Sunday, November 1, 2015

The 'Black Scissors'

Till the 1980s, my main mode of transportation was my Robin Hood, my late uncle's, an English bicycle which he had bought second hand in 1958.  Even now I use it occasionally.  It has a Lucifer headlamp [Swiss] and a Miller dynamo.

One evening in the mid 1980s I was to watch some cultural programme in the workplace auditorium.  Before leaving, there was a loose connection at the dynamo terminal to be rectified.  I had stripped the wire, rectified the connection and  pedaled off happily whistling a song, unmindful of what I had done before leaving home in a hurry.

The dynamo ['bottle generator'!], lamp at work and my Robin Hood. 

I was about to enter the campus gate when I heard a very familiar metallic sound behind me as the bicycle wheel passed over a small dent.  Familiar, because it makes a noise when it is handled or dropped esp. on hard surfaces.  Sound of my favourite 'black scissors' on the road, there? Certainly baffled, I stopped immediately.  The thing had fallen to the ground from the 'carrier' behind the saddle.  Very miraculously, it had stayed put all the way up to this point, two kilometres, despite the several vibrations our roads offer cyclists!  To my great luck, it had got itself tangled firmly on the 'carrier' behind the saddle.  That was where I remember to have kept it after stripping the wire sitting near the hind wheel. The little thing 'knew' how much I loved it and never wanted to leave me, so it seemed to call my attention by falling with a tinkle!  It was quite unusual of me to have not kept it back its place on my desk after finishing the job.  

The overwhelming relief I got on finding it and that too in such a manner defies description.  But I must admit making some funny actions [no one was watching] before keeping it safe in my shirt pocket, in front of my heart, which I kept touching every now and then to reaffirm its presence while watching the cultural programme that ended at 9 pm.  I returned home and heaved a sigh of big relief!  And a lesson reminded!

It has always been identified as 'Black Scissors"  [ಕರಿ ಕತ್ರಿ].  Its colour, size and unappealing appearance is contrary to its performance and utility.  Earlier my father used to keep it safe in his drawer.  I have seen it all my life and been using for most part of it.  Since about 40 years it has been an invaluable tool on my desk and in my rough guesstimate it is with us for another 40, previously!   That is how old this heirloom must be!  It must always be handy near my desk. Always.  My furious side surfaces when I do not find it in its place when I require.  It HAS to return to its allotted spot.  Others at home know my furious side if they were careless, misplacing, searching and finding it back. The last thing they want to hear from me is "Who has taken my ಕರಿ ಕತ್ರಿ?

My ಕರಿ ಕತ್ರಿ can cut a thread, cloth, paper, cardboard, plastic and whatnot.  All my hundreds of paper clippings of photos of cricketers to make albums were done with it decades ago.  Only I can use this to strip electric wires.  I have even used it to cut thin metal sheets for various home projects, before a proper cutter came to me.

Only twice, in half a century, I have seen it being sharpened, by knife-smiths that came by the street. It seems to retain its sharpness for ever. Such is the quality of steel.  I could verify this from the little sparks that flew and the sound it made when the smith held the cutting edges against the grinding wheel.

It is manufactured by the "Diamond Scissors Co", imprinted on one side.....

......Meerut City on the other.

Meerut, I understand is a renown place for making knives and scissors, highly durable, with a 360-year old history! I also learn now that Meerut Scissors have recently earned a GI mark!  Geographical Indication.

This marvel scissors is a cut above the rest.
It will and shall never leave me!


Having just learnt about Meerut's fame, I now gather a few tailoring scissors at home to check. Indeed, they have the Meerut imprint!  Three of them, clearly.



Anonymous said...


Oh, those English bicycles!!
For many aspiring engineering college/medical college students in 1950s, the thought of owning a bicycle: a Robin Hood / a Raleigh/ a Hercules after the admission to the college, was a more blissful thought than becoming a small core of lucky students gaining these admissions and thus carving themselves a roadmap leading to prosperous careers as engineers or doctors. These English bicycles came out of the same assembly line of the Raleigh factory in Nottingham in England (The famed Robin Hood was rumoured to have lived in the Sherwood Forest nearby). Those were the days when one could safely peddle through the roads of Mysore and even in Bangalore without close encounters with the marauding automobiles. These bicycles were veritable work horses, and as we grew up leaving the above colleges, we simply treasured them and used them until about mid-1960s, when scooters and motorbikes became the symbol of progress for some elites who ridiculed many of us, who were still using this “old fashioned “ transport to go to work. These days, in India, owning a foreign model of car has become the symbol of the elite!! The pedestrian has almost disappeared thanks to the mad car culture, the disappearing footpaths, and certain fatal outlook presented to this walking human! In contrast, bicycles in their more modern versions, are increasingly used in Europe , and with special bicycle lanes laid out at a great cost heralding the sign of the civilisation’s march these days!!
The Four Just Men

Anonymous said...

Still a stubborn typo. Should read: "for some elite". Apologies.

The Four Just Men

Dinakar KR said...

Thanks for the views, The four Just Men.

Anonymous said...

The reason we felt about the bicycles and Mysore that strong was the very reason that for long, Mysore was not Bangalore and was blessed with firm city perimeters, lower density of automobiles, and the beloved bicycle faithfully ferried its passenger even to the remote end of the City. Those we knew there, were very many, and they never suffered from breathing and chest related problems as there was very little pollution. This state continued until well into 1960s. When Kengal moved the capital from Mysore to Bangalore when he became the CM in early 1950s, some regretted, and many others including us realised that it was indeed a blessing looking at later, how Bangalore grew and grew in late 1950s onwards. Those Bangaloreans who sneered at our city as being the spot for lazy, clandestinely took holidays in Mysore to savour the joy of walking and bicycling. It gave us pleasure then to remind them what they had lost!

