Tuesday, December 29, 2009


It was a sunny morning in the village of Rampur. The banyan tree which gave the shade for all panchayat gatherings was providing the shade to the men who were chewing paan for a break from their chores. Nair kaka provided the hot chai for a price and also dispensed beedis. Women folk were busy in the household chores and many were exchanging notes at the common well awaiting their turn to draw water. The pots were mute spectators. Sandeep and his friends were returning from the school and playing football with the odd stones in their way while performing the mimicry on the masters at the school. In short, it was just another day at Rampur.
The regular routine of the people was suddenly disturbed by the village announcer drawing the attention of the villagers to an emergent meeting of the panchayat to be held after sunset. Villagers were requested to be present in full attendance since some guests of honour were expected at the meeting. Kishen ran up to the announcer and asked him about the guest of honour. The announcer immediately drew up his chest and said the person was highly knowledgeable, enterprising and qualified. The guest of honour was supposed to have been educated abroad and had accepted an invitation to visit the village to give his valuable suggestions for the advancement of the youth of the village. As more persons gathered, the village announcer clearly told that he had more rounds to be completed and all would know about the guest in the evening.
The afternoon was no more a routine day at Rampur. All conversations revolved around this omniscient and omnipotent personality. Women wondered on the dishes to be provided while the men thought of arranging for some wine and cigarettes. The unanimous opinion was that the most comfortable shelter would be the Mukhiya’s place. The question of providing meat was raised and a dilemma struck all of them. Rampur had the tradition of being strictly vegetarian and also the adage of Athithi Devo Bhava was to be upheld. In case the guest was to prefer non-vegetarian food, the question of how to deal it was debated and was left to the Panchas to decide. All through the day the Panchas huddled themselves up and occasionally sent instructions for different households. The mystery deepened but the task was more important than the details.
The most eagerly awaited sunset at Rampur finally happened. All households had carried out their instructions of cleaning their places, spreading disinfectants and placing the dhoop for the fragrance. On this day, the sunset at Kanyakumari faded in significance and grandeur to the sunset at Rampur. Hookahs drawn and charpoys placed in front of their houses, the villagers wend their way to the banyan tree. An hour after sunset, the Panchas appeared. The Panchas stated that the dignity of the guest was to be borne in mind and no questions asked. In case any villager had a doubt, it could subsequently be raised before the Panchas. There was to be no interruptions to the guest of honour and when he was taken on the tour of the village all were to follow. None was to go ahead of the guest except the drum beaters to herald the arrival of the guest. At this juncture, Shyam rose to ask why the drum beaters should herald the arrival of the guest since the entire village would be behind him. The Panchas looked at each other and then said the issue had been deliberated upon and the Mukhiya had decided that this would be the process. Once the Mukhiya had decided it was the decision of the Panchayat and the whole village fell silent. The twitter of the birds was dying down and the faces were to be seen only by holding the lantern.
The villagers began to get restive when they heard the sound of a vehicle accompanied by a dust storm. The dust settled to reveal a young man clad in a suit and boots with a tie and holding a hnaky to his nose. The Mukhiya rushed to him and apologized for the dust storm. Sheela was called and rebuked for not spreading enough water at the place. Apparently, Sheela had done her job immediately after receiving the instructions from the village announcer and the place had dried up in the interim period. The Mukhiya could never be wrong she thought and apologized sincerely. One of the Panchas raised his hand and placed it on her head to gesture a pardon.
The entourage made its way to the dias which was the platform around the banyan tree. The Panchas gestured for silence. The Mukhiya rose to speak. He warmly welcomed the young lad and graciously thanked him for his time and effort. He then requested the young lad to join him for a tour of the village. The lad waved his hand dismissively and said he had seen the entire landscape in his computer and gestured to a slim box next to him. The lad went on to say that he was appalled that youth in Rampur would not be able to swim and went on to glorify the benefits of swimming. The villagers were stunned by this observation since all of them had the benefit of swimming in the well.
After the lad finished his diatribe, the Mukhiya rose to gingerly tell him that the village boys were accustomed to swimming and diving in the well. The lad again gestured dismissively. He cited Kabirdas and said that a frog in the well would never be able to swim the ocean of knowledge. Youth development in Rampur was neglected he averred. The Mukhiya requested him to lay a roadmap for development of the youth of the village. The lad said the first thing was to construct a swimming pool and then hire a coach to teach swimming. He promised assistance on both counts. The Mukhiya immediately identified a spot close to the grove for a swimming pool which would be bifurcated for men and women. The lad then asked for some helping hands from the village for which six young wrestlers were identified. The lad said he would give further details once this work was completed.
