Our family lived in Bangalore as my dad worked with HMT. My elder
brother Manu was the first child and he had a close friend Pankaj
Bir of about his age that he played with. He was keen to have a brother
who could play with him just like Pankaj - an in-house version of a
friend, his own playmate (as he grew older that definition changed).
We were shifting to Bombay from Bangalore as Dad got a job with
Air-India. So Mom was invited to so many farewell parties (they
were quite popular there). Mom was at that stage that even if she
was late to the party by a few minutes they would think she might
have gone to the hospital for the delivery. But she got to attend
all the see off parties only then I was born. In fact, the night
that Mom went into labour, she was having a picnic with friends.
So they say that I really enjoyed all the parties and meals even
before I arrived.
D-Day (Delivery Day): 16 August,
There is mystery but surly a purpose to the madness.
The first cries of mine were heard in the early morning hours of
August in 1968 to the sounds of bells and celebrations of Gokulashtmi
(Janmashtmi). What I didn't know then was how significant &
eventful this was to be. As I grew up a bit older I would often
say, "How lucky Lord Krishna is that he is born on the same
day as me". I was extremely nath-khat (naughty) and doing all
sorts of pranks all the time.
As I grew up, I used to tell my
friends that I was born in HMT, Bangalore and they would all ask
"In the factory?". Most didn't realize that HMT had a
lovely campus, bungalows, houses & hospital. For the record
it was the hospital. They also attribute my fondness for gadgets
& tools to HMT (Hindustan Machine & Tools).
My elder brother Manu came along
with my grand mother to see us at the hospital. Being in the South
Manu used to use a lot of southern words/accents. As soon as he
entered and came near the bed he exclaimed, "Ai yaai yoooo,
yeh to bahut choota agaya. Mera saath cycle kaise chalaye ga?"
(South Indian exclamation something like Ooops, this fellow is
too small. How will he ride the cycle with me?). In his fanciful
notion, he wanted a brother that was ready made and who could play
and ride the cycle with him. Not something that was so small that
he had to take care of him and watch over me simply lying around.
Much to his disappointment, I was a clueless tinny bundle. He was
kind of expecting a junior Manu to play with him. Slowly over a
period of time he got used to the idea of having me around. Maybe
even like me... so one day after Mom had finished feeding me, she
wanted to put me down and Manu lovingly came up and wanted to help.
He insisted that he will do the needful. So Mom relented and handed
me over. She put me in his arms and BHAM I fell to the floor and
was screaming my guts out. Both shocked & frustrated he exclaimed
"Mein kya karoon. Aap hi to sara din isko dhood pilate rehte
ho aur itna mota kar diya hai" (What can I do? You are the
one that is feeding him milk all day and made him so fat. It's not
my fault.) So that was his first attempt at handling me and pretty
soon I would grow to something which was more than he could anyways
handle. Soon he was to learn more and realize how to keep his distance
since I was busy doing my business wetting, soiling & crying.
Still there was a sense of wonder. But more than him the excitement
and challenge even competition was felt by our pet dog Rainy. Rainy
got that name since it wasn't very common at that time of the year
to drizzle and it poured that day. Well, Rainy simply could not
handle the attention, the entry of a new being and the fact that
although I was smaller than him in size, I louder than him. My parents
were constantly worried and alert. So even if they left me on the
bed, they would nicely tuck the mosquito net that protected me from
both the flying critters and Rainy. When no one was around, he would
come to the bed, put his paws on the side and stare inside. If I
cried that drew his attention even more.
20 days after I was born, Mom bundled
me up along with my elder brother, our pet Rainy and the rest of
our bags and made our trip to Mumbai. So that was my first flight
trip ever. I think I was on my best behaviour then, a gurgle here
and there but nothing serious. The flight was normal (with me around
that was really a surprise, surprise). And the uneventful arrival
into Mumbai passed off well and I'm happily settled here till date.
Deh daai (Give to me)
That was I guess my first few words. No please, no excuse me - direct:
GIVE IT TO ME. And do it now. Yes, when I was hungry I would command
that you give it to me right then. Not only that, I was in the habit
(nasty?) of scratching while I drank. So that meant that while my
mom was feeding me, she had to endure the constant scratching of
her arms. As I grew and as my nails grew this got worse as my policy
was - "I no scratch. I no drink". So poor mom had to let
me do it.
