Saturday, September 10, 2011

A strange coincidence of WTC 9/11

It is already ten years now since that fateful day which came to be referred as “9/11”.  The US has got rid of its mastermind (OBL) recently.  I don't need to decipher.  I would like to share a strange coincidence I came across in relation to this infamous terrorist act which has stuck in my memory.

I was in Chennai for a cricket engagement.  If any old friend lives in the city I visit, I make it a point to meet. My childhood classmate Gopi lives in Chennai and so I took this opportunity to meet, as we have done ever since we renewed contact after a very long gap. It was decided that the best time to meet was over dinner at Gopi’s house itself so that we could indulge in some school-day nostalgia.

I went as scheduled, but Gopi had not arrived home that evening due to some (I must add 'usual' in his case) work pressure. So his son and wife tried their best to keep me occupied with some informal chat. After some time their telephone rang. It was a friend calling to inform Gopi's wife about a tragedy that had stuck in New York and that it was being shown on a certain TV channel, live. It was the deadly act that had brought the massive structures of the WTC down just about an hour ago and news of it was spreading around the world faster than wildfire.  She changed the channel from the remote as she was still speaking to the friend and found it.


Watching screaming people run helter-skelter, collapsed building’s dust flying, rescue teams trying their bit and the upset reporters trying to hide their shock on the screen made a terrible sight that left us shocked as well,despite it happening half way round the earth.

Gopi arrived to see dazed, dull faces glued to the TV as he had also been informed on phone about it.  His wife prepared a simple rice-rasam dinner in a most depressed mood, which was quite understandable. Even the dinner seemed tasteless in such a disturbed state of our minds as we had dinner in terrible mood as the hand to mouth action became perfunctory.  The expected nostalgia did not take place as the NY disaster buried all else.

Now the coincidence. Before Gopi arrived, his little son was telling me that he was asked in his class to draw something that came to their minds as that particular class was free.   He had drawn a picture of the twin towers, because Gopi and family had only recently toured and visited the huge WTC and the young fellow was impressed by its massiveness. In fact, he was showing that drawing to me while we were all watching repeat telecasts of the two giants crumbling to dust.  He was shocked too.  I left, in a strange mood and joined my team at the place of stay only to be greeted by the same news.


The site is now called Ground Zero and is being reconstructed.



[all images web grabs]
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This link will show about some of the weird coincidences about the numbers in that date which also went into wide e-mail circulation afterwards.  

Click here to see how someone discovered and interpreted to coincide with that event by folding some US Banknotes.

9/11 has since been chosen as 'Patriot Day'. 

56 photos of the terrible tragedy.  

Salvaging steel from the debris of the WTC, a navy ship has been built.
Click here to read some information on this.  And go here to see it was true and also more pictures of it!

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Unfortunately, the boy somehow did not preserve that drawing.  Came to know of it when I asked him if he has it to show it here in this post.

Let peace prevail!

Friday, September 2, 2011

CITY IMPROVEMENT TRUST BOARD - ITS FORMATIVE YEARS

At the outset, let me reproduce my compilation which was published in our local eveninger, Star of Mysore in 2005.

Reference source: Handbook of the City of Mysore, 1915, by T.G.Lakshmana Rao - Author's complimentary copy presented to my great grandfather K.Mylar Rao whose name appears " -- For Officiating Secretary to Govt." in the Appendix section ('Rules and Bye Laws).  

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CITY IMPROVEMENT TRUST BOARD - ITS FORMATIVE YEARS

In the early 19th century, Mysore was confined within the limits of Hale Agrahara, the Fort, Dodda Petta and Lashkar Mohalla. Municipal activity began sometime during the reign of HH Krishnaraja Wadiyar III about the mid 19th century. As decades passed and the town gradually evolved into a city, there reached a stage when the need was felt for a separate body that could handle the city's development, improvement and health matters.

The deadly epidemic Plague struck Mysore and took a heavy toll of life, esp. in 1898. The root cause was poor sanitation and unhealthiness. It was a grave public concern. The Municipality, with the help of the Plague Commissioner, tried to combat future ravages. Spreading the populace apart, opening out lanes and streets in congested localities and creating extensions seemed the best answer. It required heavy expenditure. By the time plans took shape, HH Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV had ascended the throne (1902). The inadequacies of the Municipality's resources to handle the demands of such crises, surfaced. The Government of H.H. Maharaja came to the rescue by appointing a committee with the Chief Engineer as the President to formulate proposals for the improvement of the city.

