Thursday, October 15, 2009

When Ismat Aapa came calling .............

The vastly spread out residential colony nestled among Nature's bounties with huge, well-ventilated stone bungalows that had lawns, out-houses, and backyard kitchen gardens, and the old Bombay-Poona Road winding its way up the western ghats running right in the middle, was never really asleep. Deep into the night also one could hear the laboured dragging of loaded trucks climbing up or down the road. But the residents had got used to all of it. And loved every bit of that beautiful place.

For my family this place was and still is very special in more than one ways.
It was my father's first posting after he joined this company that produced hydro electric power. It was here that my mother came after her marriage. It was here that I came to have my first experiences in school and social life.
It was here that the legendary Ismat Apa kissed me!

I was about a year old at that time, so this one is from the wealth of my mother's memoirs rather than my own.
My father was a shift engineer in those days  and on that particular day he was doing morning shift. It was still early in the day, the morning breeze giving a welcome kiss to the warmth of the sun as it spread its glory. The traffic on the road was gradually picking up. The sleepy colony would soon be buzzing with activity too.

My mother decided to give the kitchen a thorough cleaning. So she had all the utensils and containers out in the backyard washing space, and herself dressed in the traditional western Uttar Pradesh muslim attire of a gracefully flowing gharara, topped with a short kurta and complete with a long wide lacy dupatta took to dusting and cleaning before the maid arrived.
It seems I could not have asked for a better toy-land as I started checking out all those boxes and containers making strange sounds playing like the most melodious music in my ears.

Mummy and I were so engrossed in our respective field of activity that it was with a start that Mummy looked at the visitors who were by now almost upon us!
There they stood facing my mother.
Four very sophisticated and meticulously dressed people. Among them, the woman a celebrity Urdu writer who my mother could have recognised even in her sleep.
But Ismat Apa had the courtesy to introduce herself in the most humble manner and said she knew my father through some common friends when he was staying at Churchgate.

Ismat Apa was accompanied by her film maker husband Janab Shahid Latif and a couple of others.
The contrast was striking. My mother and I in our soiled clothes, our hands and faces testimony to the vigorous cleaning that was going on, whiile Ismat Apa and company so extremely immaculate and refined, the fragrance of their expensive perfumes filling the already pleasingly refreshing  air.

My young and inexperienced mother was baffled having to handle a situation like this all by herself. Suddenly she had a "brilliant" idea. She told the visitors:
"Saheb and Memsaab have gone out, leaving the baby with me. I'm her  governess!"
Ismat Apa  looked closely, her sharp eyes taking in all, but giving away nothing.
Was there in her eyes perhaps  a mischievous smile so fleeting that Mummy hardly noticed?

Then she picked me up affectionately, planted a sweet kiss on my cheek and said to Mummy:
"Tell your Mem saab when she comes back that we are going to Khandala and will return in the evening. We'll meet her on our way back!"

The visitors started walking towards the gate, (to Mummy's relief it was time to say Khudahafiz for now), when Ismat Apa turned back, looked at my Mom in the eyes and said  rather authoritatively,
"And you! Take care of the baby...the air is still pretty cold for such a small child. She should be wearing some warm clothes."

In the evening as Ismat Apa, Latif Saheb and friends sat dining with my parents, sharing among other things the morning incident amidst laughter and fun, Ismat Apa looked at Mummy with motherly fondness and  said:
"Do you really think I would not know the difference between a "bibi" and a "baandi"???

Zohra Javed

1 comment:

rumahale said...

Great memories indeed. Thank you for this invaluable post.