Sunday, November 29, 2009

Garbage talk

Let's begin by looking at a pleasing sight from Engelberg, Switzerland - above picture. Notice the trolleys inside this 'house', containing sacs (of garbage). Nearby houses have put that there for the truck that would come and pick them up. They show to the world why they are better progressed, through little things like this.

Another garbage trolley there!


Now to our familiar situation from the past and present.

In villages, there is an old adage in Kannada “Thippe nodi hennu kodu”, which means, “Look at the garbage pile and give the daughter in marriage”. The garbage pile behind the house is an indicator of the family’s prosperity. It is a subtle way to verify it before the marriage is agreed upon! Garbage in villages being organic is usually recycled as manure, but what about in a growing city like Mysore?

Mysore city before the turn of the 19th century was mainly around the Mysore Palace, called the old Fort area. Though they were days when garbage was not an issue, congestion of houses and improper drainage which was found to be the causes of diseases, necessitated staggering which gave rise to new localities. Old areas like Chamarajapuram and Lakshmipuram were planned in such a way that all houses were provided with conservancies (gullies). A conservancy ran parallel between two streets in such a way that it was behind and shared by the houses of those two streets. All the underground drainage pipes are laid there so that no interference was caused to public. All houses had backdoors opening to the conservancy so that the scavengers could come in, clean the toilets and pick up the night soil (from houses not connected to the drainage system). “Attached toilets” slowly arrived later as a fancy and have come to stay when porcelain commodes became popular and easy to maintain. The conservancy is meant for disposing off the garbage. Trimmed branches from trees and shrubs were used up as fuel and were never thrown off. So the narrow passage of the gully was also not blocked up.

A gully was not a thoroughfare. Entering a gully was taboo. Thieves chose the gullies because others dared to chase them there! To avoid being caught, a wrongdoer theoretically “ran through gullies and escaped!”

I remember a few times I had entered our conservancy with a friend during the mid 60s, in search of empty cigarette packs that we boys needed for our games! Berkeley was common, Navy Cut, Scissors, Wills… I had got a few packs that smokers had thrown out of their houses. Pigs (some adventurous boys used to chase pigs for fun here!) used to roam there – for a time I had got afraid, even though it was behind our own house! It was so lonely, not anymore (pictured below). I had got a strict warning for this act when my grandmother came to know about my entering the conservancy. The picture below is of the same gully as it is now – see how it has ‘developed’ into a mini street! (The corner house of the neighbour has been demolished.)

The city was clean even up to around the mid 70s. Plastics were yet to invade (into cleanliness!). Garbage, being organic in nature in those days, never posed a problem because people threw them only into their conservancies. Municipal carts would clear off the garbage periodically. Most of the things decomposed and disintegrated naturally. Garbage was never a public or environment hazard (like it is now) nor presented ugly sights because they were only in conservancies.

Mysore’s salubrious climate and all the other goodies have attracted people from other places. The growth of such population gradually killed the conservancy system and necessitated conversion of conservancies into little lanes what with families growing over time. Small houses were built in the open spaces behind the main houses and rented out. Entries were through conservancies, which eventually became narrow streets (without a name). Now, many of them have even been asphalted and provided with ‘street lights’! Some of the conservancies have survived, like the one behind Maharaja’s College hostel (pictured below). This is one of the longest, but totally neglected and wild.

With conservancies exploited that way, and with plastics invading every citizen, garbage came on to the streets to public view in large masses as life styles of urbanites also changed by the end of the millennium.

Coming back to the growing city of Mysore, garbage disposal is becoming a major problem and challenge to the administration, what with people’s apathy! Each week hundreds of tonnes of garbage are being created (leave alone the medical wastes from tens of hospitals etc.!) One of the main culprits is the packaging materials of various items. Convenient in every aspect till it reaches the customer, it has started to pose environmental threat. Each lozenge, each chocolate, each dose of ‘supari’, each packet of biscuit and everything you can imagine, including vegetables (big shopping malls), is wrapped up with inorganic plastic/polyethylene and the likes and are flooding our homes even if we do not like to accept them!

Till the 1970s or 80s, biscuits came in wax coated paper wrappers or tins, many medicines came in glass bottles and confectionery items were usually sold loose. The papers went into the oven, tins and bottles reused in one way or other! As such, waste disposal was minimal in earlier decades. Homes never had a ‘waste bin’, only conservancies! Streets were clean and storm water flowed freely in drains, clean as a whistle! It used to be actually quite a sight to see water gushing in the drains as we played in the rain! There was no plastic to clog them up, like it does and it is a nightmare in low lying areas in the post-plastic era!

