Monday, June 3, 2013

Life - enough of it!

Life is the most precious endowment of mankind and man's dearest possession on earth.  It is a gift of nature.  "Life" can be viewed from two different perspectives.  The pessimistic and optimistic. When I attempted to search what great people quoted, I found only of the likes of: "Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale", wrote Shakespeare in King John;  "Life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating." said O.Henry in the Gift of Magi; "Don't try to live forever, you will not succeed." wrote GB Shaw;  "It is a misery to be born, a pain to live, a trouble to die." said St. Bernard.  All of which seem to be of the pessimistic nature.

When people sometimes ask, (when there is nothing else to ask) "how is life treating you?"  I find it very tricky to answer the truth!  Because the sort of life provided so graciously by our city/country administration first comes to mind.  I am tempted to answer "as a citizen, very badly."   After much pondering, I discover, negatives predominating positives.  So I asked myself whether living a citizen's life, I emphasize "citizen's life", is worth at all, in this present world?  And you can add "Indian conditions."  The resultant thoughts and the proposition that arose led me to this: "take leave from the world.  Enough of this citizen's life!"  So, if I ever, ever decide to take that leave and have enough time to leave behind a letter with reasons, that letter would probably run something like this:

I thank Mother Nature for having given me a life; my family for nurturing me physically and morally to the best of ability and resource.  I hold only myself responsible, because, true to someone's famous quote, I have felt that life has been a long headache in a noisy street and it has neither been a spectacle nor a feast, but a predicament.

Having seen the golden days of the 1960s and 70s, the decades that followed were simply not what a Mysorean dreamt or desired of and I have become incapable of facing vicious challenges as a common ctiizen.  I cannot do enough to compete or comprehend the intentions of the present-day people's chameleon-like attitudes.  My natural optimism was tested to its hilt and my crystal ball predicts that the city/country administration will do more harm but nothing to the welfare of the common man in the years to come.

I am convinced that truth, sincerity, honesty, charity and compassion are not beginning inside homes which are reflected conspicuously in public behaviour.  I am disgusted to watch from a distance, cheating, stealing, corruption, lie-telling, violence, cruelty, getting the better of everything.  Selfishness, both in words and deeds, is becoming too evident and rampant.  Peace is going to pieces.

I am fed up of paying undue taxes to the government - the breeding centre for corruption which has spread like parthenium (with its ability to freely reseed itself), from politics to the medical profession, to the judiciary, not even sparing education, sports, crematoria and of all places, places of worship!  I have no belief that this dirty evil can ever be rooted out.

I am afraid of falling sick and being hospitalized, swindled and left in the lurch with a living physical body and a drained out bank balance as I have lost all trust and faith in the so-called 'health-restorers' and 'life-savers'. Medical ethics have gone to dogs, or so it appears.

I am fed up of noticing headlines about crime and terrorism which keep appearing only on front-pages and not as a low importance item in the inner pages.  I am unhappy with the way criminals are left unpunished - bribery/political interference doing its job, while the honest are harassed.

I can no longer tolerate the way people look at somebody who follows the rules nor can I think of the day when law-makers themselves do not break the laws.

I dread the day when water, not gossip, becomes the cause of neighbours' everyday war.  I can no longer endure to inhale polluted air and I have no hope that the fast-deteriorating situation will be saved.  We get more air in our taps than water and plenty of load-shedding in our electrical wires - free.

I am sick of riding on our ill-maintained roads that are getting wider and wider and having to ride amidst ill-cultured motorists. I am anguished the way money and materialistic values are being glorified,  human value being nullified. My crystal ball neither has the faculty to foresee the police treating the politician as just another citizen nor politicians getting frightened of the police.

Animals are being brutally killed in captivity and in the wild, trees in the avenues and in the forests are being mercilessly chopped down, new diseases are cropping up, eco-balance is in jeopardy, pollution is let off carelessly into the sacred environment, prices are soaring, Mother Earth is drilled with holes to suck up water from the water table without taking any measures to recharge the table.

In fact, the so-called intelligent man is killing Nature and Nature will surely collect its toll in its own way and I am not prepared to pay this toll for no fault of mine!  Of course, there have been many amazing technological marvels emerging but I reckon it has been speeding too quickly for mankind to handle wisely.

Optimism helps only when things are in our hands, but when too many things are in others' hands controlled by wretched minds, I see the dead end.  My last wish: Let wisdom, honesty, sincerity, simplicity, compassion, peace, harmony and unselfishness prevail the human minds.

I will be gone where I belong - to Mother Earth - without a trace of the physical.  I am fully aware of the travails near and dear ones would face if traces are left!

"There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval." quoted  G.Santayana.  In this Kaliyuga, even if one wants to enjoy that interval, 'others' will try to prevent.  This common human citizen do not foresee tables to turn around and so 'goodbye' to the most precious endowment of mankind.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Let me share some of my most unforgettable memories of the Dasara Exhibition at Mysore during my childhood.
Whenever we used to fare badly in the annual exams, friends teased us "Come September" (a popular 1961 Hollywood movie). Meaning: failed candidates who took exams in September. Nobody liked to be at the receiving end of that. But September (sometimes early October) was a much-awaited month because it signaled the arrival of the magnificent Dasara. For us schoolboys, that meant a short vacation, a time to switch our modes to "festive" to be part of the Dasara grandeur, a time to plan a few visits to the famous Dasara exhibition and it was also the season for playing tops. It was a period when Mysore looked at its traditional and colourful best; Mysoreans, even better! The atmosphere was electric and the climate itself, salubrious.

