Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Teeth, claws, hide and horns

People in olden times knew how to restore health using home remedies prepared from materials sourced from plant, mineral and animal kingdoms.  There were no hospitals and the likes as we have now.  They knew how to prevent or cure several common ailments using their knowledge of several concoctions and formulae.  Thousands of such secrets have vanished with the person that possessed the knowledge as they were not disclosed in most cases, even to their kin, for, they had no full trust. Also they acquired that knowledge secretly from their fore/fathers and were probably taught to keep the secrets to themselves.  Nearly every home had its own 'doctor' as most women also know many simple and sure-shot remedies.

Certain important 'medicinal' stuff [besides the usual items/spices available in the kitchen itself] were procured and kept readily available in many homes to take care of day to day ailments.  Usually it was the older lot who knew how and what to be prepared and administered in a given affliction that bothered a family member.  Some medicinal plants used to be available in their own gardens, but in a small box were some special items like tiger teeth, claws, pieces of deer horns or dried roots from trees.  Unless the knowledge and application is not passed on to newer generations, they will become mere objects. Also their applicability has diminished due to the 'progress' and popularity of medical science.   

All objects shown here are from family heirloom.

The horizontal thing is a piece of 'crude' ivory. It used to be rubbed on a rough stone [as can be made out on its lower side] with a few drops of water to obtain a small quantity of fine paste which was administered with honey or whatever was the practice.  Extreme right is a piece of sandalwood - for making paste in the same way. The other two objects are deer horn pieces, also used to grind into paste for some remedy.  The horn looks to be from a walking stick handle that got separated from the stick!   

Besides the 'traditional medicine items', there happens to be some other things.
This Bison horn mount was probably a gift to my great grandfather from some British officers who hunted game in the British era. 

Which animal had these??

An old [unshaven] deer skin prayer mat for meditation and religious rituals. It is known to increase the magnetic field around the person sitting on it during meditation and also helps as an insulator to the ground.

A very old [unshaven] deer skin wallet!  

A cousin of mine was wearing a necklace pendant which was a pair of tiger claws. I used to get amazed at that.  But another interesting set of heirloom is this.  Tiger claws and teeth. 

In my recent finding from my great grandfather's account book I see that he has purchased these on 16.1.1898, yes, 1898, for six annas.  See picture below.  Claws and teeth were kept with the belief that they ward off any evil.  
A century ago, animals were not killed to make profit like now, but were killed for sport. Hunting was a game until it was banned long later.  The world was cleaner and intents were different.

A Crocodile hide wallet. It belonged to my grand uncle K.M.Narayana, who had his initials KMN inscribed. It is probably from 1920.

It is so beautifully made that one has to admire it even now, despite its age and wear. Soft buckskin inners, high class workmanship!

The lock also works nicely even after nearly a century.

Here is a foldable ivory comb meant for the mustache.  My great grandfather used it in the late 19th century and early 20th century. 

Two more ivory combs. The teeth are very close to each other and is good to remove lice. 

Two toothpicks are on the left but what are those on the right?  They have a small hole at the tip as if that it held something.

My great grandfather used a couple of pens having ivory. 

Two of the above black wood pens are inlaid with ivory in a beautiful pattern. 
Very intricate work.

I must now brush about the beautiful brush you will see now.  The red and white tooth brush of the present day is for comparison. What sort of brush is that, having an ivory handle, I used to wonder in my young age.

I surfed the web for the trademark name printed on the ivory handle - S.Maw Son & Thompson, London.

I visited this link [Click here] and through this, I found some amazing details on this brush! It happens to be a TOOTH BRUSH and so large!  Surely the cows at home did not need to be brushed!!
S.Maw Son and Thompson, London, was a reputed manufacturer of surgical instruments [from 1860] and several other things which I found from this online illustrative book:  Click on the link below for the full book from 1869:

'My brush' was shown on page 139 [circled].  You will be amazed how many types of brushes they made!!
Circled image is the one, No.87

See here, the number 87 and the lovely nylon bristles:

My great grandfather was 32 in 1900 when he was already earning.  He must have bought the brush then but I wonder how long he used this brush or did not use at all, because it looks so new!