Improving sanitation and removing unhealthiness in the city received prime attention. During the first (1894-1902) of two important stages in Mysore's sanitary history, a Sanitary Division under Mr.Standish Lee, was established by Dewan Sir K.Seshadri Iyer. It is pertinent to mention some of the works carried out during this period before the creation of the City Improvement Trust Board:

- A portion of Purnaiah's Nalla, a deep drain cut by the former Dewan to lead water from the Cauvery to the town, which was a source of unhealthiness, was filled. This is now the Sayyaji Rao Road.
- The ditch around the Fort was filled and was converted into a park.
- Main sewers serving the KR Mohalla and Devaraj Mohalla were laid.
-Chamarajapuram (called after HH Chamarajendra Wadiyar), the first important and successful measure carried out in extending the town, was constructed.
- The supply of wholesome drinking water by a system of water pipes from the Kukkarahalli Reservoir and from the Cauvery by pumps worked by turbines. This was a material step in the interest of the general health of the city.

The second stage (1902-10), coincided with the beginning of what became the 'golden reign' of Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar. Many important developments took place in right earnest, following the passing of Mysore Improvements Regulation III of 1903. Work was pushed forward vigorously by the "Trust Board", under the able officers lent from the Government Public Works Department. Mr.Seetharama Rao was the Chairman and Mr.D'Cruz was the Executive Engineer. The Mysore City Municipality was governed by Regulation VII of 1906 (Mysore Municipal Regulation). It was also a Corporation with a President as its head. He was also the Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Improvement of the City of Mysore. The Health Officer was the Vice-President in Sanitary Matters. It is worthwhile to quote excerpts of the Govt. Order No.4168-79.L.F.3602, dated 18.9.1902. The general lines on which improvements designed were:

"The slums of the city, wherever they exist, should be first improved, by knocking down unsanitary buildings, providing against overcrowding, bad drainage and otherwise defective sanitation. Proper quarters should be found for surplus population from such localities, and such assistance as is possible and reasonably practical should be extended to poor people for building proper houses. A comprehensive scheme for proper drainage should be devised, not necessarily with a view to attain theoretical, but impractical, perfection, but to meet the reasonable needs of the city."

Accordingly, unsanitary areas were removed en bloc in some localities, all the narrow lanes were widened, conservancy lanes opened for the facility of drainage, many low-lying and ill ventilated houses dismantled, and extensions were formed to provide room for the displaced population. Drainage facility was made possible practically for every house.

Up to 1911-12, the Trust Board acquired about 6,000 properties including open areas, of which 3,616 were houses, paid Rs.13.5 lakhs as compensation, spent Rs.9 lakh in drainage work and other improvements were of the highest beneficial utility and added much to the comforts, convenience and the health of the public. In 1911, Mysore had a population of 71,306 as to 68,111 in 1901. The city was divided into seven mohallas: Fort, Lashkar, Devaraja, Krishnaraja, Mandi, Chamaraja and Nazarbad. In 1913-14, there were 12,122 houses, out of which 701 were terraced, 10,838 were tiled and 583 thatched.

The appearance of Plague gradually waned away as the city's design as well as healthiness, noticeably improved, thanks to the excellent work carried out by the Trust Board. Time-honoured housing requirements, where each family needed a house with a compound or backyard attached for outhouses, cattle, etc., necessitated the creation of extensions for housing those displaced by the demolition and rearrangement of parts of the city. The work of acquisition and demolition of properties, for opening conservancy lanes, leaving air spaces, admitting light and removing congestion was completed in Ittigegud, Nazarbad, Fort and Lakshmipuram (built on the site of Old Dodda Holageri, for some time a hot-bed of plague, etc.). Edgah extension was also created.

By then, Sir M. Visvesvaraiah was the Dewan and also the Chief Engineer of Mysore. It was under his leadership that saw the system of drainage undergoing a complete change. From his vast experience, he favoured the underground drainage system that worked by gravity, to open surface drains. Many of those are still functioning - an example of "made to last" quality! The sullage water from every house in this system was directly connected to the underground street sewer and the whole sewage was brought down to one common out-fall in the valley below Doddakere, where it was treated for purification in a septic tank, and the effluents were utilized for agricultural purposes.

