In this short journey,
We believe we make our life
Fate has its own plans.
But we have to do our best
And not worry about Fate.
In this short journey,
We believe we make our life
Fate has its own plans.
But we have to do our best
And not worry about Fate.
Sometimes it so happens that we come across an idea; and then we run into the same idea again and again. Each time the idea is expressed differently. Recently I read Eavesdropping: A memoir of Blindness and Listening by Stephen Kuusisto. I really liked what he has written about listening. He says that each sound has a story to tell and that there are so many surprises when we actively listen to our surroundings. He writes about his childhood and his life as an adult. He loves to visit cities around the world in order to discover the art of sightseeing by ear. In one essay he writes about his visit to Iceland. There he attends a concert by Ruben Gonzalez, a Cuban musician. The author writes, “And then Ruben Gonzalez was playing the piano and time stopped. Then he let time back out.”
Yes, there are many moments in life when time stands still. I believe that one can appreciate such moments if one is open to them. A fellow-blogger describes them as the “wow moment”.
These moments can be those of intense beauty or of extra-ordinary ordinariness. I still remember such an experience in Lothal. A few years ago we had been to Ahmedabad and went to Lothal, a site of the Indus valley Civilization. We grew up reading about that ancient civilization. Gazing at the still well-preserved remains I felt as if time had stopped. I had gone back 5000 years into the past. Another such moment which I shall always remember is when I held our grandson in my arms a short while after his birth. It was a special moment. Time stood still.
I came across the same idea in The Tibetan Book of living and dying. The author, Sogyal Rinpoche says, “Our mind is the universal basis of experience- the creator of happiness and the creator of suffering.” He says that people find it very difficult to understand the glory of the nature of mind. But sometimes we get fleeting glimpses of it. He explains, “These moments could be inspired by a certain exalting piece of music, by the serene happiness we sometimes feel in nature or by the most ordinary everyday situation… Such moments of illumination, peace, and bliss happen to us all and stay strangely with us.” I was reading about the great French photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and The Decisive Moment. It is the same as “the wow moment”, or “when time stands still”, or that moment when we understand “the true nature of our mind”. Bresson was the first to propose this idea. He believed that the decisive moment occurs when the visual and psychological elements of people in a real-life scene spontaneously and briefly come together in perfect resonance to express the essence of that human situation.
While reading about such moments the proverb, ‘time and tide wait for none’ comes to mind. But time does stand still. It allows us to absorb that special moment. It moves on, but that moment remains with us.
“In the pink of health
Retreating into the shell
My mother, Shantha Bhat’s memories of her childhood. My son, Aravinda and I translated it.
I started going to Bolvar school not very far from home. I do not remember its full name. We used to call it Bolvar shaale. I studied there till 5th std. I remember a teacher called Janaki. There was also a teacher who was popularly known as Bangaru master. He taught us Kannada. He was my mother’s cousin. I still remember him singing the song ‘Kaadiruvalu Shabari Ramabaruvanendu.’ This popular song was penned by the poet V Seetharamiah.
I went to the 6th class at Board High school. We girls wore long skirts and blouse (udda langa Ravike) We had only two dresses for school and one to wear at home. They had to last for a year. Mid-April (14th/15th) we celebrated Vishu or New Year. On that day, my father used to buy new clothes for all of us. We used to go to the temple wearing the new clothes. We walked to school but we had no footwear; come rain or shine, we walked barefoot. I remember getting my first pair of slippers after my marriage at the age of 18. I finished SSLC and within a year my marriage was fixed. I think I wanted to continue my studies. But the college was a little far from home and my father did not have the courage to send girls walking to school. On the way to school I remember chewing roasted tamarind seeds. In those days there was nothing like chewing gum. We roasted tamarind seeds, peeled off the outer skin and popped them into our mouths. They lasted all the way to school. School was from morning to evening and we came home for lunch.
One of my favourite memories about school was reading story books in class. I used to borrow books from my friends. If I was forced to return the book in a hurry, I would read them whenever I had a chance. From early childhood I loved reading books. My father used to get books for me. I remember the first books he got for me contained stories from different countries of the world. There was no electricity and I would even read under the light of the full moon. Thinking back now, I feel that I must have read with great difficulty. We used to have an oil lamp which consisted of a little glass bowl containing oil. Immersed in the oil was a wick. There was glass covering to protect the flame from the draft. I loved to read late into the night by the light of this lamp. When I heard my father approaching, his footwear making a crunching sound, I would put out the flame in a hurry and act as if I was asleep. My love for books continues to this day.
