Born a Brahmin in 1930, education was always top priority for Vasudha Burde. Schooled in Mumbai’s King George High School, the now 87-year old Puneite tells her story giving us a glimpse into life in British-ruled India.
“Back when I was 10, my brother and his friends would fill school letter boxes with pebbles, ink and mud as a revolt against the government. But for the most part, I remember a life of peace. This was probably because of the glaring class distinction. My father’s job was building railways, which kept us safe. However, some of my classmates narrated tales of severe harassment.”
She remembers a life fraught with strict rules, restrictions and even government mandated day-light hours. “It is a stark contrast to how life is today,” says Vasudha explaining that watching the positive transition happen over the past 70 years has been exciting.
Girish Jadhavrao is 92 today, but he has strong memories of when he ran away from home to enlist in the British army. “I cleared round one but failed the medical test due to my eyesight back then. My father beat the living day-lights out of me when I returned home. A year later, my first job was an apprenticeship in the colliery.
“Earning 7 rupees a month, I made ends meet while my wife Girija sold dung balls laced with coal,” says the man marveling at the salaries of today. “My grandson began his first job in a bank earning 40,000 rupees last year. It would be quite a pretty penny back in the day,” he sighs with a toothy grin.
A spirited old man of 97, Surein Nangarle recalls his life as a working man during WWII. “I worked the night shift with ACC and we had frequent light-outs. I remember working with very little illumination indoors, while it was a strict black-out outdoors.
“The very mention of light-outs or the occasional power outage at home today has my family panic. The grandkids scream and rue that they can’t charge their many devices, when dining under the light of even a gas lamp was forbidden once,” he reminds us with a smile.
Krishnabai Kaikini is a proud grand-mom at 84 who shares her woes about frequent air-raid sirens in the 1940’s. “The city was in pitch darkness right from early evening. Eating out meant stumbling along in the dark looking for the Dhaba-man who lit a small lamp partly obscured beneath a stationary rickshaw. Spot the soft glow from afar and walk toward the wafting smell of hot chole puri to get your dinner!” says the woman who is a hard-core foodie.
“Today, you can just have it delivered home! What magic, there are phones that let you order food, products and even doctors at the click of a button,” she remarks, quite in awe of the joys of technology.
As our seniors explain what it was like growing up in pre-independent India; we must take a moment to be thankful for every little freedom that we’ve grown to take for granted.
Here’s to cherishing great freedom, with great responsibility!
#All views expressed in this column are those of the individual respondents and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to them.
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