For many years, the CITB offices were located at the Rangacharlu Memorial Hall (Town Hall). CITB (now MUDA) built its own office buildings on Jhansi Laxmi Bai Road in the early 70s, at the very place where a very old, dilapidated set of 'dungeons' (rumoured to have had an underground secret tunnel), existed. (Is that why the 'underground dealings' still prevail in the area?).

Is Corruption Impossible To Banish from Mysore's Ultimate Defraud Authority? That is the common man's FAQ! But when someone like Mr. Pankaj Kumar Pandey comes and tries to answer it, in as transparent a manner that would have pleased Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar, he is quickly packed off! Preserving such persons to serve the public would only serve the real purpose of the Authority. Let us wildly hope that, even in this 'kaliyuga era', there will be more of Seetharama Raos and Pandeys at its helm!

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The CITB started functioning on 1st January, 1904.  Brief history is also here along with two old maps (poor quality) of the city:  http://www.mudamysore.org/home.asp

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K.Mylar Rao also mentions "Trust Board Meeting" in his diary of the 1920s, indicating that he was also in the committee being one of the elite persons of Mysore, even before he retired in 1924 after serving the Govt. in various capacities and accepting the post of Chairman.  

When I read one of the old letters from a bundle, which I very long later salvaged, it came to light that he was the Chairman in 1924.  
[Offer letter to Mylar Rao for the post of Chairman, which post he accepted.]


Web grab of MUDA site.  See year 1924.

If my memory serves me right, the present Offices were built in the early 70s by Jhansi Lakshmi Bai Road.  [The Cosmopolitan Club is situated behind it]. Before the CITB building was built, it was a spot where wild bushes had grown and no one ventured.  But there was some brick structure almost buried in the earth, close to the adjacent Dr.Radhakrishnan Avenue and the lovely little 'Scouts and Guides building on the opposite side [now demolished].  We used to call it as 'dungeons'.  Once I had joined our street boys (many elder) on their wild roaming one summer evening when we were bored with cricket.  They went to this place and it was quite scary to me.  I tried to picturize the spot from memory and this is what I remembered from the same angle.  


There was a soil-debri-slope leading to the  ground below the arch on the extreme right.  I don't know if there were steps.  We tried to enter there and see what was inside!  It was dark and had more debris and wild growth. I think there was a wall about 8-10 feet away from the 'entrance' arch.  That was the only time I had gone there. Its roof was also ground for lots of moss, some lantana shrubs and some grass.  We used to wonder what it was, since no elder discussed about it.

Recently, when I mentioned about it on facebook, one of my more knowledgeable friends came up with a response that the 'dungeons' were nothing but a structure built [in the 19th century] to filter water drawn from Kukkarahalli Tank [before the Vani Vilas Water Works came into being] to be supplied to the city.  There is a natural slope towards the Palace and its surroundings where the then Mysore city existed.  It is said to also connect the other lakes towards the east in the city through small canals one of which is still seen in Subbarayana Kere.

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Toy Cars and Buses

An LGOC B-type bus from my showcase

Often, we young boys did not need a toy bus or a car to play the game of driving.  Just some running space was enough!  What a pleasure and feeling it was to 'drive' barefoot, making the most pleasant sound of the engine using the lips - 'brrrr brrrrrr'  and sometimes 'bbrrrooooom', when we sped!  While we had to make a horn, the engine had to 'stop'!  The 'vehicle' can be made to turn in sharp angles as well without changing gears.  When there was an opportunity to travel by a real bus or car [taxi in my case], I wanted a front seat to listen to the engine sound and watch the driver steering the wheel, changing gears and applying brake.

In childhood, toys are part of growing up. Cars, buses and things other than dolls greatly fascinate boys.   Rarely do the toys outlive boyhood and almost never make it to showcases 'later on'.  It is true in my case also.  I did not possess a destructive mind but a curious one.  I  was renown for opening them up for 'inside investigation'.  This killed many a toy, among many items other than toys, that included a couple of wrist watches!  Blame the brittle plastic in the 1960s.  Once broken was permanent enough.  'Quick Fix' was not always useful for multiple fractures!  There were also other toys made of thin metal sheets. They lasted longer and could take the 'shocks' better by taking in dents!  All of the toys that passed through my hands have met their expected ends.  But for two special ones.  One is that LGOC Bus [shown above] and a Franklin Car.  Will show and tell about them as I go on.