This was fun time. I used to get a lot of massage done on me. I'm
told I completely enjoyed it, and still do. I used to get an hour
even two of massage done daily and that was so great! Very few feelings
can come close to that.
I don't know who suggested, but
I got the name "Suchit". I'm grateful to my parents amongst
so many other things for my name "Suchit Nanda" which
in sanskrit stands for "Su Chit" (Good soul/conscience) or looked
at another way "Sat,Chit,Ananda" a central theme of the
Vedas standing for "Truth, Consciousness, Bliss". And thus started my existence into the Bhogi to Yogi
1968 [5 months]:
Five months old and I was showing my true colours. So far, I would
be made to lie down and I would stay that way. We were staying in
this rather large bungalow and life was going on. Then one day,
my mom went to answer the door bell and when she came, I was sitting
up! That was a shock to her since I could not do that without help
and it was way too early for a child (or so I'm told). She was convinced
that there was someone in the house and with trepidation went looking
for the intruder. But guess what? Out of eye sight and I was sitting
up again. That's when it hit her that I had learnt to sit up and
crawl. Trouble times ahead.
From that height and angle and new
found freedom, life had a new meaning for me. Let the fun begin...
for me at least.
Mom used to do a lot of stitching
and tailoring for all members of the family and more. So she would
be operating the sewing machine while I lay there on the bed or
on the cot. As with all the manual sewing machines of the time,
the thread used to get stuck in the spindle and one had to unscrew
and do a number of elaborate steps to remove the parts, re-thread
the mechanism and then put it back together. On one such time, she
had this whole thing apart, and went to answer the door bell. When
she came back, she found that the complete device was put back as
it should be - screwed back into place and everything! She was dead
sure this time that someone is there and went looking (probably
with a hammer/stick/needle in hand for protection). Then it occurred
- no matter how remote and unthinkable, that just maybe the culprit
was right there in the room. So she dismantled the device and went
out of the room and hide behind the door and peeped in. Sure enough,
I'm told that I got up, went up to the sewing machine and put the
whole contraption back together into place including deft use of
the screwdriver. Boy oh boy! Watch out, now he can screw things
up. :-) [pun intentional]
1968 [10 months]:
Somewhere between 5 and 10 mouths I graduated (just about) from
crawling to walking. This new found freedom was fabulous! Now I
could go were I wanted till I was dragged back (darn). So I used
to move around, wobbling around discovering the nooks and corners
of the home. I used to be a pretty noisy kid. As my mom says "if
there was noise, it was a nuisance, but if there was silence, that
was a bigger problem" since that meant now they did not know
what prank I was up to. Around 10 months of age, such a silence descended
upon the house. By then Karan Mama (Karan Seth: my favourite Mama
and to whom I owe so much in my life) had come to stay with us.
He was the one (God bless his soul) that raised the first panic.
He looked and not finding me, raised the alarm but no one could
locate me. So bear feet, at noon (scorching heat outside) he went
out of the bungalow that we were living in and looked far down the
road and could see a skirt wearing kid (that's another story...
so bear with me) walking down the road chasing after 3 women walking
on the road. That must be him, he thought! Bear feet he ran down
the road and sure enough found me desperately walking down the road
trying to catch up with the three women. In my tiny head, I was
thinking Mom/Aunt/whoever and reaching for them. Mom's version is
that I was chasing skirts/sarees even at that age! :-)
Had it not been for my Mama, I would
have probably been lost. I owe it to him big time (and more later
in my life).
So by now it was established that
I loved walking (even if the direction was wrong), and early mornings
used to be pretty chaotic (and later when Anish, my younger brother
was born, even more so in the mornings) so my Mama use to take,
me for a walk along with Rainy. We used to stay in a bungalow in
Juhu and the beach was a good 3 Kms away. Even at that age, to build
my muscles (I'm told) he used to make me walk with Rainy tagging
along, that distance and back plus the fun/running that we had on
In the bungalow drive way we had
our car parked. In the morning rush and hustle bustle, I would see
that despite being stressed out, my mom used to be called (Dad was
too busy getting dressed for office) to move the car out so that
the sweeper could clean the drive-way. I observed this over and
over and one day took things in my own hands. Without warning at
the appointed hour, those sitting in the living room could see the
car jerking and literally hopping out without a driver. With a little
push from the car, even the main gate opened up and the car continued
to hop out. The family members ran out and rushed to the car to
find me sitting in the driving seat and firing the ignition over
and over again causing the car to jerk its way out. Quite dangerous
when you realize that the car was out on the road and in a short
time it would have crossed the road and into a gutter/ditch on the
other side. When scolded, I instead asked Mama how come he was so
big and could not do the job! That was it, my Mama learnt how to
drive a car.
