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Early Days


Pre-birth:

Our family lived in Bangalore as my dad worked with HMT. My elder brother Manu was the first child and he had a close friend Pankaj Bir of about his age that he played with. He was keen to have a brother who could play with him just like Pankaj - an in-house version of a friend, his own playmate (as he grew older that definition changed).

-1 month:
We were shifting to Bombay from Bangalore as Dad got a job with Air-India. So Mom was invited to so many farewell parties (they were quite popular there). Mom was at that stage that even if she was late to the party by a few minutes they would think she might have gone to the hospital for the delivery. But she got to attend all the see off parties only then I was born. In fact, the night that Mom went into labour, she was having a picnic with friends. So they say that I really enjoyed all the parties and meals even before I arrived.

D-Day (Delivery Day): 16 August, 1968:

Early Days
There is mystery but surly a purpose to the madness.
The first cries of mine were heard in the early morning hours of August in 1968 to the sounds of bells and celebrations of Gokulashtmi (Janmashtmi). What I didn't know then was how significant & eventful this was to be. As I grew up a bit older I would often say, "How lucky Lord Krishna is that he is born on the same day as me". I was extremely nath-khat (naughty) and doing all sorts of pranks all the time.

As I grew up, I used to tell my friends that I was born in HMT, Bangalore and they would all ask "In the factory?". Most didn't realize that HMT had a lovely campus, bungalows, houses & hospital. For the record it was the hospital. They also attribute my fondness for gadgets & tools to HMT (Hindustan Machine & Tools).

My elder brother Manu came along with my grand mother to see us at the hospital. Being in the South Manu used to use a lot of southern words/accents. As soon as he entered and came near the bed he exclaimed, "Ai yaai yoooo, yeh to bahut choota agaya. Mera saath cycle kaise chalaye ga?" (South Indian exclamation something like Ooops, this fellow is too small. How will he ride the cycle with me?). In his fanciful notion, he wanted a brother that was ready made and who could play and ride the cycle with him. Not something that was so small that he had to take care of him and watch over me simply lying around. Much to his disappointment, I was a clueless tinny bundle. He was kind of expecting a junior Manu to play with him. Slowly over a period of time he got used to the idea of having me around. Maybe even like me... so one day after Mom had finished feeding me, she wanted to put me down and Manu lovingly came up and wanted to help. He insisted that he will do the needful. So Mom relented and handed me over. She put me in his arms and BHAM I fell to the floor and was screaming my guts out. Both shocked & frustrated he exclaimed "Mein kya karoon. Aap hi to sara din isko dhood pilate rehte ho aur itna mota kar diya hai" (What can I do? You are the one that is feeding him milk all day and made him so fat. It's not my fault.) So that was his first attempt at handling me and pretty soon I would grow to something which was more than he could anyways handle. Soon he was to learn more and realize how to keep his distance since I was busy doing my business wetting, soiling & crying. Still there was a sense of wonder. But more than him the excitement and challenge even competition was felt by our pet dog Rainy. Rainy got that name since it wasn't very common at that time of the year to drizzle and it poured that day. Well, Rainy simply could not handle the attention, the entry of a new being and the fact that although I was smaller than him in size, I louder than him. My parents were constantly worried and alert. So even if they left me on the bed, they would nicely tuck the mosquito net that protected me from both the flying critters and Rainy. When no one was around, he would come to the bed, put his paws on the side and stare inside. If I cried that drew his attention even more.

First picture ever of baby Suchit. Take in Bombay.

20 days after I was born, Mom bundled me up along with my elder brother, our pet Rainy and the rest of our bags and made our trip to Mumbai. So that was my first flight trip ever. I think I was on my best behaviour then, a gurgle here and there but nothing serious. The flight was normal (with me around that was really a surprise, surprise). And the uneventful arrival into Mumbai passed off well and I'm happily settled here till date.

Deh daai (Give to me)
That was I guess my first few words. No please, no excuse me - direct: GIVE IT TO ME. And do it now. Yes, when I was hungry I would command that you give it to me right then. Not only that, I was in the habit (nasty?) of scratching while I drank. So that meant that while my mom was feeding me, she had to endure the constant scratching of her arms. As I grew and as my nails grew this got worse as my policy was - "I no scratch. I no drink". So poor mom had to let me do it.

