Archive for the ‘Once upon a time’ Category

Once upon a time, at Gulbarga railway station

6 October 2013

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K. JAVEED NAYEEM writes: On the day I left Gulbarga for good, upon completion of my studies and internship, I rode to the railway station from my room on my bicycle. To make things easier for me, my friends had taken my luggage in a cycle-rickshaw a little earlier and were waiting for me on the platform.

As I entered the platform and approached them I saw uniformed men of the Police Band standing in formation a little distance away. Before I could ask someone the reason for this, one of my friends told me that an important Police Officer was arriving by the train and the band was there to receive him.

The train soon arrived and we waited for the alighting passengers to get down before I could board it. But I saw no sign of any VIP getting down which seemed rather strange.

All my friends loaded my luggage into the compartment and expecting the train to start any moment, when I started bidding farewell to them, they asked me to get down with them for a moment, which I did.

All of a sudden there was the sound of crackers bursting and as if on this cue the Police Band started playing and to my utter confusion and consternation my friends grabbed me and tossed me into the air in a series of bumps.

All the people on the platform and in the train were as confused as I was over this unexpected commotion when the station master, S. Tuppadauru accompanied by the chief ticketing clerk Sunder Raj arrived on the scene.

While for a brief moment I thought that they had come to discharge their official duties and disperse the boisterous group of medicos, the station master shook my hand vigorously and congratulated me on becoming a doctor while Sunder Raj thrust a peda into my mouth, stifling any word of protest from me.

Ghani, the over-aged porter who had always carried my luggage over the last six years of my stay at Gulbarga appeared on the scene from somewhere with his toothless grin and garlanded me before bowing down to grab my feet.

Before I could dislodge him in embarrassment, Khan, the canteen contractor who used to always make the bread toast and omelettes to the perfection that I expected, during every one of my visits to his joint over the years, grabbed me in a rib-cracking bear hug.

Very soon Pandurang, the postman, Rajanna, my dhobie and Syed, my errand boy were there too, holding back their tears behind their smiles.

I am not a person given to shedding tears easily but on that occasion I simply could not hold them back. I never expected that I would get such a warm and emotional farewell from so many people after my six-year stay at a place which many people here had warned me would be comparable to hell.

A few bits and pieces of memorabilia from my past may be of interest here.

Sunder Raj the ever-smiling chief ticketing clerk I have mentioned served at the Gulbarga railway station for many years and he was one of the most obliging persons I have seen in my life. He would somehow manage to find and arrange a berth or at least a seat on all the out-going trains for all the medical and engineering students who had to go home at short notice in an emergency.

On the few occasions when he failed in his efforts he would accompany them to the compartment and request the TTEs to make some arrangement to see that they travelled in safety and comfort. And, all this he did without expecting anything in return except a smile.

Whenever anyone exhibited even the faintest trace of anxiety or impatience, his stock phrase was “zara aaram se, zara aaram se. Hojayega,” without the slightest hint of irritation.

I discovered during a subsequent visit to Gulbarga that Ghani, the porter died a few years after I left the place and now his son Haneef has donned the red shirt, toiling on the same platform. Khan is no more too but his family still runs the canteen at Gulbarga station as it has been doing over the many years before I went there.

The Raleigh bicycle I rode all through my high schooldays into medical college and out of it was bought for me by my father from a small bicycle shop just then opened by his cousin Umar at Aldur, our native village in Chickmagalur District.

It came to Mysore in a semi-knocked down state riding in the boot of our Dodge car to be immediately assembled by my father in a night-long job to meet my expectation and exuberance of riding it to school the very next day.

On the day I rode it into St. Philomena’s College for my PUC I was approached near the cycle stand by a puny man in a torn shirt and a once white dhoti who offered to engrave my name on its handle bar for a rupee.

I immediately agreed to the proposal and before the slightest risk of my changing my mind I saw him hammering away with a tempered steel nail and a flat iron bar. In almost no time at all I saw my name adorning my bike in beautiful flowing letters. I praised his workmanship and found out that he was Subramani from Chickmagalur.

He in turn was happy that I too was from his place and he offered to engrave my name on my fountain pen for just twenty-five paise. Now, before he could change his mind I placed my still unused blue ‘Mendoz’ pen which I had bought the previous evening for seven rupees, in his hand.

I was so fascinated by his deftness that I started meeting him every morning at the cycle stand to watch him at work on other students’ bikes and pens. Not satisfied with just watching Subramani at work, I started practicing his art at home with a set of self-made engraving tools much to the chagrin of my parents who felt that I was wasting precious time on useless pursuits.

But I soon discovered that I had a knack for this work too and continued perfecting it. Soon after my marriage, when my wife and I started our life together in a story-book rural hospital on the desolate edge of ‘Veerappan Territory’ I managed to make her very happy by engraving her name on all the pots and pans we bought!

This only goes to show that none of the ‘useless’ things we learn as we go along in life are completely useless! They rarely go waste and even if they do not earn us any money they certainly may earn us much admiration.

And, if this admiration happens to come from someone we admire, the effort certainly becomes supremely worthwhile!

(K. Javeed Nayeem is a practising physician, who writes a weekly column for Star of Mysore, where a longer version of this piece appeared)

Photograph: courtesy Wikipedia

When Dr Radhakrishnan added to Bhagwad Gita

26 April 2013

Ahalya Chari, the head of the Regional College of Education from 1967-70, passed away in Madras recently, at the age of 92. Here, Krishna Vattam, the longtime Mysore correspondent of Deccan Herald, pays tribute and recounts an incident involving “Miss Chari” and another former resident of Mysore, the late president of India, Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan.



In my 40-year-long association with Deccan Herald as a reporter, I have had experiences of many incidents which have left a deep impress on my mind.

One such incident I am going to narrate is my visit to the Regional College of Education (RCE) and its affiliate Demonstration Multipurpose School (DMS) in the Manasagangothri campus in 1965—and the time I spent in the presence of two great teachers, one a Universal teacher, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, and the other, an embodiment of Jiddu Krishnamurthy’s teachings, Miss Ahalya Chari.

It was at the invitation of Miss Chari that Dr Radhakrishnan, the philosopher-savant, had come to Mysore, to participate in a simple function to mark the planting of saplings on the campus.

It was 7 August 1965. It had rained all through the night before. But there was a bright sunshine in the morning. The rain drops that had collected on the tender leaves turned into various hues as the sunrays fell on them.

The entire surroundings seemed to be in communion with God.

It was least anticipated by the gathering that the occasion would pleasantly turn out as an event for presentation of a philosophical treatise and brilliant exposition of the profound truths of the Bhagavad Gita by Dr Radhakrishnan.

A group of girls—Vatsala, Ratnamala, Usha— accompanied by Miss Chari and teachers Anantharamaiah, S. Keshava Murthy and Mohanraj rendered in chorus an ancient prayer found on the inscriptions of the world-famous Belur temple.

The prayer, with its ennobling ideals, had an electrifying effect on the minds of those who had gathered.

It reads:

“Yam Saivah Samupasate Siva iti Brahmeti Vedantinah

Bauddhah Buddha iti Pramanapatavah karteti Naiyyayikah

Arhannityatha Jainasasanaratah

Karmeti Mimamsakah.”

The meaning is “Whom the Saivas worship as Siva, the Vedantins as Brahmam, the Buddhists as Buddha, the Naiyaayikas who specialise in knowledge as the chief agent, the followers of the Jaina code as the Ever Free, the ritualists as the principle of law, may that Hari, the Lord of the Three Worlds, grant our prayers.”

No sooner the group had completed the rendering, Dr. Radhakrishnan asked the group to recite the two lines he recited in continuation of the original three lines.

The entire gathering, having the thrill of their lives, recited the two additional lines:

“Christ & Allah

“Kraistvah Kristuriti kriyapararatah Alleti Mahammadah Soyam Vo Vidadhatu Vanchitaphalam Trailokyanatho Harih.”

The meaning is: “Whom the Christians devoted to work as Christ and the Mohammedans as Allah.”

Dr. Radhakrishnan explained that had Udayanacharya, who composed these three lines, been writing in this age he would have added those two lines which he (Dr. Radhakrishnan) had composed.

While interpreting the 11th verse in the fourth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, the book he published in the early 1940s, Dr Radhakrishnan had an occasion to comment on the wide catholicity of the Gita. In this context, he quoted Udayanacharya and added his own two lines to encompass the whole universe.

The Radhakrishnan-effect is still felt by all those who were fortunate to attend that sublime function. Though those Acharyas — Dr. Radhakrishnan and Miss Chari — are no more amidst us. I cherish that incident.

(A longer version of this piece originally appeared in Star of Mysore)

Newspaper scan: courtesy B.N. Balajee

Also by Krishna Vattam: Before the slumdogs, the Mahout Millionaire

Gangavva, yele southekaayi bandaithe kanava!

When Bedi bowled from Maharaja’s College end

22 April 2013

Bishen Singh Bedi and Eknath Solkar being taken around in an open-topped jeep in front of the Mysore Palace, circa 1981

Sandeep Patil, Kirti Azad and Dilip Vengsarkar on Ashoka Road, as the cricket caravan approaches Janata Bazaar

VIKRAM MUTHANNA writes from Mysore: Recently, I was invited to be part of a group that is trying to raise funds for Pratham Mysore, the highly respected NGO that has helped improve the state of education in our country.

Pratham Mysore has popularised the Balawadi pre-school programme where they pick a few volunteers in a community who are educated till class 10 and above and request them to educate the poor pre-schoolers in their areas. They also have many other programmes, the important one being the bridge programme in both rural and poor urban areas where they teach government school children after school hours.

So far in Mysore, Pratham has successfully delivered education programmes to around 15,000 poor pre-school and primary students in Mysore and surrounding districts.

So it turned out that they wanted my inputs and some publicity to raise some funds to create and support 212 new education centres in rural areas of Mysore. They already manage 182 such centres!

After much discussion it was decided that just like how dinners are hosted to raise money for a cause in the west, we would try to have a gala dinner for which people would pay a premium as there would be some celebrities and in a cricket-crazy nation where cricketers are demigods, the chance of having dinner while hearing stories straight from the horses’ mouths—or shall we say demi-gods’ lips—would be a chance no cricket lover could pass up; especially when there are only 200 invites which would make the interaction more intimate.

So, who would grace the gala that would attract some money?

Ashvini Ranjan who heads Pratham Mysore and is also now the Mysore zone chairman of Karnataka state cricket association (KSCA), confirmed that our own City’s son Javagal Srinath (KSCA’s secretary) and son-in-law Anil Kumble (KSCA president) would participate.

It was also thought that may be these two could also bring in Rahul Dravid with them, and a few more.

Just then, Ashvini Ranjan mentioned in passing how in 1981 they managed to convince a few top Indian national cricket team players to come to Mysore for an exhibition match to raise funds for a Lions school and how once the senior players were convinced, they in turn roped in other national players.

This was impressive and I was curious.

How did a group of smalltown men manage to get 16 members from the national team to our little City in 1981 for fund-raising ?! I pressed for more and the story I heard was worthy of a recount which held many lessons in celebrity-driven fund-raising and dedicated social service.


Here is the story Ashvini Ranjan told me:

It seems, in 1981 the Lions Club of Mysore West wanted to build a school and had to raise some funds.

The Club had many enthusiastic members and among them was R. Vasu, one of the partners of Cycle Brand Agarbathies who was very interested in cricket and well-networked in those circles. He came up with the idea of an exhibition cricket match between two teams each with a heavy mix of Indian national players!

Yes, indeed, an audacious idea for that time, and even today. Soon he and the other Lions decided they would have two teams each with a mix of national players, State players and two local players.

After many months of phone calls and umpteen visits to Bangalore, Vasu along with the other Lions managed to convince the core Indian players—then it was Dilip Vengsarkar, Sandeep Patil, G.R. Vishwanath, Brijesh Patel, Bishan Singh Bedi and Roger Binny.

They, in turn, managed to convince others to come with them to play a day of cricket for a good cause.

As soon as all the cricketers confirmed, air tickets were booked and it was communicated to them that a 42-seater luxury bus would be waiting for them at the Bangalore airport to bring them to Mysore.

On the faithful day the bus left for Bangalore airport while the Lions Club members waited in front of Mysore Palace to give them a grand welcome. Late afternoon as the bus approached, the Lions members were excited and waited for the demi-gods to alight from the bus… but only Sandeep Patil and his girlfriend were on the bus!

What happened to the rest?

The members were soon informed by Patil that the others decided that they would come in private taxis and leisurely they started arriving one by one. Though the organisers were worried about the taxi expenses they were relieved that the players had arrived.


The players were put up at the luxurious Rajendra Vilas Imperial Palace hotel atop the hill.

That night, they were felicitated at Lalitha Mahal Palace hotel with small elephant statues after which they left for their round of beers.

Next day, they were taken on a procession around the City, which attracted huge crowds and generated so much publicity for the exhibition match that the next day all tickets were sold out, even though a ticket cost a princely sum of Rs. 100.

Also, since there was no cricket stadium with cover or seating, the members managed to have covered seating using coconut branches and bamboo for 15,000 people at Maharaja’s ground. No mean feat.

With tickets sold out, passes given out to keep government officials happy, turf pitch ready, all seemed perfect for the match the next day.

And then the unthinkable happened: That night it poured and poured.

The next morning the pitch was soaked leaving the organisers with an unplayable drenched pitch. With the turf gone, match delayed and the 15,000 strong crowd growing restless by the minute, the organisers began their hunt for the only alternative — a cricket mat.

Finally a mat was tracked down, and the person renting it knew the organisers’ predicament and charged them an arm and a leg. He charged them Rs. 3,500, a ransom in 1981.

Soon the match was on and it poured again… this time it poured sixers from Sandeep Patil’s bat. Who won? Well, now no one quite remembers for sure. But they all remember that Sandeep Patil hit such huge sixers that they lost two cricket balls.

As Ashvini Ranjan recalls, “We had so much fun that we never bothered about who won. Guess cricket won that day.” With that Mysoreans had witnessed legends in action.

