Monday, March 27, 2023
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Thanks to you all – We complete 1 year today

Just over a year ago an idea was conceived by Shakuntala Jodhun, who expressed a strong desire to have a Bhagnari Newsletter. The thought gave birth to ebhagnaris.in. Our hustling and bustling baby is one year today. The success of this website is mainly due to the viewership it attracts from Bhagnari Community. A big thank you to all the community members – a year ago when the site was launched on 26th January, we could not have imagined the following statistics:

– 50 Articles

– 25 Video uploads

– 40 community members contributed the above articles and videos

– 16000 views on the website

These articles and videos are linked to Bhagnari Community group on Facebook, where they have already garnered:

– 1500+ Comments

– 2500+ Likes

All the above would not have been possible without the team who quietly work in the background to give you this robust website and are always on the look-out for informative and exciting content:

Aditi Achpalia, Amrita Dudeja, Amrita Mehta, Anupama Lulla, Bhumika Nasta, Jayesh Kataria, Karishma Talreja Budhdev, Lokesh Budhrani, Ramesh Poplay, Saahil Mehta, Siddharth Kataria, Trisha Mehta.

The website team were supported with contributions from the following, who are being awarded a Certificate of Appreciation form the President of the community Shri Lachmandas Gehi:

Amrit Mehta & Family, Anita Mehta, Anita Mehta & Family, Bharti Bhagnari, Charanjeet Chanderpal Gehi, Deepa (Laji) Bhagnari, Dhairya Gehani, Geeta Kanar, Hiren Wadhare, Lachmandas Gehi, Mansha Mehta, Mohini Gehani & Family, Neha Alreja, Nikhil Nasta, Niranjan Gehani & Family, Prakash Gehani, Rishika Nasta, Rohit Digra, Sanjay Dhingra, Shivani Kataria, Sneh Gehi, Subash Kataria, Vidhi Kamra, Vinod Gehi.

Mitri – this new initiative was added recently, once again at the request of Shakuntala. It aims to bring Bhagnari couples together into a blissful matrimony. The initiative is fronted by Shakuntala Jodhun, Manju Dudeja and Mansha Mehta. This team’s efforts are also being recognised with a Certificate of Appreciation.

Bhagnari Community’s YouTube channel has become a popular repository for videos made by the members of the community. We thank Amrita Mehta for initiating this idea and giving it shape.

Friends, all the above would not have been possible without financial support from Jayesh Kataria, who pays the annual charges to run the website. A huge applause for him!!

Just in case you are not aware, it is important to let you know that besides the regular new posts, the website has several other interesting pages:

– History of community before the partition https://ebhagnaris.in/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/BHAGNARIS-History-PDF-1.pdf

– History of the community after the partition https://ebhagnaris.in/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/History-of-panchayat-immediately-after-partition-1.pdf

– From Bhagnari Kitchen https://ebhagnaris.in/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/From-Bhagnari-Kitchen.compressed.pdf

– Bhagnari Dictionary https://ebhagnaris.in/the-bhagnari-dictionary/

– List of blood donors https://ebhagnaris.in/list-of-blood-donors/

– Panchayat registration form https://ebhagnaris.in/membership-registration/

– Mitri Registration form https://ebhagnaris.in/the-bhagnari-mitri/

Friends, let us not rest on our past laurels. We must strive to double the statistics next year!!

Remembering Late Shri Sobhraj Tirathdas Gehi – 1904 – 1996

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Shri Sobhraj was son of Tirathdas Gehi and had seven brothers and one sister. They all lived in a large house in Bhagnari Pada in Karachi.

Karachi

Collective leadership – the jargon is a creation of the corporate world to create space for a group of people to work together towards a shared goal.

Yet, it’s a man amongst men who can alone weave the success.

The major achievements are made single-handedly, for that we had the real leader who shared the success with his men Friday.

These bedrocks are hidden down under. We see the glittering edifice because of them. Yes, the bedrock in the case of our community, sharing the success of Late Shri Takandas H Kataria was Late Shri Sobhraj T Gehi. He shared a telepathic bond with Mukhi Saheb; there was no other who could understand the next in the mind of his leader but him.

Such people’s actions during the peaceful times are never noticed and for the longest time they are not realized by us.  

Shri Sobhraj T. Gehi was with Mukhi Saheb as his dream realizer since the earliest days of Bhagnari Panchayat, 1930 onwards. He was the Honorary Joint Secretary, and worked closely with Late Shri Takandas H Kataria, the President of the Bhagnari Panchayat.

The tenacity, hard work and the results can only be achieved by a super focused, no nonsense man in the circumstances which our community faced during the days of post partition in the year 1948.

It would be interesting to mention that Bhagnaris were optimistic of remaining in Karachi for life; it was only when the situation worsened during the end of 1947 that a call had to be taken to move out of the newly formed Pakistan.

The community moved from Karachi to Bombay in 1948 and not in 1947 as many of us perceive. 

In   the midst of destructive and frenzied sentiments, few saviors stood firm to get the community members safely to Bombay by sea.

It was their sheer grit and determination that made this possible. What a struggle it must have been!

One has to pause here to imagine that how all the formalities with two warring Governments must have been done. How the peoples count and transfer was managed and after landing in Bombay how all of them would have come together once again.

Yes, all paper-work and liaisoning with the  government authorities was done  by Late Shri Sobhraj T Gehi. He was at the helm of affairs, alongwith the President, Late Shri Takandas H Kataria. He played a pivotal role at that time. He was also instrumental in disposing off Panchayat properties in Karachi, alongside the President, who worked tirelessly to complete the matters before migration.

