Those fog-filled days of yore

Those fog-filled days of yore

From the albums

Those fog-filled days of yore

This photograph was taken at my eldest brother Ajjampur Krishna Swamy’s house in Jayanagar 4th ‘T’ block in May 1970, a week before my wedding. It has my sister-in-law Bhagya Lakshmi, nephew Swarna Kumar, nieces Swarna Mala and Swarna Rekha, sister-in-law’s siblings Rajashekar, Nalina and Pramila and myself.

We enjoyed each other’s company, especially on holidays, when I visited my brother’s place. We would play a word-building game, scrabble and carrom. Swarna Rekha did not like curd and my father would coax her to eat it, rewarding her with small peppermints later.

It is close to 50 years since I graduated as an engineer in 1966 and started living in Bengaluru. In those days, it was a wonderful air-conditioned city. I clearly remember the tree-lined avenues, the wide roads of Jayanagar and the red buses plying between different locations. I would travel on Route No 1 from Jayanagar South End Circle via Gandhi Bazaar and Sampige Road to Malleswaram 18th cross. The journey took roughly an hour. Seeing today’s traffic, at my age (70), one shudders to travel this distance.

Girls’ education in technical courses was unheard of at that time and my father was advised by many of his friends to not encourage me as it would pose a serious hindrance for marriage later. However, my parents and brothers were a big source of support in helping me pursue and finish engineering. My mother and grandmother would get my breakfast ready at 6.30 am, my brother would bring out my bicycle and my father would wait for my return from college in the evenings. I remember my brother even postponing his convocation to the year when I graduated.

I started my professional career as a junior engineer in the erstwhile MSEB (the present BESCOM) and later, joined the National Aeronautical Laboratory (the present National Aerospace Laboratories).

NAL was considered as located outside city limits, close to HAL on the present Old Airport Road, and had a fleet of buses to bring employees from the city. During winters, there would be thick fog on those roads, with poor visibility, giving a feeling of travelling through a cloud.

I got married in 1970. My husband was a professor at the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS) so he would travel in a green UAS bus while I travelled in a blue NAL bus. Most of our relatives  have been residing in beautiful South Bengaluru areas like Jayanagar and J P Nagar. Walking in these localities used to be very refreshing in the early 70s. Going to the famous Nanda Theatre at a walking distance from home to watch Kannada movies was such a thrill. We even went home to have dinner during the interval of Raj Kapoor’s film ‘Mera Naam Joker’. R V Road lined on either side with trees and parks provided a wonderful walking stretch of close to 3 kms.

Later, my husband and I left for Belgium in 1972 for higher studies. Upon our return in 1976,  we stayed at Hebbala in the UAS campus — beautiful with sloping rooftop houses and lots of trees. Children played on the streets outside the house without any fear of vehicles. My husband grew many vegetables, fruits and flowers in our garden and we distributed them to our relatives too. I also have very good memories of my school days. I had several friends and our evenings were spent playing outside the house, unlike now when children either watch TV or play computer games. My high school days are unforgettable as they brought out the inherent competitive spirit in me and prepared me for my future life. I fondly remember learning to ride the bicycle with my friends Yashoda and Vedavalli. Even to this day, we meet at the slightest opportunity. Yashoda became a doctor and Vedavalli, an officer in the Telephone Exchange. Girls taking up professional courses was rare then, which made this an achievement!

Present day Bengaluru is very different from what I grew up in. However, in spite of several changes for the worse, it has retained the beauty of its gardens. I consider myself very lucky to have several friends from my college days, workplace, a morning walk group and evening yoga group.

My eldest brother is 92-years-old and retired as Principal Chief Conservator of Forests. My nephew Swarna Kumar is presently the chairman of Rajarajeshwari Vidya Mandir High School, Banashankari. Rajashekar and his wife Swarna Mala live in America. Swarna Rekha was a professor and head of the Pediatric Department at St John’s Hospital and after retirement, is busy writing books on medicine.

Nalina and Pramila (my sister-in-law’s sisters) are homemakers. I retired as the deputy director of NAL.

What I find commendable is that each one of my friends from college and workplace is an achiever, that too coming from an era when many girls didn’t even go to college. Many received awards and most of us have worked till our retirement age.

We managed both home and work comfortably. Many of us also followed interesting hobbies and have been active socially. Living with old parents and in-laws has been pleasurable with no ego hassles or quarrels. It has been smooth sailing and I am happy to have belonged to that era of values!

Vijayalaxmi Shankar
(The author can be contacted on vls155@yahoo.com)

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