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)