Our family would like to thank Shri Ramesh Poplay for reproducing the documents on the community website ebhagnaris.in (Letters from Karachi) and Shri Prakash Gehani for carefully preserving the file that was handed over to him by our grandfather, Shri Sobhraj T Gehi. We remember him showing us the file with copies of the documents and the telegram that was sent to the then Home Minister and the Prime Minister for rescuing Bhagnaris from the then prevailing destructive atmosphere in Karachi.
(Publication of Letters from Karachi)

Bombay

After partition, millions of families were landless and homeless. A salute to the spirit of the older generation, who endured those difficult times with tremendous fortitude, settled in a new land and rebuild their lives with their resilience, hardwork and integrity.

After coming to Bombay, Baba (as he was addressed by us) lived with his family (his wife, Krishna and three children) in a railway owned chawl at Khar (East), adjoining the tracks near the railway station.

His daughter, Nirmala recalls that it was a small one room kitchen tenement. The distinct memory she has is of water being delivered to each house in the baithi chawl, by a porter who carried a long stick on his shoulder, and to each side of the stick were water cans. It must have been a very basic settlement with basic facilities. At that time, his elder son, Jethanand was 15 years old, his younger son, Sunder was 10 years old and his daughterNirmala was 5 years of age.

 In Bombay, Baba worked as a typist in a few places; that was his humble beginning in a strange land. He multi tasked, doubling up as an administrative and communications person. His skills were valued since he had good organizational ability, a good command over English and a flair for writing. Relocating to a new place, must have been very challenging. We do not know much about the process, but believe that a strong community network, must have been a catalyst, in enabling each other to set up, and move on.

 He was recognized for his expertise; his advice and help were sought after by members of the community. He was generous with sharing ideas, drafting official letters and lending such support to anyone who approached him.

As he worked, he also dedicated a lot of time to Panchayat work. These were formative years, when the idea of a place for Bhagnaris in Bombay was being envisaged by Mukhi Saheb.  Perhaps, at that time Panchayat members met on a fixed day, at a fixed place, since everyone was scattered in the city. That is how the community may have held itself together and kept the activities going, till Kataria Colony was built. After numerous discussions and debates in Panchayat meetings, Shri Sobhraj T Gehi, once he resolved, executed each project with utmost efficiency.

Post migration, after 3 or 4 years of staying at Khar (East), the family moved to Gehi Mansion at Mahim, and later to Kataria Colony, when ‘A’ Building was constructed.

Starting out from Khar (East) and moving to Kataria colony, was like a dream come true.

Kataria Colony was the dream, that the leaders had worked towards relentlessly, since migration in 1948 and after 10 years, the dream was translated to reality. Kataria Colony was not just a physical space, it held deep sentiments of the members’ longing to restore the feeling of solidarity and a continuity of the sense of identity and belonging, that all had experienced before partition. The community leaders had held together in the face of all odds, worked passionately, to realize the cherished dream of a Bhagnari Pada in Mumbai; reminiscent of their lost homeland.

Baba revered Mukhi Saheb, like all others did. They shared a very good rapport. Between them, it was a relation of mutual trust and respect.

 When ‘A’ building was in the process of being constructed, the members were contemplating a name for the society. He strongly advocated then that the colony should be named after the founder, Shri Takandas H Kataria. The members unanimously agreed; hence we have ‘Kataria Colony’.

After moving to Kataria Colony, he rented a small shop at Chakla street, the hosiery market in Mumbai. At that time, he was engaged in doing correspondence work for many reputed firms, situated in the hosiery market. His sons, started trading in hosiery goods in the shop, and later, they were successful in getting agencies from reputed hosiery manufacturers in Salem, Tamil Nadu.

After few years, Baba purchased a shop from Shri Gobindram H Chhada. While his sons, undertook the responsibility of the hosiery shop, Baba focused on the communications aspect, correspondence with the manufacturers in South India, which had grown beyond Salem and moved to Tirupur. With his guidance and blessings, his sons took charge, and after a few years of being active in the shop, Baba withdrew from the shop, but continued working at home, overseeing the agencies work, the communications, banking and investments work.

Later, he continued his commitment as the Honorary Joint Secretary with Late Shri Harkishindas D Gehani, who became President of Bhagnari Panchayat after Shri Takandas H Kataria.

He spent a lot of time reading philosophical books, particularly pertaining to Bhagavad Gita and other Hindu Scriptures. He was very active in organising the week-long Gita Jayanti celebrations that took place at Kataria Colony for many years.

He was a man of integrity, a disciplinarian, and a true karma yogi. He would wake up before dawn, and in his deep voice do the Omkar and mantra chanting. He  practiced Yogasana and also did Shirshasana (Headstand Yoga Pose).

His simple and disciplined lifestyle is the reason why he was so fit, until the last. He was alert and active until a few weeks before he passed away. He continued to have a sharp memory.

Anyone who knew him would tell, that he was so precise, so meticulous, that he left no scope for any non-clarity whatsoever. And he was forthright; he always voiced his opinion in Panchayat and Society meetings loud and clear.

Baba breathed his last on 31st March 1996, when he was 92 years, leaving behind fond memories, much love and a family bond.

We are filled with gratitude to have him as a member of the Bhagnari Community and have a lot to learn from his life.

(The family and close associates of Late Shri Sobhraj T Gehi have contributed towards this write-up)

The latest mode of communication by Deepa (Laji) Bhagnari

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What is communication basically? It is said that there are three ways to communicate..first is verbal communication, in which you listen to a person to understand their meaning…then there is written communication, in which you read their meaning and last is non-verbal communication in which you observe a person and try to understand the meaning.

Verbal communication is when two people or more meet…interact and talk to each other…sometimes laugh…or get angry and infuriated and voice it…or sometimes there are literal verbal fights…but you have the freedom to express yourself…but that is only possible when people meet…now with this pandemic on, there are lesser meetings…so no laughter…no arguments…no animated conversations…you can say the famous Sholay film dialogue here .”Itna Sanaata kyun hai Bhai”?  Really a sad time for everyone.  But what can one do?  We all have to be patient to meet and again have our moments of pleasure…this pandemic has taught us how important meeting your loved ones and friends is…because we humans need social contact. We love to interact.

