Friday, December 13, 2013

Bombay Anand Bhavan Stores for Groceries

My fond memories of shopping at Bombay Anand Bhavan Stores

"Bombay Anand Bhavan Stores" was a household name in many Mysore families.  It was somewhat like a 'one-stop shop' situated in the narrow lane just behind Laxmi Vilas, a famous Sari shop near K.R.Circle. Provisions/Groceries [cereals, pulses, flour, spices etc.], Pressure Cookers, Thermos Flasks and whatnot were available in one place.  My fondest memories of this place are from the 1960s and 70s. 

[Author-pictured Nov. 2013].  I have put the name of the shop using Picasa.

The owner R.Vishnu Gopal knew my grandfather - from the Rotary Club.  It was first opened by Vishnu Gopal's father who I understand had a small shop in the late 1920s [may be 30s - needs verification] near the 'OnduvaraaNi Galli' [close to Olympia Talkies] before the new buildings around the K.R.Circle was built. Several customers had patronized it for many reasons for many years.  Probably my grandfather has known them since that time as his office was close by at Gandhi Square.  So it was no wonder that we too patronized it and because of the acquaintance also, my two maternal uncles were employed for short periods.

Pic from 1960s, facebook group. The shop was just behind there.  K.R.Circle is also seen.  Look at this scene from those days - peaceful. That 'OnduaraaNi Galli was to the left out of the frame. 

The item list would be jointly prepared by my mother and grandmother the previous day.  Festivals meant extra quantity. Since our ancestral lands provided our yearly quota of paddy [rice], this was not in the list.  Other grocery items were bought from this store because it also a fine reputation of supplying clean[ed] material. This monthly affair was soon after my father's salary day, which was the last working day of each month. It was a special day for me because it was an opportunity to go the marketplace .... peppermints!  The shop's weekly holiday was on Wednesday.  First Saturday after the 'pay day' was most suitable because father's office had a 5-day week and our school was over by half past ten in the morning.  My grandmother went with mother at times when she wanted to buy flowers in the market. I used to tag along.

  Many times, I would go with my father on his Raleigh bicycle.  On return, our two or three large home-stitched cotton bags, fully loaded, were suspended on either side of the handlebar making balancing a bit tricky for my father as I sat behind him on the carrier, legs on either side.  At other times, I would run behind my mother.  So we went by bus and returned by autorickshaw because the bags were heavy.  I used to carry smaller ones.

Bombay Anand Bhavan Stores was just about 200 metres from the bus stand.  In summer a refreshing juice or ice cream at the popular 'Phalamruta' was an attraction.  This was/is in Lansdowne Building [now under renovation controversy] facing the bus stand.  If I had any book or pencil to buy we went to one of the many book shops in the same row there.  Sometimes when we went in the evening with grandfather, we would ask for 'ice cream' there.  He would say "Okay, you scream."  But he entertained us with a visit to 'Phalamruta'.

Back to the grocery list.  It would be handed over to the manager of Bombay Anand Bhavan Stores.   He would glance at it and allot a person to pack the items. The man would browse at it too.  We had to wait till our items were packed ready.  I enjoyed waiting because it was a great opportunity to leisurely do my 'window shopping' [this was coined long later I presume!] at the showcase kept at the entrance where attractive stationery gifts were displayed.  The price tags were 'beyond our easy reach', yet I have bought a few smaller items of real need from there.  I have showed some of them here.  Read on.

When I finished feasting the eye at the showcase, I went back and watched our packing man go to the sacks or large metal bins where the items were kept open. The necks of sacks with wheat, rice, dal etc. would be rolled down to the level of the contents. A tin mug having an angular brim with a handle was planted upside down in each sack.  We could examine it before choosing a particular quality/variety.  The grocery section was spacious. A long wooden bench counter for keeping the packed materials and the weighing scale and weights separated the customer stools [wooden].  The manager sat in the centre facing the door with the grocery section to his right and the other half of the stores to his left. The grocery section had its typical smell, sometimes strong from the red peppers. When they were packed, the strong aroma would make us cough!

A suitable size paper cover [pre-plastic days] kept handy near the weighing scale, depending on quantity would be picked for packing an item.  The packing material was paper [old magazines, newspapers or school notes or books]. If the quantity was small, he very skilfully made a paper cone from a suitable sheet of paper with the blink of an eye.  If quantity and volume was more, he would choose a cover made from newspapers [usually by poor people who earned a few rupees from this].

Experience makes these packers develop a knack to estimate the weight of an item visually and physically.  A near exact weight would be carried in the cover along with some extra in the tin mug for weighing. After weighing, the packet would be tied with a thin jute thread. This jute thread roll was hung from a rope tied to a hook in  the roof rafter, just a few feet up.  It was great fun to watch the roll dancing and wobbling as thread was drawn. The thread was strong, but could be snapped with just a bit of effort and knack.  After winding the packet he would snap and twist the two ends that stayed put like a knot, but not a knot!  So at home, it was easily unwound.  Much later, they resorted to adhesive tape and staple pins.  The tin mug with any contents would be replaced in its sack.  If the mug was empty and there was no need to go the sacks again, he would toss it over a few feet in such a way that it got planted in the grocery with a thrilling sound! Chhaak!  Like a javelin!

He would tick mark each item in the list as he packed.  His little pencil was always available on his ear. When fully done, he would carefully pile up all the items on the counter and hand over the list back to the manager.

I would stand watching with awe, looking at his face and the pen tip pointing to a figure on the list in alternation as he wrote the 'answer' besides each item.  Multiplying decimal weights was like drinking water to him.  There were no calculators in those days and imagine how sharp they must have been to mentally put a rate.  And how quickly they calculated! We at school suffered in simple arithmetic!