Mission accomplished… or so the organisers thought.

Later, that night, the players were hosted for dinner at the Mysore Palace by Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, with live music. Players like Eknath Solkar sang and did a solo dance much to the delight of everyone present.

The following day the players were to leave, but a handful of them stayed back. They supposedly said they loved the weather of the City and loved the location of their hotel atop the hill so much that they wanted to stay a few more days. But many organisers now say, the players seemed to have enjoyed their beer much, much more than the weather.

In the end after a week of cricket drama, the Lions Club which had invited national players to raise funds for their ambitious school project had managed to collect Rs. 3.5 lakh by way of ticket sales and sponsorships.

All good? Not really.

It seems by the time the cricketers had left and by the time the organisers had paid for their air ticket, the bus that brought just one couple, taxis, the mat, mementoes, beer, food and stay, the Lions Club was left with… just Rs. 18,000! The dream of a school was back to the pavilion.

To add, the free passes they gave to the government officials had eaten into their fund-raising budget substantially.

It seems the cricketers had left feeling high, while leaving the organisers completely dry.


While the Lions members were left lost, the then divisional commissioner and CITB Chairman M.P. Prakash, who heard of the debacle, felt bad and offered the Club one-and-half acres of land in Gokulam for the school and told them that for the time being, they can pay the Rs. 18,000 as down payment and the rest they must pay on time in installments.

The club members gladly agreed and today, Gokulam Lions School sits on a two-acre land with a student strength of 650. What 16 Indian cricketers could not do, an understanding, kind and good bureaucrat did. This shows the power bureaucrats have and the good they can do with it.

Today, the 1981 batch of Lions West members laugh at how they lost all their money to the players’ extravaganza, but they still thank the cricketers for generating great publicity which later helped them raise funds to build the school.

After I heard this story, I couldn’t help but ask if Ashvini Ranjan had any photographs of the event so our older readers could reminisce and younger readers could delight themselves.

As expected, Ashvini Ranjan shared the photos adding “Such memories are to be shared, not copyrighted or put away.”

In fact even the photos of this event has a story. It seems the organisers were so disheartened after the event, that they forgot all about the photographs and six months later it arrived in a box at the then Lions Club President Ashvini Ranjan’s house who kept it safely and after a while started gifting it to people who were in the photographs as memorabilia on their birthday or special occasions.

Yes, Ashwini Ranjan and the supporters of Pratham like myself, will once again try to rope in cricketers to raise money, publicity and good will for a good cause. This time, instead of cricket, it will be over good food. But we are also aware and take comfort in the fact that unlike yesterday’s cricketers who had time, for today’s cricketers time is money and they have no time to sit around enjoying beer and good weather.

So there is no way Srinath, Kumble, Dravid and others will get high and leave us dry.

The event has been scheduled for 7th of July 2013 and there are only 200 gala dinner tickets. The cost of the tickets will be announced in the coming weeks. This is a chance to meet, talk and ask whatever you want with the living cricket legends, or if you just like to donate you can contact Pratham through or call Ph: 0821-2412612 or if you just want to have good food and good company you can sit at the table with yours truly and consume a bit of politics, a little bit of art and culture and a large dose of dirty jokes and a fair amount of happy spirit.

(Vikram Muthanna is the managing editor of Star of Mysore, where this piece originally appeared)



The “super-sopper” deployed at the Maharaja’s College grounds, on the morning of the match

Gundappa Viswanath and Bishen Singh Bedi go out to toss on a rain-marred wicket


Srikantadatta Narasimha Wodeyar is introduced to the two teams, as B.S. Chandrashekhar, Sandeep Patil, Ravi Shastri and local legend, “Tiger” Prabhakar of Ideal Jawa (third from right, in a skull cap), look on


Sandeep Patil with Wodeyar


“Tiger” Prabhakar, Vishy, Anshuman Gaekwad, Chandra and Roger Binny spill some beers (above); Vengsarkar, Kirti Azad (below)


Bishen Bedi with Vishy at the “Sports Club” party

Eknath Solkar, who batted and fielded with a scooter helmet, shakes a leg

Once upon a time, how a sound proof bus looked

1 August 2012

At the all India institute of speech and hearing (AIISH) in Mysore, the mobile audio assessment lab (known to ordinary mortals as a sound proof bus) stands in a state of disrepair after being decommissioned.
Photographs: Greeshma Raghunath, Mala Sridhara

Once, such a man walked this land we now ruin

18 April 2012

Editorial in The Hindu on 17 April 1962, on Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya, who passed away 50 years ago this week:

“Dr Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya is no longer physically with us, but the noble record of his work will long endure and continue to inspire succeeding generations. He was truly of his time and yet far ahead of it, a living synthesis of old-world courtesy and simplicity and the dynamic qualities of a pioneer of planned progress.

“As a professional engineer, he achieved monumental feats of design and construction, like the Krishnaraja Sagara Dam. Mysore has good reason to cherish him for his many services to the State as both engineer and administrator, his six years as the Dewan of the former princely State being marked as much by his genius for organisation as by a passion for service.

“Though industries and education were his major concern (he was the founder of the University of Mysore), rural uplift that is so much in the air to-day was also among his early preoccupations. His book, Reconstructing India which has been greeted as “a thorough and comprehensive statement of India’s requirements” provides a blue print for social reform and uplift of women and the depressed classes, as much as for building a political and economic system from the village upwards.

“The idea of the Mysore Government to make the native village of Dr Visvesvaraya a model village is appropriate, though the centenarian did expect every village in every State in India to be so reconstructed. It is significant that he won his early laurels as an engineer under the Bombay Government, before his home State claimed him.

“The heritage of his example is there for posterity to cherish and emulate. India has much need of more men of his calibre, wisdom, vision and above all his unshakable integrity.”

Also read: Sir MV on India’s 11 basic wants

Sir MV: The 7th most famous Mysorean in the world?

The finest (English) passage on Karnataka?

When the Mysore turban gave way to the roomal

A small lesson from Sir MV for our munde makkalu

Sunny, Vishy, Immy, ITC and namma Meera

16 March 2012

NARENDRA K. writes: I was all of 18 years and Meera was 20.

Life had meandered on amidst the vicissitudes of destiny. “Anna” was no more and his absence both as a provider and bulwark of the family was being felt every single day.

“Amma” soldiered on. She put up an iron fisted fight in the unrelenting ring of every day existence; in the heat of abjectness; through the seething fire of an unmarked, untoward future and its uncertainty; amidst the misery of it all.

Meera had completed her MSc degree. Life and its various possibilities looked her in the eye. As a young girl she obviously didn’t quite grasp the various implications.

“Amma” was keen to see her married. But the process of a connubial union comes with a certain mandatory requirement- the money to solemnise the marriage! And that is exactly what was in short supply.


It was around this time, in 1978, that a sporting event of rare historical meaning was beginning to unfold in faraway Pakistan.

Beyond the Khyber Pass.

The resumption of cricketing ties between India and Pakistan after a few decades of political hostility. If cricket lovers had to be grateful for the sight of eleven flannelled Indians putting bat to ball on Pakistani soil after a long time, so should Meera be!

Before you wonder how on earth, in the sheer improbability of such a possibility, Meera, of all the people, could have played a role in either Sunil Gavaskar or Gundappa Viswanath padding up in Lahore to face the menacing Imran Khan and Sarfaraz Nawaz, there rests a tale!

The cricket series had been sponsored by the famous Indian Tobacco Company (ITC), known the world over for its many cigarette brands. In conjunction with Sportsweek, perhaps the most famous of sports magazines in the country then, under editor Khalid Ansari, they launched a cricket quiz named, ‘Howzatt Cricket Quiz’.

Participants had to collect ten cigarette packs of the ITC brand, answer a few basic questions on cricket, pen a catchy slogan relating to the then fledgling concept of instant cricket and mail them to the company along with the entry form.

I hurried to Sundaram provision store in Vontikoppal, where Amma would always buy the meagre household provisions. I was on a mission. Not to buy rice or dal or soap but to somehow collect the ten mandatory packs of cigarettes, mercifully in their empty state. I had decided to participate in the cricket quiz.

“Sir,” I began hesitatingly. “Could you please help me with ten cigarette packs?”

Before the shop keeper could begin to see red in the rather strange and potentially damaging desire of a young boy barely in his teens in the conservative Mysore of the 1970’s for an item that bespoke an unholy pleasure, and that too in multiple packs, I blurted to him that I needed them only in their empty form to fulfill the requirement to participate in a cricket quiz sponsored by ITC.

The shop keeper, who obviously knew Amma, laughed and said, “In that case, why ten, take twenty!”

And so it was that two sets of forms came to be filled. One in my name and one in Meera’s. All the questions were duly answered, two different slogans were thought of, the cigarette packs were put in place in a big envelope and the post was on its way!

As for the slogans, unfortunately, their recollections are lost in the mists of time, although I vaguely remember writing something of a line which said, ‘Instant cricket is the embodiment of……’, the word embodiment, obviously coming to mind from the many spiritual sessions that I had been part of at the Vidyashala!

This was in September 1978.


The cricket series ended, so did the career of the great Gundappa Vishwanath, and there was no sign of any result of the quiz. Not that I expected to win.

As the days went by with their usual uneventfulness in our lives, Dwarakanath of the famous Srinivasa Stores at K.R. Circle, a wholesaler of ITC products, where even the renowned novelist R.K. Narayan shopped for some of his essentials, came calling.

He had some news to give us.

And the news he gave us was the equivalent of a tortoise outrunning a cheetah; of a lame man winning the Olympic gold in the 100 metre dash!

Both Meera and I had won prizes in the cricket quiz!

In July 1979, when the official letter did arrive from the ITC group duly type written on its letter head, we rubbed our eyes in disbelief; in a state of extreme astounded incredulity; in the throes of amazed joyousness.

To read the news that Meera, who incidentally had simply lent her name to the quiz with me having done all the hard work of filling up the form, not to forget doing the round of the provision store in desperate search of those vital cigarette packs, had won the grand prize of ten thousand rupees!

Also, I had won two thousand!

There were two options offered by the company. Either we could accept the cash or in Meera’s case, an Enfield Bullet 350 Standard Motorcycle.

As for me, they offered the cash or a quartz watch in lieu of it.

The leafy streets of Mysore never ever saw the amusing sight of Meera zooming around on a Bullet motorbike nor did anyone see me check time on a gleaming quartz watch then.

Cash it was, thank you!


Post script: Quite unbelievably, it was the very same twelve-thousand rupees that went into the financial corpus of Meera’s marriage. That my sister promptly sent back that amount in dollar form after her departure to the United
States is a testimony to her sweetness!

As I sit back today and muse on the serendipitous happening that changed to a large extent the family’s lot, my mind travels back to the time when Swami Jagadatmanandaji, in his book, Badukali Kaliyari, written in 1979, even made a mention of the incident!

Making a reference to a student who had unwaveringly, patiently and intently focussed on the sports page of the newspaper from the back for long, while the swamiji himself, spreading the newspaper in front of him, read the preceding pages which contained other news of varied kinds, he went on to say that any act done with single mindedness and sincerity went a long way in helping achieve the goals of young minds!

Mercifully, in my case, it surely did help. The twelve thousand rupees that came into my family’s kitty was indeed, Manna from heaven!


(This article appears in Prabuddha Chetana, a forthcoming souvenir on Kyatasandra Jagannath, an illustrious headmaster of the Ramakrishna Vidyashala and a legendary mathematics teacher. The book will be released on April 8 by the former chief justice of the Supreme Court of India, Justice M.N. Venkatachalliah)

Once upon a time, ‘society’ shopping on Sunday

16 September 2011

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Today, shopping on a Sunday is synonymous with going to a slick mall or a supermarket where you can buy anything from shampoos to cellphones, from laptops to mobile phones, and any brand you want, all under one roof by flashing your card.

Years ago, of course, you could buy none of these as they were yet to be invented. And, in any case, there were no malls and supermarkets of the kind we see today.

Then, how did we shop and what did we shop anyway?

And where, please?

There were neighbourhood angadis of course, but the metaphorical mall of the time was the “Cooperative Society”, which sold anything from Ambal nashya (snuff powder) to “Passing Show” cigarettes, and where everything you bought was cheaper than the corner store but rationed, as life itself was run on a steady economy scale.

But choosing, buying or paying was not as easy as it is today.

First, you had to make an application which entitled you to become a member of a “Society”.  The head of the family had to fill out the details—number of dependents, salary etc—get it attested by a gazetted officer and give to the “Society” secretary, who after due verification would ask you to come the following week.

Meanwhile, you would visit Dodda Ganesha or Ishwara temple in the locality, give your name and gothra to the priest, have an archane done, and pray for the success of your application.

The following week the ration card would be collected by your father on his way back from office, and Amma would light up a lamp in pure ghee and make paayasa for dinner in celebration.

The newly secured “ration card” would then find pride of place in the pooja room.

From then on, at least one Sunday in a month would never be a holiday for anybody at home.

That Sunday, while still groggy, you would be dragged out of bed at dawn and sent off with your elder sister, who herself would be still in high school studying in Samaja (Mahila Seva Samaja) or Marathi school (Maharashtra Mahila Vidyalaya) or ‘Tinny’s’ school (also called Basavanagudi girls school), along with the ration card to buy the monthly ration.

After placing your card in the pile at the counter as others before you, your job was to keep a hawk eye on it so that there was no hanky-panky while the cards were piling up by the minute.

When the Society doors opened, the busy and gruff clerk, looking ever so important, would ask everybody to maintain silence. The entire heap of ration cards would be turned upside down under the watchful eyes of hundreds.

The whole place would suddenly come to life the with clerk writing the bill of fare and entering the price in rupee, anna and pie. After writing with one plus three carbons, he would quickly add up the amount on a rough paper using his fingers sometimes.

When your turn came, your elder sister would read from the list the rations needed for the month including soudhe (firewood) for cooking, since there was no LPG in those days. The list itself would be written on buff paper with a Perumal Chetty pencil as dictated by mother at home.

