Monday, October 20, 2014

My HMT Watch and others

The closure of HMT Watch Factory [click] recently has saddened thousands of HMT watch patrons.  HMT wrist watches became a status symbol in the 60s and 70s.  It sounds silly now but a watch was high on the list as a 'dowry item' in marriages!  Like the 'wedding ring', there are 'wedding watches', which my friend Suresh wears even now, 28 years on! The prized present from the father to his son or daughter on passing school or college used to be a watch.  Buying a watch from the first pay check was a special dream achieved by many!  Even now, watches are presented as a fitting gift on retirement from service.

 My 'first bought watch' was from one of my earliest salary savings, in 1983.  Deciding on an HMT 'Jubilee' ahead of  'black dial Pilot' and 'Sona' was only for my fondness for Roman numerals at that time, though all were sleek and the other two, a tad bit dearer. Every rupee counted at that stage, more than ever.

Picture courtesy with permission from: Prashant Pandey blog. [linked later]
[Click all images to enlarge]

Jubilee had cost me Rs.200 which was close to 1/4th of salary, a very substantial proportion for a watch!  Having an 'own watch' boosted the status, so we felt!  We pulled up the cuff when we wore a full-sleeve shirt to show it off on the wrist, making a conscious and deliberate 'fashion statement' and looking at the watch as if looking at the time, in such a way others noticed the act!  This, my maternal uncle Annaiah was curiously observing and teasing me!  Together, we observed others do that as well!

During school days we inquired time ["ಟೈಮ್ ಎಷ್ಟ್ರೀ"] from passing elderly people who proudly looked at the watch and answered.  Now a watch was on my own wrist!

The latest HMT watches catalogue was put in to my hands in 1985 by my college classmate Sudarshan [who was also in the campus, working]. He had got it from his friend in Bangalore.  Now, all of a sudden, my Jubilee started to look unattractive!  Instantly I got smitten by 'Pilot' and envied the wrists that adorned 'Pilot'.  My colleague Mukunda was interested in a new watch.  So my Jubilee, lock, stock and barrel, went to his wrist and he dealt with it in four installments for Rs.175.

In that catalogue, 'Chinar' appeared more impressive than Jubilee.  There was no stock in Mysore.  'Pilot' was fighting the race, but 'Chinar' won because of its new horizontal lines.  After much dilly dallying, I left out Pilot and Sona also.  Crazy as I was for watches, having learnt to take apart, also do the reverse I used my spare time as a hobby mechanic!

Sudarshan was very kind to bring me the 'Chinar' from the Bangalore outlet.  I handed over a cheque for Rs.214/-.

Cash Memo from the Unity Building outlet, famous then!  Total Rs.213 Paise 30. 

I was not 'watchless' between Jubilee and Chinar.  My grandfather's 1950s Skymaster 'Continental Calendar' stood by.

The Jubilee was the first HMT in the house because my grandfather already had left his '1914 Favre-Leuba Zenith', my uncle used a 1960s 'Enicar' and my father had his 'Lamania' [later used all three above] which was lost to his friend-repairer in the next street.  My great grandfather's pocket watch was sick.

HMT named 'Janata' as 'Chinar' because it was made in the new [1985] Srinagar factory, which I learnt now browsing for this post!  See date on the back. 


A full white dial Janata was the favourite of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who wore it regularly. Film actor Sunny Deol also wears an HMT.

My friend and team mate Ravindra had given me his 'Pilot' for overhauling  He was nicknamed 'Pilot' which name even now continues to overwhelm his actual name among friends!  I do not know if Pilot Watch was the reason.  After overhauling it and to check its working I wore it joyfully for two days!  I was also 'scratching that itch'!  [The itch persists]  Its craftsmanship was so magnificent that it was a pleasurable experience to take it apart and then put the parts back after cleaning, easily. This is one watch I enjoyed overhauling.  The dial was famous for its luminous indices and hands that glowed in the dark [for about 20-30 minutes], hence it carried a slightly extra price.

