Monday, December 17, 2012

Stray objects in food

The lady of my elderly friend's house I was visiting to meet a new acquaintance offered some snacks to eat while we three of us sat together for a chat.  All of us were cricket enthusiasts.

I was listening to their conversation about some nostalgic moments while eating little spoonfuls of the snack.  Since the plate was in my left hand, I was casually seeing what and how much came on to the spoon before it was delivered into the mouth.  One particular scoop needed a very close look.  I withheld to observe as the tiny speck was of different colour.  It was among the green coriander pieces, white coconut gratings, creamish vermicelli pieces and black mustard seeds. The shape of this very tiny rounded metal object was like removed lead debris from a soldering electronic circuit board.

It was nothing new to me because I am jinxed about finding weird little objects in my food plate.  

I kept my little 'find' aside and continued like nothing happened, until the other two also finished theirs.  The lady of the house had to be see this, because they buy food stuff from reliable stores and in turn they should be alerted.  Showing this, I made it clear about my genuine intention which she understood and kept the 'find' for that purpose.  This is an extremely stray incident.  But this reminded me of another stray incident many years ago.  

I was packing a few Parle Monaco Biscuits [click] in the little box for my kindergarten kid to be taken to the school.  We normally take these packed products for granted, more so if they are from reputed companies.  This company was established in 1929 and we were among the thousands of patrons across the country.  Call it whatever, either pure chance or divine intervention, I happened to impulsively turn one particular biscuit to see its underside.  It was a casual glance. Lo, there was a tiny, 'V-shaped' object embedded on the underside!

Several thoughts flashed across. What if I had put it in the box and what if it had got stuck in the little throat of the kid, etc. I thanked goodness.  I withheld it.  The object that was embedded was a worn out piece of conveyor chain belt in the factory as it passed through the oven and then for packing.  

I wrote to the manufacturer how a potential danger was averted and guessed a possible reason for the tiny fragment escaping into the packet. I also enclosed the fragile and crisp biscuit in an envelope.

After some days, there was small a postal parcel for me.  It was from that company!

Read a part of my letter and what they wrote back, sending me 8 packets of biscuits.

[Click to 'enlargify' and read]

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Graceful Gliders

Black Kite [Milvus migrans] is one of the birds of prey that habitats in our locality where fortunately many trees and some greenery are still surviving.  The neighbouring premise has a good number.  Some of these kites roost there.  Black Kites are easily distinguishable from their forked tails which are visible during flight. When it perches, this is not seen.

This is a shot I took from the balcony as it was perching on an end branch of the neighbour's tree.  Its wingspan is quite wide.  The picture below, taken by me of our tree reveals it.

Watching them do various things is a delightful experience, whether they collect large twigs to make their nests, fight for rivalry, chase the crows when they intrude their nest, perch on the tip of an electric pole surveying for food and even their calls.  I got to observe an unusual sight recently.  A particular kite was shifting its nest from the neighbour's tree to another tree at some distance.  It was removing the twigs from its nest and depositing at its new nest. May be it had found a better place and for cheaper rent!!

The best sight is when they soar and glide, circling and in pairs.  They keep doing this for any length of time, sometimes they go far away but return to view.  There will be others also higher up in the sky randomly flying, so far up that they are like mere tiny dots.  

This pair have been doing this circling ritual since many days and sometimes, I forget other things when I stand and keep watching them and engrossment at times takes me to a level when even the traffic noise outside suddenly seem to get "unnoised"!

They reminded me of Pair Skating.  It is such a delight to watch their very graceful and elegant movements. 

[Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images]

Here are a few stills I took recently of that pair of kites:

A video of another kite, another day. 


Friday, December 14, 2012

A Meteor 'Showers' Me!

The local paper had carried a brief article last week about Geminid Meteor Shower in December [click on Huffington Post link], but I had brushed it aside because of my earlier disappointment some years ago of fruitless waiting most of the night. In fact, I had got carried away by that news item to such an extent that my neck really pained, not to mention losing patience and valuable sleep!  Not one single meteor! 

This morning [December 14, 2012], I found myself at the Athletic Ground for the morning walk opposite Crawford Hall, as early as 5.20 with still a good 40 minutes for the sky to get the first ray of sunlight.

It was a dark sky after the new moon.  I could see Great Bear on the northern sky, Orion Constellation and Jupiter ready to set towards the west and Venus rising on the east. I am not an astronomer, but a sky gazer with only a few names of objects to back.

I had finished the first round and was walking on the track northwards, looking straight so that the path in front was visible.  We do this almost involuntarily.  

