A chapter from the past

From the albums

A chapter from the past

This photograph was taken somewhere in the mid 1950s at Mayo Hall in Bengaluru where I was invited. I have forgotten the occasion but what I do remember is the fact that the gentleman late Philip Spratt was most influential at that time and I took my friends Indumathi and late Indira along with me to the venue. Also seen in the picture is Prof Ramakrishna, a social thinker.

Philip Spratt was an activist and a journalist then. He was a popular figure at that time despite the anti-British mood. He identified himself with the thinking community in Bengaluru which is why we were so excited to see him.

He was also the editor of Mysindia for which I had a soft corner as they had written a paragraph about me calling me a ‘versatile captain/ pitcher’ for the Mount Carmel College softball team. Later, Philip was elected as the president of the Youth Association of Asia with late Hariram Chabria as secretary. Later still, Justice Vasudevamurthy was the president while I was the vice-president.

Growing up, I remember that we first lived in Gandhinagar — ‘Thatti Mane’, a house with several families with a courtyard, interesting in its own way as we came to know our neighbours with a slightly different culture. One of our neighbours was the Ogale family where the son Mukund had pet pigeons.

Then we moved to Bull Temple Road, where the boy working for us told us ghost stories, which included sounds of horses’ hooves of Tipu’s army. This house was large and the most thrilling experience was hoisting the national flag on Independence Day. That was also the time when we children watched four films in a row.

One of the best treats back then was ‘Honeymoon special’ (ice cream with fruits at Lakeview). To be seen walking on South Parade was the in thing!

In the late 50s, we got the opportunity to interact with the student delegation and the Japanese delegation.

Much earlier, Eleanor Roosevelt visited our school Mahila Seva Samaja in South Bengaluru. She wore a blue dress and was shaking as she came forward and spoke to us in the audience. This is also where I saw the Quit India Movement being enacted and the fascination with Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru continued. My father was deeply involved with the freedom struggle where he literally spent everything — his time, heart and money.

Our school had several English teachers. One of them was Miss Donne who lived nearby. I often spent time at the library at the Indian Institute of World Culture where Martin Luther King among others had come to give a talk.

The wonderful avenue of huge trees on either side of KR Road does not exist anymore, where one had to avoid the showers of bird droppings as we ran home opposite National High School.

Bengaluru was a very different kind of a place back then. The roads were not only deserted but were dim lit during the late evenings and no women were to be seen around.  There were a very few cars on the roads in those days so much so that everyone knew whose cars they were. Even temples were deserted and often we had to wait for the priest to perform the rituals. Among the festivals, Dasara was more popular as some young girls invited each other to view the dolls.

At Mount Carmel College (MCC), it was wonderful to interact with some American students on an exchange programme where they sang ‘You are my Sunshine’. We also joined them in crooning the pop song. I was not very good in academics and was elected as the house captain at MCC. My favourite pastimes were playing pranks and pelting stones at the tamarind, guava and mango trees.

In the 60s, I happened to come across a few intellectuals deeply concerned with social issues in Indian society. Little did I realise that someone from Bengaluru was a subject of discussion. It was a book titled ‘Hindu Culture and Personality’, just the kind of book I had always wanted to read. I borrowed it and went through it thoroughly.

In his book, ‘Hindu Culture and Personality’, Spratt, like a few of his contemporaries, had spoken about narcissism. Later, he left Bengaluru and became the editor of ‘Swarajya’.

He was a multi-linguist deeply interested in philosophy, anthropology and psychology. While at Cambridge, he was awarded a first-class degree on completing the mathematics tripos. He thought a great deal about science and religion and became a close associate of M N Roy. After India gained independence, he was the lone voice that spoke against the government’s policies.

 I was to meet Prof Ramakrishna on another occasion at Bertrand Russell Study Circle and was happy to interact with him when I founded a book club which was the first of its kind in the city in 2001.


(The author can be contacted at lokvasrao@gmail.com)

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