Some of my earliest memories of childhood include the time spent in the creche. I was quite a social kid. When Amma thought of resuming work she was apprehensive if I would fit in a creche, in an atmosphere totally alien to me. Also the fact that I was only one and a half years old made her even the more jittery.
Lalita was probably the first friend I ever made. She was my next door neighbour. She was my play mate and she was also an only child to her parents. So we were absolute buddies. Lalitha was 3 years older to me and she used to go to a creche (yea both her parents worked too). One day Amma decided to leave me at Lalitha's creche for a few hours to see if I adjusted to the environment and one day promptly dropped me off to the creche. It was there I first met MEENA MAMI....
I loved the atmosphere there. I was quite extroverted and loved interacting with other kids. The fact that I could spend even more time with Lalitha thrilled me to bits. I had a gala time at Meena Mami's place and Amma then decided to go ahead and resumed working. Meena Mami was a superb lady. Very very affectionate, she took great pains to see I didn't miss Amma and Appa. Apart from Lalita, there was another guy too.....BABLU. Bablu was the oldest amongst the three. I was the youngest among the lot and was prohibited from going out at random. Lalita and Bablu enjoyed all the freedom. But they made it a point to spend a lot of time with me and if possible tag me along when they played. In order to prevent me from runing away, mami had put up a 'katta' (especially for me) on the door which prevented me from going outside. However Mami's house was on the ground floor, so I used to stand by the katta all the time seeing people come and go (which was my favourite passtime) and also watch Lalita and Bablu play.
Meena Mami's house was a 10 minute walk from my place. I used to relegiously wake up every mornings without fail and like a "Chamathu" kid (...as amma says now) used to dress up soon and be ready to go to Meena Mami's place. Its a wonder how I used to get up without fuss early in the mornings. This is a favourite topic of reminiscence for Amma and Appa as they often look back at the good old days when I used to be a total opposite of a sloth that I am now.
Meena Mami used to take care of me in a wonderful manner for this was not a job for her. She started a creche out of pure love for children. Meena Mami did not have kids. This creche was an outcome of her love for kids and the sad fact that she didn't have any. She loved having us around so much so that she refused to take in any more children because she wanted to shower her undivided attention on us. She thought that more children would mean more responsibilities and she wanted no compromise.
Lalita, Bablu and Meena Mami always played the game of Joining the dots. I used to call it the dot-dot game. Since I was very much a kid (2-2.5 yrs old) I never could comprehend the game properly. They used to play the game relegiously while I watched them play with a hope that I would one day be allowed to play. It used to be fun.....loads of fun!
I was extremely fond of Bablu. He was like an elder brother I never had. After a year of me joining the creche, Bablu's parents bought a house in Borivli and they shifted.....and that was the last I heard of Bablu. Amma says I missed Bablu a lot. I used to often regard every Anna I used to see as Bablu. Recently when I went to my Attai's place, my cousin introduced me to her neighbour and asked me if I remembered him. I was puzzled and shook my head. My cousin started laughing and told me," Well..he was your Bangalore Bablu." And then they told me how as a kid I refused to address him as Shyam (his real name) and only addressed him as Bablu much to the amusement of everybody.
Shortly after Bablu left, Lalita also left the creche owing to her father's transfer to Bhuvaneshwar. Now I was left alone. It used to be weird in the absense of Lalita and Bablu. But even I didn't stay there for long. Meena Mami's husband used to constantly fall ill. After sometime his illness became serious and Meena Mami could no longer take good care of me because of her increasing responsibilities towards her husband. Therefore I had to change my creche. We kept in touch with Meena Mami and used to visit her often during weekends. After sometime though, the visits lessened and we were almost out of touch. Few years later, Meena Mami's husband died and Meena Mami left for Noida to stay with her niece.
After many years, Meena Mami came to visit me when i was in my 10th Standard. I was thrilled as it was a complete surprise. I spoke to her for a long time. She told me how she met all the three of us when we were in 10th standard and she was thrilled about the fact that she could meet me too. This time I made sure I took her address and promised to write and call her regularly. I remember how she called me immediately on receiving my Diwali card and was totally overcome by emotion. Due to my boards, I couldn't be in touch with her for long. Later I sent her a letter, but I got no reply. I found it strange and so I tried calling her only to find that I couldn't get through her. I was back to square one.
There are some people whom you meet in life who despite their brief presence leave behind foot prints which are etched forever. Meena Mami was one among them. She was special to me, almost like my second mom. I was very attached to her. I sometimes feel helpless as I simply don't have a clue where she is. I have been to many creches but I met none like her. I sometimes wonder where Bablu is.......I have no clue about him either. I hate myself for being so callous in keeping touch with Meena Mami. I can be very lazy at times and it is an extremely irritating habit that I posess. Sometimes out of sheer lethargy if not anything else, other things asume prime importance and we forget to be in touch with people we have known for ages. One is just pre-occupied with other things (that's no excuse) that we forget to call up just to say a simple hello or send a mail. Fortunately I am still in touch with Lalita and we both still harbour hopes of meeting Meena Mami and Bablu one day. I hope to see you Mami....one day I sure will ...:)
P.S. I have her address in Delhi, presumably old one I think. Also have her phone number which doesn't work at all. Would I be able to trace her?