Saturday, June 10, 2006

Enjoying Shab-e-Malwa

A friend came over at 9:30 pm yesterday. Good he did so. We took some garden chairs and sat outside. We chatted about everything under the sun. Barring a few sms messages we were not disturbed. He left after 11 pm. "It is so pleasant that I do not feel like going," he said just before he left. I do not blame him. The Malwa plateau of Madhya Pradesh of which Indore is a part is famous for its cool evenings and nights. The Mughals called it Shab-e-Malwa (The nights of Malwa). Subah-e-Banaras, Shaam-e-Awadh, Shab-e-Malwa - The mornings of Benares, the evenings of Awadh and the nights of Malwa. Indian films have also celebrated Benares, Awadh and Malwa. I associate Benares with Satyajit Ray's Aparajito and Mani Kaul's Siddheshwari, Awadh with Ray's Shatranj Ke Khilari and the films of Muzzafar Ali especially Umrao Jaan. For Malwa I would recommend Kumar Shahani's Khayal Gatha parts of which had been shot in the deserted fort city of Mandu in Dhar district.

Even when the daytime temperatures in Malwa touch 45 celsius the evenings and nights would be in the 20 to 22 celsius range. Guests who come from Kerala, Mumbai, Pune and Delhi comment on these cool evenings and remember them with great joy when they reminisce about their trips. Perhaps that is why the British chose Mhow in Indore district as a cantonment and it has become the town which has three of the Indian Army's most prestigious training institutions. The British did choose some excellent places like Bangalore, Pune, Pachchmarhi and Mhow to set up their cantonments and training centres. Army Officers who come here on courses from distant corners of India always comment on the pleasant and mild weather of Malwa plateau. Perhaps that is why my father chose to settle here in 1980 after having spent 37 years in the Indian Army. He had joined in 1942 when the British were still ruling India and World War II was raging.

He had first come here in 1948 for a short course. He came again in 1968 for a four year stint. I was seven then. We had come from Delhi. I didn't know about Shab-e-Malwa then. But I still remember the coolness of the evenings. The sweetness of the mangoes. The smell of raat ki rani. The taste of jamun. Sitting on garden chairs on the lawns of bungalows built during the Raj. Going for walks at night on the Mall. Picnics at Beircha Lake on moonlit nights. The kulfi seller on his Lambretta scooter. He still goes around on one. Is it the same one? Must ask him. Will tell all of you out there what his answer is.


Post a Comment

<< Home