Maalish (Massage)
This was fun time. I used to get a lot of massage done on me. I'm told I completely enjoyed it, and still do. I used to get an hour even two of massage done daily and that was so great! Very few feelings can come close to that.

I don't know who suggested, but I got the name "Suchit". I'm grateful to my parents amongst so many other things for my name "Suchit Nanda" which in sanskrit stands for "Su Chit" (Good soul/conscience) or looked at another way "Sat,Chit,Ananda" a central theme of the Vedas standing for "Truth, Consciousness, Bliss". And thus started my existence into the Bhogi to Yogi

1968 [5 months]:
Five months old and I was showing my true colours. So far, I would be made to lie down and I would stay that way. We were staying in this rather large bungalow and life was going on. Then one day, my mom went to answer the door bell and when she came, I was sitting up! That was a shock to her since I could not do that without help and it was way too early for a child (or so I'm told). She was convinced that there was someone in the house and with trepidation went looking for the intruder. But guess what? Out of eye sight and I was sitting up again. That's when it hit her that I had learnt to sit up and crawl. Trouble times ahead.

From that height and angle and new found freedom, life had a new meaning for me. Let the fun begin... for me at least.

Mom used to do a lot of stitching and tailoring for all members of the family and more. So she would be operating the sewing machine while I lay there on the bed or on the cot. As with all the manual sewing machines of the time, the thread used to get stuck in the spindle and one had to unscrew and do a number of elaborate steps to remove the parts, re-thread the mechanism and then put it back together. On one such time, she had this whole thing apart, and went to answer the door bell. When she came back, she found that the complete device was put back as it should be - screwed back into place and everything! She was dead sure this time that someone is there and went looking (probably with a hammer/stick/needle in hand for protection). Then it occurred - no matter how remote and unthinkable, that just maybe the culprit was right there in the room. So she dismantled the device and went out of the room and hide behind the door and peeped in. Sure enough, I'm told that I got up, went up to the sewing machine and put the whole contraption back together into place including deft use of the screwdriver. Boy oh boy! Watch out, now he can screw things up. :-) [pun intentional]

1968 [10 months]:
Somewhere between 5 and 10 mouths I graduated (just about) from crawling to walking. This new found freedom was fabulous! Now I could go were I wanted till I was dragged back (darn). So I used to move around, wobbling around discovering the nooks and corners of the home. I used to be a pretty noisy kid. As my mom says "if there was noise, it was a nuisance, but if there was silence, that was a bigger problem" since that meant now they did not know what prank I was up to. Around 10 months of age, such a silence descended upon the house. By then Karan Mama (Karan Seth: my favourite Mama and to whom I owe so much in my life) had come to stay with us. He was the one (God bless his soul) that raised the first panic. He looked and not finding me, raised the alarm but no one could locate me. So bear feet, at noon (scorching heat outside) he went out of the bungalow that we were living in and looked far down the road and could see a skirt wearing kid (that's another story... so bear with me) walking down the road chasing after 3 women walking on the road. That must be him, he thought! Bear feet he ran down the road and sure enough found me desperately walking down the road trying to catch up with the three women. In my tiny head, I was thinking Mom/Aunt/whoever and reaching for them. Mom's version is that I was chasing skirts/sarees even at that age! :-)

Had it not been for my Mama, I would have probably been lost. I owe it to him big time (and more later in my life).

So by now it was established that I loved walking (even if the direction was wrong), and early mornings used to be pretty chaotic (and later when Anish, my younger brother was born, even more so in the mornings) so my Mama use to take, me for a walk along with Rainy. We used to stay in a bungalow in Juhu and the beach was a good 3 Kms away. Even at that age, to build my muscles (I'm told) he used to make me walk with Rainy tagging along, that distance and back plus the fun/running that we had on the beach.

In the bungalow drive way we had our car parked. In the morning rush and hustle bustle, I would see that despite being stressed out, my mom used to be called (Dad was too busy getting dressed for office) to move the car out so that the sweeper could clean the drive-way. I observed this over and over and one day took things in my own hands. Without warning at the appointed hour, those sitting in the living room could see the car jerking and literally hopping out without a driver. With a little push from the car, even the main gate opened up and the car continued to hop out. The family members ran out and rushed to the car to find me sitting in the driving seat and firing the ignition over and over again causing the car to jerk its way out. Quite dangerous when you realize that the car was out on the road and in a short time it would have crossed the road and into a gutter/ditch on the other side. When scolded, I instead asked Mama how come he was so big and could not do the job! That was it, my Mama learnt how to drive a car.

