Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Roly-Poly Toy

This is a replica of the post titled "Upcycling a Roly-Poly Bell" I made in my 'Junk Unjunk' blog.

In the mid 1960s, my grandfather handed over Twenty Rupees to his 'junior lawyer', Srinivasachar who was going to Madras [now Chennai] to bring some good toys or play things for my young brother.  Twenty rupees was a substantial sum in those days that could have got some really good toys but Srinivasachar returned with two Roly poly toys for a little fellow who had long outgrown the type of toy, despite knowing how old this boy was!  What a silly selection from him, the elders used to remark.  Even I thought so at that small age! The dolly toys went up into the showcase right away.  They were only taken out and given to little babies for playing when they visited our house.  The above is one of the two surviving toys, and was useful when babies of our own arrived, more than 25 years after Srinivasachar purchased.

The bell tones from the toy as it went 'weebly-wobbly' impressed me for their absolute pleasantness.  I badly wanted to see what was producing those bell tones inside.  I held it up against strong sunlight with a hope of seeing its shadow in it but could not.  The two 'hemispheres' were joined together, but it was out of my limits to attempt to open and close back. The only option was to break open, as was my wont.  

My joy knew no bounds when there was a crack near the joint, after many years, in the late 80s.  It did not matter how it developed, but it was a great delight to me.  Since there were two roly polys, I did not mind breaking one to satisfy my long standing curiosity!  Finally I gave in to the temptation.   What a joyful experience it was to break open with my own hands and lay them on the ting-tong mechanism!  In fact, I wanted to see this from the day it came!!

Picture: Beautiful!  It is something similar to those from a jukebox!
The ring is suspended in the centre to strike the steel wire-gongs when the doll changes its angle even slightly.  Different lengths will produce different frequency sounds. Absolute melody!

Now what to do with it?  It would not work outside the sealed doll!  So I wanted to do something just to bring back those bell tones.  I found that a packing cardboard cylinder made a perfect fit to this.  I closed its two ends, suspended the striker ring at its proper place and lo, ting tong was back, albeit with softer sound due to the cardboard.  
Roly poly bell was now in a different shell! 

After a few years it was baby time.  I discovered that the baby was also attracted to this sound.  So I suspended my new cylindrical creation to the cradle in such a way that when the baby beat her legs, it was serving like an alarm bell.  In this picture [click on it to magnify] it is kept on top of the cradle in idle position. This is the only photo I have.  It has to be left freely suspended outside to 'activate'.  This was another project I enjoyed thoroughly.

Someone gave her a new roly poly for her first birthday and this produces even better sound.

I am again curious to know the difference in technology from the 60s to the 90s! 

May ting tong ting tong.

The beautiful and meaningful song ಆಡಿಸಿ ನೋಡು ಬೀಳಿಸಿ ನೋಡು ಉರುಳಿ ಹೋಗದು from the movie Kasturi Nivasa features this weebly wobbly toy.  See this song clip.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A sewing machine at home

I grew up with Rita, our sewing machine!  Mother recalls it was bought from monthly small savings my grandfather made at "Pattu Brothers", a popular general stores [opposite Clock Tower / Town Hall] whose proprietor was also his friend.  Many shops provided these small savings schemes to customers in those days. The machine had cost three hundred rupees in the early 1960s.  
Click on images to see them larger.

Before marriage, my mother had attended sewing / embroidery / crochet classes in the early 50s.  These skills were useful in earning small amounts which contributed in making ends meet, she being the eldest daughter in a large family.  I preserve those tiny samples she made as practice lessons at those classes.  Here is just one. There are many others in this album.
[Click here to see more, also crafts of aunt and grandmother].  See pencil placed for scale.

This is her certificate from 1954 for needlework and embroidery. She is very adept in whatever she does, even at 77.

I used to attentively watch when she was at the machine.  Most of the stitching requirements up to a certain level were done by her, be it repairing of clothes [of all of us], stitch her own blouses, petticoats, or pyjamas for my father, patch up torn pockets, stitch door curtains, patch up bed linen, sew buttons, etc.