My grandfather was of the opinion that if the child plays with a toy for one minute and breaks it, the purpose of him buying it was served!  He, nor my father could buy costly ones.  But we used to envy our tenant Bhima upstairs who for his girl-kids, had bought a big van [about 8-9 inches long], neat looking, nicely shaped, ran on propulsion of the rear wheels and produced a pleasing sound as it was let go. We often used to hear this sound through our ceiling also!   This toy was like Rolls Royce in our eyes!  It looked something like this:

~Image borrowed from Web.~

Our cheaper toys were spring wound and it took off from 0-300 cm. with the blink of an eyelid often crashing to the wall or legs of furniture. It was fun to put our heads beneath furniture to fetch them! Before the body of the toy broke, the spring winding mechanism would go kaput and that was a funny feeling to wind the slipping key! I had to see inside, why it went kaput and that was the end of the toy.

The biggest toy car I had seen was lying on the opposite house balcony [Capt.Srikantaiah]. It was a huge pedal type sheet metal toy car which one child could sit and 'pedal-drive'.  The young user-owners had outgrown it.  It was in very bad shape, rickety, very rusted and exposed to all weather for many years.  Yet, it used to work!  We kids used to climb over their attic and out on to the small balcony to have a 'feel and thrill of driving'  - just for a few feet distance! It was something like this:

Grabbed this pic from the web.

A family friend in Bombay gave us this little white model truck (Mahindra Jeep) when we visited there in 1969.  What a delight it was!


I bought this school bus on the pavement at Bangalore for Rupees Seventeen many years ago for my little daughter.  Since she played with it carefully, it still works and so carries a good resale value, despite losing a rubber tyre on its rear wheel!


For her birthday, I had bought this self-winding van (Maruti Van design) for Rupees twenty.  This is also in reasonably 'playable' condition.


As the kids grew up a bit, they added new ones to the small fleet.  By now sturdy little metallic models that could withstand and survive wall and furniture-leg crashes were available.  They have what is called 'hot wheels'.  A little push with the finger, and it zips across!


My gardening friend Debi from the US wanted to send some gifts for my little daughters.  She had packed up among a few interesting knick-knacks, this lovely big 'Barbie' car, much to their delight.  This one would have dwarfed our tenant Bhima's van!


Coming back to our "B-type" now, I used to play with it very carefully whenever it was allowed to be removed from the showcase.  I knew it was a special item, but I know not who played with it originally - but it could be some grand uncles or grandaunts or even my father.  Its roof-top seats had become loose and the 2-3 which were left, vanished over time.  But I took care of the lovely stairs so that it wont detach and disappear!  It was fun to rotate the steering wheel and see the front wheels turn. It has a spring winding mechanism to make it run, but as expected, is worn out.  Its slim wheels move very freely.  Its rubber tyres have not survived. 



People all over it!

I recently happened to closely look at what is printed on our red toy bus  - "Motor Omnibus Company Ld."  I knew it was a British toy and had also observed such buses in vintage picture postcards from England, in our album.  From that I guessed the period of this toy to be between 1910-20. 


My 'googling' resulted in some information about that company in London which thrived a hundred years ago. It is the "LGOC B-type bus" [click on wikipedia link].  Some more interesting information in brief is here

Imagine the days prior to the petrol engines when the buses were "real horse-powered" with set routes!  

~Another picture postcard from the collection~

Lastly, I will show my other favourite car which still gets a special place in the showcase.  It was a gift from a relative's family in the 1960s to me since the only child in their family had outgrown it. The child's father [C.Srikantia] had bought it during his stay in the US  for higher studies in as early as 1930s.

Look at this beautiful 'Franklin'!


It had lovely little head lamps, a tail lamp and a spare bulb underneath.  Everything was in tact when it came to me.  All the four bulbs did not survive my handling and other experiments. Below the chassis, there was a place for batteries to be connected to glow these bulbs.  This car was also powered by a spring.  The front wheels can turn left and right and what a sight!  My 'googling' took me here to some information on a Franklin. Bhima's van was quite inferior!

No outgrowing at all!  The carpet border design was the road for my indoor car play - 'brrrrrrrooooom'.  When it idled, 'brrm.....brrrm..... brrrrm....'