Bicycles and Mysore always went together. It was a pity that Mysore was allowed the uncontrollable growth that has since destroyed the soul of the City. Readers who hasten to comment that we are old fashioned humans, might like to know we are technologists working with the latest computer systems, but of the view that Mysore has been a tranquil place for ages, and should have been left alone to find the growth that suited it. That includes bicycles ,and the joy of riding it unencumbered.

Finally, interesting that these days of automation and ready made clothing, for the rich in the West, the suits they are after still, are handmade- human hands holding scissors and the old fashioned tape, the two sine qua non combination which prepare the cuts for the familiar sewing machines!!

Dinakar KR said...

Very right The four Just Men.
Have also seen Bengloor from mid 60s [that's when my memory can recall - used to be sent on vacation]. We used to walk and walk with no danger of anything except tripping on a stone! May be the word 'traffic' was never used then! Here in Mysoor, calm Mysoor, I recall my grandmother warning me 'beware of bicyclists' when I went out to play and play we did mostly on the tar road or across it using the pavements on either side, be it cricket or any game. We ran all over the road. The bicyclist would sound his handlebar bell to warn from a distance and then we would allow him to pass, pausing play.
I also used to watch how our cycle mechanic Shivaram cut the rubber tube when he repaired a puncture, using his rickety scissors. I wondered how sharp our tailor's scissors were and also my barber's scissors. And who can forget the man who walked the streets with his grinding wheel driven by a bicycle rim which was custom-fabricated into a wooden frame? He was the one waited for when the cutting edges of scissors or knives were blunt.
I still have my grandfather's Sunbeam 1914 bicycle, but this one is idle. He was once hit by some vehicle early in the morning when he was going to his office at 7 am. He had suffered injuries. Imagine the bad luck being hit [and run] when there was no 'traffic' in those years [1972]. I already have a separate post on this bicycle.

Anonymous said...

Lastly, in those days, the adult riding a bicycle with his child or nephew or niece seated in the front bar provided a powerful imagery of bonding between the adult and the child. When we read about the sad demise of Professor S. N. Shankar a few years ago, we had to travel through the memory lane to 1960s-the imagery of our English Lecturer as he was then waiting outside the theatre which was showing the first day of “Belli Moda” film release in Mysore , with his 3 year old daughter seated in the front seat of his bicycle bar vividly appeared .. He was visibly moved to see the huge crowd coming out of the theatre after the film. We knew then he felt at that time, after 3 years of losing his wife, which was tinged perhaps with a the hope that such films meant that his novelist wife has become immortal in the memories of so many who read her novels.
Now, about the scissors and tape for bespoke tailors. Enterprising tailors of Indian origin in Hong Kong and the local Chinese tailors too, visit Western cities to take orders for handmade suits and shirts at a price well below what the Seville Row Tailors and Italian Tailors charge. Visitors who visit Hong Kong, straight go to these tailors to give measurements for the suits to be made ready just 24 hours later including time spent in the trial for last minute adjustments.

Dinakar KR said...

Thanks for the comments The Fourjust Men.
By my mistake your latest 2-line comment got deleted. Would you kindly re-post?
I'm wondering if we know each other.... you seem to mention scenes and names of the same persons I know too.
Hope you noticed the little child seat on the front bar of my bicycle - the picture? I still retain it as a memory - I made it myself - even though the kids have grown up now.

Anonymous said...

"I'm wondering if we know each other.... you seem to mention scenes and names of the same persons I know too"
Not really! It is clear from your posts that you are younger to us (as you can see from our last sentence below). As for names of the same persons, Mysore used to be a small place, then!

My 2 lines, which were deleted by mistake:

Just to make it clear that S N Shankar's wife was Triveni, who sadly passed away in 1963, and the daughter we saw in the front bar of Shankar's bicycle was then his 3 year old daughter). S. N Shanker was our English lecturer in late 1950s.

Anonymous said...

Here are the 2 names which you will recognise. We used to know Ta.ra.Su, the resident of Chamundipuram, the brilliant novelist before he was shall we say, crippled by alcohol. Still to us, Gopala Krishna Adiga who we had the privilege to meet and know, was grossly underrated Kannada poet, although a brilliant proponent of Navya Kavithe, because he was a very modest person and an English professor [like B.M. Sri (the uncle of Triveni) an English professor, who was also underrated in his days]. The communal element, the everlasting malady in Karnataka' ( then Mysore), thrived then, and is well and truly anchored in the fabric of the society now.

Raghu said...

Wonderful writeup.

I have always loved those old cycles. Some of my uncles/relatives used them. Good that you named your cycle, we used to refer to them with a generic name - ಇಪ್ಪತೆರಡು ಇಂಚ್ ಸೈಕಲು ("22 inches cycle") respectfully, reserved for elders! Whenever one of them visited us, I remember pestering them for a "khatri" ride (wherein one who couldn't reach the ground sitting on the seat, stood by putting the leg under the bar and pedalled away clumsily and dangerously!). One thing I didn't enjoy as a small boy though was when I had to sit on the front bar or the carrier at the back, it was painful! Sometimes my mother would request any neighbour pedalling along the direction of my school to drop me. Painful 2 kms they used to be! I used to feel that I could rather walk the distance.
My first cycle was a blue BSA Champ bought somewhere in mid 80's. Pedalled around the neighbourhood, participated in races with other kids on cycles was great fun. As I moved to 7th standard or high school, my father bought me a BSA SLR which I used for many years. I doubt if Bengaluru had even 10% of the traffic it has was pure pleasure to cycle.
I have seen those Meerut scissors mostly at tailor shops. I used to love the way it cut through the cloth - all they needed to do was hold it in place and just slide it! The present day "Made in China" scissors are nowhere near, are they!