Sunday, June 21, 2009

Continuing with Dimapur.........early eighties (Entry Dated 01/21/2007)

So we had just landed ...(no that's not the right word...didn't take a plane...), rather reached Dimapur. Told u briefly about Dimapur yesterday...let me take off from there....My father went first, to rent out a place etc for our stay there. I was small then, not old enough to go to school. So, finally, one fine day in winter, in very early eighties, me and my ma also reached Dimapur.....the town where I was to take my baby steps into first letters of the alphabet, my first school, my first step into growing up.

The house that my father rented was in a Naga area. Ok, so what that does mean precisely??? Well, those were old days.....many many years ago, India was not exactly very cosmopolitan, and we are talking about Nagaland !!! Confused??? Well, what I mean is that the town was definitely segregated among ethnic lines, with areas well defined as local Naga settlements and those areas where non-nagas were settled. But also the fact that we, being rank outsiders, coming into Nagaland for the first time, could actually get rented accommodation in a Naga locality with a Naga landlord, tells a lot about the openness and the positive spirit of the people. So though there was segregation, it was not enforced strictly. It was just that people felt more comfortable living among their own community, the practice that I see even today across even major cities like Mumbai.

There were multiple dwelling units in the house that we were staying. Another inhabitant was my father's colleague, Mr. Prasad and his family. They were from Andhra, and his wife did not speak any hindi. Though my ma also spoke very little hindi in those days, but bangla being very similar to hindi, all bengalis can at least understand hindi and can communicate in some form in hindi (Remember Bhattacharjee babu in "yeh jo hai zindagi"....and all those caricatures across so many hindi serials and movies.....)But in spite of not able to communicate in words, prasad aunty and my mom did communicate....and she was my mom's first friend in Dimapur....Jyoti, her daughter was my good friend too, but I don't remember what language I communicated with her as well, because in those days, only language I spoke was Bangla!!! Jyoti's little brother was very fond of my mom.....We stayed there for a few months only and moved into another rented place, now in a non-naga area.

This house was owned by a Bengali gentleman who was settled in Dimapur for many years. He was into cloth business. They had a shop in Dimapur, selling sarees, dress materials, readymades etc. The family consisted of an elderly gentleman, the patriarch of the household and his 3 sons. The eldest son was studying medicine and subsequently returned after his MD to Dimapur to practise. The 2 younger sons were completely into the family business. The 2nd son was married to a beautiful young girl and had a young son, a little younger than me. The eldest son also got married few years later. The youngest son remained a eligible bachelor till the few years we continued to stay in the house....Oh, just missed, mother of the head of family was also living with them. She was very old and frail....but I do have faint memories of her coming to our room and chatting with my ma.

So, this house had multiple tenants - 4 to be precise. It was not an "apartment" as what we would generally expect when we start house hunting in any new city we move in now....I guess the concept of apartments was an alien one in those days in small towns....I think even today it might be up to some extent. But frankly, I don't have a clear I did not have to do it anytime in recent past....OK, so basically, the package consisted to 3 rooms and attached bath. So it is up to the tenant to accessorise it to convert it to a 2BHK apartment as well call it today !!! So my ma, being an expert homemaker, did her best to set up the place which would be our home for around 3 years.....

How were the neighbours and how was it living with so many families there....Well u may say u don't care. U know the face of our neighbor and u see him every day in the lift while going down to get to your car in the morning....And may be during the occasional "society" parties, where you have to engage a little small talk....That's about it. This is the reality in most big cities in today's society, but things were very different back then, and also as I keep emphasizing every time, in a small town. Here, in Dimapur, we became very close to all our neighbors - the landlord and 3 fellow tenant families....we were more like family....So who were they and how were they....Let me take you through a guided tour of the "neighborhood" !!!

The biggest "apartment", or the biggest block, or whatever you choose to call it, was occupied by a middle aged gentleman, his wife and 2 daughters. He had come to Nagaland in his youth and set up a restaurant there. In those days, and even now in many places in India, restaurants are commonly referred as "hotels", and this place was known as a "hotel". So for all practical purposes I will use the Indian meaning of "hotel" here, please do not go by dictionary definitions. So he owned a "Bengali hotel" in Dimapur, which over a period of time had grown to do good business. There was a sizable bengali population in Dimapur (Give me one part of the world where it isn't anyway ).....This hotel was popular not only among bengalis but also among all other ethnic groups...the nagas and other non-naga population. And anywhere in India/world, for any business venture to become successful, you do need the blessing on the local people....basically, the food here was very popular among nagas. We were not actually very frequent visitors to this hotel, but I remember we used to get food packed when travelling by train to Kolkata(mostly). This place used to make the most amazing "kosha mangsho"..(This is a very typical bengali preparation of mutton/chicken). The combination of this with Rumali/Any other roti used to be heavenly.....

So the family had 2 daughters. Both the girls were beautiful, few years elder to me, as I remember. They were in the same school as I went to (Holy Cross, will tell you more about it, in a short while)....I did spend a lot of time playing with them....Other thing I remember about them is their "mastermoshai" (Private tutor), who used to be subject to their torment everyday....Did I mention, they were extremely mischievous....

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