The next day saw a change in routine. Some more vehicles appeared with men who were introduced as engineers. These men started instructing the wrestlers on the work to be done. Soon, a swimming pool took shape. The women pumped water into the pool through a canal laid out from the well. A huge compound was raised around the pool. The villagers were wondering in what way would this pool benefit them when the Panchayath summoned all of them.
At the Panchayath, the villagers were asked to celebrate the success of the young lad. It was disclosed that on the first day there would be a free exhibition of the benefits of the pool. Thereafter, the entry to the pool would be subject to a charge of Rs 500/- per month per head. Sushil, one of the wrestlers stood up and said, “ Mukhiyaji, I was one of the persons who built this pool and my sister Sheela was one of the persons who poured the water into the canal then why should I be paying for the same?” The Mukhiya was visibly displeased. He replied, ”Sushil, what you have done is a bit of kar seva. You should not become arrogant and insult the good work done by our guest. You should learn to treat them as your brother. Do we not pay Nair for our chai?” He then turned to the crowd and said, “ All of you should understand that the Panchas can only think of your benefit and we feel that this lad will bring prosperity to Rampur. So let us listen to his advice. He may be young but he is wise.” After a few more deliberations, the dashami was fixed as an auspicious day for inauguration by the astrologer. Dashami was five days away. The villagers were to tie festoons, prepare sweetmeats and invite their kith and kin for occasion. Four days flitted past in the celebratory work. All routine work was put away as mundane. On the eve of Dashami, few in the village could sleep out of excitement. The first person to be allowed to swim in the swimming pool was the only one to have the privilege of costless swimming. Who would be the lucky one?
Dashami dawned. The chirping of the birds seemed sweeter, the scent of the hay appeared to be the sweetest but the question uppermost was who would be the lucky one. As the sun went past the noon hour, lunches were had and the siesta was given a skip. The village school had declared a holiday for the momentous occasion. As the sun started its journey towards the horizon and the cool breeze set in, the drum beats from the grove suggested that the time had arrived. People clad in their best attire moved in various colours towards the pool with songs on their lips. At last, Rampur was on the development map.
As the people seated themselves around the pool, the lad took a huge glass bowl and showed a number of slips placed in it. He shuffled them and shook the bowl. He then requested the Mukhiya to pull out a slip. The whole crowd fell silent. The slip was fished out of the bowl by the Mukhiya and then the lad took the slip and said, “ The honour of inaugurating the pool goes to…….Abhiman”. A thunderous applause rent the air. Abhiman was a twelve year old boy who was loved by his friends for his pranks. Abhiman walked to the side of the pool and was garlanded amidst the sound of the bugles. The mangal vaadya was playing the tunes that would befit any marriage. Looking around, Abhiman casually removed his shirt and vest. He removed his shorts and placed them in the custody of his trusted friend Ajay. Clad for the occasion, he strode to the side of the pool and was ready for the plunge when he was suddenly pulled aside. The hands that pulled him belonged to the young guest of honour. The lad reprimanded Abhiman for attempting to jump the gun. A cap was placed on his head and a water proof brief provided. Once these were donned, Abhiman’s hands were placed behind his back and tied. The legs of Abhiman were also tied. He was then gently pushed into the waters while a person blowing a whistle gestured to him to move on. Abhiman was an ace diver in the well but was used to the limbs. The tying up of the limbs being unexpected he found water gushing into his mouth and nostrils. Abhiman battled to keep his head above water. After splurging the water, he screamed to untie his limbs. As the whistle blew, the crowd also joined in the excitement. An announcement was made that if Abhiman was declared a good swimmer then he should have crossed the pool. Here he was battling to keep himself afloat. After some time, Abhiman shouted,” I do not know swimming. I will learn from the coach. Leave me today.” He was pulled out of the pool by throwing a buoy around him.
Once outside the pool, Abhiman wondered why one’s limbs should be tied and that too to the back. People told him not to make excuses for his failure. Failure is the stepping stone for success, he was reminded. Abhiman’s father, enrolled himself and son for the swimming course. They were then told of the dress code for which separate charges were to be paid and the material collected. Abhiman’s father then invited the lad for tea.
At Abhiman’s residence, tea and snacks were prepared and served to the guest of honour. Abhiman’s father praised the young lad for his vision and then enquired about his experience. At this point, a lady appeared at their doorstep and said,” I dropped my ring while drawing water from the well. Could you please fetch it for me?” The lad said,” I am only an expert in setting up swimming pools and the coach is an expert in training. You should get an expert swimmer for the job. The toll free number is available and I can share it with you."
Abhiman quietly followed the lady to the well retrieved the ring for her and returned. From the next day he went to the pool for his swimming classes. This time he found he was asked to swim freely. A certificate of training was issued at a valedictory function. Development of the youth of Rampur had begun in right earnest.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


