Dehradun Blurbs-Gauri Saxena

 

PoetrySukanya'

Illustration by Sukanya Roy

if you think about it,

dalanwala,

with its sprawling colonial bungalows and quaint cafes

and european bakeries and pseudo-british gentry,

doesn’t quite seem to fit in with the rest of dehra.

 

how can the world of memsahibs

and dignified old gentlemen

who wear pocket squares and suspenders

and munch on scones and drink earl grey

co-exist

with the paan-chewing, nose-picking,

jhol-eating ‘other’?

but somehow,

like that stubborn child

who twists and frays the renegade jigsaw piece at its edges

making it submit to its 2×2 cm place,

dehradun made it all work.

*

anyway, we grew up in the labyrinthine bylanes of dalanwala

amidst the mango and litchi trees on five bigha plots,

reared on a solid diet of ham-and-cheese sandwich tiffin lunches

and pista biscuits from ellora’s

(occasionally, if we had been good, mum would stop

at kwality’s to gift us with caramelly stick jaws on which i lost all my milk teeth.)

our days were solely occupied

by catholic school brothers and chants of ‘our father in heaven’

and weekend drives to the hills

and shopping at rajpur road,

the manhattan of our tiny town.

 

school days were punctuated

by long vacations

the most awaited of which

were the summers.

warm summers, with summer camps and endless refills of iced tea

and bhutta,

culminating in grey clouds breaking free of their bonds

and shedding their happy tears.

sweet monsoon, flooding our streets

so that we could wade in the calf-deep water

and float our paper s.s boaty mcboatface’s.

 

winters consisted of the family sitting by the telephone,

awaiting the call informing them

of powdery snowfall in the hills

and frantic runs to the terrace

to see if it was true.

blissful childhood.

*

 

but young ones always fly the nest

and soon we left tiny dehra

to seek the lights and sounds of delhi, bombay, bangalore

and the like.

introductions were no longer “i live next to welham girls”,

but “i’m from this place in the hills”, or

“yes, the same Dehradun george harrison wrote a song about.”

 

we got on the conveyer belt

of living the rat race in a concrete jungle

and immersed ourselves in fast-faced superficial city life.

we found new glam pleasures in hauz khas village and khan market

and left the days of mussoorie bike rides behind.

dehra feared she might be too boring for us now.

 

*

come summer

we return to the hills each year

our frames mauled by the lashes of delhi’s infamous loo.

 

we return to mothers

who exclaim how thin we’ve become

and feed us all their love

and chocolate eclairs.

 

dehradun

is our little kairi-flavoured teabag of joy

infusing our now-tepid lives

with hope and inspiration.

 

we climb to our terraces

(in dehra, we boasted to our city friends,

you could always see the mountains, no matter where you were)

and soak in the juxtaposition of sights—

 

potholed tonga lane populated by lady walking a pomeranian,

sabziwala advertising his aloo,

guy peeing against the wall,

hipster painting a mural next to him—

 

all under the shade of a giant gulmohar tree

against the backdrop of the verdant hills.

dehra still makes it work.

Note:

  1. dalanwala: the stronghold of the British in Dehradun during colonial rule. Dehradun is still heavily influenced by the British.
  2. paan: a betel leaf preparation popular in India.
  3. jhol: a watery curry which is part of the traditional cuisine of mountain folk.
  4. bigha: a unit for measuring distance in North India. Five bigha amount to roughly an acre.
  5. pista: pistachios, in Hindi.
  6. bhutta: corn on the cob roasted over an open fire.
  7. Mussoorie: a popular hill station about 20 miles from Dehradun.
  8. loo: hot winds that blow in North India during the summer.
  9. kairi: raw, sour mango. Dehradun is famous for its mangoes and kairi is an early summer treat for children.
  10. tonga: horse drawn carriage.
  11. sabziwala: grocer
  12. aloo: potatoes, in Hindi.
  13. Gulmohar: the flame tree.

Gauri Saxena is a 19 year old liberal arts student from Dehradun, India, and harbors a love for Ogden Nash and art films. She finds inspiration for her poetry in the laughter-wrinkles of Pahari women, the smell of old books, and all else that she observes in life.