Eleven years is a long time. Or is it? Coming back to ‘Nagar’ doesn’t seem so, but a visit to the MIRC does; where our tents? Where is our Mess? Where is our little park with the see-saw?
The allocation of tented accommodation was strictly on first come first serve basis. Type III accommodation had tattered tented kitchens and absolutely dry sanitation (the kind we lived in for four months only seemed like a life time, though); Type II were old tents with brick walled kitchens, asbestos roofs and Indian style potty without a flush tank…; And Type I were new tents with all the facilities. Needless to add though, the allotment of house to the senior most member of the colony made everyone happy, as all of us moved up the ladder to better tents with facilities against the cat and less comfort in the loo. By the way, there was no running water – water had to be fetched from the nearby well (is it still there?)
What one remembers most is the lack of formality and also of privacy, whatsoever. ‘Knotting up’ the doors and ‘windows’ was a mere formality (imagine the sniggers when a newly-married officer got a beautiful wooden door made for his tent before getting his wife). Anybody or anything could slide in or out of our house anytime of the day or night. So much for security. The trees in our colony were a haven for the slithering creatures, and the crevices in the stone slabs in the ‘bathroom’, for harmless scorpions. One learnt to talk and fight in near whispers. All the ladies preferred to bathe, etc while the husbands were still around. I haven’t yet mentioned the dry sanitation. It was undoubtedly the most constipating factor of life in the tented colony. Then there was a cat that wandered from ‘Kitchen to Kitchen’ in search of freshly, boiled milk. It knew how to put the jaali back as it was only the missing layer of cream which told us that a visit had been paid. The kitchen, I may remind you, had no door.
For some reason, I have no memories of children going to school (they must have, I am sure, and they must have also done their Homework etc). I also don’t remember if there were any working ladies! Did anyone have a TV? I don’t think anyone had the time for one. However, drawing rooms with curtains, carpets and settees, refrigerators, coolers, make shift dining tables, steel cupboards and lockers with no locks on them, dinners, kitty-parties… These I remember rather vividly.
There are so many memories that have come back; they can’t all be penned down. All those who were there then would understand how I feel (Hullo to all of them). There is so much we all shared! We made the best of our friends then; age, seniority, units meant nothing. We all belonged to the MIR.
The temple stands as a mute witness of life in the colony then, as does the big banyan tree under which we sat when it became too hot in the tent. The lights would be off at 10.30 a.m. just when one needed the fans, table fans, obviously). Coming back to the tree, it witnessed a number of card sessions; everyone learnt ‘teen patti’, ‘Coat-piece’ and of course ‘Rummy’ (no stakes please, we were amateurs). The tree was also a family collection point by the bread winners on their return from work. The lights would be back by then and after a meal we’d restriction relaxed unless the electricity played truant once again; in which case we’d be off to the mess (with a generator mercifully) for another session of cards.
When I see the Centre now, I feel proud. When I see the officer’s colony, I feel happy, but also cheated—the brick and cement houses have been built on top of our homes.
(Article was published in Sarath Magazine December 1997)