22 April 2010

Life in Mysore - Now just Memories

It is now almost 2 years since I have be completely forced out of Mysore.  Now am in the NRM category - Non - Residident (or is it NOT REQUIRED IN MYSORE????????) Mysorean.

Memories and photos are all that I have now of the Home in Devaparthiva Road.

Time is the best healer

7 August 2009

The Actor in Me.

The first time I went on stage was when I was about 3 years of age. Rotary Club of Mysore ( Those days there was only one club – unlike now with locality-wise identities), had organized a fancy dress at the present Ideal Jawa Rotary School, opposite the present Institution of Engineers, On JLB road. My grandfather, MR. K.M Subba Rao (a founder Member of the Club always encouraged us to take part in such activities) had entered my name in the competition.

I remember (one of those vague memories of infanthood) being made to stand dressed as a Pujari (a priest) reciting the Ganapathi Shloka (a religious stanza in praise of a God) – “Benaka Benaka, Ekadanta ----“. This stage appearance won me a small coat hanger with a pink bunny face near the hook. This coat hanger was around in the house for quite a few years until I lost track of it.

The next appearance on stage was probably the next year (going by the difference of height in the two photos J ). This time it was at the Narasimharaja Sports Club on Lalita Mahal Road, near the foot hills of Chamundi dressed as the traditional soothsayer – “Budubudikeyabvanu”.

I was fully bedecked with multiple clothes – akin the real soothsayer. Judging from the photo below – I probably had a Jubba, vest coat, panche, two to three silk scarves around the neck, turban, one scarf tucked into the cloth tied round the waist, a thick rope dollar around the neck, “budubudike” with a silk scarf tied to it. I am not sure if I won a prize, but the “budubudike” was a prized possession for a few years. It had become a toy for many years.

When my schooling began at CFTRI School, my first proper stage appearance was during the Kindergarten – only one level then; it was a new terminology other than nursery. A group dance with a boy and a girl dancing to an English song – I remember that I was dressing in Black shorts, white shirt, Bow tie and with an elastic “Brace” to hold up the shorts! Similar to the dress in Photo 3 - the difference in the photo is that I was two years older and the necktie was replaced with the bow tie! My dancing partner was a girl named Bharati – who unfortunately passed on while we were in 6th Standard.

From that year onwards, I was a regular during the Annual School Day functions – Dances, Dance – Dramas, plays, et al. The peak performance came while we were in the 4th Standard. That year an elaborate Dance Drama based on an episode from the Mahabharata was enacted. This was directed by the mother of one our class mates – Dheeraja Patwardhan – both were proficient classical dancers. My role was that of a vagrant bull – along with another class mater Krishna Kumar – who is tamed by Lord Sri Krishna! The entire dance drama was of 1 ½ hours duration of which my performance was for a total of 15 minutes in two scenes.

This was selected for the Children’s Day celebration competition at New Delhi – to be witnessed by the Late Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi! What an opportunity it was! But due to certain issues at home, I could not make it and my role was played by another “not so proficient” schoolmate. This, I learnt later, was the determining factor for the play becoming a flop and not winning any prize at the competition.

This put a brake on my “on-stage” theatrics. The school authorities were so upset on the episode that the next year – while in the 5th Standard -I was deliberately left out of the School day programmes. This left my spirit dampened to such a level that I lost all interest in stage performances.

Although in the next two years – 6th and 7th Standards – I was forced to revive the stage appearances by my Class Teacher – Ms. Sujaya – I merely went through the motions without much zeal.

Now to the brighter side of LIFE. Although I gave up stage appearances, my theatrics continued in REAL LIFE! I can still pull “fast ones” with a straight face! People have commented on my “expressive face” – I am said to convey a lot through my expressions – although my voice does not convey it.

I do not regret having given up “stage” performances – I am fully satisfied playing “roles” in Real Life. The Actor in Me is still Vibrant.