By then, I had not learnt how to get off a high table. So as a sort of punishment at times I was put on the table, and left there to wonder what to do. As a grace I would be given a phone to play with. Later years, I would drag a chair and play with the real thing. Pick the phone and go "Haaaallloooo".

After a while the phone thing got boring. No body answered. My mom was always stressed out in the mornings. Like men of those times, Dad would be fairly careless and leave his things around, with mom running to locate them and making them available for him while he got ready. Then Manu had to be dressed and packed off for school and pressure of attending to milk-man, washer man, driver, etc. etc. was too much to handle. With all this chaos in the morning up to breakfast and till dad went to office, I was a added bundle of confusion-maker (the best mind you). Our land lady was an elderly Gujarati lady, simply called "Seethani" (land-lady). She was quite a terror and snoopy but for some reason she simply loved me. No matter what I did, it was not objected to. But if others did anything, all hell would break lose. So I pretty much had a free hand, but in the home. We lived in a bungalow, and had a building adjacent to us. On the second floor lived a lady simple called "Daadi" (Grandmother). A lovely lady who's face I don't remember, but of and on I have glimpses of her house because I was "royal visitor" there. In one word she was all "love". We had a small (probably 15 year old) servant called Ramu who's duty was to carry me as early in the morning as possible out of our house. First stop: my other home - Daadi's home. But there was a small problem; the folks above wanted me there first. Uncle had to go to office and he won't do that till "my Krishna Kanahiya" comes there. Another Gujarati family where I was given a royal treatment. So unless Daadi intercepted me (and then Ramu would have hard time), I was to be taken to the third floor and not be intercepted on the first two. After they played with me, I would be taken to Daadiji's home where, she would play with me, feed me, bath me (and what a way) and then put me to sleep. She would strip me and put me in the washbasin filled with nice warm water after which I would be powdered. I would by then be tired and so put to sleep under the fan. In the afternoon, she would stick her head out of the window and shout at my mom "Do you know where you kid is?" and mom would say he could not be in better hands. I roamed around and ordered her servants. I knew where the bread/jam and biscuits were kept and had what I liked as my own.

Since we lived on the ground floor in the bungalow, Daadi had her eye and ears trained on our house (her ownership). One day she told mom very apologetically, "Please don't mind, but my ears are always on your bedroom at night, why does the little one cry so much?" I used to feel hot and despite being dressed in a skirt-like dress and the ceiling fan at full blast, I wouldn't be able to sleep and disturbed everyone's sleep. So we bought our first A/C (air conditioner) for me (in later years we bought our first colour TV and many more things also due to me - demanding fellow).

For some strange reason, we always lived next to some film star or actress. Seems, dad negotiated with Shammi Kapoor (yah, now supposedly Internet guru) for our first A/C but since he wanted to only reduce the price by Rs. 400/- dad didn't go for it, and instead bough a new Voltas A/C for Rs. 5,250/=. We had this in great working condition for many years.


Starting as a very inquisitive and restless kid fringing on hyper active, life for me got off on a rather fascinating footing. The world around me was waiting to be discovered. There were so many things that I wanted to tear open to see what's inside only to put them back together (if I managed, that is) and so much of the unseen forces to understand. Electricity excited me. My tinny head count not comprehend how something which is unseen, colourless, shapeless could be so powerful. I had to find the driving force, the source & understanding of this energy. Yes, I found it the hard way by electrocuting myself a few times. Not too badly though. My favourite "toy" was a screwdriver, and I loved to poke it around (yup that's how I got it the first time). My parents were paranoid that not only will I hurt myself but others with me. One of the real stories is my Dad took me along when going for his hair cut. A while later, he could not see me in the mirror and in that half done state, came out of the shop looking for me. And what did he find? I was running on the street with a screw driver in hand with the shopkeeper chasing me. Little did I know that I have to pay for things. The funniest sight was to see this tinny tot running with a screwdriver in hand, being chased by a shopkeeper who in turn was being chased by my Dad with a half done hair cut! And that was not it. Next time he took me he kept better watch but I gave him a slip. So effective that when he found me later, I was carrying a couple of these huge balls and completely hidden behind them. Needless to add, my Dad took me back, and made me return all the balls which the shopkeeper had never missed. Had he seen, he would have found a few balls on their own, floating out of the shop on two tiny feet. And this list goes on...