You can see how people tear open a packet of supari or chocolate, drop the contents into their mouths and just throw the packet then and there. This is just a small example of bad civic sense and carelessness and their contribution to the problem may look tiny, but on a larger scale, and with bigger things, it is measured in tonnes!

Municipal sweepers sweep up these thrown and strewn off wastes from homes in the locality and to avoid being lifted, are often burnt up at the spot or left alone to form a hill! This is the ugliest sight also, because plastic carry bags, covers and the likes are main contents! Plastic swallowed by straying cattle has resulted in choking in their intestines have also been killed! Burning inorganic wastes is adding poison to the air we breathe and contributing to ‘erratic climate’ on a higher plane. I wonder if a majority of the public are aware of it or not, despite being so much in the news.

BURNING WASTE IN PUBLIC IS A COMMON SIGHT HERE, AS IF BY RIGHT. No wonder the Corporation would get an award for Solid Waste 'Management'!

It is mid day and this "pourakarmkia" who sweeps the area in the morning has just lighted a match to the pile that he created in the morning - the van skips this route on many days!

That is the fire he started. And look at the material.... majority is INORGANIC.

A "pourakarmika" saves his energy... goes back to the garbage truck after starting fire to the pile - 2008 scene on Vani Vilas Road.

Plastic has its great pluses. It is probably the most abused and misused item thus exposing only its minuses. We have reached a stage due to more of our own neglect and some ignorance, when we have to stop (you cannot take a deep breath!) and think about using or accepting plastic and doing it very judiciously. We have also reached a stage we cannot be totally plastic-free. If we have to be strictly so, we cannot buy anything in the market now! Gone are the days when we used to buy our monthly provisions (or whatever, in fact) which were packed in paper covers and fastened by thin jute threads (no staple pins or cello tapes). Sometimes some of the packets used to get damaged in the main bag and it was quite a chore to sort two different materials out, like wheat and dhals or sugar! Paper cones are still in vogue esp. with street vendors that sell various things like peanuts, churumuri, etc.

Cows search for something organic!

I wonder who started this one at 7 pm!

This troubled us for 6 hours and suffocated the residents. Who cares?

That rag picker on the right started the fire and burnt some clothes - synthetic clothes and I requested a neighbourhood boy to put off the fire and smoke that was deadly... Nobody cares!

This is right in front of a nursing home on Vani Vilas Road. That rag-picker is burning a huge pile on the main road pavement... Nobody bothers about those!

Go to any gathering, like the ones in homes or to marriage halls (many of them have banned plastic which is heartening to note) and you will find ‘disposable’ plastic cups to serve water etc.

To add to the woes, we now we have inorganic “banana leaves” used to serve food in large gatherings! These are nothing but laminated paper printed like banana leaf – we eat hot food out from the laminated surface! Notebook wrappers are laminated, so are small cartons that we buy so many things in. They are later added to the garbage. We are forced to buy and contribute such poison into the environment.

So who is to blame and what is the solution to this great garbage problem? The shopkeeper raises his eyebrows when I refuse to accept his thin carry bag saying I have my own bag! He says that people demand for it even if they have their own bag saying “cannot you give even one small bag?”

Some public places in Mysore have a plastic bin erected on a stand to enable easy tilting for emptying. I had seen one in melted condition! Someone had put fire to the contents!

Manuvana Park - supposed to degrade into manure - but what are those on top of the pile?!

Segregation at micro level is the best but it has to be seen that it stays that way till the last stage, which is yet to be achieved given the present ‘administrative set up’. Garbage management is such a challenge in our context. Recycling has no meaning if they are not properly segregated. Many foreign countries are effectively doing because most importantly, it has people’s cooperation and sense of cleanliness at every step and the citizens are awake to their civic responsibilities. Here, we are ignorant, negligent and irresponsible. Unless we rid of that ‘who cares’ attitude, we continue to breathe poisonous air, drink contaminated water (from bore wells) and blame the authorities!

