Published on July 28, 2009
Celebrating the Golden Wedding Anniversary of K.N.Krishnamoorthy and Sharada Krishnamoorthy
# 1 KNK as a Child # 2 Four Generations! 2
This book is fondly dedicated to the memory of the late parents of K.N.Krishnamoorthy and Sharada Krishnamoorthy. # 4 Ponnamal & N. Ramasubramoni # 3 Dr. K.N. Swamy 3
Family Tree by Sanjana Srikanth 4
KNK Thatha & Charummai/ Pati by Suvedh 5
K.N. Krishnamoorthy, or KNK as he is affectionately called is certainly a gentleman to be reckoned with. He is best known for organizing events such as weddings, air shows or Thiruppugazh gatherings with a huge attendances, and even trips either with family or with friends. He uses his sharp wit to pinpoint flaws in plans, and then provides quick solutions to change flawed processes and make them work. He is often put in charge of running events, and takes on these herculean tasks with an easy aplomb. To receive a compliment from him (a rare occurrence!) is a major feat. He had (and still has) very little patience with any incompetence. If he felt that something could be done by a certain time, then it should. His unfailing sense of ‘doing the right thing’ has kept him on top of things. Always an early riser, he has a boundless energy and self confidence that help portray him as someone to look up to, and indeed he is a person who is well known and respected throughout the DRDO/MIT community, the RT Nagar Cultural group, as well as the Thiruppugazh community. Here’s a toast to a man who is a force! 6
Sharada Krishnamoorthy or Charu as she is affectionately referred to is a spiritual and creative person. She epitomizes that old adage, “behind every successful man there is a woman”. She has unfailingly done whatever is needed to support her husband in his various endeavors. She is often guileless, and is surprised when people don’t act the way she would. She has herself shown a formidable skill for organizing events all the way from teaching classes to arranging Ragaranjani katcheris to major events such as Rukmini Kalyanams. She hasn’t stopped learning and creating. She has even mastered that dastardly machine – the computer, has learned to send emails, search for information on the web, make CDs of MP3s, and has learned to blog and more, and I’m sure will be tweeting very soon! More importantly, she knows what she doesn’t know, and is not afraid to learn about new technology! Despite her uncooperative health, she often forges ahead to get things done, where she leaves people that are perfectly healthy in the dust. Her creative energy and her penchant to include everybody make her a well- respected and loved person. This is a tribute to a beautiful woman inside and out. 7
Their journey began on April 27th 1959. They settled down in Bangalore and moved from one house to another in Vyalikkaval. Here they are at their 1st. Main Road home. 8
They had their hands full with four children. Before long, they invested their life savings into constructing a home in Mattadahally (later renamed to R.T. Nagar) 9
Both herald from large, nuclear families. Since they are the eldest in their respective families, there were numerous occasions for family gatherings. At Dr. K.N. Swamy’s 60th birthday (shastiapdapoorthy) in Karungulam Seated (L to R): Dr.N.Venkatasubramanian, KN. Krishnamoorthy, (Late)Ambichamy chithappa, (Late)Chithi Pati, Sujatha, (Late)Dr.KN.Swamy, (Late)RSS Vasan, Dr.N.Padhmanabhan, Dr.N.Meenakshisundaram, Ashok, (Late)Mani Mama 1st Row (L to R): (Late)Ponnamal, Sharada Moorthy, Lalitha, Rama, (Late)Ramakrishnan, Meenakshi, Shanta Vasan, Dr.N. Rajam, Jaya Sundaram, Parvatham mami, Meera 2nd Row (L to R): Lakshmanan, ??, Shivakumar, Prakash, Chitra, Sundar, Mohan, Rajesh, Kutti Maman 10
On Sharada Moorthy’s side, the family lived in Trivandrum: Sowmini Ramakrishnan, (Late) N.Ramasubramoni, Sharada Moorthy, (Late) Ponnamal, Lalitha Krishnamurthy, (Late) S.Ramakrishnan, KN Krishnamoorthy, S. Krishnamurthy 11
For the remainder of this book, there are recollections/ reminiscences/ anecdotes from the immediate and extended family: Prakash Delivered by the Postman I was six years old when Sujatha was born. While Rajesh, Mohan and I were born in Trivandrum, Sujatha was born in Bangalore. Ponnamamai (pAti) came to Bangalore to help Amma with the delivery. I remember having a completely different diet before and after the delivery. Suddenly, we were eating a lot of "keerai" (spinach) and "pavakkai" (bitter gourd). After Amma was gone from home for a few days (during which time pAti got us ready for school), suddenly there was a little baby in the house. The first thing I noticed was that the baby had a distinct blue mark on her hand. I decided that it was a postal stamp and told everyone at school that there was a baby in our house delivered by the Postman! Cuts, Falls and Bruises Being a parent of three children, I certainly relate to the fact that something or the other happens all the time. As a parent, one needs to be resilient and patient. Appa and Amma certainly had these skills - they must have, else they could not have kept their sanity! 12
