Looking for escape routes

Looking for escape routes


Looking for escape routes

 But our country is different, its main occupation being changing names as a mark of its achievement, like Bengaluru! In my home town where I grew up, the road from Shimoga to Thirthhalli was simply called that. They went and renamed it Maha Kavi Kali Dasa Road, even the acronym of which was impossible — MKKD Road! So it remained Old Thirthhalli or OT Road. So does Gopi Circle.

It was my early school days. A fancy new restaurant had opened in front of our Mangalore tiled house blocking our view of the road. I remember that clearly because Gandhi had come and planted a coconut tree earlier to Gopi opening his outlet.
I remember Gopi much better than Gandhi. He was a desi Rex Harrison in a dhoti with a pleasant permanent smirk and a cigarette. He wandered majestically among his horde of shirts and vests clad boys who served the crowd that seemed to perpetually throng the place. He, however, never interacted with the clientele, for in the beginning, he did not know the  language, him being a Telugu. By and by hiding the fact that he had learnt the language, he carefully chose the rich of the town and cultivated them. It was easy, for the rich of the town hardly knew how to spend an evening without everyone knowing where they did so.

He opened a room at the back of the hotel and invited them to play cards. That I think was preliminary. I never got a peek into that room but eagerly eyed the closed doors in the mornings on my way to school. Judging from the ‘success’ of the diversion, there certainly was more than card-playing, or atleast, this is what I surmise from the Gopi episode much much later. 

The ‘much much later’ was after I had returned from England, finished my first professional stint in a public sector company and on the verge of launching on another. I was now considered fit to be married. Mother had religiously collected addresses of likely brides who were spread from Madras to Vijayawada. Reluctantly, I had tagged along. Mother was formidable and unaccustomed to take no for an answer.

The very first foray was Tirupathi and the girl, a medical student and an orphan, begged leave of her guardians to talk to me in private. She was in love with someone and would I please refuse her? “Say I am black,” she said. So I did and learnt at once how to get out of my predicaments. In a given situation, ask for private audience, and then search and find an escape route. It worked in Madras, Vijayawada and a host of places till we ran into trouble. 

In Hyderabad, we were to do our final foray into bride hunting. The hotel we stayed in was in Secunderabad. We were told by a friend in Shimoga that this was a ‘homely’ place. ‘Homely’ it surely was because the proprietor turned out to be Gopinath albeit Gopi of Shimoga of the yesteryears.

He had sold out in Shimoga and re-established here. As soon as he garnered the purpose of our visit, he became the most helpful contact for the purpose. And all the girls were the daughters of his friends. And all of them were ‘innocent’ and had no reservations about anything. Private audience anytime and no escape routes. That’s when I had to quietly let in mother on Gopi’s reputation in Shimoga. And that’s how the unlikely quest ended, in quiet relief for me and utter desperation for mother. You see, the Gopi Circle is where all the trouble begins and ends, even today, in Shimoga.