Friday, March 23, 2012

Looking Back - Episode – 3

As BGR was coming out of the City Railway station, he was besieged by the Tongawalas just like the present day Auto Rickshaw drivers. He negotiated with one of them to take him to Benne Govindappa Street in Basavanagudi for Rs2. The Tonga moved on the Goods Shed road to enter Chamrajpet and then to Basavanagudi to reach the Benne Govindappa Street. The journey was very smooth with only a few cycles on the road. While the three-wheelers had not arrived in the city, there were very few four wheelers and negligible number of two wheelers (Motorcycles). Padmanabha Rao (Mama) was staying in a small outhouse in a large site. The owner was living in a big house in the same site.
BGR found Mama sitting on a chair with a typical pensioner’s uniform (dhothi, shirt, coat and a cap) and going through the Indian Express. He welcomed BGR and asked his wife to serve him a cup of coffee. After having the coffee BGR took his bath in a small bathroom. He felt fully refreshed after removing the dirt collected on his body during the stressful train journey. By that time breakfast was ready. Just then he saw the three sons of Mama entering the house to join the breakfast. The three Bs (Bhavani Shankar, Balakrishna and Balagangadhar) were staying on the upstairs of a nearby building for want of space in their rented house! While the first son was unqualified and unemployed, the other two were studying diploma courses.
BGR did have a problem with the breakfast. Brought up in South Kanara, he was used to preparations made with coconut oil. The uppittu made with groundnut oil was almost unpalatable to him! He also found the dark coffee with low milk content difficult to drink! He somehow managed to gulp down the Uppittu and the coffee. The three Bs left the house immediately after the breakfast. Mama had retired from the Defence Department and was following the military system in his private life also. BGR observed that his wife and children were simply obeying his orders like faithful soldiers! Mami was totally afraid of Mama and it showed on her face! It appeared as if Mami was always worried that Mama may initiate disciplinary proceedings (court-martial) against her!
Mama asked BGR to go around Basavanagudi and return by 12.30 pm. As he moved out, BGR found the weather very chill and enjoyable. It was quite unlike the perspiring weather of South Kanara! The roads were lined up with large green trees and there was very little traffic. He first arrived near the famous National College. He went round the college and ate two bananas at a cost of two anas. He then located the telegraphic office and sent a telegram to Pema in Udupi confirming his safe arrival. He found the Basavanagudi locality a calm and quiet place.
BGR returned home at 12.30 pm. Mama ordered lunch exactly at 1 pm. After the lunch Mama told him about his service in the Defence Department including his posting in the city of Karachi. He had come back to Bangalore only at the fag end of his career. It was a long story told over several cups of coffee and good number of beedies! Mama appeared to be a lover of both nicotine and caffeine! The story of the pre-independence British era was no doubt very interesting and absorbing. But the smoke emanating from beedies made the environment quite unfriendly! BGR felt relieved when he was again ordered to go round Basavanagudi in the evening!
BGR was soon near a large green beautiful park. He was told that it was called M N Krishna Rao Park. He went round and sat on a bench. He felt totally refreshed. As he was recollecting the events of the day, he could make out why Mami was preparing coffee with very low milk content. Mama’s military budget should have restricted the milk supply at home. She had to manage with the same quantity for several cups for his consumption. Even though the house was located in the Benne (butter) Govindappa Street, there was scarcity of milk at home! But Mami could never complain. Understandably Mama had his limitations – even after his retirement his sons were not employed and he had no house of his own. The  pension amount had to take care of the entire family needs including house rent.
As BGR was coming out of the park he saw a board of the Indian Institute of World Culture. He was soon back at home. Exactly at 8 pm Mama ordered Mami to serve the dinner. After dinner BGR was ordered to go to bed so that he could get up early in the morning to explore the nearest route to Canara Bank Administrative Office. The first day of BGR in the Garden City had come to an end.
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The next morning (3rd February 1959) BGR was supposed to take up a trial journey to Canara Bank Administrative Office (AO) as per the schedule drawn by Pema. He got up early and finished his breakfast. Mama was going through the Indian Express and gave him some tips on how to attend the interview. As per him it was important to remember the names of the Chief Minister and the Finance Minister. He also briefed BGR about the importance of Vidhana Soudha and how it was built by the earlier Chief Minister Kengal Hanumanthaiah.
Mama also gave directions to BGR as to how he was to reach the Canara Bank AO. He had the option to catch a BTS bus route NO.11 or walk the entire distance which was only two kms. BGR opted to walk and started his journey at 9.30 am. He reached Minerva Circle via National High School Circle and  V V Puram Circle.  After Minerva Circle, while walking on JC Road, half-way he saw Bharath Talkies on the right side and after about 300 yards, Shivaji Talkies on the left side. (Presently SBI building is situated in place of Bharath Talkies and the statue of Shivaji alone is existing in the place of Shivaji Talkies). He was soon near the Town hall. At Town Hall he took a left turn and entered the Silver Jubilee Park Road after crossing Narasimharaja Road. He could now see the Shoukath Building built with dressed granite stone with a big hoarding of Murphy Radio. It was a ground+3 floor building with the Canara Bank AO occupying the 2nd and 3rd floors. The bank boards were displayed very prominently.
Having completed the four-km pilot journey, BGR was back at Mama’s house by the afternoon. Mama was pleased to know that BGR could locate the office independently. After the lunch BGR made some preparations for the interview by going through the notes he had prepared in Udupi. In the evening he again went out and walked up to Lalbhag West Gate. Before going to bed in the night after dinner he kept all the documents ready. He was totally prepared now for the first interview of his career.
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
23rd March 2012

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