There is no clear memory of me making the first stitch, but when I was 13 or 14, I started to sit at the machine taking waste pieces of cloth to stitch. I also used to observe our tailor Narayana Rao whose shop was just a furlong away, where the garments of male members of our family were got stitched. That is also where I made a strike of sorts. [Read here - Click] I had learnt to re-thread the needle when it snapped, to fill the bobbin with thread and to insert it in place. I had learnt the basics just by observing.

Some impetus in school [Sarada Vilas High School] also helped, in the form of one teacher called "MKG" [Gopal Iyengar] who filled the extra free period of 45 minutes [weekly].  Tailoring was his hobby.  It was his intention to spread the sewing knowledge among his students.  He showed us how to hand-sew, hem, make buttonholes, stitch buttons, different stitches etc. but not with a sewing machine.  He used to emphatically tell what he taught would come in handy in our lives. I have preserved the thimble which he made us buy, but carry forward the skills.

In 1973-74, I had made two pairs of gloves from thick khaki cloth just for fun to catch the tennis ball in my  home-cricket!  I dared to wear the ugly thing in street cricket!  But I got kicks out of just making them!

By 1977 or 78, I could stitch easier portions of my pyjama or cotton shorts while mother did the basic cutting and made the pockets or front opening.  They were 'drawstring tie waist' type [In Kannada it is ಲಾಡಿ].  The shorts had no side pockets and I could stitch the entire thing myself.  

Now I ventured into stitching my own half sleeve shirt.  If tailors can stitch I too can!  There was cheap cotton cloth at home. I took a shirt for measurement and cut all the required pieces except for the sleeves, which mother helped.  I found the collar and yoke to be difficult, but I managed.  The shirt came out okay with the trial-wear.  I made buttons and buttonholes.  I put it on proudly.  My fingers went to button the shirt by habit, but there was something amiss!

I had put the buttons on the left portion instead of the usual right side!  Rectifying this small faux pas was possible, but it did not occur to me at that time.  I continued to wear it with pride and felt funny every time I wore and buttoned or unbuttoned while removing.   

I used it for many days showing it off to friends who raised eyebrows "Did you stitch?".  My second and last shirt in 1978 came out much better.  I had improved.

Last week when I took up some tailoring projects, I found the remaining cloth from that length I used for my shirts. It was in a steel trunk. Here is the cloth:

Much later, in the mid 90s I turned two pairs of trousers that I did not wear anymore into two track suit uppers!  Bi-colour.  I had made two and enjoyed using them before giving them away to another young player who needed them.  I have also made several caps for myself [Click here for my blogpost] and derived lot of joy from using them. 

While a stitch in time saves nine, a sewing machine at home saves time!  Those who have one at home will not hesitate to vouch that it is one of the handiest things to have!  I cannot list out what all have been done with this machine and we know we cannot live without one.  

Following pictures were taken during the latest project - curtains, pillow covers, etc.

Some pictures from Feb. 2013.  I had made some small bags before.

A light is necessary as the eyes get older. 

A shoulder bag from my grandfather's cotton trousers....

Another pic of the machine.

Yet another from 2013. You will see something on the yellow thread roll.  It is actually the original screw driver which came with Rita.  I have converted it into a seam-ripper by filing the tip sharp. 

My paternal aunt whose crafts you saw in that album also knew how to stitch simple things, but due to her poor eyesight, someone had to re-thread the needle if the thread broke. The machine always occupied a spot near the window where good natural light was.  

My father also had poor eyesight.  Once he was repairing something one night and he came out of the room holding up his middle finger [I think left hand].  I do not forget this sight easily as blood was pouring out!  We were shocked!  He had accidentally put the finger under the moving needle.  The fingertip had sliced badly.  

In those families which have a sewing machine, at least one person must know how to take care of it and be able to do minor adjustments to keep it in perfect working condition, always. Oiling is a must.  In our case, there is me. It has not gone for any major repairs so far. Rita continues to do excellent work even after fifty years. 

My good gardening friend from half way round the earth, Sue is also good at suing.  
Read Susan is also good at sewing! 