Rajesh was particularly prone to "accidents". I still vividly remember the time when we were living on the second floor on 6th Main Road in Vyalikaval. The landlord, Venkoba Rao, lived on the ground floor. There was an overhanging balcony that led from the bedroom of our house, which was above the entryway to the house below. Needless to say, there were no ledges on that balcony. We had come back from school and were playing, of all places, on that balcony - despite Amma's protests to the contrary. Mohan threw a ball to Rajesh and in an attempt to catch it, he fell all the way down on to the road below! There was blood all over. Luckily Appa had just come back from work. He calmly took a wailing Rajesh on his Lambretta scooter to Dr. Sidenur's clinic on 2nd Main Road. I had gone along - while Amma was taking care of a distraught Mohan and Sujatha at home. I must have been to Dr. Sidenur's clinic umpteen times. I distinctly remember the antiseptic odor of the place -- the odor mainly emanated from the "Compounder's" room but permeated right through the clinic! It was a husband/wife team. Both were doctors and they ran their clinic out of their home. He calmly stitched the dangling portion back onto Rajesh's lip. My job was to hold down a flailing, wailing Rajesh. No local anesthesia, no complex procedures. 13
On another occasion, Mohan was tripped and bumped his forehead against a rusted clasp that holds water pipes to the wall. (These pipes would run along the base of the house and the clasps would hold them in place) By this time we had moved to 1st Main Road in Vyalikaval and the closest doctor was Dr. Krishnaswamy. Here it was a father-son team that ran the clinic out of their home. The son, Dr. Rajaraman was a better tabla player than a doctor. He would beat to the tune of his father's flute. The son was a dentist and the only thing in common between his tabla playing and dentistry was that when faced with the prospect of listening to his tabla, having ones teeth pulled out when not under anesthesia seemed a better option! There was never a dull moment! Nothing but the best I did my Elementary and High School at St. Joseph's Boys' High School in Bangalore. At the time, it was considered to be one of the premier schools in Bangalore. I was fortunate enough to do well in my class. This also meant that the expectations on me were high. We used to get "report cards" at the end of each school term. The marks from the tests were transcribed by hand into the report card by the school clerk - the old, irascible Mr.Iyer . I was known as "K.N. Prakash" at school. Now, there was another "N.K. Prakash" in my class. This guy would even (gasp!) "fail" tests. Mr. Iyer had a tendency to put N.K. Prakash's scores on my report card. He even had the temerity to underline the failed subjects in red. The first time this happened, I remember trembling while taking the report card home for signature. I recall going straight to my friend Gopal's house from the bus stand. His mother said, "Don't worry. I'll take you home and explain to your father that this report card is in error." "Periyanna"/"Periambi" As you will see mentioned by other raconteur's later, we always looked forward to our regular summer sojourns to Trivandrum and Karungulam. Appa would get LTC's from the Government and we would use those to take "Island Express" from Bangalore to Trivandrum. I vividly remember all of us pressing our faces against the bars on the train window and arrive at our destination with soot-covered faces! Given the large extended family, there would always be some occasion or the other. With Appa and Amma being 14
the oldest on their side of the family, they would be given the "seat of honor" at these functions. It was such joy to have 25-30 people at home. The women would be busy in the kitchen. The men would be busy making plans and doing the logistics for the event. That left us kids to play. We would run around the house with gay abandon. It was a time to laugh, a time to play with cousins that we were meeting after months, years. We did not have a care in the world, no "penance" to pay. We would sneak into the "paaul" (pantry) and steal some sweets that were prepared for the occasion. The only person who would even notice us was "Periyappa". (He was actually Amma's periyappa. However, everyone called him "Periyappa".) He had a nose for catching children doing "mischief". He was very firm and very stern. No one dared to work against his wishes. He was consulted for all decisions and had the final word. In Karungulam, given that thatha (Dr. K.N.Swamy) was paralyzed, Appa was the one consulted. He was referred as "Periyanna" by his kin and cousins and as "Periambi" by the rest of the village. The respect that "Periyanna" commanded was amazing to witness. Even behind his back, people would not dare do anything that he would not approve. 15
