Friday, July 3, 2015

Thousand steps of Chamundi Hill

There may be no Mysorean who has not climbed the thousand steps of the Chamundi Hill, at least once, in the last about 348 years since they were fashioned.  My grandfather used to say he would ascend in ten minutes and descend in five.  I am sure my great grandfather was also a fit man who did the same.  Step number 'zero' at the foot of the hill is just 3 kms from our locality.  Walking was an everyday activity.  They knew how it had direct benefit on health.  They would have walked all the way and walked miles effortlessly.  They walked a lot and were definitely healthier.

 The earliest I recall having taken the steps was in the early 1970s.  It was a casual trip.  My aunt, brother and our upstairs tenants - three girls and their father formed the group.  We had carried some light food and snacks.  I can recall my aunt who was in her 40s gasping as she had not climbed in many years.  After the customary visit to the temple of Goddess Chamundi, we spent a few relaxing hours.  We had earlier stopped at the Nandi Bull for a snack.   At about 4 pm, we realized a thunderstorm was looming large with thick black 'rain clouds' sending thunders and flashes of lightning enveloping the hilltop. So we hurriedly climbed down and walked home.  No sooner had we reached home, there was a very heavy thunderstorm accompanied by a strong wind.

The next climb was in the mid 70s.  I was one of the youngest few in a large group of relatives of "Capt. Kanti" who lived in the opposite house.  They had carried 2-3 large boxes with cooked food for the picnic. It was a very enjoyable trip.

In the late 70s, our friends group went twice, once in the morning and on another day, just for kicks, after dark.  We went up to the Nandi Bull and returned.  I have climbed on many occasions since.  One has to climb to experience the thrill.  It defies description.  We would gasp and rest every now and then, esp. at places where we could get the view of the city.  Regular climbers will have better heart-lung efficiency. Some people climb weekly and many daily, either or both for fitness or to visit the Chamundi Temple for worship.

Chamundi Hill is a real boon to nature-lovers, bird-watchers, fitness buffs, worshipers alike. As a bonus, we get to see the breathtaking beauty of the city view while we inhale fresh air. Click on the pictures that follow.


By day.


By night.... during Dasara when the city lights up, Palace glows!

Constance E. Parsons, in her very valuable book "Mysore City", published in 1930, describes beautifully:

An energetic visitor will be well repaid by a climb up these thousand steps, fashioned 263 years ago, when the Great Fire of London [actually in1666] was raging, by, some say, Manaji Rao, a pious cloth merchant of Mysore; others, and they have the weight of the Archaeological Department behind them, by Dodda Deva Raja Wadiyar.  At the foot of the steps is a small temple to Chamundeswari, where animal sacrifices replaced the human ones, discontinued by order of Haidar Ali.

The steps are here and there green with moss and lichen, they are slippery with votive oil, they are polished by the passing of countless pilgrim feet.  They are any and every length, breadth and thickness, they slope at every angle, and are nowhere of monotonous uniformity.  At the natural resting places the widening view becomes more and more arresting.  Foothills raise their crests, far-off mountains define the horizon, and half-way up, with a little gasp of delight, those who know Mr.Hilton Brown's exquisite poem, Friendly Mountain, will see, with a thrill, far away to the west, the pearl and amethyst come of Mallikarjuna, by Bettadapur. Those who reach the top of the hill by the easier way of the long spiral motor road will pass, on the way from the Boulevard to Lalitadri.

In order to reach the top you had, twenty years ago, the choice of riding lazily up a cart-track, or of climbing first a thousand steps and then half a mile of stony path.  If you were a Royalty or Viceroyalty, you had the further choice of being carried up in a dhuli or of riding up on an elephant; a long, hot and tiring expedition either way.  Poor Lady Dufferin at least found it so, and describes it as follows: 'After lunch we went to the top of a very high hill, which I ascended in a jhampan, borne by 12 men, who chanted as they went up the thousand steps; it was a wild sort of song, which sounded very inspiriting.  D--- [Dufferin] rode up the other side of the hill and we met at the top, where we admired the view of the country, and a fine specimen of a Hindu temple which crowns the hill...... Our descent was very fatiguing, as the thousand steps were very slippery.'