Monday, April 21, 2014

More on Gluttons and Good Eaters

It will be easier if you read the post on Suryanarayana / Suri before coming here.  If not, please do, even after reading this.  [Click here].  I have linked him and the other eater in this post. 
Gluttons always draw attention wherever they are, even in comic books.  Gluttons need not be obese, some quote says.  Our famous character Jughead [Archie Comics] fits that bill.  I wondered how such a skinny fellow could devour so much!  There are people in real too.

And there is another, Dagwood Bumstead, in 'Blondie' which is part of the comic set in our newspaper.  He is shown as a person with extreme fondness for food!  It did not take much time for me to become a fan of Dag.

A 'gastronomer' is a connoisseur of good food or drink, probably like Bumstead, while Jughead can be seen as a glutton who has the capacity to stomach large volumes of food.  IMOHPO [in my own honest personal opinion] gluttony and gastronomy are rarely found in one individual.  But I am tempted to bracket Bumstead as "gastro-gluttonomer"!

In the Beetle Bailey comic strip [am a fan too], Sarge Snorkel is portrayed as obese.  He is another fine glutton and very fond of large amounts of food. He will eat anything, anytime any amount!!  Just the smell of food will have him rolling!  Click on this sample and read.

I grew up wondering from my elders' descriptions how Bakasura [a great devourer of food] ate food in large volumes in the 1957 mythological movie Maya Bazar [made both in Kannada and Telugu].  There were plenty of fine photography tricks in many scenes esp. in the song sequence 'Vivaaha Bhojanavidu....'.  See the following video widget.  It was screened again after many years, in 1989 at Prabhudeva Theatre and I grabbed that opportunity.

Sir George Bernard Shaw quoted in Man and Superman: "There is no love sincerer than love of food."
"Those who know the nuances of eating food will not have diseases", so goes a saying.  In Kannada it is "ಊಟ ಬಲ್ಲವನಿಗೆ ರೋಗವಿಲ್ಲ"

So much for the sundries.  

Now let me introduce our other fine eater, B.S.Seetharama Rao, also from that same timeline of the 70s.  He is also no more and lived past 85.
[I wanted to include all these in one post but the one on Suri ran long.  So I decided to split.]

He was affectionately called by all as Seetharamu and jokingly called as 'Aliya' only by my grandfather, which we also managed to call, as children, for which he would threaten to beat us.  He was a jolly good fellow we all loved.  Seetharamu's usual dress was a dhoti, a long tailed shirt and a towel on his shoulder.  He was bespectacled, wore a mustache and a pair of footwear which had tire soles.  He later began to wear a Khadi cap [photo in the end]. He was of average height, but solidly built, slightly overweight all around, not flabby, possessed huge solid palms, lovely thick fingers that revealed hard work, a robust health and a full voice.  Those who knew the art of eating would tell from those palms and fingers that he was healthy and a fantastic eater.  I got to discuss this point a decade ago with one of his sons during a wedding meal when I happened to be sitting next to him.  What prompted me was that he was also using the same technique as his father, using full palm and all five fingers to mix and to eat!  But Narasimhamurthy was not even quarter of his father's ability, but he nodded in agreement, delighted I could observe this in him!

Seetharamu was also a relative who had grown up in Mysore and moved to Bangalore later.  It will be an overstatement to bracket Seetharamu as a glutton, but he was a very good eater.   

A picture of me having a quick meal, taken some weeks before the house had to be vacated. To my right was where my grandfather, Suri and Seetharamu used to sat for the meal, cross-legged.  It was my place too when my time came. 

When Seetharamu arrived and a meal was in his programme, food had to be prepared for him in good quantity, but our daily-use utensils sufficed. When Seetharamu sat for a meal at our house, I positioned myself on the steps of our dining hall [there].  Two full courses of rice-rasam or rice-sambar whichever was made followed by the rice-buttermilk-pickle ending as a rule.  In all, three full courses was quite a quantity to imagine, but not even half of Suri's requirement. This may be an underestimation, but never mind.