"September" smoothly takes my memory vividly down the '1960s and early 1970s' lane. Though witnessing the grand Dasara procession (the adjective always went with that) was high priority, it was the Dasara exhibition that sustained the spirit for a couple of more months.

The Dasara Exhibition was first started under the royal patronage in the early twenties or thereabouts, at where the Fire Brigade in Saraswathipuram is housed, with an intention to promote art and culture in the city which was very rich and renown in these circles. After some years, it was shifted to the spacious building belonging to the Mysore Medical College (next to the Railway Offices), as its popularity rose by leaps and bounds. Those who have visited this venue (early 1930s to early 1970s - I was fortunate to have done so from the early 60s) will never forget that very special, addictive charm. It was an unforgettable spectacle.

The gateway and the exterior were by no means gaudy or too showy. But inside, it was Mysore's "Disneyland"! On entry, the visitors were greeted by the captivating sight of the majestic, cascading waterfall at some distance. The beauty of the venue itself fortified the entertainment value of the occasion.

The exhibition was the best chosen alternative for entertainment and relaxation, besides the cinema (or the Circus that went on opposite the Palace) for the 'Dasara guests', who almost as a rule and a tradition, stayed for many days (whether the hosts liked or not). Our group consisting of guests, elders and children would reach there by bus or by walk well before sun-down. The 'Tonga' was always another option.

The starting point, so to say, was from the govt. department stalls. Those blinking neon English letters in pleasing colours fascinated us. Further in, the "Ladies Section" was of particular interest because my grandmother displayed her unique handicrafts there. Ever since 1931, she had been doing so and seldom did her talents went unrewarded. The neatly filled up certificates (dating back to 1931), stands testimony to the sincerity and the enthusiasm of the organizers.

From Crafts in the family

(click on link to view full album)

Her crafts included the replica of the Clock Tower (1940s), a house named 'Gandhi Kuteer' (1950s), both made by tying Paddy grains together; pictures depicting the 'ganduberunda' (mythological bird) and a floral design using rice grains (made in 1935 in the same way) and some other smaller crafts. They were really her chef-de'aeuvre. She used to proudly display them even in later years just for the sake of it. These unique crafts are still treasured at home. Her culinary skills never failed to win prizes at the cooking section too. Muchore, Badami/halkova Obbattu were her specialties that pleased many a palate.

My mother too used to chip in with her talents and used to follow suit in the rangoli and crafts sections. One rangoli art, a beautiful portrait of His Highness Sri Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar drawn by someone still shows up in my mind's eye. It was in one of the spacious halls upstairs.

The Exhibition provided a beautifully balanced blend of shopping, entertainment, information and relaxation. The loud speakers (loud is a harsh word here!) carried pleasing music or the programmes that went on the stage. Intermittent announcements of missing children used to catch our attention - I think it was the voice of our local Amin Sayani - "Mike Chandru" who probably was beginning to make his career and an impression. During daytime, he would roam the roads in an auto rickshaw announcing that day's programme and the way we ran after it to collect the pamphlets was real fun.

In those days and beyond, Hygiene was an important subject in schools. No wonder, cleanliness was Mysore's trademark culture, which seems to have percolated down the clogged drains now. The exhibition premises was as clean as one can imagine in those plastic-free days. The sincere sweepers were always on the prowl, armed with special nail-ended sticks to haul up rubbish and deposit in their shoulder bags without bending down.

Cheap and simple toys were invariably bought. The descending plastic monkey (made using a cycle spoke and a spring that held the monkey), the water balloon (barely lasted our arrival back home) and hydrogen balloons (occasionally sold) are some of them. Who can forget the man making faces and selling moustaches and beards? The little tik-tok-sound-making metallic toy was sold for ten paise. Another expensive toy was a microscope for which I pestered my grandfather to buy for fifteen rupees. Embossing on plastic key-holder-rings had just made its arrival. My aunt got one made for me with my name on it. The last three are my cherished mementoes of that Dasara dreamland. But the Bison Brand books from Bhadravati Paper Mills were a must.

An unforgettable incident comes to mind. Three of us high-school friends from the neighbourhood decided to visit the exhibition - our first trip sans elders. My grandfather was to pick us back at around 9 p.m. We enjoyed our time and it was time to leave. As we came out, the clouds came down! It was a very heavy thunderstorm. Panicky, we ran and settled in one of the bus-shelters nearby. Power failed, darkness filled. Still there was no sign of my grandfather. We were all afraid. Then suddenly, in one of the many flashes of lightning, I could recognize him under the umbrella manouvering the soggy path in front of us. As if saved from a death-trap, I called him out. We heaved a big sigh of relief and returned home in one of the very few autorickshaws that plied our roads. It was still raining when Mysore woke up the next day. The following day's paper carried a headline: "14-hour continuous rain in Mysore".

The charm of the festival and the exhibition in particular touched everyone's hearts, deeply. The government was honest and 'political interference' was unknown. It was all royal. And pristine. The various committees chaired respected personalities. Corruption neither had scope nor acceptance! There was no harsh music to hit the ear-drums nor was there any gobi-manchurian to tickle the taste buds. No one screamed for Ice-cream either! Yet, people enjoyed the fun - fun in its purest form. There was no hullabaloo!