By then, I had not learnt how to
get off a high table. So as a sort of punishment at times I was
put on the table, and left there to wonder what to do. As a grace
I would be given a phone to play with. Later years, I would drag
a chair and play with the real thing. Pick the phone and go "Haaaallloooo".
After a while the phone thing got
boring. No body answered. My mom was always stressed out in the
mornings. Like men of those times, Dad would be fairly careless
and leave his things around, with mom running to locate them and
making them available for him while he got ready. Then Manu had
to be dressed and packed off for school and pressure of attending
to milk-man, washer man, driver, etc. etc. was too much to handle.
With all this chaos in the morning up to breakfast and till dad went
to office, I was a added bundle of confusion-maker (the best mind
you). Our land lady was an elderly Gujarati lady, simply called "Seethani"
(land-lady). She was quite a terror and snoopy but for some reason
she simply loved me. No matter what I did, it was not objected to.
But if others did anything, all hell would break lose. So I pretty
much had a free hand, but in the home. We lived in a bungalow, and
had a building adjacent to us. On the second floor lived a lady
simple called "Daadi" (Grandmother). A lovely lady who's
face I don't remember, but of and on I have glimpses of her house
because I was "royal visitor" there. In one word she was
all "love". We had a small (probably 15 year old) servant
called Ramu who's duty was to carry me as early in the morning as
possible out of our house. First stop: my other home - Daadi's home.
But there was a small problem; the folks above wanted me there first.
Uncle had to go to office and he won't do that till "my Krishna
Kanahiya" comes there. Another Gujarati family where I was given
a royal treatment. So unless Daadi intercepted me (and then Ramu
would have hard time), I was to be taken to the third floor and
not be intercepted on the first two. After they played with me,
I would be taken to Daadiji's home where, she would play with me,
feed me, bath me (and what a way) and then put me to sleep. She
would strip me and put me in the washbasin filled with nice warm
water after which I would be powdered. I would by then be tired
and so put to sleep under the fan. In the afternoon, she would stick
her head out of the window and shout at my mom "Do you know
where you kid is?" and mom would say he could not be in better
hands. I roamed around and ordered her servants. I knew where the
bread/jam and biscuits were kept and had what I liked as my own.
Since we lived on the ground floor
in the bungalow, Daadi had her eye and ears trained on our house
(her ownership). One day she told mom very apologetically, "Please
don't mind, but my ears are always on your bedroom at night, why
does the little one cry so much?" I used to feel hot and despite
being dressed in a skirt-like dress and the ceiling fan at full blast,
I wouldn't be able to sleep and disturbed everyone's sleep. So we
bought our first A/C (air conditioner) for me (in later years we
bought our first colour TV and many more things also due to me -
For some strange reason, we always
lived next to some film star or actress. Seems, dad negotiated with
Shammi Kapoor (yah, now supposedly Internet guru) for our first
A/C but since he wanted to only reduce the price by Rs. 400/- dad
didn't go for it, and instead bough a new Voltas A/C for Rs. 5,250/=.
We had this in great working condition for many years.
as a very inquisitive and restless kid fringing on hyper
active, life for me got off on a rather fascinating footing.
The world around me was waiting to be discovered. There
were so many things that I wanted to tear open to see
what's inside only to put them back together (if I managed,
that is) and so much of the unseen forces to understand.
Electricity excited me. My tinny head count not comprehend
how something which is unseen, colourless, shapeless could
be so powerful. I had to find the driving force, the
source & understanding of this energy. Yes, I found
it the hard way by electrocuting myself a few times. Not
too badly though. My favourite "toy" was a screwdriver,
and I loved to poke it around (yup that's how I got it
the first time). My parents were paranoid that not only
will I hurt myself but others with me. One of the real
stories is my Dad took me along when going for his hair
cut. A while later, he could not see me in the mirror
and in that half done state, came out of the shop looking
for me. And what did he find? I was running on the street
with a screw driver in hand with the shopkeeper chasing
me. Little did I know that I have to pay for things. The
funniest sight was to see this tinny tot running with
a screwdriver in hand, being chased by a shopkeeper who
in turn was being chased by my Dad with a half done hair
cut! And that was not it. Next time he took me he kept
better watch but I gave him a slip. So effective that
when he found me later, I was carrying a couple of these
huge balls and completely hidden behind them. Needless
to add, my Dad took me back, and made me return all the
balls which the shopkeeper had never missed. Had he seen,
he would have found a few balls on their own, floating
out of the shop on two tiny feet. And this list goes on...