I derived great joy in watching Seetharamu have his meal.  The manner was beautiful to watch.  There was an expression of satisfaction in every morsel he took in.  A little clockwise twist [I need not tell we use always the right hand to eat] of the fingers and palm picked up the mix of rice and rasam with rasam overflowing a wee bit.  That is the consistency all good eaters prefer and also advocated by Ayurveda.  At least half of the fingers entered the mouth to deliver in one quick motion before rasam dripped, producing a melodious and firm slurping sound as his eyes closed momentarily and he leaned forward to prevent excesses falling on his dhoti in his sitting [cross-legged] posture.  Suri could not lean due to the barrel tummy, so some small spills were expected.  I would rate Seetharamu better than Suri in style.  Enjoyment of eating was to be seen to be believed in both.  Unlike Suri, he ate two good full meals a day.  

 It was a real joy to watch Seetharamu getting satisfied after a meal, with a nice deep burp.  A siesta on a mat for an hour after lunch was mandatory. When he got up, coffee was ready.  My grandmother would prepare it for all. He would spend some time talking and leave when it was time.  Sometimes he also stayed overnight, which provided a chance for me to watch him eat an extra time! 

I came across more gluttons as years passed.  In my cricket team there was Prabhakar. In the workplace there was one huge barrel-like Vasudeva.  It would have been quite a match to see Suri and Vasudeva eating in competition side by side.   And then there was one Deo on whom there was a joke that when he went on leave, he would send a copy to the canteen to enable them to prepare less food that day, lest they remain unsold!  He was a regular patron in our canteen buying lots of foodstuff in one sitting, esp. breakfast.  There are also opportunist gluttons to fit another famous quote "Ever a glutton at another's cost." I cannot name them for fear of being chased away from town for this!!

Even after decades, I have not come across eaters as good as Suri and Seetharamu. But I often recall Seetharamu for all his other qualities as well. I sometimes imitate his eating style, just for the heck of it to satisfy myself. 

I was able to get this picture of Seetharamu from his grandson Mohan, for this post.  Thanks to him.

In this, he has lost his teeth and thinned down from old age.  He never missed a visit to our house even when he became old and came with a walking stick.

One great glutton, Suryanarayana

When I was very young I used to imitate the gait of Suryanarayana by pushing my tummy forward and hanging the hands behind me.  I walked 3-4 steps to complete the little show, much to the delight of onlookers.  Suryanarayana was a relative from my grandfather's side and lived in the town of Shimoga, 6 hours by road from Mysore. His physical profile was somewhat like my rough illustration.  He was tallish, having white and thinned crop of short hair.  I do not remember where or if he worked!  I draw this mental picture when he was probably in his late fifties or mid sixties. My memory timeline is again from the early 1970s.

He presented a serious face and because it we were afraid to talk to him, more than his imposing bulk.  He also had a sharp tongue.  His gait was no different from such personalities, with a typical sideways sway.  His gluttony [eating] was an important issue wherever he went.   He was the fattest man I had seen at that time, of course besides our own Mysore Maharaja!!

1967 picture.  My grandfather is presented with a trophy at Mysore Sports Club, by Mysore Maharaja [Sri Jayachamaraja Wadiyar]. No need to indicate who is who! 

 The reason for this post is because of a deep imprint from my younger days when I saw Suryanarayana eating a meal during a visit to our house.
I will slim at least his name down to 'Suri' for this post.

Except for very important reasons, informing of visits was not in practice.  Friends or relatives visited at their convenience even from different places as and when they pleased!  Social visits like this was a very common and normal thing.  Suri's visits were spread far and wide, but whenever he was in Mysore on some work he would always pay a visit to our house.

When Suri arrived, the top priority was to know about his meal programme.  If he agreed to have the meal, it was an S.O.S. call for the ladies of the house.  It also meant removing bigger vessels from the attic for immediate cleaning and cooking for this special guest.  In our tradition, offering/serving food to anyone, esp. a guest, is like serving God himself.

Everyone knew of Suri's normal routine in his house, of having a full meal 3-4 times a day.  Each full meal of Suri was equal to a full meal of three or four persons.  No exaggeration.  Imagine the capacity and that is exclusive of what he ate in between.

Our usual day to day menu consists of cooked rice, rasam or sambar and buttermilk, typically south Indian.  If no sambar, then some cooked vegetable.  When cooking was over the ladies would give the green signal.

