Meeting a Baldwin-Girls girl

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[Part 6 of Series Two days in Bangalore]

Radhika and I planned to meet in the school at 3:00 p.m. The whole day was planned around this. I reached the school gate at 2:40 p.m.

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I decided to wait for Radhika outside the old school office, where I met a little Baldwinian and our conversation went something like this:

Nahomi: Which class are you in?
Little Baldwinian: Fifth standard
Nahomi: Are you waiting for someone to pick you up?
Little Baldwinian: Yes
Nahomi (with the air of one about to reveal a rare secret): Forty years ago, I would sit here and wait just like you.
<Silence >
Nahomi: A lot has changed. This area in front used to be a garden.
Little Baldwinian: I know. My friend told me. Her mother used to wait too.

That put me in my place somewhat. I was one among thousands who had passed through this school. For many, their time here represented a glorious chapter of their lives.

I studied in Baldwin Girls from 1974 to 1978, from Standard IV to Standard VII. It was a time when I had very little control over my life. Not all of it was bad. But then not all of it was good. I did not even know that I had rights and that I could object when my rights were being impinged upon. I am referring to the subtle and not-so-subtle discrimination that some us experienced in school life, not being given equal opportunities to participate in extra curricular activities and being despised by my Hindi teachers. I am sure my Hindi was absolutely despicable, but I was only a child with no other way of learning the language except from said teachers. Then, there was the year I was a member of the Library Squad; slogging it out under the tyrannical Librarian of the Senior Library, I could easily have ended up hating libraries and books for the rest of my life. In those days, how I longingly remembered the gentle soft-spoken Librarian of the Junior Library.

 

Sitting outside the old office near the front gate, the scene that had looked familiar suddenly changed. Like an anthill that had been disturbed, all of a sudden, 100s of yellow buses started to leave the school, full of children. It was a sight to behold.

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Although no fault of the school, school life in BGHS for me also included bus commutes to and from school. These buses were not the benign yellow school buses you see today. I am talking about overcrowded public buses, where child and school bag disappeared into the bowels of a bus filled with adults displaying many of the traits of our fallen race. Each bus journey was a struggle to breathe and live. I had to change buses in Shivajinagar too.

Although my father did not know the half of it, and although I was by and large a happy child, he sensed my unhappiness in the school and took me out of this prestigious school. The rest of my school days were spent in a smaller school, that I could bike to, where I regained my self confidence and grew, even excelling in public speaking. I felt vindicated when Mrs Gadhadhar an English teacher in Baldwins was on the panel of judges for the annual Elocution and Public Speaking competition in my next school. I tied for first prize that year and Mrs Gadhadhar approached me to congratulate me. “I have seen you somewhere; were you in Baldwins by any chance?” Her very next question was, “But why did you not participate in Elocution competitions in Baldwins?” I had no answer to that question. I suspect, she did not expect me to know the answer anyway; she was one of Baldwin’s most-loved teachers, and I’m sorry that I left school before I could be taught by her.

So do I hate Baldwins? By no means. Some teachers like Mrs Samuel, Miss Fritchley, Mrs Hunter, Mr Kirkwood, and Mr Mitchell gave me as much as some others took away. I have even written a separate post about lovely Miss Fritchley.

Moreover, school is not defined by the teachers alone. The children with whom I spent those years are a part of my past. Thanks to Facebook, some of us are connected today. Although we have all moved to various parts of the world and although our lives may not have much in common, everyone of us can recollect many a pleasant memory shared in the confines of BGHS.

One such friend is Radhika Shyam, who I remember as a kind and sweet girl who always had a welcome smile for everyone. She was someone who couldn’t care less whether her friends were wealthy or poor or what strata of society they hailed from.

Radhika loves Baldwin Girls dearly and continues to serve her Alma mater by being on the school board and so on. Naturally, one of her favourite teachers is Mrs Gadhadhar the English teacher, and it is no wonder that Radhika went on to become a writer. Bangloreans have all probably read her work for she has more than 400 articles in Deccan Herald to her credit. She is also a poet. She has even written poems for children in a book called “Once Upon A Funny Time.” 11_yt_review_g6021t_351303g

After Radhika arrived, we greeted each other and it felt as if the intervening years melted away and it was the mid 1970s again. We even seemed to look like we did all those years ago.

We walked around the school. Many things were new and changed around some very old and familiar buildings. For instance, our old Standards V to VII were all Standard II now. I was dismayed to hear that they had up to Section K now. 11 sections! Surely it would be nigh impossible to hold the old-time school assemblies and House assemblies, where so much of our character building must have happened. But the city of Bangalore has grown and people must still want to admit their children in the wellknown schools. It must be a very complex problem for school managements today.