Healthcare was so different a century ago!  
Artefacts have hidden stories and unless talked about to the younger generation, the story dies.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Trek in Bandipur Forest

My friend Girish Nikam had planned a trek in Bandipur forest [Wildlife Santuary, a Tiger Reserve, now a National Park].  Two years before in 1981, we had done a crazy trip to its adjacent sanctuary, Nagerhole |click|.  Trekking in the forest sounded good, so I agreed to go with him.  Applying a day's leave for Friday 8th July, we set off on this 80 km. journey by bus, with me expecting to be back on Sunday.

On landing, I discovered it was not a casual trek at all, but to my big surprise, it was for the "Tiger Census"!  30-40 people, mostly young, had also come as volunteers, having hopes of interesting fauna and a sight like this during the census trek!

His Majesty - adapted as our National Animal in 1950!

[Click on all images to enlarge]

In the evening, the briefing session by the Range Officer turned out to be a laughing session to us [English-language wise].  Pug mark recording methods were explained along with other information about how we must behave in the wild forest etc.  After dinner the night was spent in a dormitory.

Early next morning a truck took us up to the nearby "Himavad Gopalswami Hill", the starting point of the trek.  Post breakfast at the heritage guest house, we were divided into 3 or 4 groups, each one to go in a different route accompanied by one range officer and one armed guard each.  The place is amazingly cold and misty in the mornings many months in the year and hence 'Himavad'. [hima=dew/mist].

All these colour pictures are from the film camera that Girish brought with him.

The sanctum sanctorum is inside.  The mist had cleared. 

We saw a herd of elephants looking like ants, roaming on those hills seen here far away. We were to go into their territory, into thick forests.

Me in Girish's sweater behind the temple, before the trek started. It was a cool morning.

I soon realized I was very ill-equipped for the trek in several ways:  not knowing where and how we would camp, not carrying warm clothes [nights in the green forests are chilly]or sheets for night stay, just one pair of socks which were on my feet and I had to return to work on Monday [being new to the job and hence no leave at credit]. I learnt that comfortable trekking shoes were needed, but I only had my ordinary sports shoes, the only pair I had, besides my cricket boots. I was wearing my cricket cap and custom-made black jeans and carrying a water bottle.  Girish was equipped with his jacket and so he lent me his sweater as I was not having my own at all. 

The drawbacks were to make me tense as I went through the day.  To add to these, I had learnt that this census would be of five days duration.  I was in a dilemma!

The trek began at about half past ten. Before we set off, we made 'walking sticks' from branches of shrubs grown behind the Temple.  

This was after trekking for two hours and resting a while.   
Beautiful views of the green forest. 

Our group taking a breather. The armed guard in khakhi is also seen. 

We were trekking in single file, making no noise.  Speaking had to be in soft tone.

The smell of the forest was heavenly.  Our group officer was explaining about the samples of dry animal poop that was in our path and what food they ate.  My sports shoes were soon proving inadequate.  In certain stretches of challenging [for newbies] terrain I had to hold on to the tall grass or embedded rocks to climb down or up slippery and steep paths. 

Mid way, we were at a place called 'Chammanahalla' for the lunch break and some freshening. It was on a small hillock.


The young man on the left [above] had some mountaineering experience.  He was showing some techniques on how to use our fingernails to grip and climb rocks. The depth behind that rock on which the boys are resting is not perceived in this shot. 

The enthusiastic elderly man seated centre [above] was nearly 70!  He developed breathing problems and had to be carried by the young men until he felt comfortable.  Someone's nylon rope came to the rescue as four people carried him for quite a distance even treading through difficult terrain, until he felt better. He had his own medication but was determined to continue. That was still the pre-cellphone and pre-PET bottle water era!

All the way through we were enjoying the beauty of the forest, its tranquility, its smells, listening to the sounds of the bird calls, the creaking of tree branches far away, the occasional chirp of the langurs and also enjoying the different shapes and colours, mostly green and brown, while eager to spot any pug mark on the soil or any clues the tigers might have left - that is why we were there.  Some interesting trees made us to stop and take notice.  We did not come across any tiger pug mark but we encountered fresh and steaming bear poop and dry elephant dung. 

How lucky we would have been if such a sighting had taken place!

By about 4 pm my feet started to cry, not because of tiredness but from peeled skin on my toes.  My shoes were too ill fitted for such a long trek. We had trekked about 20 kilometeres for the day when we reached Moolehole [pronounced Moolay-HoLay], our night stop.