Towards the top of my field of vision, suddenly, I saw a bright blue glowing light, streak across the sky from west to east, slightly southwards. It was a meteor.  My reflexes made me look in that direction, almost right above me.  The moment I looked up, it glowed bright and disappeared.  My brain recorded its trail for a long distance across the sky.  If I compare the sky to the top half of a clock, the streak of light was from about 11 O'Clock position to 2 O'Clock position which is a long trail!  It appeared very close to earth as it was quite big.  I could also notice some cinders that quickly disappeared at the end of its tail towards my left and a few as it passed above.  But the time my eye turned upward, the meteor was at its brightest, before burning down towards my right. All this happened in a split second.  My eye and brain could retain that much of information. It was absolutely spectacular.
My next few rounds of walk was filled with this excitement.  I also heard some elderly man at a distance greet his friend "Doomsday will come" because that fellow had come early.  He had not noticed the meteor, or so methinks. But my thoughts were of the past, related to superstitions about Meteors or Shooting Stars, as I sat on a bench to rest, skipping my free-hand exercise. 

We were brainwashed about so many superstitions in our younger days.   One of them was: sighting a shooting star was a bad omen.  Deaths of two relatives in 1972 soon after two separate accidental sightings increased the fear at that small age to such an extent that I dreaded to look up at the night sky lest some shooting star was spotted!!  It was only years later that I could gradually allay that fear.  I was then thinking of astronomers who keep watching meteors and the likes!  In that case, what omen for them?  What about animals and birds that also could notice them?

This morning's sighting, I repeat, was the most spectacular one I have been lucky to 'see'.  There was no 'shower' of meteors, but this one showered to thrill to me!  I hope some walkers already there in the ground were lucky too.

Back home, I retrieved that newspaper to read the full article!  I 'googled' to provide the link in the first line of this post.  In the link are more pictures taken and shared by various sources.  Take a peek.  My description will not suffice!  I could only recreate using MS Paint.

A link from NASA, just FYI.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Radio Interview Circus!

A surprise telephone call one day in 2006 gave me some strange moments.  It was from a staffer* of All India Radio [AIR], Mysore, inviting me for a 10-minute interview for a series 'Ello kanda mukha' [A face seen somewhere].  Information of my being an ardent club cricketer with many years standing had been fed by his cricketer-friend* who was in a rival club. [Look for the asterisk at the end]

I tried to refuse the invitation, because of my very high and hard-earned reputation all life of not being able to 'face' gathered people, leave alone speak, despite this one being different.  The staffer on line would neither leave me alone nor would answer my question 'Why have you chosen me?'.

  His friendly tone sounded really true!  He coaxed, but without flattery.  I most reluctantly gave in, but on condition that we must first meet eye ball to eye ball and spend some time talking to each other before thinking of the studio.  To me, it was an alien situation. So I thought that if I met the interviewer-to-be*, a stranger to me at that stage, would ease my communication channel.

Honouring the condition I imposed, he visited our home on two evenings, leisurely chatting various things over a cuppa, while he admired the old house and the ancestry.  He fixed up a time during that week for the recording for which I tried to prepare with some noteworthy stuff.
I must very briefly mention about our All India Radio studio where I was to go.

It was designed by the famous German architect, Otto Koenigsberger.  Sir Mirza Ismail [the then Dewan of Mysore] tours Berlin and witnesses the 1936 Olympics, admires the stadium and dreams of having such a sports complex in Mysore. So he meets Koenigsberger who also had his hand in the Berlin Stadium  and succeeds in bringing him to Mysore in 1939.  But the Mysore project did not take off due to lack of funds.  In the meanwhile there was a requirement for a proper studio for All India Radio.  So in lieu of the sports stadium, Koenigsberger was assigned with the designing of it.  He finds himself living in Mysore and in other cities of India for 9 years.  He visits Mysore in 1977 and AIR interviews him.  At that time, he expressed his pride that he still held on to the Indian Passport also  Such was his fondness and love he had for our country.  

Mysore happens to be the first radio station of the country [1935].   The name 'Akashvani' to it was coined by Prof. M.V.Gopalswamy, a Professor of Psychology at Maharaja's College and whose hobby was 'wireless'!  The interiors of the studio Koenigsberger designed is considered unique and perhaps one of the best studios in the country.

Two years ago, AIR Mysore celebrated its Platinum Jubilee. Its souvenir is a wonderful collectors' item.
Another link: The Hindu

I was now sitting in one of the smaller studio cabins facing the interviewer across the microphone, keeping my elbows on the desk, trying my best to relax.  The magnificent sound-proof walls produced the calmest silence and I could hear my pumping heart.

