By a loving grandson
My earliest memories of my grandparents are of my nana telling me his epic childhood stories, of a time and world that appeared to come straight out of a Malgudi Days type story. A time when India had been reborn and a time when the word “treat” meant a handful of channa being served on Fridays at school.
Now that I am older I can see the relevance of the stories. Given the current lifestyle I live in, it is very easy to lose sight of one’s roots and the struggle of our parents and grandparents. Being so caught up in work, parties, friends, brands, shopping, travel (not necessarily in that order!) and being born with a silver spoon in my mouth, I sometimes probably overlook the hard work and daring of the generations before me. Compared to the challenges my grandparents faced as they grew up and the way in which they made their name in the world, my problems appear to be trivial, and remembering my grandparents’ stories amongst other pearls of wisdom from my parents I find the strength to overcome such problems, put a smile on my face and move on.
Ever since I can remember I have wanted to visit Palanpur. I have always wanted to see the house my nana grew up in with his small army of siblings, the house which his father ran with an iron fist. I have wanted to see the neighborhood where several of my relatives who now live in Mumbai, once occupied. I wanted to see the school I had heard so much about and the dusty roads I had imagined.
Finally the day of my Palanpur trip had arrived. After receiving at least 30 calls from my parents and grandparents warning me that I had to be awake at 5 a.m. to make the train to Ahmedabad, I was up at 4. At the station I could see mixed looks of happiness and disbelief on my grandparents’ and relatives’ faces! Their grandson, who consistently wakes up in the afternoon and quivers at the thought of temple visits, Gujju food, train rides and villages, had shown up to go to Palanpur! The train ride was fairly uneventful, since I slept most of the way to compensate for waking up at 4. We reached Ahmedabad in the afternoon and without any delay headed of to visit a famous ashram en route to Palanpur. It was nice.
Eleven hours and approximately 800 kilometers later my nana and I entered Palanpur. At night we couldn’t really see much but it was obvious that we were both bubbling with excitement. Palanpur had definitely changed since my nana had last seen it some 20 odd years ago, with new buildings, hoardings and cars. But it was obvious that everything still seemed very familiar to him. We checked in to our very comfortable hotel that night, ate, and went to sleep eagerly awaiting the morning and what was in store for us.
Morning arrived, and I woke up feeling fresh, my nana insisted we eat breakfast at a jain “bhojan shaala” where we were served ghee soaked khakras and chai…yummy (not! ha-ha) after which we set off on our mission.
Nana started the grand Palanpur tour by first taking me to his primary school, which stood as if nobody had touched it since he had studied there 60 years ago! The look on his face was simply priceless. The building, even though dilapidated, definitely had great character to it, which the passing of decades could not take away. It was amazing.
In the same compound as the primary school stood a number of new buildings, which, much to my nana’s surprise had been built in his fathers’ name! The principal of the establishment was extremely warm and gave us a tour of the campus. There were 2 huge computer labs which one would not expect to see in a place like Palanpur. He told us that the college that was built in my great grandfathers’ name is very highly reputed and students from there have successfully secured admission in top institutes after graduation. At this point I could see my nana was visibly moved.
After a cup of chai with the principal we crossed the road to visit my nana’s high school, which strangely enough, looked exactly as I had imagined it would look like. There were a row of class rooms, a dusty field and a huge tree under which my nana had several of his classes. He was reminiscing as if it was something in the recent past that during the monsoons the road outside his high school would be covered with red earth worms, and he would walk his way to school every morning and walk back every evening. It seemed like a pretty long walk!
Next stop was the Choksi house. As we entered the neighborhood it seemed as though time had stood still for the last 50 years or so, and as we waded through the cows and hoards of people at the Sunday market, we found ourselves standing in front of a house that was nothing short of beautiful. The look on my nana’s face was once again priceless. We both just stood in front of the house for a few minutes and soaked in the moment. The house still said “Choksi” on it with a pre independence date below it. There was a lady at the front of the house who now lives there with her husband. After we introduced ourselves, she was more than welcoming. She let us in to the house and it had a magical feel to it. I was imagining scenes of my grandfather’s childhood as he showed me room by room. The current inhabitants being antique lovers hadn’t changed a thing and the furniture was the same as when my nana had left it. He showed me his room which he shared with at least a dozen other siblings, and his fathers’ room and the modest kitchen which I found it hard to believe fed a house hold of 20 people. My nana once again walked down memory lane as he told me stories of holi and pranks he used to pull on his neighbors. It was truly a moving and humbling feeling standing in that house. We left the house and walked through the tiny by lanes of old Palanpur and also saw my grandmother’s house. I could now picture what life would have been like in their time and I had got exactly what I had wanted out of the trip.
We spent the rest of the day visiting temples, ashrams and palaces in and around Palanpur. We left early the next day back to Mumbai, back to the “real” world, but I left feeling a lot richer. I felt good that I had visited the birthplace of my grandparents and great grandparents. I felt great about bonding with my grandparents and it felt great to finally see where I come from.
Editor's Note: We received this article from a young member of the community who recently visited Palanpur along with his grandparents. The writer has requested that we withhold his name while publishing the article as it is a very personal type of memory and though he would like to share the sentiment expressed, he prefers doing it without any personal details.
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