By giving Suri my grandfather's extra dhoti he was invited "ಕೈ-ಕಾಲು ತೊಳೆದುಕೊಳ್ಳಿ, ಊಟಕ್ಕೆ ಬನ್ನಿ" [Please wash your hands and feet and come for the meal].  He would go to the bath room and change his trousers and wear the dhoti.  The widest plate available at home, a small mat and a glass of water next to the plate would be kept ready.  He could come and sit, wiping his hands with a small towel which was also given with the dhoti [both returnable!].  Someone would be ready with a jug of water in case he needed more, because, between some morsels he used to drink small quantities of water. As per tradition, a meal must be had comfortably seated cross-legged, on the ground.  It was also because with trousers it was impossible for him to sit cross-legged.
Dining tables were taboo in traditional homes!

  Just as food was being served to Suri's plate the elders would tell in Kannada "ದಯವಿಟ್ಟು  ಸಾವಕಾಶವಾಗಿ ಊಟ ಮಾಡಿ, ಸಂಕೋಚ ಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಬೇಡಿ", which is close to "Please have the meal to your satisfaction and be unhesitant to ask what you wanted".  Typical Mysorean hospitality.

The ladies would stop serving / building the mountain of steaming fresh, cooked rice in Suri's plate until he called or gestured 'enough'.  Suri would dig a hole at the top of the rice mountain with the fingers for hot and aromatic rasam or sambar to be poured, spoonful after spoonful, again till he signaled 'enough', as he kept mixing rice with the spiced liquid - sambar had vegetable pieces.  After he consumed this batch, another batch of rice etc. would be served.  Then a third time would be asked.  If he said enough, the last item would be rice and buttermilk plus some pickle.  Another great heap.  It was an unbelievable sight for our eyes.  For the ladies, preparing and serving was an experience in itself, for its sheer proportion, and also a test for their quantity guesstimate.  It did not matter if their calculation was more, not less. There were always someone to make it up later. A deep and long burp as he went to wash his hands indicated a satisfying meal.  

Suri having his meal here was indeed a grand spectacle, nothing less, one that I did not get to see everyday!  And one that I did not get to see many times. He did not mind us hovering around with curiosity.  He he was proud of his capability!  But some people would dread evil eyes.  I know not, if there were also ways to neutralize them!  That is why perhaps many people do not want to eat when others are 'watching'!  Talk about evil eyes, it affected me once and I am not a glutton. It appears that there was an old lady with such eyes who happened to be having lunch opposite to our row during some gathering in our house.  She was looking towards me every now and then and I did not like the way she did.  When my elders linked my upset stomach to her presence, soon after  I realized what those weird looks were.  It is inexplicable!

Back to Suri.  The abnormal volume of food is also a need for Suri's type of constitution.  I know not if that was a disease with some name.  His family had to be a prosperous one because, aside from preparing food for such a person, day in and day out, economically also it is a herculean task that can involve mammoth costs. I do not know if he worked to earn, but I know they were growing rice in their own fields.  There is a proverb in Kannada "ಆನೆ ಸಾಕಿದಹಾಗೆ", something like "Having a pet elephant at home."

We had heard of some of Suri's devouring acts like eating in one go a whole jackfruit or a whole bunch of bananas or 25 chapatis, or 40 idlis, or 15 dosas and so on.  Eating was his forte, a gift and a need.  It was not an exaggeration when some numerical was mentioned.  They were all eye-witness accounts.  My now-retired colleague Nagaraj used to mention of his own eating adventures for challenges in his young age to please or to win something.  He was also fond of eating, but never a glutton.

In 1974, my father had taken me to Shimoga.  We stayed in his house for two days.  That was my third and last visit there, earlier ones being in 1968 and 1969.  When I looked at Google Map now, several houses have replaced that heavenly greenery, right on the bank of River Tunga!!  Marked 'S' was roughly where that lone, old tiled house was.  Marked 'R' is River Tunga. Click on the image.

During our stay I was myself an eye-witness to his full meal four times a day routine!!  The kitchen [firewood/cowdung cakes/charcoal/kerosene stoves] was open almost 20 hours a day and the chimney always smoked!! It was a full time job for the ladies who took turns to do all the chores.

