Saturday, December 29, 2007

Why Australian Cricket is so good

If it has to be a one liner, the answer is simple. The system in which Cricket functions Down Under is top class, at every step and the approach is totally professional. The playing conditions like ground, facilities, equipment, club set-up, etc. all play a role. Recognition of talent and not representation of zone or state is the yardstick. Only the genuinely tough and the talented players make it to the top there – even from junior level - and survive. Weaker ones naturally fall by the wayside, because there is no ‘godfather’ route to take, like here! As such, we see the best player playing for the country. Healthy competition – not politics – pushes them up. Stuff is secondary here.

The best basic conditions are available and kids learn the game there in perfect conditions. In India, we get gravel to dive to learn fielding skills!

Down Under, a player is chosen on pure merit of his talent and put on contract by Cricket Australia [CA] and is paid irrespective of whether he plays the matches or not. CA also uses the rotation basis of [important] players. Once they are on the ‘rolls’ they will get their due chances. BCCI chooses its team on zonal quota basis and once a player is chosen in the team, his main intention is to show performance that will keep him in for the next match or two. That is how it is. So he worries about his place [barring exceptions]. Once a player is dropped from the team, it is hard work! Hard work for the zonal selector! Of course, the players work hard to improve the game and performances, but that becomes sadly secondary! A CA player, even if he performs badly temporarily and is dropped, his place in the team is not in jeopardy. So when he comes back, he does his best to prove his worth without the main eye on keeping the place in the team, but to perform as per the team’s and situation’s demands. That is the difference.

Aussie aggression! It is a tactic they use to demoralize opponents. It also comes to them ‘naturally’! They are as mentally strong as they are skillful. No wonder they have often overdid ‘sledging’! They play what we call the ‘power game’ wherever possible. They also use another tactic of passing open comments in the press before any touring team visits. But then, that is their way and also they have the resources to back!

Don Bradman in one of his interviews had revealed that in Australia the young cricketer is asked by his parents on his return home “Did your team win?” What do we ask the young boy here? “Beta, how much did you score…?” That is the difference in attitudes as they grow up. Ricky Ponting once told “we play for each other”. Here, they play for themselves. Of course, there are a few exceptions here too, but then, that is the overall scenario. We can actually see that here!!
Those things aside, the way CA prepares itself for matches is totally professional, leaves no stone unturned. They are thorough in their approach, execute plans to perfection on the field, have the win-at-all-costs attitude [so they give their 100% always in whatever they do], rarely at fault in their ‘out-cricket’, play as a team and play hard cricket!

BCCI players are worried about injuries too, in the absence of the contract system. They lose money if they are out of matches. So they don’t like to get injured. A ‘comeback’ means a Herculean task [esp. for the ‘margin players’]. So, many times, we see them not ‘pushing’ in terms of effort on the field. CA players are properly taken care of even if they are injured.
Things that bother in the BCCI are not in CA, so we see the best! Most importantly, they have talent abound and always a second string is ever ready, thanks to the system and policies. Domestic cricket there is of a high standard and so players coming from there have to be high standard! They know 5 years ahead who is going represent CA. He is already ready when he gets his chance at the highest level! Not like we do here – throw a raw player up on a ‘hot tawa’ as soon as he scores a double hundred in domestic cricket! The selector shouts ‘my boy has scored, so he has to be chosen’! Besides abilities, good sporting pitches is another vital ingredient for good cricket and talent to show itself, which lacks here in our Bhaarath. The Curator of the pitch is ‘remote controlled’!

Because of such hassle-free and most probably a transparent system there with CA, players are able to step in and contribute without any mind blockages or face any hurdles. Consistent performances and results are automatic when things are that way. Another important factor why Australia is the best and why they keep winning is that they have the best balanced side. They have regular openers to give good starts, solid middle-order batting, handy all-rounders, fit wicket-taking bowlers, and a wonderful captain leading the ship! If someone fails, the other takes over and never gives up. The important thing is, they are able to retain such a balanced side, even if established players retire. And they have been doing it consistently enough to demoralize the opposition irrespective of location. That has been their key.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Stop these!

I have to link Latha Vidyaranya's blog here as I am late by half a day Mine would not have been on that particular concern of hers anyway [trees]. Reason: Deccan Herald only had a brief box item [above] this morning. It is really painful to learn so much environmental damage is caused for just a few human mortals' visit for a couple of days. I only hope those 60 invaluable trees are replaced with 400 new saplings - and taken care till it grows well.

Tearfully putting aside that sad-to-learn, irresponsible and intolerable act, the fact that much inconvenience to general and innocent public such VVIPs also cause during their outings cannot be ignored. Look how many people have suffered hardship there in Andaman! Who will compensate for their inconvenience or loss of time and money? Those who have traveled for that day's schedule would have been the most hurt. And this is not uncommon. They keep on happening. Traffic is blocked, held up or diverted for hours and usually on no notice at all. Imagine the plight of those caught amidst the block with no way of turning back and taking an alternate route. Even pedestrians are not allowed to cross the roads on their barricaded route. Why the Prez or PM, even chota netas that visit the city also provide the general public this inconvenience though to a lesser intensity. It happens. And creates panic esp. on routes leading to the bus stand, railway station or airport. Who suffers? It is always, always, always the common man. Those VVIPs will never get to realize such hardship they are causing to the public. Are there any ways to avoid?

Sometimes it makes me wonder why VVIPs move out of their offices every day at all what with so many security guards surrounding them and blocking all their routes. And non-'humpapura' routes are chosen for them, to mislead that roads of the city are good!? There are occasions some are even asphalted in a hurry. One also wonders from where this money comes from in the same hurry.

With all the modern developments in communication systems why not they stay there in their cosy and safe A/C chambers and do most of their work from there? They can do it 'online', cannot they! They can cut 'e-tapes' and sign 'e-guest books' online! Not every time their physical presence should be sought for, for practical reasons. In earlier decades such visits were not considered a problem but somewhat a pleasure, but in recent times they are a pressure - pressure to all officials and more to public! Traffic in cities are already choked. But who will listen? Thousands of people get affected, hundreds of gallons of petrol are burnt, just for a single short visit of a VVIP. There are interesting statistics separately available on how much of the exchequer is spent to keep them 'in office'.

