God has created mothers in his own image and liking. No one can take her place. She can play multiple roles in her child’s life. When and if she leaves her child, world becomes a cold place. There is a saying in Punjabi- ” Manvan thandiyan chavan” means mothers are like cool sheds or shelters. When this cool shelter is taken away from the head of a small child, the earth below his feet turns into burning sand.
My father and his stepmother were not in bad terms but the harmonious relationship between them was missing. There could be many reasons behind this. My father had to move to his grandparent’s room after his father’s second marriage. He must have felt abandoned and lonely. He was too young to accept these changes. Secondly my step grandmother was herself at very innocent age to play role of mother of an eight years old boy. Still she tried her best to take good care of my father when he developed asthma at very young age and he had to bear attacks of it at time of changing weather. She treated him lovingly and without getting irritated. This shows she was a kind woman basically and was loving and kind hearted too.
With passing years the relationship between them changed little bitter but there should be a reason behind it too. My father’s grandmother grew very protective for him and didn’t trust anyone regarding his food and other things. This may be a cause my step grandmother grew distant from him. After a few years of their marriage my father’s step sister was born. Her birth also brought a change in my step grandmother’s affection towards my father. Her priorities changed. Though still she used to take my father with her at her hometown whenever she used to visit it. My father was also lucky to receive love of his two aunts one maternal Shanti Devi and second was her paternal aunt Ganga Devi. His holidays used to be booked in two parts. For one month he used to go to Unnao to spend time with his maternal grandparent’s home and one month with his bhua (paternal aunt) at Khatoli a small town in UP famous for it’s sugar industry. His uncle was employed in a sugar mill.
In 1951 my father’s first cousin was born. Eldest son of PuranChand and Pushpawanti Kohli,who was named as Bal krishan Two years later after Bal Krishan chacha, in 1953 second son of PuranChand was born. Jagmohan was the name given to brother of Balkrishan. After two years of Jagmohan chacha in 1955 my father’s step sister and my most favorite aunt Veena and third son of Puran Kohli named Jai Gopal were born whom we call Bhole chacha as he is too simple by nature.
Before the birth of my aunt Veena my father’s two aunts got married. Fourth daughter of Sadh Ram( my great grandfather)Rajkumari with Attar Chand Sahni who lived in Gwalior and fifth daughter Uma to Pishori lal Arora of a known one of Attar Chand who too were resident of Gwalior and was employed in a government job.
After Veena Kohli my step grandmother gave birth to a son in 1957 on August 31st and he was named DeshKumar Kohli. Both Veena and DeshKumar used to love my father and were close to him. Life in 1950s was not easy one. Though my grandfather was earning well but due to large joint family and huge responsibilities one day he called my father, who was in eighth standard at that time in year 1958. He asked him either to quit the school or help him in dryclean shop after school to save wages of one labour. My father had a great respect for his father but after losing his mother he used to hesitate to share his feelings with him. Those days words of elders used to be followed without any objection. Respect for elders was everything. So my dad agreed to study and work together without raising any voice. He was just thirteen years old when he started working with his father at shop. After school in afternoon he used to reach directly at shop. Where he used to change his uniform, neatly folding it so that it could be used next day. Then he used to work till 8 pm. All kinds of work from washing, (which was done by hands those days) to dry clothes, pressing, taking stock maintaining sale registers, booking and all sorts of work at an innocent age of thirteen or fourteen years. From shop he used to reach back home at 8:30 or 9:00. After having dinner he used to go to Roshanara Bagh to study in lamp light, using the large round sewer pipes made of cement to use them for practicing mathematics, as he was not provided much notebooks to study.
Still he was among top students of his class.
To be continued…
P.S.- Some facts about Roshanara Bagh
Picture Courtesy: Wikipedia