In May 1949 I was just whiling away my time having appeared for my exams in Inter Science, when my friend Ila called asking me whether I would like to join her and some other common friends on a trip to Mount Abu for about two weeks.
Her distant cousin, Vastupal, was going to host us. I had got to know Vastupal only a few months earlier and since we had gelled from day one, I readily accepted the invite.
On the appointed day, we set off by train for Ahmedabad. Others to join Ila and me were, Girish and Malatiben….both of them Ila’s cousins, Vipin,who ,was to marry Ila later, and Nandu. Ila’s cousins I knew but Vipin and Nandu were new acquaintances.
In Ahmedabad, we stayed in Vastupal’s palatial bungalow, situated in the posh locality of Shahibag, the estate spread over a few acres. Apart from the many beautiful trees and shrubs, there was a huge aviary in the garden, with many different species of birds flitting about.
Vastupal, with that ever present smile on his face and sweet mannerisms, was the darling of all, especially his aunt, who was the matriarch of the family. Barring Malatiben, who was perhaps about 21 then, none of us was out of our teens.
We then set out for Mount Abu, about six to seven hours drive, with Vastupal as our Boss
Situated in the Aravalli range of mountains, at an average altitude of about 4000 feet, Abu was a very pleasant hill station, its central attraction being Nakhi Lake. There were many other beautiful places too, within trekking distance. Then of course there were the Delwada temples, sheer beauty carved in marble, built some six centuries before one even heard of Taj Mahal.
Vastupal had planned everything very meticulously. He had sent a retinue of servants, cooks et al to Mount Abu before we reached there, so by the time we arrived, lunch was ready to be served. Vastupal, a very kind and unassuming person, was well respected by his staff too.
Days passed quickly. There never was an idle moment. One evening, we spotted Jyotindra Dave, the most famous Gujarati humor writer ever, sitting on the parapet wall of Nakhi Lake with his family. Promptly, Nandu, went over to him and invited him for high tea, an invitation he readily accepted. The next day, we were privy to a few hours of stomach splitting laughter, thanks to the sheer genius of Jyotindra Dave.
One day, Vastupal wanted to eat eggs. Now, everyone in his family was a strict vegetarian and so also were the rest of us. As an exception, I did not mind eggs occasionally. So, the two cannibals(!) in the pack set off to savor some egg dishes in a nearby hotel!
It was now time to say good bye to Mount Abu. On the last day, after dinner when we were just chatting, Vastupal sprang a surprise on us, saying: come on folks, we are going to Nakhi Lake for some boat ride.
Nakhi Lake? Boat ride at this late hour?
Well, off we went to Nakhi Lake.
And what do we find there?
General Vastupal had arranged for a large barge, mattresses, cushions and bolsters laid inside, a portable gramophone with a few dozen records, a couple of servants ready to serve fruits to Their Lordships! It was then that we realized that it was night of the full moon and this was the farewell party that he had arranged for us. He ordered the oarsmen to take the barge to the middle of the lake and set it adrift. Lying on the mattresses, savoring fruits,with the silhouette of Aravalli hills in the background, a full moon overhead and a cool breeze blowing, it w as no wonder that Malatiben, who could sing a bit, burst into a song. As if on a cue, everyone sat up and joined in the chorus.
We were woken up from the trance by the sound of the cock crowing, announcing the arrival of dawn! Heaven, which had felt compelled to join our party, beat a hasty retreat…….to its native place!
Holidays over, Lord Thakore returned to his humble dwelling in Bombay!
P.S. My long life has been a bane on me.
Vastupal died in his forties of heart ailments.
Ila died in her sleep on board an aircraft flying to U.S.A. The sad part being that she had specifically asked not to be woken up. This too was a couple of decades ago.
From left: Self, Viru, Ila, Malatiben