When they go to temples for a short 10-minute visit, people are blocked entry for hours and usually they are all unscheduled visits. What spoil-sports they are!

Some people happily say this year's [2007] Mysore Dasara Procession inauguration was a peaceful affair. Reason: Hardly any interference from those VVIPs [and their chelas]!! Whom should we blame? The rotten system or the person at the helm?

Just some thoughts.

Monday, December 24, 2007

My Aero-memories

My Aero-memories

The flying object has always fascinated man. No wonder the Wright Brothers made it possible to sit and fly inside it! The Aeroplane was a very curious object for the Mysroeans in the 1960s, if not before and to some extent, even now. A small airfield south of the city at Mandakalli village was from where small aircrafts operated mostly, if my memory serves right, for the NCC and for pleasure trips during the Dasara season. I cannot name the aircrafts like Capt. Anup Murthy Perhaps he will know which were the ones that we saw in the air during the 60s and also more about them.

Throughout the 1960s, each time on our way to Nanjangud [often in one Khalaq’s Hillman Taxi which had the license number of 77] with our family, my grandfather first used to show us the ‘Yennehole’ and then the Mandakalli airfield from his front window seat. My memories of that vast, open glade were of a small, lone building and the fluttering striped cloth tube – the wind direction indicator. They appeared distant from the road.

My grandfather used to remember his lone trip by air from there to Bangalore [no idea which year and for what purpose, but I assume it to be in the late 40s or early 50s] and that it took just about 20 minutes. Later my uncle used to tell a little story of how the flight, prior to his, for a joy ride was thwarted due to a technical snag causing a minor mishap before take-off, during the Dasara season in the early 60s. He could not undertake later, forever.

I was thrilled to be there at Mandakalli among a group of friends in the early 70s on a bicycle ‘adventure’ .

During the time of Dasara, Circus shows were common [opposite the Palace]. As advertisement and attraction, besides the joy rides, the pamphlets used to be dropped to the streets from those small aeroplanes occasionally, but we only saw them waft down and fall somewhere else.

The sound of an aeroplane always brought children out of homes, looking up in the direction of the sound, because it was not common. Nobody notices a huge aircraft flying low in Bangalore or Mumbai because they have airports there and it is as common as birds! Here in Mysore, it still remains a curious object. In recent times, the Helicopters bringing in the Netas to Mysore also make us look up in awe. Even now, a jet airliner leaves a long smoke trail in Mysore's west - southwest sky occasionally.

In the mid 60s, I was there as a little boy at the Bangalore airport to receive an uncle returning home from the US. I have vague memories of that. Still fresh is my visit to Cochin's Army Base to see a friend in 1995. He had taken me inside a stationary helicopter [hundreds of meters and controls!!] which he was taking care. By the way, I also saw and went inside a huge, famous and old ship that was touring the world, selling books. [Will get back and add its name]. Coming back to edit when the name popped up! It's Doulos, the world's oldest sailing ship!

And in 2001 our cricket team had been taken to the Airport to see how the Meterological Dept. functioned [they were organizing the tournament there]. That was when I saw how weather was predicted and how they helped air traffic.

There was one "Gunda" a tenant's relative living upstairs. He was an "Air Wing Cadet" in his college and I used to get his waste balsa wood pieces to try and make my own model, using magazine pictures as a base. I made two, one a rough model, but the other is my favourite Concorde [pictured above]. I once saw with him [and also at a modelling show] how a tiny engine was fitted into a flying model. It made a sputtering sound to drive a propeller. I was satisfied with my "Air France" showcase model and the paper planes I made.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The One-rupee Bribe!

It is not easy to be ranked among the top five. It requires plenty of sustained hard work. Our state has worked hard for decades to reach that level. Ask me where! - In the corruption list! The 3 Ps - Police, Politicians and Public, they all contribute! Gone are the days when the ‘mamool’ used to be handed over from ‘under the table’. It is now open, like a yawning hippopotamus. This mamool has now evolved to the illegally legalized term ‘fees’!!

Let me share a very small incident that took place before the ‘fees-era’. It was 1979. Interest in Philately had drawn me to the Head Post Office for a new issue of a stamp. I was going from Ashoka Road to reach there. As I neared the PO I got off my bicycle saddle and balancing on the left pedal, I coasted for a few metres on the wrong side of the road, parked it and went inside. It was just the way most did as there were no dangers of any accident. Those were days when traffic was sparse.
I had bought my new stamps at the counter and just as I was about to turn and leave, I was shocked to see the traffic policeman [TP] looking in my eye and asking me to come to the Police Station [PS] -just across the road - and meet the Sub Inspector [SI]. He had come down from his traffic umbrella at the centre [there was one, then] of the road junction. I begged him to be let away but he would neither heed to my explanation nor my request.

Who had not heard of bribery! That presented me with my first opportunity to offer a bribe to the TP – in fact his colleague suggested this to me while I was keeping my bicycle inside the PS. I was a student then living on a monthly pocket allowance of fifteen rupees. My stamp-purchase had left me with just a crisp, unfolded one rupee note in my shirt pocket. So I tried my luck to approach him at the traffic umbrella [he was back on duty] and see if that worked. My action of partly pulling up that note to make it visible to the TP while uttering “for coffee” is just unforgettable! The TP’s attention shifted to my action and since it was of such a low denomination, he retorted “Come, I will get you coffee, you keep that”! Unable to anything more, I returned to the PS and waited for the SI.

After a while the SI arrived to the scene. When we student-cyclists were caught by the TP there was the usual sympathy-begging by way of falsely telling that our houses are in a far off locality – usually “Vidyaranyapuram” [3-4 miles was far off then!]. I had to use it too! Luckily for me, the SI politely warned and asked me not to repeat it. So I was relieved to be back on the road again, but with a lesson.

When I come to think of how nowadays dare-devil-wrong-doers committing unpardonable offences and “paying” crores that gets reported in the Press and yet escape scot free, this one-rupee incident makes me laugh.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Gesturing in Traffic

Nowadays, most of us find ourselves contributing our all to the already chock-a-block traffic. Even grandmothers are out driving merrily on the road! We barge around, just because we have vehicles often compromising safety for speed. Pretending to be busy is becoming a habit and a fashion. Perhaps, the pace and style of 'Kaliyuga life' has much to do. Most of us use the wheels instead of legs these days, don't we? In such a chaotic situation, our dear wheeled vehicles are our 'right-hand' things.