I remember a bangle seller (balegaara) coming home. He used to walk from place to place selling his ware to the womenfolk. He used to come to our village twice a year. I think we used to pester my mother and she would give some money to buy bangles. I remember playing hopscotch at home. We called it jubili aata. It was fun. I am told children still play this game.
One fond memory is of going to the circus in Mangalore. On that occasion father hired a taxi and took us all to Mangalore to see Kamala Three Ring circus.
(A brief history of the Indian circus – IN SCHOOL – The Hindu
Jan 21, 2013 – Kamala Three Ring Circus needs a special mention here as what started humble went on to become a giant American-style six-pole three-ring …)
I think we also went to see a play the same day, but I don’t remember the name of that play. We then went to the Railway station. There was a train parked there. The gate was shut and we could not look at it from near. So we just had a peep. I remember my father saying that that was the railway station and that the long vehicle was a train. Who knew then that I would get to travel on trains, within and outside our country with my husband for over fifty years! He worked with the Indian Railways. He joined the Service in 1958 and retired in 1987 as Controller of Stores.
Shaale – school
Bolvar- name of a place in Puttur
Shabari – An elderly woman who waited for Lord Rama
This is a beautiful song about a bangle seller sung by C Ashwath
( This photo is from the internet)
( My parents on their wedding day on May 1st, 1959)
Some time ago, a Facebook message told me that I had just celebrated five years of friendship with a friend. When I read that, my mind went back to 1976. I had joined a new school and I was in 9th Standard. I met this friend then. From the first something clicked and we became close friends. We had a lot in common. The next three years flew by and it was time to leave school. I left Delhi. We exchanged letters for some time. Those were the days of letters and after some time we lost touch. Life went on.
It was more than three decades since leaving school. At odd moments I would think about my friend, especially on her birthday. I was sure I would never meet her again. I am living in South India and she, in the north, when I left school. I had been to Delhi only once after 1979. Then, one day five years ago I got a friend request on Facebook from her. It was a dream come true. We are yet to meet in person but are in contact. This is one of the reasons I like Facebook.
“Seeing bread pieces
The crows swooped down from all sides
Irate babblers cried
This fight amused the watchers
But survival for the birds.”
For this challenge, interpret the theme “bridge.” You can go the same route as I did and capture any type or style of bridge where you are, or go deeper and take a snapshot of something or someone that acts as a bridge in your life: a link, a connection, a mediator.
In our village, in the areca garden there are small streams and narrow water channels. The dead areca trees are cut and laid across the streams or channels and they serve as bridges.
“Far from the sea shore,
Fishing in the deep ocean
Fishermen work hard.
I wonder what fishes think,
Trying to escape the nets.”
As I said earlier my Bobbe ajji was a very resourceful lady. If you remember, I had thought that Bobbe ajji lived away from us when we lived in the kottage room. Now I recall what my mother told about her. It seemed that she had always been living with us. Before coming to Harady, appa, amma, Bobbe ajji and I lived in a small house in a place called Dayyaramule near Adyanadka.
My father was a teacher at that time in a nearby school. We had cows in our home, and Bobbe ajji would sell milk to a hotel in Adyanadka. The owner made it a habit of never paying her on time. So, one day ajji marched to the hotel and brought back an attinalage (idli making vessel) from there. She said she would return it when the owner paid the money. Obviously he did not do so, because I used the vessel for many years. Now my daughter has it. Just imagine, this incident took place before 1944. The owner of the hotel must have been using it for some time at least.
In 1944 we came to Harady in Puttur, and in 1947 we shifted to our own house. Bobbe ajji loved going to Mahalingeshwara temple especially in April when Puttur jaatre was held. This festival was and is very popular. In 1949, during the time of the jaatre, one night, she was returning home from the temple. There were no street lights and she fell into ditch. I don’t know how she came home, but after that she did not rise from her bed. She passed away after a few months.
My maternal grandparents’ house, Panjigudde, was a few miles away from our home. My ajja had passed away when my ajji was in her early twenties. She had two children, my mother and her elder brother. My grandmother’s brothers looked after the family. My ajji, maternal uncle, Ishwara Bhat, and his family lived in Panjigudde. My uncle had a handloom and used to make saris and bedsheets too. In those days people did not have enough money to buy many clothes. The saris which he wove were durable. So,they were in great demand.
