Most people when they grow up do not look back and they are often advised not to look back. But still there comes a stage in life when we have to look back, because very little is left up front. We ponder over our childhood, our youth, our playgrounds, our communities, our friends and much more. In the past when people retired from active life, they went to their villages, towns to give back a little bit of what they have earned to the place from where they grew up. This tendency is going in to oblivion and many people try to forget from where they began their life.
The place where I grew up is called Camp Sadar Bazaar. When my widowed mother at the age of 33 came as a displaced person from what became Pakistan was in confusion for about a year but then decided to go to the same place from where she with her husband and children had decided to move out forever. With three children she came back to Camp,Ahmedabad feeling that people who had known our family just a few years ago would give her a helping hand. She had lost everything and now the known people also appeared to be lost. However she decided to stay and began a new life in this Bazaar.
As one drives from SVP International Airport,Ahmedabad towards the city, this Sadar Bazaar falls on the right. Just at the entry there was a Bus Terminus from where I took Bus for my school on the first day and there after for many years.
Touching the Bus Terminus is this house, where I was born in the hot afternoon of May. This house was allotted to my Father who was then a Bada Babu in the MES. , (Military Engineering Services). Those were few days of "Jaho Jalali" as my mother said when four servants used to come to the house to help in cooking, cleaning, washing and all other chores. My Father fell sick a few years later and was a patient of High BP and Diabetes which was not well identified then and even had few cures. His sickness was one reason why my family went to their village. My father had to leave the job and thought of living on the land in Punjab (now in Pakistan)which would perhaps bring back health and some wealth. He was wrong because he died a few years later at the age of 39 and my mother was widow at the age of 33. My Grandfather who worked in Miran Shah (Pak-Afghan border) contributed to the home income besides the grains we got from the agriculture farm we had. There was no habit of reading on the wall in those days and the sudden partition in 1947 made us leave the house and hearth overnight.
Sadar Bazaar was and is part of the Ahmedabad Cantonment which was a blessing once but a blunder now. In those days Camp or Cantonment was wide open area, with beautiful colonial style bungalows, one of the biggest cricket field, surrounded by a Gymkhana and a huge cluster of neem, peepal Trees which gave everlasting shade. On the other end flowed the river Sabarmati giving us a chance for a swim in the summer vacations. The Bazaar area was peaceful with people of all hues,groups and vocation living without any feeling. There were Hindu Banias, Hindu Brahamins, Jains, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians living from one end of the Bazaar to the other. Children of all these communities used to play cricket together. Just a little away from the Bazaar was the well known Hanuman Temple which was frequented by the rich, not so rich and never rich people from all parts of Ahmedabad .
Dividing Camp Sadar Bazaar and the City was the area called Shahibagh which was the abode of the elite and the rich in those days. This was the place where Ambalal Sarabhai lived and who came for morning walk to our area with his imported car following him at snail's place, this was the place where Bejan Daruwalla spent his youth, and this was place where we had the Raj Bhavan before it was shifted to Gandhinagar in the late 1970s. Our school bus went through all these palatial bungalows giving us a dream thought that we have to grow up well to become partially rich if not fully. Sadar Bazaar area had few bungalows like the one above which was built by a Goan who could not live there due to some reasons. It is still there. There were Hindu and Marwari Banias who had made big houses but did not have a vision that if the property does not appreciate, it will not have occupants. .
My Bazaar has fallen in to bad days. There are huge houses, with large space but no one living there,the occupants moving out to newer but smaller houses. Those who leave do not come back. But for me, it is a part of the duty to visit this sacred place during our visit to India every year. When here, I forget the present and the future but live in the past talking to friends who are still there, visiting the haunts which are still existing. Here I respectfully remember the sacrifice of my Grandfather,my mother, my brothers and sister who helped to shape my life, my friends who played with me and supported me in thick and thin and still say hello once a while.