I. THE SCHOOL-GIRL
Rakhi was celebrated all over India on the 13th of August.That day, I received a call from Kukky, all the way from Etah, a small town in U.P., reminding me to get the Rakhi sent by her, tied on my wrist.
Kukky is my Rakhi-sister.
Way back in 1975, after my training, I was posted to Etah Branch of my Bank. I was undergoing training at Mumbai (then Bombay) when the posting order came. I sent a telegram (Telephone was a luxury in 1975, and STD, not to speak of mobile phones, was unheard of at that time!) to my recently-acquired wife, informing her about my posting. On receiving the news, the two parental families went into a huddle, jointly searched for the place and could locate the small town only in an enlarged map of Uttar Pradesh! It is located about 85 KM from Agra. The wife joined me a little while after I reported at the place.
(By the way, when I received my Posting Order, my friends told me that at Etah, I would get one potato for breakfast, two potatoes for lunch and three for supper! A lot of potatoes are grown and sold cheap at Etah. However when I did join there, we got not only good and cheap potatoes but good and cheap fish as well. Local people preferred fish with fewer fishbones as these are easier to eat. So fish with more fishbones were sold cheap. It is known that the more fishbones a fish has, the tastier it is! For example, Hilsa, full of fishbones, is very very tasty - and more costly.)
(At that time, Etah District was infamous for docoits. During our stay, one notorious dacoit named Amar Singh was killed by the police in an encounter. He was stripped and his naked body was placed atop a tree for people to see him. Throughout the day, a stream of crowd thronged the place to see the body of the dreaded docoit, who had spread terror in the hinterland of the district. I too had gone to see his body .)
The building in which we were staying, accommodated a couple of more families. Kukky, who had at that time, probably just entered her teenage, was the daughter of our neighbour. The wife and this pig-tailed school-going girl became buddies and confidantes in no time. And coming to know that I have no sister, Kukky started addressing me as bhaiya (brother) and tying a Rakhi on my wrist on Rakhi Purnima every year.
I was transferred from Etah after 3 years but the relation continued even after that and for the last 33 years, she has been sending Rakhis to me every year, regularly and uninterruptedly.
She was a school-girl when I was at Etah and I still call her ‘school-girl’. Literally, she continues to be a school-girl because after finishing her education, she has been running a school! She started it as a Kindergarten which has by now grown into a High School with about 2000 students including her own son. In spite of her protests, I still call her a school-girl.
In 2002, when I was working at Hyderabad, we had visited her and her school housed in a well-planned and impressive building with a beautiful lawn and garden.
After I retired in 2009, she told me that had my place been at or near Etah, she would have requested me to be her Financial Advisor as she badly needed a reliable person for this.
II. THE SNAPPED RAKHI
This is the story of another Rakhi-sister of mine with whom I came in contact, also when I was at Etah. We were returning from Delhi by bus to Etah. It was a six-hour journey. Such journeys were common in those days. At the Inter-State Bus Stand at Delhi, this girl, whom I shall now call Anjana, was introduced to us by her brother (not known to us). She was traveling alone in the same bus. He requested us to take care of her in case of need. We agreed. During those 6 hours, the wife and the girl became very friendly and we exchanged our addresses. She belonged to Dehradun. Afterwards, the lady and the girl wrote to each other regularly and in the process, she started sending Rakhis to me every year.
When my transfer from Etah became due, she invited us to visit Dehradun and stay with them for a few days. By that time, Daughter I had already arrived. The three of us visited them and stayed with them for about 4 days. The family included her father, (She had lost her mother early.), her elder brother and her younger sister. We found them to be very loving people. They were very good hosts and took good care of us, particularly the baby. Her younger sister used to take us for a walk daily after dinner. She suggested to us to visit Missouri which is nearby and accompanied us during the trip. Till now, we remember our comfortable stay with this well-knit family.
Our contact continued even after we left Etah. Then she got married and may be, on account of her increasing responsibilities as a daughter-in-law, the correspondence dwindled, Rakhis became irregular and then stopped arriving. We also decided not to bother her anymore.
In 2001, I was posted to Lucknow. During our stay there, we once visited Nainital for a few days. At Nainital, we were told that Dehradun was not far away. The sweet old memories about Anjana and her family got reawakened, we decided to visit her house at Dehradun and meet her parental family. At Dehradun, we found their house after a little search. Only her brother was there. He remembered our visit and was happy to see us again. From him, we came to know that Anjana’s daughter’s marriage was to be solemnized in a few days. We collected her address, telephone number etc. and left.
Back at Lucknow, we sent a small gift for her daughter on the occasion of her wedding, furnishing our address and telephone number. We waited for a few days for her to call back. She did not. To make sure that the packet had reached her, I called her residence. She was not available and the lady who received my call, promised to convey the message to her. We waited for the return call. It did not come. So I called again, a little worried whether the packet was lost somewhere. The same person received the call, informed us that she had conveyed my message to Anjana and that the packet had indeed been received by her. She again promised to tell Anjana that I had called.
I am still waiting for her call.