The clerk would then relay the items to the storekeeper within earshot of other consumers:

Bangarada Sanna – 5 seru
Ratna chudi – 3 seer
Groundnut oil- ½  seer
Kerosene oil – ½ seer
Cuticura powder -1 tin
Raja Snow – 1 bottle
Dharapurada thuppa – ¼ seer
Nanjanagud hallupudi – 1pkt
Coffee pudi – 1 paavu
Kattige – 3 Rs
Saasuve, daalchinni, jeerige – 1 chataku
Yaalakki, kesari – 1 tola

This would  be repeated aloud again by the  staff as each item was measured, poured into a buff paper that was folded into a cone and tied with a strand of gunny bag thread that hung from a hook attached to the roof of the “Society”.

The payment was in rupees, anna and pies. The clerk would have small steel cups for annas and pies, the notes going into the drawer of the table.

The firewood would be split into smaller pieces with an axe and put into a delivery cart and the youngest in the family would accompany the “Society” delivery boy to ensure there was no pilferage along the way.

Your brother or sister would accompany the store boy carrying the goods whose arrival was anxiously awaited by mother at the gate to the house.

Thus, one Sunday would go into the business of getting monthly rations.

The second Sunday would be for taking an oil bath. Castor oil applied liberally on the head and allowed to soak would cross the boundary of the eyebrows, and seep into your eyes, giving you a burning feeling.

When one of your elders poured boiling water on your head and applied shika kayi suds stored in an inverted coconut shell acting as a container on to your head, the froth from soap would freely mix with the oil, giving your eyes the equivalent of third-degree torture.

By the time you finished your oil bath you had a mop of freshly washed hair with sore red eyes and scalding all over your body!

The ladies on the other hand, fresh after an oil bath, dried their long tresses under a small fire sprinkled with sambhrani crystals under a cane basket, the aroma wafting from the basket to the entire house, holding everyone in a trance.

If you had your Ajji with you, she would use up your third Sunday to de-worm your entire digestive system.

She would wake you up early morning and make you gulp half a tumbler of  homemade castor oil in one go, holding the edges of your nose making sure not a drop spills. When you threatened to throw up and with that all her efforts into the drain, she would give you a piece of lemon pickle to thwart the vomiting.

If the worms stayed put, another of Ajji’s extra strong dose would go down your throat.

Only after you got rid of the worms by repeated visits to the toilet, you would get the first food of the day, some rice with saaru and sandige late in the afternoon.

The last Sunday , if nothing else came in between, was used sometimes to go to a morning show either in Minerva for Satyajit Ray’s Bengali movies or to Vijayalakshmi for English movies, after a brief stopover at Modern Hotel or Udupi Krishna Bhavan.

Once upon a time, everything was rationed in moderation—provisions, movies, fun—but we were quite happy and contented.

Also read: Namma Nafisa owes it all to Nanjangud hallupudi

You are never too old to say, ‘Remember me’?

27 June 2011

This is a picture to both salute and to smile. The former first: the man in the middle of the frame, the veteran food scientist T.N. Ramachandra Rao, passed away in Mysore on Friday, after having lived a full life of 96 years and with over 100 research papers and three patents to his name.

What is so special about the picture is that seated to the right of Rao is his nursery classmate, Lokamatha. The two went to school in Tumkur and met at a marriage ceremony in Mysore in December 2008 after a gap of—wait for it—85 years. To Rao’s left is his wife, Kamalamma, who survives him.

Photograph: courtesy Star of Mysore

Also read: Once upon a time, in New Public English School

Once upon a time, shortly after the lunch break

Once upon a time, in Nirmala High school

Once upon a time, in Marimallappa‘s high school

Once upon a time, in Maharaja‘s high school

Once upon a time, in Maharani‘s college (yes!)

Once upon a time in Ramakrishna Vidyashala

Once upon a time in CFTRI high school

The Malayalee who taught Kannada to a Gujarati

4 September 2010

MANISHA MODHA-PATEL writes from Ahmedabad: It was in the year 1980 that I first met her.

I was 12 years old.

Our family had just moved from Bombay to Mysore. Besides the lovely weather, the new place offered new friends, a new house, and a new school with new classmates and new teachers.

Moving to a new place always has its moments, apart from the difficulties of finding your way and melding in. The language barrier makes it even more so.

In namma Mysooru, Kannada posed countless troubles to me: from the emotional trauma of not being able to converse with many of my classmates to the physical pain of manoeuvering the finger to write it.

Enter Miss Ponnamma George.

My class-teacher at Nirmala School who introduced me to the nuances of the new language; my writing coach who taught me the way to hold the pencil to etch its letters on paper; the language guide who taught me how to make sense of the what I heard and how to start speaking it myself.

The fact that my parents, who were as new to the City as I, were of little or no help in managing this new language, compelled me to put in extra time in learning it all on my own.

It  meant the agony of an extra one hour of class every day after school. The charge? Ten rupees—yes, Rs 10—per month!

It meant the agony of watching all your classmates happily go home and play, while you sat at the desk learning the alphabet by rote, writing the same new words and new sentences countless number of times.

Homework and more homework.

If, over time, Kannada became something I could handle, it was entirely because or Miss Ponnamma.

The ever-smiling lady had the patience and sensitivity to make the extra class delightful. She taught to me to converse in Kannada and didn’t laugh when I did and tripped. Over time, Kannada seemed easier and my equation with her grew stronger.

It was Miss Ponnamma who explained to me that kencha or kenchi was not a foul-word but an adjective meaning fair, although it sounded like one when the K-word was yelled at us while we were having lunch. It was Miss Ponnamma who explained who a halli guggu or a goobe or an emmay was.

It was Miss Ponnamma who revealed to me that besi bele hulli anna and puliyogere were not words belonging to some botanical species but rice dishes; that mosuru anna was curd- rice and not to be pronounced as Mysore anna. That illa kan’e and illa kanó were equivalent to “No, yaar” in English.

It wasn’t quite high literature, but it was useful for a young girl finding her feet.

What endeared me to Miss Ponnamma was her infinite patience with me. It was reassuring to hear her say “paravagilla” (ït’s OK) whenever I made a mistake, and it was often enough, believe me.

When she announced me to be the monitor of the class, I was shocked but realised that Miss Ponnamma did like me a wee bit more. Was I now one among us (nammavaru?), not an “outsider” (bere-avaru)? If it wasn’t for this little action by Miss Ponnamma, I would never have been the person I was in school!

Doing all the little tasks for her, getting her bag from the teachers’ room to those charts we prepared for the school exhibitions, to just being around her whenever she needed me. School was definitely the place to be in. And once a student is made monitor,  life becomes somehow easier. (Ask all monitors.)

I remember her inviting me and a classmate Preeti Attavar to her marriaju when we were in our seventh standard.  This made me feel even more special. The whole class collected money to buy a gift (including a purple lipstick from Mohan Bhandar!), and Preeti and I went to Saint Bartholomew Church to hand them over.

I knew that my presence would mean a lot to her. It certainly did to me.  A glimpse of a Christian wedding and my first one at that. She looked lovely in a white saree. And I had thought all Christian brides wore those lovely gowns that made them look like a fairy. She indeed was one for me!

Life, was easy in 7th standard, courtesy Miss Ponamma, and the subsequent years were even better. After going to the high school, meeting her sometime, just made my day.

A chance conversation with another classmate two years ago revealed she was still teaching in the same school after 30 years and was in charge of the school alumni. I made a phone call and told her that I was her student and would she remember me?

“This is Manisha,” I said.

“Manisha Modha?” came the prompt response from the other end of the line. “What is Preeti doing? They don’t make students like you any more.”

To which I just have to say, this Teacher’s Day: “They don’t make teachers like you any more, Miss Ponnamma!”

Today, when I want my school-going children to meet at least one Miss Ponamma in life, so that they have good memories of school in later years, a small voice in me tells me, partly out of nostalgia, partly out of experience, “Miss Ponnamma, nimma taraha teachers innu mundhe baralla.”

Thank you, m’am.


Which teacher/s do you most remember most from which school? Name them—and ‘fame’ them.


Also read: Once upon a time, shortly after the lunch break

Once upon a time, when the gari didn’t put mari

Once upon a time, in Ramakrishna Vidyashala

Once upon a time, in Maharani’s college. (Yes!)

From Guruswamypalya, a lesson for all shishyas

Once upon a time, when my doctor was an angel

21 May 2010

No profession in India—not even journalism, perhaps—has plunged into the abyss of disrepute with the speed and determination of medicine. Across the country, doctors, once seen as saviours next only to God, have attained the notoriety reserved for crooks and charlatans.

Hospitals and nursing homes have become big businesses, slot machines in the constantly whirring healthcare “industry”, brazenly throwing every norm to the winds with scarcely any accountability, and rare is an Indian today who hasn’t had a first-hand experience of being ripped off.

The former president of India, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, has  said doctors must possess six virtues—Generosity, Ethics, Tolerance, Perseverance, Concentration and Intelligence. How many virtues does your doctor possess? There are exceptions, of course, but they are few and far between.

And they are mostly in the past tense.



Two weeks ago, while on a holiday at a rather remote place, I happened to meet a person who, on discovering that I was a doctor, said that he had been referred by his doctor after a battery of tests to a higher medical centre for establishing a diagnosis.

After listening to the account of his symptoms, I felt that the diagnosis of the problem was very evident and straight forward. Even a para-medical worker who happened to be there with us immediately came to the correct conclusion of what the problem might be.

But since I did not want to interfere with a case that was being treated by another doctor, I asked the patient to go ahead and get himself investigated fully.

While pondering over this matter later, I could not help wondering how much family medicine has changed over the brief span of time between my childhood and adulthood. I also could not help remembering our own family medicine-man who saw us all through our not so infrequent health problems.

He was Mysore Venkatsubbaiah Subba Rao whose name was conveniently abridged to ‘Subrao Dakatru‘ by almost all his patients. He actually came to me as a family legacy from our remote village of Aldur perched rather precariously on one of the crests of the many hills of Western Ghats in Chikmagalur.

It may seem like a rather improbable coincidence that a doctor who started his medical career and looked after my grandmother there, long before I was born, should end it with retirement here in Mysore, looking after me and my siblings till I myself became a doctor.

My grandmother, who admired him as a personification of selfless service, used to tell us how he used to walk barefoot for miles together in the leech-infested slush of the Malnad rainy season with his leather chappals in one hand and an umbrella in the other, closely and faithfully followed by his equally dedicated compounder Rama who used to lug a heavy medical kit and a light tiffen-carrier that used to meet the frugal needs of both servant and master.

It seems the duo used to subsist on a working diet of chappatis and pickle or dry avalakki, the steamed and beaten rice which they used to soften by soaking in water for a few minutes before consumption. The late evenings meant for a little rest before the next day’s grind began would be spent in painstakingly picking away the leeches from their legs and feet and then applying ash and alum to stop the bleeding.

It appears, Dr Subba Rao used to cycle the full 20 kilometres from Aldur, his place of posting, to Chikmagalur, the district headquarters for the weekly malaria review meeting with his boss, the district surgeon.

Although there was a bus facility between the two places, he would not avail it as the infrequent buses then would not permit him to return in time for the evening out-patient session at which his patients would be waiting.

To catch errant field workers, it seems he would tell them that he had a meeting to attend at Chikmagalur and then quietly arrive at their designated places of work to check if they were present there!

After completing nearly half his service in the nooks and crannies of Ghats, he was transferred from Agumbe, the place with the highest rainfall to Chitradurga, the place with the least rain in the then Mysore State. He continued to work there till he was transferred as medical officer to the Mysore Jail from where he retired. That was the time when my father set up a house in Mysore for our education.

As soon as we moved into it, he went looking for his good old family doctor to entrust our health into his safe hands as he would himself be away at the estate in Aldur most of the time.

The frail and elderly Dr.Subba Rao was such a sincere friend to my father that he would never fail to visit our home on his equally elderly Raleigh bicycle at least once a week to enquire about our health and well-being. He never charged us a rupee at any time for his services and would dispel our slight sense of discomfort by telling us that our grandmother had already paid for his services to us in advance with her hospitality in Aldur!

His visits were something we all used to look forward to as he used to tell us fascinating accounts of how life was during the “good old days” of his youth. After I became a medical student, he would love to exchange notes with me about what was being taught in medical colleges now vis-a-vis what had been taught in his time as a medical student and he would surprise me with the amount of clinical knowledge he possessed despite being only an LMP or Licenciate Practitioner.

His medicines were only a few but his practical knowledge was immense and that was his strongest weapon. He was so meticulous that even in the tiny private clinic that he had set up in his house at Saraswathipuram after retirement he would maintain detailed notes about the symptoms of all his patients and the medicines he had prescribed at their last visit.

Investigations were never the forte of medical practice then and all his patients used to seek his services in good faith and absolute trust and would accept his judgment with its limitations.

With old age taking its toll, he faded away from the scene quietly unsung but not without goodwill and gratitude. I still miss him.

Now a doctor is not only likely to be considered outdated if he does not show his knowledge of the latest diagnostic tests available but he will also be hauled up before a consumer court for not using them.

Establishing a precise diagnosis instead of giving immediate relief from pain with common sense has become the need of the hour. This has ushered in the era of “referral medical practice” by virtue of which a patient is shunted from one specialist to another till they all collectively decide that there is nothing seriously wrong!

Doctors have indeed become helpless and so I can only say “God help the poor patient.”

K. Javeed Nayeem is a practising physician who writes a weekly column for Star of Mysore, where this piece originally appeared.

Also read: If a doctor can be called a glorified drug-dealer…

Once upon a time, when doctors were like angels

In today’s hospitals, the patient does the rounds

Do Mysore’s doctors have any ethics left?

Hurgaalu & Black Dog on the way to Vaikuntapura

14 December 2009

SUNAAD RAGHURAM writes: On 13 December 2009, The Picture Editor upstairs decided to set the shutter speed of the life’s camera of a venerable man to a metaphorical 1/125.

