Saturday, January 29, 2011

A pair of vintage sun glasses

James Ayscough made the first sunglasses in the 18th century.  He found that glasses with green or blue-tinted lenses would correct vision related disparities but his discovery was not focusing on protecting the eyes from the sun's rays.  Transformation of sunglasses happened when they were introduced in America by Sam Foster, in 1929. His new glasses were aimed at protecting eyes from the rays of the sun. He started selling his sunglasses on the beaches of Atlantic City, New Jersey, under the name Foster Grant. Sunglasses became popular since the 1930s.  Click here for some information.

Sunglasses were available in India in the late 19th century.  My then-30-year-old great grandfather had ordered three pairs, probably together with his friends. The year was 1898 when he was a Munsiff in Chickmagalur.  I wonder how they came to know of its availability with dealers in those times.  People do business nowadays on the web!  Imagine those times how they had to advertise, how they had to correspond with hand-written letters and how the postman was so important!

This one was procured from an Optician, B.Kristnaswami Chetty, Narayana Modelly Street, Madras (now Chennai) through a certain A.G.Thing who was Principal at Shimoga College, Shimoga. Three pairs for Twenty one Rupees!  21 was a lot of money in those days. It carries no  maker's name, surprisingly.  But I guess they came from England as many such things came from there in those days of British rule.  

Bill dated March 11, 1898. Click on the picture to enlarge. Do not miss to notice the 'One Anna Government of Mysore revenue stamp' to authenticate the bill and the stamp pictures Queen Victoria. 

The description of the glasses supplied is interesting to read. It is very precise and does not seem to miss any important specification!  It says: 

“Three pairs of superior smoked neutral tinted crest pillared half-crape side eye-preservers with nikel silver turn-pin frame”!  

However, the only aspects missed are the shape of the glass and the material used for ‘side eye preservers’ which is actually of leather.  Let me explain:

This is "smoked neutral tinted" (very mild)

Crest pillared

Half-crape side eye preservers (leather)

Nickel silver turn-pin frame (Inset picture - 'posing author')

My great grandfather and later my grandfather too used it and still survives for the 113th  year.  I have no idea of its carry case or box in which it was supplied with, but I've preserved it in my father's spectacle case.  

I have used it occasionally in the past, one memorable occasion being the bicycle expedition to Somanathpur (blog linked - click on it) in 1979 when my friends made fun of my looks.  But they protected my eyes from the extremely stiff breeze that we encountered esp. on a greater part of our return journey of about 30 kilometres.  

Sunglasses were not in such rage in that time as it has become now.  My friends probably likened my looks to that of a blind man, what with a panama hat to top it!  A picture would have been fun to see now, but....

The sun is always harsh in summer but I reckon that the glare is becoming more disconcerting in the last decade or two or so.  There was a great desire for me to get a pair of Ray-Ban which was fulfilled about 15 years ago and it was a major purchase project. This is called the Aviator model. 

(Image from the Net)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hotel Dasaprakash Chennai set to go!

In December 2010, a feature in our newspaper about the proposed closure of Hotel Dasaprakash in Chennai caught my eye.  I had to read it with some curiosity because the great Hotel now stands for sale to give way to a multi-storey residential complex in a multi-crore project.  The Hindu had also reported this new development two days earlier.  My curiosity about this was because of a strong imprint in my memory from 27-4-1966 when we had the privilege of attending the Centenary celebrations of the revered mother of the founder of Dasaprakash, K.Seetharama Rao, Ganga Bai. I can tell the date precisely because, three books related to some activities at Hotel Dasaprakash still occupy the bookshelf. I'll share a few memories from my tender age and also some old pictures from those three commemorative souvenirs (Cover pages shown below).

This was brought out after Seetharama Rao went to heavenly abode on 15.1.1968.

This is a souvenir brought out in 1963 to commemorate the Centenary of Moonlight Dinners! Wonder what they were.  Moonlight dinners!  How homely!

A souvenir from a religious gathering in 1965.

My advocate grandfather's client was one Murari Rao, a nephew of Seetharama Rao.  Murari had great regard towards my grandfather and he was like a member of our family. Since Murari was visiting Madras (now Chennai) in his car to attend that grand Centenary (of his grandmother?) all the way from Mysore, he had space in his large car for a young me, younger brother, grandmother, mother and grandfather. I do not remember the long journey, but it was a huge beige and brown coloured Chevrolet (or Dodge?) car.  I remember we stayed in the hotel room, know not which hotel, but it must be my first stay out in a hotel. Some of the scenes from the Dasaprakash and Dharmaprakash premises are imprinted in my memory and I found a few of those in those books.