I sometimes wonder if our citizens (including the administration) have started to think that poisonous air, ugly sight and even stench created by ‘modern day garbage’ are part of the environment. Recently, in November 2009, we heard that Mysore City Corporation got some award for Solid Waste Management! I wonder if it was only for the 10 days of the past Dasara for the “extra effort” it so much publicized. Dubiousness of this award can never be dismissed!

It was evening and this dust bin was on fire.

The Kings of Mysore strived for a very clean city and actually made it with years of great effort because people respected the law and also cooperated and loved the city from their hearts. Such beauty, cleanliness and that genuine spirit seems forgotten and destroyed now…. forever. Has the influx of people from outside have a great role in this, I shudder. There are only a few who can proudly call “My Mysore”!

The garbage we have been creating here in our growing Mysore (also in many big cities) is no ‘village house garbage’, which I referred at the beginning, but very very toxic. None can argue that Mysore’s uncleared “thippes” (garbage piles) and their contents are clear indices to the city’s prosperity and progress and in what direction is anybody’s guess.

To close, here are a few conservancies in Chamarajapuram that are now mini streets!

At least, let us hope things will improve in our lifetimes and imitate the West in these things rather than other trivial attractions!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thrills of watching a Cricket Test Match, first time

Cricket has always topped the list of popular pastimes. In fact, for more than a century. One of my great grandfather's preserved testimonials, handwritten and signed by J.Cook, M.A, Principal, Central College Bangalore in 1888, praising my ancestor as an 'ardent cricketer' is ample proof. Even before 1888, in all probabilities, he would have played the game during his days in Maharaja's College (1884-88) and was talented enough to earn such a praise from the Principal.

Besides their own fun-cricket, Test Matches [not as many as now], provided cricket's joy mostly through newspapers, much later, the radio and in recent times the TV. But very few had the good fortune to watch a Test Match in person because they were only in the big cities. It took the yeoman efforts of a certain M.Chinnaswamy, the man who dreamed and actually brought such a wonderful privilege and Test status to Bangalore. Our joy soared skywards when the honey-sweet news broke out. West Indies who were to tour India in 1974-75, were to play the first Test of the series in Bangalore. It also meant that we Mysoreans were close to getting a fine opportunity to be part of it.

Excitement was building up as the day closed in. My uncle wrote that he had booked one of the eighty-rupee-season tickets for me as well as for a few relatives. I was on cloud nine. I persuaded my grandfather and bought an eighty-rupee binocular. The dream of watching a Test Match and the players in flesh and blood was nearing fruition.

Collecting cricket pictures was a hobby and I used to buy the 'Sportsweek' from the saved pocket-money, merely for the sake of cutting and pasting the pictures in albums. I do not remember having read even a single article! I used to imagine and imitate in my tennis-ball-cricket, the styles from those action pictures. The binocular was to help me take a closer-look at the heroes.

Special buses had been arranged from Mysore itself for the thousands who thronged Bangalore for the historic occasion. We went in one of them, leaving behind my old grandfather, himself a great all-round sportsman, which was rather sadly ironic. But my fitter and cricket-ignoramus grandmother was accompanying us in expectation of seeing her nephew, B.S.Chandrasekhar, in action. None of us had seen him play and we had longed for that occasion too.

This picture is just to give an idea. Imagine the entire stadium constructed this way, like a scaffolding!

The day had arrived. The 80,000-capacity stadium (then, the MSCA) was a marvel of labour. Except for the players' pavilion, all of the 'stands' were erected entirely of wooden poles, (see above picture) planks and jute ropes with thatched shelters over some parts. The foldable plywood chairs had been serially numbered. The scene was set. That the precarious looking stands withstood the 'test' of people-load for five days was a design-feat in itself!

Our 'gang', equipped with food and water for the day, reached the stadium and stood in the long queue to enter. We had missed the toss by the time we entered. Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, back at the helm, had asked Clive Lloyd to bat first. I can still recall the smell of cut grass that was wafting across the stadium, even now. Our seats were somewhere in the 10th row, reasonably close to the boundary - satisfaction in itself. Never before had I seen such a crowd congregation. The noise created by it was deafening and excitement was running haywire, celebrating their first ever Test Match! I was to find that it was a reasonably sporting crowd, though at times a bit pranky, applauding the good cricket from either team.