HMT Pilot and its lume [web grab images]

In 1974, HMT came up with the first ever Automatic Day-Date, which was my elderly professor friend Achyutha's first watch, bought for its new features.  He mentioned how a watch mechanic raised his eyebrows in Israel during his study-stay: "Does India manufacture watches?"  After using more than 35 years, his wrist got a new quartz HMT, also with day-date.  He gave the 1974 self-winding watch to me, to 'do whatever I liked'. It needed slight repair but could not be carried out as it was beyond my range of 'expertise'. My veteran friend Khabade also did not find the worn out part.  Yet, it worked with some oiling for 3-4 years and then it started to show perfect time exactly once in twelve hours.  Got the point?

Achyutha's watch

Easy availability of spares and profusion of watch mechanics also added to HMT's popularity in its half a century of life.  With the advent of quartz technology, spring wound mechanical watches have been steadily going downhill and watch mechanics, dwindling. Quartz 'movements' have taken over.  Also, the watch machine is called the 'movement'.

This is not a showroom diaplay, but an accumulation at home.  Most watches wanted themselves to be photographed together.  It was a good gathering of the old generation mechanicals mingling with newer quartzos.  Almost three dozen watches. Come to think of the day when even one watch per home was a grand luxury!!  Online shopping...'add to cart'........  fashion, different straps, dials, chains, belts.... to suit the dress.....

My lovely Chinar, and my favourite stainless steel chain.

This is how hobby mechanics learn!  

You just saw the remains of my first watch, of some Swiss brand. It was a scapegoat, a 'lesson watch'!  It was gifted by my uncle to me when I passed 10th [in first attempt!]. It belonged to my cousin, who passed away young.  Later, I fit its dial and case with a quartz movement and gave it off to FiL who urgently needed a watch!

I have always loved watches.  Enough has been bragged by me, nay, blogged, about in my 3-part series about watches and clocks. First one is here: [click].

More appealing will be Prashant Pandey's blog exclusively on HMT watches, loaded with stories behind each watch in his collection! I bumped into it in my quest for HMT 'Pilot'. He also has a facebook group of HMT watch collectors.  Prashant is a collector of HMTs with a prized wealth of 500+ models - an HMT watches museum in the making.  [Click here and enjoy]
And another: [Click here]

On a lighter side: 
Everyone knew what 'HMT' was.  But there were two other light references for HMT.  If we put a towel on our shoulder, we become HMT, like the village man.  He always has HMT.  "ಹೆಗಲಿನ ಮೇಲೆ ಟೊವೆಲ್ಲು" [towel on the shoulder].  The towel is an integral part of the village man's costume.  We may forget to wear a watch when we go out, but he, not his towel!   Another reference is to parents having daughters only - "ಹೆಣ್ಣು ಕ್ಕಳ ತಂದೆ or ತಾಯಿ".

We can imitate the ticking of the watch by clicking fingernails of the thumb and middle finger near the ear!!

On the factual side:
HMT showed that India can mass produce fine quality, dependable, robust, trouble-free, long lasting, affordable watches in India itself so much so that it was on millions of wrists, male and female, producing more than 110 million watches in plethora of models in its lifetime from 1961 to 2014. Some models are evergreen classics!  Not for nothing there are watch collectors 'specializing' only in HMT watches!

Some impressive catch phrases HMT used in its watch advertisements.
"Come, discover HMT watches. It will change the way you look at time."  It certainly did!
"Keep time with HMT – The time keepers to the nation." We did and they indeed were!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

16-hour long sleep on pilgrimage!

In November 1999, I had joined some relatives to visit Dharmasthala, Subramanya, Sringeri and Hornadu, all pilgrimage centres amidst the hills and greenery [see map at the bottom]. The group was quite large, consisting of us 2+2, my maternal uncle's 2+2, uncle, two aunts and a cousin, making a full dozen. 

