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.

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[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)

Scented Rubber




One fine day in 1965, before the mass prayer in school, my classmate was proudly displaying that big, crisp ten rupee note to us. We 3rd Standard boys were quite stunned to see him with such a fortune.

Perfumed erasers [we called 'scent rubbers'] from Japan had begun to enter Indian shops. They were soft, white & green, had a pleasant fragrance and came in different pictures carrying all letters of the alphabet. Parents were pestered to buy this expensive, dream rubber that cost fifty paise, a whopping five times more than their best Indian counterparts that were crude enough to leave a real mess! But the scent rubber gave a smooth, clean rub - a joy in itself!

So, this 'rich' boy had perhaps designed a plan for that day. We had finished our mid day meal from our little lunch boxes and somehow a group of 5 or 6 was formed. Soon we were heading for the nearby shop that sold this wonder rubber. Besides scent rubbers, he got us chocolates and pencils of our choice for the entire ten rupees and our pockets were filled with these 'generous gifts'. Time had halted while we were happily feasting at that shop counter. Leisurely, we strolled back to school, oblivious of what was in store. We were quite late for the afternoon session. So we were made to stand outside the class and the matter was duly reported to the strict Head Mistress. Interrogation revealed the truth. We were warned and let go to the class but the ten-rupee-boy was retained for further inquiry.

The following day, his parents were called and the boy was reprimanded. That money was supposed to be remitted by him as school fee [it was Rs.5/- per month], but the temptation and boldness to buy the scent rubber had got the better of him. He joined another school for his 4th. The incident had taught us a lesson about what squandering money was all about, when in as young a hand as that. We meet occasionally even now. His memory of the scent rubber shopping spree is zero, but the scent of the rubber and of the 'feast' still lingers in mine.