Did I say 'right hand'? Let me deviate to the anatomical right hand. Gesturing in traffic to signal intentions by the rider to others, the right hand is [supposed to be] used. It is not an art, but perfunctory. But there are involuntary artists who gesture in their own special manner, the sight of which can tickle the funny bone. The dress may be the index of character; the face, of the mind. Even their gesturing, perhaps. Let's see how some two-wheeler riders show off, or don't.

A certain Menon, a strict disciplinarian, his dress neatly pressed, stretches out his right arm sideways, exactly at 90 degrees to his upright trunk like a cricket umpire signaling a 'no ball'. There are those who do it a la an Ambedkar "action-statue", compelling the onlookers to curiously look in 'that' direction. There are others who exaggerate the angle of the arm, almost pointing skyward, making those around to look up there.

There is one Ratnakar who is of the restless type that gestures in "RAM-style" -- Rapid Arm Movement, fluttering the arm. Ah, those automen… we should be lucky enough to notice a few curved fingers, half-heartedly jutted out, barely visible from any angle. Then we have these great thinkers-on-wheels, who seem to suddenly wake up from a slumber and remember, bang on the point of making a turn, sending the right arm out in a flash, like a frog's tongue catching prey. Some do it in a startling split-second action like the shutter of a camera. Then there are those who do it in a stiff, military manner, akin to the trafficators [mechanically operated arm-like light unit that jutted out between the two doors of cars] of yore.

The over-careful ones, like my friend Suresh, honk the horn every 10 ft., slow down, look up, down and all other directions, at every intersection, make all the signals diligently as if he is a student watched by the teacher. Those speeding adolescents seem to respect and adhere to the proverb "fortune favours the brave"! Their only goal is to cover road-distance and all else - rules, other road users - is utter nonsense. People riding with shaky rear-view mirrors use an amazing body language that drives home their point, without use of the hand. There are those, who, for unknown reasons make the gesture soon after the event.

We seldom see quiet pillion-riders. Do we? They are arguably, the best 'back seat drivers'. I sometimes used to take my octogenarian friend, Shama Rao on my scooter. Restless as he was, waved his right arm far too early. He never got the point when I asked him to sit still and do nothing.

Once I saw a man showing his intention by stretching his right arm sideways. Nothing special. When about to make the intended turn, lo and behold, he suddenly changed his mind, promptly slowed down and sincerely 'cancelled' that signal by writing a big 'X' in the air and then rode straight.

I have seen some real buffalo-headed riders who neither look at the traffic nor do any signaling. The curmudgeons give such a one a pip with knotted eyebrows if someone errs, but when they are on the wrong side of the right, two hoots.

Mr.Brown, my late friend, was a retired guard in the Railways, who led a relaxed, disciplined life. He used to ride his favourite Humber bicycle for short errands. Expectedly, he used the bell and did his prompt signaling while riding it. But renounced using it and wisely turned pedestrian, the very moment he realized that the citizens' road-sense was way too crazy. And he got annoyed being a pedestrian too, after being hit by a cyclist.

Individuality in our actions is always there. Let us not forget to gesture the prescribed signals at the right time without being conscious of the style - the intention is to communicate clearly to avoid confusion and accident. Light indicators must be preferred at night. Signaling while in traffic is as necessary as 'calling' for runs between batting partners while taking runs in cricket. Lest we get 'run out'.

Pray, let some 'horse sense' prevail in our 'road sense'.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Mobile Mania

The mobile phone has appeared everywhere now and reaches the hands and pockets of the common man even in towns and villages. Communication network also has spread everywhere. Let me begin with a small incident.
My cousin was narrating a funny incident that happened when the mobile phone had made its entry into their house a couple of years back in the small town of Krishnaraja Pete. My cousin had bought a new mobile. His oldish mother [my aunt], like many elders, is no exception in not getting the hang of its operation and functioning.
One day her children and other cousins had gathered there informally. On the floor they were all sitting and having a chat. During a short lull, the mobile which was beside my cousin and aunt, began to dance with a buzz on the smooth mosaic floor. My aunt did not know then that it was on ‘vibration mode’. She got frightened and suddenly began reacting, praying with folded hands and leaning away from it, “leave me alone… leave me alone… do not give me trouble like this…” One of the cousins put some fuel to the fire to see the fun, supported by the other cousins. That increased my aunt’s fear and forced her to repeat those ‘prayers’! It appears that she had really seriously thought that a ghost was making the mobile instrument to dance!! This is what TV serials and gossip can bring about! Superstition!!
After everybody had a hearty laugh, they told her why that was dancing. She then realized how she got herself fooled, being an ignoramus!
Now let us see some of what this mobile phone is doing esp. to the younger generation that is afflicted by the ‘mobile mania’. As soon as they get promoted to college, the first thing they demand is the mobile, which has to be a fine model. Next is a powerful mobike [boys] or an attractive scooter [girls].
The mobile has to be with them wherever they go, whatever they do. It is also made to sleep beside their pillow! They are anxious expecting calls or contemplating whom to call. The beauty of ‘silence’ inward and outward is never explored! They never relax one moment and fail to realize how stressful it could become, even though they seem to ‘enjoy’ and get ‘entertained’ by the mobile! It even comes with a camera now. They are pressing more buttons, yet doing nothing fruitful. They are talking more, communicating more, “SMS-ing” more, listening more [FM radio and built-in music], but achieving next to nothing[?]. They are spending more time with the mobiles and also keeping others at the opposite end busy. Not for nothing the advertisers target the younger generation! And not for nothing the college authorities ban its use in the campuses.
This modern technology is more abused than used. There is one innovative farmer who can operate his pumpset in the farm through this mobile even when he is away! He has customized another mobile instrument at the pump to switch on or off automatically by just ringing that number! And of course we hear of numerous nasty and harmful tricks played by mischief mongers with the help of this technology. Earlier, burglars used to cut the ‘phone cable’ before entering the houses to loot, but things have changed now!
We are renowned to misuse the goodies. Look at the Idiot Box. Look at the Internet. If anybody asks me to list the three most useful and three most misused things that have been invented in recent times, I’d like to list these three for both categories: TV, Internet and Mobile phone.
Everybody is mobile these days, always ‘on the move’. And they also inform others at the other end their whereabouts and what they are doing. Because it costs them just a few paise! Very cheap you know! So why keep quiet?
It has been saving lots of time and trouble to many, no doubt. It is a boon, in fact, but only for those that are using this wonderful mode of communication properly and judiciously.
The image [received recently from a friend by e-mail] on top of this post is so very apt!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Posing for Pictures!

