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!