There were only an elite few who owned cars and fewer still, scooters. Even great personalities used the humble bicycle. As such, there was no need for a 'parking area' in the exhibition. People leisurely strolling on the wide footpaths (now narrowed by asphalted roads and cut-down avenue trees) to and from the Exhibition was a common sight. It was rare to see anyone in a hurry-scurry, so typical of (erstwhile) Mysore. Peace and tranquility was maintained even during such an important festival! Pomp was felt, not seen!

The sad news about the exhibition's shifting to Doddakere Maidan broke many a Mysorean heart around 1975. The privy purse had just been abolished by the government and His Highness had passed away. They were all 'great blows' to the great Dasara tradition itself, which probably paved the way to secularism, a horrible pest which has eaten away all the grandeur. Dasara WAS a feast of the people, by the people, for the people. Not for nothing they were called the 'golden good old days'! Nobody and nothing can bring back the true and original (lost) glory of the bygone Septembers. But the sublimity of the vintage Dasara and the Exhibition reside permanently in memories.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Wandering excursions

Wandering excursions

Mischief making outside home or adventuring were not my cup of tea in my childhood days, except harassing a little brother for trivials, not for fun though! My timidity and stubbornness went hand in hand. Yet, I was so uncomfortable with my grandmother’s over-possessiveness towards her grandchildren. But then she had her own reasons. She would anxiously sit AT the gate, looking on both sides of the street, waiting if we, anybody for that matter, were even a trifle late. She would not allow me to go outside the boundary of our street for playing with other boys, for my cycle rides, or even when she sent me for emergency-shopping errands at a shop in the neighbourhood. Beyond the boundary meant asking permission from her. But there have been a few instances when I ventured out with little care for her anxiety. A few most memorable ‘outings’ come to mind.

One evening I did not return home from my primary school. I used to daily walk up together with two friends [Raju and Pratibha] who lived opposite us with their grandmother. But their parents lived close to the school. They went to their parents and I too accompanied them with the hope that they would return home soon. They gave me ‘Kobri mithai’ [a sweet dish] and spent time playing with them completely forgetting about returning! It was such an age! By the time we playfully and most leisurely returned home, there was my grandmother who had sent my mother and aunt to look for me, waiting at the gate in her usual style. I got what I deserved.

We had Hari, Prem, Narendra, Ganapati, and Raju, all of them but Prem were seniors in the Devaparthiva Road neighbourhood. The late-sixties were no-TV, no-traffic days and so all the kids were on the streets playing a great assortment of games. We had all the time in the world. When nothing else was there, our ‘group’ sometimes loitered to the nearby playgrounds or wherever they felt like going, throwing stones at trees, telephone poles [it made a nice hollow sound!], etc, not much mischief though. I being the junior most, I accompanied them as I was curious to be with them to see what they do.

One summer afternoon, they went to the ‘pavilion’ [a cricket ground with a vast area]. From there, we just walked on and on through the Kukkarahalli tank bund and came out from its far side. There was hardly any human activity there at that time, being as secluded as it was lonely. The farthest spot was that huge feeder drain that was meant to bring rainwater to that tank. When Hari and Raju were discussing here some ghost stories my timid mind asked me to take to heels but nay, we were almost two miles away from dear home! We returned to the neighbourhood long later only to see my grandmother waiting to bang me at the gate!

Another incident was when we loitered down to ‘far off’ Cosmopolitan Club’s vicinity, hardly a mile near. It was a lonely place too and there was a very old dilapidated building in ruins, half buried and neglected [in fact, the Urban Development Authority exists now t this very place!]. It was called the ‘dungeons’. According to popular rumour there was a link from inside it through to the Palace a mile to its east. When the boys peeped in to the darkness of the dungeons I too had my turn and saw what and how a haunted dark place would appear in reality – we used to hear so many ghost stories! Somehow, my longish absence went unnoticed my grandmother.

Friday, September 7, 2007

My Bicycle

My first bicycle
Cycle riding has always been fun to kids. We never had a tricycle, except for my father’s childhood tricycle which was unusable. So, like all children, there were silent dreams. Eight years old was too old for a tricycle and so it was time for bigger things. I was bought a blue-coloured little bicycle, with hard tyres and support wheels for the rear wheel from the old Sachidananda Cycle Mart, [next to Olympia Theatre], whose owner was a client of my grand father and a very reliable supplier.

We used to be on the roads as freely as none can imagine now – they were all ours. Because of sparse traffic in those days with just an occasional bicycle or a scooter would pass by. Hardly few autorickshaws and cars were plying to trouble the road-playing kids. Even then, my grandmother was scared of allowing me to go to the road with my little bicycle. My route was supposed to be within the sights of our Devaparthiva road and not anywhere beyond. But sometimes I would escape to the next road to make a ‘round’. I learnt to ride without those support wheels very quickly and even taking the hands off the handle, on the move. Scraped knees and elbows commonly resulted from the various acrobatics and stunts I enjoyed performing, mostly to please myself. I had seen them in circus but I did not know they were manipulated bicycles!! Decades later, this was given away to my twin cousins who used it before disposing it off. It lived more than its full life.

Our bicycles
In 3 or 4 years, I must have covered many miles on our own street alone, riding this little beauty. I was growing taller and was trying my hand at the three other senior bicycles we had at that time at home. One was my grandfather’s 1914-Sunbeam which he alone rode [which is still functional but put to rest, unable to maintain in condition]. The second was my father’s 1958 Raleigh [my maternal uncle lost it in the mid-eighties when he had parked near a bank -a great loss]. The third was my uncle’s 1958 Robin Hood [which had a shiny brass handle grip], which I still use even today with great pleasure.

