"I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way-things I had no words for." ~ Georgia O'Keeffe

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Where I grew up

Today I thought I would shed a little bit of light as to where I grew up in India and the idea came from Barbara's wonderful blog and post which you can read here.
When I was about 2 years my dad moved to this little sleepy hill station in Central India called Pachmarhi where he worked. It is nestled amongst a range of mountains. It was discovered by a Captain James Forsyth of the British army during the British rule. I can now see why he chose to make this place a training ground for his troops because it looks like a tiny part of England plonked in the middle of these rugged mountains. During my time there weren't many people except for the army which at that time was fairly small as well. As kids we spent many hours just cycling and playing on the hills in front of our house and disused grounds of the army. We never ventured into the jungles which were close by for fear of wild animals .Many a times one could hear a laughing hyena or howling of a jackal in the nights. We made up our own games and our own adventures since there was no TV or for that matter many toys to play with. My companion was most of the time books when friends left. Friends were few and far between since everyone was in the army and it was a moving population. Being a small community there were often many get to gathers in the old army club and children were always a part of these events. It was during one of these events when I found my treasure trove of old books. There used to be a disused shed/room that we thought had a lot of broken furniture etc dumped in. The door on that particular day we noticed was slightly ajar so we decided to hide in this room which was in darkness. As we huddled together behind the door I became slowly aware through the faint light that was filtering through that the room was filled with books. Every shelf was overflowing and many were on the floor too. You will not believe the joy I felt when I saw them. To cut a long story short I nagged my parents to find out if I could borrow books from there. It turned out that long ago that was the library for the army officers who came to the club. Now those days club was not what today you would call a club. It was purely a place for the officers to relax and have a game of, billiards, table tennis, tennis or badminton or cards and have a drink and chat. There was even a stage where sometimes they would put up plays etc. anyway I was allowed to go in and rummage around even though the person in charge thought there were no books for kids. He was wrong!  to my delight I found many books. Amongst them,  Alibaba and the forty theives, gulliver's travels, Winnie the Pooh, warrols stories, and many more. From then on I would take a book often and read them during the monsoon months when we could not go out to play. There were wonderful books written by captain James Forsyth on the flora and fauna of the area. Oh it was a treasure trove. Sadly one day when a new person in charge took over he closed the place down. I do not know what happened to all the books. I think some went to the main army library and others just got discarded. Many of the books were bound in fabric covers and I got to keep one of my favourite books "House at Pooh corner " . Since the library was closed and they did not know what to do with a single book that I went to return I got to keep it. Sadly now I do not even have that as mum gave away all my books after I got married. To date I have not forgiven her for that:-)
Down below is snapshot of part of the town. If you look right in the centre of the hill in the background and slowly bring your eyes down you will see first a tiny white box shaped building. That was my school. In the bottom left corner as you move your eyes across the lake in the middle there is a building. That was my dad's office. Our house was about five minutes walk from there to the left. Unfortunately it is not in the picture.

Below me and my brother in a picnic spot. We often went on picnics to beautiful natural  falls or pools.

Below is the highest peak of the mountain ranges and one could see beautiful sunsets and sunrises from there

My parents and me with our cat. I love cats and dogs and always grew up with pets in the house.
At one point we even had a chicken that would lay an egg only indoors on a chair:-). 

One of my few very good friends. 

Here we are together again. I was feeling very sad as her father had been posted to another town and she was leaving. 

Me with my lovely Siamese cat.

At school listening to the botany teacher.

From left mum, me, brother and dad sitting down and some friends who loved to hear dad play the piano so they would visit us often, and our dog. Our dog never liked to be photographed. My brother is trying hard to make him sit for the photograph session :-)

Dad dressed as Father Christmas for a Christmas event. He didn't fool us for a moment :)

Me feeling rather self conscious and my dog looking away again!

Kids from the neighbourhood. We all got invited to each other's  birthday parties no matter what age.  Age was never a barrier. Even parents came along and it would become an occasion to meet and socialise.

This was the church we worshipped in. I did not have a picture of it so had to take it from the net hence it is in colour. It saddens me to see that it is slowly crumbling away. I notice the portico roof has probably gone and they have tried to repair it by putting a tin roof. It is beautiful church 

Look at the stain glass windows. I have seen similar windows in one or two cathedrals here in England 

Again I have had to pinch this from the net as I don't have any photos of the insides either.