30 January 2008

First Flight

Mandakalli is the place that I had my first flying experience - in a glider - as a civilian. I was working with a dealer of wireless equipment and we had gone to make a trial for the NCC Air wing in 1999-2000. As a courtesy, we were allowed to fly in the right hand seat (I understand that this seat is for the Co-pilot) of the glider with Instructor Mr. Chandran (I forget the designation and have hence left it out) flying. WHAT AN EXPERIENCE IT WAS.

The very concept of making the aeroplane move with a wire rope pulled by a winch was unconvincing - at least until I saw it first hand. Before the glider moved 100 feet on the ground, we were airborne. And what was I doing? The rush of air, the high speed movement jerked from a standstill position and the very excitement of the very first flight took my breath away - PRACTICALLY. I had one hand on the side of the cockpit - the other hand bracing the front of the control panel - which had just 2 or 3 dials - as if I would be blown away if I did not hold on! I was actually locked into the seatbelt which was so secure that I could not even twitch on the seat!

Next was the emptiness I felt in the stomach suddenly - as the draw rope was released - starting the free flight. I felt as if I had come to a halt in mid-air – for a fraction of a second. I was informed by Mr. Chandran that we were 800 ft above ground. 800 feet above ground?! I had never been that high before!! It was then that I had the feel of flying.

Looking down, I saw a narrow road winding its way. I saw toy cars, Lorries and busses moving – at least that was how I felt! Even from a comparably low height of 800 feet that is how every thing looked. I was able to see most parts of Mysore. The Chamundi Hills looked odd. I had always looked up at it. Now I could look at the entire hill range with my eyes level – to the glider not to the ground. I could see people look up at the glider as it made a couple of turns – slowly probably for my good, being inexperienced. We were in the air for a couple of minutes – probably five at the most. I was too occupied to time the duration of the flight.

Then all of a sudden I felt the rush of air against my face and the pressure against my stomach. We had started to descend. So it was back to my posture – left hand gripping the front panel, right hand gripping the side (remember I was sitting on the right hand side seat). Then all of a sudden the sound of the air rushing past changed, as Mr. Chandran pulled a lever. The speed of the glider reduced. I was wondering as to what made the speed change. In my College, we had been given a brief explanation of aero-dynamics and the effect of the design of the wing – how the aircraft went high or came down. They had not given us an explanation as to what was used in aircrafts to reduce speed – especially when there was no Engine!! I learnt a lesson in Physics that evening – it was around 5.00 PM when I was taken up in the air.

Casually looking to the side, I got a shock. I saw a pair of wooden pieces about 2 inch wide by 2 or 3 feet in length that had popped out on top and bottom of the wings. They were working as brakes!! Obstructing the flow of air both on top and bottom of the wings – imagine 4 pieces of wood stopping a aircraft!! But stop, it did!! With a bump and a jerk and a wobble, we landed just a few feet away from the hangar – mine was the last flight for the day.

Year later, in 2005, my brother-in-law from the USA, had arranged to take a few of us on a holiday to Delhi – Jaipur – Agra with the onward and return travel by flight through Indian Airlines and Air Sahara respectively. It was not even a fraction as exciting as the “FIRST FLIGHT” – travel in a enclosed aircraft made it very dull. Added to that was that the weather outside was totally overcast – it being July.

The glider flight experience was a true “FIRST FLIGHT” experience that will not fade out fast.

24 December 2007

The Pot of Milk & Badam Powder

Over the weekend, I decided to homebrew (Ham Radio slang for making things at home rather than purchase off the shelf) ‘Badam Powder’. This was pending for some weeks now as we had already purchased ‘Badam’ but I had not really got down to the actual preparation. The ‘Badam’ was soaked in water and skinned later. It was then carefully sautéed to a golden brown – all as per the traditional recipe. I had learnt this during my childhood. When it cooled, it was ground to a nice powder along with ample quantity of sugar and a dash of cardamom. Home made “Badam Powder” was ready to be consumed. And consume I did. The first spoon of the sample brought back old memories – not of the culinary kind.

It was this similar ‘Home made badam powder’ that gave me a scar that I carried for years – I have not checked off late!

This brings us to the main story. I have already blogged about the eventful year of 1969-70 (click for link) and the trysts that I had in life. This is one more incident briefly mentioned in the previous blog.

