A return to the 40s

From the albums

A return to the 40s

This family photograph was taken in 1943 in Magrath Road, Bangalore. It shows my maternal grandfather M P Jacob; my parents T T Joseph and Mary Joseph; my five siblings and myself.

My grandfather was the conservator of forests in the princely state of Travancore. He was visiting his eldest daughter and a professional photographer was called to capture the occasion. My father is seen in an Air Force uniform and I was three years old.

The Air Force was called the Royal Indian Air Force (RIAF) then. Its officers had all been British and the process of inducting Indians had begun. My father was one of the early Indians to be inducted, and his first posting was in Bangalore.

We lived in a palatial bungalow on Magrath Road which was neither paved nor tarred. Both sides of the road had huge trees whose interleaving foliage overhead formed a splendid canopy.

In 1943, India was still ruled by the British, but the Quit India Movement was in full swing. There was considerable tension between the Indians and the British. I remember an occasion when some  British boys started fighting with me for no apparent reason except that I was Indian. Fortunately, my brothers were there to rescue me.

Transportation around the city was by cycle, ‘jutka’, ‘tonga’, or the stately phaeton. The latter three were drawn by horses or ponies. Buses were few and only the affluent had cars. There was virtually no traffic on the roads. Most of the buildings on South Parade (now MG Road) and Brigade Road were single-storeys.

Bangalore, at that time, was sharply divided between the City and the Cantonment. City was where traditional business houses conducted commercial activities. Cantonment was where the British ‘sahibs’ lived and worked. Cantonment comprised South Parade, Brigade Road, Residency Road and Richmond Road, with some outlying enclaves, like Cox Town, Fraser Town and Cooke Town.

On Sundays, my father would often take us to Cubbon Park where the police brass band would play on the band stand in the evenings. Most of the city roads were lined with spectacularly coloured flowering trees like flame of the forest and jacaranda. Russell Market was the shopping centre for produce. Sophisticated British ladies, accompanied by their butlers, would descend from elegant phaetons and shop there. My favourite place was Mysore Arts and Crafts, the precursor to Cauvery Emporium, which was located where it is today.

Most of the people in the picture are no more. The rest are settled in the city itself and now their children and grandchildren call it home.

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

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