Recently my mother’s sisters went to Benares, where they grew up in 1950s/60s.



In a collage in my house, I have a picture of the Uniyal family, of Benares, in the 1960s.

Now, around 50 years down the line, I saw this picture of my aunts in the same house and saw these in a new light.

In his book –Self Matters- Dr. Phil comes up with many interesting exercises, one of which is to write our defining moments between the age of 1 and 5. (and also of other age periods of one’s life)

Seeing the many recent pictures of the house New E-10 of BHU campus, where my grandfather –Ganesh Prasad Uniyal used to teach political science, made me remember my own time, when between the ages of 1 and 5, I first visited Benares in the early 1970s.

I have no living memory of my paternal grandfather but have a good living memory of my maternal grandfather-GPU.

Like me, my sons too have no living memory of their paternal grandfather, but I have tried to reconstruct many aspects of his life, and tell these to my sons, so that they will get a sense of who their grandfather was, what was the India in which he grew up and lived, and what were the defining features of life in that period.

In his book- Self Matters- Dr.Phil McGraw puts an end to the ‘everyone’s a victim’ culture and tells you that self-esteem is about possibilities, not problems. He unravels the sense of self through the Ten defining moments, seven critical choices and five pivotal persons in your life. I first tried to answer the exercises written in Self Matters around Ten years ago. In this interesting book- Dr. Phil walks one through many processes and also helps one reflect on these defining moments, critical choices, pivotal relations by asking the following four questions

As you reflect on these times, once again:

  • How do you feel now?
  • What emotions are you now having?
  • What are you telling yourself about these events today?
  • What power and self-determination, if any did you lose to this event if it was a negative event?

(If it was positive, what did you learn or gain?)

Over the past ten years, since I first did these exercises in Self Matters- I have looked at my own answers and revised them –shaped and stretched my own thinking in different ways. While those self-reflective journals are private, there are many lessons which one can learn if one tries to apply and answer the questions.

Benares –where my grandparents stayed, where their daughters grew up,  has been a pivotal relation which has helped define my sense of family-community-society in many interesting ways.


ON LEGACY                                                                       

As I saw the recent pictures of Benares, my aunts visiting after many decades, the school where they studied, the university campus, the Ghats of Benares, one of the seven holiest cities of Hinduism, a city associated with great poet-thinkers like Tulsidas, Kabir, Ravidas, I recalled my uncle (Dr.Ram Prasad Nawani) telling –

Kabir na hote-to Tulsidas na Hote..

if there had been no Kabir, there would have been no Tulsidas.

Earlier perpectives-Discussions in B Block-Palam-2015-August

Devraj bhai, Saraswati bua-ji and Mausa-ji discussing Hindi literature.

Yadi Kabir na hote-toh Tulsidas no Hote

In a series remembering and telling about my father to my sons, I had told of how, Benares had been a place where my father got a feel of the family in a different way, as his own mother had passed away when he was less than five years old. Many memories and associations with Benares came alive as I went through these pictures. Using the matrix of Dr.Phil made me explore and reflect more closely on the meanings of these associations.

My father –Prem Narain Bhatt- was born in Shimla-in 1939, and his mother had passed away in the early 1940s. After his marriage in 1967, he first time came to have a sense of the family –in a more integrated way- when he associated with the Uniyal family of BHU.

They say-Grandchildren are the future which you will never see physically.


Watching the pictures of the garden on the campus,  I wondered if some of the larger trees could have been planted by my maternal grandfather.


These associations made me see the following lines of Michael Ondaatje in a fresh light


A last chance for the clear history of the self

All our mothers and grandparents here

Our dismantled childhoods

In the buildings of the past.

Some great forty-day daydream

Before we bury the maps

(The Story-from the collection-Handwriting)


The life which is unexamined is not worth living


Over a period of time, one realizes the importance of the many stories, links,created through the photo-albums, collages and journals in our home library.

The links between the Shimla of the 1940s, Benares of the 1960s and Delhi of 1980s..and how these add and build into their different journeys and sense of self and family.


Posted in Diary | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

On Poems and jottings

“My poetry is a declaration of war, not an exordium to defeat.