First destination was "Kukke Subramanya". Ordinary bus, night journey starting 9 pm, no reservation.  Journey time was to be 7-8 hours.  When our bus arrived, the aisle was full of people in 'standing seats' and we were a dozen!  I watched all others squeeze through the door as people made way in funny ways to allow more passengers in.  Space creates itself!  I did not want to make the trip. I was the only one among the dozen not boarded.  But reluctantly I kept my foot up the step and I was pulled in. The bus was overloaded, but it is common here!  It started to move, maximum weight on its axles.  Even the eldest, my uncle and aunt did not get seats. We were to stand like all night this amidst a variety of odours emanating from a sea of people in a jam-packed bus or till some passengers alighted somewhere.  One hour, two hours and three.  It was past midnight. Status quo.  We were still standing, fighting sleep which was trying to get the better of us. The bus was to halt at towns on the way. Slowly, the crowd thinned down and one by one got seats, but it was only after half the journey was over all of us were seated. It was well past 1 am.  We alighted at just about dawn.

Lord Subramanyeshwara is the Snake God and the temple is dedicated to it, amidst pure hills and abundant greenery, fit for as sacred a place as this. We got a large dormitory room and soon went for a bath at river Kumaradhara. A visit to the temple followed, then lunch.

Our next destination was Dharmasthala, a 100-minute journey by another bus.  We reached there by evening.  My maternal uncle managed to get a large room in one of the hundreds of guest rooms.  All of us were very tired, a result of the difficult night journey.  Soon after a quick wash it was decided we get ready for the night meal [scheduled 8 pm] at the huge dining hall where hundreds eat meals.  It is an integral part of this holy town and the temple organizes this, twice a day.  It was about 6 pm in the evening.

When one by one woke up, the watch was showing half past ten.  We thought we missed dinner, but there was daylight outside!  It was the next morning!  Astounding as it is, none woke up for 16 hours!! Our sleep session was that long, perhaps my longest since I was a baby!!  It that had saved us from a dinner and a breakfast, although meals are given free. This had recouped energies in us as we had more travel!

Losing no further time, we headed for a bath in the river Netravathi and prepared to line up in the queue at the Sri Manjunatheshwara Temple. We had a peaceful view [ದರ್ಶನ] of the Lord's idol which has been worshiped for 800 years.

We stand in front of the Temple entrance.

Our next destination was Hornadu, where we visited the Sri Annapoorneshwari Temple.  We had arrived here just in time for the afternoon meal.  Here also, mass feeding is part of the service, an important one because the deity worshiped here is the Goddess of  food/grain/nourishment, Annapurna.  We could get a peaceful view of the beautifully decorated and bejeweled idol.

We left for Sringeri for an overnight stay.  Early next morning, we visited the Sri Sharada Temple and left back for Mysore, a journey of 8 hours. 

This is the route map.  

It was a good short pilgrimage, but what reminds me of this is the very long sleep all of us had.  
16 hours is something!  I'm glad there was no train or bus to catch early next morning!

A tribute to KB Sadananda

"He can be like a kid with kids and like a veteran with veterans.", my friend Ramesh Kikkeri admiringly described during an informal chat.  He was referring to K.B.Sadananda, whom I had not yet heard or seen.  It was probably a dozen years ago.  Now it pains as I write this tribute to Sadananda who left us this month, still 'young' at 72 leaving behind thousands of his admirers, friends, bird-watchers, nature-lovers, well-wishers et al.

When Sadananda spoke something, they were gems, loaded with correct facts!  
Organic farmer Lokesh and Chandrashekar listen to Sadananda.  2009, 'Nesara'.

He frequented an organic produce outlet 'Nesara' at Gita Road, where we also went to buy certain items.  He had retired voluntarily from the University's Botany dept. and was volunteering himself willingly sharing his ocean of knowledge and vast experience with customers and members of Nesara alike.