I was making my debut as a test match spectator, RS Krishnaswamy was making his, behind the microphone alongside stalwarts Anant Setalwad and Tony Cozier. My uncle had his 'biggish' transistor radio to follow the commentary and to know who is who on the field. M.V. Nagendra and Jack Reuben were the umpires. For India, Hemant Kanitkar was making his debut while one Gordon Greenidge and a certain Viv Richards were making theirs for the West Indies. India had no Bedi due to some controversy but the rest of the famed spin-team were in. The oldest man in the match was 42-year old great West Indian off-spinner, Lance Gibbs. Before the match, there had been a 'No Bedi, no Test" campaign was on, but the match went on.

After a few overs from Abid Ali and Solkar, the crowd noticed Chandra warming up and there was a big roar, a roar we had heard 'on the air' but now we were part of it. Local hero was to bowl in front of his home crowd! Greenidge (93) showed his power and southpaw Kallicharran (124), his grace and technique. Rain on the second morning tried to dampen the spirits but that was luckily short-lived. Wickets were not covered those days. Play continued after a brief stoppage and Kallicharran showed batsmanship of the highest class, playing the Indian spinners on a rain-affected wicket with masterly ease with 124. One late-cut off Prasanna stands out in my memory. Abid Ali, Solkar and Venkataraghavan displayed their close-in fielding skills. Chandra's 4-wicket haul gave us a glimpse of why he was feared by the batsmen. Richards had no clue whatsoever. Venkat's accuracy and Pras' guiles were mastered in this match by the Windies.

India conceded a big lead and only Hemant Kanitkar cut his way to a top-score 65. We saw what Andy Roberts' hot pace was like and the effect of Vanburn Holder's deadly accuracy. The way Gibbs trapped Viswanath soon after he had hoisted a six was top class bowling. [There was no way I could have imagined then, that 14 years later, I was to bowl my best ever ball, a leg-cutter, to have this great man bowled off-stump for a duck in a league match.] Solkar was run out by a direct hit from long leg by Keith Boyce. What a flat and fast throw it was! It was customary that the Indian tail did not wag. Chandra getting bat on ball was duly applauded.

Greenidge again blazed with a hard hit 107. But it was Lloyd's 143-ball 163 that stunned Pataudi's Indians. The clonks were heard in spite of the crowd's noise. It was explosive power. He often swept the Indian spinners out of line. Poor, fat-tummied Kanitkar at deep square-leg was bamboozled by the accurate placement of the shots, which brought laughter to the crowd more than once. Those were days when only the slip fielders dived to make catches or saves. Lloyd's innings ended when Solkar, diving forward, made a skier at long-off look easy. They set India a big target.

Gavaskar and Engineer [of Brylcreem fame] opened again, but soon were back in the room, dismissed through breathtaking catches by Viv Richards at short-leg. Nobody who has seen these catches will ever forget for the sheer alacrity he made them. Both were 'hits' from the meat of the blade! Nearly everyone rose from their seats in utter awe! All the heroes succumbed to the pace of Roberts and Holder and the West Indies had won by 267 runs. The angry crowd broke the chairs and threw them onto the field. Luckily there was no fire. If there was one, it would have been calamitous. There were no presentation ceremonies after the match in those days and so all of us left the stadium making our way in a forest of people.

What we had seen was to be the beginning of a most enthralling series that India won. The filmed highlights [no TVs in those days] were shown in theatres some days later. Those were still the days when cricket was played mostly for its sake and money had not yet adulterated it.

The report on the match was read by people in the next day's paper while my attention was on the action pictures. This went on for five full days, of absolute thrill. It was exciting fun, being able to watch the heroes through my binocular and sometimes borrowing a fellow-spectator's more powerful ones to look at the faces of them, to compare with those in my cricket album. My hero was Andy Roberts, whose action I memorized and tried to imitate in my tennis-ball-cricket ventures. Venture I did, to good effect! Gary Sobers had gone downhill and was not touring.

Indians were renown for incompetency against fast bowling and often the Indian batsmen getting bowled by fast bowlers were published in the Illustrated Weekly of India where stumps were seen flying! It fascinated me. As experiment, I tried out with a cork ball in the yard and derived great pleasure! The actual thrill lay in wait till I began playing regular league cricket with the cricket ball and could see for myself how it felt to send the batsman's stump 'cartwheeling'!

