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

http://www.mysore.org.uk/excursions/somnathpur.html
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!
P.S:
Browsing the Net, looking for Robin Hood, took me to an interesting site: http://www.jimlangley.net/brake/brake.html
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.

Puri-taata:
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.

Alms:
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:

EARLIEST MEMORIES OF WATCHING A MOVIE

[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.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Chance meetings can change our courses



Meeting a person casually, by chance, can change the course of our lives. We realize this long later. One such meeting was to influence me to as great an extent as it proved, in more ways than one.

‘Door-crashing’ to our friends’ or relatives’ houses at our whims without appointments was quite common, even in the late seventies. Those were days when social contacts were in tact! My good friend, Ravi, after returning from a hospitalization had returned home, to recoup. One evening, I had gone to look Ravi up at his home. There was already another young man visiting. I got introduced to Rajgopal, who lived on the same street. I was from the neighbouring locality.

Both of us left at the same time, after wishing him a speedy recovery. Raj was returning home from a shopping errand and I had nothing else to do. I pushed my bicycle to match the speed of Raj’s ‘padayatra’. Before our conversation got to any depth, we had already reached his home. I was called in and got introduced to his parents.

Little did I know then that I was entering into a great friendship with a family that was known to ours for about 40 years before! Further conversation revealed all that. My father and his maternal uncle were great friends – of course, jobs had separated them long before.

Raj was studying for a degree in Homoeopathy in Dharwar and had come for a vacation to his parents’ house. We developed an excellent rapport with each other as we seemed to have similar likes and dislikes.

I began to frequent his house, even after he went back to Dharwar. His father, a retired doctor, also became a good friend. We used to chat on different subjects, while he became my doctor too. I also admired his wonderful sense of humour, kindkness and fine qualities, not to mention Raj’s mother also. I would eagerly inquire Rajs arrival for vacation for meeting him more often.

Sitting on a road’s kerb stone (traffic was not a nuisance then), Raj and I used to chat away for hours and in one of his ‘talks’ there, he told about his subject of study – homoeopathy. That was the first I got to hear the name. On his subsequent visit, an opportunity had arisen to experience the wonderful effect of the homoeopathic system, myself.

It was a real pain in my neck one day, in every sense. With great difficulty, I pedaled my way to his house for treatment. He put a few little medicated pills on my tongue and asked me to wait for 10 minutes and see what happens. Lo and behold! The stiffness was so much less, almost in a jiffy. After some more time, I comfortably pedaled my way to the market, where I had an errand to run! Two more days of those pills affected a complete cure! It left me wonderstruck, for a person exposed only to allopathy.

After some months, he got his degree and opened a clinic here. Naturally it had a humble beginning. To the clinic my visit every evening was to return home by talk-walk, pushing my bicycle along. This continued for sometime till he decided to marry (another homeopath, his college junior) and move over to Mumbai for greener pastures. In the meantime, he had inflicted upon me how homoeopathy works. I was to attend his marriage in Mumbai which is another memorable little story altogether.

We got cut off. The telephone was still not affordable to many, nor was it felt an absolute necessity, then. But we enjoyed exchanging letters. For my problems, I would ask his advice for treatment. His prescriptions cured some of my problems so beautifully that I was convinced about the system and wanted to broaden its application, which went on to the cricket field also. A little ‘homoeo kit’ in my cricket kit has proved a real boon, ever thereafter!

To learn more about homoeopathy was a keen desire that had cropped up. In 1994, my attending a 3-day awareness camp organized by Homoeopathic-Self-Reliance-Forum, Anantapur, under the leadership of late Dr. G.V.Chalapathi, satisfied this. A few basic books to study and with the background of the camp, I was now able to ‘self-medicate’ and see for myself how simple day to day ailments can be taken care of, without hassles, without expense.

In that camp, I was happy to see one Sri Achyutha from my city giving a lecture. Some days later, I hunted his address to find out the efficacy of ‘pregnancy management’ through homoeopathy which was a separate topic. This was also a topic for my better half, practically. So we wanted to give it a go and later gave it. Meeting him, though not by chance, was the beginning of yet another link in friendship that was to change our courses for good. Because that link brought us to a group that dedicates itself to the cause of homoeopathy, of mankind, not ignoring spirituality, esp. to the ‘leader’ of the group, one Sri Joshi.

Sri Achyutha and I were deciding to do some correspondence course on the subject. At that time, he had been told about some group that conducts a free course. So we both joined to attend, only to find that it was such a wonderful one. Here, knowledge got broadened, got to know good people, got exposed to spirituality and got to be able to help others esp. through homoeopathy, all of which have become part of our lives now.