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When we were in school, somehow Radhika and I had spent PT (Physical Training) periods together. We even spent Sports days together, sitting on the stone tiers watching the various sporting events taking place in the field. This, in spite of the fact that we belonged to different houses, she to Fisher and I to Benthein.

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“Two four six eight / Whom do we appreciate / Ya -ay . . . , the cheer leaders must have shouted, and Radhika and I would have loyally yelled out “Fisher” and “Benthein” respectively with great gusto before continuing most comfortably with our conversation. To be fair, I don’t remember this happening exactly, but I’m pretty sure this was the way it happened; I can almost picture it. We had to sit on those same tiers and take a selfie.

We made our way around the school, reminiscing and chatting about various things, till we were back at the front gate. This was a precious meeting and well worth the effort to make it happen. I wish Radhika great success in the years ahead and true and lasting happiness.

Flashback to the Kir’ba-Priscy-Alex days

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[Part 4 of Series Two days in Bangalore]

After returning home and having a cup of Premi Akka’s tea, Hannah booked an Ola for me, so I could go and visit Kir’ba and family, Priscy and family, and Rachel in nearby Cooke Town. Cooke Town was not like the quiet spacious suburb I remembered it to be; it  was noisy and busy. But I digress; this post is about some very special friends from the past.

Their brother Alex is abroad with his family, and their parents have both passed on. I remember taking little Alex to Clarence in 1980/81, his first year in the school and my last. He would be seated behind me as I rode my bike from Williams Town to school, past Tannery Road and the Dhoddi. I would be worried that his feet would end up in the back wheel; every two minutes I would ask him if he was putting his feet in the wheel. Immediately he would spread out his legs and the resultant white flash of his impeccably Blanco’ed keds would give me confidence to continue . . . for two more minutes.

Although I did not get to meet Alex, I met the three sisters. Rachel had been just a todder when I last saw her. Kir’ba and Priscy, I knew well as my Sunday School kids in the late 70s and early 80s.  They were also neighbours. At one stage, I spent every free moment in their home, which  was different from my own,  a difference that for some reason I found refreshing.

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I do not think I should even attempt to explain how blessed and beautiful the meeting was, as they shared their testimonies and recounted the Lord’s leading in their lives. How the Lord has been faithful!

To all Sunday School teachers out there, especially the very young ones, do not underestimate the value of what you do. I was blessed with the opportunity to meet my wards after 30 years, but even if you do not have that opportunity, you can be sure that the word of God is powerful and will do its work. Yours but to teach it faithfully.  In turn, today Prisy is involved in ministry among children. This meeting alone makes having come to Bangalore well worth the while.

Pleased with the airports

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[Part 8 of Series Two days in Bangalore]

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I was impressed with the domestic airports in Chennai and Bangalore generally. The passengers were disciplined and polite, quite unlike those in our flight from KL to Chennai, for some reason.

But this post is about my breakfast in Bangalore airport, the morning I was flying back to Chennai. I had enough time to scout around for the best-value tiffin place. Having purchased a copy of ‘India Today’ for Rs 50, I had only Rs 160 in cash left. After waiting my turn in a long queue, I ordered a plate of vada (4 nos) and coffee. I was short by about Rs 10, but before I could change my order, the man at the till said “Never mind ma’am” and gave me a token.

For someone leaving Bangalore very disappointed with the traffic congestion and haphazard growth, this gesture was a pleasant surprise indeed! It was good to know that somethings were nice about today’s Bangalore. 

The coffee was also excellent.

When I posted this on Facebook, a number of people responded, urging me to look more kindly at the changed Bangalore.

Friend 1: Like our lovely airport, a lot of the city’s infrastructure has improved. I think because you live in a sparsely populated country the difference hits you. But if you think about it, I bet you didn’t see a single bus so overloaded and tilted, that it seemingly moves on two linear wheels – the way we travelled to college . . .

Friend 2: While I crib about the garbage on the road , the other day I had to walk to some place and the weather was just gorgeous – the Gulmohar trees , greenery – it’s still pretty green – was just lovely ! . . . Places like MG road and Brigade road are terrible. 100 ft road in Indranagar is the new MG Road]

Friend 3: New places like Yelahanka, Sevanagar, and HRBR are the posh areas now.

