My parental home near Paharganj, New Delhi, was a middle class locality. It was a progressive neighbourhood and people interacted freely and often. Most families had lived in the same area for decades and knew each other through generations. My father was in a government job and so were most men around there. Their children mostly went to public schools or were convent-school educated.
Just like my grandparents, most house-owners had settled there from even before the partition. The main street was lined with houses on both sides. After every group of three houses on both sides of the street, a lane went inside on each side. Four houses inside the lane, two on each side, formed those lanes. There were 14 such lanes, seven on each side of the street. One end of the main street opened onto the main road. If you took a right from that end, it went straight down to New Delhi Railway station and Connaught Place. If you took a left, it took you to Sadar bazaar. The other end of the street had a house in the middle of the street, making it a dead-end. A Kashmiri family owned the house.
Most house-owners stayed on the upper floors, renting the lower portions of the house. My grandmother did the same, so we had the entire first floor and the terrace for our family and there were at least three tenants staying on the ground floor.
A Punjabi family owned the corner house of a lane, left across from our lane. They had two beautiful daughters. The girls were at least six or seven years elder to me. Being in an impressionable age, I would look up to them for the way they dressed and carried themselves. The Kashmiri family had two handsome sons. I am sure you know where the story is headed. Well, the elder Punjabi girl married the elder Kashmiri boy in a huge wedding. It seemed like a perfect love story, leaving me all starry-eyed. A young girl at that age dreams of such fairy-tale romances, and seeing one live creates much hope and possibilities. (I had my own fairy-tale that I have written much about in the other articles.)
A rich business family owned the other corner house of the same lane. They were one of the few business families in the area. They had a couple of daughters and a couple of sons. My recollection is of the marriages of their two daughters. The marriages were a huge affair. Tents were set up on the entire main street. We did not have marriage halls or farmhouses then, and there were very few hotel weddings. The mentioned family would invite the entire neighbourhood to the weddings. They would not miss inviting a single house on the entire street. I remember attending these weddings with my father, brother, uncles, and others in the family. Being an extrovert, I would make many friends and have a great time chatting, dancing, eating, and frolicking.
In another house on the main street, exactly opposite those pretty girls’, lived my uncle’s friends, on the ground and the first floors. My brother’s close friend was their relative too. The aunt of my brother’s friend, living in the USA, shifted back to India. She started visiting her mother every summer along with her two sons. The elder son was my first real infatuation. I graduated from screen idols to real people. I must have been in fifth or sixth standard at the time. There were those evening walks with my girlfriends for the glimpses, those glances, and giggles, and waits for holidays each year. The story never went beyond and we never spoke. After a couple of years, my brother and I shifted to another location in Delhi, and the infatuation died a natural death. I remember watching the ‘Wonder Years‘ and remembering my childhood. Being a total tomboy and very extrovert, I could talk to just about anyone, especially since few attracted me. Yet, I never walked up to this boy and talked. May be, I waited for him to do so. I lose interest if things unnecessarily stretch a long time. After moving away, I was occupied with much more interesting things like, my cousins, new friends, sports, painting etc. I found my soul mate as I grew and finished my graduation. The new location, where my maternal grandparents lived, had so much more to offer. Stories from this neighbourhood are for another day.
It seems like it was another lifetime. These form a few of my innumerable memories of happy times.
||Sarvam Sri Krishna Arpanamastu||