Had I not visited Ravi at that particular time, I know not where I would have been now. It certainly affected the route I was destined to take. Now, Dr.Rajgopal Nidamboor also had influenced me in writing – he is a fine writer himself, having published a few books and numerous articles. Ironically, his profession is not homoeopathy now, but as an editor. He had unknowingly kindled a little fire in me, a fire that has made me pick up the pen [now keyboard].


Monday, May 21, 2007

WTC coincidence

A weird coincidence in relation to the infamous terrorist act has stuck in my memory ever since it happened. It was that fateful day that came to be referred as “9/11”. I was in Chennai for a cricket engagement.

If any old friend lives in the city I visit, I make it a point to visit him. My childhood mate Gopi lives in Chennai and so I took this opportunity to meet, as we have done ever since we renewed contact after a two-decade gap. It was decided that the best time to meet was over dinner at Gopi’s house itself so that we could indulge in some school-day nostalgia.

I went as scheduled, but Gopi had not arrived home that evening. So his son and wife tried their best to keep me occupied with some informal chat. After some time the telephone rang. It was her friend calling to inform about a tragedy and that a certain TV channel was showing live. It was the deadly act that had brought the massive structures of the WTC down just about an hour ago and news of it was spreading around the world faster than one could imagine.

Watching screaming people run helter-skelter, collapsed building’s dust flying, rescue teams trying their bit and the visibly moved reporters on the screen made a terrible sight that left us shocked.

Gopi arrived to see dazed, dull faces glued to the TV. His wife prepared a simple rice-rasam dinner in a most depressed mood, which was quite understandable. Even the dinner seemed tasteless in such a disturbed state of our minds. The expected nostalgia was not to take place. It turned out to be a sad time instead. I had to take leave of them.

The coincidence: Just that morning, Gopi’s little son was asked in his class to draw a memorable scene. He had written that of the twin towers, since he had only recently toured and visited the huge WTC and he was showing it to me while we were all watching repeat telecasts of the giants crumbling to dust. It was an evening that will long be remembered.

Tricycle Rickshaw-walla's twinkle


Tricycle-rickshaw-pedalling (in some cities) is one of the more physically taxing professions around. Squandering money on unnecessary things and quarreling for petty bargains is an old deep-rooted Indian habit. There are some who avoid this mode of transport from the humanitarian angle though it is cheaper than their mechanical counterparts. Some years ago, I had to fall back on hiring a tricycle-rickshaw in Chandigarh.

I was to go from Bus Stand to our Guest House, not far away. After much inquiry, I settled the deal with one rickshaw-wallah. His quotation of Rs.8/- was reasonable (others were 10+) and so I bargained for Rs.6/- to which he agreed, much to my surprise.

Chandigarh's planned roads have no gradients. But the wind that evening was gusty and the direction he was pedaling was its opposite. He had to often get down and push the tricycle along. They are used to such tough work.

When we reached the destination, I placed Rs.8/- in his hand. Counting, he looked up at me in surprise. The face of this white-haired old sikh wore a contented look and when I placed two more rupee coins in his hand, he had a beautiful twinkle in his tired eyes, a sight that would have moved many hearts. He left saying 'jeete raho'. In fact, this incident overshadows even my purpose (in fact, a cricket coaching camp that rurned out to ba a great flpo - that of D.P.Azad, who had coached Kapil Dev) of that trip and my visit to the famous Rock Garden.

Will power

Everybody has will power but in varying degrees. Persons endowed with strong will power are the ones that successfully wade through adversities. My father was one such as I was to observe a number of times.

My father never beat his two children, except only once. He never wanted to repeat his mother’s torturous acts in his younger years. He had anger but had the ability to overcome it without suppressing it. His job was tough, taxing and responsible. Later when he fell ill and used to require rest, his cruel boss was not sanctioning leave! Yet, he endured all that, what with backbiting.

In 1978, he developed cardiac asthma (due to which there were many sleepless nights) and seemed to kick the bucket on way to hospital, one afternoon. But miraculously, did not. Again a year later, while in hospital, his complete body had turned blue. As if sent by a divine force, a passer-by doctor could find his vein for the intravenous injection while others present could not. My father was fully conscious and watching the action around him! Within minutes, he had turned the corner. The doctors had told us to give up hope. By my father had not. Such was the strength of his will power.

He knew that an open-heart surgery was not affordable and he knew his condition: that he would not live long. Yet, he never seemed to be afraid of death. He was always his old cheerful self. He was unflinching throughout. But in 1981, he could not survive the stroke. Even in such a state, he was to exhibit his power that lasted just a few hours.

Perhaps the tough upbringing had to do with that will power, I cannot say. I also wonder if they are transferred through the genes, when I come to think why my cricket captains have turned to me in crises (and I seemed to relish) as well as why my sportsman-grandfather won many trophies in his time. Without strong will power people cannot be winners. I have always drawn inspiration from them.