India is a secular country. Ram and Rahim are one. Ishwar Allah tero naam are oft heard statements and assertions. Few practice and fewer imbibe the spirit in others. Ibrahim was an illiterate colleague of my father. A short plump man, Ibrahim was a much revered and eagerly awaited visitor to our home. He always carried an assorted sweetmeat box which would be reverentially handed over to my mother and we were queried on our progress in academics and cultural activities. This taught us the joy of sharing since each sweet had to be divided for every one to savour the taste of it.He would cycle more than 30 kms to my place and would always come up with innovative ideas. He was the one who taught me to cycle and he was the one who identified the cycle to be purchased for me. Later down the years when I decided to part with the cycle, he bought it for his son. May be more as a memento or memoir rather than out of need.

For us he was Idea Ibrahim.In our childhood days when we aspired to be the teacher and the boards were not commercially available in the market for children, Idea Ibrahim put a few planks together, added a coat of cement and painted them in black. A neat blackboard was made available. This is one of the most cherished possessions which we would not part for the world. The blackboard represents fulfilment of aspirations, the fulfilment of desire and most of all a symbol of the undying love for us and the enterprising nature of this man who if nurtured could have made the country proud.

Much later we realised that this man stood for many more values. Integrity and devotion were among them. The man would pray at Udupi, Velankanni and Nagore for the welfare of his family and his well wishers. The concept of Ishwar Allah tero naam was truly in his blood and he imbibed the quality in us that if we pray to any God it was for the humility to the ultimate and not out of the arrogance of the knowledge that we had identified Him.

I was once stationed at Panaji and the man had come on a surprise visit to the Old Goa church. I was on vacation at Bangalore. He caused enquiries about my acquaintances, friends, companions as well as the habits I was privy to. The man exhibited concern which made me a subject matter of ridicule by my peers on my return to Panaji. But Ibrahim could never be faulted. He is one of the few persons who was well above our age whom we respected but addressed by name. He was more an idea(l) to us rather than a colleague of our father.

How many could lay claim to this spirit of secularism? Undoubtedly he is one of the many unsung heroes who remains etched in many a heart.

It was one of those routine days when I returned from office to find my father suddenly making trips to a nearby hospital. I queried about his health. He merely stated a friend of his was in the hospital and he was paying visits. Few days later, my father stopped me at the gate and told me to visit the hospital and see whether Idaa(l) Ibrahim's desire for living could be aroused. I rushed to the hospital only to be told that his family members had settled the bill and claimed his body for the last rites. He gave us the slip but men of all walks of life, creed, religion and class paid tributes. He achieved their unity in his demise too. May his soul rest in peace.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


A mail from the alma mater had set all abuzz. Forwards flew thick and fast to friends who were on the mailing list. Suddenly, the urgency to add more links was felt. Facebook, Linkedin, Orkut etc became handy tools to ferret out names. Unfortunately, the names were not etched in the mind and most friends were remembered by their nicknames. The constraint was to be overcome and things had to be worked out and it was finally to happen on a Saturday in the end of November.

Another mail came in asking whether any one could volunteer to pick the coupons for the day. Issue was who could do so with minimal deviations and the figures were to be confirmed. Finally a short list of seven was drawn and I went to pick the coupons. On reaching the school, the security told me that the entr was permitted only from the other gate. A rediscovery of the routes was made through a ceremonial tour of the parking lot to reach the counter. Rushing through the things had made me forget basic things and I just chose to ask whether alumni coupons were available and on the slightest nod of the head, I asked for seven of them handing the money over the counter. The young lad who was tearing the coupons asked me to tell how many veggies and how many were not. Well this was a true bouncer. Couple of them I was sure were non-veg but Saturday was a question and others I was not sure which they would have converted. Sheepishly, I told him that I would inform him of the same after getting in touch with my friends. The lad looked puzzled. Still in uniform, he did not understand that over a period of time the time tested friendship would last but certain nuances of day to day life would be lost. One thing I could assure him was friends would not make an issue out of it and at best may use it as a stick to beat their old chum which was anyway acceptable. After all what would a reunion mean if one could not relive school brawls.