[The authorities have since repaired the steps from time to time.  In a recent foolish plan, they proposed railings, which the public succeeded in quashing it. It would have spoiled the existing, original beauty.]

Parsons writes of an amusing incident: There is a tradition that the Duchess of Connaught elected to make the ascent on an elephant, and bitterly regretted her choice; for the steed, after lumbering up with exemplary sedateness, suddenly decided that his elephant lines were far more attractive than sacred shrines and extensive views.  So he bolted home again, with a desperate but powerless mahout and a very frightened and uncomfortable Duchess on his back.

Some very recent images of my sojourn: [Click on them for an enlarged view]


Step 'Zero' and the 1000th step.  The count is engraved at every hundred steps.



The start of the ascent. The sheltered passage is where Step 'Zero' is marked - picture left and the ascent begins - picture right.



Notice the 'turmeric and kumkum' marks on the edge of the steps. This is in my opinion desecration, an 'un-Mysorean' tradition. Certain 'religious' people vow to touch each step with those marks as they climb and reach the temple. This practice was not in vogue earlier.

There is a unique set of steps on the way up. "Pandavas Steps"


Panch Pandavas [from Epic Mahabharatha]. Panch=five. 
Five steps hewn out of a single boulder. 
Instead of moving the boulder, they hewed the steps on it! 


Another portion. This is an earlier picture.  Notice the less desecration on the steps.

A strairway 'of legend and ringing rhymes,
Of splendid songs and singing chimes,
A road where every pilgrim climbs
To God as to a friend'  ~ A.G.Prys-Jones.

Climb when you can, experience the thrill, as often as you can. This is a great gift to Mysoreans. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Bumper of Kitti's Morris Minor Car

A flat, solid-looking metal object, broken in the middle, was lying in the store [attic] room for many years.  When I moved house, it came with me.  I knew it was the bumper of a car.  Since this looked like an object that could be useful in some other way, I got this broken junk welded by my friend Ramas.  It continued to lie here and there.  Finally it found some re-purpose after five decades!

My late uncle Kitti had a car which he had bought for a thousand rupees.  I still wonder how he managed this huge sum in 1964-65, which was probably 5 or 6 times his salary from a small job. It was a car that had changed many hands already and at least 20+ years old.  It was, I reckon a "Morris Minor" from the 1930s vintage.  

Kitti's car was something like in the web-grab images [below], cream coloured, 4-seater, two doors. Back-seat access was by folding the front seat. 

From 'OldClassicCar'

Keep an eye on the front bumper to which the registration plate is fixed. 
That is the part being bragged here. Click on the images to enlarge.

Its registration plate bore "MYM 828".  I can remember that they used to talk about how someone had cheated Kitti with a very poor condition vehicle.  It was frequently finding itself in the repair garage.  Unable to meet the expenses Kitti sold it off for peanuts after incurring a heavy loss and landing in debt. He had reverted to his Robin Hood bicycle [1958], which I still use.
 Kitti died as a bachelor in his early 40s in 1967.  

Kitti was fond of kids. He was a bit adventurous, much to the chagrin of my grandmother. I hear that young Kitti used to clandestinely take away my g/g/father's Model T Ford car which made my grandmother anxious.


Me and Kitti at Raj Studio

 After Kitti sold this troublesome Morris Minor, the new owner had painted it red.  It was a prominent vintage car even in the 60s and attracted passersby, for its mere vintage look. "Look, Kitti's car" we used to exclaim when we saw it.  This car was on the road for a couple of more years before finally 'disappearing'. 

Did you see the bumper in the car images above?  It is actually just over a metre long, so you can imagine the width of this baby car!   

Fifty years on, this bumper gets 'unjunked', finally finding some use in my garden, of all places.  For growing small flowering vines, I placed two ladder-like structures and then connected the two on top with this bumper.  Soon, the plants from both sides will reach the top to dangle and droop.


View from above.


Close-up of one end of the rusty bumper.


