The green grass of home

Last Updated 23 November 2016, 18:44 IST
This family photograph was taken in 1982 in front of our house, GBJ-366, situated in 13th cross of the HAL Quarters in Marathahalli.

This picture was taken by my cousin brother with his new camera when he came from the Middle East. My parents Aleyamma and P V Abraham are flanked by my two sisters, Valsa and Lali, on either side and my brother Raju (Varghese). My father is no more.

We lived in a house in the corner under the shade of lush green tall trees. The quarters provided by HAL for the employees of HAL and BEML were individual houses with their own gardens. My father had a green thumb. He brought vegetation like ‘kachil’ (yam), ‘kappa’ (tapioca) and ‘payyar’ (string beans) and planted them in our garden. My mother is an excellent cook and I can still sense the aroma of her fish, ‘sambhar’, ‘kappa’ and chutneys.

We used to dry chillies, wheat, ‘dhaniya’, rice and ‘appalams’ on the terrace of our house. There were no steps but we made them anyway finding footholds on the ventilation parapets or some crevice in the wall. It was fun to compete with friends on who could climb up quickly.

We had a playground in front of our house and had various competitions with other such playgrounds in the quarters. As my brother and sisters were elder to me, I was not a part of any of their games. I used to play with my own group of friends. The grounds that were clean and well-maintained used to get a prize. Some of our free time was also spent in ensuring cleanliness around our living and play areas.

Every morning and evening, be it before going or after returning from school, one could see all the girls from houses in the same lane sweeping their respective garden and the road in front of their house. Most of the children in the quarters studied at Vimanapura East Extension Primary School and Vimanapura High School. Both these schools were established and run by HAL. I am very proud to say that I am a product of the HAL school.  

In the evenings, we would finish our homework quickly and then play endlessly, go for long walks or sit in front of our homes and chat late into the night. Life was beautiful and safe. There was an environment of cleanliness, leisure, peace and discipline.

My summer holidays were well-spent with my friends Uma, Pushpa and Savitri. There were enough activities in the quarters and we found time to chat with one another face-to-face, go to each other’s house and help with chores in the kitchen, be it cleaning the rice, wheat or the greens.

We had a lot of time to visit friends and relatives and go for movies as a family. There were two main movie theatres in that area, Marathahalli Cinema Talkies, which was a perpetual tent, and the HAL Cinema Hall which has now become the HAL Heritage Museum. Movies in the ‘tent’ used to cost only 45 paise to sit on the ground and 90 paise to sit on the chair.  We are fortunate that our parents provided us with good education which has enabled us to be what we are now.  We are all married and settled in our respective lives. Raju has his own business. Valsa is working in BHEL while Lali is settled in the US with her family. I am the principal of Sheila Kothavala Institute for the Deaf. Out of nostalgia, I often tell my daughter various stories of my early childhood in HAL Quarters.  She finds it hard to believe that Marathahalli was a heaven, green and clean, in those days.

Today Marathahalli has become very busy and congested with traffic. We recently passed through the GBJ quarters and felt sad that the place did not look like what it used to in those days and also did not see any children playing anywhere.

(The author can be contacted at jessysamuel65@gmail.com)
(Published 23 November 2016, 18:44 IST)

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