"Shall we start?" he said.  His visit to my house had helped him frame his questions.  He readied settings on his computer and started the introduction followed by the first question.  I, bla.. ..bbla.. blabberrrd ... and then stopped.  He checked for technicalities etc. but I was blabbering!  He started once more and continued.  My brain suffered frequent 'thought blocks' which were to the extent that he got fed up, decided to abort mid way and asked me to return the next day.

So I went again.  The previous day's bla bla.........bla had stood me in better stead mentally, having got the 'studio feel'.  He had told me that I could pause any number of times and showed me how easily unwanted stuff could be erased from the recording, using computer software!  AIR would have shunted me out, if this were to be 20 years ago which were 'tape-recording' days.   A mere ten-minute work spreading to two long sessions!  It was crazy!

Finally it was over, despite many 'aaaaaa's and 'mmmm's and pauses.  It was funny only for me.  I am sure he would have felt happy to see my back for once!  I was informed of the date of its broadcast which I also intimated to my close well-wishers and friends who were surprised too - 'me  speaking?'! Some of them telephoned after the broadcast saying and I knew they were telling 'it was 'nice' only not to displease me! 

Listening to my own voice on the radio was incredibly funny. I imagined how much time he would have spent snipping those numerous 'thinking sounds and gaps'. I called to thank him for the patience shown in 'handling' me.  I also begged an apology.  As 'his' memento, he gave me a CD with the recording of that programme.  I was not aware of a token remuneration too!

Thank goodness it was not a live broadcast!
*  Click to see who the 'informer' and my interviewer were:
Informer. [Presently Editor of the popular Outlook magazine]
Interviewer. [Presently with AIR Madikeri]

Both of them will turn out to be famous personalities in the near future itself.

I am coming back to the post to add the widget for the audio.  Listen to the first 5 minutes of the interview. It is in Kannada language.  I finally was able to make it using 'audacity' a simple free software which my friend Krishna Rao showed me.

Click here to continue to listen to the remaining part... now it becomes complete:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

To travel thrice for the same thing!

Representing the employer in sports is a privilege I have proudly enjoyed for decades. On one such official intimation for a cricket tournament, I landed in Hyderabad, all prepared.  There was a weird 'air' when the autorickshaw dropped me at the gate of the campus and guest house.  Something was amiss that morning. 

We are used to be welcomed by a banner near the entrance gate announcing the tournament.  Walking down to the guest house with the luggage, I wondered why there was nothing.  When I told the man at the reception my purpose of coming, he was surprised!  He knew nothing.  "What tournament?".  But he gave me a room to keep my luggage and to freshen up after a tedious night's bus journey that had lasted 17 hours.  Also, I soon found out that I was the only one who had turned up!

After a shower, I met the local club's secretary at his workplace in the campus for first hand information on this confusion.  Dates had been rescheduled and intimated to the Board, but there was a bad communication gap.  The new dates had not yet been decided.  I had no option but to return.  I was carrying the rolling trophies we had won the previous year to be handed over to the secretary, which I did.  

By that time, a couple of team mates of that place came to meet me.  It was a really funny feeling! We had lunch at the canteen.  I saw no point in staying further and I wished to leave the same evening back to Mysore.  So, my friend Yamin took me on his bike to the Bus Station well in time for the 4 pm bus.  Luckily there were a few seats vacant.  So another 17 hours.  I tell you, 'pillioning' Yamin continues to be the most fearsome bike journey ever.  He rode adventurously despite traffic which in some narrow stretches were quite crowded. I was holding my suitcase in the hand and Yamin kept the kit bag on the petrol tank in front of him. Heart in my mouth and the one free hand gripping his shoulder I prayed. When he stopped at the Bus Station, he coolly says, 'that is how I ride!'

After a couple of months the new dates arrived - for November.  Again, I reached a day ahead.  This time, the usual 'tournament atmosphere' greeted me.  I went to the allotted room and joined my team mates.  It was a nice clear day.  A light practice session was done and there were hand shakes with some opponent team members who also knew me.  The next morning was the inauguration.  Everything was fully set for the annual event. 

Rain is cricket's biggest and greatest spoilsport. It started raining in the wee hours and that too, heavily, steadily and continuously   In the morning we players peeped at the ground which was close by and visible.  Now it was a lake, fit for a swimming or rowing event!  Forget cricket!  The neat pandal and dais were down.  We managed to have breakfast and tea when the rain receded for a while.  The sky was still overcast, in contrast to the previous clear day.  Rain reigned again.  There was no chance of any play as it would have taken a week for that 'lake' to dry up.  