Now let’s talk about our past…the beautiful days gone by…when at school we were taught to write our first alphabets and from there we progressed to writing essays and answers to questions. I remember what it is to put pen to paper…in fact I was always appreciated by all my teachers for my handwriting…and I am sure during my exams I scored some extra points just for my neat and legible writing.😊…but today it is just the reverse…I just can’t write…my handwriting has gone from bad to worse…well not that I wanted it to be that way but as they say practice makes perfection…where do people write nowadays…everyone is just tapping the keyboards on their computers…laptops…iPads and mobiles. Sad but true…

When I got engaged to Moti…he was settled in Dubai…so after our engagement he would write lovely romantic letters to me every week…which I would eagerly wait for…well we were young and romance is always an integral part of our lives at that age…then after I got married I too went to Dubai where I eagerly waited for my mom’s and my mother in law’s letters updating me all about our beloved families and giving us all the colony news…during those days very few had their own post boxes so we would collect so many people’s letters from our P. O. Box every week and then since my house was centrally located I was never short of people coming on the pretext of collecting their letters…killing time having chai and some snacks and sometimes staying over for dinner too.😃. Well those times were different when there was so much apna-pan that you welcomed everyone with a smile and a warm hug…now we rarely visit people uninvited…people are same but lifestyles have changed with growing families and responsibilities…I guess that is the case everywhere…but really miss the warmth of those days. So, in a way we all communicated through letters as we trunk-called our near and dear ones on special occasions only…but I think those handwritten letters were our lifeline. In fact I still have preserved so many letters of those years gone by and when I read them I always have a smile on my lips and tears in my eyes. I realise now that penned words show more depth of feelings and emotions than a type-written message. Strange but true!!

Besides letters I would read a lot…novels…magazines….journals…as I loved reading…it would take me to another land where I used to be so embroiled in the make believe world of books that I actually felt I was a part of them…and at that time they were all painstakingly handwritten by all the famous authors…isn’t that fascinating…it was their hard labour of love for writing which brought characters to life for us ..no wonder the books of yore were so earnest and appealing to the readers.  Then of course they were sent for printing and publishing. So written words made such an impact in our lives.

Today the scenario is completely changed…writing is a thing of the past…well students do write but even now all that will be gradually replaced by just tapping away on the laptops. Now you send a message via WhatsApp…Facebook…Instagram, etc. and usually you get answers via emojis…either hearts…thumbs-up signs…Namaste signs…GIFs or sometimes you know the message has been read by two blue tick marks…which now you know one can avoid even that. Where is the warmth and emotion in these emojis? They have no soul…it’s absolutely baseless…but we still all like a herd mentality do it…you feel – well the opposite party shows no response so well I too will just pass on a heart emoji showing my appreciation…and sometimes even without reading the message. So communication is becoming lesser and lesser .But I think this tough time where the entire humanity is facing this catastrophe and has come to a standstill has taught us a grave lesson…that how much we love our near and dear ones and our friends and colleagues…how we are all longing to be in touch with each other…to see each other and verbally communicate. I hope that this should also make us realise that instead of wishing someone on their birthdays by sending messages, is not sufficient…one can just pick up the phone and call that person and see the happiness you give that person…as they say nothing can replace just a few words of love and appreciation…not a zillion emojis. So next time just let us all do it…Life is too short…let us leave behind beautiful memories and on the pathway of our life collect beautiful memories.

But alas I always used to love the saying “The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword”.  I wonder if that holds true now…as the pen is replaced by the keyboard. Not that progress is not welcomed but nostalgia of the old always makes you sad…but then one has to move forwards and as they say the old giveth way to the new…so be it. 

Diwali the Festival of Lights by Deepa (Laji) Bhagnari

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Since childhood I have heard of innumerable stories of the different festivals celebrated in our country ..our beautiful India.  I always used to wonder how one can have so many festivals…but then as I grew up I realised that festivals are just a means of unifying people and creating an atmosphere of goodwill and cheer amongst people. So in a way they stand for unification…which is really essential to the well being of our country.

We celebrate innumerable festivals…but none I think can compare to the Diwali Festival. It has been said that Diwali is celebrated to mark the triumph of good over evil… victory of light over darkness and  knowledge over ignorance.  Moreover according to legends it is said that this day marked the return of Ram..Sita..Laxman and Hanumanji back to Ayodhya after defeating Ravan the demon king.  So the people of Ayodhya were so overjoyed to welcome their beloved Rama that they decorated the full city with lights…each and every house was lit up to show their joy at his return. ..and from that day this special day was called Diwali….and it became a norm to light up every home on this particular day every year. 

It is also said that it was on this Diwali day that Goddess Laxmi got married to Lord Vishnu..and Goddess Laxmi symbolises wealth and prosperity…so on Diwali day people pray to Laxmi to bring in wealth and prosperity into their homes…and all Hindus open new account books on this auspicious day. So we can see why Diwali has so much significance in our lives.

Diwali has been named as the Festival Of Lights…people of all religions…all classes..rich or poor all participate in this festival with gusto..and according to their means…the poor may just light some Mitti  ka diyas in their houses and eat a good meal ..make some new clothes and as a bonus eat some Mithai..but nonetheless they are happy to be a part of the festival . Others decorate their houses with shimmering coloured lights…beautiful Rangolis ..diyas…lanterns.. .Fanoos in their balconies..and it all looks like a fairyland. 

It also becomes a time for shopping.. people buy new clothes..and ornaments… the bazaars are packed with customers all buying diyas ..clothes..silverware and gold and diamond ornaments.. Dhanteras is the day when people religiously go to the market to buy either gold..silver or even a small steel utensil as it is considered to be auspicious. But the atmosphere in these three four days of Diwali is electrifying and incomparable.. there is cheer and bonhomie everywhere.

It is also a time for bonding ..people go to each other’s houses exchange gifts…..meet and socialize.  There are huge parties hosted by the rich and..people all are dressed in their shimmering best. Ladies outdo each other by wearing their latest acquired gold and diamond jewellery ..indeed a beautiful sight to behold. 