The '83 World Cup Final.. how I watched

MY FIRST WORLD CUP FINAL

Ever since I watched the 1983 World Cup final on TV, each final of the subsequent World Cups never fails to pull me back to that evening when India made history. There were hardly a few who could afford the TV then. They came only in B&W. Cumbersome, high antennae had to be erected to catch the feeble signals from the Bangalore DD Kendra. Not all matches were telecast like today. It had telecast the semi-final in which India beat England and the World-cup bug had bitten many.

I had watched the semi-final in bits and pieces on my friend Keerthi’s TV, not at his home, but at his friend’s house. His friend's TV had broken down. So we took Keerthi's TV there to Gokulam, an area that was in the range where signals were reaching in good quality. This circus could not be repeated for the 'final' for some reason and I was wondering where to watch. It was a ‘final’ that HAD to be watched, no matter where. India was to meet the mighty West Indies.

Come June 25, I met Girish Nikam, my teammate. We were to meet that evening to go ‘somewhere’ to watch. He was as determined as I. I went to his house on my bicycle, as planned. The match had begun and India was batting first. We were listening to commentary from BBC on his old-tube-Bush radio. After some time, he discovered that there was a friend close by who possessed a 'telly' hoping to fill our belly with cricket. I left my bicycle in Girish’s house (where I was to take it back the next morning) and pillioned with him on his scooter to catch the action on far away Lord’s. But we were disappointed to see such an awful TV reception there. We felt contented even as the dots and scratches annoyed us to form very fuzzy pictures and it was quite a strain to the eyes. The radio commentary guided us to know who was doing what. Such was the quality.

Girish tried another source over the phone from there. By that time, West Indies were already two or three down, chasing India’s modest 183. Viv Richards was going great guns, but we heard on radio about Kapil Dev taking a beautiful catch to send back the danger man. While that brightened India’s hopes Girish’s call brightened ours – to watch better pictures. So we rushed to the new venue, which was Girish’s friend’s friend’s house, again somewhere in Gokulam.

Our joy knew no bounds when we saw such a clear picture! We witnessed wickets tumbling and in a short while, there were about 15 lucky strangers in front of the telly! The mighty Carribeans had incredibly perished like bunnies for 140. All of us thanked the residents and left, ecstatic, having enjoyed every moment of live action that we could. On our way back, people were shouting and celebrating on the streets.

It was well past midnight when Girish dropped me home where I saw worried and anxious elders awaiting my arrival and wondering my whereabouts. In those not-too-many-telephone-days, I neither thought of informing them or cared for dinner either –such was the intensity of the thrill the match provided. It was an unforgettable adventure.

Nap that made history

[Someone took a picture too - knowing beforehand that would become a story! LOL.]

Back in 1983, I was vying for a place in the Mysore Zone ‘Under-25’ Cricket team at the Maharaja's College grounds. Sharp drizzle forced the selection trials to stop mid-way through the morning session. As the pitch became wet, it was decided to continue at 2 p.m.

After a peaceful lunch at my half-a-mile-near-home I thought of wakeful resting for a while. In a relaxed posture, I laid my back to the rolled-up bed on my cot.

When my eyes opened, the clock was showing 2.15. Shock! One full hour had passed like a minute. Hurriedly put on my cricket shoes - already in cricket attire - and galloped on my Robin Hood bicycle to the venue in a jiffy only to find an empty ground! Puzzled, I looked around and lo, they were already playing in the adjacent ground that was found to be drier and not much affected by the shower. Sheepishly, I reported and explained my late coming, in truth, to the selector who fortunately allowed me to join play, though late by about 20 minutes.

To my great joy, my bowling talent had made it to the final team, for the third and last year. Good performances and luck esp. in the semi-final [toss of coin] had taken us through to the final for the first time against yet another first-time finalist, Dharwar Zone. We were soon standing with our backs to the wall, still needing 35 runs to take the vital lead when no.11 M.S.Ravindra joined me at No.10, both of us on zero. The target was overhauled, run by run, but not without hiccups. Our last wicket partnership had led us to a historic, maiden cup-victory!

As it proved in the very end, selector Maj. Hemachandar’s decision to allow me late for the trials foiled Dharwar bowler Hemachandra’s victory bid - he had skittled seven of us but not me as I got run out but by then we had taken the vital lead.

Had that siesta stretched any longer, I would not have been able to savour that sweet victory-moment, leave alone get selected! Since then, I have never dared to attempt even a catnap before any engagement, esp. after a luncheon. It can really make us drowse if we do nothing!

