Yesterday I noticed a post on soulsisters about no.of houses a person moves in their lifetime, with an average being 8-9 it said. That got me counting and counting and counting…I did till 14 but it wasn’t the end. Having lived in 4 countries across 2 continents, I thought I will document them in a blog instead of counting them… This post may interest whose paths may have crossed our, in our life’s journey while in any of these houses.
My First Home:
“Jain Sweets wala makaan”…this is how this first house of my life is referred to by our family. It was in F Block Model Town Stop 2 in Delhi. When Papa and Ammi got married on 5th Jan 1964, within a month, Papa moved, with his new bride, out of his ancestral home in 120 Bazar Matia Mahal, Jama Masjid, Delhi 110006, to rent this modest 2 room portion of a home on the 1st floor in F Block Model Town 2, Delhi.
The house was the first floor, front portion of the house located on the main road and had Jain Sweets and other shops on the ground floor. Jain Sweets remained was one of the most important landmarks in Model Town for decades. Across the central open space at the back lived a widower father Mohan sb. with his 3 children in their late teens and early 20s- Anita, Neeru and their little brother Nanna. Within weeks Ammi became friends with Anita and Neeru Didis, while Papa and Mohan sb who they all ended up calling Daddy till the end, became buddies, discussing politics, books and other intellectual stuff. Papa was called Bhai Sb and Ammi Bhabi ji by the 3 kids. They all became one family. Ammi taught the girls how to cook ‘meat’, in varieties like “qorma”, aloo salan”, ‘koftas’ etc.It is in this home that I and then my twin brothers were born. And we literally grew up as toddlers play all day in the Daddy’s quarters.
The house was owned by a couple I remember as Chacha ji and Chachi ji. Chacha ji in my vision( as we kept in touch for decades later ttoo) was a lean and thin, inconspicuous, unassuming, old man. Chachiji, I swear am not exaggerating was the size of Tuntun, and was the real landlord for the two tenant families. As Ammi says, “she would suddenly appear on the floor peeping into ‘our quarters’ and of Anita Neeru to check if the houses were well kept.”
She would be particularly impressed that a Muslim couple had kept a tasteful teak sofa and a decent bedroom. And the kitchen was clean too. She would tell Ammi, “Ap log parhe likhe ho naa.. “
As the word spread that a Muslim family is living in the neighborhood, a poor Muslim woman from Rajasthan and her 15 year old son Nizam came up to see my Mom. Ammi was excited that she too was from Rajasthan, as Ammi had recently arrived after marriage from Jaipur too.
They were traditional tie and dyers from Jodhpur. Papa suggested them to start a small dyeing business in the corner of the road. Within years they became a roaring success, bought 2 shops, a van and a house. And until I got married, in 1990, Nizam remained our dyer and never charged us a penny.
Papa’s phupi amma lived with them most of the time in this small house as she was the one who had raised Papa. She was the only person who influenced control over him. Not even his father did, as Papa and Dada Abba had fallen apart on many issues, he being a maulana snd Papa being a ardent Leftist who chose Political Science as his field of study instead of Islamiyaat, at that time. In fact the reason for Papa to move out of Jama Masjids ancestral home was that Dada Abba had demanded, “Dulhan ko parda karwaogey…” and instead of arguing or confronting his father, Papa decided to move out. The excuse he gave was that, “Model Town is closer to my University.”
So this Phupi Amma was the only one Papa would listen to.
Of course, in those days, especially in old conservative minds like Phupi Amma, privacy was not a thing, not even for a newly married couple. She would insist Ammi to sleep with her as she was afraid of the chupkalis (lizards) that navigated all night all across the walls of her room. According to Ammi, “Your Papa would be strolling in the open verandah, anxiously waiting when would Phupi Amma sleep and when I would slip out of her room.”
Once, just to pull her leg, I told Ammi, “Come on, Ammi. You had all your kids in that house. Don’t blame Phupi Amma for not letting you be with Papa.” She didn’t find it funny. 😀
It is in this house that my parents with me as a few month old baby, saw the 1965 Indo-Pak war. There used to be back outs in Delhi. Once Ammi said she got up to make a milk bottle for me at night and lighted a candle and there was a scream from someone in the neighbors, “Shut off the light. What are you trying to do?” Ammi said being a muslim, she was so scared if they would be misunderstood, as the Hindu-Muslim tensions always rose high in such times. Although in 1965, it was still much safer that what if the same scenario had to repeat in 2021.
I was told by Papa that even though his family had grown from 2 to 5, they felt living in that house with wonderful neighbors was a huge plus point so they never moved until the following happened:
I was 3 and my baby brother were still infants. So I was sent to a cutest Nursery school nearby called, Jack n Jill School. So I had gotten wiser and my imagination was growing wider. Papa used to ride a Vespa scooter then, and he would pick me up from school and drop himself. I would stand in the front as he rode the scooter, and we would ride back home chatting about what happened in the school. One day, I told him, “Papa hum gate wale ghar meyn kyun nahin rehtey?” (Why don’t we live in a gated house?). What i had meant was, “Why don’t we live in a bungalow?”
Papa was so moved by this innocent query that he decided to move out and rent a bungalow.
That house will be the next story in the next blog.
I wonder, is the famous Jain Sweets still there?
Is that house still there or demolished?
Is Nizam’s Dyers shop still there. He must be an old man in 70s now.
It merits a visit to this area on my next visit to Delhi.
Unfortunately, despite a lot of searches, i have not been able to find Anita or Neeru Didi on social media. They must be in their 70s now.
Nanne bhaiya, called Deepak Mohan had become a Sous Chef in Taj Intercontinental and was last I know posted in Hyderabad and living on Banjara Hills. He must have retired now.
Wonder if this post might reach them? Social media is powerful. YOU NEVER KNOW.
PS: Next houses in next blogposts.
Pic below was taken at Jain Sweets house rooftop by Papas photographer friend Nisar Bharti. Lost touch with Nisar uncle since Papa’s death in 1998.