This festival is not restricted to India..all the Hindus living all across the Globe celebrate it with the same verve and enthusiasm…Here in Dubai all the streets and houses are decorated with twinkling lights…the bazaars are packed with eager ..enthusiastic shoppers…it is a beautiful sight to behold. Specially in these tough times we need this light to remove the darkness from our hearts and minds. I know India is still reeling from the virus impact but still the enthusiasm has not diminished and though low key Diwali is still being celebrated. 

Our very own Bhagnari Community which is the most united community I would proudly say is hosting Diwali celebrations on Zoom under the guidance of the very capable Ramesh Poplay and his team..I am sure it will be a huge success and we will all enjoy it…so please all participate wherever you are as this is Bhagnaris bonding.

So wishing all a very happy Diwali…May the darkness end and we get the vaccine as soon as possible so that we can travel and meet our loved ones.  May our patience  be victorious over Corona  just like  good over evil.

(The picture is from famous Kandil Gali of Mahim – is there light at the end of the tunnel?)

A Bhagnari Diwali

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This is an Oral/Aural Hxstory Project centering three stories to document our unique Bhagnari song(s) sung during this auspicious time of year. Contributors featured in this archive include: Aarti Kaanchan Mehta (Madhu Makar), Pushpa Kishore Mehta and Ramesh Poplay. Ultimately, these stories show that one single ritual can contain multiplicities. Not all Bhagnaris celebrate Diwali and not all Bhagnaris who celebrate Diwali celebrate in this particular way. But of the ones who do, some Bhagnaris sing the first line of the song as “Dim Dim Diwali aayee” while some sing “Din Din Diwali aayee” while some sing “Ding Ding Diwali aayee” while some sing “Dum Dum Diwali aayee.” There also seemed to be unanimous agreement that the second line is “Balen bachon wali aayee” until Ramesh Poplay reached out to our long-lost ancestral relative, Omprakash, who resides in Bhag, Baluchistan. Omprakash recently informed Ramesh Poplay that Bhagnaris in Bhag do indeed sing this song today, and have over time, however their iteration of the song goes “Dim Dim Diwali hai / Balen bachon wali hai.” “Aayee” translates to “is coming” while “hai” translates to “is” which shows slight differences in temporality and certainty. The diverse performance of this ritualistic practice indicates that our traditions continue to be intertwined with threads of commonalities while also maintaining unique difference.

Our Ancestors Laugh and Smoke Hookah, Still (Part II)

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If you haven’t read Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming yet, you should. Michelle weaves the themes of feminism with racial liberation, with optimism and with emotional growth. She braids these paramount ideas together, but the title itself captures the central idea: Persisting Growth.

This earth would be a more harmonious place if world leaders (and world followers – and everyone in between) read and internalized the messages inside Becoming.

Becoming, a gerundive verb, signifies a continuous and unending process—like time itself. Michelle’s autobiography is divided into three sections: Becoming Me, Becoming Us and Becoming More. Irrespective of the regrettable fact that Barack Obama failed to marry a Bhagnari, I wonder how this threefold sectioning of Becoming could apply to our Bhagnari family. Namely, I wonder: Who are Bhagnaris as individuals, who are we as a collective and how do we futuristically flourish into “more” as we engage in this process of Becoming?

More importantly, what happens after we become more – is this process linear or cyclical? Is Michelle’s sectioning truly distinct, or is there a porosity that allows for liminal space between these seemingly separate categories that is worth exploring? Literature inevitably leads us down the path of responding to these Michelle-inspired thoughts.

Sandra Cisneros’ short story “Eleven” is an excellent text that allows us to explore these introspective curiosities. I readily used this text in the classroom while I was a school teacher. “Eleven” is a rich narrative that depicts growing up as an unending process rather than a one-directional path with a finite, definitive destination. “Eleven” touches on our curiosities by tracing the birthday of the protagonist of the story who happens to be a young girl turning eleven years old. Cisneros writes:

What they don’t understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you’re eleven, you’re also ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two, and one. And when you wake up on your eleventh birthday you expect to feel eleven, but you don’t. You open your eyes and everything’s just like yesterday, only it’s today. And you don’t feel eleven at all. You feel like you’re still ten. And you are – underneath the year that makes you eleven.

Like some days you might say something stupid, and that’s the part of you that’s still ten. Or maybe some days you might need to sit on your mama’s lap because you’re scared, and that’s the part of you that’s five. And maybe one day when you’re all grown up maybe you will need to cry like you’re three, and that’s okay. That’s what I tell Mama when she’s sad and needs to cry. Maybe she’s feeling three.

Because the way you grow old is kind of like an onion or like the rings inside a tree trunk or like my little wooden dolls that fit one inside the other, each year inside the next one. That’s how being eleven years old is. 

This story has always touched me because it facilitates our right to lean into our unimpressive feelings – our immaturities even. Currently I am 29, but I am not 29. I’m 29 and every other age I have ever been. I’m Saahil now and every other version of Saahil I’ve ever been in the past. I’m every success, every failure, every regret, every surprise, every doubt – everything I have ever been. All this – in just one container.

The message of “Eleven” allows me to pluralize myself. This story complicates the notion of Becoming yet maintains eyebrow-raising simplicity. I see two shortcomings with Cisneros’ paradigm. She counts only in increments of years and she starts with the number one. In doing this, she forgets to consider all the other little wooden dolls that the naked eye doesn’t immediately have access to. For me, seeing the world through this critique makes the past, present and future much, much more interesting and imaginative. Reflecting on this helps me feel peace as my 30th birthday approaches later this month.

This January, I found myself in Bombay going towards Elephanta Island with my friend who was visiting from Nairobi. I wanted to show Malcolm the local history and also show him the cute monkeys that live on, and practically govern, Elephanta. We walked from Shivaji Park to the Matunga Train Station, took the second-class train going south to Churchgate Station, walked through Kala Ghoda and arrived to the Gateway of India.