Yamin wanted me to stay in his house which was close by.   I shifted my luggage on his bike.  We wiled away time watching TV and chatting this and that as rains continued unabated.  There was official cancellation of the event.  There was no way people could go out for anything. Roads were flooded.  The next day, it had ceased.  Yamin again took me to book my bus ticket for the next afternoon. 

He took me around the city on his motorbike and wanted to show the Falaknuma Palace. Unfortunately, it was a holiday for visitors on that day.  Since there was time, he took me to the famous *Salar Jung Museum which I had a long standing desire to see, more so for the famous clock because I had heard of it.  After seeing it I felt that the one at Jagan Mohan Palace here was the better.  

Once more, a new date for the tournament arrived, for February 1995.  Everything went on as usual, except the result. Our team could not qualify for the finals.  So we lost that trophy. 

I do not think there is anybody who has traveled such a long distance thrice for the same thing!


*I am tempted to add a little bit about 'Veiled Rebecca' which I had not heard of.   I could see from a very close range, the beauty of the statue and the skill of the Italian Scupltor, Giovanni Benzoni. It is a life-sized statue on a pedestal hewn from a single piece of white marble. It was purchased by Salar Jung in 1876 during his visit to Rome. 

Beautiful 'Rebecca' in near perfect feminine proportions appears to be draped in a wet garment, covering her modesty with the fully distinct 'transparent' veil at which visitors stand gaping.  The sculptor has deliberately left a blot on the right thigh of the statue, perhaps, to indicate that perfection is only for the gods. Not for nothing this is considered to be 'Music in marble'.

[Both images from the web]

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Beautiful Testimonials of Yore

A character/conduct certificate or a testimonial is an important document esp. when joining an educational institution as a student or as a teaching faculty.  It is also an important item for employers when they take in their candidates.  In recent times, the 'Character Certificate' is reduced to a proforma that is filled up and submitted after signatures and seals.   

In the earlier times, it was written by hand in full usually by the person himself.  I have a few with me from my forefathers' time.  Reading them is a real pleasure.  Just read to feel the beauty of the language used in them.  Click on the images to enlarge to be able to read.  For convenience, I've reproduced some excerpts in italics. 

This is from Marrimallappa's School, Mysore, issued by the then Head Master, none other than the great M.Venkatakrishnayya [also renown as Thathayya and grand old man of Mysore].  It was issued to my great grandfather, Mylar Rao [also 'Malhari Rao'] in 1888, when he left that school after teaching Arithmetic.  I handed over a copy of this document that has Thathayya's signature to the School in 2008 much to their delight.  He writes ".... He mixes with the boys like a friend, solves their difficulties and proves himself a very acceptable teacher.  Notwithstanding this, he maintains the discipline of his class.  His conduct and qualifications are praiseworthy."

From there, he joined The Hindu Theological High School in Madras [now Chennai] which he left in 1891.  It has the original signature of the founder of that reputed school which still exists today. I had the pleasure of sending the above letter and a certificate [original] to the school which they really liked, because of the signature of the much revered Head Master!!  Read my separate blog on this.  In the above it is written beautifully thus: "In consideration of the circumstances mentioned in your letter of that date, I regret to have to accept your resignation of your post here, with effect from the 1st Proximo, signed by R.Sivasankara Pandiyaji, Head Master.  

Mylar Rao had passed his B.A. at Central College, Bangalore in 1886-87.  R.H.Piggott, M.A, writes [1st October, 1888] thus:
Mr."K.Malhar Rao BA, was my pupil in English and Mathematics during the last two years of his college course.  His diligence and courtesy were always exemplary and he acquitted himself with credit in his final examination.  He speaks English with unusual clearness and accuracy, and his mathematical knowledge is sound and substantial.  I have formed a high opinion of his personal character and am confident tht he will prove a conscientious, popular and successful teacher."

J.Cook writes ".....from his very good and moral character, and gentlemanly manners I should say he was specially fitted for such an institution [which in fact was the one in Madras as above], and I have much pleasure in recommending him for the managers of the Theological High School.  I am sure he would be a great favourite with pupils and I have no doubt he would do his utmost to discharge his duties to the satisfaction of the managers."

Same J.Cook writes another: "...... He is a young man of good appearance and good manners and I have a very high opinion of his general character and abilities.  I have no doubt he will do well in whatever line of life he may follow: and I have every hope that he will maintain the good name he has borne in this college.  He has a good physique and was an ardent cricketer and a general favourite with his classmates.  He has my best wishes for his future career."