This sleek object will remind me of Kitti' Morris and the short rounds he took me after he returned from work.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Strong impression from driving a car

During my childhood, our family often used to go to Nanjangud [24 kms.] to visit the temple. I used to accompany my grandmother by train.  But on special occasions, when my grandfather also came, we sometimes went in a taxi driven by one Khallaq.  He was a favourite of my grandfather, very decent and an acquaintance of his very old client Salar Masood Sahib.  His car was 'Landmaster'. Taxis in those days were black and yellow.  His taxi had the 'license' number painted on the door '77'.

Click on this picture [my crude paint-work] to see '77' and also others to get a larger view.

I was fond of sitting in the front seat to keenly watch everything Khallaq did, from the way he started the engine, the way he used the legs to operate the levers, the style he held the steering wheel, the manner he negotiated curves and vehicles coming from the opposite direction, and the judgment when he overtook a slower vehicle and so on.  Besides the gear lever, and the horn button, it was the speedometer I loved to watch.  It was 'm.p.h.' in those days.  Looking outside as the car was on the move, I used to observe and follow the milestones we passed and the electric power lines on which birds perched and flew off and then fly with the speed of the car! Traffic was very sparse in those days in the 1960s. Watching Khallaq drive was a pleasure and sometimes I used to imagine myself as Khallaq!

Many do not know that I was a wonderful bus driver.... when I was just about 8 or 10 years old!  None could turn the bus like me and no bus made the sound like mine. Brrrrrrrr, brrrr and then also musically idle the engine ... brr..... brr.... brr......brrr. It had a lovely horn also... I cannot spell the sound effectively. It was something like this "peepeeenpee" Notice the 'n' for the nasal sound! I drove the bus at 50 miles an hour. How could a boy as young as 10 drive a bus? Yes it was real, very very real, in my imagination... I used to run fast with an imaginary steering wheel and tilt the head in the direction I turned my 'bus' and the face indicated the speed! What pleasure! What joy! I went to my neighbourhood friends' houses in my own bus when I did not take my bicycle tyre! 

I had also seen my uncle Kitti own a second hand car, may be an Austin, in the year 1964 or so. I think it had a registration plate "MYM 828". He had bought it for a very hefty one thousand rupees, but he spent double that for repairs and finally he sold it for peanuts, unable to cope with the expenses. It appears that the seller had cheated my uncle with a troublesome car.  He used to take me for a small round after he returned from work. He used to park it in the neighbour Ursu's compound as our house did not have a wide gate or space inside.  I looked at Kitti in awe how he drove!
Kitti's car was something like this:



In 2010, my toy car driving got elevated to practical reality, when a Hyundai i10 arrived.


This required new set of muscles and new brain cells to come together to actually drive, which I found entirely different to my bus driving!

None of us had learnt to drive when the car arrived.  My friend Krishnaswamy, an expert car mechanic helped me bring the car home from the showroom. We could attend the driving classes only after one month.  But in this one month, there was a very strong impression

Fiddling with new things has been my second nature.  The car was parked like this. 


I had known the gear operations, theoritically.  The fiddling itch got the better of me one morning.  I started the engine fine, like Khallaq did. Joy!  Then engaged the reverse gear and slowly released the brake.  Lo, I was driving!  Took the car properly out about 20 feet back towards the gate, safely.  

Now to see how 'I drove the car forward' to park it back in position, I correctly came to gear one, but I could feel the nervousness of this new experience, of a new type of brain-muscle coordination. Very weird it was. My scooter of 22 years was autogear with hand brakes.  So the leg muscles were not needed.  Now for the car, they are most important.  

I released the brake slowly and the car moved forward.  I was not sure in which direction I had slightly turned the steering wheel, which was not necessary.  I wanted to stop the car as it approached the parking spot.  Instead of my foot landing on the brake lever, it had involuntarily gone to the throttle.  Like a rocket it raced the remaining 5 or 6 feet and CRRAASHHH.  I did not know what had happened in those few moments!  Suddenly, that stone bench had entered the car!  
Very impressive, very very impressive. This is the impression:


[Pictured after I pulled the part out, but I knew there was some real damage]

So our car's first outing was to the garage for repairs.  The impression was so strong that the stone bench had snapped the fan belt.  Miraculously the engine had escaped unscathed.  Through another friend, I got a mechanic, Kausar.  He came home to evaluate the extent of damage and took [drove] it for repair. 

