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. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Visit to Cochin, MV Doulos, the large ship

In February 1996, I was in Cochin [now Kochi] with our club The Mysore Gymkhana for a reputed cricket tournament.  It was my second visit to that port city on the west coast. Shortly before my departure I happened to visit an old classmate's old parents just to inquire their welfare.  When I casually mentioned about my visit to Cochin the coming week, they were happy because they saw a chance for me to meet their son-in-law who was posted there in the Air Force which has a base in Cochin.  His two small kids and wife were with him.  I had met him once before when he had come to his parents-in-law's house here.  So I had some acquaintance too. 

My friend's mother and her daughter asked me if I could carry with me some garments for the little kids in Cochin.  I agreed and collected the bag before my departure.  I have always grabbed every opportunity to tour around the city where I visit and this was one such to visit a new place.  I could not do so on my first visit.

I will just mention, in passing, two important historical places where I also went, before I come to the Ship.

One was the St.Francis Church, [Wiki-link-click] which is the oldest in India, built by the Portuguese in 1505.  Later, this was where Vascoda Gama's [the famous Portuguese explorer] body was buried before being shifted 14 years after.  In fact, we played a match right in front of it, in the field!  We did so on our 1994 visit also.

Image from "Colours of India".

The other historic place was the Jewish Synagogue [Wiki-link-click].  I had known the word Synagogue from my stamp collection - in 1968, India had issued a postage stamp on this landmark structure.  But did not know anything more, until I actually saw!

20 p. Postage Stamp, to commemorate 400 years.

From the street, one will miss the Synagogue because it seems to like the other structure around, but when we enter the hall, we are transformed. Such a beautiful little hall, peaceful, colourful, decorated with Chinese floor tiles and Belgian glass chandeliers, etc.  You will see a glimpse of it in the Wiki link provided above.   

[Image from "Keralaeverything"]

I had taken our team manager, Mr.Narayan who was also my neighbour at that time. I was not carrying the film camera for tours.  So no images of my own.  There was just enough time for us to visit here in between the two matches.  In the evening, I was to meet the friend at the Air Force base.

Directions to reach the Air Force base was given by him when I rang up from the public telephone booth and Mr. Narayan was with me again, for company.  The bus had a stop at the gate and we alighted after inquiry of the proper spot.  We used intercom to contact him to announce our arrival at the gate, where he came all the way to receive and identify us as per security protocol.  It was a long way down in the campus, almost a mile to his quarters.  We walked.

My friend's parents had already informed them about my going there.  Some formal pleasantries, tea and some snacks followed.  His wife was glad to see me after many years and the kids were very happy to get a bagful of "new" clothes from Mysore.   After sometime, he took us to show his work area close by.  He was in charge of a helicopter.  He took us into its cabin and showed us tens of indicators and meters and the dashboard seemed to be all over the cabin!  Since he was the Captain, no further permission was required to take us in.  

He then mentioned about a ship that was docked very close by and that we could visit if we had time, which we actually had, plus our enthusiasm to see new things.  After bidding goodbye, we reached the indicated place by a short trip by bus.  

At the port's entry, we had to buy tickets to enter the ship. And we were one of the last few that were allowed in because it was already evening and their closing hour was closing in! We were lucky to have made it. 

 The name of this ship was Doulos.  [Wiki-link-click]. It was sailing the world selling books and docking at scheduled destinations on its journey.  We saw a huge and beautiful white ship.  I was elated that I was entering it.  Titanic was not that familiar to me at that time, so I thought this was really very huge and this was built in 1914, two years after the Titanic!  I remembered my old friend Srinivas who once had told me that his father had seen a bus in America as long as "from here to there" [showing a spot two streets far away!].  It was a very young age then.  I was now actually seeing something as big.... 420 feet long. 

[Screenshot image from Wiki]

Visitors were given this information brochure.

She was a freighter serving the Atlantic and during World War II she served with the United States Coast Guard.  

Myself and Narayan were on board the World's largest floating library and the world's oldest ship still sailing.  A neatly dressed staff in white, welcomed us in. We were thrilled no end.  Thousands of books on shelves and hundreds of people looking for their choices!   It was an amazing sight. We stood for a moment, awe-struck. 