Seated (L to R): Dr. N. Meenakshisundaram, (Late) Dr. K.N.Swamy, K.N.Krishnamoorthy Standing (L to R): Dr. N.Venkatasubramanian, Dr.N.Padhmanabhan I remember the time during Ambi chithappa's wedding when he railed after the person serving food in an aluminum bucket. I don't think that person ever touched an aluminum bucket in his life after that day! 16
The biggest honor in the village was to carry the lord on your shoulders. It was not easy and required a lot of coordination - a single misstep by the lead person could be disastrous and even fatal. The men would all smear sandalwood on their chests and would be asked to "take their positions". Inevitably, Appa would be the lead person taking charge of the proceedings. Later, when we grew up, we followed suit and went bare-chested to the temple and even carried the lord on our shoulders! Here is a picture of Prakash, Rajesh, Mohan and Sundar in Karungulam. 17
Wafting smells and sounds Growing up, we never needed an alarm clock or radio. Every morning, we would be woken up to the wafting smells from the kitchen and Amma would sing her Lalitha Sahasranamam and Soundarya Lahiri shlokams. To date, when I listen to any song in Bageshree, I think I am waking up to Amma's shlokam in Vyalikaval! It was quite a challenge to cook for six people, get us all dressed and ready for school. Yet, Amma would do that singing her shlokams every morning. There are some famous cooking incidents that come to mind. Amma was quite possessive of her kitchen (like any other woman) - even when relatives came home to stay for extended periods. Once chithi pati (Karungulam thatha's chithi) was staying with us and she was cooking because Amma was unwell. She used the Catherine hair oil (the label of that green bottle and label is still etched in my memory) for cooking and the potato curry ended up tasting strange! Yet she would refuse to admit that she has made a mistake! Deepavali in Bangalore Deepavali was the festival that we always looked forward to the most. Not just because it was a holiday, we would get new clothes and there was festivity in the air. We would all be woken up for our pre-dawn oil bath. Amma would already be up and about. We would 18
get anointed with the oil, and then scraped with chika podi (Rajesh would say "chika podi thEkAdEngO"), dressed in the new clothes, eat the specially made Deepavali marundu and finally be ready for the "pattAs". There would be brass vilakkus (lamps) lit across the front wall. Friends would start streaming in from around 7:30 am and we would exchange sweets. Appa and Amma's friends We would constantly have visitors at our home in Vyalikaval. Given that there was no TV and we rarely went out, "socializing" was the most popular form of entertainment. In fact, we would have someone join us for brunch almost every Sunday. I certainly miss that nowadays - where there is no time to socialize! It would be hard to recall all of Appa and Amma's friends - but some of them definitely stand out: Jayaram mama - He was one smart guy. He had an elitist attitude. The most distinctive feature in his face was his bulging tonsil and bulbous nose. He was a poet. I still remember his neat hand written poems on various topics. We had a variation of "Humpty Dumpty" - which ended with "Jayaram mama thin and Chhabra mama stout". Chhabra mama - He had a cherubic face and constantly smelled of cigarette smoke. Kota mama - He had an infectious laugh and would talk in a loud voice. Appa's famous joke is once Kota mama was talking on the phone (in Bangalore) to his boss in Delhi. A person passing by his office asked Kota mama's secretary why he was talking so loudly. She said, "Sir is talking to his Boss in Delhi." The person responded, "Why does he not use the telephone?" Somasundaram mama - He would not speak much. His brilliance was evident from his demeanor. Somehow, whenever we saw him (or he was mentioned in conversation), we would all break into singing, "Somasundara madana mohana jai jai panduranga" :) His son, Sriram Somasundaram completed his P.hD. from Case Western and is currently a Staff Scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. 19
