Friday, 15 August 2014

Nainital O Nainital O--3

The stretch between Mallital and Tallital ( Mallital literally  meaning the upper end of the lake and Tallital the lower), covered most of our worldly needs , minus the schools ofcourse. The Modern Book Depot in Mallital  stood at one end of Mallital and was basically a stationary and book shop we shopped for all our school stuff in . It was large, painted inexplicably in a somber grey and stood next to the Flats. The store also doubled up as a grocery store and so the byline on its board read , ‘Cacks, Pastris and Chiss also sold hear”(sic). Next to it a thin and winding road led up to a boys’ school with the formidable name of ‘Chet Ram Sah Thulghariya School for Boys(CRST for short) . The Flattis’ Restaurant stood where this cluster of shops ended . Their ice creams and shakes were very popular and a trip to it ( with a cheery visiting uncle or a cousin with deep pockets ) were much looked forward to .  Nainital then had only two tourist 'seasons' . The first and the longer one began in May when the entire secretariat of the UP government moved to Nanital which was the summer capital of the state. Later as schools in the plains closed down for summers, families of tourists arrived and hired cottages for two months or longer . Others used the hotels like The Grand Hotel, or The India Hotel . The officers stayed at the Nainital Club or in the cottages that stood next to the Secretariat building . The second season began during the Pooja in October and the tourists who troped in were largely from Bengal . They wore monkey caps and yelled a lot, especially when riding horses along hairpin bends . All hotel, cinema halls and most restaurants in Nainital in those days closed down in October and remained closed till the tourist season began in April next year. At the blackboard near the Laxmi ( nee Roxy) Theatre that announced the week's film and its star cast, boys from CRST would scrawl in Hindi , Dekhiye Fillum Talamaar ( Watch the movie Lockdown).
The after Flattis restaurant the road rose and led to the Mallital Market . The Crosthwaite hospital stood to your right as you climbed . One of my mother’s numerous sisters was married to the Civil Surgeon when we were growing up, and had a conveniently located Civil Surgeon’s residential house within its premises. Here we could always seek shelter if it suddenly began raining or snowing . Occasionally when our mother was busy visiting relatives, we were instructed to go to the aunt’s house and wait for our parents to pick us up later. The nurses in the hospital knew us by name and smiled at us as they carried on with their work.

Our aunt was a tall, generous and handsome woman and her house was always overflowing with distant relatives come from the villages seeking treatment. They were a very interesting bunch and spoke Kumaoni with a rural twang . Some patients took long to recover and their families were expected to stay for weeks, even months. No one was ever asked to leave. Enormous meals were cooked by our aunt and her faithful cook in massive pressure cookers named Har da’ and Nar da’ ( da being short for Dajue or elder brother). The doctors’ three sons did their homework in the OT after 5pm and sometimes, when all beds in the house were occupied, would even sleep uncomplainingly on the operating tables. The mortuary lay close by and as we explored it with them, our uncle sagely explained to us the semantic difference between an autopsy and a post mortem. Assisted by the ward boys , my cousins and younger siblings often collected large sacks of pinecones from the forests close around . This saved on fuel and was the childrens’ small effort at strengthening our aunt’s unfathomable skills in running such a large kitchen on a limited salary . In collusion with the cheerful bunch of Christian nurses who adored the Good Doctor, they also kept a list of each month’s dead and newly born, and agreed with them that there were more deaths and births around a full moon. No, as childhoods go, this was not a bad one at all !


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