I consider Bangalore as my city and I’ll always love it. This visit to Bangalore was mostly for going around and looking at places and people from my childhood. Places had changed so much. MG Road and Brigade road had been gloriously different in the 70s, and I cannot help remembering what those roads used to look like. The traffic is atrocious. All this makes me sad, and yet I am amazed that the city functions at all with this vast population.

OPH Road and Commercial Street

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[Part 3 of Series Two days in Bangalore]

Our next stop was Old Poor House Road (OPH Road) and Taj hotel in particular. In India, when we say “hotel” we usually mean “restaurant”. I remember the many times, I  have come here to have Biriyani.

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The Biriyani was just as it was 40 years ago. The little lumps of cooked tomato masala in the rice still satisfies the taste buds as they did then. The mutton kebabs are not available anymore and have been replaced with lollipop chicken. The luxury of the finger bowl is missing.

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We washed the food down with two glasses of butterscotch milkshake shared among the three of us.

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I took the following pictures of the busy street from a window of the restaurant.

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We then went to the once posh Commercial street to do some serious shopping. This street looked tired.

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The one thing I found interesting and hence bought is this miniature cycle.

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Two days in Bangalore

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I am grateful to the Lord Jesus for giving me the opportunity to sneak into Bangalore for these two meaningful days. The following links will take you to posts that have primarily been written to help me remember.

My Periamma, Akka, and Hannah

Doddigunta better preserved than most places

OPH Road and Commercial Street

Flash back to the Kiruba-Priscy-Alex days

Ramaraj and his family

Meeting a Baldwin-Girls girl

Clarence-81 rocks

Pleased with the airports

Doddigunta better preserved than most

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[Part 2 of Series Two days in Bangalore]

I doubt that anyone has ever blogged about Doddigunta—it’s that kind of place. All that is about to change now. In 1974, when my family of mummy, father GB, and I came down from Calcutta, we stayed with my aunt, uncle, and cousins in this part of Bangalore for six months. I am not sure how the grownups felt, as they had developed their long faces by then, but for myself, this period was filled with excitement.

Even as our Ola taxi passed the Cox Town circle, entering into Doddigunta, I was aghast at the way Charles Campbell Road had changed. What was I to expect of Doddigunta then? But as it turned out, the place still looked pretty much the same.

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The house had two floors, and our family had been given a large room upstairs. You could see heaps out of those windows—processions, drunk men, children playing, corpses being taken for cremation, fights, decorated cows for Maatu Pongal and so on. Although you can see these upstairs windows right away, to get to the main door, you needed to walk a short distance down a narrow lane. Not much had changed, even the smell was the same.

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The first left took you straight to the front entrance. The large driveway-like square that is concreted, used to have large uneven exciting-to-a-child stone pavers, possibly made of granite. The occupants of that square were a few milking cows.

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When my aunt and uncle’s family lived there, the house was maintained impeccably inside. It is not like that now. However, the elderly couple who were there were friendly and spoke to us. They had been living in the neighbourhood before and so recognised Premi akka and knew my Periamma as “the teacher.”

We stepped inside the front door into the little courtyard and pointed out various aspects to Hannah. We remembered the cool polished red-oxide floors and the boarder, the evangelist Caleb, who always wore saffron. When even I could remember so much about the house, I am sure Premi akka must have had many more memories coming back to her. While one can occasionally go back and look into the past in this way, one cannot dwell therein for too long.

It was time to go, we had other things to do, and Ola taxies are not meant for long waits.

My Periamma, Akka, and Hannah

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[Part 1 of Series Two days in Bangalore]

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What more does one want for a good start to a day than a good breakfast? That too when its made by a favourite cousin.

After a quick selfie, Premi Akka, Hannah, and I were on our way to meet Leela Periamma. Premi Akka had made some yummy chicken curry that we were taking to her. I had a warm throw for her and some sugar-free confectionery items.

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This is what the side streets in Lingarajapuram look like now.

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Leela Periamma, who lives in a retirement home, knew that I was due to come one of these days, but did not know the exact date. We thought we’d surprise her.

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Once we got into the auto, Hannah called her to let her know that they were bringing her some chicken kuzhambu. How come, they were doing this on a working day, she wanted to know, they could not have taken leave just to bring her chicken kuzhambu. Hahahaha, was she smart! Even from a distance, we could see her waiting for us in the balcony. When we reached, the others took the stairs where as I waited downstairs for a bit and took the lift.

She was happy to see me. I remembered her welcoming, “Selvi, vaa vaa vaa” from the past. Of course, she was a lot frailer now. After spending half an hour or so, we said goodbye, but not before taking some more pictures.