander leaves, chillies, black pepper and garlic in a mini-mixer to a smooth paste. 3. From the remaining grated coconut (3/4), extract thick juice (‘milk’). 4. Again, from the same coconut, extract thin juice (by adding water). 5. Mix the paste with the thin juice. Add salt. Bring to a slow boil in a wok. Add the prawns. 6. Let it all simmer for 7 to 8 minutes. 7. Add the thick coconut juice (milk), bring it to a quick boil for a minute and remove the wok from the stove. 8. After it cools down a bit, add the lemon juice. IMPORTANT: Never reheat the Prawn Green Curry – even if you have stored the leftovers in the ‘fridge. Serve after thawing thoroughly. NOTE: Fresh coconut may be substituted by tinned coconut extract.

2. Whose? Why special? Anyone else knows? Pass on to whom? This is a family recipe in the true sense because I learned it from my mother and my mother-in-law. It is special because both in its ingredients (coconut milk, coriander leaves – cilantro to you Yankees! and green – not red - chillies mainly) and its taste, you can get a glimpse and a feel of the kind of people we are: warm, hospitable, caring and sharing. No, nobody else knows how to make it. Yes, I would like to pass it to all my daughters: Nandini, Anita, Avantika ('Tika) and you.

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