On that day, the shutter curtain of one of the finest photo-journalists of his era opened and closed even before anyone could realize what had come about.

T.S. Satyan lay still, his eyes closed for ever.

He had become one with his Maker.

As the tongues of flame began to lick his pyre at the foot of the brooding omniscience of the Chamundi hills in his favourite city of Mysore, the sun was about to set in a haze of orange; the mynahs among the branches chirped faintly; a cow mooed in a tone of voice that heightened the feel of the sepulchral.

Satyan was on his way out to a “happier world”.

Soon, in six to eight hours, they said, the ashes of his mortal body would collect on the platform of aged stone, the very platform that was facilitating his passage to the world beyond.

As I stood close to the pyre, along with my friend Saggere Ramaswamy, staring in blank confusion at the ways of the Creator, the terms and conditions of whose policy make it incumbent on all those alive today to die some day at some pre-ordained hour, the chirpy, friendly, adorable, gentle and affectionate man called Satyan came back alive.

In my thoughts.

My mind began to travel to the time when the two of us had been such good friends, friends separated by a mere four decades plus a little more in age, but gloriously united in spirit, completely because the man in question had been endowed the power, among the rarest a man can hope to aspire, of making every single person he met, feel so completely at ease and disarmed.

Not for Satyan any form of aggrandisement in the heat of his stupendous achievements with the camera as also the pen.

Not for Satyan the importance to the self, the blowing of the bugles about some photograph well composed or some prose well conceived, although there were perhaps a few hundred or even a thousand such creations in both forms of his craft that he could have spoken about, bragging almost without end.

Not for Satyan the postulation of a hoary past where men of his type, men who could wield the camera and the pen with such complete unequivocal ease and chronicle an event or even a whole era with such stupendous impact, were as rare as hen’s teeth.

Not for Satyan even a suggestion of pompousness or supercilious patronizing when it came to life; life post-retirement, in the old, quiet suburb of Saraswathipuram, where the neighbourhood did not exactly boast of men and women who had been trail blazing world beaters of any kind in their time.

The sight of Satyan walking to the post office on 10th main road with a suggestion of a arthritic shuffle or to the Canara bank next to the park on the same road, simply amazingly did not give away the secret that he was a man, who in his time was one of the greatest of his tribe.

A man who presided over the very manner in which photojournalism in our country took shape in the 1940s, at a time when the camera as an instrument of the media and its infinite chronicling power, was as well known to the masses as shark fin soup to a traditional vegetarian.

Satyan was a remarkable man, which is like saying, the elephant is a very huge animal.

But for someone like me, who had the opportunity to be friends with him and share moments of such grace and gentility issuing forth almost endlessly from the man who could hold nothing but warmth in the cockles of his soul, to make a feeble attempt to explain his persona is a tad difficult.

For, Satyan epitomized such wonderful qualities, that anything I say could seem to veer towards the text book definitions of how an evolved man should be.

But that was the man. A man whose very face mirrored the mellow, nuanced emotions inside him, his large cheerful eyes conveying a sense of bonhomie and vivaciousness of spirit, never mind even if they were some 80 odd years old.

And spirits he had but in small measure. Of the alcoholic kind I mean! Scotches and preferably Black Dog, if you please. Pouring a small measure and suffusing it with copious soda enough to drown a man, he loved long conversations while his right hand gently picked either ground nuts or hurgaalu from the side-table next to him.

Speaking of the Mysore of his days, the Maharaja’s College, his friends of the likes of H.Y. Sharada Prasad and R.K. Narayan and the legendary writer’s love of “mosaranna with uppina kayi“, which he insisted on having every time he dropped by at Satyan’s, his interesting trysts with the royal family, reminiscing the time when he trod the back alleys of Shivarampete, the studio where he got his early prints done; Satyan loved to languorously travel back in time, like an accomplished collegian remembering his kindergarten days.

I particularly remember the trip the two of us did together for eight full days in my jeep in January 2007 when we travelled to some of the most fascinating places of such infinite charm and beauty in Malnad. Sringeri, Kasaravalli, Megharavalli and even Mathoor.

It was Satyan’s desire to shoot the fascinating interiors of century old Malnad homes, one of which was the devastatingly beautiful and richly carved 250-year-old ancestral home of the famed cine director Girish Kasaravalli. The manner in which Satyan composed his shots in that locale with the grand rose wood pillars of such humongous girth was an expression of complete passion for his craft.

The positioning of the camera, a Nikon of indeterminable vintage; the angle, the composition of the frame, the optimum use of the naturally available light, the checking and re-checking of the parameters, bending and peering through the lens time and again, in spite of his painfully arthritic knees, the gentle readjustments, the tiny shifting of the camera position before he was convinced that all was well for a perfect shot.

Just one click of the button and there would be a classic to hold in your hands.

I was mesmerized as I stood on the sidelines and watched the master at work. So far removed indeed from the regulation photographers who shoot with their SLR cameras of high sophistication, as if they were handling a self loading rifle in the face of an enemy onslaught.

Satyan was precise, to the point and clear as to what he wanted his camera to do for him.

On that trip, we drove leisurely around the countryside, endless hours of chatting and joking with Satyan even breaking into song at times.

At Sringeri, he asked me to take him to a century-old ‘agrahara’ (Brahmin enclave) called Vaikuntapura, where incidentally, the famous Kannada film, Vamshavruksha had been shot.

Satyan himself had shot a famous picture of his here. A photograph which features a wizened old woman with her shaven head covered, sitting on the parapet of the veranda of her ancient tiled house, and smiling amusedly into the camera with a baby close to her, and rain drops falling in a small slender cascade from the roof!

An old man recognized Satyan straightaway as we walked into the narrow alley of the agrahara. He remembered the famous photograph and remarked that the small baby in that picture was now a mother herself and living in Bangalore!

Satyan was pleased to be there and pointed to me the various houses he had spent time in on that assignment.

As we returned to Sringeri and entered the temple precincts, he wanted to know the whereabouts of ‘Moorne ManeRam Bhat, the chief priest of the temple in the 1970s, an imposing man he had framed with a Palmyra umbrella in hand and in conversation with another priest in front of the imposing arch of the famous temple.

Ram Bhat had since been deceased but the other priest in that well-known photograph, who was his understudy at that time, was still around to greet Satyan affectionately!

And then onto Manipal, where he suddenly decided to meet his old friend M.V. Kamath, the legendary journalist and editor. It was a sight to see the two old friends exchange pleasantries and settle down for coffee. Satyan even addressed impromptu, a gathering of journalism students at the media institute there at the behest of Kamath, who introduced Satyan as one of the living legends of Indian photo-journalism, nothing less!

Indeed, Satyan could write prose with such effortless lucidity and simplicity that the sentences flowed like a beautiful stream making its way through a carpet of flowers somewhere in the mountains, uncluttered and without a stutter. So much like his mind, simple and unostentatious. This was rare indeed.

For a photographer to have the twin gift of being able to wield a pen with such felicity. A photo-journalist nonpareil.

To me, Satyan even in death, is alive and clicking!

Photograph: T.S. Satyan at work during his 2007 sojourn with Sunaad Raghuram at a Catholic home near Manipal. (‘AstroMohan/ Karnataka Photo News)

T.S. SATYAN: Once upon a time with C.V. Raman

13 December 2009

The world is an infinitely darker place when gems of the lustre of T.S. Satyan and his great friend H.Y. Sharada Prasad start shining no more. Sixty-one years ago, Satyan, then still fresh in the profession, met an acknowledged jewel, Sir C.V. Raman, for a feature in Deccan Herald, which he recounted later for Outlook magazine*.



My first meeting with Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman, the eminent physicist, is still green in my memory.

One day, in l948, I telephoned the Nobel laureate to ask if I could meet him at his convenience and photograph him for an illustrated feature.

I was apprehensive about getting an appointment from so busy a person, but was pleasantly surprised when he asked me, “How much time would you need?”

An hour, I said.

Raman went on to say those thirty minutes would do. I could see him the next morning at nine sharp. “Come on time,” he warned.

I dutifully reported my success to Pothan Joseph, Editor of Deccan Herald, which had been started barely a month ago. “Be punctual and conduct yourself with grace,” Pothan counselled me. He told me that Raman was a man of quick temper and so I should not throw my weight about in his presence, just because I was a newspaperman.

“He may get angry if you direct him to act before your camera. He is particular about the rules he sets for himself,” he warned.

After listening to all these do’s and don’ts I felt somewhat nervous because, I was going to photograph a celebrity for the first time.

I decided to take another person with me for moral support. My choice fell naturally on my alter ego of those days, M.S. Sathyu, now a noted film director, but barely out of his teens then.

Sathyu and I were great friends from our school days and he used to keep company with me on my assignments.

Contrary to our fears, we found Raman extremely affable and gentle. He seemed very cooperative as I photographed him in his study, laboratory, library and the garden he loved. All this took twenty minutes and I still had ten minutes left to complete my job.

Then, a bright idea struck me and I told Raman that I would love to photograph him with Lady Raman.

“Forget about her. She is not here,” he said.

And then a brighter idea came to my mind.

Summoning the required courage, I asked the scientist: “Sir, may I take one last, important picture? Will you please pose for me displaying your Nobel Prize citation?”

Pursing up his lips, Raman gazed at me, while my heart began to pound rapidly. He relaxed in a minute and, to my utter surprise, said, “Why not?”

He went into a room to fetch the precious document.

“I’m lucky,” I hissed in Sathyu’s ear. I entrusted my brand-new Speed-Graphic camera to his care and set about adjusting the furniture and books in the room, for the all-important picture.

Raman had meanwhile returned, holding the scroll, and stood beside a blackboard on which was scribbled in chalk, the diagram of a galaxy and other mathematical calculations. He looked at me and said, “It’s getting late. Shoot!”

When I was about to pick up my camera from Sathyu who was standing in a corner, the silence in the room was shattered by the sound of metal hitting the ground. We looked around and found to our dismay that Sathyu had dropped the camera.

Raman’s face was livid with anger.

He walked up to Sathyu, gripped him by the collar and thundered: “Do you know what you have done? You have damaged a beautiful instrument of science. Why weren’t you careful?” We were shaken and mumbled our apologies. Our minds were a malange of shame, confusion and embarrassment.

Raman’s anger subsided within a minute.

Holding the camera in hand, he carefully examined it as an experienced doctor would a patient.

He wrote on a piece of paper: “Prisms out of alignment. Replace one broken piece and realign. Set right the metallic dents.” He pressed his prescription in my palm and gave us the marching orders saying, “You may leave now.” My first photo session with the Nobel Laureate and Bangalore’s most famous citizen, had ended in a fiasco.

* Disclosures apply

Photograph: courtesy T.S. Satyan

Read the full story here: The Raman Effect

Once upon a time in Marimallappa’s High School

4 September 2009



Twenty-five years after they passed out of Marimallappa‘s High School in Mysore, the “10th B” batch of 1984—including one very, very famous Mysorean—walked down memory lane last Saturday, 29 August. They sat on the same benches they warmed a quarter-century ago, compared notes and (hopefully) compared paunches.

In the picture below, the group pose for posterity.

Standing (L to R): M.S. Suresh, Rampi, Gopalakrishna, Yadugireesh, R. Satish, B.R. Rajesh, Ananda H., H.R. Prasanna, R.K. Ramesha.

Sitting(top L to R)P.G. Srinivas, Vinay Kumar, Hemantha S.R.

Sitting (2nd row from top, L to R): M.P. Manjunath (Keeki), J. Srinath (Babu), S Manjunath (Akasha), H.S. Shailesh

Sitting (2nd row from bottom, L to R): Nagesha, Sharath K.S., Ananthaprasad, G. Ramesha, Ashley, B.A. Suresha, Kishan

Sitting (bottom row, L to R): VB Arun, Mohandas K.S., Veeraraje Urs, Raghavendra (Rags), (Missing in action: K.N. Srikanta)

Photograph: courtesy Arun V.B. via Picasa

Once upon a habba, idol worship of a chindi kind

25 August 2009

B.S.NAGARAJ writes from New Delhi: Once upon a time, in the year of the lord 1975, as part of their Noorondu Ganesha (Ganesha 101) peregrination, two little boys ventured into a house in Rajajinagar in Bangalore, asking: “Ree, Ganapati koorsideera? (Are you celebrating Ganesha Habba?)”

Howdu, banni,” said the lady of the house and let them in.

After a perfunctory dive at the feet of the elephant-faced deity, the boys looked around furtively and finally one of them made brave to ask: “Auntie, Vishwanath idhara?”

At which the lady burst out laughing: “Oh, adhakka bandhirodhu neevu… (Is that why you have come?)”

One of the two boys was me and my idol, Gundappa Ranganath Vishwanath, was not at home.

How disappointing!

Vishy’s mother was, however, kind enough to let us see all the medals and trophies he had won. And that was indeed my sweetest “habba”. That is perhaps the only time I may have invoked God to attain my goal.

Venka and I discussed our secret adventure on that Ganesha habba day for months after that. Very often it would be centered around the great counterfactual question: What if?

“What if Vishwanath had been at home?”


There were hundreds of others in school and in our locality who were die-hard Vishy fans, but with one brief adventure we had stolen a headstart over all of them. But it was not all hunky-dory.

Vishy’s fans were invariably pitted against another group—though not numerically as strong—which idolised Sunil Gavaskar.

The verbal duels sometimes used to terminate in fisticuffs.

Each of us knew that both Vishy and Sunny were cricketers of great stature, but never admitted it openly. “Sumne kut-thane, batting kayithane, (he just potters around, wants to hog the strike)” we would say of Gavaskar, while they would retort, “all style, no runs” about our idol.

Vishy’s trademark squarecuts became a mantra of sorts for me to hold my own against my idol’s critics. But sometimes the tables were turned on me…

I could not understand why others in the family failed to see his prowess, when they teased me about his “stylish 16’ or whatever low-score he had been unfortunate enough to come up with in a match.

I would retire hurt and angry with the world.

