I have spent almost half of my life in Jammu right from the very birth, the reason being the durbar move. My late father who served in various capacities in the state government had to move in winter to Jammu. The recollection of the most of the events of those early days has gone blank with my fading memory but there are certain memories of my early days and recent times which I vividly recall and cherish. I am sharing these with my friends in Jammu!
Sweet Memories of Jammu
I am concluding this series on reminisces of Jammu with some sweet memories, past and recent, which I always cherish. There are many lingering memories from the childhood. Such as eating “Malai Baraf”; visiting Bagh-e-Bahu during the Mela; flying Kites over the Kothas: watching the morning English movie shows in Hari-Talkie on Sundays; and my adventurous forays with school mates of Gass Mandi Primary School and the Hari Singh High School. Even though these memories are sketchy and fast fading away, yet they excite a feeling of deep nostalgia.
Among the recent memories, the tastes of certain products not only linger on but I have made it a point to taste these again and again with the help of my local friends. These include the sweetest corn flour of Loran in the form of Sattu and Rotis, the roast desi chicken, and tasty curds of Sain Rashid in Rajouri, the cheese of Nandini, the sweets of Pahalwan di Hatti, the crisp Kachoris of Jai Hind bakery, and so on. Sometimes while lying in bed, I brood about those bygone good old days. Everything was simple and innocent. Things have changed but I retain the good memories as these are something to live by.
A doctor friend recently asked me how I remember so many events vividly. He wanted to know whether I was keeping a diary or had kept some notes, especially of the journeys which I have been describing in some detail. He was surprised when I told him that everything was recorded in my head. I was writing these episodes from my memory. The reason for remembering these events clearly was because of association of these memories with some incidents which get recorded in one’s memory and are difficult to erase. Apart from the memory of these distant happenings, the most refreshing memories are of the recent events. The farewell accorded to me by the officers and staff of the Jammu Tourism was quite memorable. They gave me an interesting present. A nice table lamp in the form of a globe with a lovely lamp shade over it. The lamp is fitted with some sensors. Once you touch it, it lights up. If you touch it again, it brightens up. Another touch makes it still brighter and the final (fourth) touch makes it go off. An interesting and a meaningful present depicting the cycle of life! After retirement I have again been coming here to spend winter in the more salubrious climate of Jammu. We have had umpteen invitations to spend winter in many foreign locations with friends as well as relatives scattered all over the globe but Jammu is Jammu! Something unique for us. A virtual second home! During my recent stay I have again been meeting my colleagues and the staff from Jammu Tourism. They have given me the same treatment as they used to give me when I was heading the department. Their love and devotion is the same as they used to give me when I was in service. This is very rare. Usually people do not bother so much about the retired persons. I do not seem to have retired from active service for the Tourism Officers and staff of the Directorate of Tourism, Jammu! They not only respect me but still come to me for guidance and help. The same holds good for our family acquaintances, the kin of my father’s friends and all other persons with whom we have had relations for last half century or so. Again they visit us as soon as we arrive in Jammu. The shop-keepers, the barber, the lab technicians, the care takers of earlier houses where we stayed, and so on. They are always waiting our arrival even though we have no regular dealings with them. It is just out of love for us and the old memories of the good times we have had together. In spite of the regional problems of last year, there is no difference in their attitude.
All these memories keep us tied to Jammu. However, the farewell given to me by the citizens of Katra on retirement is the most memorable event. I had repeated phone calls from my friends that I must visit them in Katra before retiring but could not do so due to a busy schedule in Srinagar. However, just a few days after my retirement I visited Katra on the invitation of the local citizens. Everyone came to meet me. The travel agents, the hoteliers, and so on. A dinner was hosted by the local Citizen’s Committee in one of the hotels. Almost all the prominent citizens apart from hoteliers and travel agents were present. Many speeches were made praising my role in helping the promotion of pilgrim tourism especially to Shiv Khori which Parvez Dewan, the Commissioner Tourism, and I had worked hard to project to provide an additional destination for the Mata Vaishnov Devi yatris. We had also helped in the dispersal of Yatris to Patni Top and even to Kashmir, thereby, increasing their stay in Katra. They were grateful for our role. In the end I was honoured with a pashmina shawl. It was very touching and moving scene for me and I will always remember it as the sweetest memory of Jammu!