How I caught a Bicycle Thief


Rarely do things, however small, lost or stolen return to owners. Luck plays its definite role as it proved one evening. Waiting, for my wife, on my scooter outside my house, bound for an errand, I casually saw a cyclist speed through. Suddenly I heard a man shouting ‘catch him’, sprinting towards me for help. By the time he could explain, gasping, the ‘cyclist’ had vanished in darkness. He was actually chasing on foot that thief who had stolen his bicycle. But the alert loser kept an eye on which way the thief rode away.

Wasting no time and honouring his request, we began “Operation catch-thief”. Commonsense guided us to take the route that had no upward gradient, obviously not preferred by the escaping thief. So, I took the other route that also led to a locality reputedly notorious for petty thieves. After traveling some distance, lo, my pillion spotted the cycling culprit. “Look he’s going there!”

I soon closed in and blocked his movement. Surprised and frightened, he tried to flee, leaving the bicycle behind. Our frantic shouts to catch him were duly responded by a dozen passers-by. In a jiffy, he was in the clutches of people!

As the man was picking up his fallen bicycle and lunch box/bag, I found out that he was a poor coolie returning from his day’s hard labour and while having a cup of tea his unlocked bicycle had been lifted.

The man profusely thanked me in his own humble way and left, but not before both of us watched the culprit being soundly thrashed by his own locality-men for his misdeed that could have put the poor coolie in debt. The punishment meted out showed how notorious that young boy was in thieving.

I proceeded on my errand, satisfied that my scooter could effectively substitute a foot-chase, and richer with a little story to tell my waiting wife. If my wife and I were to start on time, he would have been a loser. Thanks to Lady Luck, the bicycle returned to whom it belonged.

Buffalo Hooves

On my way to my fiancée's house I was to look up my recovering grand uncle at the hospital. I was to traverse a stretch of road that had no street-lights near KG Koppal, Mysore. On my newish scooter, a Kinetic-Honda, in spite of the slight drizzle and unaware of what was impending, I started off from my Devaparthiva Road home when evening had already turned dark.

When I turned to that stretch of road, I found myself behind a slow-moving autorickshaw. When close behind it, you cannot see much of road. There was a herd of buffaloes - there must have been 15-20 - to my right, moving home. I slowly raised the throttle to overtake the 'auto'. I had the habit of looking at the speedometer to check which speed by habit as it was relatively new to me. It was showing 20 kph. But suddenly, the sight of a buffalo right in front of me crossing the road made my reflex apply brakes. When I did this, the hind side of the scooter swerved, balance took leave of me and my fall was inevitable. I was lying on my back and could hear my fallen scooter sputtering.


Then very suddenly, tens of buffalo-hooves clattered, running helter-skelter, confused by the accident. They all began crossing the road, me and my head . I could feel one hoof scraping my eyebrow! Passersby helped me to my feet and my scooter to its stand. How lucky I was!

I was going to the hospital anyway and so I got medical aid before continuing with that evening's agenda. My marriage was just a month away and my mother and fiancée were so relieved to know that I had just escaped with very minor injuries, so miraculously.

How those tens of powerful hooves that crossed me missed crushing my head or eyes and that nothing serious and untoward happened remains a mystery. There is also no scar on my skin nor any dent on mydear scooter to remind. But the very thought of those hooves passing over my head chills my blood even today, nearly 19 years after!

Empty Photography

For my sister-in-law's wedding at Chickmagalur I was requested to help out in the role of their photographer. Their family had no camera. I had one, my friend's Russian camera. Since I had shooted its trouble to some extent he had given it off to me for my use. I was using with reasonable results even with the flash unit that was given by another friend. They were both mine now. After a few dry runs the flash’s performance remained unsure.

In order to be safe, a simple automatic camera was borrowed from another friend as a stand-by. One film roll each was loaded into them. While loading film into my friend’s camera, I thought I knew the method.

On the way to Chickmagalur, we stopped over for a visit to the temple at Belur late evening. For my third shot here with my camera, the flash would not work! On reaching the destination, I tried to rectify the circuit with my tools which I expectedly carried, but in vain. Without flash, the purpose of this camera became invalid.

At the wedding ceremony, I was on a roll, in a new role clicking away from my second option camera. I diligently waited for right moments to capture and even made people stand for snaps where and how I fancied! After we returned from Chickmagalur the 3 or 4 exposures that had still remained – according to the counter - in the roll of 35 were clicked.

When the roll was developed at the studio, my doubt that had arisen mid-way was confirmed. The film had not got wound at all! There was a complete blank! Luckily for everyone, there was a professional photographer on duty there. My one-and-only-time role of a photographer turned out to be an unwitting drama. At the studio, I was shown where I had gone wrong in loading the film.

We sometimes have this tendency to behave like Sarvajna, shy to tell "I do not know". Film did not get exposed, but my Sarvajna attitude certainly did, for good!