I realise now, they were only pulling my leg for being such a fierce and ardent fan.

I was only 12 then, but old enough to catch a BTS bus from Rajajinagar to the Chinnaswamy stadium (or KSCA stadium as it used to be called then) to watch day 4 and day 5 of the first-ever Test that was played in Bangalore in 1974.

Season tickets were prohibitive but a miracle happened.

My school, Carmel School in Rajajinagar, announced that it would show the telecast of the match in school. Of course there was no TV then–it was some sort of a trial—I can’t remember exactly.

A black and white TV had been installed. The ticket for all five days of telecast was just Rs 5. Of course I bought it. Not just me, my mother, sisters, cousins and uncles watched the match by turns.

In fact, every kid’s parents turned up in school to watch the match.

The only match involving an international side that I had watched—only for a few hours—before this was a three-day match between England and South Zone at the Central College grounds.


As I entered high school and then college, visits to the Chinnaswamy stadium increased. Not just to watch the Ranji matches and the Tests, but even league cricket matches.

First division league teams had a generous sprinkling of Ranji and Test stars and included the likes of Vishy, B.S. Chandrashekar, Syed Kirmani, Roger Binny, B. Raghunath, Sudhakar Rao, et al. The league had excellent cricketers who played for teams like BUCC, FUCC, SBI, SBM and Syndicate Bank.

Entry to these matches was free and it was here that I got to watch the stars in action and from the pavilion stands!

On one such occasion, my friend Ramesh (he is no more now) and I spotted a lonely figure in the stand next to the pavilion. There was not a single soul around except for the three of us.

After a second glance, both of us turned to each other excitedly and asked: “Isn’t that Gavaskar?”

He had very recently scored his 29th century and equaled Sir Don Bradman’s world record.

We gingerly approached Sunny and when he acknowledged our presence, we engaged him in a brief conversation. I remember congratulating him on his record. I asked him why he was watching a club match. He said he had come to the KSCA on some work and had stopped for a while.

For us, it was a golden moment.

In those times, these club matches were a great draw with the crowd sometimes in hundreds. We would first check out the car park to see if Vishy’s Fiat was there. And if the Fiat with “Vishy” in gold metallic lettering stood, our excitement would soar.

We would also gape at the car for a while with admiration, supposedly a ‘gift’ from his soon-to-be brother-in-law, Sunil Gavaskar.

Ah, those were the times when every square cut, googly, catch and stumping was analysed, eulogized or thrashed, with match and date etched in memory.

I remember our hushed discussions, where each tried to outdo the other with precious trivia: “Vishy and Sunny do not buy their bat from here and there. The makers of SS Jumbo make it for them as per their specifications.”

Then there was that Test match in 1978 with the West Indies in that six-match boring series—most of the Windies stars like Sir Viv Richards, Andy Roberts and Clive Lloyd, were away playing the rebel Packer league in Australia.

It was at this time that Vishy’s Rajajinagar ground floor house had added another floor. Friends who stayed close to his house came up with the “fact” that Vishy had hosted a party on the newly constructed first floor for the two teams and that it had gone on till early in the morning.

I have stood gazing at the coveted first floor of the house imagining the presence of Vishy, Sunny and all the others.


Watching the stars in flesh and blood in the stadium was no doubt a different experience altogether. I used to set out with a plastic wire butti–one dabba chitranna, and one dabba mosaranna—packed in it.

The hostile bag-handle invariably cut into my fingers and wishing to keep my burden light, I rejected the water bottle telling my worried Mom: “Alle kuditheeni (I’ll drink there itself).”

Except that I sat glued to the hot (uncovered) gallery space all through the day. Leaving the perch for a sip of water was too risky. What if someone else took my vantage position?

As the sun beat down on me, I would gobble up the food and relax in a semi-sleepy state during lunch time—my throat parched after keeping up the chant, “Vishwa, Vishwa” all morning.

As young boys with sharp ears, we were some times privy to conversations on the ground. That was the time when cricket clothing was giving way to the new, from the classic creamish-white flannel.

Trousers with an elastic waistbands were beginning to be used.

I remember Vishy telling a teammate, “Eethara pant haako,” pulling the pant back and forth from his midriff to demonstrate the comfort.

Another memory, somewhat painful, is that of my hero losing form.

There was a lot of loose talk in the late seventies about Vishy’s drinking excesses. The discussion in the katte was how Vishy used to drive to the Golden Gate Bar near the ESI hospital, Rajajinagar and stack up the car’s rear seat with bottles.

Of course, I did not believe a word of it.

This became a stick in the hands of Sunny fans, led by Ashok Kulkarni, my friend from Nijalingappa College, to beat us with.

Our revenge came with that infamous episode when Gavaskar batted left-handed in a display of an extremely poor gamesmanship in a Ranji Trophy semi-final between Karnataka and Bombay.

Yes, we hung on to every word, spoken and printed, about cricket. So did thousands of boys my age.

A scrap-book that drew heavily from Sportstar and Sportsworld centrespreads was every boy’s passion. We took pains to locate an “SW-3” transistor (short wave radio with three bands) to hear commentaries of matches played in Australia and sat up all night to listen to those of matches played in the West Indies (Tony Cozier was a great favourite).

Those were the days when people literally walked miles for the game. In 1978, I emerged from the Chinnaswamy stadium on the fourth day of the India-West Indies test to learn that Indira Gandhi had been arrested in the afternoon, even while the match was on.

There had been some stone-pelting and violence outside and prohibitory orders had been clamped.

A direct bus from Shivajinagar to Vijayanagar where we had shifted to from Rajajinagar was available only once in two hours, even in normal times. I quietly joined the sea of people making its way home through Cubbon Park to my reach my home, a good 10 km away, savouring the memories of the day’s game, even if the cricket that was played was not the best by any measure.

The last day of that match, if my memory serves me right, was called off.

Today, several years later I wonder if boys go visiting homes to see “Noorondu Ganeshas”—going around to get the darshan of 101 Ganesha idols. I consider myself lucky to have done so in my childhood, if not for anything but only to enter the sanctum sanctorum  of one of my all-time favourite cricket idols.

Also read: From Bhadravathi, the Bhimsen Joshi of cricket

The man who inspired the finest English passage on Karnataka

B.S Chandrashekar on Gundappa Vishwanath

Sunil Gavaskar: the most petulant cricketer ever?

Sunaad Raghuram: Once upon a time, on the other side of midnight

Alfred Satish Jones: The madagoo academy of cricket

Once upon a time, Govinda, Venky, Seshu, Gundu

21 August 2009

ganesha pandal

MADHU GOPINATH RAO writes from New York City: August brings back fond memories.

Memories of life when things were simple and black and white, a time when money was scarce but happiness wasn’t; a time that seems like an era bygone.

Memories of a place where summers of carefree abandon followed frenzied study months. Where small happiness filled the air. Of a place, that seems so close to More‘s Utopia every time I look back. Of a place that is best described by Jagjit Singh‘s “…magar mujh ko lauta do bachpan ka sawan, woh kaagaz ki kashti, woh baarish ka paani…

A place called childhood.


My childhood in Malleshwaram was replete with fun and activities. In the early 1980s, Malleshwaram was the place to be. Malleshwaram was your quintessential Bangalore, distilled. It was a microcosm of the bigger city it belonged to. It had the good and the bad with a vast grey of a middle.

One such grey was our Swimming Pool Extension, a middle-class neighborhood.

In this grey, friends were aplenty. A group of 20+ kids bubbled to life like clockwork every evening. For the next two hours, a game that was the flavour of the season would enthrall the kids and onlookers alike.

Gultoria, Goli, Tikki, Kings, soccer and other games made a grand entry in their respective seasons, only to fade like a flash in the pan, paving the way for the king—cricket. Cricket ruled the roost.

The only exception to that rule, was the July-August season, a season when something dearer stumped cricket: Ganesha Habba (festival).


For reasons unknown, in our SP Extn’s 5th cross, we had given up on celebrating the street version of the festival. Our cricketing rivals from the 4th cross, fondly called “Pakistan”, had pulled a fast one a year before by celebrating the festival in a small way.

We were under pressure.

After a few days’ worth of discussion, the older boys decided that the economics did not add up and we would not go ahead with it. Alternate views were quelled and suggestions met with insults.

I was 9, my friend Venky 10, and Seshu 11. We were the juttus in the group, your typical aatakke untu lekkakke illa (insignificants). While Seshu and I did well to supress our disappointment, Venky opened his big mouth. Little Venky wanted us to celebrate the festival and he would not have it any other way. As expected he was promptly made to shut up by a few untraceable mild slaps to the back of his head—dharamada yetu.

His ego hurting more than his head, Venky ended up on the opposite compound where ‘TakunGovinda was sitting alone in protest as well.

Takun‘, as he was called, had realized just a day ago that Takun was actually Kun-Ta spelt backwards.

Kunta, in Kannada, is a limp. Govinda had a noticeable limp in his walk due to a polio-afflicted leg. Naturally, he was angry and hurt. He had a point to prove; a reason to get back at the pack.

Venky who knew this, went straight to him.

Over the next week, Venky ended up on Govinda’s compound consistently in a show of solidarity. They would sit and talk animatedly for hours. They would go on walks too. Soon, Seshu and I, tired at not being picked for the game as promised, day after day, joined them. They were happy to have new company.

Another disgruntled 10-year-old, Gundu, joined us too.


We set out for a destination, yet unknown to me and Seshu.  Once away from the group and in relative privacy, Venky pulled out something from his pocket.

Our jaws dropped. He had two  receipt books in his hand.

It had a rubber stamped “Vinayaka Balakara Sangha” with the street-address emblazoned on it in purple ink.

“Are you three in?” beamed a proud Venky. “This is top secret! We will teach those peddh nan makklu (morons) a lesson,” thundered Venky who needed his share of this revenge.

“You know how they have been insulting our dear friend Govinda?” quipped the freshman sidekick. We nodded in unison and hurriedly added our, “Of course ! We are in….”

As Venky recounted how Govinda had got Prakash of  ‘Swamy & Bros’ to part with four receipt books, on credit, Govinda had a smile of satisfaction. The rubber stamp was on a similar credit from the vendor who supplied it to the Kannika Parameshwari temple on 8th cross—Govinda’s family managed the temple.

The receipt book had a “Rs 10/-” entry by Venky’s ajji (grandmother) and a couple of “Rs 5/-” entries.

Our surprise turned into awe when we realized where the two other missing receipt books were. One was with Raviraj, a benevolent bachelor who was now too grown up and working to be playing on the street and the other was with gulle (pimpled) Mohana, another working bachelor and Raviraj’s peer.

When we reached Raviraj’s house, more good news awaited us. Between Raviraj and Mohana, they had amassed Rs 100 for us. We were in business. Buoyed by the optimistic trend and true to his Vysya instincts, the 15-year-old Govinda began to chalk out a detailed plan.

We set out with a target between Rs 250 and Rs 1500. This final total would set the tone for the one-day event.

My mother was signed up for the morning’s prasada (kadalekalu usli);  Seshu and Venky’s moms would together foot the evening prasada after the maha-mangalaaarathi. Pots and pans needed would be supplied by Govinda, thanks to his temple connection. The same held true for the jamkhana (carpets), bamboo posts and the “serial lamps”.


Two more weeks passed and we had recruited five more kids, most from neighboring streets. Our new group, led by Govinda would make the rounds eliciting funds in faraway streets.

Our own fifth cross was out of bounds, Govinda had thundered. We would set a minimum of Rs 10 for our street and it would yield us at least Rs 400-600 per his plan.

We complied. This would keep the 20 morons clueless for some more time as well.

We went from house to house with a standard invocation:

“Uncle, Ganesha Habba maadta iddeevi (Uncle, we will be celebrating Ganesha festival)….”

The collection was good. Govinda not only had the gift of the gab but had a politician’s face recognition. Thanks to the temple, people knew him even if he did not know them. Add to that, not many had the heart to say no to the sweet handicapped lad with a bunch of innocent juttus in-tow. So, where others would be turned away empty-handed, we got collections.

As the plan took concrete shape, the rest of the 20, busy playing cricket till now began to get suspicious. They tried to pry us juttus for more info. We held our own; until Govinda asked us to leak some info in anticipation of a big step to be taken the next day.

The leak was vague and just indicated to something big scheduled for the next day evening.


D-day arrived.

Govinda strode in with two helps from his temple. They had banners in hand with ropes attached to the wooden rods. Cricket stopped. A customary quick pooja by the Venky’s mom with arisina and kumkuma ensued. We juttus were summoned to help.

The word soon spread and people poured out into their compounds and into the street. In an unexpected show of enthusiasm and happiness, people started helping us. Govinda was at the centre of this big limelight. Raviraj and Mohana were requested to be present and their presence lent the much needed weight.

45 minutes later under Govinda’s direction, the two banners with “Vinayaka Balakara Sangha” bore down on our street, suspended from window grills of the second floors houses.

The assembled crowd had parents, by standers and newly joined supporters. Many of these new found supporters had come forward with pledges for loaning curtains, potted plants, shamiana and the venue (compound) among other things.

“Slowly but surely we are limping towards celebrating Ganeshana habba,” Govinda thundered, in an obvious jab at the 20 who had ridiculed his handicap and were mute witnesses to this astonishing development. “We have collected Rs 1,000 and will need your help,” he told everyone who spoke to him.

We followed suit.

Govinda then walked up to the 20. His limp had an air of confidence and a vivid sense of triumph was writ large on his face. He addressed them directly: “Any of you care to join us? If you do, just remember ‘Kun-tas‘ and ‘juttus’ do matter.

No more  ‘aatakke untu lekakke illa…“.

As this unraveled in front of the gathered crowd, a steady stream of defectors deserted the leadership and the 20 naysayers were soon reduced to the 5 kingpins. All of the five were elder to Govinda and, for once, were at the receiving end, cornered and insulted.

Their name calling now out in the open for everyone to see, they hurriedly apologized to Govinda for insulting him and joined us. We were going to have our Ganesha habba!