The day finally arrived. One of friends drove in to pick me up. We travelled back in memory when we used to travel in a factory bus for school kids ( well can afford to use the term kids) through the old misty Bangalore with all the chatter that would bug any driver no end to reach the school and imagine now the luxury of the four wheeler but the roads were packed giving us the feel that we were probably much slower.

The vehicle finally veered into the grounds of the school and with a cricket match on, a safe place was identified for parking and as we alighted from the vehicle we were greeted by Shashi a batchmate and with nostalgia filled we made our way towards the canteen and took the aisle down to the middle school grounds. Reaching the venue, we were told that a process of registration had been set up and we were given a label bearing our name and batch. A novel way to aid friends who may be meeting after the passage of a couple of decades. Pasting the badges on us we moved into the crowd to see another person the Shahrukh Khan of our times Vivek exchanging pleasantries with the Principal of our times. As we exchanged notes, our attention swirled to an elderly person being helped by a lady to make his way into the quadrangle. The tag on his shirt pocket read "1947". Boy!!! That should call for the HIP HIP HURRAYS!

The school bells rang to remind us of those good days and soon the ceremonies started by placing the Principals of the present and past on the dias along with the alumni officebearers. Speakers took turns to emphasise the importance of the gathering and marked the third Sunday of February as the Alumni day. Soon, it was the turn to felicitate the oldest teacher available , Mr Venkararaju and also the young man who left the portals of the institution as recently as 1947, a few months before Independence and a few years before we were born. This made us determined to see a full class get together at the earliest. Plans whispered we applauded the young gentlemen and then turned attention to the pick of some alumni recounting their days. Nostalgia in the form of cheers, jeers and chatter reverberated in the quadrangle.

The grace and charm of Ms D' Sa remained untouched by time. She had moved on to become the Principal and now a former Principal. By all accounts she remained the cynosure. Batches from the seventies to the twenty first century vied with each other for a snap. The charming lady obliged without a murmur. The streak of grey and the effort to climb the stairs were the only signs that betrayed her age lest she remained the uncrowned charismatic personality to the unabashed men around her.

Soon the dias made way for a cultural presentation. A multilingual dance performance by the students of the present day to their peers was the one to set the tempo. But the feast was yet to come. Drums were being circulated and soon a young energetic fellow took stage and started an interactive session with the tambolas. Young and old alike were swept into the music frenzy. Even the much feared principal of our days was seen to be sticking to the beats on his drum. This gesture from him made the atmosphere all the more festive. The crowd soon was enraptured in the beats. Chants of once more rent the air. Oh boy!!! the idea was novel but the spirit was old. Josephites made merry and soon it was dinner time followed by farewell time. Yes a farewell till a new re union.

FAITH AND TOIL is the school motto. Hopefully, the faith of the Josephites and the toil will restore the alumni to its good old days.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Travel has never been my forte. Journeys within the city are more tedious with the complex jams, fraying tempers and most of all the effect on one's state of body and mind. Society developed by man has cast an unfair chore on mankind of being in gainful employment measured by status, money and such man made parameters that one is constrained to undertake this task on a daily basis. The other animals in the animal kingdom may predominantly be occupied in nesting activity, hunting food, storing food for a rainy day and attending to there beauty sleep. Some species are more gifted in as much as having the luxury of a period of hibernation when the only activity indulged in is that of sleeping.
Travel sometimes is made pleasant by the mode of transport by tuning in to soft music. The melody in the tunes take away the pain of travel to a great extent. The advent of FM radios have made this experience all the more delightful. The talent of radio jockeys in keeping the listeners hooked to the music they host often made me wonder about the way things would be organised for them to hold the listeners attention. On one such occasion as I remarked about the versatility of these jockeys , a lady colleague of mine spoke at length about the desire of her daughter to be in this field and the reservations expressed by her husband who was also a colleague of mine. The notes exchanged on a couple of occasions made me venture to the father figure that I would love to be in the profession but for the voice of the "nightingale" bestowed on to me at the time of manufacture. After a hearty laugh, and a few days later, I came to know that he had reluctantly allowed his daughter to be in the profession of her choice.
The knowledge exhibited by me prevented me from enquiring about the niceties of the profession for fear that the cat would be out of the bag. Years later, I happened to have an occasion to befriend another radio jockey. Our friendship flowered on blow hot blow cold basis for sometime and then the great day came when I was invited to be in the studio when the show was presented. I was on time for the slot and sat through the show like a high school student while being a child at heart discovering the simple ways by which the show was made great. The skill in presenting the programme was awesome and I was spell bound. The fact that in a bare room with a microphone and a display panel, the anchor being able to bring out so many emotions which enthral the listener was beyond belief. If this could be the state of art studios of today, one wonders how the father figure of anchors on radio shows, Ameen Sayani would have brought out that element in the irreplaceable Geetmala. The anchor of the show did notice a change in my attitude but was not able to place the reason. I left it unresolved but the exhilarating experience enriched me and made me look at new avenues for a change.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


