Monday, 2 July 2012

From Shahkot to Seattle..

It is an ill wind, they say, that blows nobody any good. But this was no ill wind - it was a cool and gentle breeze, so typical of Poona in July that caressed his face as he stepped down on to the railway platform. Used, as he was, to the scorching summer winds of Punjab, he was delighted beyond words. He had found his home at last.

“Such a cool breeze in July,” he thought to himself, “I’m never leaving this place!

And so it came to be that the tall, dark and remarkably handsome youth from the dusty village of Shahkot in Punjab came to accept the salubrious Poona as his home – based, not on a job, or even a whim or a fancy, but on a gentle whiff of breeze. 

He barely had a few rupees in his pocket, and a wife and two young daughters in tow. From scratch, he set up building his and his family’s future in the town he had fallen instantly in love with. He got his daughters admitted to what was (and continues to be) the best girls’ school in town (St Anne’s), and started looking around for a livelihood.

If there was one hitch in his life, it was his wife’s health, and her inability to bear him a male offspring. Wracked with asthma, she suffered miscarriage after miscarriage, and the outlook seemed bleak. An oracle of sorts prophesised that as long as his mother was alive, he couldn’t be blessed with a son, because it was written in the old lady’s stars that she was destined never to set eyes on a grandson’s face (potay ka munh). 

Another suggested that his wife make the pilgrimage to Puran Bhagat’s well near Sialkot (now in Pakistan), and have a ritual bath there. This apparently guaranteed a male offspring. She did this, with her cousin in tow. 

Years later, and just a few weeks after the death of his mother, the man was finally blessed with a son!  Whether this proved the old oracle right, or the sacred waters of Puran Bhaghat’s `fertility well’ as efficacious we will never know. The boy was quickly followed by another girl, and then a second boy. The girl followed her sisters to St Anne’s, and the boys to St Vincent’s, just opposite. The man bought a small plot of land behind the school playing ground in Pudumjee Park, and continued the struggle to put his kids through school.

Just as he thought he and his wife had done their share of parenting, fate decided that they raise yet another child. By then, one of his daughters had delivered a baby girl, and had placed her at Pudumjee Park for a few weeks till she resigned from her job and  `sorted out’ her affairs. Those `few weeks’ lasted all of 29 years, and the little girl left P Park only after she got married! 

The grandchildren came in droves, followed by great grandchildren. I wonder if little Rohan, as he straps on his helmet and mounts his bicycle in far away Seattle, will ever realize the debt of gratitude he owes to that whiff of breeze that had caressed his great grandfather’s  face that July so long ago. Gentle as it was, it had transported the generations that followed from the mud huts of rural Punjab to the chrome and glass monoliths of Seattle and Chicago in the United States of America.

Such is life. Some decisions affect not only you, but effect paradigm shifts in generations to follow.

Had the man lived, he would have turned 100 this week. 

He was my father.


  1. Hi Harish,

    That is a wonderful bit of literary note ,you have penned. Its Class and I mean it.It was like a whiff of cool breeze. You can be a great writer, if you keep at it.


    Col Paramjit Singh
    (ex 42nd Hunter,Later 52 Reg Zozila,Now retd and settled in Delhi)

  2. A very apt and moving tribute to your father. You sure are blessed.

    i am sure your father must be very proud of what you all have made of your lives and of what the family has achieved.

    Take a bow, Harish.


  3. very nice. Pune has always had nice weather especially during the monsoons

  4. Harish, A good memorial. God bless the entire family. A pleasure knowing Satish & you.

  5. So beautifully penned down :-)

  6. A beautiful eulogy, penned from the heart.