Capt. Kanti

CAPTAIN KANTI

I grew up in a 'dream neighbourhood' [Devaparthiva road], typically Mysorean, that upheld tradition and human value. Aside from sharing joy or inviting families during festivals, one could also find sympathetic shoulders to cry upon to ease our distresses. Such was the harmony that prevailed.

Standing tall was one man, late Capt. Srikantaiah. Having retired from the Army [and selling off his farm in Karehalli] he came to settle in his own house, opposite ours. His voice and personality were true to his Army rank which often concealed his kind heart that few got to judge, leave alone experience. It was he to whom we often turned in dire crises. His kind help was responsible in saving my father's life, twice, not to speak of his brother-in-law who had saved my own [see my blog on gooseberry], some years before that. In days when owning a car was considered a luxury, he was always, any hour of the 24, willing to spare himself and his old 'Standard 10' car as an ambulance. On both occasions this "owner's pride" had come to the "neighbour's rescue". In a similar emergency that arose in his absence, another neighbour refused to aid. It was then one realized the value of the Captain's presence. Years later - by then he had both his hip joints replaced and had moved over to his newly built house in another locality - he was to help bring back my aunt's body from hospital in his new van.

His mere presence in the street was more effective than his double-barrel rifle in keeping miscreants at bay. It was to such extent that a great sense of security prevailed. Anybody that touched the road's tree branches [for firewood] were not left alone. They were scolded with that typical voice and tone and the culprit had to go away. None can neither refill the huge void he has left in the street nor forget the impression. The respect he commanded even in his absence speaks volumes about the towering stature of this great Captain. How I wish each street was blessed with at least one such man! At least, we were fortunate enough to have had the privilege of his inspiring presence, esp. in times of crises that saw my father's life extend by a couple of years. He always instilled courage and lent a helping hand in tough times to all. Salutes to our "friendly neighbourhood Serviceman"!

Mr. Brown - my tributes

Age or gender is of no importance when wavelengths meet. In my quest for some Indian silver coins of the Victorian era I found myself in a jewellery shop on Ashoka Road, in 1979. My inquiry drew the attention of an old Anglo-Indian gentleman who was also there. After an introductory conversation we soon found ourselves in his humble “Green Pastures” a couple of furlongs away, in a calm and silent area, so fit for retired people.

Mr. Richard Brown, a widower, after serving as a Guard in the Railways had chosen Mysore to settle down after his retirement since the late 60s. His interests were coins, stamps, cricket, and poultry birds. But his top passion was reading. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was his favourite. Green Pastures was to become my favourite for the next 9 years. He and his kind old widowed sister-in-law lived there. She too was a keen stamp-collector and we had developed a good rapport.

Each other’s collection of stamps and coins were shown and we even got the pleasure of exchanging a few extras. As time rolled on, our friendship grew deeper and there came a time when not visiting the Browns was out of routine! Mr. Brown’s stories seemed to take me in a time machine. The way he narrated the incidents, his disappointments, his few successes - they all made very interesting to listen so very worthy of a book-compilation. A couple of his ‘proverbs’ narrated by him stand out in my memory: “A job well begun is half complete” and “A hobby should be like a loaded cart pulled uphill, without stopping.” I later realized the truth of the latter since I stopped pulling my cart!
Mr. Brown never failed to inform me in advance about the annual X-mas sales at the Barthalomew Church where stamps counter was a special attraction to him. I did visit. He often told about one Mrs. Webb, a missionary in Mysore and Father Didier, both were avid philatelists and he wanted me to meet them. But that never came off. His interest was in 'Air Mail' Stamps and he had a fine collection.
Using his Railway pass, he would annually visit his favourite place Bombay, esp. the GPO. He always used to wonder, even after many many years, about an old lady that sold stamps in front of the GPO and was so disappointed when she was not located by him. He could not travel in his last few years due to a prostrate trouble and surgery that weakened him.
He stopped using his Humber bicycle when he noticed a lack of road sense with pedestrians and others. His humble house was full of old things. A mere glance would take us back into the past.
He had a neat glass showcase full of treasured trophies he won for his poultry birds. He had told a story of how some British officer gave that showcase for him to keep those trophies, before he returned to England. Simiarly, he used to remember with full names and designations of the persons he knew and describe with such detail that it kept me wondering about his sharpness of memory - no wonder his twinkling eyes said it all, what with a frail body!

On one of my usual Saturday-visits, as I was climbing the stairs to meet my 78-year-old friend, his sister-in-law, with tears in her eyes, conveyed, “Don’t go, he’s not there!” It shocked me. He had died suddenly just 5 days back thus curtailing an interesting friendship.

This association helped me gain more knowledge, more wisdom, more confidence in English conversation, inspiration to hobbies and reading. Mrs. Brown was taken by her son to the US. The saddest part is that I could not meet her again or trace her whereabouts. It was an inspiring friendship I cherish, for its quality and value.