I started looking for anything that would interest my purchase as the docked ship kept swaying a little all the while in the evening tide. I did end up buying a few books for my little kid.  Books were slightly pricey but when we read the brochure and the other information displayed on the ship, about the number of crew traveling, the cost of sailing, maintenance of the ship and things like that, we did not mind.  I observed that there was a large collection of Missionary books also, which is one of the intentions of the sailing library. 

When I remember Cochin, I the first thing that comes to mind is the Doulos and then the Synagogue because we could progress no further than the two matches we got to play.   Thanks to the bag of clothes, it took me to Doulos!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Dye and die

(Image from the Net)

Many dye before they die. Many oldies dye to look young. Some dye at middle age and also die at old age!

When a certain colleague was suddenly noticed with his hair fully black instead of the usual salt and pepper look, the news spread that "Mr.X has dyed". The pronunciation of that word is the same as 'died'.  So you can imagine the shocked expression when someone heard it!  It happened to a co-worker of mine. Another took it seriously and asked again to confirm the 'news'. Our small group was using this fun pun to good effect, at the dyer's expense!

The above illustration says, 'every gray hair tells a story'. The owner beneath a good set of gray hair produces a look of a person that has gone through a long life.  There is no set number to it.  Gray-haired people appear to be 'people with many stories to tell' or present a 'wise person look'. Sometimes I wonder why people hide these lovely gray strands, taking so much trouble, when the world respects them!

The words 'dye' and 'die' sounded funny to us making the joke.  But it was not seen as funny by the person who had 'dyed'.  Mr.X seemed to enjoy this initially but got wild because it was all about only his 'dying'!  One 'fine day' he gave a piece of his mind to the group and esp. me when he had 'dyed again'.  That was enough to put an end to us making him the scapegoat for this little joke which he did not digest too well because we had also begun to take too much liberties and was too frequent for his comfort.  The lenience had gone to the extent that we had started to ask him directly "When are you going to dye next time?"  When we got his angered response of "What does it matter if I dye or die?" this was stopped!

Some barbers give an appointment to people who wish to dye too. Some people dye on their own - something like suicide! There is a proverb 'A coward dies many times.' But many brave people also 'dye' many times! Some people keep on 'dyeing' all their lives!

The humour did not die but got a new dye as we found some other person who used a different colour (many colours available too), as scapegoat to have a bit of fun with this pun!

Read out this post to another for best results!

What They Deal - A Rhyming Poem

I am not a poet.  But I like rhyming words.  I observed this fancy for 'playing with words' while talking, from my former elderly colleague Mr.Nagaraja.  He used to break in with some nice and apt humourous words during a conversation. I think the fancy for it also rubbed on to me, a little bit.  

My attempts in composing rhyming poems on three persons was a successful one in our department.  I had brought out most of their qualities in them.  They were a hit during the farewell gathering when they retired at different times around 2000-01 and a 'scroll' of this was presented to them.

Later I was thinking about certain words and found out many that could rhyme.  At that time, I started to make a list of the last words you see in this poem.  I had no plan to compose such a thing and as can be expected, the words were rearranged and lines formed later.  I was happy with the way it turned out, including its title.  Finally in 2004, it took shape like this:

Learn while you Rhyme!

History deals with chaps,
Geography, with maps.
Botany deals with plants,
Architecture, with plans.

Literature deals with books,
Fashion, with looks.
Doctors deal with health,
Scavengers, with filth.

Geology deals with rocks,
Paediatry, with tots.
Photography deals with picture,
Carpentry, with furniture.

Palmistry deals with palms,
Beggars depend on alms.
Hotels engage cooks,
Police hunt for crooks.

Aeronautics deal with planes,
Cartooning, with lines.
Philately deals with stamps,
*Lalloo pokes in scams.

Barber deals with hairs,
Stock market, with shares.
Zoology deals with animals,
Law punishes criminals.

Postmen deliver mails,
Manicurist tends finger-nails.
Biology deals with life,
Dacoit wields the knife.

Astronomy deals with stars,
Mechanics repair cars.
Psychiatry deals with the mind,
We should learn to be kind.

* There is a line on 'Lalloo'. I added it for fun, because at that time, there was so much news in the media about scams involving Lalloo Prasad Yadav, Bihar state's Chief Minister. 

Spur of the moment poem

I was having a fully manual film camera that was given by a friend.  I had tampered with the focus mechanism by opening the lens unit, to see how it worked.  It was working fine and giving good focus for which I did hours of testing!  I had confirmed this by recording the distance from the camera to subject in a diary whenever I took a snap for one or two subsequent rolls I exposed. I was satisfied with the performance.  