This was by A.Narasim Iyengar, Durbar Bakshi to HH The Maharaja of Mysore on 27th Sept. 1888.  "I am glad that I know K.Mylari Rao for the last 7-8 years [He was 20 yrs old in 1888].  He was drawing a scholarship from the Palace till he passed his examination held in the years 1887 and 88.   I have invariably been having very good accounts of his college life in which he has never had a single failure.  His behaviour and character have been exceptionally praiseworthy and I am confident he will prove himself to be a very useful hand to any institution which may avail itself of his services."

In this one, T.R.Venkataswami Iyer writes: "......... I had ample opportunity to watch his progress and character. He has a good taste for the subject and very fair ability and a habit of doing his work with great neatness.  And as for conduct, I have never come across a more well-behaved student.  I am confident that he will do any High School Mathematical teaching most satisfactorily and shall be very glad to hear of his securing a place."

In 1888, Mylar Rao was 20 and had finished his B.A.  He was collecting testimonials for furthering his career.  

This is a certificate issued to my father by Mr.S.V.Ranganna, the renown University Professor in English. [Click on letter to read, fully legible].  He was also our relative.

This one was issued by P.Raghavendra Rao, Retired First Member of Council, Mysore State, to my grandfather when he was looking for a govt. job in 1927.  

In those days, not everyone gave testimonials to all and sundry. When someone wrote one, it carried its weight and so it was valued much.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A chance sighting in the crowd

I was eleven when my father planned a trip to Bombay and he was taking the family of four.  Bombay was where my father had great memories and experiences in his work as a 'Sound Engineer' for the Films Division.  He would often reminisce and describe instances, the hardships, rains, local trains, busy life and so on.  He never got tired of them.  He never wanted to move back to Mysore because of the professional opportunities.   Only his mother's pressure to return, get married and stay with them brought him back, very much against his own liking. So eleven years later, in 1969, he wanted to return to relive some fond memories of Bombay.

We set about this train journey to Bombay from Mysore.  It was to be long and tedious.  Sleeping on upper berths was a thrill.  Ropes had to be tied to prevent us from falling down from the berth. Seats and berths were only wooden planks and we had to carry our bedding to be able to sleep.  It was a lot of luggage of four people.

We had to change trains at Arsikere, Miraj and again at Poona [now Pune] and we would reach Bombay on the third day!  Nowadays, a direct train to Bombay [renamed Mumbai] takes us in 24  hours.

At Arsikere, we had to wait 4 hours and catch another coal engine train to Miraj.  Then at Miraj, I think our bogey from that train was detached and re-attached to another train that went to Poona.  Then at Poona, it was electric train.  The route was magnificent and we got the thrill of traveling in numerous long tunnels along the hill route.  Two engines pulling our train was an incredible sight for me.

Now let me come to the subject of this post.

At Mysore Station, before we boarded the train, we had met a few members from the Somayaji family that lived in our locality. His daughter and son-in-law with their families with two kids were in Bombay and were returning after a vacation. Somayaji's son and his family was accompanying them on the journey.  They were also traveling by the same trains.  Since they knew us quite well, they affectionately invited us to stay with them in their apartment in Bombay and they really meant it.  We soon boarded in different compartments and we could not meet again in the journey. We Dadar Railway Station which was one stop before Bombay [Victoria Terminus].  It was about 8 in the evening.  

I cannot remember if the train was late.  There were a large number of people outside the station looking to hire conveyances. My father was wondering where to go and stay.  He had a few open options in mind.  But since it was so late, he seemed to get worried about his prepared options.  We had forgotten about the kind invitation made by the Somayaji family.  At this time, I could locate them nearby in the sea of people.  I showed my father 'there they are'.  When he went up to them and explained about his options, they just wanted to dismiss all that but to go with them!!  What a wonderful gesture! 

Horse-driven carts were hired to reach their apartment.  It was not far from Dadar.  Actually it was a 'flat' given by that person's employer and was very very spacious, located in nearby King's Circle.  The next 3-4 days, we had a great fun time, playing various games and running around the house along with the children of that house who had also traveled in the train. They were so leisurely and enjoying school holidays, that December. 

King's Circle was a landmark in Matunga.  It has now been renamed as Maheshwari Udyan.  Matunga was a very familiar place to my father as he used to live at Mysore Association [which is still thriving!]!  What more could he ask?  An ad balloon in that area was an attraction to us and visible from a long distance. We were seeing such a thing for the first time.  When we returned from our sojourns we used to frequently look at it as a sort of guide.