 Besides Suri, there were 6 or 7 other relatives living together besides his old mother.  He felt hungry very often and also ate anything in between those meals.  A siesta always followed the afternoon meal.  Suri farted freely in his house to fill the silence and as if to announce his presence. And he snored to serve the same purpose also, at night. 

I was playing with a couple of children near the open-air toilet outside his house.  The sight of Suri urgently walking with a pail of water in the direction of the toilet made me very curious!  The sounds that I heard in the next few minutes said it all!  *Smile*
Reverse gluttony was at its melodious best!  And Suri was ready for another meal. 

Long later I came to know that visiting the toilet [and performing well] as many times as we take the meal is an index for good health. I had seen Suri, actually on his second visit that day!

  He had lost half the bulk to some health issue during his last years. I saw him only once in that shape and I think he lived till he was about 80.
Suri was born to eat and lived to eat.

I found some photos of that Shimoga house where Suri lived and where I made 3 visits.

I cannot relate the names to faces in this and also know not how it came to our album.

Clockwise from top left: 3 boys [early 1950s] - no idea how they are related to Suri.  My paternal aunt with her husband, who was the brother-in-law of Suri - see how green the environs were [mid 1940s]. Cousin's thread ceremony in 1967 - that was my first visit.  See trellis. 

Same photo of 3 boys, magnified - see how small the photo is.  See trellis again. 


I wanted to make just one post, but now I have to split.  My second favourite eater was Seetharamu. Please go to my next post [Click here].  I will begin with a few sundries there.  
Better you read this and go there.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

First flight of our Mysore King Nalwadi

"I can remember from my earliest childhood, one particular photo in our veranda, hung above the door frame of my grandfather's office room.  I did not know for many years that it was an aircraft or the people in it were elite and royal!  I used to look at it often.  I learn now that this was part of the historic maiden trip [across the seas] of our Mysore Maharaja, Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar in 1936. This was on his first ever flight and taken at Croydon airport.  I still wonder how pictures of such occasions came here and in framed condition for display."  This is what I wrote in a post in my Junk blog, [click on it]  

Some details were required. I had forgotten the exact information which was shared on a facebook group.  So, I turned to my friend Sri Raja Chandra on facebook who happened to be online at that moment.  I got washed away in his 'info-flood', which he let out with his usual quick promptness, besides the two names I wanted, [Sir Mirza and our Mysore King Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar]!  

I thought of sharing that information here, which is among thousands in our Mysore King's grand life, because that picture was of him on his first ever flight, taken at Croydon Airport on August 19, 1936 en route to Berlin, Germany.

The following in italics are "copied and pasted" matter Sri Raja shared with the group.

Dignitaries in the [above] frame: D.N. Neelakanta Rao, D.S. Lakshmikanth Raj Urs, Rajasevabhooshana A.V. Subramanya Raj Urs, Major Nabhi Khan, Maharaja, Dewan Sir Mirza Ismail, Rajkumar Capt. C. Desaraj Urs, Lt. Col. B.P. Krishne Urs, Rajsevatilaka Col. S. Gopala Rao, Siddique Ul Mulk Sadeg Sad Shah, Dr. T. Balakrishna Mudaliyar.

After the death of His Mother, Maharani Regent HH Vani Vilas sannidhana and death of his sister Maharaja Kumari Cheluvajammanni in 1936, Maharaja's own health deteriorated a bit. To recuperate he was advised to go abroad. Soon after his birthday celebration, he left Mysore on June 21, 1936. He left with his entourage from Bangalore by Train on 23rd and reached Bombay on 26th. On the same night he left Bombay on board Ship HMS Rampura. Reached Aden on July 2. In the Ship itself a Pooja Room was provided to keep the Golden Idol of Goddess Chamundeswari and daily poojas were performed. Ve|| Ritwik Rama Shastry and Ve|| Nanjunda Shastry were part of the entourage. Reached Marseille- France on July 10. Left Marseille by train and reached Paris. Left Paris on July 16 evening and reached London Victoria Station on the same night.

