18 September 2012

Jammu 1982

In 1982 I was living in Patiala with my father in the Punjabi University campus. He was the head of the Political Science department there. At one time his counterparts in Jammu University wanted to associate with him for something. Whatever it was, it resulted in a couple of junkets for my kid brother and I to Jammu.

On the first one, we took a bus to Jammu, it was a long six hour nerve racking ride. By the time we disembarked in Jammu it was dark. We took an auto to the University and checked into the guest house. All we wanted to do then was to be shown where the beds were and crash out. It was January and very cold.

In the morning I stepped out onto the little balcony attached to our room. It did not have a very good view, but it was nice to sit in the sun and sip some tea. After a while I went for a long walk to take a look at the city. The University had just shifted its campus to a new spot, so it had the look of a work-in-progress with the gardens and paths still under construction.

I walked out of the campus, went up the road until I reached the main road, and walked over the Tawi bridge. The level of the river was very low, non-existent one might say. The river bed was dry and filled with pebbles. A thin stream ran through the middle of the river bed, the only sign of the mighty Tawi.

At the end of the bridge I was rewarded by the sight of a magazine and newspaper vendor. I hopped over and bought a couple of newspapers and magazines. I walked on a bit and as it is in small towns, found myself covering almost all of the main part of the town in one walk. Oh I love such places!

It was extremely scenic with beautiful hills dotting the landscape. It was a town quite like the city I was to live in later, Chandigarh. Just as Chandigarh sits pretty on the foothills of the Shivaliks, Jammu sits prettily in the foothills of Pir Panjal. But that is where the similarity ends. Chandigarh is a modern, planned city, and Jammu is an ancient town.

Jammu is dotted all over with temples big and small. This, and the fact that is the gateway to one of the major shrines of India, Vaishno Devi, provides a lot of tourist footfalls to the place. However, apart from the plethora of temples, Jammu is a quaint little town, with suburbs with names like Talab Tillo, Nardani, Trikuta Nagar.

The city itself is a place one feels nice hanging about in. My first sojourn to Jammu was in the cold weather. But we returned a few months later, when it was warmer. This time a friend of mine had also come along. We went to every temple we could spot, and Jammu is dotted with temples. We went to Raghunath temple that is in the middle of the city.

It was a lovely temple dedicated to several deities. We had to walk through a typical small town market to reach it. There were grocery shops where the shopkeeper sits at the entrance of his shop. The buyers hover near the entrance and ask for things they want. There is no walking inside and looking at things on your own. Believe me, you save a lot of money this way, because you are not tempted to pick up things you don't want.

Then there were the Novelty stores that are another feature of small towns. Cosmetics, artificial jewelery, perfumes, bags and wallets, bangles, ribbons are lined in attractive mirror backed glass cases. Such shops always remind me of Prakash Novelty Store in Jamnagar whose owner was a handsome young man with dimples. He looked faintly like Joy Mukherjee. My friends and I could like him, but not love him because he was a lowly shopkeeper and we were educated princesses.

In those days mini buses were the preferred mode of transport, it seemed to us. These half-buses were often filled to capacity, though not packed as closely as the mini buses of Delhi tended to be. My friend and I took rides on these buses just for the fun of it. I liked the sound of the name Talab Tillo, and we went there just to see what it looked like. It was a typical suburb full of houses. We hung around for bit and returned back to our comfort zone, the Tawi bridge.

My friend was a devout sort and it was her wish to go to Mata Vaishno Devi. We asked around and tried to get help in getting there. It was the time of Navratri where the rush for Devi Darshan is at its peak. Every one we talked to advised us against going there. This was much before the temple and its approach was renovated by Jagmohan, later to be the Governor of J&K, and the locals were very apprehensive about letting two young girls and little boy loose on their own during peak time on a rough road to the shrine.

I remember going down to the Tawi river, a thin stream, and stepping carefully among large stones to get there. It did not occur to us to go to Bagh-e-Bahu a beautiful garden a little way off. We were content to see the beautiful lights of the garden from a distance.

We even spotted Kashmiris there. We had read about fair faced apple cheeked Kashmiris and it was wonderous to look upon them. Their cheeks are red because of the cold weather they live in, but it does look striking. The local shopkeepers, alas, seemed to look upon them as simpletons.

All these years later, I still think of Jammu as a town I could live in, and have always wanted to re-visit. I hope I do get to see it again. Maybe even compare how much it has changed now, after all these years.


  1. Hmmm... Nostalgia!
    I have never been to Jammu, but you took me there!

    Loved: "My friends and I could like him, but not love him because he was a lowly shopkeeper and we were educated princesses."

  2. Ditto here! Never been to Jammu but it's one of those places I've always wanted to visit. And reading your memories of the place had me walking down those roads myself.
    I miss those carefree days, the simple joys of just wandering around.

  3. Enjoyed this, Ava. Laughed out at;

    > My friends and I could like him, but not love him because he was a lowly shopkeeper and we were educated princesses.

    ...but sobered down when I read about the shopkeepers there thinking that Kashmiris were simpletons. It came back full circle ;-)

    This takes me down nostalgia lane too. Jammu was always the town/station where we got off the Jammu Tawi Express to take the bus for a long winding nausceous (for me)journey to Srinagar to my maasi and cousins. I can feel my dizziness even while writing.

    If Jammu is still as described (which is not possible) I would love to visit it.

  4. Thanks Harvey, Pacifist, Archu,

    I have to keep writing about those days lest I forget :) Budhapa and all that :)

    Oh Pacifist, you get nauseous on uphill journeys? Me too. I have to stock up on avomine and hope for the best.

  5. Loved this nostalgic post!!!

    After visiting Himachal I keep telling my hubby that i wishe we had so much that we cud buy a holiday home at Manali or anywhere nearby...may be one day!

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. I love such nostalgia bhara hua stories, very well written, I felt you were sitting across me and telling me everything.

  8. Smita: Tathastu! Jaldi ghar banao aur kabhi kabhi chabi share kar lena hamse bhi :)

    Shilpi: Such a sweet comment. Thanks dear!

  9. Just discovered all your blogs, Ava di! Will surely keep visiting :-)

  10. Giribala,

    Thanks dear!

    We bloggers are so attn starved :)

    Do keep visiting.

  11. I've never been to Jammu, but wud love to visit it


  12. Wow!! We have lived in some common towns... Chandigarh and Jammu.
    Loved this post of yours... reminded me of the wonderful times we have had at Jammu. We stayed there from 2008 to 2010.
    After having lived in Mumbai for 8 yrs and Lucknow and Jaipur, Jammu was such a small town for us, but we simply loved it. I liked shopping in the Raghunath bazaar and its narrow by-lanes.
    And the Tawi river, that you mentioned, it's still the same, with no water and just the pebbles and stones! :)

  13. Shilpa,

    :) That is good to know.

    I could live in Jammu. I love these kind of towns.