The small rivulet Moolehole flowed silently close to the 'forest check post', the perfect ambiance to relax till daylight faded out.  This is where I also first saw the little water skimmers.  We were advised not to venture after dark as wild elephants would be wandering.

Here are two satellite-images showing locations of where we started and where we camped:

Bandipur to Gopalswami Hills - see line.

Gopalswami Hill to Moolehole Forest check post - see red circled spots.  We had trekked westward. 

A simple dinner was served.  The injury caused by the shoes to the skin on my toes were too sore.  My last hour's trek itself was a struggle.  I decided not to continue the trek.  Also, I HAD to return to work Monday.  Some of us slept in the checkpost room floor, while others slept in the adjacent block. A borrowed newspaper was my sheet to sleep while my towel and water bottle became my pillow.  Nothing to cover myself from the cold [and mosquitoes] except wearing Girish's sweater. 

This place was on National Highway 212 connecting our state Karnataka and Kerala.   Buses plied far apart but goods lorries were frequent.  After breakfast next morning, I prepared to leave for home.  the groups had left for the trek, minus me. Soon, a lorry came by. The driver agreed to drop me at Mysore.

We fear of being bitten by some creature in the wild forest, but I was bitten by my own shoes and had to shy away!
After I left, the group encountered elephants at a water hole.  Girish explained his experiences of seeing elephants in the wild, up so close.  

They had stopped overnight at Gundre and enjoyed a campfire. 

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 

Bandipur was once the private hunting ground for the Mysore Kings. Animals were shot and taken as souvenirs and trophies and proudly displayed the taxidermied animals, their skins, heads and horns in their rooms and decades later we go there to count the remaining numbers!!  Imagine the abundant animal and tiger population then and a hundred years before.  Now in a forest area of 874 sq. km we were trying our luck to see if any of the few big cats [tigers] left, left their pug marks, leave alone the chances of sighting them.  Not surprisingly, we found none on the first day and I know not if the group found any later.  Nagarhole and Bandipur forests in a combined area of 1500 sq. km is said to be the largest [among the 47] tiger reserve in the country.

A few shots from the web. 
Maharaja Jayachamaraja Wadiyar [pictured below] who was also hunting, later was instrumental in banning shooting in the forests [1960s] as soon as it was realized the wild animals had to be protected. It was a fancy among the Royal people or dignitaries visiting India to go on hunting expeditions, including from the time of King Edward VII [early 20th century].

It was a great fancy in those days to pose for a photo with the 'trophy' they shot. 
What a huge animal they shot here! 

Picture below: 1930s. Maharaja Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV (the then ruler of Mysore - in whites) with his hunting team.

Bisons, deer, leopards, bears etc. were also hunted for sport, not to speak of poaching. 

It is estimated that there were 40,000 [forty thousand] tigers in India at the beginning of the 20th century. Reduced to 4000 by 1965 due to indiscriminate hunting and poaching, the latter still a bane. Bandipur alone had 75 in 1973 and the good news is that the number rose to about 300 by 2010. 

A few banknotes featuring Tiger from my collection:

Reverse [see years of issue]

We reach an era observing "International Tiger Day" on July 29.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Old tyre 'driving'

This was a very popular pastime esp. of the boys.  We just ran all over the street pushing the tire [also spelled tyre] with the palm but a small wooden stick was preferred.  A guava tree branch [strong] was just right.  Just for kicks, we used to roll it on crooked kerb stones as long as we could. We made it jump across them and made it roll down the steps.  When we wanted to go to a friends's house close by, or on some small shopping errand in the nearby shops we ran fast driving the tire.  It was a thrill to run after, control and keep pace with the tire esp. down a gradient.  Only sometimes we raced against each other on the street because traffic was never an issue in the 60s and 70s.  But it never stopped my possessive grandmother to warn 'beware of vehicles' [ಕಾರು ಸ್ಕೂಟರ್ರು ಬಂದ್ಬಿಡುತ್ತೆ ಜೋಪಾನ]. 