In those years, ready made health drinks were limited to Horlicks, Bourn-vita and Oval-tine. Since not many preferred these ready made additives to milk or relished plain milk, many households used prepare indigenous flavours that were palatable and healthy – more over – having religious sentiments ensured that the purity and hygiene of the product were met. One such preparation was the “Badam Powder” – recipe already mentioned.

Being kids and having a sweet tooth, my elder brother (Click for link) and I were in the habit of always coming out of the kitchen gobbling a spoonful of sugar, Horlicks, Bourn-vita or this “Badam Powder”. All would go well if we were not ‘caught in the act’. But that evening in February, 1970 turned out to be not that well. We WERE ‘caught in middle of the act’ – red handed if may call it that- of gobbling the tasty ‘Badam Powder’. But unfortunately, that ‘middle of the act’ meant that my brother – being the elder – took the first spoonful. That was when my mother came into the kitchen.

She had put down a vessel filled with more than a litre of freshly boiled milk that had been collected on behalf of a neighbour who was out. Those days, milk was heated or fresh milk brought to a boil on mud stoves using firewood/charcoal. Unlike vessels heated on gas or electric stoves, those vessels did not cool down fast. As an added protection the vessel was placed very close to the wall awaiting departure on the arrival of the neighbour.

Having been caught in the act and being deprived of the opportunity to gobble my share of the ‘Badam Powder’, I decided to go on strike – dharna – if you may call it that – by properly sitting down at ‘that very spot” – to demand my share. Unfortunately - ‘that very spot’ turned out to be right over the vessel of hot milk. I landed squarely on the vessel – right into the milk.

OUCH!!! YELP!!! AMMA!!! (As I write this, memory of the event gave me the goose bumps!!! Even to this day)

Thanks to the presence of mind of my mother who pulled off my uniform shorts – luckily made of thick drill material, which probably lessened the effects – exposing a BIG BOIL on my right hip!!! In the panic situation, mother remembered that smearing honey on the area would reduce the effect. But unfortunately, instead of smearing she RUBBED the honey on the area. This ensured that the skin came off and stuck to her hand.

Medical treatment followed. And it took nearly 3 weeks before I could fully sit down. For some time I had to sit half-seated – I will not go into more graphic details.

Every time I gobble up a spoonful of anything from the kitchen – I have still not got out of the habit – this sensational memory flashes to remind me of the incident in childhood.

13 November 2007

Ganesha Chaturthi

Bhadrapada Shukla Chaturthi – the day when the festival of Lord Ganesha – the elephant headed son of Lord Shiva – is celebrated with grand fervor by people of all sects of the Hindu religion. Usually occurring during the months of August and September, it is literally the beginning of the festival season. Immediately after this comes the Dussera - or Navarathri or Durga Puja – the nine day festival of the Shakthi form of the Lord. This followed by the Festival of Lights – Deepavali. This also means that the mid-term examinations are approaching for the school going kids. All these make up for a festive and hectic three months. This has been the case for ages and will continue to be so.

The Ganesha festival also has a unique & important role to play in community life. This is a festival where the puja is performed both within the family and as a community puja within the locality. Pendals/ make-shift mantaps are set up at street corners and open grounds through contributions in cash – kind – labour – participation of the neighbourhood community. The main stay of the group would of course be the children. More than the participation in the puja, it would be the unhindered merriment for them. No elder would restrict the merriment on that day – may also be because they would be too busy with the festival activities inside the house.

The earliest such community festival that started in Devaparthiva Road was at the southern end – in front of Shivaram’s Cycle Shop, next to Dr. Krishnaswamy’s house. After the puja, cultural and entertainment programmes would be organized – Carnatic Classical (Vocal and Instrumental), Hari Kathas, Film music orchestra (mostly by the then upcoming troupe – Mohan-Kumar and Party). It would be a week long festival with lots of entertainment. Since most the organizing committee were cricket players (tennis ball cricket), we fellow cricketers would be on the so-called inside circle of the organization. The festivities would culminate in a grand procession through the streets of Chamarajapuram before heading off to Kukkarahalli Lake for the immersion of the idol.