I returned home, proud and fully satisfied with the enjoyment of witnessing a Test Match. I was richer with the numerous brochures and sun-shades that were offered at the ground. Leave alone those wonderful memories to top them. But we envied our grandmother who was the luckiest among us all - she had the privilege of watching the second day's play from the pavilion using Chandra's pass with his sister and parents. "Tall, well built, dark, bespectacled with huge lips" - was how she described a West Indian whom she had seen at close range. She was referring Clive Lloyd!

The way Cricket is played, watched and followed these days has changed. Hasn't it?

Full Scorecard of the Test Match.

The Mysore State Cricket Association Stadium was later renamed as M.Chinnaswamy Stadium

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mysore Banyan Trees

Some Banyan Trees of Mysore

The above widget will take you to the album containing pictures I have taken of many trees in and around Mysore.

Do take a look - click on it.

* * * * * *

The Banyan Tree is always an interesting one to look at or be with it, for its prop roots, esp. if the tree is very old, notwithstanding the ghost stories we heard as kids. Its shady canopy is of course not to be fortotten.

Not for nothing it is the National Tree of India!

(Spelled "Banian", it gives a different meaning to us in India. It is referred to the vest men wear, usually of cotton or cotton knitwear! Of course, "Mysore Banians" are also famous!)

(Image from the Net). Banians with sleeves are also popular. Tiruppur city is renown to manufacture these.

Back to the Banyan Tree.

When we were young, it was fun to ask others to tell (in kannada) "aalada marada keLage santhey" while covering the nostrils. It means "Shandy below the Banyan tree". But when uttered with nostrils closed, the 'santhey' would sound 'satthey' meaning 'I died'. The sentence would then mean "I died below the Banyan Tree."!! Then there would be some laughter following this little joke.

Kids can do a 'Tarzan' holding the prop roots that hang down freely. In parks they are natural playthings! On the one on Jhansi Lakshmi Bai Road here, as a young boy, I have done that with those prop roots each time we passed by it, because most of us used to go on foot to places that were 'walkable distance'. So we children could play as we went along with family members. This spot was an attraction actually, because the side of the pavement sloped down to the low compound and the gap facilitated the swing and we could land back on the pavement with the oscillation. At times we jumped off the vertical stone near the pavement, holding the root and getting the needed momentum for the oscillation. The root had to be thin and 'holdable' for the smallish hands.

This is the tree as it is today. Those roots on the right have thickened in almost four decades.

Find out what a Banyan Tree is in this link and its medicinal value.

Dodda Alada Mara or the Big Banyan Tree is near Bangalore (Ramohalli).

A few miles east of Lalith Mahal on Bannur Road (Alanahalli) there is one huge Banyan Tree that the villaefolk worship. I happened to pass by it in 2003, on my way to Hosahalli, to the house of the man, Yajman Honnaiah, who used to sell that seasonal 'soppina kallekai' (chickpea) at our doorstep. Here is the tree:

The most famous Great Banyan Tree in our country for its history and spread, is at Kolkata. I had seen a picture of it in "Glimpes of India" published by C.B.Burrows, Bombay, in 1895, a wonderful compilation by J.H.Furneaux and wondered if I could see it when I grew up. The time came by chance, in 1999 but at that time, I had no camera. But here is the picture from that old book in my library. I had been curious how vast it spanned. But when we went near it, it was not much, because I learnt that the tree had been damaged by a severe storm in the 1950s and hence had thinned down. But it had withstood the great cyclone in 1864. I saw many delicate and precarious branches artificially supported as a protective measure. I must reveal that it was this Tree which attracted me to the Botanical Gardens there in Calcutta (now Kolkata) on our way back from Durgapur. A like-minded friend (Ram Sharma) had accompanied me.

Let's see what we have in some places of Mysore.

The widget seen above contains many pictures I recently took, of trees which I have been passing under almost all my life. But never counted them until today! There was no reason of course, to do that then.

During the fruiting season the entire road under them would be 'carpeted' with fallen fruit, sticking to our soles as we trod on them. Walking on roads was not a risky thing, say 35 years back: hardly any traffic! This is what I recollected when I wanted to take pictures and retraced my old steps. In the bargain, I could also locate some younger trees starting to send out their famous prop roots. I hope they all will survive the urbanization (and road widening) that is progressing at a rapid pace!

Kukkarahalli Lake premises has some beautiful trees and the nearby Baden Powell school has the big one and a small one. You can see quite a pictures of their prop roots also in the widget above. There are a few also at the Maharaja's College Grounds, the Manuvana Parks and some on Jhansi Lakshmi Bai Road (now "Jayelbee road"!).