Maharaja was received by a lot of dignitaries which included Lord and Lady Goschen, Major General Frederick Sykes, Sir Spencer Harcourt Butler, Sir Stuart Fraser (guardian and Tutor of Maharaja from 1896–1902 and Frazer town in Bangalore is named after him. But an ignorant BBMP has named it as Pulikeshi Nagar), Sir A. R. Banerjee (former Dewan of Mysore), On behalf of India State secretary Col. Neil & Sir William Barton, Raja Jagannatha Rao, Sri. Bhandarakar ....

It is said there were at-least more than 150 Indian students and the cavalcade took half an Hour to reach the Hotel Dorchester!  Even here he had a separate pooja room where the golden idol of Goddess Chamundeswari was installed and daily pooja was performed.

During his stay he also performed Upakarama on the banks of River Thames near Oakley Court.

A report in Daily Sketch dated July 17, 1936- Friday :

"No-8 Platform of grey Victoria Station last night looked for half an hour like a place where the rainbow ends.

East and West met and mingled - waiting for the Dover Train to bring the Maharaja of Mysore, one of the richest princes in the world on his first visit to England.

In the crowds, diamonds flashed from nose and ear; red and gold and green gleamed silken saris. The platform was scented like a florist's with perfume from garlands brought in accordance with the Indian custom of welcome."

With the Indian Olympic Hockey Team on Board Ship Rampura was Meher Baba.  His description on his encounter with Maharaja:

His Highness, the Maharaja of Mysore, with his suite of thirty passengers, including the Yuvaraj, was an interesting personage on board the ship. A major portion of his staff travelled with us in second class, but as they happened to be members of the personal staff of an Indian prince, aloofness and reserve were regarded as safe barriers for a common crowd like us.

The Maharaja and the Yuvaraja appeared to be very simple in habits as well as in dress. Often they passed hours on our side of the ship, gossiping with the members of their staff in Tamil, Kannada or Telugu, which were all Greek to us.

The Maharaja had left Indian shores for the first time in his long life with a view to being operated upon in England. Being an orthodox Hindu, he brought everything necessary for the preparation of his usual food, even the water of the holy Ganga. And, of course, his own cooks. 

Ten pounds of curds was sent every morning for our consumption, which we took in the form of 'lassi', the delight of our Punjabi friends.


Enough to know something of the times, back then.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

House Sparrow Memories

It is the 1960s timeline yet again, this time, about the then ubiquitous House Sparrows.  
Click on the link and read - it is in Kannada. Kagakka is a she-crow and Gubbakka is a she-sparrow.
In italics below is the English translation [thanks to my veteran friend Gouri Satya for this] for non-Kannada readers:

“In a little village, lived Kagakka and Gubbakka. Kagakka’s house was of mud. Gubbakka’s house was built of stone.  One day it rained heavily. Kagakka’s house was washed away in the rain. Thinking of what to do, she went to Gubbakka’s house and knocked ‘tuk’,‘tuk’ on the door. When Gubbakka asked who it was, “I am Kagakka. The heavy rain has washed away my house. Allow me to stay for a day in your house” said Kagakka.

Gubbakka replied, “Come after five minutes. My husband is eating now.”

After five minutes, Kagakka again knocked ‘tup’, ‘tup’ on Gubbakka’s door. When Gubbakka asked who it was knocking on the door, Kagakka replied that it was herself. Then Gubbakka said, “Come after five minutes. My children are eating their food.”

Kagakka returned again after five minutes and knocked ‘tup’, ‘tup’ on Gubbakka’s door. Gubbakka immediately opened the door and asked Kagakka to come in. “Where will you sleep?  There are rice bags, wheat bags, Bengalgram bag,”, Gubbakka asked Kagakka.  Kagakka chose the Bengalgram bag.   

After some time, there was ‘Katam’,’Kutam’ sound. When Gubbakka asked what that noise was, Kagakka replied, “I am hungry. So, I am eating some grains of Bengalgram.” Gubbakka asked her to eat without making any noise.

Kagakka ate quietly and slept. She flew away after getting up next morning saying thanks to Gubbakka, to build a new house.

There are a few variations of the story but this is more or less the same I had heard in my childhood, except that the ending was slightly different.  In our version, Gubbakka wakes up the next morning and finds Kagakka missing, so also the entire content of the bengalgram bag and to her disgust Kagakka had pooped a huge smelly heap after eating so much of bengalgram grains!  The story ended there and left us wondering.  We fell asleep in that wonderland and never questioned why, when or how!  The next night was the same story!  It was the top bedtime story in our generation. It thrilled us because real kagakkas and gubbakkas were an integral part of our neighbourhood.  By the way, there was a Subbakka [in fact it was novelist 'VaNi'], also! 