The fun of it was to "know things". And once it was, there were more things to find out about. This world held so much excitement, so much to do that sleep was a nuisance to endure although I loved it too (as I could build my own dream world in there). Gadgets & machines were other things that just had to be understood. What makes a clock tick? How does the ink flow from a fountain pen? Why does soap clean and grease stick? Could we have a balloon or kite make us fly like in an airplane (Dad worked for Air India, so a plane was simpler to understand <g>)... the list was endless.

School was an arena with new players. While I can't think of anything where I destroyed or hurt anyone, I was full of ideas and when not executing one, I was planning the others. My report cards had remarks like "Skating in the class, and disturbing everyone", or "Found copying XXX subject in exam" (had a find a better way to beat the system, wireless was still far away)


Studies for me was an interruption between playing. A rather irritating break. So I would do whatever I could in my powers to reduce that time. That's one reason I found a liking for maths and science over languages that took so long to right (computer: cut-paste was not invented there). Oh write (see I told you prefer maths). I could always skip writing a few steps and jump ahead, as long as the answer was correct, the rest did not matter that much. For the same reason, my handwriting wasn't great. I was always in a hurry and as soon as I could, I went onto typing (on typewriter/computer) so that I did not have to slow down and write in a clear manner. I still find that I think faster than I speak/write and so over a period of time, I started what is now called multi-tasking. With my Gemini ascendant, I would do multiple tasks, even optimizing the important ones. More than a few times, I've had my Dad talking to me, while I was on the keyboard, as well as on the phone with different people. He being a Taurus just couldn't handle this! So I would have to send a non-maskable interrupt to the other tasks. So, rewind what he had said in my head, and absorb & respond.


1969:

November is Manu's birthday and I guess somewhere around end '68 he got a swanky new 3 wheeler cycle as a gift. Still under 3, I thought it was truly a lovely gift and I took to it much more than him. I think I must have used it far more than he ever did. I was so tinny in size that when I stood up on it, I had to look up as much as 150 degree to look ahead. With a craning neck, and tinny feet I was always busy playing. In my later years, I would be an early adopter to cycles, scooters, cars (started driving when under 13 years). Something about it fascinated me. I loved mobility.

Loved it so much in fact, that mom had a hard to giving me a bath. I was fairly healthy and very agile. Mom had to literally hold me with one arm and stick me up onto the bathroom wall and with the other hand, soap me. Slightest relaxation or distraction and I would be off, completely nude, dripping wet running across the house (and beyond if I had it my way). Mom, the servants and everyone in the home had to chase me, and drag me back into the shower. Mind you, I loved the water, the shower, and playing there. Just that standing and getting soaped day after day wasn't my idea of fun. I had to do something new and creative.

At the end of the day I was pretty exhausted and would fall asleep without a fuss. Mom tells me that even in my sleep if she woke me up, and made me drink my glass of milk, I would do it. Almost in my sleep. But it would be impossible to change me. No matter how hard she tried, I was always struggling. If she managed to remove my one leg from the pant and moved to the next, before she knew it the first would be back on! More often than not, they just had to give up.

I was always creating trouble even if I hadn't. Let me explain. One fine day, I told everyone I had eaten a glass marble (the one kids play with). To this date I don't know why I said it other than to see the reaction. Things got out of hand pretty soon as panic calls were made and it was sort of too late for me to withdraw my story so I went along. I was taken to our Doctor friend, Dr. Puri who advised an immediate X-ray which was done but showed up nothing. Officially they said its possible. And they didn't want to expose me to too much radiation. So now what? Well someone (no prize to guess who) had to sit and sift through the stools that were passed in the hope to find if it came out. Needless to add my plea that I was kidding didn't find any takers and only after a few days of senseless poking was the realization that I was kidding. Stinking joke I tell you!