[The above is Mr. Brown's autograph. He left us in 1988 May.]

Coin Krishnappa

Friendship matters much esp. to sustain hobbies. I was fortunate to bump into an old gentleman that was to provide the needed impetus as well as fatherly affection.

Mr. Krishnappa, dhoti-clad, had set his eye on some coin at the street-hawking-coin-seller. I was there doing the same. Curiosity triggered me to know about this man. We soon ended up at his house close by to see his ‘small collection’. Little did I know that I was with a reputed numismatist and little did he know that he was to show it to the grandson of his family lawyer who had known him for 50 years and had won many cases for them. Further conversation revealed all those facts.

His ‘small’ collection, meticulously arranged country-wise in a neat table-showcase, was by no means small! Collected for over fifty years, purely for the sake of the hobby it was one of the best in the city. One great quality - he had no commercial attachment to it. Another - he was always happy to show it all those interested, but never exhibited anywhere. All these and much more impressed me.

Being his lawyer’s grandson, I got special affection during my subsequent weekly visits, which gave him as much joy as I. He used to encourage me with his extra coins and even album sheets. With the enthusiasm of a child, he would show me new releases and tell about new developments in the numismatic world. He would willingly help identify any old coins from his catalogue. Naturally, our friendship went beyond the hobby itself.

On one of my usual visits, I was shocked to see his daughter’s sad face – he had passed away just a few days before. Our friendship, though lasting for just about 8-9 years, ended as abruptly as it began on the street in 1979.

I never regret that errand to the coin-seller when a lecturer at my degree college was absent that hour. My interest in numismatics waned, with his loss, but not the memory of this wonderful, kind-hearted man. The generation gap was no matter at all.

Chaddi Dharna

Seldom do watch-repairers, goldsmiths or tailors keep up ‘promises’ of the material delivery dates. So it was no surprise once when my tailor kept up that reputation which led to a bizarre and memorable incident, much to the tailor’s surprise.

It was the day prior to announcement of our 1973 SSLC results. We were to attend an uncle’s wedding. I had given a length of blue-gray-cotton cloth to my tailor ten days ahead to stitch me a Chaddi (shorts). He had not taken up that work even on the day I needed it in spite of many reminders.

My father knew this tailor for some years and his shop was just a furlong from our house. We used to give most or the tailoring orders to him, as he was quite skilled. May be because of these factors, he seemed to adapt the ‘take it easy policy’ to us, as was his wont. But that day, he was not allowed to do so. Even at the eleventh hour, there was no sign of him putting scissors to the cloth! That was the last straw. I decided to stage a lone dharna till my chaddi was delivered.

One by one, all my family elders came to fetch me, but I would not budge. Yielding to such pressure, most reluctantly, the cloth was finally picked up from his shelf. I witnessed my chaddi made ready in about an hour, by noon. My stubbornness had won over his. Pleased about the ‘achievement’, that left the tailor annoyed, I went to the wedding wearing the brand new chaddi, which was to be my last one stitched.

We continued to patronize this humble shop for some more years and he was to stitch my first pair of trousers also. The tailor continued with his wont but when it came to my jobs, he was half afraid of another dharna.

This is a picture taken about 1965m with my grandfather at Mysore Sports Club Ground.. Look at those shorts.

Kicking and Hitting


Hitting or kicking is our common instinct to let out built-up anger. Two incidents proved I was no exception. Blood really boils in the teens and early twenties!

The first one was during my high school days. Narayana (around my age) was a boy who worked at my friend’s house and used to occasionally join us for street cricket and other games. Teasing with irrelevant nicknames was common but they were usually overdone to irritate. One evening, I lost my tolerance with Narayana who certainly overdid. An instinctive kick into his ‘most sensitive anatomical part’ was the result. His fainting made us anxious but he recovered and went home after friends pacified us down. For the next one year, I avoided his house for my school route, fearing retaliation and also avoided play. But much to my relief, nothing happened till he was sent away. Peace for me, returned.

During my college days, my friend Venky’s friend had a nasty habit of saying ‘hello’. He would forcefully push his fingers into shirt-pockets of those he met. He was not that close a friend to me to be greeting me that way. One evening, this crazy friend met me and Venky but he first did it to me! The pocket tore off! Venky could not believe his eyes and ears. I was hurling abuses while hitting hard with a ‘bowling action’! (Cricket was our common factor) Venky tried to pacify but came in the way of my moving arm and got hit! Somehow the fight ended. At that time, Venky had borrowed a book for me, from him. I never returned it deliberately, because he had torn off my only ‘terrycot’ shirt! I never met this fellow again.

The recipients might not have learnt their lessons but I slowly did. For, they were the only times these instincts were let out outside home -– wink. Witness Venky remembers one of them, besides my only kick. Looking back, it is a funny feeling. But beware the fury of the patient man!

