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.