It is not the defeated soldier’s drumbeat of despair, but the fighting warrior’s will to win.

It is not the despirited voice of dejection but the stirring shout of victory.”

Atal Bihari Vajpayee- Former Prime Minister of India.

Writing notes, letters, jottings are part of a family tradition of ours. Our family is originally from the Garhwal Himalayas, but have traveled to many parts of the world.

2017-3 Delhi

DELHI-Poem composed by my Mausa-ji- Professor Ram Prasad Nawani



mausa-ji poems sep 2017

MAUSA-JI- Professor Ram Prasad Nawani- writing his poems. These pen pictures on diverse topics ranging from Delhi through the ages, to railway journeys, to the aging process evoke many memories of the sounds and scents of India

Think Globally, act locally concept was well illustrated while reading a school gazette of my sons

When my sons would study in St.Edward’s college-Malta, I came across a weekly gazette of the school, which served as a point of reference for the many facets of school life from the primary, secondary, to senior years, with an interesting note by the headmaster, an interview with some of the non-teaching staff who kept the system running. There were special notes on visits by dignitaries, professionals, or school trips , exchange programs or live-in experiences in the school. This interesting school magazine introduced me to facets like the stories of Sister Violet Briffa, the school through the world War II period, the origins of the school building and the background

See this video of The Chapel of St Edward’s college interiors which is part of the bastion which date back to the times of the Knights of St John. In the walls are inscribed the names of old Edwardians who fell in the World War. There is an inscription in memory of Sister Violet Briffa who served in the college for 38 years.


GOZO CITADEL-Malta..many histories, musings, walks and used to be one of my “Thinking Places” when our family used to stay in Malta

Our family is originally from the Garhwal Himalayas of Uttarakhand.

This school gazette inspired me to keep a “Family Gazette” which is one of the forms of communication between immediate and (select) extended family in which we see some of the nitty gritties of life as it has evolved in the past decades, we being originally from the Garhwal Himalayas.


KARANPRAYAG-…Our souls are from these stones, we will return here, again and again, a veteran social activist told me, as we stood by the Pindar-Alaknanda confluence and discussed nuances of the character Karna-from Mahabharata

Karan Prayag-the meeting of Pindar and Alaknanda

Last November, when I was visiting a camp at Gauchar, I talked to a veteran who confided how his brother is the last family member living in his town-Nandprayag, and even he is not able to sustain only from the work of that area, and has to travel to district headquarters at Gopeshwar.  Most families of the hills, migrate  to the plains. There are many Garhwali families in Delhi region. Ours is one of them.

We have stayed in the Delhi region from the nineteen thirties, and four generations of our family have walked at Lodhi gardens, where my elder cousin brother still does Yoga every morning, on the lawns next to Bada Gumbad.


Yogendra Dobhal..Dear Guddu Bhai..Walkers of Lodhi…

The garden tombs of Delhi have been a hub where we have discussed and learnt many things


LODHI- See blog

The Humayun tomb is one of our favorite “Reading places”.

It is on the footsteps of Bada Gumbad-Lodhi gardens, that my Uncle (Mausa-ji) explained to me many intricacies of family, community. Now through a distance, he has been sending regular short poems in instalments, and with his permission, I am posting one of his poems, handwritten in his neat writing, about the different stages of Delhi, as he has seen and experienced it. When I used to stay in Delhi, I used to go with him for morning walks to Raj Ghat-Shantivana area, or for evening walks through the Lutyens Delhi region and explore different facets of the architecture of Delhi. Who was the architect of South Block (answer-Herbert Baker)

2017-3 Delhi


In lieu of is not out of laziness that I did not try to translate this poem, written in Devnagri script, but I hesitate as I am not skilful enough to bring out the essence in translation.


