A saga of decades

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Last Updated : 26 June 2016, 18:38 IST
Last Updated : 26 June 2016, 18:38 IST

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This paternal family photograph was taken in 1924, when I was three-years-old, on the steps of Rai Raya Raya R Venkata Rao Chatram, now known as Raya Raya Kalyana Mantapa, located on K R Road, Shankarapuram.

The ‘chatram’ has an interesting history. My maternal uncle, Venkata Rao, from Kumbakonam, who served as a ‘dewan’ for many of the southern states, had a penchant for building ‘chatrams’ (free accommodation for poor travellers). He built one at the spot where City Market stands today. When the government acquired the land to build the market, they compensated for that by granting about three acres on K R Road, Shankarapuram. My eldest maternal uncle Hari Rao built the ‘chatram’ there.

My father Srinivasa Rao was appointed as the manager of the ‘chatram’. The building had 10 rooms for travellers and a four room extension in the front for the manager. During World War II, the government took over the building for storing food grains. Then we moved to a rented building in Basavanagudi.

The ‘chatram’, popularly known as ‘Kannaspatre Chatra’, used to be frequented by patients who came to the Minto Ophthalmic Hospital for treatment.

We used to give the visitors a kerosene stove, brass and aluminium vessels to cook and one day’s ration. The government granted us a village called Karalapura. The income generated from the agricultural products of this village was used to maintain the ‘chatram’.

 The ‘chatram’ was surrounded by mango and guava trees on which we used to play as children. Snakes and monkeys were rampant but we got used to their presence. There were very few restaurants at that time. I remember only one in Shankarapuram which was famous for its ‘idlis’. There was no electricity and we used kerosene lamps. There was a big well in the premises from which we used to draw water for most of our requirements. A big trench in front of the ‘chatram’ separated the building from K R Road. A mud track connected to the road. Very few buses would ply from the Kalasipalyam Bus Stand.

Today, the Kalyana Mantapa stands on the spot where the ‘chatram’ once stood. The building was demolished but the manager’s quarters still remains, bearing the name of the donor Venkata Rao.

One of my ardent memories of those days is buying groceries from Revappa Shivappa Stores in Dodpet. We would buy groceries once in three months for Rs 30. The sacks full of grains and other things would be piled up on horse-drawn carts called ‘jataka’, the only mode of transportation available.

Having no space to sit, I would run behind the ‘jataka’ all the way home!
When my eldest uncle Rama Rao was serving in the criminal investigation department of Bangalore Police, he cracked a famous murder case and was awarded the Maharaja’s Gold Medal.

My father Srinivasa Rao served in the Mysore Government Secretariat, Bengaluru, and was the personal assistant to the second counsellor (equivalent to today’s minister) Anantaraman.

 My next uncle Raghavendra Rao, a civil engineer, served in the Nizam’s state of Hyderabad. During the police action on Hyderabad, unable to face the atrocities of the ‘razakars’ (a militant organisation sponsored by the state), he had to run away with his wife from the state leaving behind all his possessions. Luckily, he had built a house in Bengaluru and had locked up most of his earnings here, so he could spend the rest of his life in comfort.

My last uncle Nagaraja Rao, the first person with an MA degree in our family, served in the Education Department and earned a good name.

My uncles and their families would visit the ‘chatram’ during vacations and the above photograph was taken on one such occasion. Seen in it are my aunts and cousins as well. Sitting in the centre wearing the Mysore turban is my grandfather Padmanabha Rao with my grandmother Kamalabai.

I was born in Bengaluru on May 27, 1921. I studied in the Government Primary School (Shankarapuram), National High School, Intermediate College and finally at Mysore Medical College. After graduation and house surgency, I joined the Mysore Kirloskar Ltd, Harihar, as a medical officer and worked for 15 years. During this period, I took my Certificate in Industrial Medicine from the All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health, Kolkata. I also worked as a resident in the Nashville General Hospital, USA. In 1963, I returned to my beloved city, Bengaluru, and set up my private practice by the name of Jay Clinic in Jayanagar. I retired in 1999. I also have an autobiography titled ‘Eye in the Occiput’.

I now live with my wife Meera and my son and his family, facing cheerfully the ups and downs of a super advanced age of 95 years.

(The author can be contacted on 9900505060)

Published 26 June 2016, 15:38 IST

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