There were plenty of kagakkas and gubbakkas in those days.
In the evenings the racket created by the murder of crows [flock] to reserve their space on the branches was sometimes too noisy for tolerance.  We were also used to get splatted on our heads and shirts with hot crow-poops [crows were black but their poops were white!] walking under the roadside trees.  Such was their number which has alarmingly declined due to several reasons. The chirping of the sparrows in the shrubs at dawn was as pleasant as it was noisy at times. The cuckoos, sunbirds, tailorbirds and sometimes parakeets and mynahs also joined the chorus.  Good times they were!
It is sad that we have reached a day when 'World House Sparrow Day' [March 20th] is being observed worldwide and there are several 'Save the Sparrow' campaigns!  

Let me share some of the Sparrow [gubbi or gubbacchi in Kannada] memories from my childhood I spent at the famous 1100, Devaparthiva Road, Chamarajapuram [Pictures that follow are taken after sparrows disappeared - all the greenery were created by my own hands - except for trees].

Front yard. 

Side yard shrubbery.

Front yard - right.

More shrubs near the gate. 

Entrance gate.

House sparrows had thrived because they got their food by various means.  Hand cleaning of grains at home and throwing the bad ones out in the yard was enough for them and they knew that the ladies who were culling rice would sprinkle the broken grains for them. They roosted in the nearby shrubs and also made nests inside old houses which had roof tiles where they found suitable crevices.  We had a lot of shrubs and plenty of open spaces in our yard as did many houses, which they loved. They lived happily where they found plenty of seeds, worms and insects. In the olden days, kitchen waste water was let into the earth behind the kitchen where also a small vegetable garden used to exist.  So they found something there also. It was a common sight to see sparrows flitting here and there.  I relived this sight when we visited the Andaman Islands recently. See a few pictures down below.

Sparrows also controlled the small pests in the garden and because of them we hardly knew of any infestations!  We realized this only when they disappeared from the neighbourhood when the infestations began to ask our attention!

Sparrows flying in and out of the house was a regular affair.  We had not known of any superstitions of a bird flying into the house, both positive and negative. Otherwise, my grandmother would have amplified them no end! They had made a nest inside the damaged portion between the beam and the wall near the ceiling. They used to enter through the mesh grills or through the broken portion of the glass ventilator in the hall [picture below].

The sparrows would sometimes perch on those photo frames. That is the beam I mentioned above. 

  When our house was painted in 1970, the nest was closed with a piece of cardboard.  From many angles this nesting business was reaching a level of nuisance.  We had respite thereafter.  The invasion of concrete monsters and electronic mobile towers in peaceful old cities drove these sensitive little birds away.  Mysore also became a victim. Their number quickly declined when they could no longer make their nests when people started cutting away shrubs, paving open grounds and stopped throwing out grains in the open and old houses gave way to concrete ones. 

Sparrows still thrive in the city but in just a few areas, esp. the vintage Devaraja Market. Its old structure has provided shelter to the sparrows for all its life!  Their food also is just there!  The following two shots are from April 2013.  The blue tint is from the plastic sheet they have hoisted as sun shade. 

House sparrows are quite abundant in the world, but disappearing in many places.  In Switzerland they live happily.  While a sparrow enjoys the park the other takes a mud bath.

In the Andaman Islands, they are at peace, even in the Cellular Jail! 

These little birds foraging on the ground and flitting near our hotel at Port Blair brought back nice memories of those beautiful days at Devaparthiva Road.

Sparrows have lived with human habitation, but human urbanization has driven them away.  Many bird-lovers are making their little attempts to invite sparrows back by making bird-houses and spreading grains, but many experts opine that the proliferation of the mobile transmitting towers is one of the main causes of their discomfort in cities, being extremely sensitive birds.

I close this, mimicking the typical whistling-chirp of the sparrow.
Let's hope to hear the Sparrows chirping back.