I guess it was also Ramesh who introduced Sadananda to me at 'Nesara'.  I remember liking him and his manners instantly and how friendly he was and I was soon to learn that our widish age difference was no issue.  Simple, smiling, cool, calm, mild mannered, jovial, came on scooter [and later car], had a fine sense of humour and his words were filled with authority.  I do not think anyone has seen him displaying a frown.

Christening him as Mysore's Salim Ali would be no over-estimation.  He deserved the prefix: 'ornithologist'.  He was in great demand with several groups for his knowledge of botany and birds.  None equaled Sadananda esp. in Mysore.  He was often taken by enthusiasts and organizations on several outings to the forests to identify plants and trees. And because of his whole-hearted willingness to share his knowledge he was a much sought-after person. 

My first visit to his house was to see his rainwater harvesting method which I was to implement. He also gave me a glass of rainwater to drink to feel its unique 'taste'! I copied the idea and still harvest rainwater. He also visited our house once or twice.

In 2005, he took me to the nearby Ramakrishna Vidyashala campus to show the vast variety of flora.  I went to his house and from there he pillioned on my scooter.  I was wearing a gift T-shirt from the Korean Broadcasting System. On the way, he said "Hey, you are wearing my T-shirt!"  It took me a couple of seconds to realize what he meant.  The station's letters were embroidered on the back "KBS", referring to his own initials!

There he showed me a Cork Tree, a rarity.  It was where I also saw the nutmeg plant for the first time.  I stopped at a pond.  Numerous colourful water lilies drew me.  I sat on the edge to photograph a lily with my film camera.  Sadananda was a veteran photographer also.  I was getting ready to shoot.  "Wait a second." he said, took some water and lightly sprinkled on the flower.  "You take the photo now, the droplets will add beauty to the image."  Here are those same droplets and the only picture I took on this little sojourn! 

It did not occur to me to take Sadananda's photograph.  With film cameras, we were sometimes over-choosy on deciding to shoot.

I was into 'ponding' just then and had a pink water lily. In the same month, he took me in his car to the Kumble Farm to see his organic farming methods. The owner Mr.R.G.Kumble [also no more] was also a member at 'Nesara'.  Mrs.Kumble was kind enough to give me her extra plant of the blue water lily, which I still have in my pond.  Here: 

Sadananda had also an indirect role in this water lily. I have also shared many of its little babies with others.

Whenever I had some time and passed by his house I would stop.  And when he was home, he would gladly spend a few minutes and show a few interesting plants in his small yard.  

I spotted a 'mystery' yellow bird in 2009 near our house.  Immediately I called Sadananda and described it.  He was spot on.  I referred Salim Ali's "Book of Indian Birds". There it was, Indian Golden Oriole, a rare visitor to Mysore.  I also wrote a letter to the local paper with his name.

Last year, I needed some seed pans of clay.  I went to him if he knew any clay potter. "Park your scooter there, let's go." he said. He took me in his car through a narrow street in his locality and stopped in front of a house where pots had been stacked.  He seemed to know Sadananda quite well! I bought half a dozen pans for my garden needs.  

The last I met him in normal condition was in early 2014.  I went to his house after a telephone call.  A casual visit.  He gave me a big rhizome of ginger for me to grow as it was extra. The plant is growing nicely.  Picture below.

He also allowed me to dig up a portion of an Aptenia cordifolia succulent which had overgrown.  I cherish this plant with pink flowers.  He was compiling information on Wildflowers of Mysore, making hand drawings of plant details and said he had listed many species.

It was shocking when I heard again from Ramesh that he had suffered a stroke. When he returned from hospital I went to see him.  A thinned Sadananda was on the wheel chair. Despite his condition of not being able to speak clearly and not being able to move his left hand or eat on his own, he had his sense of humour going.  He was teasing his little grandniece and also joked about me and my wife.  Little did I know when we bid goodbye to him it was to be the last.  I used to ask for his health updates at 'Nesara'.  It appears that slowly he had recovered and was able to walk with a help and also speak and also visited Nesara a few times. 