Decades ago, people were shy to stand in front of the camera. But now, attitudes have changed. There are no better 'posers' for the camera than our great 'netas'. [We see photos in the print media very often]. They are so fond of 'posing' that they invariably look into the camera in the most artificial manner one can get to see. [Of course, there are some that 'miss' the moment]. Keenness to show their faces for the picture seems to be more important than the purpose of their presence on stage. Not for nothing our 'netas' are staple food of cartoonists! A silly picture had appeared sometime back of some of our netas 'inaugurating' the city-cleaning drive. Lo, they were not sweeping, but standing one beside the other, brooms in thier hands. [nobody knows how many sweeping strokes they made!]

Some years back, I was at the 'receiving end' on one occasion. The prize was handed to me by the chief guest. [See above picture]. Being not a neta, the hand-over happened naturally, which took the photographer unawares. He must have been unready for the natural event! Or his angle was unsuitable for it I don't know. But the event was re-done on demand for the sake of the picture which resulted in a few 'ha ha ha' from the small gathering. The final (funny) picture shows both of us smiling and the ones in the background, laughing, looking at the camera. In the confusion, the chief-guest's hand was holding my hand at the wrong place and the prize had come in the way! And we both knew the funny thing!!

I wonder when our netas and the photographers (on such occasions) learn to give weightage to naturality! How I wish most of the photographers said " you carry on, I'll take pictures"!

Well, I do not know if people did not desire media publicity in the 1960s. Browsing through many old issues of the once-popular "Sport & Pastime" magazine, I found many pictures where a prize is being handed over to the winner and none of them seem to be conscious of the cameraman taking pictures of the event / them! The event is captured so very naturally as it is actually happening. It does not even look like a deliberate pause. May be each time the photographer has clicked at the right moment, is anybody's right guess! Not for nothing photography is an art, requiring alertness and good reflexes!

Here are two pictures from Sport & Pastime [Feb 6, 1965] in which Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Sastri hands over trophies. [Also note the apt and informative captions!] Who is interested in the photograph? It is the photographer! That is the way it should be!

Just for the record, here is another picture in which H.H.Sri Jayachamaraja Wadiyar hands over a cup [mostly for Golf] to my grandfather at the Mysore Sports Club around the same year, 1965. Costume of the Police - take a look. Clapper is FK Irani.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Somaari Katte

(My write-up was published in weekly supplement, Star of Mysore, November, 2006.  
I have made slight changes here and there for this blog)


By nature, man is a social animal. It is this natural instinct that pushes him to be with other people as and when he can almost all of his waking hours, be it with family or friends. Mysore's salubrious atmosphere has been typically most suitable for lazing and relaxing. The Maharajas have arranged lovely granite stone slabs and sitting benches, called kattes [plural] in numerous convenient places which have bred so many somaaris [lazy people]! The "pensioners' paradise" tag is a hard earned one, you see!

All what the somaaris need are such kattes to sit. Somehow, there will be a katte located usually in the vicinity of their houses. It has been a popular practice, almost a sacred tradition in our city, to spend time that way, usually after the day's college/work. A small group of people of differing wavelengths (otherwise it will be dull!) somehow get together and a somaari katte is thus formed. Its formation or growth almost go unnoticed, but its activity can never.

The simple qualification is that all have to be somaaris. Sometimes attending the katte sessions gets priority over other works on hand, even studies, for the younger lot; domestic work, for the elderly lot! There can be danger of shortage of attendance too at kattes! Somehow, time is squeezed in for this. Such is its force of attraction.

Many somaari kattes are in vogue for many decades! Age or status is no bar (gender is!). Somaari kattes function usually from dusk and extend as late as 10 or 11pm (Sundays, there can be morning sessions) depending the hotness of the topics. Topics are not set. They keep diverting as they branch about. All subjects under the sun come up. Members voice their views in their own style, freely. At times, leading to healthy arguments and also unhealthy ones, leading to quarrels. The next session, they are friends again, even if the controversy resurfaces.

New ideas crop up in free discussions at the katte, unlike probably at formal meetings. One remarkable discussion was the cause of the formation of The Mysore Gymkhana in 1936. It happened in one such session on the stone steps in front of the then University Union building opposite the Maharaja's College ground where a group of youngsters were chatting in the evening. Sri M.Ananthaswami Rau, now 91, is a living witness. There must surely have been many such remarkable starting points at many other kattes too.

There was one somaari katte in the 60s on Gita Road that was quite popular - among the members, but not the neighbourhood for obvious reasons like eve-teasing, loud speaking...... Of course it is dead since long, as obvious responsibilities took its toll. There is another, much dignified, still in vogue, almost a next generation, close to this where yours truly is a 'member' for almost 3 decades. Most of us are connected to The Mysore Gymkhana and Javagal Srinath also makes it a point to attend whenever he is in the city even now. As I have noticed, this somaari katte culture has been partly responsible in building team spirit which has helped us win many cricket matches! Another now extinct katte was quite notorious to the same neighbourhood where even the police had to be called in to pull the boys up more than twice.

Older group of men choose bus shelters, closed-shop steps, stone benches under trees, even on the road's kerb stones (now heavy traffic disallows this). Often, sentimental attachments grow towards the katte. Younger members that have moved away for greener pastures and visiting after a long while crave to see the spot where a lot of their happy evening hours were spent, while his knowledge and friendships expanded.