I tried to make a bus using bottle caps and toothpaste cartons, buttons and a match box, but later I had made an electric motor bus in high school for the science exhibition using a toy motor.  I will tell about this little adventure in a separate post.

The real car is not as fascinating as toys!  Traffic snarls though part of urban life, is never a pleasure!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Butterflies in my yard


I rate this very colourful, Common Jezebel as the Queen as far as my yard is concerned. She rarely flies low, leave alone sit, except for that one time perhaps when I was ready with my camera!  Luck!  The above shot is one of my best which inspired my friend Nancy to prepare a special greeting card for me using that picture I posted on "Dave's Garden"!



Who does not want to stop and watch a colourful butterfly flutter by?  If you have a few flowering plants, shrubs and trees in your yard, the butterflies find them. It is for many reasons butterflies are great attractions to children and I grew up watching them in our yard, which hosted much greenery.  I still do.  Earlier we just watched them without observing much.  We chased them fun. We wanted to catch them by their colourful wings, but they always flew away beyond reach. When they were resting, they sensed our approach and quickly escaped to safer places. Cats can catch them with their skill!  But we had to content ourselves when we found a dead specimen in our garden occasionally and wondered about their lovely pattern on their wings.  How weightless it was!  We studied the butterfly life cycle in school and wondered how they were caught, mounted and exhibited in laboratories in colleges for study and research.   Long later I learnt that they used a butterfly catching net for that purpose and it was through a comic book, of all places!  


Have you ever wondered how different are moths from butterflies they appear similar on first glimpse?  Just look at this link and find out: http://library.thinkquest.org/J002124/moths.htm 


Left - butterfly; Right - Moth

I recently learnt that in the US there are butterfly farms that sell pupae.  I reproduce below some lines my friend, Sandra, wrote to me when I asked how she managed a picture of a butterfly sitting on her hand.  What she wrote was interesting.  Interesting because I did not know. 


"Find or buy the pupae once they are out and ready to fly put them in a container and into a cooler with ice(do not let the butterfly touch the ice) for 15 or more minutes. This gives you enough time to take their pictures, before they warm up enough to fly.  Here these kind of farms raise butterflies for release at weddings and such.  It also sells eggs, caterpillars, chrysalises and plants for butterflies.  If you can catch a butterfly without harming it you can do the chilling and get it to sit for your pictures! I plan to build a butterfly raising house this winter. I will have the food plants for the caterpillars and nectar plants for the butterflies. As soon as the caterpillars turn into chrysalises I will move them to a cloth cube.  When the butterflies emerge and ready to fly I can then chill them to take their pictures."


Here in India, such things may be unheard of!  But we can boast of butterfly parks.  Butterfly gardening is a branch of its own.  See this Wikipedia link for some information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_gardening 
Mysore's Karanji Kere boasts of a butterfly garden.


Ever thought of how the word *butterfly* came into being?

No need to open the link as I have extracted the content below:


Many things are named for obvious reasons. In example, an orange was called an orange because of its color. Butterflies could be called butterflies because of a couple of different reasons...


1. The word “butterfly” has been around for a long time. One thought about where it's name may have come from is the theory that the name was supposed to be“flutter-by,” because of the way they flutter by... If that is truly the case, then somewhere along the way their name has been switched around to butterfly.


2. A false etymology claims that the word butterfly came from a Spoonerism of “flutterby”; however, the Old English word was buttorfleoge and a similar word occurs in Dutch, apparently because butterflies were thought to be witches in disguise who stole milk and butter at night.

 

3. An alternative folk etymology, current in Great Britain, is that the name originated as a contraction of term butter-coloured fly referring to the Brimstone Butterfly, Gonepteryx rhamni, often the first butterfly of Spring.


The word butterfly later lead to idioms, phrases, riddles, quotes and what not.  There is a style in swimming called 'butterfly stroke' and there is a 'butterfly valve' in mechanics!


Here is a popular riddle "Why did Tom throw butter out of the window?".  
Answer: Because Tom wanted to see "butter fly".