Very Bad English!


Returning my book, my history teacher, Sri Panduranga Vittal, frowned with the words "Very bad English!". I stretched out my hand to receive it and hung my head low. That was after a routine test in the 9th Std. at Sarada Vilas High School in 1972.

Later, mostly due to foolish neglect, I made my PUC a 4-year circus, two of which did not have the need to attend college. It created plenty of time to pursue street cricket and other interesting indoor hobbies. Listening to live cricket commentary on the radio, esp. from BBC and Radio Australia was as fascinating as it was educative, cricket-wise and language-wise. In parallel, I also tried to tune in to other overseas radio stations that broadcast English programmes, mostly for curiosity. It was in one of these, a list of penfriends was being announced. Penfriendship appealed to me as an exciting prospect where I could write freely without being under the powers of an evaluating teacher. Exchanging letters with a few like-minded penfriends was to bring me immense joy, improve knowledge, sharpen the language and the excitement of waiting for the postman to deliver letters to me. One of my introductory letters to a friend had returned "addressee not found" and reading it many years later, I experienced what my history teacher had felt with my answers. In the meanwhile, one of my essays had won a prize in the English Section of Radio Korea's contest. Reading autobiographies of famous cricketers was a passion that cropped up around that time, though not much of novels and stories. My friend Dr.Rajgopal Nidamboor, author of Cricket Boulevard was to inspire me in so many ways, after we met in a common friend's place in 1979.

The words of my teacher in that seemingly innocuous incident kept cropping up in my mind often and my conscience probably wanted to prove them wrong, much the same way when Navjot Singh Sidhu was referred as a 'strokeless wonder' by a reporter after he failed in his Test debut. That angry look in my teacher's eyes had pierced mine, along with it, my mind.

Dasara Nostalgia

DASARA NOSTALGIA

(This article was published in Star of Mysore’s Dasara Special Issue, 23.10.2006)


The calendar is turned back to the 1960s. The ending of our first-term examinations heralded the beginning of the much-awaited vacation. That too was the time when there used to be an unique and genuine excitement in almost every Mysorean. The reason: Mysore Dasara was just in sight. People had so much zeal for the preparation to then ten-day festival that it almost defies description. So much was their involvement. And the enjoyment, complete. No wonder, the Kannada film song by P.B.Sreenivos “Mysooru dasara eshtondu sundara, chellide nageya panneeraa, ellellu nageya panneeraa…” had become a hit.

The preparations would begin with the orderly arrangement of traditional dolls, toys and other little things for show on temporary platforms in our homes. We children were the most excited lot. We would make mini parks, zoos or mountains using little dolls and Binaca’s mini plastic animals as part of the doll show. Many enthusiastic children in small groups would visit houses asking “reee, bombe koorsideera?” This custom of visiting the neighbourhood and farther to have a look at the show, sing a song and get that day’s “bombe bagina” is almost forgotten today, dominated by the influence of the telly, etc. Now, when the telly gets more attention than the guest and with the why-bother attitude, many neighbours remain strangers, thus defeating the idea of the social visit, i.e., to promote good relationships.

Children would gladly keep all their books for the Saraswathi Pooja and get busy cleaning their tricycles and bicycles for Ayudya Pooja. And eager to find out if they were bought tickets for the Dasara Procession. Till 1970, my grandfather used to buy tickets for all of us in the family. We used to be there under the pandal near KR Circle well before the 21-gun royal salute, which signaled the start of the procession from the Palace. It is a phenomenon if the rain-god is quiet on Vijayadashami day.

Een then, there was a special something that drew thousands from all over. Majestic troops, meaningful tableux, melodious bands, two ‘tall’ men walking on long sticks, the perambulating horse carrying Commander Bijli (probably my grandfather knew him), checking that all was well when the procession went on decorated camels, horses, cows and elephants and host of other beautiful items like the silver chariot made the procession, which went to Bannimantap and returned in the night via Ashoka Road.

But the tailpiece of the procession was the highlight. The delightful Ambari Elephant carrying the 80kg. Golden howdah with the Maharaja and the Prince. The public, some of them, would offer flowers to the Maharaja. An assistant would pass them up with the vessel-attached stick. Then His Highness would acknowledge with a little nod and folded hands.

What was most enthralling to us was when His Highness spotted my grandfather by his prominent white hair, among the crowd with a special ‘namaskara’ and that little bow meant for his friend). The Highness used to play some tennis in the 1940s and 50s with my grandfather, who was a well-known personality in the city, esp. in the sports circles).

Translating that unique enjoyment of witnessing the procession is a hard task. Things looked clean and honest. No politics or ill will. But when the Govt. abolished the titles the original tang was dissolved forever. Since then, Dasara has sadly, become secular. That pure charm is now only a sweet memory. Such magnificence will never be paralled, however colourful they make the Dasaras of today.

