My life outside our country

My parents lived in Nigeria from 1979 to 1982. Those  were memorable years for them. My mother, Shantha, wrote her memories and my son and I translated it from Kannada to English.

In 1979, Indian Railways got a contract to maintain the Nigerian Railway network. We were in Delhi at that time. My husband was deputed to Lagos, Nigeria, as Controller of Stores. About four hundred Railway employees went to Africa. The Officers were given independent houses in the Railway campus. They took take their families along. However, our eldest son, Shyam, was studying at IIT Bombay and our daughter, Lakshmi, joined Wilson College in the same city. Our youngest son, Ravi, went to school in Puttur. He lived with my parents. Our children visited Nigeria during their summer vacations. The other staff were given hostel accommodation. The Railway colony was large. We got an independent house. In the beginning we shared it with another family.  There was an outhouse in the compound. Two local families lived there. They assisted me in household work. I found that Nigerian women were very strong and capable. This was brought home to me in a very strange manner. On one occasion a Nigerian lady who assisted us, gave birth in the garden without assistance. They were very hardworking and we used to see them working in the markets too.  I remember there were many breadfruit trees in the colony but Nigerians did not use raw breadfruit. In South India we use them to make various dishes. We were amazed to discover that a great variety of Indian saris were available in Lagos. This was because of the Indian community there.

There were many Indian business people in Nigeria. Once they invited Swami Chinmayananda (Hindu spiritual leader and teacher) to give lectures on The Gita. My husband attended the lectures. At one point he told Swamiji that he had attended his lectures on The Gita in Delhi. Swamiji replied, “It is not enough if you learn The Gita. You must share your knowledge with others.” So my husband started weekly Gita classes in the hostel. These classes took place on Sundays and were well attended.

We stayed in Nigeria for three years and during that period we were able to see different parts of the world. During one vacation my husband sent Shyam with a local boy to Northern Nigeria. In May 1980 we planned a trip to Europe. This was possible because my husband got railway passes to travel on the continent. Lakshmi came to Nigeria from Bombay. The three of us flew to Rome and Ravi came over to Rome directly from India. He was studying in seventh class. For nearly a month we travelled through Europe from South to North via Vienna. We were able to attend a musical concert at the Royal Albert hall in London. By the end of the concert Ravi was probably dozing. At the climax of the concert the musicians suddenly struck a loud note which brought Ravi leaping out of his chair. I still remember this.  During Shyam’s  vacations he came over to Nigeria. My husband was able to procure a ticket to tour America in forty five days. This was at a very reasonable rate. However the condition was that he could not exceed forty five days. Even a day extra would have meant paying a lot of money. Accordingly he left for the States. His father imposed a condition : he should write to them on a regular basis. We knew a young New Yorker called Jim. He had stayed for three months in Bombay at my brother-in-law’s. He had come to  India on a Rotary Exchange programme in 1974. A few years later Jim and his friends, John and Lee, drove all the way from England to India and toured the sub-continent in their LandRover.  They stayed for a few days with us in Delhi. It is something to be amazed about that this friendship has lasted to this day. My grandson, Aravind, visited New York in April 2014. Jim took him around Brooklyn. My grandson found Jim a kindred spirit. Aravind tells me that Jim remembers all of us with great affection. Jim helped our son to see the country.

At the same time that we were in Nigeria, my husband’s elder brother and his wife were in Liberia. The four of us decided to make a trip to the States. We planned a month long trip and got together in New York. We stayed with Jim and Nancy in New York state. With Jim’s help we planned a round trip taking care not to pass through the same place twice. This helped us save a lot of money. We visited many places and I still remember our stay with John and his family. They owned a ranch and reared cattle. John’s mother had a sari which he had got for her from India. She did not know how to wear it. My sister-in-law and I showed her how to wear it. She was very happy. We also visited Lee and stayed with him and his wife. He took us to see the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  My sister-in-law’s two brothers lived in America and they too showed us around.    We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.

We were in Nigeria till June 1982. Sometime in 1981, my husband had official work in London. I accompanied him. A memory fresh in my mind is a bus tour I took round London. My husband saw me into the coach and left on his work. We assumed it was a half-day tour. But at lunch time I discovered to my horror that it was a full day tour. I told the guide that my husband would be waiting for me and would be alarmed if I did not turn up at the expected time. She was very understanding and put me in a cab. Fortunately I had a card with the address of the hotel we were staying in. When I reached the hotel I found my husband had gone searching for me to the pickup point. At the reception desk of the hotel I was informed that my husband had gone to the bus stop looking for me. I went after him and we both met midway. It was a good moment.

The three years in Nigeria were very good for us. It was the first time that we had  travelled out of our country. This job was financially rewarding. It enabled us to see the world and also purchase our house in Puttur, India. I remember my husband wanting to call it ‘Nigeria’ but happily we named it ‘Shrila’ after our children’s names.My father helped to find this house and we were very happy in it.

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Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Duck Duck Goose

This week the topic is Duck Duck Goose.  Your photos this week can have anything to do with ducks or geese.  They are birds, so I will let in anything bird as well.  Have tons fun with this challenge this week.