Time spent at the somaari katte could be rejuvenating, inspiring, entertaining and enriching experiences, each evening having its own charm. A katte culture is unthinkable outside India where many from the city have traveled looking for better opportunities. Loneliness is a common ailment for them as they don't get to experience this katte culture and this is one thing they miss badly.
The somaaris may be doing physically nothing at the katte but then those that know first hand its fun, beauty and value, can say with pride that they are indeed the lucky ones! In fact, it is an information bureau in itself and better than any TV channel. No clicking of any button! Gossip, knowledge, fun, jokes, riddles, nostalgia, movies, politics, sports and what not! Long live somaari kattes!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Tributes to a great Doctor, Subramanya

Some of his very close friends remember him on his death anniversary (in the local paper)


We have always called him 'Subbanna' as far as my memory takes back to his days of Devaparthiva Road. Around the late 1960s, Subbanna had joined MBBS and used to live in a small out-house next to writer [Smt.] "Vani"s. He used to join the group of boys of the road in various games, occasionally. I remember the days when the portion of the premises of his house was dug up for basement for a new house and we used to hide in those trenches during the game of "I spy you". After the house was constructed there, their family had to vacate. So they went to another house in the neighbourhood.
Later, he passed MBBS. Dr.S.V. Subramanya, our beloved Subbanna, made a humble beginning by opening a clinic in a very small room close to Krishna Bakery on the opposite side of the Chamaraja Double Road, in D.Subbaiah Road. I remember visiting his clinic for informal chats, on my return home from college, as there were hardly any patients. As time went by and his patience perserved, patients began to arrive. Not that sickness increased, but because they had felt that a reliable doctor was available for service. And service he did, much to relieve the agonies of hundreds of ailing people. In a couple of years or so, that small rented room became 'too small'. So he moved over to another place, just opposite to this. Here he established himself into what he was and what he became. People had noticed his "kai guNa" and all the qualities that a genuine doctor had to possess. A genuine human being, most importantly. His great popularity was because of these, and another most conspicuous one. Guess what? It was his lack of greed for money! And a great dislike for 'swindling'. There are a few of this ilk even now, but as hard to find as a pin in a haystack.
Having good rapport and a long aquaintance, I used to tease him to walk briskly when we used to cross over during our separate walks and he used to give a serious smile! Patients would be still entering his clinic at even 10 p.m. in spite of his telling them to come early. Many times, he said it was up to 11 p.m. May be that such a tight work load took its toll I don't know. And he was in such a plight where he could not send back the patients either. He told this to me once during one of my visits as patient, which I was to him for a number of years. In fact, our family called on our Subbanna often at his home and he never frowned. And he never turned down a request to visit home to see the patient either. Before his emergence, it was to "Liver House" - a house of doctors - where we turned to for health matters [There were Drs. K.Rama Sastry, Eswer and Shivaram in the Liver House - that becomes another story].
He had reasonably recovered from a serious illnesss a couple of years back, but we are all saddened by his untimely death on November 25, 2007. One of my friends visiting recently, it appears that Subbanna mentioned jokingly from his hospital bed, "I was inquiring your health earlier and now you are inquiring mine!"
Hundreds of his patients have now to find another doctor. Find they would, easily as there are so many, but they would not be too lucky to find one as good and as humane as he was. His death will be a great loss to all of them, not to speak of his family. He was a true Family Physician in every sense. I modified the Physician's Prayer to make it suit today's situation but Subbanna deserved only to pray the original. Because he was genuine!!
My tribubes to Subbanna. May his soul rest in peace.

[An American $1 Bill he gave me 25 years back - at his Gita Road residence - to encourage my interest in the hobby of numismatics will be cherished for long.]

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A memorable Dasara Exhibition visit

Seemingly trivial incidents often make their way deep into memories for the sheer thrill. During the 1970 Dasara holidays for Mysore schools, I and my two neighbourhood friends, Gopi and Manjunath had planned to visit the Dasara Exhibition, on our own, together. Gopi was my 8th std. classmate and also a short-time enemy towards the end of our 7th std.! It was to be my debut trip sans family elders from whom I had obtained permission. On that chosen evening, my grandfather had agreed to pick us up at about 9 p.m. on our return.

We reached the destination by bus, just 4 stops away, bought single tickets for fifty paise and entered the dreamland. In those days, the grand exhibition was at the building next to the Railway Offices - a location renowned for its very special ambience. The most catchy, cascading waterfall facing the entrance greeted visitors.

With hardly a few rupees in our pockets, we got pleasure in strolling around the shops, more than shopping. I remember to have bought a metallic toy that made a loud ‘tik-tok’ sound, for ten paise. The spring-monkey [made from a cycle spoke, a little plastic monkey and a spring] was also available for ten paisa, but we had finished playing with it in our younger days. There was that ‘China Ball’[ a small balloon filled with water] a trifle costlier, tied to an elastic band. Those churumuri and paani puri had not yet made a popular impact inside the premises. Eating junk was not a thing then!

We had forgotten time till we realized we must return home, to go out and wait for my grandfather. On inquiry, we found that it was time to leave. As we were coming out, the clouds started coming down, almost from nowhere! I tell you, it was a very heavy downpour. So we knew only panic and got scared. The threesome rushed to a nearby bus-shelter, already drenched. Power went off, darkness engulfed. The many flashes of lightning provided some light in which thick raindrops could be seen. Loud-sounding thunderbolts added to our scare. Every minute seemed like an hour. Then suddenly in one of the brighter flashes of lightning, I could spot my grandfather under his umbrella, maneuvering the soggy path.

Wasting no time, I loudly cried out “Tata, Tata”. Immediately, he turned towards the familiar voice, he too probably relieved having found us. Only then those minutes of uncertain suspense ended. We felt, as if saved from a death trap. An auto rickshaw took us home after dropping the two friends back to their homes. Our arrival home also brought relief to my worried grandmother, more than anybody else.

I cannot imagine what we would have done if I had not spotted him. For, it was a continuous downpour which went on well into the next morning prompting the following morning’s newspapers to carry a front-page headline “Fourteen hours of continuous rain in Mysore”!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Mysorean Mind Runs - Backwards

The mind is running.... keep pace with it!
If you can.

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. So went a proverb. We felt it applied only to those bookworms. Traditional games from gulli-danda to popular cricket were all enjoyed by children of the previous generation which belonged to the pre-Idiot box era. I refer to the 1960s and 70s. The middle of the road and footpath was a virtual playground every evening, every holiday. Getting children back home was a headache for the parents, other than bookworms! On holidays, they had to search the entire neighbourhood if they wanted their kids home!