June, 1970:
My Mom was carrying Anish (who was born in July) but even in that state, Mom, Manu & I made a trip to Hong Kong to visit her cousin brother Mr. Seth. My uncle was quite well off and used to run a flourishing business apart from a Gaylords Restaurant in Kowloon. I remember him as the rich uncle that was always talking business. Big in size and big time into fun. He was great company. Laughing and cracking jokes all the time although awfully busy when he came for his short/flying visits to our place.

Well, this was my first International trip (and I think also my Mom's). There was an excitement in the air. Dad used to work in Air-India (AI, as I've written before) and so we got to travel a fair bit in our lives but this was my first. A new world (literally) opened. New faces, new things to grab (and break?). New, new stuff. For one week I had a ball and my Mom a difficult time. First day she left me in the house with the maid. What she didn't realize was that I was petrified of her looks as she had the Asian Chinese looks. My cousin (Minoo - Mina Seth) came back from her school and was fast asleep and I was standing next to her bed the whole time crying away. So the next day I got to go out to the stores with my mom. Big mistake. A couple of minutes and I would be gone. And the chase/search would begin. If I was held near, my favourite pass time was to remove all the labels of the items. I would systematically zoom into the items that had a price sticker and nicely remove them until I was found and scolded. Mom being in the advance stage of pregnancy, and me doing all these pranks didn't help matters. Plus she wasn't sleeping well for the same reason. Well it was a new experience for us all.


July, 1970
Soon Anish was born 23rd July, 1970 and there was more fun, and now someone to share it with. In a sense I got an assistant although he was not the naughty kid (could anyone be?) but with me ended up doing a lot of things I guess he would have never otherwise done. When he could speak, he used to call me Uuchi (like Japanese Sushi as he could not say Su-chit) and people said he was like my tail. Always there right behind me. We had good times. Real good times.

Although I was very fond of him, and this feeling grew as we grew up, in the early days like all children, I too was jealous of him. I'm told in my school essay on family, I wrote that I would like to sleep with my mother by because of my younger brother who howls, I don't get to.

Mom used to breast feed us for long. In the first year itself, one evening, Anish was on his bed in the room and mom was getting ready in the other - already late for a function. Anish started to cry and his cries just got louder. Guess he was hungry and mom was late. Then suddenly, he stopped crying. Motherly instinct said something was wrong. In her half dressed state she went to his room only to find me on his cot stuffing a big piece of bread in his mom saying "Leh, tu bhookha hai, kha leh" (Take, you are hungry, so eat). And all this while, Anish was choking! Thank God, that mom came when she came. Seems I saw that he was hungry and went and got a piece of bread from the fridge and stuffed his mouth not realizing that this could choke and kill him!

1971

By now I was all of three years. I loved music, and loved the rhythm. Air India had an Executive Club on which property much later came the Centaur Hotel, Juhu. This was a lovely property, with coconut trees and right on the beach. We used to go there often to play (while Dad played lawn tennis) and swim in the sea. Air-India had organized a evening party. We had all gone there. Then Anish was hungry and mom found it a bit inconvenient to feed him there, so she came home, leaving Dad, Manu & me at the party. Hardly 10 minutes after she reached home, she got a call from her friend, "Do you know what your son is doing? Come right over.". Her heart sank. Now what this time? I know I was just three but have faint recollection of listening to the music and watching the band play. The music was real good and spontaneously felt like dancing, so I mustered up my will and went onto the stage and started to dance. Those who came late thought I was with the band! The crowd loved it, and soon a number of people came up front and started to dance - something completely unplanned. We all had a great time.

At this time, I also remember, there was this aunty that brought her daughter and put her right next to me and wanted to us to dance. She was completely out of step and it was just something I couldn't handle, I would go to the other end of the stage and she would come up, carry her and plop her right next to me... Gosh! Well everyone had so much fun, that people came up and started to "nazar utaroo" (a traditions way to rotate some money over the head, and give to the poor - and this is supposed to ward off evil spirits or something). And then quite spontaneously, a few uncles got together and gifted me a badminton racket as a gift. I loved it.

This was the year of the war with Pakistan and the black outs. I have flashing images when we had to put black paper on all the windows and put out all the lights so that Pak-planes would not be able to spot us easily. This was the only time that I was quite and scared. After this I don't think anything really scared me in life.

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