This was one of the rare moments of freedom allowed by our doting grandmother – who otherwise would not allow us to venture out too far, never during nights! Of course with the stern warning not to venture near the water but to stay on the bund. The procession would start by around 7 PM and end at around 9.30 at the Kukkarahalli Lake with the immersion of the idol. Next would be the other important part – the prasadam. The prasadam would be Puliyogre (known locally as Hulianna) and Curds Rice (Mosaranna) served on plates of muttuga leaves (consisting of small round leaves of the muttuga tree stitched together with pieces of small sticks forming a larger round shape). This would be served on the road side at around 10.30 PM. We would all eagerly wait for this event and sit on the culvert waiting to be served. We would all return home at around 11.00 PM with a contented heart and a full belly eagerly awaiting of the return of the next Ganesha Festival – “GANAPATHI BAPPA MORYA”.

P.S. This was scheduled to be posted around Ganesha Festival but I forgot all about it due to a busy schedule at the work place.

I am lucky to be alive - today

The Year 1969 - 70 turned out to be a very eventful year for both me personally and the family in general.

First I almost died in a road accident in Bombay (present day Mumbai) and then I sat – yes SAT – on a vessel full of boiling hot milk and had to lie on my stomach for nearly 3 weeks – understand why?

It was also during this year that the upanayanam of my brother was conducted and he had an incident with a gooseberry stuck in his throat.

So, overall, it was a both good and bad in that year.

Coming back to my brush with death, CFTRI School had declared 24th Dec. 69 to 1st Jan. 70 as Christmas Vacation. We, therefore, decided to travel to Bombay (I will continue to use the old name for antiquity sake!) during that period. We (my parents, elder brother and a paternal aunt) boarded the train from Mysore. The route was Mysore – Bangalore (Change Train) – Guntakal (Change Train) – Poona (present day – Pune – Change Engine) – Bombay. It would take two nights – two days to complete this journey.

My father who had previously worked and stayed in Bombay for about two years was our escort and guide. We visited the Gate Way of India, Mahalaxmi Temple, Juhu Beach, Marine Drive (construction of the flyover had just commenced then), Aquarium, King’s Circle Matunga, Mysore Gymkhana (where my father stayed during his working days), the Films Division studios (where we were shown the construction of the ‘Sets’) and a few relatives houses.

The incident occurred (as I vaguely remember) as we came out of the Aquarium and were crossing the double road towards the beach. My brother, being 4 years elder to me, ran across the road and safely reached the median. Seeing him run across, I too took off behind him – leaving the security of the elders. Then it happened. Right in the middle of the road between the footpath and the median – I FROZE WITH FRIGHT. A huge B.E.S.T double-decker bus was hurtling towards me. I stood rock still. I heard my mother’s shout. Everytime I remember the incident, even to this day, my palms sweat.

Then my guardian angel swung into action. In a blur of action, I was pulled out of the way and the next thing I remember is that I was in my mother’s hands. I realized that my father had swung into action. With great alertness and speed, he had rushed to the middle of the road, grabbed me and gone back to the side as the BEST bus hurtled past. It was a lesson I will remember for the rest of my life.

If not for the gentle hearted, alert and experienced ‘Angel’ – my father – I probably would not have been around writing this memoir. He also showed his valour in surviving a series of heart problems with his positive attitude until he could take it no more and passed on in 1981.

Thank you, Ramu (he never allowed us to call him by any other name). I hope I have lived up to your expectations and that your effort in saving me that day has not gone in vain. I am proud to be your son!

3 September 2007

Patriotism at Mylara Krupa

Every Independence or Republic Day celebration brings back patriotic memories – of a personal kind.

The premises where we were brought up (I use the past tense as I now live in Bangalore – although my mother continues to live there) in the spacious place is named “Mylara Krupa” on Devaparthiva Road. In my previous post on my school days in CFTRI I had mentioned about the sense of patriotism I had been exposed to by the spontaneous display by our principal Mrs. Caroline Parpia on Martyr’s Day. This probably played an important part in my life.

