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. http://mysoreanmusings.blogspot.com/2008/03/tribute-to-srinivasa-rao.html, 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?