There are myriad quotes on the butterfly.  A few impressive ones:
There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly. [Richard Buckminster Fuller]
I'll be floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee. [Muhammad Ali - boxer]
The caterpillar does all the work but the butterfly get all the publicity. [George Carlin]

Butterflies have been visiting my yard dotted with a few shrubs and trees.  But once the digital camera came, I was able to observe more and see how many varieties visited.  Trying to shoot pictures of them is a thrilling circus and great fun.... if you have time!  Some varieties prefer the grass [see two pictures below] and if they are to be shot, we have to sometimes wait in the prostrate position!






I was simply amazed at the number when I sorted and counted.  I have got many of the fluttering visitors identified through books or from my knowledgeable friends on the internet, esp. from Dave's Garden.  There are a few still waiting to 'get a name'.

When a digital photo is seen on the computer screen, it looks beautiful.  When it flutters around, we miss the actual colours.



Shooting close-ups is a very tricky exercise.  [I cannot do the chilling which my friend Sandra informed.]  The slightest disturbance we may cause with our movement or to the leaves of the plant on which it sits can make it to fly away.  They are usually extremely sensitive. It may never sit for a shoot again where you can step and reach for a full view!  It requires a lot of patience and I tell you, a lot of luck.  A zoom lens is a boon if you have one.  But I managed this one of the 'Green Triangle' from just a few centimetres.



Take a lQQk at some butterflies that have been *captured* in my yard:


Lemon Butterfly


Blue Mormon - lQQk at its wingspan!


Common Mormon


Lemon Pansy


Tawny Coaster


Wonder why it is called as 'Crow'.


And this is a "Plain Tiger"! 
This was taken in a field near Chamundi Hill.


Blue Tiger!


Yellow Pansy


Common Peirrot


Red Peirrot


Common Emigrant


Common Grass Yellow - note the dark brown tipped wings


Common Wanderer


This is commonly called as Green Triangle - also called Tailed Jay.


A dead specimen of Large Oakblue.  It rarely sits for a 'breather' so to say.  As such I could manage only that!


Common Five Ring  - it is a small butterfly

I wondered what this butterfly - a Common Baron was doing in the mud. Observe its green glowing proboscis pictured below.




 Later I learnt that it was 'mud-puddling'.  

On sunny days after a rain, you may see butterflies gathering around the edges of mud puddles. What could they be doing?
Here is what:
Butterflies get most of their nutrition from flower nectar. Though rich in sugar, nectar lacks some important nutrients the butterflies need for reproduction. For those, butterflies visit puddles.

By sipping moisture from mud puddles, butterflies take in salts and minerals from the soil. This behavior is called puddling, and is mostly seen in male butterflies. That's because males incorporate those extra salts and minerals into their sperm.

When butterflies mate, the nutrients are transferred to the female through the sperm. These extra salts and minerals improve the viability of the female's eggs, increasing the couple's chances of passing on their genes to another generation.

Isn't it interesting?



I've more images in this web album.  Please do see.


Separate album for moths - 28 images as of now.
https://picasaweb.google.com/dinakar58/MothsUpload?authuser=0&feat=directlink



Caterpillars are sorted here, but many are not yet identified.
https://picasaweb.google.com/dinakar58/CaterpillarsUpl?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCL7Dtr6Y0e6XLA&feat=directlink


Young nature-lovers like Abhijna Desai can be an inspiration.  In fact, she has helped in identification of a few butterflies!


Friday, August 5, 2011

About Pencils

THIS BLOGPOST CAN CHANGE THE WAY YOU LOOK AT A PENCIL HEREAFTER BECAUSE 
Note: You can click on pictures to have an enlarged view.  
Changed text colour indicates a hyperlink . 
 Do not miss them.


As young kids we yearned to get promoted from the slate and chalk (baLapa) level to the pencil and paper level.  The newer generation urban kids begin with the latter and they may not even be aware of the slate and baLapa though they know the blackboard in schools.  There used to be a 'slate baLapa' in the form of a pencil!  I used to write with this one in the early 60s (pictured below).  See the mark 'Slate' on it.  The slate chalks were in different qualities. The best was called 'BeNNe BaLapa' (butter) because it wrote smoothly without that irritating scratch on the slate!  Slate was also of stone and later, tin sheet painted black.


The pencil was one of the most fought for item among school-going brothers or sisters at home.  Everybody wanted the longer or new pencil.  When I used to visit my maternal grandparents' house, I used to get attracted to the shortened pencils of my uncle lying in the shelf with his books.  My grandfather's study table also had a pencil with which I used to scribble. Those were earliest memories of handling a pencil.