I had the liberty to use the last two. Often I would take one of them out to learn, with the ‘cross-pedal’ method because I was not tall enough to reach the seat. Scraped knees continued! Much blood was shed, but not tears!

Cycle mechanic
The only times I got chances to ride the Sunbeam were when my grandfather asked me to get the air filled at Shivaram’s shop [cycle mechanic at the end of the street]. I would pay two paise to fill air for one tyre of three paise for both. The rates were later raised to three and five paise. It was this Shivaram who repaired all our bicycles for nearly 40 years till recently, until one day we found that he was no longer fit and unable to walk or sit due to his bad knee. Another opportunity for me was when he [rarely] went on tour. He would ask me to ride a round and keep it back so that it does not get ‘rusty’. If anybody used it without his knowledge he would come to know just by the feel of it – such was his feel of his much cared vehicle that was always in top shape and both survived a minor accident once!

Me the mechanic!

I have once or twice ‘overhauled’ my Robin Hood and I enjoyed doing it to my own ‘machine’. Since tools were at home, I learnt meddling things which has helped! My father got me some tools and I later bought a pump that prevented me to run to the mechanic every time.

‘My’ Robin Hood
By my 12th and 13th year, I was tall enough to ride the Robin Hood from the saddle. After my uncle’s death, my maternal uncle was using it for a short time and later when my cousin needed it, it came back home. My cousin’s untimely death elevated me to the ‘ownership’ of this lovely bicycle when my younger brother was too small for it. I could go where I wished and found pride when I occasionally took it to my high school, though it was just a 10-minute walk from home. Taking cue from my grandfather, I too never liked it to be used by others!

Creative Cariappa
There was a high-school classmate Cariappa. His creativity was applied to his Raleigh bicycle and used to copy some of them to my Robin Hood. The one that impressed me was the ‘brake light’ that delighted everybody.

Our “flight” to Mandakalli
Now riding on long tours had been heard and we had not much chance because it was listed as adventurous. A group of senior neighbourhood boys [hope my memory of these names are right - Narendra, Raju, Hari, Ganapati] planned to ride to Mandakalli Airport about 4 miles away. 4 miles was a long way in those days! I joined that party one summer afternoon and I was about 14-15. I had seen Mandakalli only from the road which my grandfather never missed showing us on our trips to Nanjangud [after he showed us the 'Ennehole']. There were small planes that flew to Bangalore occasionally, but there was no regular service and my grandfather had flown to Bangalore once [1960s]. That it did in just 20 minutes amazed us compared to the 4 hours by the chug-chug train.

Our plan thrilled me so that I could get a chance to see a plane! I rode my Robin Hood but not informing home. The ‘long’ ride was a pleasure, but much to our disappointment, the aircraft was not there. By the time I returned home sheepishly, my grandmother was waiting at the familiar spot at the gate. About two hours must have passed since I went ‘missing’ and she was happy I had returned. Not much questions because we boys always went missing often as it was summer vacation. As long as I remained in her ‘sights’ she never worried.

To Somnathpur
I was now grown up and had gained the confidence of the elders and another long trip on the bicycle fell in place. Our new group of cricket friends – 8 of us - had planned a trip to Somnathpur and T.Narasipur which was to be a 40 mile route. I had oiled my Robin Hood well and it did take me smoothly without a stutter. But the start was stuttered! Even before we left Mysore border, Kashi’s ‘foreign’ bicycle chain gave way and since it was a Sunday no mechanic had opened shop early in the morning. Another bicycle was got and all the rest of the group waited on the roadside till he came. There was a delay of more than an hour. It was the first time I saw the lovely temple of Somnathpur. Girish Nikam had joined our club and I had borrowed his box camera to take one roll of pictures – just 12. Our heavy food basket was carried by one boy and cycle repair kit by another.

I was stunned by the beauty of the stone carvings, esp. the lathe turned pillars [observe in the edge of this picture]and the perfect symmetry of design.

Picture above is the group Raju, Madhukar, Raghu, Ravindra [top], Devkumar, Venkatesh, Kashi and Murali.

Our return trip was via T.Narsipur where River Cauvery flows. Most of us had a second lunch there spending time near water. From here, tummies loaded, pedaling back home was the toughest part as we had to put all our might to beat the strong Aashada wind. One fellow was thrown off the road by the air pushed by a bus moving in the opposite direction!

When most of the others later bought scooters, we made a trip to Nagarahole (75 miles) and again to Srirangapatna (10 miles), but pedaling remains a ‘nothing-like-it’ fun.

I still prefer pedaling my good old Robin Hood to which I myself fitted recently with probably one of the last pairs of Dunlop cycle tyres available. Whenever I get the opportunity ‘he’ is always raring to take me anywhere!
Browsing the Net, looking for Robin Hood, took me to an interesting site:
Look here for a fantastic collection of Bicycle 'Head Badges'! Unique hobby.
The Raleigh Cycle Company manufactured Robin Hood bicycles. The head badge on my cycle says it was in Asansol, India. [parts perhaps assembled there]. On the handlebar, it is imprinted "Made in England".

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Earliest Childhood Memories

I don't know how many of us can remember events when we were about 3 years old or less. To many of us they do not stick long in memories and the events pass off just for the moment. But somehow - I don't know if it is a common, no-wonder phenomenon - some memories have stuck in my mind, clearly impressed. I can still recall them with great ease, as if it happened just recently, very freshly, quite vividly. The childhood has not been one of much adventure, but full of vivid memories. I try to list below some of them and type on as memory trickles.