The fun of it was to "know
things". And once it was, there were more things to find out
about. This world held so much excitement, so much to do that sleep
was a nuisance to endure although I loved it too (as I could build
my own dream world in there). Gadgets & machines were other
things that just had to be understood. What makes a clock tick?
How does the ink flow from a fountain pen? Why does soap clean and
grease stick? Could we have a balloon or kite make us fly like in
an airplane (Dad worked for Air India, so a plane was simpler to
understand <g>)... the list was endless.
School was an arena with new players.
While I can't think of anything where I destroyed or hurt anyone,
I was full of ideas and when not executing one, I was planning the
others. My report cards had remarks like "Skating in the class,
and disturbing everyone", or "Found copying XXX subject
in exam" (had a find a better way to beat the system, wireless
was still far away)
Studies for me was an interruption between playing. A rather irritating
break. So I would do whatever I could in my powers to reduce that
time. That's one reason I found a liking for maths and science over
languages that took so long to right (computer: cut-paste was not
invented there). Oh write (see I told you prefer maths). I could
always skip writing a few steps and jump ahead, as long as the answer
was correct, the rest did not matter that much. For the same reason,
my handwriting wasn't great. I was always in a hurry and as soon
as I could, I went onto typing (on typewriter/computer) so that
I did not have to slow down and write in a clear manner. I still
find that I think faster than I speak/write and so over a period
of time, I started what is now called multi-tasking. With my Gemini
ascendant, I would do multiple tasks, even optimizing the important
ones. More than a few times, I've had my Dad talking to me, while
I was on the keyboard, as well as on the phone with different people.
He being a Taurus just couldn't handle this! So I would have to send
a non-maskable interrupt to the other tasks. So, rewind what he
had said in my head, and absorb & respond.
November is Manu's birthday and
I guess somewhere around end '68 he got a swanky new 3 wheeler cycle
as a gift. Still under 3, I thought it was truly a lovely gift and
I took to it much more than him. I think I must have used it far
more than he ever did. I was so tinny in size that when I stood
up on it, I had to look up as much as 150 degree to look ahead.
With a craning neck, and tinny feet I was always busy playing. In
my later years, I would be an early adopter to cycles, scooters,
cars (started driving when under 13 years). Something about it fascinated
me. I loved mobility.
Loved it so much in fact, that mom
had a hard to giving me a bath. I was fairly healthy and very agile.
Mom had to literally hold me with one arm and stick me up onto the
bathroom wall and with the other hand, soap me. Slightest relaxation
or distraction and I would be off, completely nude, dripping wet
running across the house (and beyond if I had it my way). Mom, the
servants and everyone in the home had to chase me, and drag me back
into the shower. Mind you, I loved the water, the shower, and playing
there. Just that standing and getting soaped day after day wasn't
my idea of fun. I had to do something new and creative.
At the end of the day I was pretty
exhausted and would fall asleep without a fuss. Mom tells me that
even in my sleep if she woke me up, and made me drink my glass of
milk, I would do it. Almost in my sleep. But it would be impossible
to change me. No matter how hard she tried, I was always struggling.
If she managed to remove my one leg from the pant and moved to the
next, before she knew it the first would be back on! More often
than not, they just had to give up.
I was always creating trouble even
if I hadn't. Let me explain. One fine day, I told everyone I had
eaten a glass marble (the one kids play with). To this date I don't
know why I said it other than to see the reaction. Things got out
of hand pretty soon as panic calls were made and it was sort of
too late for me to withdraw my story so I went along. I was taken
to our Doctor friend, Dr. Puri who advised an immediate X-ray which
was done but showed up nothing. Officially they said its possible.
And they didn't want to expose me to too much radiation. So now what?
Well someone (no prize to guess who) had to sit and sift through
the stools that were passed in the hope to find if it came out.
Needless to add my plea that I was kidding didn't find any takers
and only after a few days of senseless poking was the realization
that I was kidding. Stinking joke I tell you!