Bhattacharya mama - Yet another brilliant engineer. He and his wife spoke with think Bangla accents. They were our only Bengali friends. Their son, Himanshu Shekar Bhattacharya (aka "Bapa"), was Mohan's classmate. Much to Mohan's chagrin, he would always finish at the top of his class and his mother would make it a point of bragging about Bapa's accomplishments whenever she visited our home. Once, Appa and Amma had to go somewhere on a Sunday morning and they had agreed to look after us. I still remember aunty yelling out to remind me, "Prohosh. Remember, ten phorty phie ah". Chaturvedi mama - He was one of the folks (along with Appa) who went to France for training. My most distinct memory of him was in the CASSA office picnics, he would be the most boisterous. He would sing loudly and take the effort to engage with the kids. Natarajan mama – He was a friend, philosopher and guide for all of us. His prowess in astrology led to our consulting him for most activities. When I joined BITS, Pilani Appa could not come to enroll me. It was Natarajan mama who came as his proxy. Krishnaswamy mama – If there was one person that we could turn to for help for just about anything, that was Krishnaswamy mama. In fact, among all of the friends mentioned so far, he and his children are the ones that we continue to maintain regular contact. Govindan mama – We came to know Govindan mama and Nalini mami when they started building their house in R.T. Nagar. Now that we are all away from Bangalore, our greatest solace is that they are close to Appa and Amma and can help them in a time of need. Ranganathan mama – Rangu mama and Leela mami were our neighbors in 1st Main Road. Leela mami and Amma were such close friends that on any given day, either Leela mami would be at our house or Amma would be at Leela mami’s house. In a sense, they became part of our family and we would share our trials and tribulations with each other. 20
Rukmini mami – Rukmini mami was the only family that we had in Bangalore. She was Appa’s cousin. Her son Prakash Krishnaswamy was a role model for all of us – with his penchant for Western Music and Hindi speaking friends! Mami would regale us with stories when we were young. If Appa and Amma had to travel to attend to pressing family responsibilities, Rukmini mami would come to stay with us during the time they were away. During such sojourns, she would tell us stories, make sure we were all well loved and looked after. Although her worldly experience made her more than an elder stateswoman, she was always a friend, a mentor and an advisor – almost an equal. She commanded respect, love and adulation not from her age or her experience but from the way she carried herself - with dignity, with pride and with a lot of love. 21
Jayanthi My introduction to this family began very reluctantly on my part – I was being compelled by my parents to go “visit” with these people during a rushed day trip to Delhi a day before I was supposed to leave for Ohio – back to my mice and my experiments. After all, I hadn’t even met the guy and here he was already calling the shots, insisting that I be “seen” by his parents! Anyway, I went, gnashing teeth (with a terrible cold to boot) and all. We met at the Hyatt Regency hotel and the one thing I remember most was that I was most taken with the grandmother (who sympathized with me struggling with my cold and wished I could have gone to their house to have hot milagu rasam!) The parents, I treated with disinterest, telling them that my specific immediate goal was to finish my research work. The rest, as they say, is history. Where to begin? When Prakash and I met, one of the vital things we discussed was how important family was to each one of us. I think that was one of the major “selling” points for the both of us. I knew that I would “get along” with almost anybody that matched my personality. But what I got was a big bonus – I could relate to this new family because they were warm people and quite like what I was used to families being. Amma, with her kindness, gentle manner, and understanding was ready to be of help no matter what her health was. She is the heart of the family. Appa, with his discipline, 22
organization and the “right” way of how things are done kept this family running and is the mind of the group. There probably are innumerable occasions when both Amma and Appa have contributed to make our lives easier to deal with. I did manage to spend quite a bit of time with them when they moved from Delhi to Bangalore and helped them unpack and set up the RT Nagar house. This was probably the time that I got to know them. Every visit since has only made the bonds tighter; highlights include celebrating Akshay’s ayushyahomam (you had to be there to see/feel their pride in their grandson!), the sashtiabdapoorthy trip (when Akshay was down with chickenpox); their visit when the twins were born (I think they would have easily logged hundreds of hours of singing just to get them to go to sleep!); Amma’s visit to join us to celebrate the twins’ first birthday; our pilgrimage tour (with my broken foot!) to Karungulam and Tiruchendur; our Mysore trip; their trips to Fremont; and the list goes on…. I think the best testimony to these two people is in their family. By instilling in their children the right values, the moral ethic, the compassion and sense of responsibility that I