Other blogs-of interest –reflecting past perspective notes

2008- With the person who taught me to make notes-

My Mausa-ji-Professor Ram Prasad Nawani


2003-Palam Vihar


1999- Lodhi..walking with my Dadaji-Shri Kali Charan Bhatt,(my father’s Chacha-ji) he remembered coming here in 1940s

With K C Bhatt Oct 1999

4 generations of our family have walked Lodhi Gardens..This was in October 1999, with Dada ji of Agra



THE MANY FACETS OF DELHI-PURANA QUILA- Mayank doing Rolly Polly      See blog-2011-


Posted in Diary, Reading Journal | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Reading journals-On Characters


Asking questions, keeping files, making reading journals make the reading process more rich.

Let us look at some characters-brought to life by the director David Lean.


This summer we went into dissection of some characters. In this video, sitting in Naturalization zone, Hershey, near our house in Mississauga, we looked at the character Ronny Heaslop

In- A Passage to India- Ronny Heaslop-the City Magistrate-son of Mrs.Moore from her first marriage,  tries to fit-in. He is a parody of a colonial administrator, whose views are not his own, but cliches he picks up from his seniors.

We examine different facets of humanity, using literature as a framework to shape discussions.

The story brings out the prejudices of both sides of the racial-colonial divide, and characters like Dr.Aziz show many inconsistencies- at times becoming angry at Mr.Fielding-the College Principal and within a few minutes asking him to accompany him to the victory celebrations.

sahil papa discussion 2017 aziz fielding

Dr Aziz and Fielding-A Passage to India, based on EM Forster’s novel,directed by David Lean. Many interesting characters brought to life the many nuances of Colonialism and meeting of different civilizations


You are a fine doctor, Clipton, but you have some things to learn about the Army institution, Colonel Nicholson –the commander who helps the Japanese build the bridge explains why he is helping in build the bridge, which may be of military use to the Japanese

The war will  one day be over, and my men, will remember that they built this project as soldiers not slaves.

A discussion on how the military institution is built, led to many nuances on how the British and American armies collaborate and how the Major Shears is explained that the only option he has to get over his impersonation as a US Navy commander is to cooperate and go back to the jungle from which he had escaped.

PERSONAL NOTE..I first saw the movie-Bridge on the River Kwai-with my father in Pune in 1970s. A military doctor, who had served in North East India, he told me about the Kohima war memorial and INA in a more intimate direct way. Through these discussions -woven around the story of Kwai, I tried to connect Sahil-his grandson- to the ways of the army institution and his grandfather, whom he never say physically

DARK STAR SAFARI..Paul Theroux-July 2017

Rattray Marsh area-Port Credit: We read excerpts from Theroux’s -Dark Star Safari.  His overland journey through Africa has many rich insights. This year have read and discussed three of Theroux’s books- Great Railway Bazaar, Dark Star Safari and Deep South. Deep South is particularly interesting in the context of what is happening in the Southern US -the open resurgence of the KKK.

To see earlier perspectives click on the link Negro Journeys (2012-2015)

Posted in Reading Journal | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Flow and Happiness

In his book-Flow-Mihaly Ciskszentmihalyi writes- On Reading

The skills involved in reading include not only literacy but also the ability to translate words into images, to empathize with fictional characters, to recognize historical and cultural contexts, to anticipate turns of the plot, to criticize and evaluate the author’s style, and so on. In this broader sense, any capacity to manipulate symbolic information is a ‘skill’ such as the skill of the mathematician to shape quantitative relationships in his head, or the skill of the musician in combining musical notes.

This summer-2017-we went to some places – to get a feel of the smaller towns of Ontario and feel the rhythm of life there. Huntsville – Ontario and the Canoe-Lake at Algonquin brought us closer to the legend of Tom Thomson, who around a hundred years ago, drowned at Algonquin.


Click on images to see larger version



Keeping a reading journal adds a new dimension to Reading. Other dimensions are added by trying to ask questions and keeping a file. So, after the children returned from the Trip to Algonquin, I showed them the file in which I have kept the newspaper cuttings on Dr Tay- (Taylor Statten II)…(Side note-in that file, there are also cuttings of 2016 August – 100 th Birth Anniversary of Dom Mintoff-Malta, which I got after a long night discussion at Qawra,Malta on 5th -6th the Maltese remembered their first Prime Minister….keeping a file of such cuttings and notings adds great richness to life)


Posted in Canada 150 years | Leave a comment

Selfish ?