In 2015 we had been to London. These photos are in Oxford.

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We see these little birds often, they always move in a group, talking loudly with each other 🙂

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A beauty 🙂

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Quietly, by themselves 🙂

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Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Duck Duck Goose

One More ( Slice of Life )

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Walking along the road, to my horror I saw a tree being cut down. So many have been cut in the name of development. It hurts. Why do we commit such mindless destruction ? We do not think about the future. Our is a small place situated on top of a hill. There used to be so many trees, but now there is a concrete jungle. Ironically all those buildings have been given names like  ‘Blueberry Woods’, ‘Regal Woods and so on.  When I see those names, I do not know whether I should cry or laugh. It hurts, it really hurts and that helpless feeling of not being able to do anything to stop the destruction of nature. I wonder where all this will end ?

‘One more tree cut down

Trees are of no importance

Human desires are !’

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One More ( Slice of Life )

 

For the love of books; my mother’s story of reading

The following are my mother’s reminiscences about how she developed her love for books. She wrote in Kannada and my son and I translated it.

When I was six or seven years old and I could read the Kannada script, my father gifted me around twelve slim books. My father, who had been a school teacher for two or three years, wanted me to experience the joy of reading. So he got me these story books containing tales from different countries. I remember that each of these books contained about twelve pages. This must have been around 1948 or 49. We lived in Puttur, a small town on the South Western coast of India.

In those days villages and small towns in India had no supply of electricity. I read in the light of an oil lamp at night. I also remember reading by the light of the moon. Such was my passion for books. I used to borrow books from everybody I knew.

Our family was not well off.  My father did not have a steady job and did whatever work was available. Including me my parents raised ten children. At the time of these occurrences we were only two. My sister and I had to assist our mother around the house. My mother used to ask me look after whatever she was cooking while she attended to other chores. Even as the pots boiled on the stove , I used to have a book in my hand. My mother too read a lot but due to household work such as looking after us and my grandmother, cooking , milking the cows and so on, she  could not pursue her passion.

I attended the primary school near home and later the high school. I would borrow books even from my friends. Sometimes when the story was too exciting ,I could not resist reading in class hours too. I remember that my teacher almost caught me once.

I got married in 1959 at the age of eighteen and left for Kharagpur in West Bengal. My husband was working in the Indian Railways and was posted there. I travelled by train for the first time. My father was apprehensive about this new experience. So he sent my younger brother and sister with us. They were with us for a month. My father came to Kharagpur to escort them back home. At this time he brought me several books in Kannada. He knew that I would be missing Kannada books.

In the following few years my two children were born, and reading took a backseat. I had finished all my Kannada books, and my husband told me to learn other languages. We lived in Hyderabad from 1968 to 1971. I learnt Telugu and would read books in that language too. From Hyderabad we moved to Delhi in 1971. There I learnt Hindi and enjoyed Hindi books and magazines. My husband used to get them from his office library.

In one of the Railway Colonies we had friends from Kerala. Mrs Hamid used to read a lot of books in English. One day I said to her her, “Look, I think I will find it difficult to read books in English as I have studied in a Kannada medium school.” She said that she had studied only in her native language, Malyalam. Nevertheless, she  had learnt to read books in English. She lent me four Barbara Cartlands. I found the first couple of books very difficult to read. But once I got used to the language I could not stop reading.

This was in the early seventies, and I have never stopped reading. We have always been members of one library or another wherever we lived. My children too grew up reading books. Now I am seventy five and my children supply me with an endless stream of books. These days I find that  I cannot  read as fast as I used to earlier. Back in the old days I could finish a book in a day or a night. I remember that once my children and I were reading late into the night with rapt attention. Suddenly my father-in-law walked into the room and scolded us : “ Are you still reading ! Why don’t you all go to bed?” That incident amuses me to this day.

I spent the whole of last month with my granddaughter and her three year old son. We were all at my daughter’s. I was overjoyed to see my great-grandson insist every night, at bedtime, that his mother read him stories.

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Wishes

WE WISH ALL MY ‘WORDPRESS’ FRIENDS AND THEIR FAMILIES A VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS.

WITH AFFECTION AND BEST WISHES,

LAKSHMI BHAT

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The Daily Post Photo Challenge : Anticipation

‘Anticipation means a feeling of excitement about something that is going to happen  in the near future.’

End of October we celebrated Deepawali, our festival of lights. We waited with great anticipation as our daughter and grandson would be with us. My mother too was with us and had a wondeful time with her great grandson.He is three years and it was his first Deepawali with us. It was a new experience for him and he was filled with anticipation . The lights excited him. We had bought some crackers, a few small ones keeping in mind the pollution aspect. ‘Nakshatra kaddi’ which literally means ‘star stick’ excited him. The first night of Deepawali he was a little scared, it was fear and excitement.He was running about in excitement.The second night he wanted to light the ‘star stick’ and hold it himself. He was very, very happy and loved the festival of lights and asked us why it was not celebrated every day.

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‘Every nerve tingling

Mounting anticipation

The joy to come soon

Making the house resonate

With new experiences.’

The Daily Post Photo Challenge : Anticipation