Hello ! Hello ! Hello !
Yes, I know I had disappeared for a while. But the thing with being in India is that your day is completely occupied. From arranging for the TV mechanic to arrive to fix the TV , to getting the gardener to do some planting in a garden where most things have happened accidentally, to making a trip to a nearby market for vegetables at the cheapest prices(with current vegetable prices its a wonder that I am buying vegetables at all !)- my day simply flies. Does this happen with you as well ? Or is it just I that is, perhaps, badly organized ?
So you see why I couldn’t write a post.
All this while I have had these nice pictures sitting in a folder, waiting to be put up! Pictures of an Indian aangan or courtyard-and activities that go on in it.
I have always loved courtyards in bungalows and traditional homes and the way in which they are the centres of activity- everyday activities as well as special ones like weddings.
The one in Ujjwala Agarwal’s home could not have been more perfect- both in appearance as well as in the way it is used. I had been to this lovely home a few times with my sister Uttora. It is a single storied bungalow located in a leafy area of Allahabad. Every time we visited we either sat in the courtyard itself-as we did for a Diwali party- or we sat, cosily chatting, in one of the verandahs facing the courtyard.
The interesting part was that, as Ujjwala sat with us, chatting or treating us to fabulous home made snacks, she had an eye on what was going on around the courtyard and gently kept calling out instructions once in a while. This, Ujjwala said, was the most important thing about a courtyard.
In homes where you have servants(there are fewer and fewer everyday, though) you need to be in a place from where you can supervise their activities-and courtyards were designed this way- an open area in the middle with verandahs and rooms built around.
Ujjwala’s husband’s family- is an interesting one. They own a well known publishing house, Kitab Mahal, that publishes books in Hindi. In 1938, her father-in-law, Srinivas Agarwal established this business on Zero Road (I have to find out why it is named that ! If you happen to know-do please inform me)in the old city of Allahabad .
Allahabad was,in the past, an important centre for book publishing with the famous Indian Press ( will write about their house soon), Leader press, Law Book Publishers, Kitab Mahal, etc, being established here. Delhi has replaced Allahabad now.
Ujjwala’s husband, Naresh Agarwal was 23 when his father died. Thereafter, his elder brother and he carried the business forward.
In 1957 Srinivas Agarwal bought the house they now live in. It was then already a hundred years old. It had been a club house built for the British. Over a period of time renovations were carried out by the Agarwal family to also include a courtyard. In India, the Agarwals are known for their business acumen and, the part I love, their pickle and snack making skills.
The morning of taking these pictures the aangan was a hub of activity. And my sister and I loved being a part of it !
Pickles, an essential part of Indian food and made to family recipes in homes,and Ujjwala’s are fabulous, had been put out in jars, including the traditional white and brown ceramic barni, to cook in the sun. Lemon, chilli and a sour Indian berry, very popular for pickling, karonda, were being sunned in preparation to pickling-
After marrying Naresh Agarwal- Ujjwala moved in, as is the norm in India, with her in-laws. Inspite of being traditional, she says, they were wonderful. In fact her mother-in-law, Suraj mukhi, was one of the most generous people Ujjwala has known. She would give away her jewellery, saris, utensils to anyone who needed them more than she. As a result very few of her personal effects remain with the family.
Coming back to the aangan, next to the pickles, papad (dried lentil/rice/potato thin biscuits-fried or grilled before serving),lentils and dried red chillies were being sunned-
On yet another verandah a servant was ironing clothes-
I loved this old model of an iron-
An elevated pedestal in most aangans houses a tulsi(sacred basil)plant. The tulsi plant is worshipped in India and its leaves and seeds, beautifully flavoured, are commonly used as a home remedy to treat coughs, colds and other ailments.
It was morning and Ujjwala, freshly bathed, in a crisp orange cotton sari, was beginning her day by worshipping her tulsi-
The tulsi draped with cloth and offered fresh flowers, water and light from an oil lamp-things simple, natural and traditional-the best way to be-
A niche in the pedestal houses the oil lamp-beautiful in its simplicity-
A closer look at the shrine-
Then she steps out to check her pickles-
I had to take a shot of this fabulous mango chutney-we had it later.It was delicious !
Then we sat on the part of the verandah from where Ujjwala presides over her household and had a most fabulous breakfast- and got to taste all those gorgeous pickles-
What a beautiful view we had of the aangan ! It was as if life had stood still. Activity was happening almost in slow motion in little sections of the same common area.
And we were watching it all from a distance, well seated and well fed. It was pure contentment !
Thank you, Ujjwala for letting us be a part of your routine . Thank you for sharing .
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Hope you have a good, relaxed weekend !