see in Prakash on a day-to-day basis, and in Mohan, Rajesh, and Sujatha from what I hear of and from them would have to be things that they learnt by example from their childhood. Their generosity with the time they lavish on people and causes around them are laudable. I have seen that same generous spirit in Amma and Appa. Appa continuing to work (be it the Thiruppugazh involvement or his consulting work) well after his retirement from a busy demanding, successful career is another trait that is praiseworthy. Amma’s pride in her music, her compassion for the less fortunate, her piety, her pride in her children and grandchildren, her desire to cosset her family, her patience with her grandchildren irrespective of her own health is amazing. I can only hope that some of these attributes have passed to the next generation! So, congratulations! Here’s wishing them many more years of healthy, peaceful, and happy marriage. 23
Mohan What drink will you have? A few years ago, when Amma visited Melbourne, we went to Paddy and Padma's farmhouse. Our friends, Raju and Meena were also there. We got there a bit late. Raju, Paddy and Padma were drinking red wine. Meena was drinking white wine. As she poured out a glass of red for me, Meena asked Amma, "What would you like to drink?" (pointing to an assortment of bottled juices on the table)! Amma said, "Please do not give me red wine. I actually prefer white!" That story has grown "eyes and ears" and, some 10 years on, is still doing the rounds in Melbourne! Odd-and-Even numbers: A few years back when, I was living in 7 Wanda Street, Mulgrave, Amma visited Melbourne. One day, after an evening walk, she got a bit lost. She walked on the side of the road opposite to our home and could not find "7 Wanda Street" between "6 Wanda Street" and "8 Wanda Street". I ran after her as she had over-shot our house. I then pointed out to her that she would find "7 Wanda Street" on the opposite side of the road! It then struck her and she blurted out. "Oh that's nice! One side of the road has even 24
numbers and the other side has... ummm! ummmm! urrrrr! uneven numbers!" S for Sharada: This one was in England. Amma had rung an airline company to re-confirm an airline ticket. The sales agent must have asked her for her name and Amma said "Sharada Krishnamoorthy". Possibly stunned by the intrinsic simplicity of the name and the fact that it somehow sounded slightly different to Meg Smith, the agent may have asked Amma to spell her name. Amma: Well first name is SHARADA Agent: Can you spell that please? Is that F? Amma: No no. S... S for... S for... S for Sharada! Black but Nice: This one was in England too. Amma had just returned from USA after visiting Prakash. We picked her up from Heathrow airport. On our way back from the airport, we asked her whether her flight was comfortable. She said she was fine and that the flight was fine. She said, "Actually I was sitting next to this friendly woman. She was black..... but she was nice!" So much for PC! Movie Stories: We were not allowed to go to movies as we were growing up. I won't blame Appa and Amma for this! After all Rajesh had a nose that was either permanently running or bleeding! I had a wheezing problem on tap! Sujatha would always cry loudly and launch into a Bharatanatyam dance if a mosquito even said "hello" to her! And Prakash.... was Prakash! So who would want to drag 4 kids with an assortment of issues and problems to the movies! However, within days of seeing it, Amma made sure that she told us the story of every movie that she would go to see with Appa. I remember gathering around the wrought-iron Usha sewing machine as she stitched a garment and recounted the story of the movie she would have just seen for us! I still remember the stories of movies like "Pattikada Pattanama", "Thanga Padakkam", "Manmatha Leelai", "Anand", "Andaz", etc. The most difficult story for her was "Apporva Ragangal". When I think back, I must say she skirted around the "tricky" moments of that story with remarkable 25
aplomb! Often the stories would take their own course! For example, if she were to tell her version of "Sholay" to us, Amitabh Bachchan may not have died in the end! And certainly, in her recounting of "Sholay", Dharmendra and Hema Malini would not "fall in love"! But these stories would make our day as we grew up despite the fact that more often than not, the session would end in a disaster as Rajesh would have miraculously jammed his leg or hand (or both) against the spinning wheel (or the foot pad) of the wrought-iron Usha sewing machine! He would cry! Sujatha would cry -- she always did! Prakash would do a "Duh", roll his eyes and wander off into the sunset. And I'd just sit there wondering "what the..."