I was shocked to see a couple of branches of a huge banyan near Lakshmipuram Police Station, being cut some years back. But I was relieved that only those two branches which had drooped dangerously low only were cut. This is that tree (on JLB Road).

This inspired me.
Links in it are also handy.

Now on facebook as well.

Let Banyans hang around!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Perfect Head

"Hair by hair maks the carl bare", says an old Scottish proverb. The head of hair is homo sapiens' crowning glory. It is for this reason that even a little loss of hair on the crown or its whereabouts, makes the young man under it panic. Panic, because this 'thinning process' is famous for its irreversibility.

Baldness, or alopecia, is a gift handed down through the genes. Though it is a harmless physiological disorder, its virtue of giving an illusion of oldness creates an odd feeling in the 'unfortunate' person. Medical science is yet to find an effective cure. In spite of this, we hear of ads with 'before and after' pictures having fooled gullible men. But a shallow "cure" is on the market - the wig!

"Baldy" is a popular pet name for a bald-headed or even a balding man, often referred behind his back. It sounds so nice and smooth!
Baldness is a scourge and nature's malediction, having a potential to affect wedlocks. But when you look at the positive side, it can save the worry about hair-do, hair oil, shampoo and combing time. The head-bath becomes far smoother! But the tall baldy will curse his height when he bumps his vertex against a doorframe.

Baldies make the job easier for the barber but there are no concessions on offer. It is hard to identify a hiding-under-a-wig baldy because those wigs look so very natural. But some wear that shame-proud look.

Naked pates are concealed with unique methods. My friend Haridas has grown hair on one side of the head, long enough to arrange those available strands neatly to cover his shiny vertex, from pinna to pinna. He is always armed with a pocket-comb because his enemy is the sudden gust of wind. I have seen another dark middle-aged 'bold' baldy in a crowd. Believe me, he had conspicuously black-dyed his entire head, yes, entire head, to imitate a crop of hair. There are some who start wearing a cap once they notice the receding hairline. It only contributes in hastening the process. The more it is thought of, or looked at in the mirror, the speedier it recedes, up, up and behind! My pen friend Prabhakaran sent his second picture, five years after the first 'hairy picture'. His top had "blown off". He had given an explanation: "…due to too much study…". He had become a professor.

One middle-aged Nayyar from Delhi and I meet for our respective cricket teams, annually. But last time round, his appearance cheated me! After some teasing, he revealed with a wink that he wanted to look younger and so he had undergone a complicated fifteen-thousand-rupee-3-month-"weaving" treatment to his pate. A few others 'run for cover' and buy themselves a wig.

When I was a kid, I used to fondle my maternal grandpa's balding head, which had a traditional "juttu" (tuft). Why me, he himself was caressing it when he had nothing else to do. Just look at a baby's astonishment when it sees or lays its soft palm on the hard and smooth surface when the bald grandpa plays with his grandchild! To kids, most bald men are 'tata' (meaning grandfather). But agree they wont, even if that poor young fellow is a 'victim' of alopecia. Guess what my balding friend Ravi's most treasured thing? It is his own photograph taken in his "hair-days".

The bald pate is a good site for tattooing too.

There are a few 'bald men clubs' like this one in active existence, enjoying their commonness. Hair or no, what is of value is the content inside the cover, much like a coconut.
Curves are naturally appealing. Ask any cartoonist how they enjoy drawing a Gandhi, Yul Brenner, Churchill, Lenin, Seshan, UR Rao, Anupam Kher, or a Brian Close…. The list goes on. Brian Close, the England Cricket captain revealed when he was bald enough to say that his childhood dream was realized: he had always wished to go bald whenever his mother pulled his hair.

Samuel Hoffenstein in Songs of Faith in Year After Next says:

Babies haven't any hair;
Old men's heads are just as bare;

Between the cradle and the grave
Lies a haircut and a shave.

God only made so many perfect heads. The rest he covered with hair!


Here is a league of bald headed men.

There are jokes and cartoons too about the subject!

Famous photo-journalist T.S.Satyan has his blog on the same subject here (scroll down to get that)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A strike of sorts - to get shorts stitched

(Not the Narayana Rao I refer in this write-up but a namesake, my FiL - we had no free access to cameras to click the original Narayana Rao in the early 70s)

Seldom do watch-repairers, goldsmiths or tailors keep up their ‘promises’ of delivery dates, much different from the EDD that gynaecologists are familiar with [expected date of delivery]. So, it was no wonder when my tailor kept 'that reputation' up, esp. once, which led to a bizarre and memorable incident, much to the tailor’s surprise.