This was the camera. The flash came later, given by another friend.

When I saw the print of this particular shot I took of my daughter, I was not surprised.  Because it was not a technical fault, but a handling 'fault', most likely an unsteady hand or an unfavourable aperture/shutter setting. I knew it.  In the spur of the moment, with that picture in hand, the following lines appeared as if from nowhere!

No, no, the earth wasn't quaking,
While my camera was clicking.

These things happen once in a way,
On any unknown night or day.

The camera is of Russian make,
But this photographer is no fake!

Digital cameras now 'warns' us for such results esp. when it reads lighting as poor, but looking at prints was the only way in those days.

About the camera, you will find in the first half of a separate post. Click here.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Father's Will Power

Picture from 1974 at his work, posing with a visitor.

Everybody has will power but in varying degrees. Persons endowed with strong will power are the ones that successfully wade through adversities. My father was one such as I was to observe a number of times.

My father never beat his two children, except only once. He never wanted to repeat his mother’s torturous acts in his younger years when he often used to say that he bled from the nose and even eyes.  It was difficult for us to hear it.  He had anger but had the ability to overcome it without probably suppressing it. His job was tough, taxing, strenuous and responsible. Later when he fell ill and used to require rest, his cruel boss was not sanctioning leave! Yet, he endured all that, what with backbiting.

He used to get light attacks of cardiac asthma around mid nights that used to make everybody anxious and sleepless. One Sunday afternoon in 1978, the severity had gathered momentum as he sat reading a magazine.  We had to call Capt. Srikantaiah in the opposite house for moral strength and for his car which would be the emergency vehicle to take him to the doctor's house.  The doctor showed helplessness and advised an immediate admittance to the Hospital as the situation was very bad. He was gasping for oxygen.  I followed it on my bicycle. My mother accompanied him in the car.  

It appears that he almost kicked the bucket on way to hospital.   Miraculously, he did not, because when the window glass of the Captain's moving car was opened up - it appears he made a gesture to my mother - the fresh inflow of air supplied him more oxygen. He turned round the dreaded corner before he reached the hospital, but was still admitted for further treatment for some days of stay. It was at K.R.Hospital.  I was so relieved to see him sitting on the bed as I reached a while after they reached, as I was on my bicycle.  He recovered to a great extent and resumed his work though not as before.  

 Again a year later, while in hospital, for the same problem, this time at Kamakshi Hospital, his complete body had turned blue. As if sent by a divine force, a passer-by doctor who came in to see what the anxiety was about, could find his vein for the intravenous injection and administer that emergency dose.  Other doctors present were not able to find the vein!  My father was fully conscious and watching the action around him! Within minutes, he had turned the corner. The doctors had told us to give up hope. But my father had not. Such was the strength of his will power.

He knew that an open-heart surgery for a valve replacement was not affordable and he was fully aware of his condition: that he would not live long. He had written his case with details to a relative in the US for suggestions and there was a factual response. Yet, he never seemed to be afraid of death. He was always his old cheerful self that hid his discomfort from others. He was unflinching throughout. But in 1981, he could not survive the stroke to his left side. Even in such a state, he was to exhibit his power that lasted just a few hours.

Perhaps the tough upbringing had to do with that will power, I cannot say. I also wonder if they are transferred through the genes, when I come to think why my cricket captains have turned to me in crises (and I seemed to relish) as well as why my sportsman-grandfather won many trophies in his time. Without strong will power people cannot be winners. I have always drawn inspiration from them.

Twinkle in Tricycle Rickshaw-walla's eyes

Picture by me, 2010, Chandigarh.

In 1987, I had been to Chandigarh for a cricket coaching camp organized by our employers.  The coach designated was none other than Desh Prem Azad, the coach of the famous Kapil Dev, the Indian captain.  The camp itself turned out to be a flop for many reasons, but I'll remember that trip for a particular incident that happened when I landed in that beautiful city.

Tricycle-rickshaw-pedalling (in some cities) is one of the more physically taxing professions.  Chandigarh's road network suits these tricycle rickshaws.  So they still thrive.  Squandering money on unnecessary things and quarreling for petty bargains is an old deep-rooted habit.  People that toil are not spared too.  There are people who avoid this mode of transport from the humanitarian angle though it is cheaper than their mechanical counterparts.  Let me share a moving experience.