As I grew up, I remember that I have not missed any of either the Independence Day or Republic Day functions. And I was exposed to quite a few of them! Our Schools and Colleges, my father’s work place – CFTRI, my grand-father’s work place – The City Law Courts, my father’s and grand-father’s recreation club – Cosmopolitan Club. I had plenty of support from my elders. So, probably the patriotism rubbed in.

As early as in the early 70’s I started celebrating the Independence Day and the Republic Day in OUR HOUSE. I would ask my “Taata” Shri. Subba Rao to hoist the National Flag, before he left for the other flag hoisting ceremonies.

The zeal to hoist the National Flag was such that I would go to any means to hoist a flag – even if it meant (as I realize now) violating the National Flag code (I may please be excused for that). Unfortunately, the zeal would start on the previous night with no time for major preparations. It would generally mean that my mother (who was adept at tailoring) would have to dig into the bundle of cut, semi-cut, uncut clothes and bring out pieces of clothes having any resemblance to the national tri-colour. My artistic elder brother would draw by hand the ‘chakra’. This was because my “taata” would not have time to organize of a proper flag.

The flag post would be the “madi-koolu” – the 8 foot length of cane used to spread the clothes used for religious purposes. The flag would be tied – yes, tied – not hoisted on top of this pole. Flower petals would be placed inside and the flag folded and now tied with a piece of rope. The pole would now be place in a hole dug in front of the “tulasi katte”. All the family members and some invited neighbours would stand around the Flag Pole. “Taata” would then untie (Unfurl?) the flag and we would all sing “Jana GaNa Mana”.

My “Ajji” used to support the event by cooking “kobri mithai” on most days else we would distribute “kallu sakkare” to the invities and family members before dispersing for the other events of the day.

As there would be cultural programmes at CFTRI, which I would attend without fail, the honour and responsibility of lowering the flag (complete with the flag pole) rested on my “ajji” – which she would unfailingly observe at 6.00 PM.

My “troublesome” enthusiasm went to such an extent that “taata” finally bought me a proper National Flag (2ft x 3 ft) which was used for 2-3 years. I then started insisting that we “hoist” the flag instead of tying it to the pole. My brother had to use his ingenuity to install a pulley using a wooden spool at the top of the pole and we would run a piece of cotton rope to formally “unfurl” the National Tri Colour.

With the sad demise of “taata” in 1976 the event unfortunately came to an end. The National Flag continues to be a priced possession carrying many fond and patriotic memories.

16 August 2007

My “Independence Day”– or was it?

During my childhood days I was known for my ‘gluttonous’ hunger. I had a “stomach clock” – I mean body clock related to the stomach – that was very very accurate and would not tolerate any variation in feeding time.

My tolerance towards hunger was very low. The minute my mind decided I was hungry, I HAD to eat something. This mindset is probably the cause for what I am today – “roly – poly” during childhood and overweight now (although, I prefer to stress that is by only 10-12 Kgs). It could be any thing solid – liquid food would not do. Raagi – hurittu (popped – ragi flour mixed with sugar, milk, ghee), meNasinapudi anna (cooked rice mixed with chilli powder and oil), avalakki mosaru (puffed rice with curds), avalakki kaai bella (puffed rice with coconut gratings and jaggery), etc. Even the required quantity was not too much. But I had to EAT.

Not eating when I was hungry would send hunger pangs like I had not eaten for days. I would sweat. I would get nausea. My hands would tremble. I would feel like I would almost collapse. Such was my intolerance towards an empty stomach.

Coming home from school one evening, I was at my ravenous best. Throwing aside my school bag, I had a quick wash (if it were not for the rule that “NO ENTRY TO DINING AREA WITHOUT WASH” I probably would have avoided it) and rushed to the kitchen with my “HOTTE HASHIVU” (translated to “I am Hungry”) shout. I was not greeted with any eatable but with the advice to wait for 5 minutes. Obviously my mother was busy pounding something (No mixies/grinders in those days). I was not in the mood for any excuses that day. I “demanded” that I be attended to immediately. But who heard the demands of a 9 year old.