My father took us to a few places, mostly a few relatives's houses.  One Rama Rao who was with Crompton Greaves lived in his apartment overlooking the Arabian Sea and the Marine Drive, the famous spot.  He had also taken us to 'Malabar Hill/Hanging Gardens' from where Marine Drive could be seen at night, like a "Queen's Necklace".  I remember we had gone to Sion to another relative who had given this little toy/model truck. 

We had a taste of how fast life in Bombay was, even in 1969, esp. on local trains. I could compare the increase in density of people when I visited on my own in 1983.  Plastic items were new at that time and so we bought quite a lot of them. Some are with us even today.  We had been to the Bombay Dyeing showroom because an uncle was in that famous company.  A few towels we bought lasted a long time.  He also took us to his favourite Mysore Association.

We had not seen such fast moving vehicles on roads, that were beautiful too.  Such a one nearly hit my little brother when he tried to cross the road.  

The trip satisfied my father and probably it was the only time he took us together on a tour and it was to be his final visit to that place. It was a really memorable trip to all of us. We thanked the family profusely for hosting us, including our meals. 

If I had not spotted that family in the crowd, I cannot imagine how the tour could have gone. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

I could not fly a kite!

The Kite Flying Festival is celebrated here on a certain day during Aashaada Maasa, which is in June-July.  After June 21 Summer Solstice, winds are high.  Many festivals that have been designed coincide with natural weather cycles.  Kite flying was a very popular seasonal pastime in the 70s, than it is now, because more children enjoyed "trying to fly their kites".  There were no kite-flying competitions like now, but it was the enthusiasm that filled that week.  Preparing the kite was a major exercise.

Boys and girls would buy kites from petty shops that sold them for a meagre profit. There were cheap ones also that tore with the slightest touch, making it 'irrepairable'. I now wonder why they made such ones at all.  It used to get torn in transit from our neighbouring 'Iyengar Stores' that was hardly 200 ft. away!! This shop mainly sold provisions and cigarettes but sold these cheap kites only in the season. The butter paper kites were slightly stronger and costlier.  It was priced at 5 paise, medium sized, about 12"x12".  They used bamboo ribs.  I did not know there were stronger threads for kites.  All I had known earlier was the sewing thread in our sewing machine!  I would pester my mother to give a full reel of this and some torn sari for the 'tail'.

The knot in the thread had to be according to a certain formula.  If there was a minor variation, the kite would crash!  My street mate Ganapathi was very skilled in all these, including making his own kite. I tried to imitate him once, but failed!  He was senior to me and I would envy his talent at that age.  He would fly his kite from the street itself, despite all the electric cables whereas my kite flew 15-20 feet behind me as I ran to make my wind!  Traffic was not an issue at all then. When I slowed, it would screech the road and tear!  Ganapathi tried to teach me the 'knot formula'.  But my kite would crash.  Repairs were of no avail.

 The only successful attempt in flying my kite was in my  tenth or eleventh year.  It was with skepticism I went to the field [where I would regularly play cricket long later] that evening, also carrying a 'success story' behind,of umpteen crashes and crashes only and of course the 'sprinting kite'!  I had gone with a few of my street mates with kites.  Wind was favourable.  I asked a friend to hold my kite and walk back some distance as the thread unwound.  When the wind was felt he released the kite.  Presto, it was up in the air, the strong wind pulled it up.   Soon, 'my kite' was among the many that were already high in the air. What a delight it was!  It can be equated to flying an aeroplane at that age!

My reel ran out of thread with my kite at medium height, steady and sure!  I could feel the kite's pull and how strong it was, like a dog in harness walked by the owner.  I had to hold the reel firmly lest it slipped out and flew away.  A few minutes later,  unable to withstand the pull anymore, my sewing thread snapped, much to my shock.  It was not a good sight to see my kite fly free with the breeze towards the Maharaja's College Campus.  I ran behind in an attempt to retrieve it. It was a costly five-paise kite!  It fell behind the bushes near the building.  Just when I reached there, gasping, another boy who was there had picked up and bullied over me saying it was his and not mine!  I surrendered and walked back sad faced.  

Anyway, I had the satisfaction of flying it for a few minutes.  

When I see someone flying their kite in the neighbourhood from their rooftops, I get into that nostalgia.

Spot the two kites happily up in the sky!  We would envy those who could fly their kites vertical with that 'secret knot formula'!

A kite caught in the neighbour's tree after it had snapped like mine!

Another with the same fate.

I could never fly a kite, but I could spot flying kites!

If a Cell Phone was in my pocket

After the 24-hour journey, our train reached Pune on time.  I was traveling alone and was to join the other members of our cricket team who had already reached, a day ahead.  The hosts had confirmed my pick up from the Railway Station.  