After the boat passage, we saw several vendors selling tourist souvenirs while walking up the famous stairs. One object in particular caught my eye: the “little wooden dolls that fit one inside the other” as mentioned in Cisneros’ Eleven, although these ones resembled South Asian – not Russian – ladies draped in sarees. I thought back to Cisneros’ story and I knew I had to purchase one. I located the vendor who would sell it to me the cheapest based on my “theek dhaam bolo” said in a really crappy Hindi accent. I purchased one for 200 rupees and we left to go explore the caves, going the wrong way but eventually finding the ticket counter.

The person at the ticket counter attempted to sell me a 600 rupee ticket instead of the local price of 50 rupees. This is when 29-year-old Saahil acted younger than 29 and threw a tantrum. “I’m an OCI” I said, and she immediately responded, “Where’s your ID?” I didn’t have it on me but stoically requested her to charge me the local price. She refused – which was of course completely within her right and power – but I did what was within my right and power: I threw a fit.

In a disillusioned tone I expressed to Malcolm, “I’m going to wait at the bottom of the hill and have a beer, but you should go through the caves and come meet me when you’re done.” We went our separate ways. Malcolm went to the caves and I walked down to the restaurant, took out a notebook, and enjoyed a cool beer while working on my writing. (At the time, I was working on my “Badi Mummy” story – my first contribution to ebhagnaris.in).

I’m not proud of my behavior at Elephanta. I obviously acted stingy and immaturely. Nonetheless, I love my saree-draped desi nesting doll for what she represents. She represents my ancestry. She represents time. She represents memory. She represents Hindu forms of thought that reject naive “tabula rasa” arguments of newborns by wisely acknowledging the samskaras we are born with. I cannot be a tabula rasa – because I am Bhagnari – I am layered.

My saree-draped desi nesting doll reminds me that our Bhagnari ancestors are still laughing and dancing and smoking hookah. They are achieving blissful joy through observing us and we are achieving blissful joy through them. Even when the times get tough, we celebrate ourselves by coming together and expanding our community through inclusion and love. This inclusiveness will take us towards a future filled with more laughter and dancing and hookah. A better future is near. I can almost taste the paan flavor of the shisha.

Roti Kapda Aur Makkan by Deepa (Laji) Bhagnari

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Corona Virus has invaded our lives and turned it topsy turvy.  The life we are leading now is a nightmare which we would never have imagined even in our wildest dreams…even if prophesied.  World over, people are living in fear and counting each day as a blessing…thinking, thank God for today. 

But this unprecedented pandemic has brought to the fore many deep and interesting observations. Firstly, we have realised the value of our lives. We are being careful with our food, exercise. etc., fearing and hoping nothing goes wrong in these trying times.  Then we have realised the value of relationships…be it any relation. Everyone is now isolated..at home…no social contact…even working from home. One now realises the importance of the people who you are with daily or even sometimes. Maybe, you have now started caring and loving your parents a little more than before…missing your colleagues at work even though you had arguments and tiffs with them..your weekend get-togethers with friends and relatives…your cousins…everyone for that matter. You realise the importance of family. These are all bonds which are difficult to break. You even realise the importance of domestic helpers who unfortunately maybe confined to their homes…people you took for granted. So, in a way these are lessons, well learnt from these unfortunate times.

But most important lesson that God is teaching us in these trying times is that basically what we need from life at any time…good times and bad times. We all love living the good life…no harm in that, but if you sit and introspect you will realise that now when we are confined to just our homes we are happy we are safe…we have food…simple day to day casual clothes and a roof over our head. These are our basic necessities in life…roti…kapda aur makaan. We should count our blessing that we are all blessed to have good homes…food and clothing, but not all are so lucky. There is so much poverty the world over…when we are sleeping comfortably in our air-conditioned rooms, there are people staying in slums, pavements, etc, even without a fan…they have no clothing…hardly anything to eat.  It is really sad that the world is divided into these segments where some have lakhs to waste on parties in hotels and others are craving for even a meal a day. But this will not change…that’s life…but it is heartening to read that there are good Samaritans in this world who go out of the way to help the poor. I just received a WhatsApp message about one man who has started giving food for just Rupee1 for a meal and you can eat as much as you want and even pack and take for anyone else. He said he charges Rupee 1 so that people feel they are not eating for free but paying for it. Imagine the greatness of this man. Hats off to him. He says people can donate only Rupee 1 towards this cause if they want.  Really kudos to him. 

This teaches us one very big lesson…life is uncertain. One never knows how long we will live…so be open and large hearted…try and help people in these trying times…ultimately, we are all going to go empty handed from this world. So better to help people now with our own hands and see the happiness on their faces even with the little that we can spare. I know this is easier said than done as I have seen people who are so careful about their money and worldly possessions that they would never like to part with anything…but there are others who are large hearted…as they say, God has created both good and bad…goodness and evilness…intelligent and unintelligent…wealthy and poor…and He has done this definitely with a purpose. Otherwise how else would we know the difference between people.

So ultimately to sum it up…we have to remember that in this very unfortunate phase of our life we have all learnt a lot of lessons. Perhaps this is God’s way of teaching his children I know it is a tough lesson but then when we give an exam, we get easy questions and tough ones…we can’t ignore the tough ones as then we will fail…and no one wants to fail in an exam, right?  So in life also we have this tough lesson to learn and I hope we pass through this phase successfully scoring full marks and in that process we will be proud of ourselves when we look back at this period of time and relate these memories to our grandchildren hopefully.

So just remember life is just about three basic needs that is ROTI, KAPDA AUR MAKAAN…and everyone doesn’t have to have a sprawling house…wardrobes full of clothes and abundant food on the dining table…we can manage even with less.