I was to learn later this happens with beginners.

He had completely removed the 'impression' from the car, but 'impression moments' remain in my mind.  A few weeks after the stone bench went into the car, we managed to attend driving classes and got our driving licenses.  


Somu taught all four of us, very nicely.

I recalled a somewhat similar incident, many years before. My senior colleague Shetty who rode his geared scooter with a foot brake for 25 years had changed to a new scooter similar to mine.  One day he came to work with plasters and bandages.  He said "I was searching for the foot brake".


Our car came with this "Caring for you ... always" slogan. 

The 'impressive incident' continued to haunt from the back of the mind, 'what if it happens in traffic?'. I know, the more I practice driving, the better the new set of muscles involved for driving a car will learn and help regain confidence.  The better half is better at it and so I have become a side-seat driver. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Swamy and touching letters of Mylar Rao

In the olden days, we had the 'joint family system' and I hear that in my great grandfather's time there were as many as 20-25 members living under one roof, including a few relatives from other towns being invited to pursue their school/college studies.  

Pet names are kept to some members in the family.  Some have shortened full names and some give no hint to their real names. One such was "Swamy", Prof. K.S.Nanjundaiah. He was a close relative of my great grandfather Mylar Rao.  He was called by everyone including his children as 'Chikkappa' [uncle].  Swamy means 'God'.


Konanur Mylar Rao [1868-1936] - click to see about him.

[Click on all pictures for an enlarged view]

Swamy was born in 1913 or 14 and lived for 95 or 96 years.  His house is/was at Bangalore's Shankarapuram.  He was a very kind, noble, soft spoken, humble, simple, intelligent, wise, with pleasing manners, twinkling eyes, a ready smile and one who loved humour. Swamy had a long and distinguished teaching career with the Govt. College in Mandya, specializing in Economics. His parents were K.N.Srikantaiah and Gowramma.  Srikantaiah was called by all as 'Ayya'.   


Mylar Rao and Srikantaiah [Ayya] with their wives. 
  
The connect: Gowramma's mother's elder brother [maternal uncle] was Mylar Rao's father Krishna Rao.  Swamy's mother Gowramma had lost her parents during her childhood and so they were taken care by Mylar Rao, who was settling down in life and a large family to take care of himself.  In spite of that, he also took the responsibility to educate Gowramma and also her two sisters. In addition to it, he later performed the marriages of all of them by himself.   

Mylar Rao was renown as a very strict government officer who was upright and highly disciplined. Yet, he had qualities like compassion, benevolence and nobility which he showed in as critical a time as with Srikantaiah's. That was just one example.  This had made the families very affectionate and strengthened the relationship greatly.  I gather this information from Swamy's wife Seethamma through her nephew.

The affection was sustained by my grandfather Subba Rao who was very fond of Swamy and Shivu, his younger brother.  It was the same with all of Ayya's three daughters also.

Swamy and Subba Rao

Even from my very young age, I could feel the warmth between the families. I have also seen Ayya in his old age when he used to stay with us during his Mysore visits.  My memory of his removing his false dentures at bedtime is as strong as the affection that still lingers, esp. through Swamy's two sons!

Swamy had retired when I started to visit Bangalore, every now and then for cricket. I never failed to pay a visit to him [and his brother 'Shivu' who was living in the adjacent portion].  Sometimes I even stayed overnight. [I stayed there for a cricket match - see story here - CLICK].  Swamy was very happy to see this relationship being continued and he would always very fondly reminisce his student days from the late 1920s and 30s.  That was when he lived with Mylar Rao's family on Mylar Rao's generous invitation to stay and study.  He would say: "What a noble soul Mylar Rao was."  One could make out that these words were uttered straight from the heart.  The days he spent with Mylar Rao's family appeared to have had a very deep impression in his mind throughout his life.  In fact, he was born in Mylar Rao's house, from where this post also comes from!