I alighted and went to the exit expecting a representative or a familiar person for the pick up. But none were seen.  Myriad thoughts fly when something expected does not happen.  What if there was a delay from their side?  Had someone already come and gone back? Was there another exit where someone might have been waiting?  Should I hire a vehicle?  Were they able to send the vehicle for me at all?  Etc.  The Guest House was about 4-5 kms. away.

With these thoughts, I spent 15-20 minutes.  Suddenly I could also link another possibility.   During the journey, a co-passenger was reading that day's paper where there was a mention of some civic agitation in Pune city that day.  Was it having any bearing on my reaching the Guest House and a vehicle not sent?

In the absence of a cell phone in my pocket and in a bid to contact my friend who was also in the transport committee, I looked around for public telephones at the station.  I had seen many of them during my previous visit to that station some years ago.   There were none now.  On inquiry, a policeman on duty told me that they had all been removed and added that most of the people have mobile phones these days.  He showed me a row of shops where a public telephone booth was. It was outside the station premises, across the busy road. Going there with my luggage was tough. 

It was now well over 40 minutes since I had alighted.  It was time for desperate steps.  The situation was crying for a cell phone!

In the meanwhile I had been observing an elderly man.  He seemed to be leisurely and his body language spoke about 'waiting for someone'.  Expectedly, he was wielding his mobile phone as if waiting for some call. I approached him and briefed about my plight.  Smilingly he agreed to call my friend from his mobile.  He dialed the number which I dictated from my little phone book. Tap, tap tap.... tring.... hello!  I told my friend about my waiting.  He cleared the air saying that indeed there was a problem in sending the vehicle for me and that I must come on my own.   

That stranger had been waiting for his wife to arrive in another train which was running late.  I thanked him profusely for helping me call from his mobile phone.  I reached the Guest House in an autorickshaw in ten minutes!

A cell phone in my own pocket would have avoided confusion but I am one among the minority who are 'mobileless'.  More than me, my friends want me to carry one of my own!  There is a serious procrastination on this.  Many of my friends' eyebrows shoot up when they ask for 'my cell number'!   "I'm still immobile" is my answer!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Emotional letters of 1918

Old letters are fascinating to read. It takes us back in time. Many of them have survived with us from 3 generations due to the fact that an old almirah lay locked for 25 years after the house shift in 1950.  I used my spare time to open that and see its contents.  My interest in stamp collecting took me to this 'dusty treasure house'.  Among old books and various other brittle papers I got to find umpteen letters from around 1890 onward bundled up.   In the bargain, I found quite a few postage stamps too on those envelopes.  I carefully opened a few letters in their little envelopes to read them.  It took me back in the time machine.  The language was stunningly simple and beautiful, no fancy words or nothing unnecessary.  All straight to the point.  

Long later, I was reading more carefully and enjoying them.  Some were written and mailed by others to my great grandfather, Mylar Rao who was posted out of Mysore on his govt. job.  His elder brother frequently wrote to him to update on their family matters.  I came to know how much struggle they had to put in to sustain their families. There were various post cards, picture post cards, greeting cards, cards from the Palace, etc.  It was a paper treasure!

Among those letters were a few of them esp. by one C.Srikantia, who was my great grandfather's son-in-law, married to Thungamma in about 1918.  Their wedded life was cut very short by Fate as illness had taken Thungamma away.  When I got to read esp. one letter written by Srikantia to his father-in-law, it was a moving experience.  All his true emotions and deep feelings from his heart is poured on to paper about how he missed his beloved wife.  The way he does it and in such clarity is simply astonishing. 

When my young blogger friend Lakshmi Bharadwaj, already an author of a couple of books, [click to read her post] visited us recently, I had mentioned about it since she loves old things esp. those 'readable' ones.  She was so very impressed by the whole 'picture' from 1918 that she blogged about it.  Click to enlarge and read Srikantia's letter - 4 pages.  One more page has gone missing.  I will not write in detail about its content because Lakshmi has done it beautifully in her own inimitable style that only she can. 

Again he wrote in 1919 how he felt... just in passing this time - notice the first line in page 2. 

Then there are two particular letters about the same tragedy sympathizing my great grandfather about his bereavement.  One was from the Dewan of Mysore.  

The other was from the Yuvaraja [Crown Prince] Sri Kanteerava Narasimharaja Wadiyar, the brother of the Mysore King.  He sympathizes giving examples from the "Gita" and a quote from Tennyson. 