Daughters Day by Deepa (Laji) Bhagnari

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Just got a WhatsApp message now of daughters day. Well since there are Mother’s Day..Fathers day then why not Daughters day. After all daughters are the most precious jewels that anyone can possess. My daughter my first born…who made me from a woman to a mother ..no wonder when I held her in my arms for the first time she tugged at my heart-strings – never felt this feeling before, suddenly when her tiny fingers were clenched in my fist I felt as if I had to protect this little God given gift from all the hurdles and obstacles of life…she was so tiny and so precious…from then on she became my heartbeat. My daughter Rinku (Lamia Saldanha) ..a lovely little girl the first grandchild of the house ..so she was pampered and loved by all, specially by her Bari Mummy ..her Nani…and her precious Chachu (uncle) Jhaveri. Jhaveri would even fight with us for her as she turned to be quite a brat due to all the pampering. Nonetheless she was an adorable child. And since I didn’t get my son Amrit till 13 years later she got total undivided invitation. Today my little angel is a confident ..talented woman and a mother of a little girl herself. Daughters they say are angels sent to your life to bless your home…and they truly do so. They are always by your side through thick and thin…helping you ..guiding you and above all protecting you and loving you unconditionally. Strange how when parents grow older the roles get reversed. Today we look at Rinku at every decision making step we take as she has the experience having worked in multi national companies and moreover now she is a brilliant Tarot and Angel Card Reader.. even when we are unwell we just have to call her and she will see our cards…soothe our fears…send us healing and we immediately feel relief. So she is in the true sense an Angel sent to us by God. I can just tell you Rinku that with each passing day you have turned out to be a wonderful…talented…and more loving individual…and I want you to know both Papa and myself are so proud of you…and feel blessed to be chosen to be your parents. Thank you for being in our lives and enhancing it with your presence. Besides Rinku being my daughter by birth I think I have other daughters too ..whom I am extremely proud of …as they are all lovely women…all confident and talented in their fields. My two adorable nieces Jharna and Rashmi… both talented and lovely young women…both mother of two lovely kids.. both bringing joy to our families and giving us love and affection. Rashmi who is now settled in Singapore is a success in her career…determined and focused and besides a loving mother to her two adorable kids. Jharna ..was a teacher ..she loved kids so was happy teaching them…now she is mother of two lovely kids ..so she is busy with them. May God shower all his blessings on them…Love you both my dears. Then I have my teen Bahuranis. They are also my daughters. The eldest being my dear Richa.,.the most courageous…confident and talented girl I have still to see…being the first bahu (daughter in law) of the house she got a lot of love from all specially from Bari Mummy as they both bonded very well…but then that is Richa for you…she can charm everyone..as she has a clean heart. Richa is also a successful entrepreneur winning many awards and making us proud of her. Love you my dear for being just you. Then came Anupam…super talented ..a designer who was extremely successful in her career and now has proved her mettle by becoming one of the first to design beautiful decorative umbrellas and make it a lucrative business.. well besides being a lovely and loving person she is also a successful entrepreneur. Then finally comes the youngest bahurani of our house my very own Mescha ..a lovely talented girl…she has bought sunshine to our house..my mother in law, that is Bari Mummy, would love to converse in Sindhi with her as Mescha is a Sindhi. Mescha is a true homemaker par excellence…that is her forte. A cook who can rustle up the most delicious dishes ..Indian…Chinese…Thai…etc. etc. She loves to cook…bake and keep the house up to the mark…I think she has a magic wand ..with which voila she does it all effortlessly. A very lovely girl always smiling and catering to all our needs…though young but she still can make kaaras (herbal syrups) for us if we have even the slightest cough. 😁 Well ..that’s it…just wanted to tell my daughters how much we love you all and how proud we are of all of you. Just be the way you are always.. hope you are all blessed with a long and healthy life. So today all mothers who have daughters just feel blessed that God has given these angels to us…just love them more each day because each one of them deserve our love…With Lamia Saldanha.. Rashmi AdnaniJharna Rakyan.. PoojaRicha GehiBhagnariAnu Poplay…. Mescha A Bhagnari

Are Parents Really Old by Deepa (Laji) Bhagnari

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We all love our parents dearly…and I know that whatever the circumstances love for parents is undiminished. Since our birth we see parents as our mentors…teachers…guides and revere them as we are so dependent on them…and they give their 100 percent to us…whatever difficulties they may be facing either emotional…physical or economic, still they are always there for us, sacrificing everything for us so that we can have everything. I think the greatest quality that all parents possess is sacrifice and forgiveness.

I myself have seen my mother going through rough times living in a joint family but still she sheltered us from the upheavals in her life…then I saw my mother in law and my aunt Isho, also doing the same, always sacrificing their all for their children. I learnt sacrifice, forgiveness and  the spirit of giving from them…they were my greatest tutors. My mother cannot remember much now or I would definitely thank her for all the lessons she has unknowingly taught me.

Though we all love our parents and we all have had young parents but still it is strange that parents are somehow thought to be old. This thought occurred to me now when I myself have reached the age when anyone or even the doctors etc casually say “well at your age now you just have to be a little extra careful” and I am indeed startled that they consider me now to be old. Of course, it hurts a bit to hear it initially then one learns to accept the hard truth of life.  But though I hear it, I say to myself I am not old. I still have a lot to do…a lot to see…a lot to achieve…I still hopefully have a long way to go.

Then in introspection I realise that what our children maybe thinking of us today we did the same with our parents. I remember when I was getting married my father coloured his hair for the first time and I smiled thinking how handsome and young he looked despite being old.😃 and was he really old…no of course not he was  46 and my mother I think, around 44…but still because they were parents, we considered them to be old. I realise now that as youngsters we are very callous sometimes. Parents are supposed to be there for you, always, as that is their duty towards us…we often don’t see their struggle and hardship as we are too busy being young, carefree and enjoying life. Today when I see my marriage pics I see my mother looking so beautiful, young and happy and my father looking like a Mills and Boon hero, dark and handsome. I feel sad that I didn’t see them in that light then.