I, then made my declaration of “Independence”. I threatned to “run” (“walk” would have been a more appropriate word for it) away from home. I got a cool “let me see you do it” reply from my mother from whom I least expected it. I had thought that that threat would get me something to eat. But now my reputation was at stake. Do I keep my threat or do I meekly surrender to the situation and wait those few minutes?? In the heat of the moment, I decided to make my threat come true. Banging the front door, off I went onto the streets. I had “run” away from home.

I was then about 9 years of age. My knowledge about Mysore and its localities was restricted to what I had traveled with the elders. I had never gone out alone further than Devaparthiva Road and Gita Road (See my other post “Walk the Walk – With an Elephant”).

I reached the end of Devaparthiva Road near the Aralikatte (Banayan Tree) at the north end took the familiar right turn towards Ramaswamy Circle. As I approached the junction of Gita Road, hard reality struck. I was not confidant of going any further – I was not aware of any other roads!!! With no other way out I went along Gita Road, rounded back towards Devaparthiva Road, back in front of our house (to see if anyone was searching for me) and along the same route once again. I had nowhere else to go – I was not confidant of going anywhere else!

I meekly walked back into the house. I was greeted with the “Yaake, yelligu hogalillava?” (didn’t you go anywhere”). It was a great eye opener. I realized that I had not grown up to the extent of “running” away from home. I also realized that if I had waited in the house for those 5 minutes, I would have got my food. If only I had the patience, I would have saved the the extra effort of walking for 20 minutes on an already empty stomach.

I have since gained control of my hunger pangs – although the same cannot be said about my overall weight.

Every time I am hungry and feel like demanding food, this incident acts as a great reminder to calm me down.

9 August 2007


CFTRI School –Part (Building) #1

Year 1967 – Kindergarten - School term had already begun. I remember my mother taking me to school on the first day. The CFTRI School was running in the building beside the Director’s Quarters. There still is an open area between the two buildings that was being used as the Play ground.

The kindergarten class was in the right side shed behind the main building. Toys we had were drums, trumpet (one of my favourites), blocks, etc. There were a total of 34 others in the class. (Can you imagine it now – 35 is just half the class!). We used to get pasteurized milk (a luxury then for the general public), mango pulp bars, etc., from the pilot plant of CFTRI. We even used to get about 2 hours sleep in the afternoon.

The First Standard classes were in the left side shed. The desks were about 2 feet high and we had small wooden chairs. The uniform was a red and white checked shirt with olive green shorts/pinafore skirts, Mrs. Parpia (wife of the then Director of CFTRI, Dr. HAB Parpia) was the headmistress then. I remember an incident that indicates the kind of discipline and nationalism we were exposed to then.

January 30, 1969 it was. As is the norm, at the stroke of 11.00AM, we were all intimated that we would hear a siren when we were all required to stand up in silence for 2 minutes as a mark of respect for the Martyrs’ Day. At the stroke of 11 the siren sounded and we all stood up. It was then that I noticed ‘Aunty’ Parpia just coming round the corner of the main building and there she stood. She had frozen in the postion she was in – one step ahead of the other and head bowed. The importance and the value of that posture comes to my mind every time I have to stand in silence for paying respects to any departed soul.

We had the facility of the School Bus that would pick us up and drop us at our doorstep daily. I would be one of the last to be picked up and one of the last to be dropped off. The route that we took was covering almost the entire city of Mysore. Yadavagiri, Vontikoppal, Bannimantap, Tilak Nagar, Mandi Mohalla, Nazarbad, Ittigegud, Chamundipuram, Vidyaranyapuram, Chamarajapuram, Krishnamurthypuram, Jayanagar, Saraswatipuram – That was almost the entire city in those days (See Map).

The entire route could be covered in about 90 mins. Imagine that now! This facility was available until 1971. Then we had to travel by city bus. What fun we used to have in the school bus. But all that later.

26 July 2007

Upakarma – The annual thread Ceremony.

With the approach of the full moon day in the month of Shraavana – the day when the male Yajurvedis change their sacred thread, brings back memories of the function that was being celebrated in our house.