   Finally he would prepare the total, verify and re-verify to be doubly sure of accuracy, lest he lost his profit. There was one in a thousand chance of his 'mistotaling'.  That was the 'bill' and he handed it to us for payment.  And quite by habit and wont, my mother would again check through. After convincing herself, the payment was made.

Now the manager had to confirm the items packed were in order.  The manager would call out the item and quantity and the person who packed confirmed it from the 'feel' and appearance of the packet [remember, paper covers].  Finally, the item count was verified, lest something had escaped attention.  He would place the items carefully in our cloth bags, with heavier and larger ones going in first, at the bottom.

Sometimes, the paper cover would give way in some weak spot or get torn.  There would be an in-transit, in-bag spillage.  When two different packets spilled, it was extra work at home, separating them!

The shop had roaring business, but there was no pressure.  Things appeared calm with a few people. So our waiting was minimal.

We also at times, went to the vegetable market close by to buy vegetables while the items were being packed thus reducing my 'window shopping' time there.  A separate cloth bag was ready for this.  There was no plastic menace anywhere which the black and white picture you saw above reveals.  It was a really clean city back then. The words 'carrybag' and 'eco-friendly' at that time had yet to be coined!!  There was no life in the market without people carrying cloth bags or wire baskets.

This post would not be complete if I did not recall Srinivas, the manager's trusted employee.  He was always neatly attired in a loose fitting white pyjama and long-tailed shirt.  Of very friendly disposition, soft spoken, smiling, kind and courteous, he was always around helping customers with various things.  If you wanted to know about any item, 'ask Srinivas' was the formula.  He was extremely patient and gave correct information or guidance.  He would ride his bicycle to and from work.  His route was our street.  When he went in front of our house and if we were outside, we always gave a wave of the hand or a smile in the morning.  At times on his return at night, he stopped by for a few minutes of informal chat holding his bicycle beside him, outside the gate while we were enjoying the stars or moonlight. No TV like gadgets!  They were the humble 'radio days'.

The main attraction in that shop as I mentioned was the showcase counter displaying an array of catchy items - pens, imported pencils, pencil sharpeners, rulers, gifts and toys etc.

Bombay Anand Bhavan Stores is where I bought my first 'sketch pen' - a fibre tipped pen - in 1972.  I remember not its cost, but it was a great thrill.

In 1974, I was to watch a Test Match in Bangalore [Click to read story].  I had bought a binoculars in this shop for Eighty rupees, a hefty sum.  It was kept in that glass counter!  Also, Eighty rupees was the rate of the ticket [for all 5 days] for the match.

In 1973, I had bought an electric toy motor for fifteen rupees.  I cannot recall how much the batteries costed.  This was to make a Motor Bus for my school project, imitating my more brilliant classmate I.M.Cariappa who had made a beautiful bus and fitted with such a motor!  My bus did not move when the Judges came to the exhibition.  But it was absolute fun, trying to create something with no tools except an old razor blade and my favourite 'black scissors'.

Another silly toy I bought was this. Electro-magnetic toy.  But the most useful thing was the battery holder which I still use. But I had made a calling bell from this, using the striker from our electric bell that had gone kaput. 

After I "fully experimented" [you know what I mean?] with the first motor, I bought another some years later... to make a fan!

This is a picture of Adinarayana Shetty Shop inside the heritage Devaraja Market where we also went for a couple of small items and had no time for the Bombay shop.

See how the items are stored here. As a tradition, he offers a piece of red sugar candy and a few raisins on a piece of paper to married ladies just when they have finished buying.

The shutters of Bombay Anand Bhavan Stores remain closed since the 1990s, but none can erase the memories of that wonderful shop.  Its typical ambience and the way in which they were business-like and friendly at the same time will be missed in reality, but linger in memories who had patronized it. 


ER Ramachandran said...

Great memories are made of such small nuggets! Thanks Dinu for a wonderful narrative of times that have gone by.You have relived those times for us thro' this. A big thanks.

Susan Hirneise Moore said...

I was 'watching' that roll of twine dance, Dinu! I was there with you, or so it seemed, as I read that! So cool. Great job! Thanks for the trip to the market! Susan

Amrit Yegnanarayan said...

You described it so well. We were regular BAB Stores customers. Your feelings as a kid are not too far off from what used to go thru my head when looking at all the objects thru the glass panes. One person you missed out is Mr. Gopinath, who used to be the billing person - handover your shopping list to him and wait for order fulfillment. If I remember right, he used to work in the railways during the day and in BAB in the evening. FYI, Mr. Srinivas was a philatelist. In the early 60s, Mr. Vishnu Gopal led the ownership management. He died early in life - heart attack. After that, his brother - Viji (dont know his full name) took over with Vishnu Gopal's youngest son assisting him. Wonder why they shut shop and what all of them are doing now. I also think the Anand Bhavan sweets (Gandhi Square I think) owner was Vishnu Gopal's brother. This sweet shop did feature in one of RKN's novels - dont remember which. All in all, a nostalgic trip without a doubt. Thank you Dinu.

kasturi said...

Very nice and great memories Dinu. Hope you must be having another great story to tell about "Bramhachaari Sukameva stores (ಅಂಗಡಿ ಬ್ರಹ್ಮಚಾರಿ ಸುಖಮೇವ)" inside Devaraja Market.

ravi said...

There is a smaller Bombay Anand Bhavan Stores on Sayaji Rao Road, round the corner from onduvaraaNi galli, isn't it?

Remember buying a few provisions in 2007.

I have heard my father lament about the quality of provisions in the neighbourhood stores and always refer to Bombay Ananda Bhavan for its best of provisions!