Have our habba, we did a month later! That year and 10 more thereafter with Govinda as the president. After that incident, no one called Govinda “Takun“, or us kiddos “juttus”.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Once upon a time, before computers in Bangalore

14 August 2009


E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: With computer-related work occupying more than 80% of jobs, at last count, one wonders what kind of jobs people were doing, before the advent of computers? What were grownups doing in Bangalore and other cities once they were out of college, vocational institutes and engineering colleges?

Bangalore had a system of its own.

The city spread a sleeping blanket, lined with a mosquito net, as it were, over its snoring populace till 7.30 when the first sip of filter coffee would warrant itself.

The first worker if you could call him, the milkman, would have announced himself well before dawn and milked his cow right under the watchful eyes of the housewife. It was this fresh milk that would whiten the strong coffee that would wake the city from its deep slumber.

Sometimes the cool climate urged normal human beings to curl up further and sleep a bit more.

Most of the able-bodied adults in the City were hauled up by 6.30 in the morning into hundreds of buses and driven off 15 to 20 miles  and disgorged into grey and dull factories better known by their abbreviations and acronyms:  HAL, ITI, BEL, HMT, AMCO, REMCO, NGEF, etc.

Later, some more factories joined the list: BEML, BHEL, MICO, ITC etc.

If you were an early-riser, you would see groups of mildly shivering people in dull uniforms with morning newspapers near street corners waiting for their designated bus.

Once the buses had driven a quarter of the working population out of the sleepy City to sleepier factories, the roads were fairly empty. If you belonged to the other three quarters of the population and were still in bed, you had a choice of being woken up by people practicing different vocations.

The ‘Budubudike Dasiah’ would unexpectedly land at your door-step, shaking his budubudike and with his Kani  Shastra (prophecy). Vegetable vendors shouting ‘Soppu soppooo’ would get into a hi-decibel match with women sporting large kumkumas on their forehead announcing ‘Mosuru kanamma, mosuru….

By around 9am, the AG’s office and Athara Katcheri gang would start their walk from different parts of the City reaching the office having chewed the last of their Mysore viledele with Sugandhi adike, or having inhaled through the nostril, the last pinch of Ambal nashya.

Later, the Vidhana Soudha was to become the magnet drawing Bangaloreans from all over town.

The self-employed merchants community, the last sort of the workers, would leave for B.V.K. Iyengar Road, Mamulpet, Chickpet, Taragupet, Akkipete, Balepete and many more petes in smaller gullys the latest.

Here they would operate their business wholesale, retail and from matchbox size shops all day till 9 at night moving the city’s economy. They would have their lunch either at Udupi Krishna Bhavan or Malabar Lodge, or spread an old newspaper on the cash counter and have their meal, with the shop’s door partly closed which meant the ‘proprietor was having his lunch!’.

The city wore a ghostlike appearance, especially when the students got into their class after their morning prayers around 10 in the morning.

Only sounds such as ‘Hale kathri, chakuge saane hidiyoduri ’, ‘Hale batte, kalapathina reshme seerege stainless steel pathre, Ammavre! ’ would rent the air in the afternoon which was strictly meant for women to get the kitchen implements sharpened or get rid of their old clothes for brand new stainless steel kitchen ware.

Both the seller and buyer would play a cat-and-mouse game until it left both exhausted and settle for anything to clinch the deal. Thus, a whole lot of old clothes would leave the attic to be replaced by a shimmering 4–level tiffin carrier or a big all-purpose vessel which would be displayed right at the entrance to catch the eye of the weary husband dragging himself  in.

A detailed narration of how the triumphant deal was secured would follow while serving him kodubale and coffee!

BaLe! BaLe namma BaLE!’ would be the call of the bangles seller around noon who would make his appearance just before Varamahalakshmi and continue throughout the festive season.

If you felt the pension City was dead and gone, life would mysteriously resurface late afternoon with one bus following another into the city. Soon, it would turn into a cavalcade of buses of different colours—blue and cream for HAL, blue and silver for ITI—wearing different uniforms, as it were, streaming into the city.

After making a telephone, radio set, boiler, a walkie-talkie or whatever, around a dozen pair of weary legs would drop off at each stop, carrying a rolled up copy of K.N. Netakallappa’s ‘Sudha’ or P. R. Ramaiah’s ‘Thayi Nadu’ and troop back home.

After uppittu or a menthyada dose over a cup of coffee, and a quick shower would see them spill to the road one by one.

Quite a few of them would take out their well-oiled bicycles out and, like a  cowboy walking his horse, walk their cycles having the other arm over their friend’s shoulder, for the daily dose of one-by-two coffee.

The shopkeepers after downing shutters at night would reach home with a parcel of Mysore pak or Jhangri catching kids just about fall asleep.

At night, the last of the businessmen selling his ware would speed through the City in his cycle lit by wick and kerosene lamp shouting ‘Thati nungu, Thati nungu’ just as people  settled down  to listen to Melville de Mello or a Chakrapani or Roshan Menon, for  the 9’0 clock news.

Thus would end the business cycle before sleep embraced the City again.

Photograph: courtesy Gopal M.S./ Which Main? What Cross?

Once upon a time, life as it was in Basavanagudi

15 July 2009


E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes from Bangalore: Basavanagudi and Malleshwaram are two of the oldest localities of Bangalore which are still in demand amongst those who seek houses to rent or to buy.

Located at  different corners of the City, there always has existed some kind of healthy rivalry between their residents. Both consider their area as the ultimate for culture and aesthetics, and therefore have a nose up in the air.

When Jayanagar came into being in the early 1960s, old-timers in Basavanagudi and Malleshwaram quickly dismissed it as a gawky upstart, a major breeding ground for mosquitoes, a sobriquet the “queen of localities” is unable to shake off what with dengue and chikungunya ravaging Bangalore today.


Basavanagudi has changed beyond description for those who were born and grew up there, but pockets of this locality like Benne Govindappana chhatra, Gavi Gangadhareshwara devasthana and Basavanagudi Club meant mainly for retired people still retain the old charm.

Basavanagudi, named after the temple for Basava or Nandi, has always been a sleepy little locality which made you sleepier the moment you entered Lalbagh , Bugle Rock or M.N. Krishna Rao Park, especially after eating a masala dose at MTR or Vidyarthi Bhavan, even if it was a vulgar fraction of 4 by 7.

You would still feel sleepy if you went to Parvathy Chandrashekara boulevard near Saalumara beside National high school, or Hanumantha Nagar Park (renovated by the then mayor Chandrashekar) for eating sippe hosa kadale kayi and bella, komrike hannu or ginimuthi mavinakayi with kharadapudi.

This sleep-inducing nature of Basavanagudi was attributed 30% to the genial climate in Bangalore, 40% to the fresh air in the parks, and 30% to the snacks that made Bangalore famous.

Gandhi Bazaar was the main market and one bought vegetables in any of the half-a-dozen shops near the “circle”, more so from the shop of father and sons Rama and Krishna who made sure you always came back by giving you a little extra menasinakayi or kottham bari soppu.

You would go for text books and notebooks to, M.S. Sons, L.N. & Co, V.S. & Sons, and for Kannada novels of Tha Ra Su, Aa Na Kru, Thriveni, Basavaraja Kattimane to G.K. Bros (Kalliah) opposite the chemist shop, Medico Surgicals.

Mostly people read B. Nagi Reddy’s Chandamama from Madras (Can you believe such a thing happening now?) and Balamitra before graduating to novels.

Basavanagudites were always ready for a  by-two coffee anytime, anywhere in hotels like Geetha Bhavan, a furlong from Gandhi Bazaar circle on the way to Ramakrishna Ashrama, Circle Lunch Home bang at the circle itself, Bhattara hotel in Nagasandra Road opposite Chandra Clinic run by Dr. Chandrashekar.

At night, most preferred badami haalu at Harsha Stores or Ganesha Stores with sweet bun or “congress” kadalekayi.

Come exam time, Ganeshana devasthana (now called Dodda Ganesha, not to be confused with the Karnataka cricketer) on Bull Temple road, next to Basavanagudi and opposite B.M.S. College would be so crowded with students praying for easy questions in their question papers, praying for a miracle when results would be out in a few days and praying for ‘seats’ in any of the engineering or medical colleges.

The only other time boys hovered around there was to catch sight of the beautiful girls who were always accompanied by a younger brother or sister in tow as some kind of ‘protection’!

You had National high school and Bangalore high school; but you also had Gurukulam where they taught you Amara, Bhagavad Gita and twitched your ears if you erred during recitation.

Abalashrama near Gurukulam looked after destitute girls and after giving education, married them off to eligible boys with the entire staff and inmates giving a tearful farewell to the new bride.

There were no malls those days. If you wanted pullangayi unde, kharada avalakkki or chakkali, you got it from Subbammana angadi on H.B. Samaja Road next to Hanumanthana devasthana. You would go to Grandige Angadi for most of your pooja material like sambhrani, oodh kaddi and karpoora.

You didn’t have Raymond’s, Peter England and Arrow shirts and pants then.

T-Shirt was not even heard of!

You went to Siddoji Rao & Sons to buy cotton pant and shirt pieces, and you gave them to Venkoba Rao at Reliable tailors or their brothers-in law at Elegance Tailors on Nagasandra Road. They would even call you for a trial marking the half-stitched dress with coloured chalks.

Later, after a wash you could get it pressed by a steaming iron box with burning charcoal inside!

You would buy Bata shoes or Flex ‘Pathan shoes’ worn without socks. There were no bewildering makes and certainly not jogging/ walking shoes. I doubt whether the word jogging existed then! You just walked barefoot or walked with whatever you wore. That’s it.

Basavanagudi and Gandhi Bazaar are really the grandparents of Koramangala, Padmanabha nagara, Basaveshwara nagara, Rajarajeshwari nagara, etc.

If you want to get a whiff of the old charm of Bangalore, the quintessence of Bangalore, you will still find it there!

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Once upon a time, on route number 11

Once upon a time, when the gari did not put mari

From Yadavagiri to every part of India i.e. Bharat

12 July 2009

KPN photo

KPN photo

There is nothing, well, almost nothing like memories of the macho sound of an Ideal Jawa or Yezdi motorcycle with a “Made in Mysore” label plastered on it.

At the 7th International Jawa Yezdi Day celebrations at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bangalore on Sunday, a 60cc “Colt” catches the eye of shutterbugs (top), while the bigger Roadkings are lined up before the proud owners vroomed off on a symbolic rally to Channapatna on the Bangalore-Mysore highway (below).

Photographs: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Once upon a time, when Ideal Jawa was Roadking

Faroukh Irani: Sixth most famous Mysorean in the world?

Can Maddur Vade usher in peace to subcontinent?

13 June 2009


RAMYA KRISHNAMURTHY writes from Bangalore: For the better part of the past month, one of the questions that has been bugging me is a food-related one: who made the first Maddur Vade, and why did he make it in one of the more unremarkable places on the Bangalore-Mysore road?

(It’s so artless in its looks, it has to be a he, right?)

Sexist stereotypes aside, there are two reasons—three, if you include the inclusion of Our Man from Maddur to head the external affairs ministry—why I have been thinking about the Maddur Vade—or Maddur Vada or Vadai to irritate the semantic chauvinists.

Firstly, as my husband (age 41) keeps teasingly insisting these days, food is the new sex: there is some kind of voyeuristic pleasure to be had in reading about it; in thinking about it; in publicly imagining its myriad private possibilities.

And secondly, how can any self-respecting foodie in Bangalore not think of the Maddur Vade?

I mean, Mysore has its pak; Mangalore has its bajji and gadbad; Dharwad the peda; Davangere its benne dose. Even tiddly Bidadi has its “thatte idli“. If the identity of these small towns can be defined by food, just what accident of history deprived “big” Bangalore of its culinary claim to fame?

And what accident of history gave Maddur its pride of place on the gastronomic map?

The answer could be geography.

The fact that Maddur lies almost exactly mid-way (70 km) between Bangalore and Mysore could well explain its birth and growth as the must-have mid-way snack.

Back in pre-liberalised India, when the trains were metre gauge and private cars were few and far between, “Non-Stop” buses was the way to go. The buses halted for a few minutes underneath amid the coconut orchards for the men to amuse themselves.

Was that when the Maddur Vada made its brave incursion?

These days, for some 40-50 km on the 140-km stretch, from somewhere after Ramanagara to somewhere before Mandya, Maddur Vade stalks you like those picture postcard sellers do at the Taj or Gateway of India.

In a way, though, the Vade could be Maddur’s picture postcard except that you view it through your mouth and quickly eat up the evidence before the next town nears. But since the flavour of burnt onion is the defining characteristic of the Maddur Vade, the memory lingers long after.

So, you wonder who made it first and why?


download2If you are on an express or shuttle trains, the vendors haul up the buckets stuffed full with the Vade at the various stations and “crossing” points. These Vades are of varying quality, slightly thicker and a slightly more expensive than the Vades that the young boys produce at your bus window.

But it is only when you are in your own car or on a bike, that the full magic of Maddur Vade can be properly exploited and appreciated.

Reason: on public transport, the Maddur Vade is a heartless, no-fuss, commercial transaction.

On the train, for instance, the vendor serves it to you on 1/8th of a newspaper sheet and rushes off because there are 14 other compartments to serve.

If you are on the evening Chamundi Express heading to Mysore, the vendor might even affectionately persuade you to pick up a packet of three or five in a plastic cover for the family but that’s just “stock clearance” before he closes shop for the day and gets off in Srirangapatna.

If you are on the dreadful Shatabdi Express, god help you.

On the bus, the Maddur Vade is a victim of logistical inconsistency. Different kinds of bus services stop at different kinds of places, and some like the Volvos don’t even do that. Result: you don’t know where, if at all, your next Maddur Vade is coming from.

It is only when you take an express bus that you can be sure that at least in the place of its birth, the Vade will materialise at your window.

On both the train and the bus, the Maddur Vade is a functional experience. The Vade and nothing more. It’s bone-dry and convenient although the train Vade has been calculated by scientists of the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) to be on average 2.3 times thicker than the bus Vade. (The Defence Food Research Laboratory has put the figure at 2.35 times.)

