Who Am I ?Mine is a simple story of the girl next door who grew up in amazingly simple small towns of Uttar Pradesh , the biggest state of India. As me and my family hopped from one rustic locale to another my life got enriched with peculiar characteristics of that place. The earliest memories I have are those of a place called Etawah, rather pretty place but infested with Chambal dacoits. We were under constant threat and so me and my younger brother rarely went to school in those years. And you can imagine how blissful that was for young kids barely 5 and three years old. We played in our garden the whole day, without a damn care in the world.
Soon we found ourselves moving to Rae Bareilly , it was bliss. We got new friends, new school and some new activities. Here in for the first time my parents kept a few cows and goats at home. And we were dizzy with joy. I remember spending my entire summer vacations busy with the cows and the goats and plucking vegetables and flowers. And of course reading editions of kids magazines which ran special on Fairy Tales. How ardently I believed in fairies…………I still do.
The entire day was spent playing with friends , climbing trees, chasing butterflies, getting dirty in sand……. by evening we looked like Mowglis from jungle book. And my Mom would look at us and say oh again and then smile and shoo us away for a bath the highlight of which was the Pears soap. Ah the smell!!!
Even today I get the warmest feelings when I close my eyes to travel back to the times when we fought with friends over imli ( tamarind) and Kachche Aam (Raw Mangoes), and the way the breeze felt against our skin on the wooden swing made by jugaad
The bicycle races we did, and the way the soil smelled when we watered the plants, and how the 45 degree centigrade heat made us sweat as we ran across aimlessly, and how the hand pump water felt after that,and how we were allowed a glass of cold water each from Ice box ( no refrigerator then)…still no other water tastes as good ,not even the best RO one, and that aroma of cooking that emanated from Mom s kitchen all the time. It was paradise which I am still struggling to find one more time. Materially it was all so modest but emotionally our cup was always brimming.
Then there were these festival times especially Holi and Diwali and for both we would prepare for months. How to make the most pakka ( strong ) color and how not to let anyone escape our colors. On Diwali we would climb the roofs through temporary bamboo ladders and painstakingly stick candles throughout the roof and boundary walls one day in advance. After Diwali we would climb again to collect the wax.
Crackers were a must and the yummy food!! Our freinds joined irrespective of their religions infact we did not know religious identities then. Also the two festivals meant new clothes….yes back then new clothes happened on festivals and birthdays only. They were our prized possessions. And the pleasure they gave us……..unbelievable.
In Rae Bareilly we went to a convent school and the fondest memories I have are those of the annual day. We participated in three legged race,the spoon and lemon race and needle & thread race , fancy dress and boys got a chance at boxing.
The prizes…. some of which I still have included scented erasers, books like snow white, Thumblina and Cinderella. But our convent story ended abruptly when my father got annoyed with the school management.
Since Rae Bareilly had no the other convent we started going to a pathshaala kind of school where we sat on floor. We greatly enjoyed it as it gave us a change to go to school in a covered rickshaw with other kids. And this school had a canteen too where in we loved to buy pipe fryums and boiled peas.Only thing we forgot any English we knew………..a sin in todays world!!!
Around this time we got a brand new baby brother and life was so much fun……..we fussed over him to distraction and our Mom allowed us to take care of him which made us delirious with delight.
Life was happy and carefree (if you discount the homework which we did not do half the time) Meanwhile my Father got transferred to Lucknow …….the capital of Uttar Pradesh . This was the first time we were living in a big city and boy were we charmed!! It was such a cultural place with beautiful language and ways of life that I fell in love with the place…an affair which still continues. The history , the food, the sheer finesse of the people , it enticed me. And it was here that I discovered my love for words and lyrics and gazals and poetry and meetha paan( Beetle leaf). For the first time we lived in a first floor house which I initially enjoyed a lot but not for very long.
Another thing happened in Lucknow we started going to convent once again, I was in class seven by now and could not speak in two straight sentences in English so I mostly kept quiet in school. It took me almost a year to get going with English ( no tuition for that was a four letter word back then … but reading was what saw me through)
Lucknow made me a foodie. And the food tasted so great also because here in this lovely city of Nawabs I made long lasting friendships lots of whom thrive even to this day. These were friends with whom you could be totally yourself and the laughter and giggles never ended. Somehow the small town middle class people of that era laughed a lot. And it was not the muted sophisticated designer laughter but the unbridled wild contagious kind of thing. And as it progressed all would move from giggles to laughter to tears to rolling on floor to holding our stomachs in pain in that order still unable to control the tsunami of laughter. I clearly remember what happened one day long long years ago. It was my youngest brother’s birthday and as usual the party was at home with mostly home food and golgappas. So there were some grapes too and suddenly carried away with all the party fun my other brother started a game wherein we had to catch grapes in our mouth while he threw them up in the air. It started nicely but somewhere it went wild and soon we kids were shooting at each other with grapes and then golgappas. And each hit or miss created more and more crazy wild laughter , soon all were on floor totally unable to control the hysterical laughter attack. My mom rushed I think to scold us but seeing the state she too collapsed in laughter. I still burst into laughter at the memory. Truly it was all so magical.
Now studies were becoming a serious affair and somehow we simply knew that to get anywhere in life we needed to excel at studies. Which we did despite changing dozens of schools of all varieties due to transfers. We practically gave up all our social life to take competitive exams like CAT IIT and IAS. It was fairly common in those days to give up all interests for a year or two to crack the competitions and we really did not mind it. All middle class small town service class background kids were extremely motivated to make something of our lives through education, we knew no other way. So the conversations with friends shifted from Hazratganj and newly discovered Pizza to IIT IIM AIIMS IAS and so on. The bookstores like Universal and Oxford became our pilgrim spots.
All the hard work paid off I got through MBA and then the IAS examination and life became “secure” so to say. And security was what all of us aspired for back then. Soon I got the taste of a job life away from home and what really surprised me was the number of people who were not so happy with themselves or their lives. From the small town low exposure background I had come from I felt people were mostly happy. Since I had taken the civil services exam with Psychology I started getting drawn to the study of happiness and positive psychology. Studied at places like Pheonix University and Berkeley to understand this emotion. And over my 23 years civil services career it greatly fascinated me to learn how to of happiness. So I studied and studied and one fine day I realised that it had become my passion to device simple activities and exercises, based on scientific research and my own experiences, which enhanced happiness and eventually lead to a more satisfying life experience. I want to share the happy attitudes, the resilience and the ability to rise from any situation which I got from my life situation and childhood to all. And this made me do the unthinkable for a middle class background girl. I quit my Civil Services career YES I DID , the first ever move in life which was not as per expectations, predictable or SECURE.!!! Saari Zindagi itni tameez se jee hai maine ki ye to kisi ne socha na tha ki main karungi. ( Whole life I have been so damned good that nobody expected it) And I am Loving it.
Now I am a full time life & happiness coach, thought transformer, pshychology manager , speaker, mentor and motivational conversationist. So watch out for happiness tricks , humour , passion and all things bright and nice which Actually work. Share the journey of this ordinary girl as I know for sure that you share my story. And Yes my name is Anupma.
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