When there was no game being played with the street children, we took the tire along.  We often gasped after a long run, but we were never tired with the tire!  We were mostly on the streets, outside our 'study and school time'.  We were all barefoot in those times.  The only footwear we had was a pair of school shoes and a pair of rubber sandals.  The flip-flop sandals were worn only on summer afternoons or only when it was needed.  They hampered our free running and so there was no comfort like barefoot.  It was pure fun. 

My tire was from one of our three bicycles at home. My father's favourite was "Dunlop Roadster" manufactured for Cycle Rickshaws which had heavy duty rubber.  They were durable to us.  By the time they were replaced, it had become thin and weak, exposing the fabric like those of a frail old man who was proud of his strength in his prime but now exposing the bones.  Some tires were so weak that they wobbled like a cat-walking slim young lady walking the ramp when they were 'driven'!!  It reminds me of the start of a popular Kannada movie song "ಬಿಂಕದ ಸಿಂಗಾರಿ, ಮೈ ಡೊಂಕಿನ ವಯ್ಯಾರಿ".  "Driving" this weak tire was a funny feeling and attracted some teasing but quite a sight to watch!!  It often collapsed, like the cat-walking lady toppling from her high heels! 

Those that possessed stiff old tires were seen with a bit of envy.  Those that possessed a bare old rim, though rare, were envied more!  Driving the rim on the road produced that clanking sound was music to our ears!  It had the 'enviable' advantage of being steered from the groove as it rolled while we tire-drivers used the sides.  Even more envied were the ones that owned a scooter tire.  Scooter owners were far and few in those times and their old tires, even rare to find for play!  When the stick hit the scooter tire as it was pushed along produced a hollow sound that was so pleasing as to create envy among other bicycle tire owners!!  We used to borrow the scooter tire or the rim to enjoy their feel.  I used to see a boy who rolled a slim hoop wondered from where he got it!  Another boy had a small ring of about 15 inch diameter, probably fabricated from a 8 mm iron rod and steered with a hook-like tip, also fabricated.  It was a very cute toy! 

There was a cycle repair shop at the end of the street owned by Shivaram.  We used to pester him to give us junked rims, but he would not give.  We did not know at that time that these things were sold for recycling at the junkyard.  So he used to save them to make some money. We had to return satisfied just gazing at all those junked rims in his dirty attic.

When I was about 8-9, I was going my friend Srinivas' house in the next street, driving my tire fast, so fast that I must have tripped something and fell flat on my elbows, stomach and knees [like lock, stock and barrel] almost in front of his house.  I still cannot recollect why I was running so fast!  There was a deep cut on my right wrist and blood began to ooze.  The cut was very close to where doctors feel the pulse!   I returned home, tire hung at the left forearm and pressing the wound with the thumb to stop bleeding. When I released the thumb, more blood would ooze. It took a long time for the blood to clot, due to its location near the vein.  Mother did some treatment with antiseptic lotion and I cannot remember crying as I mostly didn't. I also cannot remember if it affected my notes-writing.  The scar mark is still visible, faintly but I can still replay this fall in the mind vividly.

We did not know at that time that such games kept us fit and active and helped in concentration.  We had to keep focus on its movement and it also aided in brain-muscle coordination.  Simple games and activities like those in that era had their positive effects on health.

Recently, I thought of reliving the childhood, but inside the premise.  See this short video.  Now I can boast of an old tire on a rim!  But no one cares!!

O/        O/

Thursday, May 22, 2014

My Tennis, Racquets and more

Left: Early 1930s.  Right: Probably 1950

My grandfather K.M.Subba Rao's name was a famous one in the Mysore tennis circles esp. between 1920 and early 50s when he played and also thereafter.  There were his four old racquets lying here and there, neglected, because two had tattered guts and weak 'necks' and the other two were fit to be thrown out. One of these two appeared 'playable' though having signs of warping. Racquet guts in those days were from cows!

The great man was no longer playing when I arrived.  But the last I saw him wield his racquet was during late 60s.  It was against a wall in our living room standing 4 feet from it to show a little me how to hit half-volleys. 

I got it restrung just to get kicks from using my famed grandfather's racquet!  I was warned that the frame was weak and would not withstand the tension of stringing anew and that it would break.  It did break, despite being framed down.  But I had played a few sets with it and fulfilled the desire! This was in 2002 or so.