Downside: the vintage of the Vade is hidden by the speed of the transaction.

However, it is when you stop by leisurely at the highway restaurants—Maddur Tiffany’s on either side of the highway, the “MTR” Shivalli restaurant, Kamat Lokruchi, etc—especially when the sun is dipping, that you get to savour the experience of a warm-to-hot Vade with chutney, followed by strong coffee.

Only those who have newly bought a white elephant called the tread mill can stop at just one.

(Café Coffee Day, I am certain, is never likely to soil the muffin-coated mouths of its clientele despite its founder’s conjugal links with Maddur.)


The strange thing about the Maddur Vade despite its reasonable reputation is that there are few claimants to its discovery.

The Moti Mahal in Delhi will lay claim to dishing up the first butter chicken; Bombay’s Nelson Wang to the gobi Manchurian. But who lowered the first Maddur Vade into the boiling bandlee? We will never know.

There is a museum in Shivapura but there are no statues hailing the maker, the master-chef. Yet.

My own first memory of Maddur Vade is when I was seven or eight. Our family was proceeding to Bangalore in our old Morris Tiger early one morning. Shortly after Maddur, my father swung the car into a narrow lane which deposited us in front of the railway station. Magically, a vendor appeared and served us the goodies on l’il banana leaves.

Even now, the Maddur Vade at the railway station commands a small premium over other Maddur Vades, and old faithfuls still swear by it, resisting all overtures from the vendors on the trains, till the stop nears. But this could just be good old nostalgia.

For me, the Maddur Vade has held its charm for one key reason: it was the rebel among vades in our joint family kitchen. My mother, Sharada, now 75, never ever made or attempted to make it at home. Uddina vade she did, masala vade she did, but Maddur Vade was a strict no-no.

There was something “street food” about it.

So, falling for its charms not only became a matter of the stomach but an expression of the heart. Nothing about it suggests good health. Not the oil, not the semolina, not the deep fried onions.

But the fact that they didn’t make it at home was reason enough to hog regardless of the time of day. A deep fried vade first thing in the morning on the way to work may not be what the doctor prescribes, but what’s medicine got to do with the palate when geography beckons?

Speaking of which, will Prema Krishna put Maddur Vade on the MEA menu  when the “dialogue process” begins with Pakistan? And could it usher in peace between our two countries in our troubled subcontinent?

If the shortest route to a man’s heart is through his stomach, can even Asif Ali Zardari resist the Maddur Vade‘s naked attraction that has melted millions from different parts of the country?

It’s pure fantasy, of course, but you can almost hear S.M. Krishna sitting at the high table, nodding in agreement with himself as he delicately pushes a plate of Maddur Vade towards his guests from across the border: “Here, try some of these with some gatti chutney….”

Photographs: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: How V.G. Siddhartha built the CCD dream cup by cup

Once upon a time, shortly after the lunch break

A good dosa is like your first love: unsurpassable

By-two badaam haalu for the lambu leggie, please

Mane Adige recipe: Maddur Vade

Once upon a time, when Ajji couldn’t go to VLCC

18 April 2009


E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: How did our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers keep themselves fit and in shape back in the good old days?

Did they have enough exercise as per modern fitness standards?

Did they go to a slimming centre then, an earlier version of Talwalkar‘s or VLCC ( ‘Vait Loss Coaching Class’ as Vanada Luthra‘s Curls and Curves has come to be called) where they did 25 dumbells for warm-up and then spent 20 minutes on a stepper/ stair-climber before hopping on a Recumbent Bike to do 100 pedals under watchful eyes of a “personal trainer”?

Were they ever advised to consume only measured calories each day: 1,000 for breakfast, 1,500 for lunch, and 800 for dinner, checking their weights in between?

These questions are rhetorical, of course, because back then, home itself was a major slimming centre though nobody was there to count how many sit-ups Ajji did. She got up early in the morning to sweep the floor, wash the frontage with cow dung, and draw a nice little rangoli with akki hittu while humming ‘Bhagyaada Lakshmi baaramma….’

Since most families had their own cattle, she would also wash, feed and milk them before sending them out for grazing.

Like Ashta Lakshmi, Ajji notionally had eight pairs of hands attending to everything from sweeping and wiping the floors (gudisodu-sarisodu) to cooking for a joint family of at least a dozen. Ingredients like menasina pudi, saarina pudi, huli pudi, and chutney pudi, and accoutrements like pickles, pappad and sandige were all prepared at home to mouth-watering standards.

She sat on her haunches when she washed the house, each time squatting and moving on her toes.

What about the “weights” which would tone up her arms and wrists? True, she didn’t have weights which Aishwarya Rai or Angelina Jolie now use, but she coolly drew water from a 100 ft well probably 50 times a day for drinking, cooking, washing, and for watering the plants and feeding the cattle.

Make that 100 times a day if there were visitors from the next village or if the family cow Ganga was delivering a calf during Navarathri when Ajja’s younger brother’s family came visiting.

What about the equipment in her “gymnasium”?

Kitchen was her gym. Since every ingredient had to be prepared at home, she had Jaladi and Vandhri for sieving; Oralu Kallu for grinding all types of chutney. Machchu for breaking and Thuriyo Mane for grating coconut; Beeso Kallu to powder wet grains. Rice thus ground became fine powder for excellent dose or akki rotti with pudina chutney.

What did Ajji do to keep her weight in control? She didn’t have a fancy ‘tummy toner’ vibrator or a belt which claims can ‘reduce a waistline without moving an inch even while eating whatever one liked’.  How did she manage?

She used Onake long before onake Obavva came on the scene to fight intruders. Pounding paddy on a mortar and pestle at a brisk pace of 40 to 50 strokes per minute for around ten minutes at a stretch, with a half-a-minute break to wipe the sweat from her forehead seemed to do wonders for her weight.

Further, there was kudugolu to make majjige and benne at home. Not only did it help tone her forearms but also made sure there was home-made ghee to go with the rave idli and kotthambari chutney.

Since Ajji didn’t have the pleasure of a radio or TV, she exercised her vocal chords to get the children to sleep.

Half way through ‘Ramanama payasakke, Krisnhanama sakkare’ of  Purandara Dasaru in raga Ananda Bhairavi would make them drowsy  and by the time she was humming slowly ‘Aananda, aananda vembo thegu bandhihudo… Namma  Purandaravithalana Neneyiro…,’ the children would be fast asleep.

Sleep to her was when the wick of the lamp was lowered for the day after everybody had gone to sleep and after she had made all preparations for the next day which was only four to five hours away.

Was Ajji required to walk on a treadmill for half-an-hour everyday so her abdomen remained flat as recommended by health pundits?

After her family was fed and the house had been spruced up, in the evening she would take a walk to Rama Mandira for a harikatha kalakshepa by Venkoba Dasaru or visit Krishna temple for a bhajane during Gokulashtami or drop everything at hand and sprint  at midnight to friend Tunga’s grandchild down with serious case of dysentery.

There she would  prepare and administer her own naati medicine and  stay there till the first feed stabilized and return home at daybreak after seeing the return of faint smile on the child’s  lips.

Tomorrow was another day.

Once upon a time, eating Nanjangud hallu pudi

6 April 2009


E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Our grandparents mostly used neem twigs to give a brisk rub-in to their teeth first thing in the morning. This simple device was good enough to keep their teeth clean and sparkling for almost their entire lifetime.

They ate anything from ragi mudde to jowar bhakri and chicken, pullangai unde to dink laadu.

Despite these rigours, their teeth used to be like The Wall—strong, reliable and always ready to tackle what the opposition threw at them all day. Most of our ancestors even capped their sumptuous meal by chewing the juice of a betel nut or doing a small ceremony with betel leaves, sunna and sugandhi betel nut powder.

Teeth, thus nurtured and nourished, lasted years. Tooth ache? There was always a dash of soothing lavang (clove) oil massage to calm the nerves.

They had never heard of a species called the dentist.

Then came charcoal powder, B.V. Pandit’s sweet and pinkish tooth care wonder “Nanjangud hallu pudi” in a 4-inch by 3-inch brown paper bag. You made a small, triangular hole in the corner and inverted it on your palm to pour out only that much quantity for a one-time brushing.

If a bigger heap fell out, you just ate a part of the pudi!

Using the forefinger as a brush, one stroked the power to the left and right of the mouth, brushing the teeth and strenghtening the gums at the same time. Left, right. Left, right, it went on. There were some who went on like this for ages till their mothers shouted at them to ‘stop’ it! A dash of water, rinsing and one was ready for filter coffee.

Still not many knew who or what a dentist was because he/she had yet to appear on the horizon.

Next came the era of toothpaste. Dazzling tubes with colorful caps which squirted white, red, coloured and sometimes stripes of paste! Binaca, Colgate, Kolynos, Forhan’s (“Doctor’s Toothpaste!”) without ‘jhag’ (lather).

The marketing of Binaca was done by Ameen Sayani’s ‘Binaca Geet Mala’, which the whole country heard on radio on Wednesday nights between 8 and 9, irrespective of which toothpowder or paste one used, or whether one brushed the teeth at all.

Dinner used to be after the buglers sounded the song of the week based on the 78 RPM records of Hindi film songs sold in Bombay during the week.

After toothpastes came the marketing blitzkrieg on toothbrush. Hard, medium, soft, conical, comical bristles would take care of your teeth. You could vigorously brush the enamel on your teeth to certain death.

Around that time, some doctors who, for some strange reason called ‘Dentists’ were spotted near the market area.

Soon, with the advent of peppermints, toffees and chocolates, they started multiplying like, well, flies on a sweet. As imported and local fancy chocolates entered the scene with silver and gold wrappers, dentists started opening their swanky shops complete with water jets, spittoons and high speed jets for both water and hot-air.

People casually started dropping words like “I have an appointment with my dentist” in the middle of a conversation.  “Excuse me; I have to see my dentist.” The dentist replaced your tooth with a gold, silver, even a diamond tooth like a diamond ear-ring depending on the bulge of your purse.

Models smiling from ear-to-ear for no reason and doctors in front of tooth cutouts started appearing on TV forcing Babloos and Chintus to smile, again, for no reason.

Soon after, electric tooth brushes arrived, enabling busy people to brush their teeth with a whirr, just like they shaved with an electric shaver. You could get a shining sparkling set of teeth not by old fashioned brushing, but by electrolysis which simultaneously made a big hole in your pocket.

You could keep on X-raying your errant tooth till, by the sheer dosage, your tooth could get tuberculosis.

Now like the software scenario, the toothpaste bubble seems to have burst. Leading orthodontists are now saying electrolysis weakens the gums and is dangerous to the heart. Oral scientists and orthopantomographists are saying grandma’s methods like brushing with fingers and using neem twigs are best and it is the best way of taking care of your teeth!

The future, thank god, is going back to the past!

Rahul (in picture) is indeed happy now.

Once upon a time, a 50’X50′ site for 50 rupees!

17 February 2009

Prof A.V. Narasimha Murthy, former head of the department of ancient history of the University of Mysore, and chairman, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mysore, in Star of Mysore:

“The year 1940, after the Ugadi of that year; I was following my grandfather Mahavidwan Ardikoppam Subramanya Sastri who had a string of titles like Mimamsa Bhaskara, Mimamsa Shiromani etc. He was a highly respected person in the Mysore Palace and in Sanskrit circles being the Professor of Mimamsa (a traditional subject) at the Maharaja’s Sanskrit College located at the end of the Hundred feet Road (now Chamaraja double road)….

“The Deputy Commissioner came from the opposite direction on a horseback.

“He stopped near my grandfather and greeted him with a namaskara with great reverence. He said: ‘The Savari (Maharaja) has decided to form a new layout called Saraswathipuram to provide house sites for scholars. It is our desire that you buy a house site and build a new house.’

“My grandfather laughed and said, ‘Sir, we are Pandits and the house provided to us at the Deveerammanni and other agraharas are quite comfortable. My house is very near to the college and Palace. Why do I require a site in far off Saraswathipuram?’

“But the Commissioner insisted.

“Finally my grandpa asked: ‘What is the price?’

“‘Sir, it is Rs 50 for a site of 50x 50 feet’,” the reply came.

“My grandfather exclaimed, ‘Oh! my god, Rs 50! Where can I bring that big amount.’

“Pat came the reply, ‘Sir, you may pay in instalments.’

“Sastriji took out five silver coins of one rupee each and gave him as advance. The deal was finalised and my grandfather built a house in third cross in Saraswathipuram and named it ‘Sharada Viharam‘.

“On the day of the grihapravesha the Maharaja sent a presentation of jari dhoti, silk saree in a silver plate embossed with the royal insignia of gandabherunda.”


In picture (above), A.V. Rama Murthy, younger brother of A.V. Narasimha Murthy, poses in front of Sharada Viharam. Below, the Sanskrit nameplate on top of the house.

Also read: Once upon a time in Saraswathipuram

Saraswathipuram Andava: cuppu, conu, ballsu

Bangalore’s idiots who speak an idiolect at home

12 December 2008

D.P. SATISH writes from New Delhi: The travel writer Paul Theroux first came to Bangalore 35 years ago when he was working on his iconic 1975 travelogue, The Great Railway Bazaar.

But, he didn’t stop at Bangalore.

Bangalore was not on his itinerary.

It was just a small provincial town back then. So he got down at the Cantonment railway station and boarded another train which took him to Madras.

Theroux wrote these words on the City he breezed past:

“Small, sleepy, tree-shaded and bungaloidal, Bangalore was inconsequential at the time. It was a town of retired people, many of them British, Indian army officers, fading God-botherers with all that implied: gardening, bowling, cricket-watching, churchgoing, running, women’s institute jumble sales, among the clubbable and the soon-to-be decrepit in the limbo of staying on, the Indian equivalent of Cheltenham or Bognor Regis or Palm Beach. They could sit on the veranda, sipping cups of tea or chota pegs of locally distilled brain damage and moan how India was going to hell.”

