A stroll down memory lane

A stroll down memory lane

From the albums

A stroll down memory lane

The black and white picture was taken in Udupi Shankara Rao’s house in Udupi in 1953. In the picture, my mother, Anandi, is dressing me up.

I was very particular about what I wore even at that age. It not only had to be a perfect blend and match, but also had to be suspender pants. I still remember when this picture was taken — I was unhappy with what I was wearing and wanted to change it. My mother was trying to convince me not to change it by saying that the outfit suited me. She was carrying my younger brother, Shankar. I also have an older sister, Shyamala.

In the other picture, you can see my grandfather Bantwal Sadashiva Bhat, who was my mother’s father. This picture was taken after my mother married my father Sadanand Nagarkatte. The Nagarkatte family is from Chitrapur, Shirali although my father is from Mallapur, in Honnavar taluk.

My mother and father met in Anandashram near the Puttur-Bantwal belt in South Kanara and then got married. Their marriage was a love-cum-arranged one. I grew up in Anandashram and Chitrapur Math in Shirali, North Kanara till I was about 11 years old. I learnt to sing ‘bhajans’ and play tabla in Anandashram while I was taught Sanskrit in Chitrapur Math. My father took special interest in teaching me the Bhagavad Gita. I would sit through my Sanskrit lessons in the morning, before I left for school, and sat through them again after I returned. All work and no play!

My parents were very conservative and strict when it came to our food habits as well. In the ashram and in the ‘math’, no garlic and onions were used. We stuck to a vegetarian diet and even to this day, I continue by choice, to be a vegetarian. My mother was a brilliant cook and I used to relish her ‘dal’ preparations, coconut grated sprout dishes and a certain sweetened ‘chapati’ (a variation of the ‘obbattu’). It was called ‘sanjeri’ and she would serve them on my birthday.

My wife Gayatri has picked up my mother’s culinary expertise and style of cooking and I find the taste of my mother’s cooking in her dishes. So, my early schooling happened in Udupi, Chitrapur, Shirali and in Honnavar in New English School, where I completed my eighth standard. I was later sent to Mumbai (then Bombay) by my father when I was 11 years old, to join a convent school. I was shattered since I had never stayed away from home. All my efforts to dissuade my parents and gurus in the ‘math’ and the ashram failed miserably.

I was consoled by people, saying that my father meant only good for me and my future. It was a cultural shock for me when I went to an English medium school in Bombay. I was very good in all the languages and mathematics but I wasn’t fluent either in speaking or understanding English. Most of my teachers mistook my silence and unresponsiveness in class as stubbornness and arrogance. After, I failed in class 10, I lost interest in studies and turned into an inward rebel of sorts.

My mother never said a word against my father all this time but consoled and convinced me to remain strong and be good. She was calm at all times and adapted herself to the person or situation rather than expecting people to change according to her likes. She insisted that we always be honest, hardworking and uncompromising in our values. I follow her ideals even to this day and her advice has given me a lot of courage, strength and fortitude to face tough
situations.

I was active in theatre right from my school days. I took to acting with a vengeance during my days in Bombay, much against the wishes of my father, who advised me to find my own means, to earn and learn to support my acting. He watched my film ‘Hamsgeethe’, where I had to shave my head.

    He was angry that I had gone against traditions and shaved my head clean, with not even a tuft of hair standing. As the years wore on, he reconciled with my
profession as an actor.

It is my parents who gave me all the support I needed and made me a wholesome person. Their goodness and selfless ways have made me who I am today.

Anant Nag
(Anant can be contacted on additinag@gmail.com)
(As told to Nina C George)

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