Things have changed drastically since I left way back in 1978. Someone had a brainwave and decided to put Pachmarhi on the tourist map. It is a shame really because it is has been commercialised without giving any thought to the environmental issues. I can imagine the garish looking hotels that have sprung up everywhere. Where there was not a soul on the streets now it is overrun by tourists and all the riff raff that comes along with it. The beautiful tranquil favourite picnic spots have been decimated by man made structures and hawkers everywhere. Where the environment was clean and one could drink water straight from the streams is now polluted with all the rubbish that is thrown around. There is even another lake been dug up where there was gentle rolling meadows. Why there was a need for another lake when there was one already there I have no idea. Suddenly loads of school and college students are landing there going into the jungles and collecting plant specimens for their studies. While doing this they do not realise that the rare plants that were found are becoming extinct by so much of pillage. Does it teach them something that they cannot otherwise learn without collecting specimens? In this day and age I do not think one needs to collect specimens to learn. 
Sorry I have started rambling now about something I have no control over. I guess I feel rather angry that sometimes we humans spoil the beauty of our earth in the name of progress. C'est la vie.
So that was my dream place and the beautiful and magical childhood I spent there. 


  1. It was so nice to hear of where you were born and your life as a young girl. Makes you so much more closer!
    India looks to be a beautiful country. My brother has been there many times.
    hugs Karen

  2. Shashi, thank you for sharing this with us. It was so interesting to hear about your early life, and the photos are wonderful. How sad that things have changed so much in Pachmarhi, but at least you have your happy memories.I so agree with you about the ecological issue too.x

  3. It's great to hear about how you grew up. And that treasure trove of books must have been wonderful.

    It's such a shame when the modern thoughtless world encroaches on unspoilt places.

  4. Hi,
    beautiful pictures girlfriend's family is our greatest treasure.

  5. Hi Shashi
    This is such an interesting post. You are very pretty and it's nice to place a face with your name. Your thoughts on how the area where you grew up has changed over the years is universal. I grew up in a small beach town on Lake Michigan in the USA. Over the years beach towns became in demand for the rich and sadly when I go back to visit I find the same type of changes you describe.

    Thanks for sharing a bit about your life.
    xx, Carol

  6. Hello Shashi, I was so surprised to find my name on your blog, thank you! I can’t tell you how much pleasure I got from this post. It was so lovely to see all your ‘photos and read about your young life. As for the books, oh my goodness I’m happy you were able to read them but sad to wonder where they ended up.
    I’m also very sad to read that the tourists have moved in and taken over. I can understand why you feel angry and upset. The farm where I grew up is still exactly as it was when I was a little girl, I can no longer walk the fields like I used to because there are new owners, but at least I know it is there, untouched and unchanged.
    Thank you so much for this lovely post. Barbara

  7. Thank you all for your lovely comments. I had to mention your lovely blog Barbara and in a way you are rescuing beautiful books that otherwise would be left unloved and making it available to people to have it as a remembrance or something they will be able to share with their kids. They are treasures and will be lost if not for people like you. I have nothing against Kindle or anything else like that but we need the old with the new to make it richer. So glad not much has changed in your farm. It. Must be lovely just to be in the area seeing that it is untouched even though you are not able to walk in the fields as before.

  8. I agree with everything you say Shashi. We can't halt progress in anything (even books), but we still need to hold onto the old. My own book collection is growing, and I hope to be able to pass it on to my grandchildren one day. They may never read them but then again, they just might.
    Thanks again for mentioning my blog, I’m honoured that you think it worthy.

  9. That was fun Shashi.... thanks for the tour and the little story...., I, too, loved books as a kid.....and, yet today...I hardly read at all.... I'm not sure why either.... just never even think to pick up a book anymore....

  10. Thank you for sharing your pictures and your story, Shashi. I am so sorry that your childhood place is now being polluted and damaged by ill-reasoned tourism.

  11. I loved reading your account and seeing the photos! This was so interesting - thanks for taking the time to share your history with us.

  12. Hi Shashi.. thanks fro your visit at my blog and the lovely comments :) I Lo...ooved this post! and at the same time I felt a deep melancholy as what you write is so true... The irrational, mindless construction, deforestation and pollution in the name of development is so disturbing .Alas!I have seen the same happening to Dehradun and the full Northern belt of hill stations:( and I can not see a solution as long as the citizens and the government both start feeling for their land and unite to preserve the diverse natural and cultural heritage.
    The B/W images are gems specially the ones giving a bird's eye view of your school and the office of your father.And I can see that you are beautiful straight out of Basu chatterjee's 'Rajnigandha'.. Thanks for sharing :) love n wishes, Kokila

  13. Kokila yes it is a sad state of affairs in our country as people still don't appreciate the treasure they have in India. They are not thinking of the future generations to come and if nothing is done now we will loose the richness of beauty that they have forever.


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