It is an oft asked question " Why is hot faster than cold?" The answer comes with a tickle " Since one can catch cold". In my case though I catch cold, it is not the best of my friends. It brings its ally in the form of cough which is left behind as a legacy by the cold which disappears without much ado. Friends and relatives pour out their suggestions for separating us. Turmeric roasted lightly on a tava, Turmeric in milk, a mixture of pepper, betel leaves and other leaves which is known as the ghas boos khashaya in our household, gargling in salt water, salt water bath, the list would seem endless. The recent bout of cough is no different with every soul around me turning in with a helpful counsel.
It was at this stage, I happened to view a programme which eulogised Surdaas for his ability to adapt into every role from Yashodha to Radha to enjoy the divinity of Lord Krishna. The imagination a la Anu Malik made me look at my present battle in a literary light.
The first role of cough was undoubtedly given to the mother. Caring and concerned, she refuses to budge even when told that her vatsalya was suffocating a la the ad in which the parents bid farewell to their adult son on a train journey more so when the co-passenger is a female. Apparently, the cough too did not want to leave its dear son in trouble and tried everything to stay by the son in his hour of need. The son was as usual not understanding and disrespectful in trying to evict her from his system.
The next role for the cough was that of a friend. The adage, a friend in need is a friend indeed haunted the cough from leaving its dear friend in dire straits. Even a Damocles sword is nothing compared to the sacrifices of the cough. The cough undergoes all the trauma of its own dear friend attempting to see its end but remains faithful without any ill feeling.
The third role is that of a lover. The saga of viraha vedane is told with aplomb on its every return after an eviction. Any mention of the time spent angers her into sulking with whooping bouts of cough. Any talk of separation leads her into one of those sob melodies such as kabhi alvida na kehna which makes one hit the cough syrup bottle a la Devdas. The real tug of war starts when she upstages me into proposing a everlasting marriage. Oh no!!! bouts of cough itself is unbearable but a life long one would not be an idea to relish or cherish. How does one tell this to the cough? The lack of poetic abilities to call a spade one without hurting the sentiments of the other is not the best available asset. Another brief adieu is in the offing but how long would this gap last? Only time can tell while the cough smiles and says "Sayanora" with a promise " I will be back". It is said that hell hath no fury than lady scorned and who could invite the wrath of one sitting so beningly in one's throat and aggravating the situation. This leads to a situation of placation with sugary syrups with a dash of alcohol to make things easier.
The next in the thought flow is that of the cough assuming the role of a visiting child. Children normally take some warm up time and as a gracious host one has to try to please the child so that the wards can have a peaceful time. As the time for leaving nears, the child warms up to the place and at the time of departure prefers to stay with the host. Bidding adieu to the child in a civilised mannerin itself would be a task worthy for every aspirant for diplomatic services. Now the child in question being the cough which has endeared itself to my throat does not show signs of retreat for me to feign welcome next time.
Who could ever say only Surdaas could do it? He only visualised while I have experienced it in this strange relationship with cough.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


