God Almighty has blessed me with the most wonderful family. By family, of course, I am speaking in the Indian context, which includes my late grandfather, my dear departed aunt and uncle (my mother's oldest sister and brother-in-law), my wonderful parents, the world's best sister, a most loving wife and two beautiful children. Each of them deserve special mention.
Our house at 71 Western Kutchery Road, Meerut, India is our permanent home. It also houses some curious things that remain part of my sweetest boyhood memories. This section also talks about some of them.
My parents have always believed in staying in touch with the extended family so I remember visits to and from grandparents, uncles and aunts and cousins (in India there are no great uncles and aunts - their children are not k-th cousin, n-times removed, they are your uncles and aunts and your cousins have to be treated the same as your siblings). The happiest ones were the visits to my aunt's (my mother's second sister) place in Asansol, what used to be a small town of immense importance because of its huge railway junction, the richness of its hinterland in mineral wealth and, consequently its industrial strength. There was a certain something in the air that you smelt shortly before you arrived in Asansol - most probably the smell of burning coals from the steam engines that huffed and puffed along the myriad branch and colliery lines that emanated from Asansol, than anything else - that I can associate with even today. I was the only boy in my mother's generation on that side of the family, and given the fact that my four cousins are all at least 13 years older than me, they took turns at spoiling rotten their baby brother. Only the youngest cousin and my sister (who is 7 years my senior), both of whom did not have anyone younger to boss around than me, would have a reproachful word. Anyway, between my adoring cousins and aunt and my uncle, who was the principal at the local railway school and spent almost all his time reading, Asansol has been a special place all my life, hence the link to Asansol on this page.
Much closer to home in Meerut, there was the house of my father's aunt that we visited on a regular basis. This grandmother, or Bouma, as my sister and I called her, lived with her two oldest daughters, the two older aunts and her oldest grandson and his family. Bouma was very affectionate to every one and was especially fond of my parents and by association, of my sister and I. Her three younger daughters, who lived away from her would also pay her extended visits with their respective kids during the summer vacations. Most of the kids were either the sharpest students in their respective classes or the best athletes in their own neighborhood and rarely failed to remind me that I was neither. Bouma's great-grandson who was only five years younger than me, however, although far more athletic than me and probably a better student than me too, almost worshipped me as a child, and often brought out better behavior, for example, than biting a cousin who was 9 years older than me who did not know any better than to insult me repeatedly for not being inclined to playing cricket. Bouma'r Bari, or Bouma's House, was therefore a place that has the taste of dark chocolate for me as a little boy.
Growing up, I traveled extensively with both my parents and my uncle and aunt. Three of these trips are especially worth mention.