I will reproduce it here because it is definitely worth a read:

26.10.1918, on his Mysore Palace letterhead.
My dear Mr.Mylar Rao, I am deeply grieved to hear of the very sad bereavements in your family.  Indeed, how very true it is that misfortune never comes singly.  You have been no doubt hit very hard by the cruel hand of Fate and I sincerely pray to Him to give you the strength wherewithal to bear this severe blow. 
May I not remind you of what our all consoling "Gita" has for us on such occasions.  "For certain death e'er dogs the born, and certain death e'er dogs the dead.  Hence about that which none escapes it is not fit that though ___?__ grieve."  And also Tennyson says, "That man may rise on stepping stones of their deadselves to higher things."  These words are all I think is true as they are consoling and why should you not hope that your departed ones have faced the inevitable end earlier only to rise against the higher?  Let us have trust in the All Benign and pray fervently and you know what forces thoughts are and how very likely they are to materialize.
Believe me, Yours in sympathy, KNR Wadiyar.


It reveals that Thungamma was a very able, knowledgeable and a very affcetionate young lady and that how much everyone liked.   Srikantia was a Professor of Chemistry, who did his studies in Zurich, Switzerland and then went to Japan for further studies around 1925-30.  He was a great buddy with my grand father as they were of nearly the same age. His letters from Zurich to him are beautiful to read too. Srikantia later thought of an 'Endowment Fund' in Thungamma's name in the Mysore University.  I know not what happened later.  After losing Thungamma, he later married again and had an daughter.  All the three are in this picture [from a family picture].  The two other ladies [left] were our tenants.

Srikantia died in the early 1960s and I have a clear memory of visiting as a little fellow to pay last respects [along with my grandfather].  Our family was in touch with his wife and only daughter until they lived.  Many of the toys of that time [1930s], were given to us and they still adorn important places in our show case. 

A picture he sent from Japan of himself with friends.

A studio photo of the 'just married' couple.  

This portrait photo of Late Thungamma was given away to his acquaintances in 1919. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Royal Durbar Dress of Mysore

"Durbars" were held by the Indian Kings/Rulers to special invitees among the citizenry.  Mysore was among the great princely states of the country, ruled by able Kings. Invited to attend the Royal Durbar is a high privilege to anyone.  My great grandfather K.Mylar Rao, [click link for my post exclusively on him] was one among them, for his high repute in his duties in civil service.  There used to be a strict dress code to attend the Durbar.

When I consulted my Oxford Dictionary for the meaning of Durbar, it mentions "The court of an Indian ruler." 

To show how a Durbar was, I found this picture from the Mysore Palace Website. Observe the elite men in 'Durbar attire' and the King seated in the centre at the far end.  

Dresses were made in two combinations and they were given by the Palace authority itself.  Black coat and white pant; brown coat and cream colour pant.  The decoration and ornate work on the dress as well as width of gold lining on the turban was proportionate to the status of the wearer.  The more ornate, higher the status.  

Here are some old pictures we had at home, all framed up in those days, but I 'deframed' them into an album!

T.Ananda Rao, the then Dewan of Mysore in Royal Durbar Dress posing in front of Sir James Gordon statue [only part of the pedestal is visible] opposite District Offices.  He was Dewan from 1909 - 1912.  Dewan means a 'regional prime minister'.  It was a respected post. 

Another picture presumably taken on the same day as the first.  Here he poses with others in front of Sir James Gordon statue opposite District Offices.

T.Ananda Rao, sitting centre with others in Durbar dress.   Lavish work on Ananda Rao's dress can be noticed.

Now let me show the dress Mylar Rao wore.  It was the brown-cream combo.  In all probabilities, these were from the mid 1920s period. 

The pant's side liner has been removed.  In lieu of the turban, I've kept my father's "makmal topi" from the 1920s (now withering away). My father used to wear that cap when he was a young boy.  From the shortness of the trousers, length of the sleeves and the 'long coat' themselves, I can judge that I am taller my forefather.

Intricate work on the collar.

Intricate craftsmanship at the cuffs. This is the close-up.

Decorated cuff.

A button on the lovely woolen coat whose texture is simply superb.  Best quality materials and specialized workmen were involved in the dress' immaculate making.  Just looking at the stitches itself will give pleasure. It used to be wrapped up in a cotton cloth and preserved. Napthalene balls were put in the trunk often. As such, there is absolutely no attack by silverfish etc.  I notice a couple of missing buttons. 

My friend Vinay "Royal Mysore Walks" is already popular now.  He brought the Durbar Dress out of 'nowhere' to display the traditional royal grandeur of Mysore for the 2012 Dasara Season.  He is seen with the customers at Devaraja Market.  Picture from his facebook page.