In those days, we were bought a new pencil only when the one we were using was too short to grip.
The speed with which the pencil reached that stage was amazing!  Half of it would have spent up while shaving itself, because either the lead would break when almost done, or the poor lead quality made it to snap easily.  We demanded a new one when down to 25%.  Pictured below may be 10%!

Had we known this some decades ago, it would have saved many parents some money!  Two short pencils attached!

We found great pleasure in using the eraser more than the pencil! Pushing the eraser dust with the little finger while writing was an involuntary habit!  I think it holds good for all generations!  I'm trying to put together some old memories of the pencil and its great and inseparable friends - the eraser and the sharpener.

"Perumall Chetty Pencils" were popular in our days.  It was a popular company in Madras (Chennai).  I have managed to save one or two without the intention of saving them.   The bottom most is the 'Shorthand' pencil, made for stenographers because they have strong leads.   'Nataraj' and 'Apsara' also were popular brands.

Click on the picture so that you can read the embossed prints.

In about 1967-68, some of our classmates were bringing their pencils in beautiful oblong tin pencil boxes.  I wanted to have one too, but never knew where they had procured them.  They were so nice!  So I pestered my elders to get one such. Every visit to the stationer would attract my attention if a box was lying empty in his shop!  I was disappointed when he used to say 'it is not available'. In fact, the pencils were supplied in those boxes.  Finally one evening, I was lucky. He charged fifty paise each and gave me two, much to my delight. They are still in use! I was in 7th then. One pencil cost ten paise.


The inside of the lid.


I bought this Perumall Chetty box in the early 80s when that company was still in existence. I wanted to keep my painting brushes in it. 


The inside of the lid had this information. 


Pencil sharpeners were a little costly.  As such many of us used old shaving blades of the father, grandfather or uncles at home.  Doing that, we often got a cut on the index finger and bled, making most things difficult for the next 3-4 days.  That wasn't fun.  It was as if  to pressurize the parents to buy us the pencil sharpener - we called it as 'mender'.  By the time a safe, handy, durable, foldable pencil knife came about, we had finished our education.  


The mender was a great attraction to kids worldwide - they were manufactured in myriad designs. Shown below are menders at home, that are of my children who used them a few years ago.  Nowadays, a box of pencils carries a mender free!  




I found out that there is a museum for Pencil Sharpeners also!
Another link here, says 'The World's only Pencil Sharpener Museum'.  

Who thought pencil shavings that we dispose in the bin could be used for artwork?  Look here what Kyle Bean did - he created portraits out of them!  

And look here the unbelievable art from two Japanese pencil carvers, whose patience can be classed as bordering on almost insane!

Education up to the fourth class was with the pencil.  From the fifth, fountain pens were slowly introduced into the little growing hands after many kids chewed up the top of their pencils which was considered a bad habit.  I never resorted to it despite not knowing it was a bad habit.  

Above image is from the Net.  I never chewed my pencil, so ........ !

We also used to fancy pencil caps just for fun.  This one is of wood and the head shakes while writing. In our Mysore Dasara Exhibition, in the 70s, long pencils with a plastic cap shaped like small fingers were popular.  They were actually meant for scratching one's own back also!


The best feel of writing can be had only with a pencil.  Second comes the fountain pen.  I'm sure thousands, if not millions of pencil-users will agree.  The pencil has been around for a long long time.  Click here for some interesting history.

Writing with a pencil requires a certain amount of pressure that results in a good handwritten script. That does not come about with the ball-point, fountain, felt or roller pens. What makes it pleasurable is that melodious sound produced when the lead runs on paper!  Listen to it in that link - 27-second audio!

The pencil is even compared to life!  This information was in e-mail circulation sometime ago.  It is really interesting.  See here.  Someone went still further on that. Click here.  Truly inspirational!  

If you think the pencil is merely an instrument for writing, you are wrong. It amazed me when someone sent an e-mail with images of the art by Dalton Getty.   Click here to see amazing miniature carvings of pencil lead.

My great grandfather's eye prescription was in pencil - 1906.  See picture below.  I still have that pair of spectacles!


English language also has its use  - 'pencil thin mustache', 'pencil thin poop', etc.

