The joy of climbing trees

From the albums

The joy of climbing trees

This picture was taken in 1956 on MG Road in my uncle Col Somanna’s (mother’s brother) bungalow.

    I remember that the entire line had big bungalows and I used to visit my uncle quite often. We were all taking a few family pictures and that’s how we happened to take this picture as well.

I must have been about nine months old in this picture and my brother Ganesh, who is also seen in the picture, is about 12 or 13 years old. My parents, NC Bidapa and Bollu Bidapa, had me quite late. My father was in the Air Force and I was born in Coimbatore where he was stationed. I shifted schools every two years because of my father’s job and we finally settled down in Bangalore, in 1968, and I became a residential student at Baldwin Boys' High School. My brother joined the NDA when I was four years old and from then, I would see him only once a year when he came down on a holiday.

   Although, we never really got a lot of time to spend together, I remember him to be a very protective older brother.

    In fact, the very first cologne that I used was gifted by my brother from Paco Rabanne. Even the first hand-block printed shirt was bought  by him from Sanganer in Jaipur. My brother also gifted me a beautiful short-sleeved, navy blue flying jumpsuit which I would so proudly wear on almost all the occasions, not only because it was fashionable but also because it looked good on me. I would tell everybody that my brother got it for me.

I almost grew up as an only child and remember being very close to both my father and mother. Somehow, I never recall being bored or lonely because I was a voracious reader. The first thing that my father would do, whenever he moved into a new city was to get a membership at the nearest library just so that I could get my fill of books. My father was also a great storyteller and I would always be fascinated by the stories he would narrate from his experiences of World War II when he was in the Royal Air Force. And almost all the houses that we had moved into had a large garden. So, I would climb trees, hand upside down from them, build canals in the garden and fill water in them...I was literally a village child. Incidentally, I still hang upside down sometimes.

When we moved to Bengaluru permanently, our evenings were about visiting friends and relatives. We would all get into my father’s old Vauxhall and it was so peaceful to drive around in Bengaluru those days. My father loved old cars and one corner of the garden would be always be transformed into a garage where his friends would leave their cars whenever it had a problem my father would sort it out. My father could dismantle just about any car and put it back together in perfect condition.

I’ve learnt a lot from both my father and mother. I’ve picked up my father’s discipline. He would insist that I wake up at 5 am and study and that is something, I follow even to this day. I am an early riser and my morning jog literally sets the tone for the day. My mother was a brilliant cook and sometimes we would have people come home to have a meal with us. She knew every conceivable Coorg dish.

    She was also a very stylish person and a voracious reader. She would read only foreign fashion magazines which she would order and it would be shipped in. She loved dressing up just as much as she loved reading. She made sure she matched everything that she wore and the cloak that she wore around every sari made her look very elegant and beautiful. She was also a very kind-hearted person.

My first glimpse of fashion were from magazines like Vogue that were lying around the house and I also picked up my first lessons in fashion from my mother. 

    When I was doing my pre-university at St Joseph’s College of Arts and Science, I used to do fashion shows and  get paid Rs 300 for each of them. This would be my pocket money which I would generously spend on my friends. I later went on to do a course at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad.

    My parents are no more and my brother lives in Coorg but whenever, I look at this picture, I am always reminded of my happy and memorable childhood. 

(Prasad can be contacted at prasadbidapa.com)

Prasad Bidapa
Fashion consultant

(As told to Nina C George)

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