The variety of games played on the streets and footpaths (no weeds in those times) was such that each season had a new attraction: summer, it was gulli-danda and marbles outdoors, indoors it was either chowka-baara, kavade, pagade, halagulimane, or any board games; festival season, it was playing tops; some houses had playing cards and we used to play many games with it among chess, draughts, snake and ladder, money-trade, etc. The neighborhood boys and girls joined the fun. “I spy you” was extremely popular as it needed only hiding space and no equipment. Traditional games had been designed to make the body healthy and the mind clean. The e-games that the present children play are no way in comparison to the thrills of their old counterparts. We collected empty cigaratte packs for playing ‘tikki’. Not popular for long. We collected match-labels and marbles.

You may ask what about birthday parties….. in fact, they were not heard of! Those kids having their birthdays would bring in a (traditional) sweet or two (prepared at home) and share it among friends! It was such a peaceful event that helped good wishes to actually reach the kid! Look at it now – what a nuisance it creates! Cutting cakes, candles inserted into the later-distributed cake, throwing shining powder (which also settles on edibles, tiny coloured thermocole globules, balloons, aluminium foils and finally noise from the “sound blaster” playing what they call “music”, under all of which the purpose is forgotten!!

Hotels were few and mostly they had their own typical flavour and popularity. Ballal Hotel was once famous for its Masala Dosa and the Radio. Meenakshi Bhavan was more famous for its Radio than its dishes – Binaca Geet Mala was popular Amin Sayani presentation which people who did not have radios at home thronged here. Sales and Radio seemed to have a link! [see my other post]

We never screamed for ice-cream! There was no paani-poori, gobi manchoori or churmuri. But the Jamoon, Masala Dosa and coffee provided a satisfying kick. And none craved for variety. None got confused with too many recipes - the old ladies at home knew enough traditional foods to nourish [importantly] and to tickle the taste buds.

Minds were comparatively unpolluted until the movie-world stripped off decency. Watching films in theatres was always a family event. Movies of yore (in toto) had a team of intellects, from Directors to the helpers in the shots. It's the opposite now. Movies had a theme, good script spiced with beautiful proverbs; they had sequences that touched emotions, but there were decent comedians particularly Narasimharaju and Balakrishna in scenes to soothe the audience who had a hearty laughter. And they had suspense too. Pronounciation of dialogues - a joy to listen! Dr.Rajkumar, KS Ashwath, et al. The Black and White movie era was the best, even though the scenes imitated a stage-drama. It had quality!

A telephone and a wrist-watch were luxuries with scooters or motorcycles coming in next. Car-owners were even sparse. Power-failure was rarely heard. A watch was a major gift item in weddings, much inquired and demanded.

Water flowed in pipes with such explosive power that they would make froth and even slightly weak taps leak and throw away the hosepipes fixed while watering plants! It was not in the thoughts to build tanks to store water for emergencies – they were only for convenience – it flowed generally 24x7 in most parts of the city. Overhead tanks were nowhere seen! If any water-stoppage happened, it was news! Now, it is announced in the press when it trickles in the pipes!

Plastic was not recycled. We still have some 40-yr old virgin-plastic materials still in use! Now we get dirty recycled plastic that breaks off from a few years use.

The glare from the sun was not piercing like now. Except in the hot months, exposure to sun never scorched. Now even in winter months we have to bring the eyebrows closer to adjust to the glare.

Onions were so pungent that it made all people 'weep'. Now hardly anybody “cries” –they cry for other things or rather crave! Pizzas, Gobis and whatnot. “Chats” and Dhabas came from the North many years later. Rice was tasty – as it was also cooked over charcoal and in bronze vessels and pressure cookers had not made its impact. Rice of today goes under the trend “whiter the better”! Dining tables were taboo. Squatting was commonly practiced – for they knew no other method! Because of that, orthopaedics only treated fractures and not had patients complaining joint pains! There was need only for the Family Physicians. Now we have 'specialists' for every part and side of the body's organs!! You name it, lo, you will find them! Visiting family physicians was only after home remedies failed to give results and also without prior appointments. Sometimes the physician also visited the patient, also as a family friend who gave the healing [physical] touch, now unheard of! Now we run to a specialist for every cough and sneeze. The ‘compounder’ at the pharmacy mixing the colourful liquids that were taken home in bottles was a common sight. Medical stores were far and few. There was a doctor in the famous Krishnarajendra Hospital in the 1960s. He was supposed to be the most knowledgeable (in public view) doctor in that hospital and went by the nickname “Dodda Doctru” (of short stature, ironically!). I remember his name as Dr.A.K.Gopalarajan.

At night, it was common to offer food to those who came asking "bhavati bhikshaandehi", usually at dinner time. They were usually poor boys or men. Some families also had the noble tradition of "Vaaraanna" (weekly food). One poor college student - his name was Somu - used to visit us for dinner every particular weekday during the mid sixties. Some poor people also came for alms during the morning hours. On Saturdays, "Daasayya" came blowing the conch and striking that flat bell. A coin or a handful of rice was offered to him, which was gleefully accepted.

There was the 'fortune teller' [they knew what the birds said of homes and events and it was said that they would tell them if paid] who came with that small 'Bud-budke' sounded musically. If not paid substantially, he would tell about some danger in the family and leave. That once became true to us when my grandfather met with a cycle accident in the early 70s. The Bud-budke sound became much feared to us thereafter! Now they are extinct.

Then there were a group of people - supposedly from Mylara with Bearskin and shells. They would know which family's deity is theirs and then they would enter those houses for 'pooja' and then demamd a hefty sum. They usually came for their rounds when all men went out for work and just entered the houses.

There were no food considered as 'junk' in those days. The bakeries attracted customers with colourful icing on cakes and flavoury biscuits and chips. No packed foods! Just toffees and chocolates.

