A bestseller is born

A bestseller is born

A bestseller is born

I have never met Ian. A friend introduced him to me over the phone. That's how I began talking to him - on the internet - and realised that Ian Burns from Melbourne is a famous writer, mainly of books to entertain and educate children. He sent me some of his books. I was bowled over and asked for more. He still sends me whatever he writes. And in the course of our interaction, he asked me to narrate to him a typical Indian village. I didn't have to go far. Living in the heart of Bengaluru, I had discovered that I was also living in a village, Akkithimmanahalli. And I told him this story...

The village lay in a marsh where Charles Marsh, an engine driver, made his home some 150 years ago. To the city dwellers, 'east' was Cantonment, which sprawled over an expanse of luxuriant tracts, green hilly slopes, low marshes, and a bevy of shimmering lakes. The village stayed mostly out of the metamorphosis that eventually brought civilisation - roads, electric poles, telephones, and ultimately slums - to the east.

The village has one main street with houses on either side. There it has kept its secret. There is no telling how the pounding of urban development was out-foxed by these dwellers. The front is now established by a temple and a choultry. At the tail end is a mosque and, farther away, a church. The area between the village and the church has a vast coconut grove. The grove is now an expanse of building activity. The road to the church is now Shantinagar, and further up, Wilson Gardens. The road to the mosque is the fastest commercial outgrowth reaching out to Lalbagh, called the K H Road, but commonly referred to as Double Road - for it was the first road that doubled!

I don't really know when Charles called it quits and left for his home country. The next owner, being a Muslim, replaced all the glazing with a kind of bottle green. When we bought the property about 70 years ago, there was the main building with an old well surrounded by four streets at the little edge of the village.

The village has retained its identity by carefully distancing itself from the sprawling metropolis, but has provided services according to its own capabilities. These services have mainly consisted of providing domestic help. We have always had ours from the village, I am proud to say. All of them, with no exception, have been very good. But they have one major failing. They are very independent-spirited. Being so, they also follow a highly evolved code of ethics with things left strewn around. Finders-keepers seem to be the rule rather than the exception. I am just going through the third generation from the village, and I won't have any other. The strong traits of the village are what I love most.

Surviving as a village, retaining its old values in the middle of the city, does indeed put pressure on these village folk. They use their village viles to beat those of the city. Like the dhobi who has been with us for the best part of half a century, and was also a campaign manager of a person who was successively an MLA and a mayor of the corporation, no less! That is the good and bad of the village that has been my home for over half a century.

There was silence from Ian for some time and then he casually asked me of my family of which I had nothing much to say except their names. I wondered why till one fine day a beautifully produced book arrived. It was called Ranga Plays Australia - A Cricket Dream, a children's book of nearly 300 pages complete with a quiz on 'Will India beat Australia, will Australia beat India. Will they ever play each other?' A delightful story of a boys' cricket team from Akkithimmanahalli that went to Austalia. "1949. The Australians have thrashed the Poms in England, India has played its first Test series in Australia, and 'the Don' has retired... and Ranga has a dream."

Ranga is my eldest son and Ian has dedicated the book to three friends from India, including the one he hasn't met till now.