My father’s sister married a terrific guy. A coal miner. Born in pre partition times, Charanjit Singh Sial was a coal miner. He lived in Nagpur in Nelson Square and his family of three girls and one boy grew up there, in a lovely bungalow with empty space all around. Charni uncle was a man’s man.
I idol worshipped him and some of my happiest times of my childhood were in Nagpur. Summer being hot, his family would migrate to Mumbai. They would stay in Matunga with my grandparents or my uncles or my dad. Winter, I would be in Nagpur.
His wife, Urmila Sial aka Umi Aunty had her own retinue of social friends that I saw every time I went there. So I grew up with their children too.
Of the three daughters, the most mischievous, which today means adventurous, was the middle girl: Anuradha, shortened to Anu. She was my pal. We would cycle all over town with the kids of her mom’s friends. The cycle would have a basket and that would be filled with oranges. Huge and delicious and often eaten as soon as we left the gate of her bungalow.
So we would cycle to a pond near the house and go fishing there. We never caught anything. But we had a hamper of food and the book we were reading and sitting under a tree we would relax and so did the fish.
As we grew up, her dad starting throwing common sense my way and I realised his personality. His coal mines got nationalised, so he shifted to other minerals. He never stopped laughing, reading books, going for a hunt with my dad and his evening tennis at Nagpur Club.
CP Club, used to be the center of all existence in Nagpur. I love swimming and that was my main attraction, besides the food and weekly movies that were shown there. I also enjoyed table tennis and after a hot and tiring round of tennis, Charni uncle indulged me and played a round, since that day there was no one there. My aunt and all her friends would be at the card tables. The game and the health of the country were the main pursuits.
As soon as I would arrive in Nagpur, my aunt would get me new short pants, more ruff n tuff then I was used to. So Nagpur was fun.
I am now here on a motorcycle to pay tribute to my uncle and aunt, who paved the way for my adventures. And this is the third time on a motorcycle. The first time was with my club: Bisonridehard.com. 6 of us stayed in a lodge, enroute to Cherrapunjee. Anu came to meet us with a basket full of kachoris. I never got to eat any. She was soon dubbed: Kachori Didi by the club. The next time was on my all India bike tour. I came here with Deepak Amembal. We stayed in her house. The third time is now, on my way home from my Quest: the world tour. Her loving husband, a senior citizen tennis player and champion, woke me up with the Pooja that he does in the morning. Last night all old friends had assembled for dinner. Some brought mutton dhansagh and kebabas and cake. This was the Doongajee family. We cycled together and their son Shezaad escorted me into Nagpur on his BMW 1200. How times change.
Cycling wasn’t much of a sport in my social community when I was young and when I wanted to, my dad would say: Go to Nagpur.
I am in Nagpur.