Conservancies [gullies] were meant for throwing garbage. Even they were clean! Because all waste was organic. Now this plastic is making a mockery on environment. Time will tell at what cost we are buying convenience. Each dose of a peppermint, toffee or chocolate produces one piece of waste. Imagine trillions of them strewn all over the Earth! Now this Areca - zarda - pan ... habituated people tear the aluminium foil-packet with their teeth, pour the contents into their mouths and then drop it off wherever they are. Trillions again! Then every little thing that is purchased in shops are packed in plastic - even vegetables now in Hi-fi malls - and delivered! So many thousands of tons of non-biodegradable waste is generated on our Earth. And more,it is mixed with organic waste! All just to bring the product home! Carrying plastic carrybags is a fashion, instead of cloth bags!

In those days, provisions were packed in paper covers and tied with jute thread. It took time to pack, but it never created waste. And another problem at times was that the heavier packets would get torn and get mixed up! Carefully they were brought home in bags.

In hotels, parcels were made in banana leaf and paper, not plastic! Now each Dosa and Idli is packed in plastic, chutney and sambar and whatnot in plastic covers. Plastic is abused. They are the ones that choke the drains and intestines of poor cattle. We call ours as civilization, yet, we do such nasty things.
Hiring of bicycles from cycle shops was popular - hourly or daily basis. We had Shivaram close to our house for this service, but we had our own Sunbeam, Raleigh and Robin Hood. We had hired a few times a smaller kid's bicycle as it was a pleasure to ride it in streets, like adults did!
Kerosene was sold on the streets in the 60s and 70s. There used to be bullock-carts with horizontally arranged twin drums with a pipe and tap. The rider made a sound by tapping the drum with his 'spanner' that opened the tap, to attract/announce his arrival/passing by.
Our Ajji traveled to Bangalore by train with 'Rail Chombu' - bronze water pot! Some people brought water in glass bottles which sometimes fell and broke and create a mess.  Plastic water bottles were there, but it was smelly.

All said and done, we had lots of time, tension - never heard of. BP or diabetes, not much. Operations in hospitals - extremely rare. Stoppage of water in taps - unheard. Load shedding - what was that? Traffic jam - we would have thought of some brand of 'jam'.

This is an endless post. The mind runs haywire. Will jot down more in newer posts, with pictures perhaps......

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Masale Dose memories and mania

Masale Dose [please pronounce it as ma-saa-le though-say to be ‘kannada-like’] in the 1960s was a major attraction to people. It probably has been so, about two decades or more before the 60s. My late father is renown to have derived pleasure in eating it in hotels with friends in Bangalore during his study at the just opened “Tata Institute” [diploma] in the late 1940s [his distant cousin remembers those days even now]. My grandfather did not seem to mention it having eaten it in his younger days in the early part of the 20th century. It must have become popular somewhere in between.

Masale Dose [MD] was and is a very special dish in hotels [not as much in homes]. Fame of hotels was directly proportional to the quality of MDs prepared and served there. Such was the way it tickled the taste buds. Hotels were so few then. In fact, there was no need for them with every family having its own cooks in the form of house-wives and other elderly ones to assist life in the joint families. Lunch or dinner was not a major item in hotels as now, nor did people feel the need. People went to hotels for a ‘change in taste’ which were usually breakfast/snack items. Idli, Vade, Uppittu, Kesri Bath. But MD was the much preferred one and filling too.

Childhood memories:
Since I was living in Chamarajapuram, we had close access to Ballal Hotel [bus tickets were bought as ‘Ballary hotel’!] a famous landmark, till recently. The newer generation will only see a mall there now. This hotel owner Ballal sat at the cash counter and used to relay the orders to the kitchen from there with his typical loud voice [“moor masaale”….”! The hotel was once famous for its MD taste as well as a Radio which was another attraction.
Meenakshi Bhavan, closeby had become more famous for its Radio than its recipes. People would visit there more to listen to the ‘Binaca Geet Mala’ presented by Amin Sayani on the Radio played with a loud volume! There were listeners outside as well.

In the evening of Ballal Hotel’s life, there was no need to take a purgative. Just eat an MD here and it did the trick, soon. For various reasons, it slid down in the popularity list, faster than that ‘trick’!

There was one “Raju Hotel” near Old Agrahara Circle. Much famous for its tasty items and reputation of having famous patrons like RK Narayan, et al. We used to go there as kids when an uncle visited us from Bangalore. The entire family in a group would walk leisurely to this hotel. Jamoon, the sweet had just cast a spell. The starter was this, followed by MD, the main purpose. Since the uncle always insisted on Jamoons before MD, he was nicknamed with a prefix of Jamoon. The gullets then had to be washed only with hot coffee served in glass tumblers.

In the early 1970s, there came up an “Idli House” in Krishnamurthypuram. They became famous [it is there even now] for the soft idlies and also MDs. Each MD was 25 paise. This was often our Sunday morning breakfast – brought home either by my father or me. I think since this was cheaper by 10 paise compared to other hotels people flocked. I remember one morning returning home from here with the bag of MDs on my bicycle handle and falling down close to my house and severely scraping my knee on the tar road. The scar on the knee is gone, but the thought and aroma of MDs being parceled home lingers. Brothers Krishna and Keshava from there incidentally came to play tennis ball cricket with our team at the Sarada Vilas College grounds.

We rarely went to Madhu Nivas or Indra Bhavan and I know not why. I remember once or twice having an MD at the much reputed Hotel Dasprakash right in the Proprietor’s chamber with my grandfather. That thrilled!

Father’s liking:
My father was famous for his liking for MD [also for chewing home-made Areca and “Congress Khara Kadlekai”]. He would often go with some colleague or friend direct from his office to the hotel where he found great relish. Those who accompanied my late father cherish those memories!

The MD is unique. Consult the Wikipedia [masala dosa] if need be, for basic information on this mouth-watering dish and its variants. Not for nothing it is unceasingly popular. Variations like Paper Dose, Table Dose [Rolled into about 3 feet long tube with that ‘Palya’ inside], etc. Innovations are possible with Dose and that is why it is popular among the housewives too. If they cannot ferment the dough at home, there are now readily available too. So she can avoid the chore and still prepare at home!