A day out and home alone have been subject matter of movies. But it would be a matter of curiosity if one were to encounter a kid no more than a couple of feet from its toes wandering around an alien land without fear or curiosity. As is evident from the Krishna Leela stories some children are endowed with this ability. Across our house is an apartment block and is guarded by a Nepali Gurkha. After coming to terms with the culture and cuisine of this land, he chose to take a break and brought home his wife and young daughter. This little one was full of energy and did not comprehend any language other than her native tongue. All of two feet she strutted around with the air of a princess or more of an empress. She regally walked into any home in the locality, gestured for attention and with a smile on her face could get anything which failed her father's reach. Within days of her arrival she made her mark as the female Krishna of this Gokula. Much to the discomfiture of her parents she chose a radius of a kilometre as her fortress. Vehicles passing had to give way for this little one. Elders rebuked youth who refused to oblige her. The lady made a mark in no uncertain terms. She also established Din ilahi by making no difference on caste, creed, colour, religion, gender or race. The more one sees her elegance, one is tempted to put her in front of the royal blue blood of the Windsor Castle and watch them kneel to her opulent elegance. Krishnaa of Mahabharatha would also envy her elegance and the day is not far off to trumpet her arrival on the stage of the world.
No wonder the texts call the child as the father of man.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Dr H R R IYENGAR - prescriptions beyond imagination

Fortune favours the brave is a famous saying. In my case fortune smiles incessantly much to the chagrin of the persons who claim Providence has always meted out the worst to them. Most who do not know me would consider this either as an empty boast or at best treat it as a fount of positive thinking. It is for the benefit of these souls I would have to lead them throught some wonderful events in my life much to my pride and their envy (Sorry Onida I do not intend robbing you of your favourite tag line). The first occasion that comes to my mind is the benefit of being in the caring hands of a retired military doctor Dr. H R R Iyengar. This soul was a jolly good man with a wonderful sense of humour and presence of mind. He would appear at anytime of adversity and place his large palms on the forehead, laugh gingerly and say this boy is fine. The very presence of this bald man would strike terror in the hearts of the ailments.
In those days of my childhood fever would visit me with loving frequency. But the doctor would ensure that it did not remain an unwanted guest for long. The charges for such a cure would be 50 paise to one rupee and the man would say that he would collect higher fees in case I landed a good job.
On one of the occasions when my mother fell sick, he came on a home visit and told my father that he was unnecessarily wasting 50 paise. All one had to do when the womenfolk of the house fell sick was to enterprisingly enter the kitchen and rattle a few vessels or drop a couple of them. Lo and behold!!! the ailment would vanish and the energetic woman may even give the person a sound thrashing. After prescribing this medicine, he downed a hot cup of coffee.
In the days of Emergency, he was a regular visitor to my place. He would drop in after closing his clinic and on his way drop in to listen to the news. He had a golden principle of earning only to the extent of purchase power of coffee powder for the day. He was against any quick treatments and abhorred injections.
On one occasion when I had a fall, he gave me the option of the wound being stitched up or retaining a scar. I preferred the latter. Another doctor down the street had told that the fractured bone and the open wound needed a stitch besides a small surgery. More than three decades later, only the scar remains as a reminder of the man's capabilities. The fractured bone has healed. Wish one could present this miracle man to the present practitioners for a lesson or two.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