The formal ceremony consists of a fire – ritual (Homa); puja of the rishis; tarpana (offering of water in a particular way) to the rishis and the change of the sacred thread – a sort of renewal of the pledge to undertake the path of Vedic Adhyayana (Vedic Learning). Uptill 1976, this ritual was being organized in our house. We would have about 20 – 30 people from our neighbourhood and some relatives too congregating for the ritual.

The purohit would come in at 5.30 in the morning and the rituals would go on till 8.00. So the preparations would have to be completed the previous night itself. This was an occasion which we looked out for. I had my initiation (Upanayana) in 1974. But right from the age of about 6 years I was involved in the ritual – as I was allowed to wear the “yagnopaveeta” (janivaara – holy thread) – albeit a “kaLLa janivaara (illegal janivara).

I would be woken up at 5.15 in the morning, made to complete the morning duties, wrapped with a silk “maguta”, smeared with “vibhuti” (the holy ash) and would take my reserved place beside our father and grandfather.

The wooden planks would be arranged inside the periphery of the hall accommodating about 18 persons. There was one aged person who used to attend but unable to squat on the ground. We used to give him a wooden chair and table to do the rituals and he would be seated on one of the adjoining rooms. Additional persons were accommodated in the verandah.

The “homa kunDa” and the platform for the “rishi pooja” would be in arranged the previous night itself. I was allowed to do the puja and most of the rituals except the “rishi tarpana” until 1974 – as I was still not initiated.

The first interesting part was when we were required to do the “yagnopaveeta daana” – giving a set of the sacred thread along with “dakshine” to elders and take their blessings before “yagnopaveeta dharaNa” – the process of putting on the sacred thread. Our grandfather would provide me with my own set of 10 sacred threads and coins for the process.

The second interesting part was when all the participants would circle around the “homa kunDa” and the “rishis” in “pradakshiNa”. As we walked around to the chanting of mantrams, the wooden planks would make a sound wheneven someone stepped on the edges and the plank would rise and fall. It was merriment for me as the planks would keep going “katak-katak” during the entire process of about 5 minutes by the time we completed three rounds.

The puja would end with the distribution of “prasadam” - “satvada hittu” – a combination of rice flour, til seeds, ghee and cut fruits (banana, guava, sweet lime, fresh grapes, etc.).

The guests would have breakfast of hot “tatte” idlis and chutney accompanied by hot coffee before leaving. Always coming back the next year.

This event, unfortunately, stopped on the demise of our grandfather in 1976 and our family purohit a few years later. The ususal guests started to go to temples for the ritual or like me, started changing the sacred thread in their house itself with a simple 5 minute process.

I was fortunate to attend a similar elaborate ritual when a neighbour of ours, Mr. Aralikatte Chandrashekar, took up the initiative and has started it in his house. The ritual came back to our house of one year – during which Mr. Chandrashekar’s mother had expired.

Every year during the Upakarma day, whether I am able to attend the elaborate ritual or not, the memories of the Upakarma in our house remains fresh.

6 July 2007

A Tribute to my “TAATA” (Grandfather).

My first memories of him are the wavy white hair – parted in the middle, fair, tall, majestically upright, devout and pious, ever friendly. He was then already in his late sixties. He was a leading advocate with offices in Rave Beedi (Soji Street), founder member and Past President of the Rotary Club of Mysore (1944 - undivided – as it is now), an all-round sportsman with Tennis, Cricket and Golf being the main stays, a voracious reader and a thorough family man. Wondering who this person is? Do any of the old Mysoreans recognize him?

You have it right, if your guess is “K.M. Subba Rao, B.A., LL.B.” (This nameplate still maintains its place of pride on the main door of our house in Devaparthiva Road). It is my pride to have been born into his family.

He was known for punctuality in every thing he did. This was brought to our attention by a trader near his office. My grandfather had a “Sun-beam” bicycle that he rode to office daily in the morning. He followed a particular route. This particular trader informed us later that he used to correct the time in his watch when my grandfather passed his shop.

