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Sunday, November 29, 2015

diwali and the killa

29th November 2015

The Russian book exhibitions held in Bombay in the 70's, had found a patron in my father. He used to buy me a lot of books from such exhibitions and I still have most of them stashed away safely.

Two of these were my favourites then. One was 'Masha's awful pillow' ...the other - 'When Daddy was a little boy'

The two books struck a chord definitely.. Why else do I think of Masha as I punch my pillow into a comfortable, each night? I loved Masha for the way her name rhymed with mine !

‘When Daddy was a little boy ‘.. this book is a compilation of childhood anecdotes recounted by a father - the author , to his young daughter, when she is ill.

And now here I am, beginning most of my posts with a ‘When I was a little girl ‘

.This post too is of a time when I was a little girl.

Most of my vacations, summer or Diwali, were spent at my maternal aunt's place in Pune. My maternal grandmother lived with her, so it was my 'aazol' in the true sense of the word.

As soon as the term exam timetables were announced each year, I would scribble a note on a postcard, addressed to my cousin in Pune. It would be a heartfelt plea to arrive on the last day of my exam and whisk me away to his home in Pimpri. He is a good 13 yrs my senior

He never disappointed me. When I would arrive home after the last exam, I would find him waiting for me . The next day, we would leave for Pune.

Pune was aaazaadi... freedom from the discipline at home, a break from the routine of writing 2 pages of copy writing a day, learning the tables ...
I had a lot of friends in Pune.. the children in the neighborhood and their cousins who were visiting. We always had a good time, climbing up trees, playing outdoors, or watching movies at the Open air theatre in the colony..

My aunt was a working woman and they stayed in company quarters, which was a row of houses. Each house had a ota (a slightly raised platform) outside the house, Then the drawing room, a bedroom, a kitchen , and an aangan at the back.

A few days before Diwali, alongside other festival preparations, the maharastrian neighbours used to construct a killa ouside their house. Killa is a fort.

In a corner of the 'ota' outside the house, we kids would pile up some red mud from the garden. We would mix it with water,, make a slush, add some more soil and then pile it in a small heap against the a pyramidical structure. When it held shape, we would fashion out the ramparts,fortifications,caves and steps to resemble a killa .. It would be a very rough and a basic replica.

We would then plant some mustard seeds on the fort and water it daily... careful that our mud fort wouldn’t 'run'. Once sprouted, these resembled forests which surrounded the killa.

In the 70’s, a toothpaste company (Binaca I think) would include a plastic model of an animal in the carton and each time we opened a new toothpaste, we would be curious to know what was inside. Most kids would have a small collection at home and these would adorn our killa.

Some friends would have little human figures too. These would be our Mavlas what if they sometimes sported military fatigues. :-)  The most impressive looking figurine would be our Shivaji and he was placed on a throne fashioned out for him at the top of the killa . The animals and the mavlas would occupy the caves and strategic locations respectively, on our fort.

Each evening after returning home from work, my aunt and other mothers would appreciate our work, then drag us to the backyard and scrub us clean. We could hear each other’s squeals across the walls that separated each aangan.

Growing up, behaving age appropriate.. took away some of the fun. My last long stay at Pune was in 1985 after my 12th std exams.

Much much later, years after marriage , with young kids in tow, I found myself in Pune once again.,, a couple of days before Diwali. I insisted on being taken to the market at Lakshmi road which I used to frequent with my aunt.

It was there that I saw the killa again. Small ones and elaborate ones... made out of plaster of paris,
I bought one, a small one, in colour, with steps leading to a throne at the top. The Buruj at the sides were highlighted in gold paint. A little ahead I saw a vendor selling clay models of mavalas, Jijabai , Shivaji and animals like the tiger and the elephant.

Shivaji and a few Mavlas accompanied me home.

That Diwali, along with my clay lamps I placed the killa on a ‘paat’ ouside my door. It evinced much curiosity and interest amongst my neighbours, kids and adults alike . I took great pride in educating them about this practice in some parts of Maharashtra, where they built models of forts in honour of Shivaji and his valour.

A couple of years ago, 2008 to be precise, we happened to be in Kashid during Diwali. On our way to Murud Janjira, we came across several homes which had a hand crafted killa standing proud, alongside the elaborate rangolis.

With child like glee I stopped the car outside each house, wanting to see what details they had incorporated.   :-)

This year, once again, I happened to be in Pune in October. A killa and a small figurine of Shivaji was duly purchased. It was early in the festive season and the mavlas were yet to make their appearance on the stalls.

It made me happy.. bringing to life some long forgotten happy memories, recreating them... making them tangible.. in bits

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