The first person someone consulted for expert views, be it birds or trees, was Sadananda.  He gave several lectures and presentations and he asked nothing in return.  Heritage Trees of Mysore - by KBS

He lived true to his name - Sada [always] Ananda [happy]. And kept others around him also 'ananda'.
His soul may have flown away like a bird, but his deeds and name will remain green forever.  He had opted in his lifetime that his body be donated to a medical institution for study and it was carried out by his kinfolk.  Rest in peace. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Missing Gold-Ring

Small objects are so difficult to find once they 'go missing' by losing.  Smaller the size of the lost object, larger the chances of them NOT being seen again. Chances of it returning can be ruled out if lost outside the house.  Level of disappointment can be intense when it happens to be a close-to-the-heart object, valuable and of gold or gemstone.

Some years ago, there was a large gathering in our house for a family function.  By that evening, guests had left, barring a few relatives who stayed longer into late evening. Our help lady Jayamma had come to wash the large vessels and plates and also clean up the rooms.  She had brought her two little nieces who were vacationing from another town.  Jayamma lived just a furlong away.

That evening my wife suddenly realized that the ring was missing from her left ring finger.  It had two small emeralds and little diamond.  It was a much loved ring because it was from her hard-earned savings and custom made from a jeweler in Krishnamurthypuram.  The stones were carefully chosen from a reliable gemstone seller opposite Mysore Zoo.  The ring had embellished her finger for many years.

A number of people had come to attend the function and gone.  There had been a lot of activity and movement of people inside the house, amidst happy moods, but when the remaining relatives learnt of the missing ring, the atmosphere turned pale and my wife's face wore a tensed look. Jayamma also assisted in sweeping the floors in search of the ring while her nieces were playing in the yard.

Vigorous search operation took top priority, with all of us taking active part.  All the possible nooks and corners were combed and swept.  My wife tried to recollect the exact places where she had gone in the house during the day.  Even after two hours, it was not found.  The lost ring had dampened our moods.  Losing anything dear and also valuable is never a pleasant feeling for anyone.

The next morning, after a worried night, we had hopes of finding it somewhere and began searching again in the same places.  When Jayamma turned up for her regular morning work, the first thing she inquired was the ring and it was status quo.  Jayamma had the reputation of being trustworthy and not in the habit of stealing.  So we never doubted her. She finished her work and went away. The dull mood at home continued. It was also a holiday.

After evening twilight Jayamma came with one of her nieces. "ನೋಡವ್ವ, ಇದೆ ಏನವ್ವ ಉಂಗುರ?" "See madam, is this the ring?"  My wife's face lit up in joy.  Jayamma had kept up her reputation. It appears that that evening, her nieces at home were playing with that ring, not knowing it was such a valuable item. One niece was showing it to the other in excitement "ಉಂಗ್ರ ಸಿಕ್ಕೈತೆ, ಉಂಗ್ರ ಸಿಕ್ಕೈತೆ" in her own words, "I have found a ring, I have found a ring.", which was noticed by Jayamma who immediately caught hold of it and had come to return it to the owner. The young girl showed us the place where she had found.  It was in the passage outside the bath.

The young girl was adequately rewarded and Jayamma was sent two notches up the honesty table. And because of this new 'lost and found' status, the ring got even closer to the heart and there is no measure in money to value sentiments! Hard-earned things do not easily leave us, do they? 

A couple of years after the ring-return episode and too busy with her work in other houses Jayamma left, but sent her sister as replacement.  We are lucky that Thayamma also carries forward the same qualities. 

The ring.

My gardening friend Susan from Ohio, USA, wrote to me about an incident when something led to her dad's gold ring. In her own words:

After dad died, his body was donated to a medical school to become a cadaver for the students. Some months after his death, mom got a package in the mail.  The school had sent her dad’s wedding band. Somehow it got left on his finger! I think that is wonderful, that they sent her his ring. I don’t know about the family heirloom thing, Dinu. After all, mom didn’t even think to take the ring off of dad’s finger before his body was taken away!! Mom is like I am in that she is not a sentimental person. Mom did say that the ring was in excellent condition considering it was on dad’s hand from 1951 through the middle of 2010!! 

