Tuesday, May 22, 2012


His parents may have named him Bhagat Ram or even  Bhagat Singh , after the great martyr, but  to all of us in the neighbourhood, he was Bhagtu , for short or as an endearment. He was just 12-13 years of age , i.e. 3-4 years older  to me  and worked as a  domestic help  with three bachelor  or  छड़े  officers  working in   AIR, Public Relations and Publicity  Department. , who   shared a spacious flat on the upper storey of  “Colonel ki Kothi”  across a small  playground  . Since his employers were all non fussy, the least demanding sort, Bhagtu had all the time to play with us when we were back from school. He was   from some village in Kangra district, which at that time was a part of Punjab, but later was merged in Himachal Pradesh. He was ever smiling and  his sweet nature had endeared him to all. My mother would look upon him as another of her own  children and would keep aside a share for him whenever, there was something special to eat. As is common with children, once I had a minor scuffle with him during the course of play, or may be perhaps he had unwittingly hit or hurt me . In anger I made some indiscreet remark calling him a naukar or a servant , at which , he ran away  sulkingly.   This earned  me the ire and anger of all  especially my mother and I got a thrashing of my life  and I was made to apologize  to Bhagtu.
For me this was lesson for life, and to this day I  take special care, nor to hurt  anyone, with words or deeds. Even the address ‘tu’  is  only for my wife, my kids & their friends , otherwise it is ‘aap’  irrespective of age or standing. Similarly , all my acquaintances are uncles and aunties for my kids , whom they greet with folded hands.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Grandpa’s Hookah

A far cry from the fancy, stylish, exotic and ornate hookahs or hukkas   now available in a number  of varieties  and designs to choose from, my grandpa’s hookah was  a simple mundane affair , a non-fussy wooden structure , about 18 inches in height ,  with a   brass bowl  as the base. The brass bowl had an opening on one side from where to  fill it with water  and also to insert the wooden pipe with a brass end. One the top of the hukka was placed an earthen katori  , which had to be filled with some dried tobacco and  burnt charcoal taken right from the kitchen chulha. .
  Grandpa, in his  eighties  some 45 years back was   agile and alert , would walk straight, though he needed a stick for support due to poor eyesight. Having served under the British, he had travelled up to Kabul. . His hukka was very dear to him, beedis or cigarette  being only a poor substitute , if need be.Whenever we visited our village during vacation or for some ceremony,  I took special pleasure in filling his hookah and readying it for him to puff. Before handing him the open end of the rod or the नड़   to him, I would blow  into it as the gurgling sound of water always  fascinated me. It took me quite some days to understand that smoking hukka was all about drawing in instead   of blowing out. , and when once out of mischief, I drew in, I was coughing continuously for quite sometime, which showed, smoking was no fun !

One or two oldies in the village , though much younger to him were offered the same  hukka  for a puff   as a token of love and goodwill . After all Hukkapani was a means of showing respect, closeness and intimacy that the people shared  and it was also a symbol of brotherhood.

These days, in metros and all big cities, one hears about   hukka-bars on the analogy of other bars and restaurants, a spot for get-together and fun-making.