The summer retreat

The summer retreat

From the albums

The summer retreat

This family photograph was taken at the wedding of my uncle, Gopal, in front of my maternal grandparents’ house in Srirampuram in 1974. It was always a memorable summer vacation for me in Bengaluru. My ancestors had migrated to Hyderabad from Karnataka generations ago and I was born and raised there but we had our roots in Bengaluru. Coming here was a delightful treat.

Those were the days of metre gauge trains. There were no ‘Rajadhanis’ or ‘Shatabdis’ and there was only 1 train to Bengaluru. Our journey would take 24 hrs from Hyderabad! Hence, we had to carry food and bedding known as ‘holdalu’. Water was invariably taken in brass ‘rail chambu’.

We had to take a ‘jatakagadi’ or a yellow top taxi, an expensive luxury, to my grandparents’ house. Their house was situated on a huge site with the backyard opening to the entrance of the next street. The backyard was so big that my aunt Jaya and my parents’ wedding was held there.

The backyard had a number of trees like gooseberry, guava, mango and jackfruit. We never had the opportunity of eating jackfruit in Hyderabad. The skilful process of separating the consumable portion called ‘tole’ from the jackfruit was a sight to watch. The large number of coconut trees in the front and the backyard added to the beauty of the house.

I remember my grandfather, fondly called ‘Annaiah’, sitting in the living room on a long easy chair with a silver snuff box, ‘neshyadadabbi’, which he considered as his heirloom property. The minute we reached home, we would all rush to greet him to be the first to shake hands with him. Then my grandmother, lovingly called ‘Akka’, with her ever-beautiful smile, would come to hug us.  It was a large joint family — my grandparents, their 4 sons and their families and 2 daughters who were not yet married. My aunt Jaya lived a few roads away and the train would pass by their house when my cousin Sudha would shout ‘will be in ajji’s house in 15 minutes!’. After taking a bath, we would all chat with our grandfather and uncles. We had a special bonding with them and I still remember calling them with their pet names.

My aunts, Papu and Leela, would plait our hair and play games like ‘kavade’ and ‘choukabara’ with us. Our uncles would take us to Malleswaram in the evenings. Both Sampige and Margosa roads were a pleasure to walk on. They had regular 2-way traffic and were still very calm and peaceful. On Sampige Road, we would frequent ‘Hamsa stores’, where we would be treated to badam milk and ‘congress kadlekai’.

In the afternoons, we would play in the backyard — simple games like ‘kuntebille’, ‘hide n’ seek’ or ‘marakotiaata’ by climbing guava trees. Sometimes, we girls would play with Channapatna toys. At night, we would be talking till late. There were no fans, AC or fridge in my grandfather’s house as they were not necessary. TV and cable connections were unheard of. There was just a radio which was used to listen to news broadcast on AIR and Binaka Geethmala.

We would also plan a trip to the ‘Congress Exhibition’ held at Subhashnagar grounds and enjoyed cultural programmes held there. Today, the grounds have paved way for the Majestic bus stand and the Metro. Watching Rajkumar’s movies at Kalpana or States Theatre was another highlight. Now, as we walk on Kempegowda Road, we wonder where these theatres have vanished. 

      I remember my Ajji’s day would start very early. She would pluck flowers and make lovely garlands for the morning ‘puja’. She was a great cook. I can never forget her ‘kaituttu’, ‘cobrimithai’, ‘hurlisaru’ and ‘hulisoppupalya’. In fact, her daughter Sunanda has inherited this culinary skill. Sunanda used to live in Gavipuram Guttahalli, just opposite Masti VenketeshaIyengar’s house. As my aunt and uncle had told us about this great literary figure, we would wait to catch a glimpse of the doyen of short stories in Kannada. Years later, after my marriage into a Kannada writer’s family, my joy knew no bounds when Masti carried my daughter in his arms.

Of all my cousins, Lalita is a school teacher and Manjula is an entrepreneur while my sister Sandhya is a doctor. I am a lecturer at NMKRV PU College for Women. We cherish these lovely memories during our cousins’ meet twice a year.

Hema M R
(The author can be contacted on 9845040923)

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