Tirupati - monkey, God:
Probably when I was about 2 1/2 or 3, our familly had been visiting a pilgrimage centre - Tirupati. I can still picture two incidents: one was the sight of the idol of the God with its forehead mark and the second one, a monkey snatching a little biscuit from my little hand after jumping on my stomach as I was standing there watching the God's idol from a distance. I had screamed when that happened. I picture some pandal and from one of the poles supporting it, the monkey had descended from one of them.

Shoe-chappal throwing:
Around that or a little bit younger in age, I remember throwing twice, my little slippers, once out of a moving train and once out of a moving van. I know not the reason for this silly act and I must have been sitting on someone's lap on both occasions. [Comment below]

Kindergarten school:
I remember one or two of the days when my mother used to leave me for the kindergarten school [Jagadamba Shishuvihara]. There, I remember we kids sitting under the tree, arranging those red seeds into a wooden board having grooves in the shape of the letters of the alphabet. I now live close to that school - where I was there for just a short period. My mother leaving me here one morning and my crying is still vivid.

Then in another KG school [Bhagini Seva Samaja], I remember my grandmother leaving me at school in a horse cart [Mysore Tonga]. There was a young girl sitting (on the floor) next to me crying for something! That girl in fact works in the same campus where I'm now! They also lived close to our house and so I was able to carry that memory, though there too it was a short stay for me as I moved over to the convent for my class 1. During this period, I was made to stand in the front row for a group dance. Being absolutely shy, I just stood without doing anything! One day there was a mass meal for all. I had been sent to school with a plate and spoon. One teacher there still remembers me [she lives in the same locality].

School entry:
I remember going with my paternal aunt (who also studied there before) to get introduced to the convent staff Christ the King Convent]and later my first day at school there. I can still picture the teacher lovingly inviting me "Come, good boy, come". I was joining Class 1. Again, my aunt had taken me there as she knew some English (because probably my mother could not speak English).

An old and angry grand-aunt:
Some more memories spring up! An old widow [Lachamma] of my grand uncle that was living with us once came shouting at me - probably a 2 year old! - with a firewood in hand and I was running. I later came to know that she had a bad temper. She died when I was about 3 and I remember the scene of her dead body, some ladies sitting around.

There was an old childless couple opposite our house that has an iron spiral staircase. I used to go there often - it was common for children to be running out and into others' houses. They usually had that 'puffed rice' to give. When they gave me in a piece of paper, I used to blow it all around, making a mess. I think they were quite patient to handle that. I was not that mischievous in nature. But somehow I enjoyed that! I had nicknamed that old man with a prefix that meant 'puffed rice grandpa'.

Angered at me calling him 'grandfather':
Those old timers usually never minded little kids calling nicknames. But there was one very elderly man, Nanjundaiah [actually a distant relative, writer 'Vani's husband] living opposite our house. Children used to go to almost all houses in the street just like that or to play with other kids. One day, I remember him not happy when I adressed him as 'grandpa'! We kids were used to be taught to give respect to elders by calling 'uncle', 'aunt'...and so on.

There was one poor old man that came for alms very frequently to houses in the street. It was a tradition to help the needy - those who came to ask for alms were given a bit of something as an act of kindness. So we used to offer him a handful of rice. I had nicknamed him as "Rice grandpa" [Akki taata]. I also used to imitate his hunch back. He carried a thick walking stick for support. After rice was put by some elder into his cloth bag, I used to offer my bit of rice with my little fist. I must have been less than four then.

Dhobi Papaiah:
There was another washerman [Dhobi] that came to collect clothes for washing, starching and and ironing. His name was "Papaiah". Old man. He came with a white bedsheet that was tied up in such a way that clothes were put in and a knot was tied from the four ends for carrying the load on his shoulder. He counted and collected from us periodically and then delivered on a set day. With a shaky voice, he used to 'respectfully' call my 'original' name as: "Ashwathnaarayanbuddyora", sitting in the verandah. I still vividly remember him noting down in little book with a very little pencil with a shaky handwriting. A few years back, his grandson [he is in the same business with a temporary shop by the roadside close to our house] told me that the old dhobi was his grandfather.

Too small for my clothes!:
I remember how my father used to get my school uniform stitched. It was extra long to compensate my quick growth. We could not afford to get new ones every year. It was only done only when it was worn out. Those shorts had braces and I remember frequently pulling them up back on to my shoulder as it would always fall over [not my short-pants luckily - LOL]. I also remember my friends making fun at the extra length of both my shirt sleeve [slack, half] and shorts {they were "longs", LOL}.

Memories of house servants:
Servants are part and parcel of a middle-class home. They assist the household in sweeping/dusting/mopping the floor, washing clothes and used kitchen utensils and assist in some of the daily chores. The earliest servants my memory supplies are of Mallamma [she had a face that had been dimpled by chicken pox] and her husband Rachaiah. They did the job with questionable sincerity for many years until they could no longer serve. In came a lady Nanjamma in 1971. She was to serve for the next 35 years. When she could not come, mostly due to her pregnancies her old mother would be sent. Or sometimes, her eldest daughter Malli used to take care of the chores. When Malli’s daughter also grew up, she too assisted in case of Nanjamma absenting for some reason. So, it was four generations serving at one time or other. We used Nanjamma’s husband Mallaiah’s skill of painting the house with lime or with minor masonry repair at times. His son became a mason and we made use of his services a few times as well. They lived close by in KG Koppal.