Susan also had described once before how her dad had struggled to earn and bring up his children.

Astounding acts keep happening! 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Grinding Stone and Chamundi Granite

"ಇದು ಚಾಮುಂಡಿ ಬೆಟ್ಟದ ಕಲ್ಲು, ತುಂಬಾ ಗಟ್ಟಿ ಸಾರ್." [Sir, this is Chamundi Hill Stone, very hard.] lamented the stone smith Gurumurthy. He had to be urgently summoned by contractor Vishakanta who was constructing a compound wall.  An old grinding stone embedded was coming in the way.  It was being built as part of a modest new house adjacent to our century old house, in the same plot.  A dilapidated structure had been pulled down to make way. That grinding stone embedded in the ground in 1911 had to be taken out for disposal with debris. 

It was in a room [also pulled down] that used to have a small [paddy] granary.  Pounding of paddy used to be done on that stone which was a neat 22" square at floor level.  But when the ground around was dug, it was a massive block of granite.  Crowbars were tried to move it out, but they were just like needles!  There was a smaller grinding stone, its sister, in the dismantled old structure.  It was moved out with crowbars.  [Picture below]

Grinding stones are considered as Goddess Lakshmi and so they are not broken.  Decision for removal had been taken since it was not in use for 5 decades.  We thought it would be a hindrance in the future.  We did not want to damage the top portion, the 'sacred part', and respect the belief.  To lighten the stone for lifting, slicing off the top portion was the best option for which Gurumurthy had come and agreed to do, for two thousand rupees!  Quite high. 

He banged and banged and banked on his experience, making holes to introduce shock and crack in the intended horizontal, through.  From the sound, one could easily make out that the stone was really very hard.  The stone broke 4-5 chisels, instead of the chisels breaking the stone!

  This is a close-up of the broken chisel.

"Sir, in my long experience, I have not come across a stone this hard."  he would say, wiping perspiration from his forehead as I stood watching in astonishment.  Were the tools, skill and strength of the vaddas [stone smiths] better in those times, I wonder?  

After many hours and hundreds of clink-clinks, the sound of the clink changed, much to his relief.  But the crack went UP through the centre, instead of the intended line.

Left with no alternative now, Vishakanta [seen there] decided to break it into pieces and use them there for the foundation.  It became inevitable.

Compound foundation work continued.  I have preserved a small chopped piece of that block which is like a knife from the stone-age!  Its hardness is very evident.


I wondered about the toughness of that grinding stone.  But there was another big slab in the bathroom of the portion of the house [built in 1911] which we vacated to live in the other half following property division. It was a single large slab, but had a crack across it.  No one knows how or when it had cracked.  The new owner pulled down his portion and I was curious to know why we were unable to lift that large broken slabs for a new floor.  

One broken half of that being lifted for disposal - almost as thick as the tyre there!

There was another biggie in what was the kitchen.  The excavator attempted to lift it into the debris truck but it slipped off twice due to the weight. 

So they left it there.  See it in the background almost in line with our house wall. Pictured in 2013.  Looks small in this fish-eye image.

There were also several long granite slabs in the form of benches and flooring.  I am showing the biggies here because in 1911, I cannot imagine such huge ones being transported from a different place and only bullock carts were used.  I assume the presence of huge boulders in situ. 


I must tell a little about the amazing Chamundi Hill, which is just 3 miles from the house.  Archaeologists have estimated it to have formed naturally 800 million years ago 'under very high temperatures', which is why the stone was so hard that it broke Gurumurthy's chisels. The hill has hundreds of huge boulders.  We have heard that it used to be an active volcano when Earth was young. 

Some boulder photos.