BTS was a cartoonist’s delight. It was the favourite of the daily DeccanHerald’s cartoonist Murthy. The overflowing crowds in the bus which had a few layers of people hanging out of the footboards and the picture of some on the ladders ( which was a privilege provided only in a few buses) provided in the rear was a sight to behold. The Bangalore trademark motto “Swalpa Adjust Maadi” owes it genesis to the Bangalore Transport Service. It is a different story that not many are even aware today of the official motto either in letter or in spirit. Any two seater would easily have three persons and the rear seat could easily accommodate two extra occupants. The cop who was the source of threat to all kids was the genial man who would rise to give up his seat and would always ensure that he holds the last rungs in the multi layered footboard. No Olympic gold medallist could match these artisans in clinging to the window bars of the bus with a nimble edge of one foot perched at a miniscule space in the footboard while the other was cautiously avoiding the scraping of the top surface of the road on which the bus was plying at an angle which no driver today with all his degrees could lay claim to. A couple of layers would be provided as a protective layer to the front door if warranted by chivalrous men. In fact, one has to give the credit to these young doyens who were confronted with added distractions of the opposite sex apart from the chatter which would provide fodder for their leisure time amusement.
It was in this era, one old (sic) young man who must have been in his late sixties with a few gray hair bordering a bald pate made an aggressive posture and took position in the penultimate ring on the footboard. One mischievous (as described by the denizen in question) co foot boarder requested him in impolite terms “Ajja, (the Kannada term for the post of grandfather) swalpa olage hogthira? (will you please move inside?)” The man in his impeccable white dhothi rose from his normal height of less than five feet to full stature and asked “Yaaro Ajja (Who is grandfather), My grandchildren are toddlers not full blown men like you. “ The man went on to list the attributes of a grandfather and in his seething anger remarked, “For a person of your age, a grandfather must be incapable of moving out of his home or may have reached the abode of Yama” . The young collegian who had listened all this while with a sense of amusement went red in rage. He started questioning the authority of the handsome man with the bald pate rimmed with gray hair to consign his grandfathers to the bed or to the graveyard. He wanted respect and an apology. The fellow commuters sensing serious trouble brewing from the generation gap proactively counseled the two gladiators on the rung. However, neither was willing to be pacified.
The redoubtable conductor waded through the sea of humanity from the front end of the bus bellowing reason to prevail. All commuters on whose toes he stepped diligently pardoned him without even a murmur in the light of the highly volatile atmosphere. Soon, the master of the bus had reached the venue of the war of words. Quickly, he sought an update from the commuter who was close to the door. As the commuter gave his version with a bias towards the collegian, the grandfather of the toddlers raised an objection. The conductor simply cut the man short and asked whether the same question with an uncle would have had a different meaning. The substance he surmised was that the collegian had expressed concern for his safety and he should sagaciously have accepted the same. The man was not happy with this one sided verdict and started blaming the entire generation which lacked values. The Lok Adalat presided by the conductor did not seem to have had the desired effect.
The final punches were yet to be delivered and the articulations of the pros and cons went on as though a jury was put in place to give their verdict. All along, people disembarked from the bus, some boarded the bus, some purchased tickets for their destinations. It was after a good four or five stops the grand (self appointed)jury was suspended and the conductor told the gladiators that there would be no apologies since the old are not expected to seek pardon from the young and as far as the senior person was concerned, there was no disrespect intended so he could cool himself down. He added as a good measure that if the differences still persisted he would ask the driver to head to the nearest police station where both could sort out the matter. The last word had the desired effect. Soon, at the next bus stop the younger fellow found a seat for the older one ( an adjusted seat). The older man said he had come out in a temper and sought the apology of the younger soul. The younger person who had demanded an apology a few bus stops earlier would have nothing of it. Soon, on insistence he passed on his backpack to the senior one to hold as a gesture of affection by the “Ajja” to his “Mamaga”(grandson).


Bangalore Transport Service in itself is a mini world which the denizens who possess two and four wheelers miss unknowingly in the name of saving time. This service has been a source of several articles which if any daily would care to compile would form a bestselling compendium by itself and may also have to be released in volumes. The regulars of this service as well as a few guests would readily vouch the fact that the service provides a rich diet for any cartoonist who would like to create multiple caricatures. For three decades I have been a regular in the service and can sample out a few to entice many folks to leave their prized vehicles behind.
Any four wheeler today boasts of a stereo set which enables the passengers to tune into the FM stations, track the traffic jams, enliven themselves as they contribute to the chaos around. Even in those good old days many of the enterprising crew of the BTS had installed stereo sets which would blare the choice hit music of the season. Young boys in the bus would swing to the music despite the constraint of space and the load of their backpacks. Collegians would resort to foot tapping which was an art by itself. There would be hardly any space but the tapping of the foot should be as deft to land at the vacant space or the toes of another collegian. These practices of art led to some elderly persons rebuking the youngsters in chaste Kannada which was popularly referred to in our circles as Sanskrit. The conductors were veritable trapeze artistes who could swing across the crowded bus with their moneybags intact unlike many of their counterparts in the other cities. They also were masters in crowd control, excellent diplomats and knew when to blow hot or cold. Their mastery in languages made us wonder why much was being made out of the mastery of languages of the then premier Narasimha Rao. They would also remember the requests in various tones, tenors and vernaculars to be told of the stop to be alighted at.
This actually brings to fore an experience hard to forget. It was one of those box office hit days when the bus which had a seating capacity of about 40 was stacked with not less than 180 souls. The conductor baritoned the name of the stop and asked the persons to alight. Seeing no movement, he commanded, “Who was that 4 tickets person who wanted to alight here? Do you want to make your family walk a mile?” At this a man moved and pushed his way through to the door as the pushovers sermonized him on his negligence in not reacting at the first time. Another suggested, “If you feel that you are the emperor of all that you survey why do you not take an auto instead of holding a bus to ransom?” The third chimed in “ these guys come for sightseeing and we are in doldrums and my boss will talk about leaving early and reaching office in time. How do I factor these souls in my timing scheme?” Having successfully alighted the man moved towards the front door which was the entry and exit point for the womenfolk. He started saying “I am Appanna, green saree, blue saree get down.” The persons in the bus vented their exasperation. The conductor told the man to call them by name. The poor soul responded, “How can I take the name of our household women in public?” A census of all blue and green saree was conducted with relationship to Appanna and finally two green sarees and one blue saree was successfully disembarked.
In the meantime the conductor fielded a number of pressing instructions which would put a Karan Thapar in shade. Some were insisting that the bus leave while others questioned the legitimacy of the conductor in allowing the single person to hold everyone to ransom. Others were asking him whether the bus was his proprietory one or whether the person concerned was related to him or had paid him more. But the man in charge of these affairs was undaunted. He smiled and replied “Just imagine if it were your sister or mother would you not want them to disembark at the right place” In the event of the IFS facing a shortage of skilled diplomats, it is my considered opinion that these valiant soldiers should be allowed to face the barrage of queries and we know that our foreign policy would be safe in their hands. After all this, the man would just curl his lips and give out the whistle ( which is now far and few) as a signal which the driver would obediently pick up to rev the engines alive again.