The pencil is a useful size-comparing tool for many things.  Just show a pencil in a picture and it will avoid further complicated description.  I do this now (keeping the standard yellow pencil) to show the smallness of the tiny pencils that some pocket diaries included.  


Since a pencil 'wont leak', it can be carried in pockets in aircrafts and spacecrafts and can be used underwater!  If you want to see some more basic advantages of the pencil, click here and know!  But you cannot sign a cheque (check) with a pencil!

Carpenters and other job workers' must-have is the pencil.  When not in use, the pencil is just of the right thickness to safe-shelve it horizontally on the ear lobe!

Colur pencil set was another item we enjoyed.  This was the next step above 'wax crayons'.  This was the tin box that contained the set, bought in the late 60s. 


Its interiors!  The set of pencils methinks is the third and surviving - rather less used as I had outgrown it by that time.  The leads are so soft that we break them while sharpening and half of it is wasted and only half is spent for colouring. 


Here are some remnants of colour leads used by my father in his schooldays around 1930. See the wooden container.  Wonder if he used them on slate.  The baLapa was like that!



Nowadays, technology has grown and even 'water colour pencils' are available.  Just colour the work and paint with water with a brush to get that water colour art!

Coloured pencils were also used by students in college and by professionals for marking important paragraphs, lines or words.  They normally came in blue and red, red on one side and blue on the other. The tiny one shown here was my grandfather's.  He used it in his office for many years.  Now glowing fluorescent highlighter pens have replaced these.


These markers (below) are 'Made in Bavaria', which is in Germany.  They were gifted to me by my old friend Mr.Brown. They should be from the 1930s or 40s.


This pencil is an all-lead one. Bought at our Mysore Dasara Exhibition in the late 1990s. Wonder if this is a charcoal pencil used by artists. 


This flexible pencil is the silliest pencil I have come across.  It is long, thin and most unsuitable for writing, because it falls like a dead snake!  It was a fanciful purchase in recent times!  


A fancy pencil.  This is FAT.


Another fancy pencil.   This one is FLAT.  Or is this a carpenter's pencil?


There was also the copying pencil.  I did not exactly know how it was actually used, until I came across this link.  Click on this.  Observe the violet colour when a drop of water is put.  It is indelible.


After reading information in that link, I thought of this testimonial of my great grandfather from 1888.  It is signed by M.Venkatakrishnaya, the Head Master of Marri Mallappa's School.  I think the violet copying pencil is used for this.  See this link for the interesting process!  The methods employed in those days were incredibly cumbersome, but only when we compare it today!


The brass pencil seen below is my grandfather's.  It has provision for putting tiny leads in 3 colours - red, black and blue.  This could be from 1940s.  A Japanese product!  The second diamond shaped one has a scale and screw to push the lead out to use. The bottom one is from the recent decade - they called it 'pen-pencil'! 


Some erasers.  I always remember the incident related to the eraser.  See here in my blogpost.  The soft rubber was a real boon when it arrived in the mid 60s.  Engineering students were already using imported ones for their drawing work.  Ink erasers were hard and often damaged the paper.  I used it for my rubber-stamp carving!  It costed about 3 paise or so.  The small pencil eraser was 2 paise. The round one shown below is the 'typewriter eraser' (German) which an uncle gave me.  I was delighted when a friend gave me that 'pencil-rubber' in 1978. It is a typewriter eraser. It came in handy when I was using the typewriter for sometime.  That was the only substitute then, but now we have the 'backspace' in our computer keyboard!!  


Rubber-stamp carving - I learnt this skill from my classmate (bench mate) Shankar Nadig in the 9th class. His work was neat!  I was so impressed that I wanted to do it myself after watching him do when lessons were on in class.  I preferred to watch his work when he did, to listening to the lessons! His tool was the shaving blade.  He had broken it in such a way that it was like a pointed knife.  It was used for the curves and for scooping.


Below are two impressions of different stamps I made.  In the second stamp, I tried small letters.  I have lost both the rubbers, but these remain on books.


This is another I manufactured in the late 70s.


We never thought of how pencils got manufactured, though we used them everyday. 
  Watch the video, it is really wonderful. Click on link showing most of the steps that are undertaken. See how pencils are made at Staedtler, a renown German manufacturer.

If you want to see how many types of pencils are there, visit this Wikipedia link and get amazed!