My cousin Santosh during our trip in 2008 on foot, climbing the 1000 steps. 

Mysore view from anther rock-cliff.

Banyan tree growing between boulders.

Road from the southern side of the hill. 

The Nandi Bull, 24x15 ft. monolith was carved in situ during the reign of Dodda Devaraja Wodeyar between 1659 and 1672.  He was also instrumental in making the 1000 stone steps leading to the temple on top.  

The climb to the top of the hill is by 1000 steps of granite. 

They have engraved the number every one hundred steps, starting from zero. 

On the way, we get this set of five steps carved from a boulder in situ.  People call it as "Pancha Pandava Steps".

Looks like solidified lava.  800 million years old.

2008 image of the Nandi Bull.

Built during the reign of Mummadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar.

The Chamundi Hill was already famous in the 10th century as a divine location as Mahabala Parvata.

Hill as seen from our rooftop.

Rajendra Vilas on top. Communication towers.

Another view from our house top.  Temple tower is seen to the right.


That grinding stone brought Gurumurthy, who also got a dream of mine fulfilled - a stone birdbath.  
See an older post, if you like, here: [click] 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sandow's Dumb Bells of Mylar Rao

Lean boys in the street who showed off their pencil-biceps were teased by seniors "You think you are a Sandow, eh?"  Knitwear shops used to clarify "Sandow or sleeves?" when we went to buy our vests. I used to wear 'Sandow' vests for some years in my early teens.  I never gave a serious thought to this Sandow name in my younger days.  The next I heard the word 'Sandow' was long later, during my friendship in the 1980s with my Anglo-Indian friend Mr.Brown who was nearing 70.  His fondness for Sandow had never faded.  There was a special twinkle in Brown's eye whenever he took the name of Eugen Sandow.  Be it in the context of suggesting me some hand strengthening exercises or any story he had to tell about him, his tone suddenly took an energetic lift when he uttered 'Eugen Sandow'! It was from him that I came to know Eugen Sandow was in fact a very famous body builder in the late 19th century and still admired eight decades later!

[To enlarge, click on images]

Now I can relate. My great grandfather Mylar Rao and Eugen Sandow lived about the same time.  Mylar Rao was born in 1868 and Sandow, a year earlier.  Sandow had a 'premature' end at 58 and Mylar Rao died at 68. Mylar Rao was a fitness freak who was surely inspired by Sandow who had become world renown by 1900 itself.

  One can guess from the upright posture in many old photographs, most of which are when Mylar Rao was 45 plus, about how he had maintained his body.  The photo below shows him sitting to the right of Sirdar M.Kantharaj Urs, the then Diwan of Mysore [circa. 1920], but this does not reveal much!

Mylar Rao's century old diaries are very interesting.  His language is amazing as well and no wonder, because of the British influence in education which he was so fortunate to get here in Mysore!  He often mentions taking long strolls, exercising and bicycling. I show a few pages from his earliest diary of 1898 when he was 30.

This page is a jolly good read.  "I felt very jolly today and was inclined to become a sort of singing bird.  Temperaments are changing. Went out on a long walk of about ten miles in the evening."  
Ten miles is the distance between Mysore and Srirangapatna [16 kms.]!  I have measured that we take roughly ten minutes with a brisk walk to cover about one km.  At this rate he would have walked close to three hours!

"Tennis court, evening stroll, exercise..."

"Tennis, stroll" on the left page; "Long walk and running exercise" on the right.

These are a pair of wooden 'Indian Club bells' of Mylar Rao. In my guesstimate they are from the 1890s, so also the iron dumb bells.  Getting some hints from my elderly colleague Mukunda who was into body building, I too used them for some years, not to become like Sandow, but only to strengthen the arms and shoulder that helped in my cricket.

Here are a pair of cast iron dumb bells.

The next relic is "Sandow's Spring Grip Dumb Bell"
Eugen Sandow himself designed and patented it! 1899.