Swamy knew my penchant to preserve old documents, photos and things.  He brought from his room a few letters that seemed to have been sentimentally preserved by him, all his life.  His eyes had moistened and was filled with emotion as he told me the gist of its contents and handed them over.  He was 92 at this time and his memory was still very sharp, as ever, but he was becoming physically weaker.  He had progressively weakened in memory and body on my two subsequent visits.  

The FOUR letters were written by Mylar Rao to Srikantaiah [Ayya].  Here is the first one, an invitation to send his wife Gowramma for delivery - the child who was to be born was our Swamy!  Letter dated 3.9.1913. 
Quote from page 3 and 4. "Your wife seems to be five or six months advanced in pregnancy.  I shall be very glad if you will send her for accouchement [period of childbirth].  Pathu's confinement will have been over by that time."  In this house, many childbirths have taken place, even of distant relatives, thanks to the joint family system and the unquestionable "large-heartedness" of Mylar Rao.  He was so humane and respected by all, for he himself had risen through very difficult times, with his elder brother.  The 'confinement room' was very busy and there was no shortage of ladies to attend!

In the second letter dated 21.9.1913, he writes when to send her.

Quote from page 1: "I shall write to you after the delivery of Pathamma and then you may send Gowramma.  It is not likely that Pathu's delivery will be long delayed.  It is expected before Dasara."

It appears from this letter of 1926 that young Swamy was having some health problems.

Quote, Line 12: "I have come to look on your boy as one of my own sons and it will give me some peace of mind, if you will be writing to me now and again as to how he and all the rest of you are doing.  The last letter we had was from your wife and it told us that he had another attack when playing with his brother.  Dr.B.Nanjappa will be coming to Tumkur in a few days.  You will do well, I think, to consult him and put the boy under his treatment for some time. 
"The boy took only a few things from here as he expected to come back and I do not know if he has sufficient clothing even. His headmaster told me that if he loses this term, he will lose this year.  This does not matter.  Let him take complete rest and recover and he may join the school next year."

Letter of 1935, gives suggestions to Swamy's future.  Swamy completes his B.A from Maharaja's College, staying here. 

Quote: Page 1: Now that Swamy has passed the examination, what is the course he is to take next?  It seems to me that he may continue his studies here for another year and pass the M.A. examination and then think about a professional course.  My object in making this suggestion is that he may specialize himself in his optional subjects and complete for the F.C.S or other similar examination.  He is still young and can well afford to spend another year in the Arts course.  I need hardly say that he can stay with me as before and that everyone in the house welcome him."
" I have not been able to know Sivu's result as his number is not known to any of us here." [Sivu was Swamy's brother].

Those letters show why Swamy held them so dear and held our family in such high esteem. It reminds me of a certain quote made by my granduncle Krishnaswamy [Subba Rao's brother] when I was discussing with him in his Bombay house in 1986.  He had said about his father Mylar Rao and the family "Service to others is in the family."  No wonder our house was the 'boarding and lodging' to many relatives, both close and distant, without discrimination. 

My grandfather Subba Rao's account book mention 'Swamy', 1926.  Guess how old was Swamy now?  There are many entries like this, giving one rupee to him.  There is one entry 'Swamy Rly. Ticket  One rupee'.


Swamy was the son of my grandfather's grandfather's sister's grandson!  Never mind the confusion! 


Maharaja's College's University Union, 1930.  Swamy is standing back row, centre [white cap].  To his left is C.B.Jaya Rao, who was his dear friend.  KM Subba Rao is seated third from right. 
Click on picture to read names.


Picture from about 1930. Maharaja's College, Mysore where Swamy did his B.A.
Swamy is standing middle row, extreme left, with white cap.  My grandfather KM Subba Rao is seated third from right.  A.N.Murthy Rao is also seated right, next to the Prof. V.L.D'Souza[garland on] and my great grandfather K Mylar Rao is to his left. To his left is Prof. J.C.Rollo, Principal - all noted personalities.  I know not what the occasion was. 


