Thursday, July 18, 2013

I found my friend Mahabala

Our street - Devaparthiva Road - was in two parts divided by Vani Vilas Road. Our house was on the southern side of it.  Street boys usually found their play mates on their side of the street where their houses were.  In the bygone 'pre-TV' and sparse traffic decades, most boys and girls were found playing on the footpaths and roads during evenings.  Only an occasional scooter or cyclist passing by interrupted our games.  

Seldom did the southern and northern side children crossed over for play on a regular basis, but there were exceptions. I sometimes used to go near the Peepal Tree [Saced Fig/Ashwatha] at the northern end where many boys gathered to play various games esp. cricket. We played marbles, gulli danda, hide and seek also. Some of the boys went of the same school as me.  But one of them was a [Sarada Vilas] high school classmate [1970-73] in whom I had found a companion for indoor games like chess and carrom.  He was 'Mahabala' which meant 'great strength'.  But we compared his stature with that of Bheema of the Great Epic Mahabharata. Bheema was a great virtue of strength and a gigantic personality. But this Mahabala was a complete misnomer, yet, was a bundle of energy and renown for little daring acts to rattle timid boys like yours truly. I sometimes used to fear him like he was the original Bheema!

Mahabala and I were separated by our future courses of academics.  He lived just 100 metres away, yet we hardly met.  I learnt later that after completing his degree [he was as intelligent as he was adventurous] he had moved to Delhi.  Years passed and we lost touch completely and I had joined work.  Then in 1983 I was to go to Jammu for a cricket tournament. It was a very long train journey and Delhi was on the route. I had planned the schedule so that I could halt at Delhi for 3 days with my relative ML Ravi who was also a classmate in college. Before going, I had collected Mahabala's address from his parents. When I told Ravi about my interest in meeting this little Bheema he gladly agreed to take me which he did.  It was to Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, a renown school of music.  In fact, those were days when even telephones were only used for emergencies and long distance calls were only by Trunk Booking which the younger generation can never think of now! My prior intimation to Ravi was only by 'inland letter'. So he knew my coming there.

After my Jammu tour, I returned to Delhi again.  Ravi took me to Gandharva Mahavidyalaya where Mahabala was learning music and also staying.  But to my bad luck, he had gone out at that time of our visit to the school. Disappointed, we went away on some other local sojourn.

Years passed and somehow, this little Bheema used to pop up in the mind many times.  His parents also had left that house. So I had lost hope of seeing him again. 

Bue one fine day in 2010, when internet had abound, I thought of trying my luck by 'googling' the name of Mahabala in a bid to locate him.  To my greatest joy, I found his site:  

I felt like Archimedes and nearly ran out of my chair as I was 'cyberslacking'. I verified from his photo shown in the link [also shown here] that he was the same little fellow.  Using the contact address given there I mailed an intro to him with "Your old Mysore friend - Chamarajapuram" in the subject line so that he does not delete this as spam mail!  I was sure it would hold him.  It had been more than 30 years since we had seen each other! My delight knew no bounds to find his quick reply:

"Dear Dinkar,
I cannot express in words how I felt to see your email in the morning.  I keep my blackberry right next to me with it's power chord on, so that I can see the glowing time on the phone.  As soon as I hear the alarm early in the morning, regular routine is to glance through my emails and to delete all the junk mail.   Today when i browsed my email, I came across your email and did not strike at first.  After reading first few lines, I jumped out of my bed (which otherwise usually takes 10 minutes!) and read over and over again.  Thank you for taking so much effort to track me and bringing my good old Mysore memories.  How can I forget those days of playing with you and your brother.  You were so kind, matured even at that age and spending time at your place was like finding peace and calm in my heart.  You wrote about the Radios in your house and I remember that there was a big radio on the window of your living room.  It was on always.  I remember your mother always eager to feed me food.  I do not know if you remember, we even staged a drama in your house and I was a comedian. The other attraction of your house was that big mango tree..............."

He was to visit Mysore in two months to look up his parents and what a joy it was for both of us.  He visited again a year later and we met again. He remains the same, but the Bheema has been transformed by his music life into a wonderful individual full of maturity and serenity.  He is a devoted Sitarist and has already many concerts behind him.  He intends to do it full time after calling quits with NY City Transit where he is for the last 20 years. 

Music is in his blood but before he gave any clues to me in our play-days, we went our ways for academics. Read the intro in his website and see how much he is into Music.

From the other side of Devaparthiva Road, I had known two sportsmen who were famous. N.P.Raghuveer, a National Tennis No.6 seed of his time, R.Thyagaraj, whose house is canopied by that heritage Peepal tree - he was a state level Basket ball player and now Mahabala, the famous Sitarist, a disciple of Pandit Ravi Shankar'sdirect disciple. Then there were Phani, Jeweller Ananda Rao's sons, Shankar, son of the one and only G.Sachidananda, the Hindi lecturer in the Mysore University, Sudhakar and brothers known as 'cricket team family' because they were 11 children, N.D.Srinivas Prasad, et al were all our friends from "that side"!

Thanks to the internet, I found this "Great Strength"! 

1 comment:

Kumar Sharma said...

Yes indeed, Dear Dinu, the internet has been doing wonders!
Lucky, that we are seeing the improvements over the past era, where even telephony was burdensome on the pocket of the middle class and the present seems to have made all classes techno-savvy and we can afford cell phones. I too have written letters to my friend Ravi (who stayed in IIT Delhi Hostel)or simply barged into his room on my frequent North Indian official tours in the mid-1980's.
Your finding 'THE GREAT STRENGTH' and the narration of your Devaparthiva Road Games with the playmates then, took me back in time when I too had a similar background of games played in our Vontikoppal 8th Cross. Chinni DaanDu, Cricket, Soor-Chandu, Bugri, Goli, Ball-RayDay, Kabaddi and another nameless game where we would throw a small steel rod sharpened at one end to get fixed in the foot-path grassy ground and go on taking it out and proceeding to different streets until we failed to fix it in the ground, wherefrom the victim had to Hop single-legged back to home-ground etc. Other games like Kunte-Bille, Kanna Muchche,Mallavandu Gillipo, Chowka-Barah etc. were popular too.
Good blog-post making me, your contemporary nostalgic about similar activities, though in this different locality of Mysore.