In the Palace during the Dasara, the Maharaja used to sit on the throne at sharp 7 p.m for durbar. At the very instant of his sitting, the entire palace’s 80,000-bulb illumination was switched on, a truly grand sight to behold. Another attraction was the Exhibition beside the Mysore Medical College. It had that special splendour and that location, perfect. The beautiful waterfall seen from the entrance-passage is so vivid in my memory. In the ‘Ladies Section’, my grandmother’s crafts used to win prizes, since 1931. Sometimes, even the opposite Jeevannarayana Katte grounds would become an additional venue.

In my opinion, gemerally as well as for Dasara, the 1960s and 1970s were the ‘good old days’. There was less of everything – pollution, population, politics, pressure and problems, but more of fresh air around us. And that was also the time when the rupee had its near-full value. Those are the days, golden days, I always cherish and like to often reminisce with nostalgia.

~~~~~~~~~








[Picture - 30.8.2007] This is the building where the Dasara Exhibition was held before it was shifted to Doddakere. It belonged to the Mysore Medical College.

Darn the gooseberry


One Sunday evening in February 1970 our street boys were playing the bat and ball version of gulli danda on the road. "Ready?" called I before striking the ball. The pickled gooseberry slipped from my cheek and nicely settled in my gullet. I rushed to the nearest tap hoping water would force it down. No. Discomfort. Panic.

The doctor at the nearest clinic showed helplessness to the condition. "Liver House", a family of doctors, was opposite ours. The Head Lady there tried banging my back, but the pickle would not budge. She summoned her son Dr. Eswer to rush me to KR Hospital where he worked. My mother took me in an autorickshaw [one of few those days]. Shivaram [Eswer's nephew] and Eswer followed us on their Vespa scooter. Being a Sunday, the OT was locked. Eswer and Shivaram went on a man-hunt for the person who had the key. By the time they could return with the key, it was close to 9p.m. and my fingernails were turning blue indicating that the wind-pipe was luckily only partly blocked. The long wait was as uncomfortable as it was worrisome.

At the OT, a brass tube was inserted into my mouth. The obstructing gooseberry, gave a slip to the tweezer. I could not feel it slipping into the belly, but could feel the arrival of a new lease of life. Shivaram took me home after getting me a banana. My grandmother who prepared the pickle was more relieved than anybody. There were still a few more of those washed pickles in my 'chaddi' pocket!

Things were fine till a few days after. Fever and fetid smell from the mouth caused me to miss school. My appearing for the 7th std. public exams were in jeopardy. Eswer diagnosed an infection [cause was that brass pipe]. The antibiotic injections that followed made me to vomit huge amounts of pus. Health was soon restored but I was too weak to study. The sickness period helped revert my 'enemy' Rajagopal into a friend and bonded Zakir Hussain's friendship [classmates both].

Everyone stood by me and I passed with a 'first class'. My gratitude ever remains to Eswer [no more now], Shivaram [now an orthopaedician in the US] my teachers at CKC and others who helped me wade through the crisis successfully. My grandmother made that gooseberry tree in our backyard to be chopped down. Yet, it still survives, like me.

The little purse


Possession of money is one of great fascinations even from our childhood. Small changes found their way into children’s money boxes. Having a box full was a proud feeling. Counting and putting them back was often a pleasurable occupation at a young age. Sometimes, the temptation to spend part of it would get the better of our young minds. To do that without knowledge of elders required some guts esp. to those less adventurous.

My mind often ticks back to my 2nd std. days around the early 1960s when guts had come one evening. I had an old little leather purse to keep my ‘savings’, which mostly consisted of one paisa (copper) and two paise (nickel) coins totaling not even two rupees. I was to learn long later that the value of the rupee in those years was full 100 paise! It was not a joke when my grandmother used to say how many things a rupee could buy.

There was a small shop in the road next to our house and the shopkeeper knew where I belonged. I had secretly taken my street-mate Buddi, also of my age, to that shop. Confectionery items displayed in wide-mouthed glass bottles have never failed to attract little kids. We had fallen for that and I had money in my fat purse! Lemon lozenges and coconut peppermints cost one paisa each while two colour-coated peppermints came for just one paisa. We bought many and had a feast for hardly spending twenty paise! And it was not a small sum.

The next day, the shopkeeper had informed my house about our shopping spree and I had to admit it. In my college days, my father used to give me five rupees as ‘pocket money’ from which I used to save about a rupee even after buying a weekly sports magazine. I have saved this little purse as a reminder to the incident and of the valuable lesson learnt at that tender age. It has constantly stood me in good stead.

(Attached is the picture of that very purse. and the coinage of that period, in one and two paisa coins)