I was traveling alone to join my other team mates who were from other places. I landed that evening in the Bus Terminus and had to go to our Guest House, not far away.  I had to hire a tricycle-rickshaw to reach there.  A few of them refused to take me to that location for reasons best known to them, but one rickshaw-wallah came forward with his quotation of Rs.8/-, which in 1987 was reasonable (others were 10 and above).  The natural tendency of bargaining made me ask for Rs.6/- to which he readily agreed and pushed his vehicle to the 'ready position', much to my surprise.  The short journey began, with me keeping the luggage on the seat and sitting beside it. 

Chandigarh as we know, is a well planned city whose roads having no gradients. But the wind that evening was gusty and strong.  We were going in the direction against it.  If anyone has experienced bicycling against a strong wind, he will know how it would be.  And this man was pulling me in the back seat.  I remembered the time in 1980 when our group had gone to Somanathpur on bicycles and we faced the same situation on our way back.  It was the same there in Chandigarh that forced the rickshaw-walla to get down and push the tricycle along which he had to do often.  They are used to such tough work as they live a hard life, but I was really feeling bad. I too sometimes got down and walked beside, to make it easier for him to push.  

Such a journey made me feel that the destination was far away.  On reaching the Guest House and alighting with my luggage, I placed coins amounting to Rs.8/- in the rickshaw-walla's open palm. Counting, he looked at me in surprise, because it was actually for Rs.6/- that he agreed. 

The rickshaw-walla was an old Sikh and white-haired.  His palm with the coins was still open in surprise, as he was giving an extended look at me.  He never expected and he had no mind to demand more.  I could see it.  I placed two more rupee coins in his palm and looked at him again.  His wrinkled face was expressing a pure and honest contented look.  There was also a beautiful twinkle in his tired eyes that seemed to hide all his other troubles, a sight that would move many hearts. Imagine the plight of such toiling people that are so satisfied with merely a couple of extra rupees!  How difficult life must be!  He slowly turned and left with a 'jeete raho beta' [may you live long, son] blessing which seemed to pour out of his heart.  It is a sight that is unforgettable. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Matchbox labels

Go to Google Images and click "Indian Matchbox Labels".  You will be astounded by the endless list of images and you will find an amazing array!  I also learnt that this is a hobby called 'Phillumeny"!  

Used in our home during the 60s and later, it was 'Cheetah Fight' matches which was very popular.  But I have not been able to retain even one.  The label was pasted on the little box made entirely of thin wood shaving and dressed with paper, including the sliding tray that contained 50 wooden sticks.  The label had a forest scene in the background of a villager with a sickle fighting a cheetah.  Later it was changed to a simpler logo of a fighter with a sickle held up against a pouncing cheetah. 

Matchbox labels in the 1960s and 70s were an outrage among the boys here who staked them for various games with marbles.  The loser of the game has to give the winner the agreed number of labels.  Due to its demand among the boys many small shops sold a packet of ten labels for 2 paisa.  Cheeta Fight brand was not accepted for games!  "Chavi" brand [key] was valued very low.   These values were fixed on popularity and scarcity!  The more scarce [rare] its value was higher. There also used to be ordinary labels of film heroes mixed up with the packet.  These were unacceptable for the stakes as they were considered worthless.  Sometimes these were found in the little packets tied with a thread when we bought.  We had no choice.  Invariably the one on top would be a very attractive and rare label!  So we fell for them only to find these hero labels mixed up along with other low value and 'common' labels.  We were taken for a ride and we knew it.    

Many labels in my collection have been 'won' by me, mostly playing the marble games with other street boys.  He who boasted the most number of matches won in total was a hero among the boys!  Counting them was great fun! Later when its popularity died and having outgrown playing these street games, I decided to put all the collected labels in an album type book.   A Rotary Club souvenir came in handy.  There was even scope for classified themes now. 

Googling, I discovered that there are dedicated match label collectors who collect thematically and I was doing no different. The only difference is that I have stopped adding to it 35 years ago.  I do not belong to the 'collector' category but these things have 'accumulated' due to my wins and also many I had purchased in those packets. 

These match labels have funny spellings also.  Observe as you scroll, click on the pictures to 'enlargify'.


Big matches were rare to find!  They came on match box packets. 
I have used my 7th standard notes for the album. 

Animal Heads