Paul Theroux, in his book –Dark Star Safari- recalled how he reacted to this remark-

“When I told Africans where I come from, and how slowly I had traveled, they said, “So you must be retired.”

“No,no, no” I said, over-reacting, because I despised the word and equated it with surrender. “I’m traveling,I’m working,” That wasn’t it, either, not business, not pleasure, not work, not retirement, but the process of life, how I chose to pass the time”

Page-209,Dark Star Safari.


On the occasion of Canada 150, there were many celebrations, fireworks, and retrospectives.

I attended three such occasions- Bradley Museum-50 years, the Missing chapters- talk and exhibition at the Art Gallery of Mississauga, and the Fireworks at Port Credit’s Memorial park.

(see links below)

But there are aspects of Canadian life, which do not go with the celebrations.

In following –Coming of Age- of Studs Terkel, in which he interviewed persons who were above 70 years, to get a feel of what society, life was in 20th century America, I went a bit deeper into the lives of two civic centre assistants now living in British Columbia,  who had come to Canada in their 50s, and now almost 20 years down the line are of the same age, which would qualify them to be in the group to be interviewed by Studs Terkel.


As I went with this friend of mine, through his rounds of the library and the adjoining YMCA , where he has a group of persons who have taken membership in the lounge like special area, and he told of his life in East Africa, where he was born and grew up, his family having migrated from Western India, more than a century ago, a flavor of Canadian life , not much talked about came alive.

“If it is about sacrifices and support, my parents too did the same, so why cannot they live with us,” his daughter-in-law, of Gujarati origin, her parents staying in a rented apartment in UK, a brother who is in UK, and barely able to take care of himself, leave aside taking care of his parents, said, setting the tone and tempo of the dynamics in the married life of this septuagenarian’s son, when she first became a member of this family.

“I should not be telling you this, but she even called in the police, when there were conflicts in the initial days of their marriage. Now I keep to the library, gym, and try to keep out of the ways of my son, who also has changed , from the initial days of his marriage, his center of gravity has shifted more towards his wife and child, rather than his parents.”

He sometimes tended to say that his son was selfish, at other times, he remembered the unconditional support and resources he poured into making the lives of both his sons, how they had migrated, the education his sons had received in UK, India and then Canada.

All this shifting, education, settling , giving them the base had taken many years, and resources, and then our friend, had wound up his business, and shifted to Canada for good.

So you have come for good?

This is a remark I hear many Canadian immigrants ask each other, the question underlining the uncertainty and tentativeness of this move, which  many professionals who migrate here in their 40s, 50s in search of a “better life” .

Wright Morris , pinpointed the dilemma of the sound byte of instant wisdom (On Whasapp)

“We’re in the world of communication more and more, though we’re in communication less and less.”


I have kept a Reading Journal for many years. This is a habit which enriches life in many interesting ways.

As I intended to stay in Canada for an extended period , I decided to join a Reading Group, a Book club of the Mississauga Library system, in the Courtney Park Library .

As part of that exercise, in next blog, will share some notes from that Reading Journal based on the discussions .

Apart from the books discussed, the members also made interesting remarks about ways of life in Canada. Through this Reading group, we discussed some facets of Canadian Life, like the legend of John Hornby and other interesting discussions

Click on photographs below to see larger versions


EXPLORING ASPECTS OF CANADIAN LIFE-ON OCCASION OF CANADA 150…THE CABIN OF JOHN HORNBY. The Explorer John Hornby became known as the “hermit of the north” for his efforts to live off the land with limited supplies..The Legend of John Hornby came alive while discussing the novel- Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay Source By Hayne at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,




SOME BOOKS REMEMBERED-2016-2017…some books discussed in Mississauga Library system.




As it is summer, I go to some of my thinking places and read there

RATTRAY MARSH-PORT CREDIT..A relatively more peaceful place to read



This introduced Port Credit area in different ways for me, as I sought to go into more peaceful areas, where normal picnickers will not venture much.