The scavenging work was done for many years by one lady Rangee. Her granddaughter also continued to be of some help in that job after many years until recently.

Milk supplies:
One of the oldest practices to get more mileage is to sell milk mixed with water in the supplier’s own ‘secret proportions’. In order to make sure pure milk was supplied, there was that custom of bringing the cattle to the door and milking it right in front of the customer. That ensured supply of pure milk since the ‘milker’ had to show the customer an empty vessel before milking. We have heard how in spite of this, water would get mixed up to make he milk thin! It sometimes happened like magic! Arguments were common! The blame was put on the poor cattle.

There was one lady Siddamma who used to supply milk in cans to our household also. I think before that, it was her cattle that were brought to selected homes to be milked. Around 1968-69 my grandfather got a client by name Chikkaveerayya in his ‘lawyer office’. He happened to be a milk supplier having the privilege of owning a few cows near Subbarayana Kere (close to our house). At that time, Siddamma’s supply was not satisfactory or she could not supply properly due to various reasons – which I cannot recollect. So this man, stout, wearing a shirt and striped shorts stepped in. He was hard of hearing. We had to shout to get ourselves heard whenever he came to supply, every evening. Mornings, Siddamma continued to supply for sometime before Chikkaveerayya was able to supply satisfactory (thicker) milk in the mornings also.

Sometimes his elder son Kumar would come on his newly-bought moped scooter called ‘Suvega’. I and my younger brother used to ask for short rides on it whenever his father could not come. Our request was usually honoured. Chikkaveerayya’s sons continues to supply even after his passing away many years back. It is interesting that now his grandson is supplying us milk every morning [evening supply discontinued since long] from his own dairy consisting of a few cows from the same location.

Injured by a splinter, helped by a passer by:
Our neighbour’s house was being built in 1964 or thereabouts. I and Buddi [Raghu] were watching how construction steel rods were being cut, from a safe distance – we thought so. Suddenly, I felt something trickling down my left shin. It was blood flowing out and down. On seeing it, young Buddi [I was of the same age of probably 6] ran home. A splinter from a stone when they were striking it hard with a hammer had stuck my left leg. Pain, blood.... so, cry. A passer by who happened to see a familiar young child crying came for help. He happened to be from the Saarvajanika Hostel in the same street as our home. He took me home to inform the injury. After first-aid, he took me on his bicycle to Mysore Pharmacy in Krishnamurthy Puram where Dr. VR Krishnaswamy Rao treated the injury. There might have been a few stitches. I was left back at home by this helpful man. The scar from that injury remains as vividly as the memory of this incident. If he had not spotted me crying, I probably would have stood there crying! I was so shocked that I probably did not know I had to go home, which was just round the corner. Later on, if my memory serves right, it was our forgettable (as it turned out long later) tenant Bhima who had taken me to Dr.Rao on our bicycle for removal of stitches. That might be the only help late Bhima probably has done!

The Lunch carrier
In the 1950s or 60s, working women were as sparse as canteens and hotels, because it was the accepted and safe practice to consume only home-prepared food, cooked with love and affection by the women in the family. For those office-goers who preferred warm home food, there were many “carrier-wallas” who carried lunches from home to office. Another reason for hiring them was that by the time they leave for offices, food will not be ready.

In the early 60s, both my uncle and father were working in the same Institute and so my grandmother would send two sets of big lunch boxes [3 compartments] in two bags. There was one carrier-walla who was appointed for this job. He would come to our house around noon on his bicycle after collecting lunch boxes from his customers [usually working in the same place]. He would deliver them to the persons at their work places well ahead of time and then collect the empty carriers and deliver them back home.

It is a tough job, because it needed stamina and strong legs to pedal the bicycle with that all the weight of 10-15 carriers hung on the handle and behind the saddle. He would push the vehicle in upward gradients, to save energy.

I do not remember his name but almost every day my grandmother used to give him a glass of lemon juice or buttermilk esp. on hot summer days. He would gleefully accept it, remove slippers outside, enter the verandah, remove his cap and drop the liquid into his mouth from a couple of inches – a hygienic practice. There were two heavy duty rexine bags made to order so that it could take the load and shape of the round base. They lasted quite sometime. My uncle died in 1967 and this man continued for some time before my father chose to come home for lunch as it was an hour break and just a 10-minute bicycle ride.

Puttaramaiah, the priest:
As long as my memory can recall, it was this lanky, tall old man who used to come home every early morning to perform the daily religious rituals at the Worship Room. He came by walk from his home which was about 20 minutes away, barefooted, clean after a bath [which was a must] and in clean dhotis. He was not skilled to perfection as a priest but followed honestly some basic religious requisites before coming for the job and also came from a humble family - they were the most likely reasons for us to appoint him. Most priests were poor in those days even in the 1960s and Puttaramaiah was no exception. He sported a small tuft on his head and had white stubs of hair on the beard and also on his shaven head. He would diligently do his job and go away – it was an hour’s occupation. Narayana Shastry was doing it before him, during my father's younger days. Much later, for a very short period, Ramaswamy Shartry's young son did it.