Cricket was my game but I had begun to play tennis just for fun and fitness, in 1984 at the CFTRI courts, being an 'insider' there.  Vintage 'pavilion' and lovely setting at CFTRI courts. I wonder why no one thought of spending a film or two during play at that time!

Since none of my grandfather's racquets were in usable condition, my friend's father Maj. Hemachandar [also my Biology lecturer in College] gifted me his 'Dunlop Maxply'.   I started playing with this. 

I was a very inconsistent player and tried to use power with this racquet!  I had a strong serve, but only if it landed properly!  I could place the ball well and could run and retrieve any ball.  The backhand was my nemesis. Often I wished for baselines to be farther, the tramlines wider, the net, shorter and my racquet head very wide! I enjoyed playing and hitting aces though.  And I had fun with my slow second serve. The load was too much on the shoulder which was already doing the job of bowling long spells in cricket.  It gave way. I had tendinitis.  Slightly faulty technique and the heavier racquet went hand in hand to create this problem. I stopped playing for some months. This was before my memorable lesson-game with veteran Shama Rao. [Click here].

Composite racquets were too costly for me at that time.  Another colleague Deo whose son Ajay was a national ranked player, gave me a Symonds Tusker - an experimental model given by the company to him.  Four hundred rupees.

It was good, but I did not feel comfortable with its balance.  Our cricket club President Mr.K.G.Venkatesh gave me his old Spalding racquet.  These were all alternates that would not take me any further in my game.  I was the only one using wood! This continued for sometime.

I stopped playing in the early 1990s to allow my shoulder to heal properly.  It did not affect my bowling in cricket but it affected throwing the cricket ball. 

In 1996, there was our annual tournament.  Suddenly I gave my entry, dusted the racquet and went to court after a long gap, totally without practice.  I was to play a knock out round.  To my surprise, I beat one Gowtham who was playing regularly and entered the league stage, holding my nerve in a close game!!  I fared poorly in the league and ended up low-ranked.  Now my shoulder was okay and I thought of playing the game again regularly.  

I went looking for a lighter, affordable second-hand racquet.  I went to Cosmopolitan Club where I knew my English teacher and father's friend S.N.Shankar was a member.  In fact, all three forefathers of mine were members of that very old club in their times!  Shankar found that V.T.Raman had one for sale.  All of them knew my grandfather's achievements in the game in his time as they were all old-timers. V.T.Raman gave me a Pro-Kennex for two thousand rupees.  This was in 1998 and my game underwent a change and I felt comfortable with the light racquet.  I felt like Ivan Lendl because of my T-shirt design! I loved the smooth game of Ramesh Krishnan. 

See there, a wider head!! 

I was a threat to many players but they knew of my inconsistency. So I used to end up either #3 or #4, instead of the #2.  Ramesh is unbeatable in our group.  I even represented our Institute twice, at Pune in 2001 and at Mysore in 2003. I stopped playing again, unable to get enough motivation and time for this beautiful game.  

[With Davis Cupper Gaurav Natekar, Pune]

Among the many lovely trophies of Subba Rao this one is my favourite, for its meaningful design.  

[Mysore Sports Assosiation, 1933, Runner-up]

From left: BS Dattatri, KM Subba Rao and two others, Cosmopolitan Club, 1952. 

Subba Rao partnering Dattatri during a match.

Tennis ball tin. Dunlop.

Two Slazenger tins from different angles.  Look for "Entirely made in England" also!

When Mysore Tennis Club was started, he was honoured. 1968. I made a mark for the occasion - literally - I drew a line as I dragged my grandfather's umbrella on the lovely new tennis court on that day!!  And I was reprimanded by someone.  

My grand uncle K.M.Narain Rao [standing 2nd from right] also played tennis - 1909!  U.D.Ranga Rao [extreme left, standing] became K.M.Subba Rao's famous doubles partner later.  Also in this picture is Mekkri [Mehkri - of Bangalore's Mehkri Circle fame - an old family in Mysore].  
See racquet shapes.

[Maharaja's College Tennis Club]

Even my greatgrandfather Mylar Rao played tennis as early as in 1903.  Found some entries in his account book.  There were also entries for 're-gutting' of tennis racquets.

In 1906 he had ordered "one pair gents brown canvas tennis shoes" for four rupees!  
See the bill.

Game, set and match!

[See 'older post' on Shama Rao, a tennis veteran]