FIREWORKS AT CANADA 150- Memorial Park-Port Credit


Commencement- Glenforest-2017-






Posted in Canada 150 years, Everyday History | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Missing Chapters

Anne Lamott said of writing- You can do it the way you used to clear the dinner dishes when you were thirteen, or you can do it as a Japanese person would perform a tea ceremony, with a level of concentration and care in which you can lose yourself, and so in which you can find yourself

Family Camera-Missing Chapters

The Family Camera-Missing Chapters-at Art Gallery of Mississauga

The above words of Anne Lamott, came to mind, as Art historian and senior curator of ROM- Deepali Dewan, brought to life the stories behind the photographs in the Missing Chapters section of Family Camera Network, which have been put up in the Art Gallery of Mississauga. Her own piece published in ROM Magazine showing her around a year old, with a pet dog, in Delhi in early seventies tells many things about class, structure of society in the India of that period

A sister remembering her lost brother

Missing Chapters 1

Maurice-when she sees this photograph, she sees a boy who was misunderstood by students and teachers alike. This is one of the few photographs she has of her brother who tragically passed away in an accident in 2001

The school photograph is something which all of us are familiar with, but this being the photograph of a brother who is no more with her, a sister’s memory of the teenage angst and the way the family migrated from UK to Jamaica to Canada put things into a different perspective.

A Foster parent having to leave their child

What would have become of that foster child who my parents left behind, due to immigration

District 5, Saigon, Vietnam-Mid seventies

Sculptural installations

After the fall of Saigon, in the mid seventies many Vietnamese destroyed photographs which could have incriminated them

Leaving Saigon and destroying photographs so that their family could not be incriminated, and now after many years, they return and reconstruct the memories of their families and lives. The sculptural installation of the many photographs with details about their lives written on the back side, added an interesting dimension


Vietnamese American Artist Dinh Q found these photographs taken between 1940s and 1980 on returning to Vietnam, and serve as a medium for the artist to understand his place in the complex cultural and political history of Vietnam


Family Camera-Vietnam-1970s

1970s-Vietnam-After fall of Saigon

How Memory is constructed

Family camera network 1

In her introduction -Dr. Deepali Dewan talked about her journey as an Art Historian, how she found a silence on one of the most common forms of photography- the Family Photographs.        Dr Dewan has written about history of Photography on India. In 2013 she curated a major exhibition at ROM- Raja Deen Dayal: Artist-Photographer in 19th-century India .

One participant made an interesting comment about how memory is constructed. He knows some persons intimately, who have portrayed a very different picture of their lives on their Facebook-archive.

Memories of Previous exhibitions

Rastafari- on Jamaica-50 years-2012-

Posted in Canada 150 years, photography | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Bradley Museum-50 years

The many manifestations and significance of having a Community museum were spoken about. Later, over the strawberry cake and lemonade , we went through some personal memories associated with this Museum.

Then we walked through the Anchorage-the house of Captain Skynner(1762-1846), where there is a Cup, given to him for his participation in the Napoleonic war in Malta. This brought back personal memories of our own association of staying two years in Malta, and the many walks we had in Valletta, Sliema, Gozo came alive.


John Skynner (1762-1846) was born in England in 1762 to a family steeped in the traditions of the Royal Navy as both his father and grandfather had been high ranking officers. Skynner immigrated to Upper Canada in 1839 and made his home in The Anchorage, a comfortable and stylish cottage on the shores of Lake Ontario. The property itself had belonged to the Jarvis family who had used the protected waters as a shipping point for goods to and from York (Toronto) and Niagara. John Skynner and his family moved into The Anchorage after his retirement from the Royal Navy. Skynner fought at the Battle of the Nile and later served in all of Admiral Nelson’s campaigns except for Nelson’s decisive victory over Napoleon, at Trafalgar. Captain Skynner was commanding his own ship, the Hirondelle, with the Mediterranean fleet at the time. 


Celebrating 50 years of Bradley Museum

On The Significance of the Community Museum- some interesting insights by Mayor Bonnie Crombie


Some personal memories of our family’s association with Malta









Posted in Canada 150 years | Tagged , , | Leave a comment