Our unique foursome:
It was MD that brought together our unique foursome [colleagues] to Mylari Hotel in 1983., a great cricket fan and gastronomer needed a reason to go there. He found a solid one when India had won the World Cup. He hosted to celebrate. As we were relishing Benne [butter] MD after the usual round of Idlis we unanimously decided that it would be a monthly affair henceforth, but hosting will be on rotation, for which chits were drawn after one cycle. Our group was unique. Rao was the senior most, in his 50s, Mukunda in his 40s, Ramesh in his 30s and yours truly in 20s. Wavelengths – more than for MD - had met. This went on for 17 years and beyond, even after the two seniors retired. If quality goes, customers go away. We did, again on a unanimous decision sitting there one day. It had become really awful! We had once gone on leave together for a breakfast there, followed by a ‘morning cinema’ and lunch at another hotel. Those are all memories now.

The foursome has traveled miles just to relish MD! Once we went to a reputed hotel in KR Nagar – followed by a relaxing trip to Chunchunkatte. Recently, the group traveled to Bangalore’s Gandhi Bazaar’s Vidyarthi Bhavan just for MD [with butter]. It was my debut there. The server has a unique style – he piles up the plates with MDs all along his left arm up to almost the neck and removes them to the customers’ tables! Much like the way Dagwood [cartoon] piles up his sandwiches!

Masale Dose indeed has remained an irresistible dish, so unique in its aroma. The housewife sometimes tells “Come I’ll prepare the MD at home, why do you go to hotels?” But who listens? That special, indescribable aroma that also lingers in the fingers the entire day, from the hotel-MD is the one missing ingredient at home! Perhaps also for that ‘unlimited chutney service’!!
I return to the blog to add one more item:
In our department group [office] we had one Sri Nagaraja [now retired]. He was another renown MD-relisher. Occasionally he would tell us about is younger day stories of how much of what he and his group of friends ate for a 'challenge'. Nagaraja used to host MDs to be eaten in our office for breakfast, for which he would start early from home, get them packed at PRASAD LUNCH HOME [near Old Agrahara] and bring. It went on for sometime till he moved his house away from Krishmamurthypuram to a farther place. He used to drink boiling hot coffee without a wince, in a jiffy! He was fond of saying "wash your gullet with hot coffee"!

I return to add this slideshow widget:

Dosa Eaters Group

Monday, November 19, 2007

November noise 'naraka yaatane'!

Noise and music, both are poles apart. Yet, Orchestra Parties produce the former in the name of the latter and try to combine them! More the decibels, grander they think it is. They are not tuned to perform on melodious levels on such a stage. So, the hapless neighbourhood has to undergo ‘naraka yaatane’!

Just across the main road junction, the autorickshaw drivers group organizes the annual ‘celebration’ of Kannada Rajyotsava – great patriotism, you know! Some ‘chota pudaari’ inaugurates it one day before. Imitation songs are played back non-stop as if to warn the residents till the programme next evening.

For short duration parking of scooters the police ask people to remove. But for this Orchestra, right on the asphalted road, a really busy one, a platform and pandal get erected. Then the sound system, series-lights and a huge picture of Godess Chamumdeshwari decorated by blinker lights get installed to present a festive look. Of course, the road gets blocked and all traffic gets diverted by the police themselves, causing inconveniences. Power gets drawn from the electric pole.

Blame has to be showered on a few things. Improved technology - blaring speakers with thousands of watts of sound power in a smallish box; Taste of people that listen, yes, and applauding – for the beautifully created noise which was to the extent of making our window panes and door latches dance, esp. to the [fashionable] ‘dham dham dum’s. Even my newspaper which I was trying to read felt the vibrations!; And, the authorities for permitting such public nuisance, even though it is just for a day.

Last evening’s Orchestra was most torturous. The vicious vibes jabbed my ear drums hard, in spite of plugging with cotton and an innovative contraption to absorb those harsh waves, but they were penetrated too. Adrenaline already high, I foolishly tried to sleep, as it was half past ten, but the entire high-roof room was filled with an uncomfortable humming sound as all doors and windows were closed. Water in the glass created circles! At last, silence and peace were restored close to midnight. Then the dismantling of the stage created noise till 1 am!

I just cannot imagine how people stand in hundreds to enjoy such orchestra! To get entertainment, they say! Louder, harsher, gaudier, seems to be the taste of this ‘movers and shakers’ generation. As if to patch up the poor ability [surely there are exceptions] of the singers, the volume of the speakers and the number of instruments in play are both very high. Do not ask about melody.

I wonder why celebrations like these and even festivals come to the streets and create a grand public nuisance. They have to be held in auditoria or inside homes with least disturbance to others. If disturbing is their right and a form of bullying, what can the common man do? He knows the authorities and ‘they’ are hand in hand. So nobody complains to the police. Even if some do, “Swalpa adjust maadi, just for a few minutes” would be the reply. If it crosses this step, the ‘chota pudaari’ steps in to the scene to make the circle complete!

Well, this November‘s 4-hour-non-stop ‘naraka yaatane’ to the neighbourhood soon after deepavali’s dam dum was at its incorrigible best. Nuisance being appreciated in Mysore is just incredible. Where is our “Nirmala Mysooru”(???) heading? What about culture?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Horn Musicians

We have all manner of pollution these days affecting our senses. Noise pollution is one of them which silently bothers many people (including the traffic policemen) with stress and depression leading to many diseases. Noise may be from moving vehicles, blaring horns and even from "music" played in those four-wheelers. Making noise is almost a habit and a fashion! We can notice many two and four-wheeler drivers simply honking horns usually for no sensible reason, in such a 'tone' (in Morse Code terms, using only frequent 'dashes' instead of a 'dot') that some big buffalo is standing right in front, forgetting that other vehicles too are moving ahead with them! Does this not look silly? Oftentimes, they honk the horn without even analyzing the availability of space for the other fellow to leave for him. They press the button simply because they have the facility! The horn is usually a loud one which always annoys the one in front and not the one using it. There are some countries where the the horn is used most judiciously because there, sounding the horn is considered an insult. But then, does this affect us people living among insults and having utter disregard to others?! More than real urgency, it is their restless and want-to-be-ahead-of-others attitude that prompts such unmindful honking. Since there is no punishment for these trivialities, I think, at best, the authorities should strictly instruct and educate all prospective DL applicants about good driving ethics and discriminate use of the horn which may greatly contribute in reducing the decibel level of noise pollution. There are so many good things that the authorities can do, but then who cares?