Growing up in a colonial city

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Growing up in a colonial city

This photograph was taken in front of our house on Union Street in 1950 — an adjacent street to the stone building, which was then called BRV Cinema and now known as DSC Canteen. This was a typical Bangalore house, the front portion of which will remind one of the houses built in that era.

As the son of an Indian Air Force officer, we lived in a huge bungalow. I grew up as a child in the Bangalore just after we gained Independence, a time when there were still British army officers living their colonial life. There was a large enclosed verandah around the three sides of the house and a large compound with enough space to play.

My sister and I studied at Baldwin Girls High School on Richmond Road and went to school in a hand-drawn rickshaw. I still have a report card from 1949 signed by the legendary principal Marie Weston. Our neighbours were a well-known Punjabi family who owned three cinema halls, including the Empire theatre on posh South Parade. 

My sister and I were piled into a large motor van on weekends and school holidays, along with most of our neighbour’s 13 children, and bundled off to the movies at their cinema halls. Those were the days when the famous Bollywood movie ‘Mahal’ was released at the Empire theatre and the Flash Gordon movie at the Plaza theatre. For family treats, we used to visit the ice-ream parlour on Centre Street. We enjoyed the afternoon visits to Lakeview on South Parade for the two-anna milkshakes!  On many afternoons, we saw British memsahibs riding side-saddle on the elevated bridle path across the South Parade road.

My mother was highly educated, at a time (1935), when Indian women rarely completed school. She was a graduate from the Benares Hindu University. My sister went on to become an IAS officer and retired as a Secretary in the Government of India. The house is long gone, and most of this fully residential street is now fully commercial.

My father had joined the Royal Air Force in 1942 when the World War II was in full swing. Just after 1947, Indian RAF officers transitioned into Royal Indian Air Force, and after 1950, into IAF.  At the time the photo was taken in 1950, he was a Flight Lieutanant in the Air Force. He was in the Air Force Intelligence during the 1965 war with Pakistan.

I went on to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering and built a career in Sales and Marketing and Management with IBM in India and in Canada. My emotional attachment to this city brought me back to spend a few years in the late 1970s and both my children were also educated here at Sophia’s where my wife was a teacher. Also, for two years in the mid-90s, I was here on an assignment from IBM. After a quarter century in North America, we decided to retire here.

Anil Sahai
(The author can be contacted at anil7sahai@gmail.com)

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