My Mom was carrying Anish (who was born in July) but even in that
state, Mom, Manu & I made a trip to Hong Kong to visit her cousin
brother Mr. Seth. My uncle was quite well off and used to run a
flourishing business apart from a Gaylords Restaurant in Kowloon.
I remember him as the rich uncle that was always talking business.
Big in size and big time into fun. He was great company. Laughing
and cracking jokes all the time although awfully busy when he came
for his short/flying visits to our place.
Well, this was my first International
trip (and I think also my Mom's). There was an excitement in the
air. Dad used to work in Air-India (AI, as I've written before)
and so we got to travel a fair bit in our lives but this was my
first. A new world (literally) opened. New faces, new things to
grab (and break?). New, new stuff. For one week I had a ball and
my Mom a difficult time. First day she left me in the house with
the maid. What she didn't realize was that I was petrified of her
looks as she had the Asian Chinese looks. My cousin (Minoo - Mina
Seth) came back from her school and was fast asleep and I was standing
next to her bed the whole time crying away. So the next day I got
to go out to the stores with my mom. Big mistake. A couple of minutes
and I would be gone. And the chase/search would begin. If I was
held near, my favourite pass time was to remove all the labels of
the items. I would systematically zoom into the items that had a
price sticker and nicely remove them until I was found and scolded.
Mom being in the advance stage of pregnancy, and me doing all these
pranks didn't help matters. Plus she wasn't sleeping well for the
same reason. Well it was a new experience for us all.
Soon Anish was born 23rd July, 1970 and there was more fun, and
now someone to share it with. In a sense I got an assistant although
he was not the naughty kid (could anyone be?) but with me ended
up doing a lot of things I guess he would have never otherwise done.
When he could speak, he used to call me Uuchi (like Japanese Sushi
as he could not say Su-chit) and people said he was like my tail.
Always there right behind me. We had good times. Real good times.
Although I was very fond of him,
and this feeling grew as we grew up, in the early days like all
children, I too was jealous of him. I'm told in my school essay
on family, I wrote that I would like to sleep with my mother by
because of my younger brother who howls, I don't get to.
Mom used to breast feed us for long.
In the first year itself, one evening, Anish was on his bed in the
room and mom was getting ready in the other - already late for a
function. Anish started to cry and his cries just got louder. Guess
he was hungry and mom was late. Then suddenly, he stopped crying.
Motherly instinct said something was wrong. In her half dressed
state she went to his room only to find me on his cot stuffing a
big piece of bread in his mom saying "Leh, tu bhookha hai,
kha leh" (Take, you are hungry, so eat). And all this while,
Anish was choking! Thank God, that mom came when she came. Seems
I saw that he was hungry and went and got a piece of bread from
the fridge and stuffed his mouth not realizing that this could choke
and kill him!
By now I was all of three years.
I loved music, and loved the rhythm. Air India had an Executive
Club on which property much later came the Centaur Hotel, Juhu.
This was a lovely property, with coconut trees and right on the
beach. We used to go there often to play (while Dad played lawn
tennis) and swim in the sea. Air-India had organized a evening party.
We had all gone there. Then Anish was hungry and mom found it a
bit inconvenient to feed him there, so she came home, leaving Dad,
Manu & me at the party. Hardly 10 minutes after she reached
home, she got a call from her friend, "Do you know what your
son is doing? Come right over.". Her heart sank. Now what this
time? I know I was just three but have faint recollection of listening
to the music and watching the band play. The music was real good
and spontaneously felt like dancing, so I mustered up my will and
went onto the stage and started to dance. Those who came late thought
I was with the band! The crowd loved it, and soon a number of people
came up front and started to dance - something completely unplanned.
We all had a great time.
At this time, I also remember, there
was this aunty that brought her daughter and put her right next
to me and wanted to us to dance. She was completely out of step
and it was just something I couldn't handle, I would go to the other
end of the stage and she would come up, carry her and plop her right
next to me... Gosh! Well everyone had so much fun, that people came
up and started to "nazar utaroo" (a traditions way to
rotate some money over the head, and give to the poor - and this
is supposed to ward off evil spirits or something). And then quite
spontaneously, a few uncles got together and gifted me a badminton
racket as a gift. I loved it.
This was the year of the war with
Pakistan and the black outs. I have flashing images when we had
to put black paper on all the windows and put out all the lights
so that Pak-planes would not be able to spot us easily. This was
the only time that I was quite and scared. After this I don't think
anything really scared me in life.