He was one who would never ask for a favour. Being an active member of the Rotary Club and the Kanteerava Narasimha Raja Sports Club, the annual meetings would normally end late in the evening after the usual rounds of “high spirits” and dinner. It would usually be after 10.30 PM. It was common knowledge among the members of both organizations that, he would never stay back after 10.30 PM. He would just get up and leave. If, by chance, anyone noticed his departure and offered a ride home, he would take it. Else, he would walk back home. (KNSC at the foot hills of Chamundi was a clean 6-7 Kms from home – remember the present MG Road is less than a decade old!).

The strict disciplinarian – with respect to his profession – that he was, was amply demonstrated many a time in our house. He had many clients who came from villages. They normally would come to meet him at our house outside office hours bringing along with them fresh vegetables from their farms. He would never take those vegetables for free. He would ensure that the present market price is paid to the client before the bag of vegetables could be taken into the house.

He was a multi-faceted sports person. He used to narrate an incident where he won three different sporting events on the same day – football in the morning, followed by a cricket match and ending the day with a cross country running race! Not many professional sports persons can claim that achievement today.

The last I say him play tennis was at the inauguration of the Mysore Tennis Club in Chamarajapuram, Mysore in 1969 at the age of 73. He partnered Mr. B. S Dattatri in the inaugural exhibition match.

The memory of visits to the Zoo, the Dasara Exhibition, the Vijayadashami procession (for which he would bring tickets to the Municipal Pendal for the entire family), the Rotary Meetings, the Annual get-together at NSC or even the occasional KR Market purchase trip would be a thrill we looked out for.

I should not call him “my grandfather”. I can only humbly and with pride call myself “his grandson”.

26 June 2007


The First memories I have of school are from the Srikantha Shishuvihara, a small primary school in Gita Road immediately behind my house located on Devaparthiva Road, Chamarajapuram, Mysore. I was then about4 ½ years. It was being managed by Mrs. Indramma, wife of eminent lawyer Mr. G.R. Sheshadri. I vaguely remember the entrance to the school situated on the right side passage of the main house. It had a small play area that could be accessed through a small gap in the adjoining wall with a sand pit, and metal swings. I do not remember a slide.

We had a group photo taken

(I at the front left corner)

I don’t think I continued in that school for more than a year. My father who was working in CFTRI had arranged for a seat to be allocated to one of our neighbours’ kid from his quota. They were to shift to Delhi and did not take up the admission. As the effort had already been undertaken, it was decided to use the same allocation and get me admitted to CFTRI School.


21 June 2007

Walk the "Walk" - With an Elephant

It was around 10.30 - 11.00 AM. The slow and rhythemic 'dong-dong' was music to the ears. It still is - although it is never heard of in Bangalore. It could mean only one thing. AN ELEPHANT WAS APPROACHING.

The children in the street all ran out to greet the elephant. It was in the northern half of Devaparthiva Road. Being too young - about 3 1/2 years? - I was naturally not allowed to cross the Vani Vilasa Road. I had to wait impatiently for the elephant to cross the road and come to our half. It ambled across and as was the routine in such situations, almost every house offered it some rice, jaggery, fruits(optional) and puja to the 'living form' of Lord Ganesha. Our turn too came. The rituals were conducted and off went the elephant to the next house. I naturally followed the elephant to the next house. As the elephant moved out of our street, everyone went back into their houses.

That was when our house went into pandemonium.

The rest of the story was conveyed to me at a later age.

I was "missing" from the house. I had not come back. Naturally my mother and grandmother thought that I might have gone to a neighbour's place to play. A search conducted at the usual house drew a blank. I was not in any of the houses. That was when the panic crept in. A rapid search and enquiry were equally unfruitful. Then someone thought of the idea that I may have followed the elephant. The elephant was now near the Eshwara Temple on Gita Road. Off ran my mother and my brother on his bicycle.

LO! there I was. Watching the elephant in awe. I had been located. Although the distance is not over 200 meters, it was the longest I had walked at that age - unaccompanied by any known people.

It is a walk to remember. This incident is still being remembered everytime an elephant approaches our house in Mysore.

8 June 2007