The above picture is of the tin box lid. Rust has taken its toll.  Mylar Rao must have procured these circa. 1900.

Sandow Patent - imprinted. "Nickel-plated with leather handles".

In the box

These became very well known very soon and became one of the hottest items among the strength equipment of that time.  It consisted of two dumbbell "halves" joined together by a series of springs, meant for crushing together while the rest of the exercises were done. I crush in the picture above.  Springs can be removed to reduce resistance.

Sandow's dumb bells were manufactured in many varieties and styles to suit gentlemen, women, youth and children. Advertisements of Sandow's firm claimed that if they were regularly used in the 'Sandow prescribed' manner, they also improved will power and concentration. This was something new and very appealing at that time.  They were light dumb bells but still amazing results were possible, as Sandow proved.

Besides the club bells and dumb bells Mylar Rao also used a 'Chest Expander' which would have looked like this in this picture I found from the web [yuku]- see the small high tension springs at either end, connected by a 5 tough ropes:

But what remains of it are just these three springs as the equipment had fully tattered away.  Mylar Rao did not pull it hard in anger!

Indian Manohar Aich - nicknamed as Pocket Hercules was Mr.Universe in 1952. He was a mere 4'11" Chest 54" Waist 23" at 97 years of age in 2010 [picture below]. He is still alive, a Centenarian.

Cheap imitation Sandow.

Two years ago, my friend Madhu, a little lean fellow posted a picture of himself for fun on facebook posing like a body builder.  This prompted me to turn to the web and discover about Mr.Brown's idol Eugen Sandow and why he had such a liking.  This is what I found:
[Click here]
It has some beautiful old images, an original 44-second film/video [by Thomas Alva Edison, one of the firsts of Edison!] and information on "The World's First Hulk", Eugen Sandow, strongman and 'body beautiful' from the Victorian times!

Mr.Brown was a great fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and used to relate stories from his works frequently.  Also, Sir Arthur was a friend and dedicated follower of Sandow himself.  W.B.Yeats also was also a Sandow's follower in the same physical training school. Sandow was so famous that King Edward VII and later King George V befriended him.

Charles Atlas and Arnold Schwarzenegger came in later decades!

O==O    O==O     O==O

Some excerpts from the web:

The Prussian-born Sandow’s early career as a circus acrobat led to his first break, touring Europe as ‘The Great Muscular Phenomenon of the Century’. He made a sensational debut in London in 1889, thrilling audiences with his astonishing strength, somersaulting with 56 lb weights in each hand and even raising a grand piano with eight musicians sitting on it.

By 1893 he was pulling in the crowds in America with a daring pièce de resistance in which he supported the weight of a team of horses on his chest. Examined by an anatomist from Harvard, Sandow was pronounced ‘the most wonderful specimen of man I have ever seen’.


Here are some links where biographers have gathered and reviewed books on Sandow, the Father of Modern Body Building.  He was an icon and a widely idolized personality who had devised his own method of physical strength training, [physical culture] diet and several other things.  Sandow was also into other businesses with Sandow cigar, Sandow cocoa, Sandow baking powder, Sandow magazine and of course Sandow dumbbells.

A review in The Telegraph by Miranda Seymour on David Waller's book on Sandow "The Perfect Man". [Click here]
Helen Rappaport who reviewed that book says:  "The cover of David Waller’s entertaining story, with its compelling image of a short, stocky and perfectly formed man with only a strategically placed fig leaf protecting his manhood, leaves us in no doubt about Sandow’s massive appeal to hordes of puny young Victorian and Edwardian men, or the homoerotic power of his photographs today."

"Forgotten newsmakers" [2010].

This is a beautiful compilation - a review to a book released in 2011: [click here]

This link to a pdf takes you to the full collection of Chronological Events in Sandow's life. Very good work. [Click here]

Here is a link where some of the 'old time strongmen' who had their own unique physical training methods. [Click here]

The tips of my middle finger and thumb met around my biceps, but now they do not. :)