Friday, 13 January 2012

3.   A Place for my Grandmother’s bench…  
                           When my grandmother (Dida) died in 1997, she was buried at some out- of-the-way burial ground near Roorkee by my uncle, her only surviving son. The other beloved son, who was in the naval fleet of the Indian Airforce had been tragically killed over Pakistani soil in the 1971 Indo-Pak war. His plane had been shot down and to this day, his name crops up in the list of POW’s or ‘Prisoners of War’ and the ‘Missing believed Killed’ lists. While Dida was more realistic and after so many years had lost hope of ever seeing her son again, especially after he was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra by the Indian Government for bravery, my poor Grandfather never lost hope and believed him to be in Baluchistan somewhere. Anyhow, the fact remained that none of the grandchildren could ever visit our dear Grandmother’s burial site  as we had no clue where exactly it was.

 My mother’s parents, Dadu and Dida, as we grand-
children always remember them in Dehradun

This turn of events made me dream of a place we could dedicate to her in a part of India she loved dearly. Hence, even before we bought the land on ‘Pari Tibba’ I had planned to dedicate a bench or something to that effect in both my Grandparents’ names. Both of them dearly loved the mountains and in fact, most of my Didas’ beautiful paintings (yes, she was an artist who had many art exhibitions too!) depict the splendour of the mountains. Some of Kashmir, some of Nainital, Manali and of course, of Mussoorie. These gorgeous paintings hang in all our homes today.
When we finally did buy the land, the house was truly secondary in my mind. It had by now, slowly and surely dawned on me that building or for that matter, any form of construction would be a long and uphill task considering the pretty remote location. We began by building a one room out-house and then, a make-shift shed for storing construction material. Every moment there, over the years of getting the main house built, I thought of places in the beautiful area around us where we could build a lovely, large, comfortable, all purpose bench which the whole family could sit on and remember the super-happy times we spent with Dida and Dadu.
 In Delhi, from the marble market, I chose a small, white, marble piece and got it inscripted with the following words :
In memory of our beloved  Dida and Dadu,
Ira Roy (1913 to 1997)
Major General A.N.Roy (1910 to 1985)
From your loving grandchildren.”
As soon as Saaremaa was ready, the bench was the first thing to be made by our helpful Chowkidar, under my watchful gaze. It is large, both in length and width, with arms on the side and covered with terracotta coloured broken tiles. The marble inscription was inserted at the head of the bench and it was just perfect. I even had the soil which my in laws had carefully collected and brought all the way from my Grandmother’s childhood home in Kasmu, Estonia, the previous year (This lovely house is now a Writer’s Home and houses different authors who need peace and quiet from the main cities of Estonia and all over Europe).  We sprinkled the soil behind the bench along with some Estonian strawberry seeds also brought all the way from Estonia by us during our visit there in 2008. 

View from Grandmother's bench - Mussoorie range and The Haunted House

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