During summer vacations my sister Jaya and I used to walk to our grandmother’s place. On our way we used to eat wild berries like kuntala hannu, kepala hannu. We loved walking. It was great fun and never felt tired. During those hot months there was very little water in the well there. We used to go to a nearby stream and a pool to wash our clothes and vessels. I remember there was another pool from which water was used for bathing. The well water was used for drinking and cooking alone. My grandmother had very poor eyesight, and we used to accompany her to two of her friends’ houses. The three ladies enjoyed talking to each other. I also remember that some ladies would come to see ajji and tell her about their troubles. She would to talk to them kindly. We were too young to understand what was being discussed. I think sometimes I used to stay there alone too, because I remember my uncle bringing me back home on his bicycle. My ajji was bedridden for a while before passing away sometime in the 1970s. Now it has been a long time since I have gone to Panjigudde.
I also remember going to two of my father cousins’ houses during summer vacations. Both were older than my father. We first went to Mudambail. Mudambail atte’s children were also there. I remember having great fun playing hide and seek and other games. I remember particularly that a cousin brother played often with us. The aunts scolded us for playing with boys. Early every morning we used to go to the garden to pick wild mangoes. From Mudambail we went to Marikini atte’s house. My father’s younger sister lived in Adyanadka. We would visit her before returning our home at the end of the vacation.
To be continued
Kottage – a room or some rooms adjacent to the main house
Harady – a place in the town, Puttur ( in those days it was a small village)
Appa- father, Amma- mother, Ajji – grandmother
Dayyaramule, Adyanadka, Mudambail – names of villages
Mahalingeshwara – Lord Shiva
Jaatre – Temple festival or a fair
Kuntala and Kepala- names of wild berries, Hannu- fruit
Memories of childhood written by my mother, Shantha Bhat, in Kannada. My son,Aravinda and I translated it.
My earliest memories are of our one-room house in Harady. I must have been around five years old in 1946. The room was part of the ‘kottage’ of the main house. My parents, I and my sister Jaya lived there. My mother’s maternal uncles and their families lived there. We used to call them ‘doddamava’, ‘doddatte’, ‘puttu mava’ and ‘puttatte’. Doddatte’s mother also lived there. She was a widow and used to wear white saris. We called her ‘Bili ajji’. My grandmother was ‘kempu ajji’ because she wore a red sari as a mark of her widowhood. I don’t remember where she lived when we were in the small house. Later on she came to live with us. In another part of the kottage my mother’s grandfather lived with his mistress. I remember watching with my sister Jaya, with fascination, as he used leeches to purify his blood. One day I fell and hurt myself. Back then we did not use ‘English medicine’. My puttatte applied sugar powder on the wound. It healed but left a mark on my left temple.
In 1947, my father purchased a plot of land with a thatched house just above the kottage. My mother was pregnant with my brother Gopala. He was born in that house. Everyone was so excited that a son was born into the family.
Kempajji, whose real name was Mukambike, came to live with us there. She was my grandfather’s first wife. Even after a few years they did not have children so she got her niece married to her husband. The irony is after her husband’s second marriage she herself became pregnant. A daughter was born to them. I don’t remember my ajji. Unfortunately I do not remember her name. She died young leaving behind her two small children, my father and my aunt. They were brought up by Bobbe ajji. My father used to call her Doddabbe. (Abbe means mother) We children called her Bobbe ajji.
She was a very enterprising lady. In the months of March and April she would go to the homes of relatives, stay there through the summer and help them prepare Jackfruit happala. As a token of appreciation they would give her some of the happala to take back home. She was a medicine woman, which means she knew many country remedies for various illnesses. Her medicines died with her. There is a custom among us which is called ‘dhrishti tegeyuvudu’ which is a ritual to ward off ill effects that were thought to influence children. A piece of iron was heated in the fire. This red hot iron was dipped in water kept in bowl on the threshold (hosthilu). This bowl was moved thrice around the child’s head. Then the water was thrown away. I remember Bobbe ajji doing this for my brother Gopala.
One more lovely incident I remember is trying to hit her with a wooden stick when she had been away for a long time leaving me behind. I loved her very much and wanted to be with her always.
She was an expert in a board game called daabelu played with cowrie shells (kavade). She would go to the uncles’ house to play this game with three other people. One half of a coconut shell was polished to smoothness and placed upside down on the floor. The floor was divided into four houses with chalk. Each player would shake the six shells in their hands and drop them on the curved surface of the coconut shell. If the cowries fell the right way up, the player would win a certain number of points; if they fell the other way the number of points would be different. They would play this game after nightfall in the light of the oil lamp. I remember that they would be immersed in the game for hours together.
Board game photo from the internet.
Harady- name of a place in a small town in South India
Kottage- a small room or rooms adjacent to the main house
Doddamava – Elder uncle, Puttu mava- younger uncle, dodda atte -elder aunt, puttatte- younger aunt
Ajji – grandmother, Bili – white , Kempu- red
Happala- crispy fried preparations.
To be continued…