(Murari Rao is seen here in dark dress)

It was a very grand occasion with a very huge gathering of people under a huge pandal and a stage, something like this:

The above picture could be of the same location from 1960.

On the stage was the Centenarian Lady in a chair, dressed in a red sari and many kith and kin performing the centenary ceremonies as per thier religious tradition.   

The great Sri Rajaji (C.Rajagopalachari, the first Governor General of India) was attending the celebrations - but at our tender age, we were totally immersed in our own world!

At Dharmaprakash I recollect sitting on the auditorium floor at the mass lunch where many dishes were served. As a young boy I do not know what and how much I relished, but I can remember the sweet payasam.

May be it was the same hall where we were served food and I remember Seetarama Rao offering the same homely hospitality in person, in similar costume - silk

In the evening, there was a band show where a stuntman did all acrobatics while he was striking the huge stationary drum.  It was breathtaking display. I do not remember if there was any music in that programme.

Before we started our return journey in Murari's car, my grandmother was given some mementos to mark the visit. A small tray and a box depicting the grand old lady's relief image are still chreished artefacts.  Also, a small nylon bag that contained some ten rupee notes as 'dakshine' (One Rupee itself had its full value in those days).  I do not remember the total amount but it must have been a hundred - a very huge amount even in th ose days. They were all 'rich gifts' that showed the much renown generosity of Seetharama Rao.  One of the pin-badges that were given to us has somehow survived the years despite its smallness. Picture below:

With all these seemingly uneventful memories imprinted, I wanted to revisit this spot 30 years later when I went to Madras when it was still named Madras.  A few years later it was rechristened as Chennai.  I was with my cricket team taking part in a reputed tournament and staying in some hotel within easy reach of Hotel Dasaprakash.  I and our team manager Mr.Narayan decided to visit the grand old hotel and have dinner.  I relived some memories after we went round after enjoying the much reputed dinner.

Note the cyclist who is not 'jumping the signal' as there is heavy traffic outside Hotel Dasaprakash, Egmore!!


Now let me share some more pictures from those souvenirs:

Hotel Dasaprakash was a famous spot visited by famous personalities as Mr.Seetharama Rao was probably the most-sought-for hotelier in the whole of south India.  Seetharama Rao knew most of them in person!

H.M.The Queen Elizabeth II once passed by it.

I guess Sri Rajaji (C.Rajagopalachari) was a frequent visitor.

Sir M.Visveswaraya

Morarji Desai, who later became Prime Minister of India

Who does not know Jawaharlal Nehru?


Morarji Desai again - he was famously very strict on diet (look at his plate!).

Sir M.Visveswaraya again

Dr.S.Radhakrishnan, who later became President of India (bodyguard system came into vogue long later!!)

V.V.Giri, who also became President of India 

Our own Highness, The Maharaja of Mysore, Sri Jayachamaraja Wadiyar (note the simplicity and homeliness!)

We have been his picture in the papers often in recent times.  Hope you will recognize this young face from the 1960s.

Our Maharaja again - is it one of his shining Rolls Royces partly seen on the left?

1938, Tea Party - Modern Cafe - H.H.Yuvaraja of Mysore

P.Ananda Rau was also a cricket commentator whose typical voice was renown among the audience.  I learnt  only recently when I was reading something in that souvenir that it was the same Ananda Rau!

This was at the Ooty Hotel Dasaprakash.  Our Maharaja is in this.  The Mysore Royal Family had a great patronage to Seetharama Rao's Dasaprakash and earlier, the Modern Cafe too, as many photographs that were displayed in Modern Cafe (picture below) when we stayed there in 2001 or so and again, Sri Murari was instrumental in providing us the accommodation for our family there - his generosity and kindness again showed as we did not have to pay for it!  The look of this building has since changed a bit and also the Street had become crowded with shops. 

Our Mysore Hotel Dasaprakash, is still running under the good reputation.  Hope it survives well into the 21st century.  The Dasaprakash Group has a great reputation of being a 'home away from home' to all guests, thanks to Seetharama Rao's leadership!  I show below only a few of the several messages published in the souvenir to testify the fact.

Click on the pictures to enlarge and read