Life in Photographs II


Not very long time ago, in the age of joint and extended families, when regular reunions acted as refreshers to the memory of the young and old alike, we used to call our grandfather’s brother’s daughter’s son bhaiya, and used to get an elder brother’s affection from him. No, it’s not a village I am talking about. Urban and densely built and populated riverside muhallas of Kasi were made of units that used to be joint families back then. Although half the sons of our family were away working, their link with their home and city remained intact. We are talking about the second generation of immigrants whose grandmother came and settled down in a holy city. They were all born and brought up in Kasi and all but one had to emigrate for employment.

They used to return regularly to their city in the first decade of their service. Gradually, the frequency of their return went down. I know it for a fact that three of them still love their parent city and wish to keep coming back. How can they de-root themselves? Their roots lie in the soil of Kasi. The galis, ghats and Gangaji will always beckon them. They lived their formative and first one-third of their lives where they were born and the place left its marks on them. They are all Banarsis and kasiphiles.

My uncles love banarsi paan very much. They are stereotypical Banarsis in many ways. The love for paan being a central trait of the Banarsi (they would never approve of my staying away from paan). Remember Mr. Bacchan in khaike paan Banaras wala? There’s another stereotype that comes to mind when one mentions Kasi: the stereotype of the swearing Banarsi. The question that logically follows is: do they? Now, do they? What if they don’t? And what if they do? Well, I can’t reveal that without taking the permission of the gentlemen. You can see one of my uncles in the image below.


Meet one of my role models. He did his Masters in Geology. I wanted to be like him, so I had planned to take the same subject in my B Sc. The only two things that prevented that from happening were that majestic green house that you may see below, and my getting through the entrance test of the Institute of Agricultural Sciences.


Enough of me, let’s focus on him instead. As you can see in the image, he is receiving an award. I don’t know whether it’s the same one, but I think he got it after standing first in his board class (10 or 12). Back then, and even in my time, the U. P. Board exams used to be the acid test for scholars. Amol mama had told me that my uncle was the star student of his school. He was my uncle’s junior and admired him for his qualities. Had there been the student of the year award in our school (all the three of us from the same school!), he’d definitely have got it. There was none, and he received none, but one of his juniors remembers him with respect and he generally tells no lies. That should compensate.

There’s an anecdote about his admission in the sixth grade (or was it fifth?) that he had told me himself the last time he came to my place. Central Hindu School was the school in which all his brothers and sisters had received education. So, it was to be his school too. There used to be (and still is) a tough entrance test then. My aunt, his elder sister, prepared him for the crucial test and my uncle, his brother elder to my father was to carry him to the school for the test. Just when they were about to leave (on a bicycle I think, those were the golden years of bicycles), the elder brother asked the younger sister: ” Have you taught him writing his name in English?”

The question does not seem right today, especially when being asked about a student of fifth standard (there is no typing mistake either). Back then, many schools started offering English as a subject in class six. It still happens in many schools in many parts of India. So, to his dismay, he found out the young one did not know how to write his name in the alien language. There was nothing that could be done then. Although not very positive about a positive outcome, he took his younger brother for the test, and the young one did get admission there. Later he had to leave C.H.S. to take the subjects of his choice in another school: my school.

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