By Somali K Chakrabarti
The story goes back to the late seventies and eighties when gizmos and gadgets were not yet a part and parcel of our lives. That was the time when landline phones were a rarity, mobiles and laptops were unheard of, we would wait for a whole week to watch a movie on the Black and White TV, and we met people only in person, not virtually. Friendship meant strolling around, playing on the ground, flying kites on the terrace, exchanging books and chatting with friends on topics that would never end.
Every summer, I went to Lucknow with my grandma, to visit my uncles and aunts and spend my vacations with my cousins. I don’t remember how it started, but it had become a yearly routine for a couple of years. I always looked forward to those annual trips for a number of reasons which included living for two months with a bunch of cousins, reading a whole lot of story books, gorging on ice creams, savouring papdi chaat, batasa (paanipuri/ golgappe), watching movies, gushing over our favourite stars, and sometimes even squabbling over them.
Many anecdotes of those days are still vivid in my memory and bring a smile every time I recall them.
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The school that I studied in, had the practice of giving a lot of homework during the holidays. Diverting a part of the precious vacation time to homework meant less time for pursuing other activities of interest. Somehow, my cousins didn’t have such boring things to do. Maybe, their teachers were far more considerate. So, Rumi, my eldest cousin happily extended her helping hand and wrote the Hindi essays for me, while Mimi, the youngest one would complete the pages of handwriting. Tuki, the middle cousin did some of the sums. Art and crafts were a result of combined efforts. With much of the burden offloaded, I would complete the rest of the homework. The collaboration helped to free up much of my time, which was used constructively in playing hide and seek.
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A star- studded dustbin
Once it happened that the crafts homework entailed converting an old tin into a decorated waste paper basket. Rumi got an empty biscuit tin from her mom, Tuki and Mimi got glaze paper, gum, scissors, colours and shimmers. We cut those into shapes and patterns and stuck them to the tin. It turned out to be the most star studded waste paper basket that one could ever think of. I carried it carefully all the way from Lucknow to Delhi and proudly showed it off at school.
Listening to ghost stories at night
The eldest cousin was a master story teller. She would spin ghost stories at night, particularly when there was a load shedding. The rest of us would sit around her in the dark balcony, listen to the stories with rapt attention, and get scared at every rustle of the leaves on the creepers that crawled up the balcony grill. Anyone of us who needed a glass of water, would then want someone to accompany them while crossing the stretch of the elongated balcony to enter the kitchen.
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On every trip of mine, at least once or twice we children got to go to the cinema hall to watch movies. Once, my uncle took all of us to see Golmaal (the original one). It was a sort of classic comedy movie that had us in splits. We thoroughly enjoyed the histrionics of Amol Palekar, Dina Pathak and Utpal Dutt. What also caught our fancy, was a quick scene in a song that showed a shoddily dressed Amitabh Bachchan, the great super star of the time, sitting in a corner, after having lost out his stardom!
“Many of the Hrishikesh Mukherjee films had superstars appearing in cameo roles,” my cousin had told me later.
Such anecdotes, however small or insignificant helped us to bond and even today those happy memories have not faded away.
Sharing sepia-toned memories and heart-warming anecdotes from a friendship that spans over four decades, two living legends of Indian cinema Amitabh Bachchan and Shatrughan Sinha will spill the beans on their friendship on Zee TV’s chat show Yaaron Ki Baraat on 8th October at 8 PM.
Don’t forget to switch on your TV to watch the revelations they make about each other….and more.
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