Then I remember at the age of 70 my mother got cancer and the doctors gave us no hope and my poor father was devastated and said that the doctors say age is against her….and we just prayed for a miracle to happen and of course it did and my mother’s bravery got her through the dreadful disease. Today when I hear of my friends or people I know, getting afflicted with a disease at the same age and I say oh God she is not old…strange isn’t it, how we consider ourselves to be young but parents to be old at the same age…why do we think parents are old even when they are in their prime of life…just because we are around 20 to 25 years younger?

I think life comes full circle…what we thought of our parents then, today our children will think of us and that I think is sad. We should change this way of thinking…parents should be encouraged to feel young and on par with their children…participating in activities with them…talking and having discussions with them…interacting with their friends…they should feel wanted, loved and feel that they have not only place in their children’s homes but in their hearts too. The older the parents get, more the attention and love they need…because when  one  is really old they say one is like a child and when we were children we were pampered…loved and cuddled…and now it is the children’s turn to do the same pampering. I don’t think it is much to ask for.

I have seen many parents feeling neglected and lonely as their children are callous in their approach to them…and that really is very sad…the ones who held your hand and made you cross through all the roads of life…today have to long for the same hand to hold them and walk the path of life together. Of course, not all are like that…there are wonderful children also who love and respect their parents and are with them through thick and thin. I think the others should look and learn from them…and parents only can bless even if you neglect them…they can never think or talk anything negative about you – as I said parents are always forgiving.

So for all future generations, I would like to say, never consider your parents to be old, as age is just a number…it is your heart which is young and never old and the more love and affection you receive from your children, the younger you think you are and that one single factor makes you want to live longer and fight every disease that comes your way.

I am happy in one way that I spent quality time with all my three mothers…sitting with them for hours…chatting and gossiping with them…bonding with them and I now realise that I could do it because all three of them were young at heart. They were my friends.  So, please, all parents young or old keep your hearts young and remember the world likes people who are young at heart..😃

And the youngsters of today, love your parents because you inherit just one set of parents and nobody can replace them…love them when they are with you…no sense of remembering them and having regrets after they have left this world.

Reminiscing Childhood At Deolali by Anita Mehta nee Gehi

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We were in the middle of Lockdown 1.
There was so much silence, not a person was around in

the otherwise busy compound in Kataria Colony.
All I could hear were the bird songs, that sounded
like a symphony.

In the night, I would hear the distinctive sound of crickets. …

so rare in Mumbai, in the midst of the same deafening silence.

The sole water tap near the compound, dark, silent nights,

the badam tree, the flowering Gulmohar tree, the scorching summer afternoons,

the rustle of the leaves, the fresh breeze blowing, the peepal tree, oxygenated air,

the purity in the atmosphere……

These images and sounds, during those days and nights transported me back in time,
to Deolali, the place where I spent all my childhood and teenage summer vacations.

I remember how every year, there would be a rush to book

our family one week slot, for stay at the Bhagnari Sanatorium
during summer vacations.
It was a holiday we looked forward to.
We would often know beforehand
who are going to be our neighbours for that one week.
Sometimes, we wouldn’t know
and that would be like a suspense.

The Sanatorium which was a beautiful bungalow, had accommodation for
five families at a time.
Each family was given one room.
There were one small room and three huge rooms
on the ground floor, and one room attached to the terrace at level 1.

I recall staying in all the five rooms at different points of time.

Our community members who had envisaged this idea, had done so brilliantly.
Every room had an independent kitchen, which was well equipped

with basic utensils and gas stove.
A functional kitchen, beds, mattresses,
mosquito nets, everything was provided.

There was a common tap outside, where washing of utensils, clothes was done.
There was a common verandah
and each room had one aaram kursi,
a chair and a round table.
This was the place where all the families,
met in the morning over tea,
and spent time in the late evenings
chatting while the children busy played.

The front courtyard had a fountain
and a place where we played all our games.

We did play a lot of games.
Chippi Langdi, Badminton, Saat pathar
and many more.
In the front courtyard under the shade of a banyan tree, we also played
Kaudi, a game played with a rubber ball and pebbles.
an indigenous version of
Ludo (something on those lines).

We would shop for and pack a lot of board games, while going to Deolali.

But, we spent more time outside, than indoors.
We would often be outside most of the day, in the front yard, or in the backyard
climbing trees and plucking Peru, kairi, chickoos, neembu, badam.
Or we would pluck leaves from the mehndi and neem plants.
The mehndi leaves, I recall, would be soaked in water,

ground on the stone by Mathura (the wife of the caretaker, Gangaram)
and we would apply it on each other’s palms.

She would also grind the neem leaves which we carried back home

as dry neem powder.

After a vacation at Deolali,
when we returned to Mumbai, others would know it,
just by observing the tan on our skin.

We had so much fun there, and had such beautiful vacations.
We have a lot to thank our community leaders, who had such a vision,

and had invested in the idea of this Sanatorium.

Gangaram was the caretaker, a gaonwaala, tall and robust, wearing the Gandhi topi

and a white kurta and dhoti.

He was in charge of all the rooms, maintenance of the rooms, looking after the

properties in each room and kitchen. In short, he was the all in all, taking care of everything.

When we would arrive at the Sanatorium, we would show him the letter given by the Panchayat, stating our days of visit, and the room that we were allotted.

Then he would take out the huge bunch of keys, and hand over the respective room keys, to what would be our home for the next seven days.

He had a rustic timbre, and I remember that every morning he would come to the verandah, and greet everyone, by saying RamRam.

He would spend some time with the families over a leisurely cup of tea, exchanging news and views, before returning to his daily caretaker’s chores.

He and his son Babu, who was a young lad then, were often seen on their bicycles,

running errands, fetching milk, newspaper and also visiting the marketplace at times, if

needed

Mathura, his wife was extremely warm and always welcomed us into her home.

She obliged us by roasting bhutta and potatoes on her shegri,

and always offered us her mouth watering chutneys and bhakri.