Bangalore was famous for its misty mornings in the seventies and eighties. I had just shifted from a nearby school located in Malleswaram to another in the heart of the city for my high school. Travel by the BTS (as it was then known as Bangalore Transport Service) was inevitable. We used to look wishfully at the auto stand located outside our home and move towards the terminus. The terminus was also the terminal point of the journey of life since it was located outside the crematorium popularly known as Harischandra Ghat. The bus number 85 used to take us to the Majestic bus stand. However, we used to cross the road for the route number 84 which would take us straight to the Corporation bus stop since it would move up to City Market. This bus would embark on its journey by moving ahead and taking a U turn to proceed towards Malleswaram Circle and move towards Vidhana Soudha which would also serve as an optional stop to disembark to enable us to savour the green glory of the Cubbon Park.
The red coloured buses were few and far. We used to have the timings of the buses ready and it was a normal feature for dailies to publish the schedules at the beginning of the year or when there was a reshuffle of the routes. The buses were largely of the TATA brand. We were such loyalists of this brand that there used to be animated discussions on the demerits of the Ashok Leyland buses which were being introduced. It is irony that life has come full circle with the Nano cars grabbing headlines. Another favourite past time was to identify the licence number of the bus by its looks or its honk. We prided in announcing 1293 has arrived instead of using just 84. No wonder we are aghast to see the GenX actually doing the reverse by shortening names and even in route numbers they would choose 4 instead of even saying 84.
1293 was an exception in the Ashok Leyland league and had a headgear. The reason was that the last seat had a special window which would slide either way. Persons used to Volvos and other buses would never understand the pleasure of identifying a window seat in the bus where in the both panes would slide both ways. Adults in those days itself used to consider the school boys as looneys to make a mad rush for the last seat while the conductor was asking them to move in. The latecomers among students had a special privilege even in those days. As a special tribute to the brilliance of one of the back benchers George Washington, the drivers would accept our school bags through their window and then allow us entry from this green room door for a seat on the engine or the sill in the front. All these noble souls may have retired from service but this thanksgiving note would fill their coffers of best wishes well.
It was one of these eventful days that I had managed to beat my rivals to the prized seat at the unique window on the last seat. The others were apparently miffed and chose to boycott the last seats. A middle aged man who wore a mush and beard sat beside me. He engaged me in light talk and I cautiously responded. I was unsure of the attitudes of strangers. He then steered the conversation towards his schooldays which brought some comfort. By the time the bus veered to a halt next to Vidhana Soudha (which was not a fortress then), he had won my confidence. Then we alighted together and walked through the sylvan surroundings of the Cubbon Park. A path next to the Attara Kacheri upto the fork where one led to the tennis courts and the other towards the road towards the Kanteerva Stadium was the end point of our walk. This soon became a daily habit where we would share a lot of good times. The Samaritan must be somewhere in Bangalore and my subsequent quest to trace this soul has been in vain.