Inner Circle, Outer Circle

Fifty-three years ago, Inesz Watts had her first vision of Whitefield, a lush green countryside perched amidst two wheels, one circling the other.

Her father, Horace Lobo, had just given up his a tea planter life in Sri Lanka, and decided to settle down. Buying a plot at 75 paise per sqft, the family began their saga. A calm and composed life awaited them. It was 1958.

Now in her eighties, Inesz remains attached to the Inner Circle, an enduring addiction that survived the IT onslaught. But she doesn’t know how long that would last. For, she knows not how to tackle the mess that is today’s Whitefield. “There was water problem even in the past. But not like now. The water man demands me money and he promises to ‘adjust’ and get water. What does he mean?”

Built for another era, the roads circling the Inner and Outer Wheels have gotten too narrow. “Big vehicles never used to come on these roads. Now they occupy every inch, honking day and night,” said Inesz, her immense sadness hardly concealed by her helpless angst.

The vehicles wouldn’t stop. A traffic signal at the nearby Oakfarm junction was too busy for the drivers’ liking. They had found the Circle roads the perfect shortcut. Who cares for the elderly, cursing their collective fates in those old bungalows.

But the rugged roadie in him hadn’t let anything challenge 82-year-old Luther Raju. All his antennas up, he came riding an old moped to tell his old Whitefield story. As someone who supplied water to all the 27 houses on the two Circles 45 years ago, Raju surely was one mobile encyclopaedia. “I first came here for a one rupee salary. My job was to retrieve all those balls the settlers overshot while playing their games.”

Raju controlled the valves that let water in, all the way from Catholic Hill within Our Lady of Lourdes Church. Eventually, when most original settlers passed away, many of their devoted employees inherited part of the property. Raju got his share too, before he ran into legal troubles. An old British property receipt tucked away in his purse was his proof, as he swore to carry the fight on.

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