It was the day prior to announcement of our 1973 SSLC results. We were to attend a maternal uncle’s wedding. I had given a length of blue-gray-cotton cloth to my tailor ten days ahead to stitch me a Chaddi (shorts). He had not taken up that work even on the day I needed it, in spite of many reminders.
My father knew this tailor, Narayana Rao, for some years and his shop was just a furlong from our house, in the Chamarajapuram Co-operative Society 'complex' where we had (and still have, except the tailor) a hair-cutting saloon, a washerman's (dhobi) shop and a small flour mill. (see picture below).

The 'strike' took place here:

We used to give most or the tailoring orders to him, as he was quite skilled and his young son, Prakash too. May be because of these, he seemed to adapt the ‘take it easy policy’ to us, as was his usual wont. But that day, it was Prakash who was in the shop and he was not allowed to do so. Even at the eleventh hour, there was no sign of him putting scissors to the cloth! That was the last straw. I decided to stage a lone dharna [strike] till my chaddi was delivered. I said to him to stitch the chaddi NOW, or I wont budge from there. They were still the days when people respected each other and did not resort to bullying tactics as we see today. So there I sat in one of his wooden stools. If I do today, I am sure I'd be thrown out because they care two hoots about such things as respect and human value - but then this is a general opinion.

One by one, all my family elders came to fetch me, but I would not budge. Yielding to such unusual pressure, most reluctantly, the cloth was finally picked up from the shelf. I witnessed my chaddi made ready in about an hour, by noon. My stubbornness had won over his. Pleased about the ‘achievement’, that left the tailor annoyed and angry, I went to the wedding, wearing the brand new chaddi, which in fact happened to be my last. I was to graduate to trousers but even during my first year at college, I was so fond of this chaddi that nobody could stop wearing it on holidays and I withstood my friends teasing me for that! Of course, they were much prior to the "Bermuda Shorts" days. Now we see people of all ages wearing half chaddies and three-fourths chaddies almost for any occasion.

We continued to patronize this humble tailor for some more years even after the passing off of Narayana Rao, and I think he was the one who stitched my first pair of trousers also. He continued with his usual wont but when it came to my orders, Prakash was half afraid of another dharna (strike). He is no longer in that profession - he has diversified. I told him when I met him last year after many years about it and he had forgotten it after all.

That was about the incident.
In the 1980s I decided to try my skill in stitching my own shirt as we had a sewing machine at home. I bought a length of cheap cotton cloth and taking clues from my mother who knew the craft, cut and stitched. It came okay and I was using it for some days, much to the astonishment of my friends. Later on I made a few skull caps for my use on the cricket field. I still use a few of them!
Also, I do all my own repairs - a stitch in time really saves nine and I can tell you the sewing machine is a very handy equipment!


This is a most recent scene at a ladies's tailor shop at KR Circle. Now they have mobile phones to inquire and communicate if the material is still in the shelf or stitched ready to be delivered!
Tailor Shankar Rao takes an order.

This is a picture taken about 1965 with my grandfather at Mysore Sports Club Ground.. Look at those shorts and that terylene shirt. I don't remember if that was ready-made or stitched to order. "Terylene" was a popular fabric in the 1960s and 1970s, but cotton was the most preferred fabric for us.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sports in the blood

This 1888 testimonial of my great grandfather K.Mylar Rao (he spelt as Malhari Rao earlier) says that he had a good physique and was an ardent cricketer in his college days. He was good at Bridge (cards) and played some tennis also in his later years. He was a life member of Cosmopolitan Club and Mysore Sports Club, Mysore after he retired from service in 1926.

Surely he must have had a good physique as I am told he took regular strolls and used the dumb bells to maintain his body and health. He must have been a supreme example of a healthy mind in a healthy body - he was an avid reader too which the big library suggests.

My grandfather K.M.Subba Rao was even better. He was a much renown sportsman esp. in his heydays and even till the end, aside from his profession as a respected, renown (and honest, I must proudly add) lawyer and a distinguished citizen of Mysore.