This was at Swamy's grandson's wedding in 2007 or so. He is seated in the centre as his close relative Chintamani speaks to him, as his wife Seethamma smiles for the photo. I got this photo specially taken and got from Swamy's son.

The last I met him was about a year before his death.  On this visit, I found his once sharp memory had waned so much that it required to mention Mylar Rao's name to ring a bell in his mind to identify me.  It did, but it was very difficult.  Natural ageing had got the better of him. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Red-whiskered Bulbul nest in our garden

To our garden, many little birds make regular visits in search for food or to have a drink or dip at the bird bath I have provided.  Tailorbird, sunbird and spotted dove have made their nests in our premise at one time or other, which I have shown in my other post. [Here, click]  Till now, I had not seen a Red Whiskered Bulbul make its nest here.  It was a great thrill to watch it for the first time. 
Click on pictures to view larger images.


Red Whiskered Bulbul.  


Last year, I had seen the Bulbuls flying in and out in the bushy growth of Jacquemontia vine grown on the arch. I had thought it might be finding some insects to eat in there.  So I never thought of taking a closer look even though I walked past it often.  


Recently, just by chance, I happened to look into the bushy growth of the vine from the other side.  I saw a cup like nest, already used. It did not occur to me to relate it to the Bulbuls flying in exactly there.  On the same day and a couple of days before, I had seen a similar behaviour of Bulbuls, a pair, near another Jacquemontia vine grown on the other side of the pond, near the compound wall. 


This is where I peeped in to examine and found to my great delight, a nest under construction.  Now I could relate it was the work of the Bulbul.  It was also cup-like. I had missed last season's, or whenever, nest in the other arch.


Nest still under construction, peeped in through the bird's entry-exit point. 


This is how it looks, so well concealed.


It took a few days to fill more material.


Curious, I peeped in to see what was on.  Ran in to get the camera and took this from a distance.  A bulbul was sitting still.  That meant something, wonderful!


When the bird flew out for a break, I peeped in again with the camera and to my great delight, found 3 eggs.


I think both partners took turns to warm the eggs.  One has come to check.


It got used to my presence close as also I had refrained myself from passing close in front of the 'opening'.


This is the view from sitting from the pond-side bench, turn the head to the left.  The nest was as close as two and half feet to my head.  


A parent checking again.  Once I had seen a Female Koel trying to peep in there when the Bulbul was not around.  I feared Koels were looking for eggs, which they may eat.  I quickly ran out and chased it away.


Another shot from the bench.


Tiny chicks. Wow! Shot taken from ten feet.  It had taken 10-11 days to hatch.


This was how close the nest was to me. It had indeed chosen a perfectly bushy spot. 


I shook a twig lightly.  The slight vibration was enough to make their instincts to go beaks up, thinking they would get fed.  This was for a photo.  It had rained very heavily overnight, on 26th or so and the first thing in the morning I did was to check their welfare.  They were safe, snugly cuddled against each other, wings had grown larger.


It also took 10-11 days to fledge.  They are out of the nest. Day of their taking their wings.


Once out of the nest, they will never return there.


One chick took a short flight and sat on the grinding stone.


The parents were taking a close look and were teaching to fly to safety by repeating the short flight more than twice.  


On their first day itself they learn much.  It will get more strength in their legs soon.


One parent was carrying food in its beak to feed while the other seemed to be worried about this little chick's safety.  They were also concerned by our presence, or so it appeared to me. We stayed at a distance though.  The other two chicks were also in some other bushes, where the parents would go after following their tweets.


This one settled in the bean vine comfortably when sun was going down. The parent fed it a few times. In the morning I heard the tiny tweets from the same spot and felt relieved as it survived the cat prowl also at night. 


A caterpillar and something for the young ones.


One of the three chicks stayed there for the second night. On the second day, the other two chicks could not be seen. May be they flew to the neighbour's compound.  I did not find this chick also on the third day. 

Prayed they all would survive to be adults like this. 
 They are in good numbers here.  So it is an indication that most of the three chicks will thrive well.