Ramaswamy Shastry, our family priest:
Be they major festivals, ceremonies or religious occasions in the family, it was the tall Ramaswamy Shastry who was called in to perform. [Picture here is from 1966. Occasion- my grandfather's 70th birthday "shaanti". Here I am all ears to his fantastic rendering of 'mantras', looking at him in awe from the lap of my grand uncle. Sri Puttaramaiah is seen with a rudraksha neclace. There are also many relatives and ladies from the neighbourhood seen in this picture]

His great knowledge of the Vedas, coupled with a fantastic voice and crystal clarity of pronounciation of the Mantras made listening to him a most pleasant experience. He has been known to the family since the 50s. In the mid 80s after he sustained and recovered from a road accident, he did not live long. It was a great loss to us. It was he who used to perform my grandfather's 60th and 70th year "shantis", me and my brother's "upanayanas", etc. His presentation of the "Panchaanga Shravana" on Ugadi day was another occasion to hear his beautiful voice.

Shankaranarayana Bhat, the temple priest:
He was the son of a priest who was in the Sri Prasanna Vishweshwara Swamy Temple on Gita Road. My earliest memory of him is of a young Bhat, assisting his father in the temple where our family has been visiting for decades. He was also well versed in the Vedas, also had that gift of voice and clarity in pronounciation. His voice still echoes in the minds of those who had heard him, as loudly and clearly as it did in the vast temple hall when he performed poojas. After Ramaswamy Shastry, it was he who we turned to for the 'post' of family priest. Renown for his honesty and sincerety he was an avid follower of religious principles. His passing away a couple of years back came as a great loss to us as he never refused to honour any of our requests to perform pujas or ceremonies on any day, even at his slight inconvenience and even at short notice. He had a lovely proportionate body that had been tuned with Yoga. Unfortunately, he had been ailing from a heart problem for many years.

The house-visiting Barber:
There was a barber by name Mutthu [clad in white shirt and white pyjamas] who used to visit our house [with his box of tools] on a known day [or by my grandfather's appointment, I know not] till the mid-sixties or thereabouts till we discontinued [on his death methinks]. After he trimmed my grandfather and father's hairs it was my turn. It was done in our verandah while we sat on a wooden plank. Later he used to collect all the cut hair and dispose them off. The area in which the hair-cutting was done was later purified with water. I can still feel my hair stand on end when the thought of the 'hand machine' doing its job 'click-click' at the back and sides of the head -- it used to be a great tickling experience! [Comment below]

Chalam, the hair-dresser:
His full name was Venkachalam. His work place was popularly known as "Chalam's Saloon" [actually, "Slim and Trim"]. A hair-dresser's saloon is where we can read old newspapers free, but pay for a hair-cut and a fully free gossip in polished English, esp. here. The same sort of "polish" he used to give our heads while cutting the hairs! He was one of those few hair-dressers who had that ability as he was a bit educated, but had to take up his community's profession. Being my father's classmate in the middle school in the early 1930s - I think in the Maharaja's School - he would take liberty to make us [young boys] wait and wait till he was finished with other customers. We were made to sit on a plank on the chair handle that he kept to suit his cutting height. I was usually accompanied by father.

This place, in a rented corner next to Chamarajapuram Society. The saloon was more popular for Chalam's coloured quality gossip rather than his skill with the snipping scissors! His speciality seemed to be giving "colour" [in fact, light green on the scalp - sides and back of the head - machine cut and not 'scissors cut'] to young and old heads alike after showing old pictures of some men that were hung on the wall, with that typical old fashioned trim hair cut. When that "colour" technique was becoming obsolete, he would threaten to give 'that colour' if any customer guided him to their desirous styles. He had a smoker's cough and he left us in 1979 and I remember informing my father the sad news on his hospital bed recovering from an ailment. 'gave my head' to his son Srinivas thereafter, till 2005 when he too succumbed, to alcohol.

Mari [Chandrashekar]

There was one middle aged man who used to frequent our house and chat for long hours and even stay with us. He was a witty man and we kids used to love his jokes. I don't know if he was a relative or a family aquaintance. Later, one night I remember him coming with a bag saying that he has left home [due to some 'friction']. I don't know what the reason was, but probably the next day, he went and joined an Ashram which is at the foot of Chamundi Hill. He lessened his visits to our home and became an important member there and many years later we heard of his passing. He used to come and assist us during any family functions/gatherings.

Kaveramma, the old lady

Like Mari, another old lady Kaveramma,short, diminutive widow, used to visit our family and I understand that she has been known to the family since she was young through some of her relatives [guessing]. I know not which place she lived with her son, but suddenly she would land with her steel trunk carrying luggage and a bag. She would stay in our house for weeks together! We used to tease her for fun but she never liked it, esp. when we were playing with a walking stick or a ball. She was so afraid that it would prick her eyes! Of course, she too assisted at times with some house chores of my grandmother.

Ayya and his false teeth

K.Srikantaiah [called by all as Ayya], was my grandfather's cousin and he sometimes traveled to Mysore in connection with some work, esp. regarding the paddy share from our lands at Marulagala, Srirangapatna. So he used to stay with us for a few days. He was an old man in the 1960s, came with a walking stick and false teeth. We kids waited to see him remove his teeth for the night. We were excited to watch that act and later his teethless smile!! His speech too changed adding much to our fun.

Food Feeding was a problem!

Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai - a hindi movie had been released in 1960. The song by Mukesh "Mera naam Raju..." had become a great hit. In the early part of 60s it was very frequently played on the radio and this song had impressed me. This my mother had found out. Before I was five, still can vividly remember a spoonful of cooked rice-rasam came in front of my mouth as the song was heard and without fuss I'd open the mouth and eat! So, this song came in handy esp. while feeding me! It had a great impression. We can now see that here:


[Again, compiled from memory, which were discussed elsewhere... and copied here]

I must have been 5-6 years young when my late uncle had taken me to the nearby theatre [Ganesh Talkies] to watch "Absent Minded Professor". A few scenes from this are still fresh in my memory. That movie was about the forgetful professor who was a genuis and keeps inventing things. One of his inventions was [in that story] called "Flubber". He drops a piece of flubber and it keeps on bouncing higher and higher all over the place. That gives him many ideas and he tries it in various applications like shoe soles, car tires... he plays a game of basketball using those flubber shoes and none can catch him as he bounces higher than all players while bouncing the ball and 'slam dunks' all his shots from high above! That was very funny! Another scene is that his car is in flight like an aeroplane! I'd love to see this movie again, if at all it is available anywhere since this is my first memory of watching a movie in a theatre. I think some movies in our local language Kannada also were seen, but this seems to be my first - at least as far as I can remember. It was a great hit in that era for its stunts and tricks and the impression it had created among the public. To any of those that forgot anything he was labeled or called as Absent Minded Professor . Such was its popularity. Anybody remember this movie by any chance? It was also the time in the early sixties when English movies had become popular in our city.

The darkness of theatres, the ushers coming in to show late-comers their seats [sometimes a nuisance when he came blocking the view of the big screen], the news part, the highlights of the upcoming movie, the advertisements [very few].... then when smoking inside the hall was not disallowed, it created such an awful smell. I remember when I was a bit grown up, may be I was about 10-12, I had got suffocated inside the theatre and had forced my aunt and mom to quit at intermission as my breathlessness was quite unbearable. It was a good movie [Arunodaya, kannada movie taken esp. for children] and my mom even remembers my act which they thought was a drama. We could not go to watch that movie again. That sort of drama I used to make when I did not want to go to school, too. That was the reputation that made them not to get fully convinced. Not knowing how to express it, I complained of 'stomach ache'!

We did not have people serving inside during intermission, but people went out to the passages where snacks or coffee were sold.

Another movie I remember was "Sound of Music". Very vaguely. I remember it was full of songs. I think it came in the second half of the sixties.

We used to go to theatres when a good movie came. It was a great occasion to visit a theatre - usually many from the familly or friends went together. It was one of the very few sources of entertainment. Mysore can boast of theatres dating back to the 1940s. Kannada and Hindi movies too were shown in most theatres, but a few had 'specialized' in getting English films. There were four shows per day. Morning show, Matinee, Evening show and Night show. Our normal choices were morning or matinee.

The light rays from the projector to the screen was a pleasurable sight! We used to lift our heads up to see them change as the scenes changed and wondered how it came from and looked at the little window of the projector room behind us.

The theatre I saw Absent Minded Professor has also been torn down. I had later come to know that it belonged to a classmate's father. I was to meet that classmate 3 decades later just by chance when I visited another old friend opposite his house. He told me that the person that owned that theatre was there and I met him -luckily he was home. When I asked him about his plans he said he had an idea of building a shopping complex. That was the theatre where we had seen many English movies in later years. I have some of the tickets preserved from my older years just for memory's sake.

In another movie of our local language Kannada, I remember a particular scene where a poor boy who is spiritually energetic bakes a pancake on his back for another poor boy. I must have been six or seven by then and this scene has just stuck.

In the olden days, bed bugs was a problem not only in homes but also in theatre seats. They had coir cushion seats - foam had not yet been introduced. It was heaven to those little blood suckers. We boys wearing shorts used to scratch our thighs by intermission time. We'd have already donated blood to them by then! It also used to ride with people into their homes to infest there too. It was a problem. When seats were renovated in most theatres gradually with the passing of time and availablility of good cushions and upholstery, this was solved.

Horror movies are always out for us. Comedy comes first. I have just loved Laurel and Hardy movies. CharlieChaplin. My all-time favourite. I never get tired watching them. I do not remember at what age I must have seen them first.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Truth wins

Telling lies is an age old habit of man.  Sometimes it is taught by circumstances, often, by surrounding people. Knowingly or unknowingly the habit is picked up because lies sound attractive! It is a very effective tool to free oneself from difficulties and a useful tool to cheat others, leave alone the liar’s own conscience.  Are we tuned to tell the truth, always?

During my 9th class days, once all the boys were making merry during a teacher-changeover break. We were throwing paper balls, chalk pieces and shouting so unbecoming of a school. For a few moments we had forgotten that it was a classroom. Suddenly joining in the chaos, very much unlike me, I impulsively threw a broken chalk. Just then, AVR - our English teacher was entering the chaotic, noisy classroom. It was my only throw and my missile struck him on the chest. He became angry, even though it caused no pain, for it was totally bad behaviour. The class had become instantly silent on sighting our short teacher entering the classroom. He had seen the goings on at the door.  He was now at his chair and desk near the blackboard. From that position he asked the class who threw the chalk at him. Silence. He inquired again.  I boldly stood up and said “It was I , Sir”. After a small pause, he said “Okay, sit down.”  I was so relieved and also felt happy inside.  No punishment!

Whether it was an appreciation or respecting my honesty, I still wonder. I was telling the truth and it had won! I felt fortunate and happy that the family-nurtured habit and the value of telling the truth were being recognized. This little incident gave further impetus to stand by that habit consistently enough and I often recollect it with a sense of satisfaction.