35 years later, when Theroux was planning Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, in which he revisits many of the European and Asian settings of his earlier work, Bangalore’s image had undergone cataclysmic change.

The small town of retired people was a giant metropolis with global buzz. It was one of the places Theroux wanted to visit and explore. But unlike his fellow-American Thomas L. Friedman of the The New York Times who was floored hook, line and sinker, Theroux was still not impressed by Bangalore.

Bangalore disappointed him. He felt sad. He desperately wanted to run away from the so-called Silicon Valley of India.

He writes in the 2008 book:

“The longer I stayed in Bangalore, the less I liked it. Many of the Indians I met there wanted me to be dazzled by the changes, but I was more horrified than awed.

What went under the name of business in Bangalore was really a form of buccaneering, all the pirates wearing dark suits and carrying cell phones instead of cutlasses.

“The City had not evolved; it had been crudely transformed—less city planning than the urban equivalent of botched cosmetic surgery.

“The proud, tidy, tree-shaded town of the recent past was now a huge, unfinished and deforested City sagging under its dubious improvements, where it was impossible to walk without falling into an open manhole or newly dug ditch. Most of the sidewalks had been torn up and the trees cut down in the interest of street-widening. The bypass roads and flyovers were all under construction, wearing a crumbled and abandoned look, and the skinny men working on them, poking the clods of earth with small shovels, suggested they’d never be completed.

“And the Government of Karnataka, where Bangalore is situated, introduced tax incentives in the mid-1990s; this gave benefits to start-up companies and attracted foreign companies, too. Languages was another factor. Because there is no single dominant language in a babel of contending tongues (Coorgi, Konkani, Tulu, Kannada, Hindi and others), English was widely spoken.

Two men in my compartment said they spoke English at home, though theirs was almost an idiolect, or at least a variety of English that I didn’t find easy to understand, with the usual archaisms, of which “thrice” and “mountebank” and “redoubtable” were just a few.”

Also read: ‘If IT takes away Bangalore’s values, burn IT’

‘A City whose soul has been clinically removed’

CHURUMURI POLL: Who killed Bangalore?

Once upon a time in Bangalore on Route No. 11

7 December 2008


E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Bangalore in the 1950s and ’60s was still a Pensioners’ Paradise and very much a sleepy town. It was mostly divided into “City” and “Cantonment” with Basavanagudi and Malleshwaram the best known among its residential areas.

Jayanagar and its famous mosquitoes had not made their debut yet.

The City Market was really a conglomeration of various petes—Chikkapete, Balepete, Tharugupete, Akkipete, Cottonpete—holding the business community. Dandu, or Cantonment (‘Contrumentru’ as the villagers would call it) was still a very far off place for most Bangaloreans.

Almost as far as London itself.


One got a fair idea of the City when one used BTS, or Bangalore Transport Service to give its full name (“Bittre Tiruga Sigodilla“, was the other full form).

50 years ago, the only other modes of transport for a common man were the Jataka Gaadi (horse driven covered cart) or nataraja service— local lingo for footing it out.

The word ‘autorickshaw’ had yet to enter the lexicon, the contraption was yet to invade our roads.

Those who worked in Atthara Katcheri (18 offices) before Vidhana Soudha was conceived, or those who worked in AG’s office walked to their offices. After an early meal around 9 am, chewing Mysore villedele with sughnadhi betel nuts, most of them changed in to their kuchche panche with their marriage coat, some wearing the Mysore peta as crown, they set off to their office holding a tiffin box which contained their afternoon snack: a couple of idlis, uppittu, etc.

The same tiffin bag was used to bring back Mysore mallige in the evening along with badami halwa for the waiting wife. The only addition to the office gear was a half-sleeve sweater during winter, and a full-length umbrella which sometimes doubled as a walking stick, during the monsoon.

Bangalore looked almost empty during the day as most of the eligible science and engineering graduates or diploma holders were herded into buses at the unearthly hour of 6.30 in the morning and ferried to HAL, HMT, BEL, LRDE, ITI, NGEF, Kirloskar, BEML, etc.

The city suddenly perked up after the factory hands returned to their favorite haunts like Yagnappana Hotlu opposite National High School grounds or Bhattra Hotlu in Gandhi bazaar for the mandatory ‘Three-by-Four Masale’ or ‘Two-by-three coffee’ in the evenings.


The best way of seeing Bangalore and getting an idea of what was happening in the city in those days was to travel by BTS route no. 11.

Route no. 11 started its journey from Gandhi bazaar in Basavanagudi opposite Vidyarthi Bhavan and took you to Tata Institute (now Indian Institute of Science) on Malleshwaram 18th cross, after eons of time spent amidst chatter, sleep and fights over annas and paisas.

Morning visitors to Vidyarthi Bhavan would already be waiting for the delicious masale dose after eating rave vade when the conductor asked the last of the commuters to get in to the bus and shouted ‘Rrrrighhttttt!’

The bus, initially coughing and moving in fits and starts, would go past the only taxi stand in the City and take its first left turn at K.R. Road and pass through Basavanagudi post office and enter Dr. H.Narasimhaiah’s National College circle and stop at diagonal road opposite Dr. Narasimhachar’s dispensary.

Here in the evenings, Gokhale, a Maharashtrian, sold ‘Brain Tonic’—a tangy kadalekai (groundnut) concoction with the goods atop his bicycle carrier. The light from his dynamo illuminated the area for you to see what you were eating and for him to check whether he has not been palmed off with ‘sawakalu kasu‘ (disfigured  coin).

Gokhale claimed that students of the National High School and National College figured in the state rank list (and hence dubbed ‘kudumis’) only because his brain tonic was their staple food!

Everything on route no. 11 had “laidback” stamped on it: the issuing of tickets, getting in and out of the bus, and the bus ride itself.

At the end of Diagonal Road you entered the sanctum sanctorum of Shettys or Komatis of Bangalore who sold anything and everything that could be sold from gold to pakampappu, gulpavatte and gunthaponganalu.

The Sajjan Rao temple and choultry by the same name was much sought after for society weddings. The Satyanarayana Temple came much later as politicians became more and more crooked.

Kota Kamakshayya choultry was opposite to the best bakery in Bangalore and may be the whole of south India, the V.B. Bakery.

Dressed in spotless white panche and banians with sleeves, the staff looked as if they were running on  skates taking and fetching orders for chakkuli, kodu-bale, veg “pups”, om biscuit, kharada kadale kayi, ‘Congress’ kadale kayi and  ‘Badam Haalu’. V.B. Bakery’s stuff was made for the gods who, I suspect, had descended on Bangalore not only for this but also for the weather, the doses, and mallige.

Next, after passing Modern Hotel and New Modern hotel where the whiff of SKC —sweetu, khara, coffee—hit your nostrils, was the stop opposite Minerva talkies, which in those days mostly showed Tamil pictures for three shows and wore a culturally superior hat with Bengali movies and that too only Satyajit Ray for the morning shows!

I suspect most Bangaloreans got introduced to Pather Panchali, Aparajito and Apur Sansar—and roso gulla—only through Minerva.

A 200 meters dash from Minerva took you to Mavalli Tiffin Rooms (MTR) in a dingy lane, which morphed into MTR as one of the best eateries in town.


Once upon a time, on this day, in another age

9 October 2008

U.B. VASUDEV writes from Tampa, Flordia: Down memory lane, while growing up in Mysore, we looked forward to the Dasara or the Navarathri holidays. Those ten days, which signified goddess Chamundeshwari’s victory over the demon Mahishasura (symbolizing the triumph of good over evil), were the most enjoyable time every year.

The entire City wore a festive look.

As far as I can remember, everyone was high-spirited though everything remained routine year after year.

Pattada Bombe” which perhaps symbolized the King and Queen among all the dolls arranged for the “Bombe habba” got new dresses; the woman was draped in a jari bhutta sari and the man in the typical Mysore Durbar dress ie, white trousers, black long coat with a gold bordered sash around the shoulders and the famous gold striped Mysore “peta” (turban).

It was almost an unassigned task for us kids to wait outside our houses for the booming, reverberating sound of the cannons from the Palace Gun House heralding the auspicious arrival of Dasara to the Mysore Palace and let our mothers know so that they could install the “Kalasha” and observe the festivities.

The festivities were low key for the first six days and reached a crescendo by the seventh day, Saraswathi (the goddess of learning) pooja, when we excitedly piled up all our books to be worshipped so that we did not have to touch them for, at least, a few more days!

The eighth day was Durgashtami.

The ninth and the tenth days were the most spectacular. On Mahanavami, everything from knives to scissors to our bicycles was spotlessly cleaned for the Ayudha (weapon) pooja. All the buses, cars, shah-pasands (the illustrious Mysooru Kudure Gadi) and other transports all over Mysore were richly decorated for the occasion.

n the Palace, public with prior permission from the Palace authorities were allowed to the bleachers in front of the “Bombe thotti” (pavilion of dolls) to watch the celebrations.

After a long wait of two to three hours and as we were getting hungry and impatient, His Highness in his ceremonial attire was escorted to the specially erected canopied platform in front of the Palace to offer pooja. The spectators would be in a state of mystic abstraction for the next hour or so watching the royal paraphernalia that included all his cars, elephants, horses, the silver and gold chariots and many more pass in front of them.

The Amba Vilas Palace, an amazing example of the opulence of the Mysore royalty, designed by the British architect Henry Irwin and built at the turn of the century (1897-1912) was illuminated for all the ten days in addition to some of the public buildings and other landmarks in the city.

Welcome arches were erected all over the city with banners proclaiming long life to the revered son of Yaduvamsha (Chiramabhivardhantam Yadusantana Sri). His Highness late Sri Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar conducted the durbar every evening starting at 7 pm.

At that exact moment, hundreds of thousands of bulbs lit the Indo-Saracenic structure that made it look like an illuminated mirage. The presence of the former king heightened the spirit of the festivities. Legend has it that the bejeweled silver and gold throne made of fig wood and once overlaid with ivory, originally belonged to the Pandavas and is supposed to have come through the Vijayanagara rulers to the Wodeyars of Mysore. With the rich embellishments, it shone under the floodlights of the majestically decorated hall.

A select public was allowed to attend the royal court and only those with the traditional durbar dress were allowed inside. After a brief entertainment, mostly a classical music concert by one of the eminent musicians of that time, folk dances or a wrestling match in the ring in front of the palace, the guard of honor followed and the evening culminated with the state elephant garlanding the chief.

The crowning glory of the ten-day festivities was the royal procession on the last day, Vijayadashami. It is
almost impossible to explain in words the magnificence that pervaded the city that afternoon.

The entire route of the royal cavalcade, about five miles long, from the Mysore Palace to the Bannimantapa was exquisitely decorated with multicolored lights. The businesses on Sayyaji Rao Road erected stages all along the parade route to garland His Highness and offer their respects.

Crowds of people from all over the country lined the parade route, positioned themselves on buses, cars, buildings and fences enroute to watch and admire their favorite king on the elephant back in the storybook spectacle.

A pair of Nandi Kamba(s), decorated bamboo posts carried in a pouch around the waist by the performers and assisted by two or three who held the tethers attached to it for support, led the procession that used to leave the Mysore Palace sometime in the late afternoon.

The entire army that belonged to the Mysore King(s) took part in the parade.

All the distinguished personnel associated with the Palace usually were on horseback or walked in front of the elephant carrying His Highness. Usually, a huge carriage drawn by the elephants (Aane Gaadi) used to house the palace musicians, Asthana Vidwans who used to be in concert all along the parade route.

His Highness, with his uncle behind him, sat in the golden howdah (ambaari with 80 kilograms of gold on a wooden frame) that was tied on the back of the tall and majestic Biligiriranga, a magnificent pachyderm.

Also in the parade were the state horse (Pattada kudure) and the state elephant (Pattadane) that carried the presiding deity of the royal family, goddess Chamundeshwari. Also went along the white dancing horses, the royal Lippizzans that had their tails painted in a rainbow of colors.

After resting for a while at Bannimantapa, His Highness would perform pooja to the legendary Shami tree and carry a branch of the same back to the royal residence.

The Mahabharata legend has it that the Pandavas hid their arms inside the Shami tree while in exile. Before the famous battle of Kurukshetra, they performed the ritualistic worship to the tree in gratitude and recovered their arms.

After a brief entertainment and a torch light parade in honor of the Excellency, the procession would be on its way back to the palace.

The return procession had a grandeur of its own.

I remember heavy downpours as if the heavens were pouring their choicest blessings on the King and his people, on several occasions.

The procession served the purpose of contact between people and the King, as they could not see the king on other days. The other aspect may be, during the olden days kings used to worship the family deities to invoke their blessings before embarking on wars with their elephants, horses, camels and the military.

That may be the background for the procession.

As far as we know, the Mysore Dasara was the best show in all the princely States of India.

We have not heard of any other princely state celebrating Dasara with such pomp and pageantry. The last Dasara procession with His Highness late Sri Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar was in 1973.

When I visited the palace six years back, I was told that his son Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar still continues to maintain the tradition and follow in the footsteps of his predecessors. He conducts durbar every day during the ten-day festival, albeit on a much smaller scale in the Amba Vilas hall, the diwan-i-khas of the Mysore Palace.

The palace is illuminated every evening for about an hour or two and the other activities are continuing though the support from the people has dwindled. It looks as though the magnificence associated with the festivities faded with the late Sri Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar who was very highly respected by his subjects.

The State of Karnataka has tried to continue the tradition without much participation and glitter, however.

It is sad to think that the ten-day festival that was once the crown jewel for the City of Mysore has become just a crown without any sparkling jewel in it. Thus, it is a pleasant though poignant memory for the Mysoreans of yesteryear!

Photograph: Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa, flanked by the minister in charge of Mysore district, Shobha Karandlaje, and the mayor of Mysore, Ayub Khan, offer floral tributes to the golden howdah before the commencement of the Dasara procession in Mysore on Thursday afternoon. (Karnataka Photo News)

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All that glitters is, yes, gold for the next ten days