We loved playing with their kids, two daughters and a son. We knew that even if there would be no children as neighbours to spend time with at the Sanatorium, Mathura’s children would always be there for company.

There was also a Tamilian family which lived in a house behind the Sanatorium.

Aunty was a generous lady and would always share with us South Indian dishes,

while we shared with her family, our Sindhi delicacies.

I recall, while we all sat in the verandah, sipping our morning tea,

we would hear the tring tring of the bicycles and see hundreds of village folk on their Atlas cycles on the road outside, going to work.

These were regular employees of the RBI

Money printing press, located on Nashik Road,

The Sanatorium was located at Lam Road, and this road connected to the RBI printing press which was further down.

Lam Road was a narrow green stretch that connected Deolali to Nashik Road.

This is the road where I learnt to ride a bicycle.

There was a time when ghoda gaadi (tanga)

and cycles were the only mode of transport, in this little hill station.

There were very few cars and hardly any rickshaws.

No wonder that, when we reached Deolali, a fresh breeze and the scent of flowers welcomed us.

The entry to the compound of the Sanatorium had rows of red and dark pink Bougainvilleas on the fence.

We usually travelled on a Sunday,
and stayed till the following Sunday.
Train travel was fun with such a beautiful landscape.

It was a four hour journey from Bombay.

What we looked forward to was the Vada pao that was
sold at Igatpuri station and the tribal women selling berries (murga murgi) and local fruits in the train.
The most exciting part, once in Deolali was getting on a Tanga, the clip clop of galloping horses and the sound of horse carts while going towards the Sanatorium. This place had rows and rows of bungalows and Sanatoriums.

It was lush green with flowering trees, narrow roads and was really beautiful.

The first day would be usually spent settling down and we would go to the market in the evening, where an order for groceries would be placed at a fixed baniya shop.
Then we would shop for fruits and vegetables.
And later, dinner at Bharat Cold Drink House –
the place which had the best ice cream falooda and chole bhature.

On other days, all the families would jointly plan outings for the evening.
The other days we would visit the Cantonment area, Khandoba, Bagur ki Devi,
and there would be one visit to Muktidham, at Nashik Road.
Sometimes, if our parents were over enthusiastic, we would visit Trimbakeshwar in Nashik and also take a dip on the banks of the Godavari.

Our enthusiasm knew no bounds,
when we would all get dressed for our evening outings.
We would sit on the katta outside the gate, while the tangas came in one by one, and all of us would set out on a picnic.

When we were older, we would go out in the mornings to the market area, walking
and while returning eat gola sherbet or icecream/kulfi, often outside Nur Sanatorium.

Sometimes, we would hire bicycles from the market area on an hourly basis.

By the time, we would reach the Sanatorium, it would be time to go back to return the cycle, and then we would again walk back.

Can anyone think of a better way to spend childhood?
In the lap of nature, in a beautiful small place, with so much bonding and sharing
with neighbours.

This was my first exposure to the countryside.
In school, all students would have a native place to go to,

I would always say,
‘We don’t have a native place where we can go, but we go to Deolali.’
That sense of belonging to this place had set in.

Thank You to all Community seniors who thought about this place,

where we grew up with such fond memories.

I recall, once my cousin sister was going to join us in Deolali two days later.
To connect with her, to ask her plan, we had gone to the market area in the evening to make an STD call.
Any communication to Mumbai would be through the STD call, or sending messages to and fro, if anyone was coming from or going to Mumbai.
These were simpler times, there were no TV sets, only radios.

(TV had just been introduced in the early 70s/

Thankfully there were no TV sets in the Sanatorium

and we all carried our own transistors.)

And the nights would be dark and silent outside,
with the distinctive sound of crickets
and sound of Maali’ s dog barking.

A few years ago, we revisited Deolali,
and visited Lam Road.

We located the place by first searching for the Agiary

which was to the left of the Sanitorium.

We identified this place with the name, a marble slab
with Gandhi Terrace engraved in Gujarati.

(Somehow, the Bhagnari Sanitorium,

was known by this name, to the tangawallahs,

And later to the rickshawwallahs as well.)

Branches of an aging tree had covered the marble slab,

and much of the engraving on the slab was written off.

(Would really like to know the story behind this name,

And why the name was not changed)

It was a thick forest then and the structure was not there anymore.
but scant Bougainvillea flowers were there on the fence.

I gently touched the marble slab.
I was overcome with nostalgia.

The fountain and the courtyard where we played was there.

And the Banyan tree was there.
I was remembering Gangaram, Mathura and their children,

who would greet us on our arrival at the Sanatorium.

This was for me, a Ship of Theses Moment.

Same place, yet different. My consciousness was somewhat frozen in time, recollecting the images, sounds, stories of the past.

On the way to the market area,
Nur Sanatorium was still there, the green bungalows,

bringing back memories
of our childhood stopovers outside.

Bagur Ki Devi, Khandoba, Cantonment area …..just the same.

Muktidham held the same grandeur, but was much crowded.
And Bharat Cold Drink House
still served the best falooda and chole bhature.

Dal Pakwaan, Dahi wadas and all Sindhi delicacies.
At Bharat Cold Drink House, the food tasted yum,

but Bharat Cold Drink house seemed to have split into two.

In Deolali,
the tangas had been replaced with autorickshaws.
There was more noise, more shops, more chaos.

The small market place had expanded in all directions.
Deolali was no longer the sleepy, quiet, small place.
The employees of the printing press were clad in urban attire

and travelled on Lam Road on motorbikes.
So much had changed.
So much time had gone by.
Still, memories and moments continue to live on.

P.S.

It has been difficult to get old photographs, of the Sanatorium.

Those days, we lived our moments, hardly ever captured it.

Let’s all delve into our storehouse of memories, and post  

our stories of this beautiful, dreamy place.

And if we are lucky, we may find a few photographs, which will be invaluable memories.

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