H.H. The Maharaja of Mysore, Sri Jayachamaraja Wadiyar hands over the cup to Subba Rao for Golf at the Mysore Sports Club's tournament, about 1966, at the MSC grounds as Farrokh Irani looks on.

Probably this picture was taken in 1952 at the Cosmopolitan Club during a Tennis tournament. His good friend BS Dattatri is to his right, extreme left.

Madras Christian College Cricket Team, Winners of Inter-Collegiate Cricket Shield, 1918.

Subba Rao is the non-striker at the far end in this picture, probably of the early 1950s or thereabouts, playing in a Lawyers tournament [most likely]. The ground is the "Ovals" [now the Athletic Ground opposite Crawford Hall]. In the background is the Maharaja's / Yuvaraja's College Buildings and the Oriental Research Institute.

This must be a picture of the early 1930s. One of the few where both KM Subba Rao and his father K Mylar Rao are in together [see marked arrows]. Also together in this are HH Krishnarajendra Wadiyar IV, HE Kanteerava Narasa Raja Wadiyar (The Yuvaraja of Mysore) and a young Sri Jayachamaraja Wadiyar and Sir Mirza Ismail. The building is of the Mysore Sports Club. Probably this is a group of elite Mysoreans who are sports-lovers. Mylar Rao was also a keen sportsman skilled in Cricket in his younger days, Tennis and Bridge. Mysore Sports Club was formed later. The building is still there but a facade has come up.

Below is a letter from J.G.Tait to K.M.Subba Rao. Tait was his teacher at Presidency College, Madras. Tait remembers his student with great affection and shares his feelings like a friend. He remembers a few other names also so vividly even after many years after his retirement. It shows how that bondage between the teacher and pupil was in those days. Subba Rao and Tait exchanged letters even after Tait went back to England in the early 1920s after his retirement. Apart from Subba Rao's all-round talent Tait in this letter remembers a cricket match:

[ Page 4 and 1 here] - click to enlarge and read

[ Page 2 and 3 here] - click to enlarge and read

On the left side, which is page 2 of the letter, Tait vividly remembers one of Subba Rao's famous bowling spells where he had turned the match in one over by taking "four of their best wickets". It was for Presidency College (in 1920) against Madras Christian College. He also feels sorry when he came to know about the accident Subba Rao sustained and had to stop playing cricket [it might have happened a few months or a couple of years before 1926]. He used to describe the incident to us, showing his little finger that had broken while taking a catch. That little finger can be seen in one of the pictures I am with him [in one of my other posts].

Notable is J.G.Tait, his teacher, seated centre in the picture below.

Presidency College Athletic Association -Cricket & Hockey, Madras, 1919-1920.

Presidency College Football Team, Madras, 1919-20

Medals and Trophies in the showcase.
Left Picture - of 1920s; Right Picture - 1952.

Grandfather KM Subba Rao with his treasured trophies won in many sports: Athletics, Badminton, Billiards, Bridge, Cricket, Football, Golf, Hockey and mainly Tennis. What a list!

I am told by Capt. P.Alasingachar (P.A.Char), who was a schoolmate of my father K.S. Ramachandra Rao that he too was very talented in Football but his poor eyesight curbed it greatly. My father was fond of telling that once his nose was struck from one side by a football and turned it to that side, but another blow from the other side a few years later almost straightened it. But I have seen him play Table Tennis with great skill as he used his spin to great effect and Bridge in which he was quite an exponent.

Ramachandra Rao is seen in the above picture, top row in his father's Mysore Sports Club Blazer. He represented his Institute in Bridge, 1976.

So much of my forefathers.

In the above picture, I walk off after a memorable bowling spell (the captions tells most) that won our CSIR team the final match at Nagpur, 2001.

When sports is in the blood, we will not be discouraged at home. Sports gives us so much in terms of joy and friends and develops a personality while it teaches life through its successes and failures, importance of hard work, discipline, etc. Sports makes us as people! It teaches many lessons, if only they are pursued in true spirits.

My own tryst with Cricket has been put together in my blog separately. I have tried my hand in sprints, long jump and tennis and it was only then I realized how hard it is to be proficient in more than one sport and that is where the greatness of my grandfather is to be admired.

B.S CHANDRASEKHAR, nephew of Subba Rao. Each time Chandra took a 'five-for', he used to congratulate him by writing a letter.

Sports in the blood is quite a fortunate thing to be blessed with!