! But those story sessions were certainly fun. Although at surface level it may appear that these may demonstrate that Amma takes one foot out just so that she can put the other one in, that is not my assessment of her at all. What this actually demonstrates in my view is a child-like, untainted innocence that is at the core of her being. She worries not what people will think of her and would rather assume goodness in everyone around her. Although she did have friends that she had named "Mundukanni" and "Ottakuchi", the wine story and the "black but nice" story demonstrate that all she wants to do is "fit in" and that she does not really have a hate-bone in her body. More power to her! Rukmini Mami and the cups: Raising 4 kids can't have been easy especially when two of them (the pretend-dancer and the nose-bleed dude) were somewhat troublesome, one who was always in a "Duh Zone" and one who was, for some reason, called either a oomakottan or mochakottai -- I could never figure that one out! Anyway, it made it hard for Appa and Amma to visit their relatives, attend a poonal or wedding or just go on holidays! On the rare occasions that they did go out of Bangalore for a few few weeks or so, we would have either Rukmini mami or Paati (aka, Kopokoi, Kopatussssss, Kops) stay with us. On one such occasion, Rukmini mami had an extended stay with us of over a month or so. It was fun because Rukmini mami would always have a story to say to put us to bed every night. We were also introduced to a pre-bed-time cup of hot milk with pepper and turmeric. Rukmini mami somehow did not like the stainless steel cups in our 26
home. She felt that the cups -- which were carefully machined in Trivandrum -- were too big and, as a result, had a rather high centre of gravity. She concluded that the way to resolve this was to flatten the somewhat rounded bottom on these cups! So, one evening, she took it on herself to grab a stone and proceeded to bang in the bottoms of each of the stainless steel cups. All 30 of them were banged in and "disfigured". Even as she did it, I remember thinking to myself, "Oh oh! This ain't looking good. This may be the last of the bed-time stories and pre-bed-time hot cup of milk with pepper and turmeric"! It was! Amma came back, saw the flattened cups and proceeded to attempt flattening our respective backsides for not intervening in the said act of Rukmini mami. Balaji stores I remember this incident involving Appa from when I was in Class-6 I think. It was the last day of school and I had received a whole stack of new books for Class-7 the following year. I got them all home and realized that my brand new "Chemistry practical exercise book" was in tatters. A rat appeared to have had the corner of that book for breakfast! Later that evening on Appa's return we would all sit around the new books and do the "book binding exercise" with that awful smelling brown paper roll. Appa hadn't arrived from work yet and I was dreading the moment he would set eyes on the tattered practical note book! Lest he thrash the daylights out of me for having accepted a torn book, I quickly trudged off to Balaji Stores on 2nd Main Road. I told "Mr Balaji" that I had purchased the book from there and did not realize that it was torn! "Mr Balaji" believed me and kindly offered me a replacement. Feeling rather smug about my rather devious exchange, I returned home! My jaw hit the floor as Appa opened the door! He saw the book in my hand and asked where I had gone. I saw the world flash past my eyes. I told him. He asked me to go to Balaji stores, apologize to "Mr Balaji" and get my tattered book back! I did. That incident also taught me an incredibly valuable lesson at a young age. Pocket money 27
This incident was again around the Class-6 vintage. I was in Baldwin Boys' High School by then. This was a "posh public" school. Rich kids went there. Kids like Jayesh Lakhani, Sanjay Udani, and Sudarshan Chari would arrive from places like Palace Orchards, Kumara Park Extension and Indira Nagar would get dropped by car driven by chauffers in white hats and starched uniforms. And here I was, driven by Aslam in a dirty brown uniform on bus 17B from Vyalikkaval. I had envy! Serious envy! It was further fueled by the fact that the rich kids would splurge on chikkies, oily curry puffs and rich cakes at the school canteen. They had "pocket money" you see! So, I gathered my courage one day and asked Appa, "Could I receive 'pocket money' from next week onwards?" Appa looked at me as though I was a deranged Martian! I still remember that look. It wasn't one of anger, but one of sheer incredulousness. He calmly said, "The problem with school trousers these days is that they have pockets. If we snip the pockets off your trousers, you won't need 'pocket money" will you now?" Another valuable lesson there for me. I told myself that I had to be thankful for what I had -- which was really a lot. Moreover, I still had a pocket, even if it had nothing in it! I also learned to learn to live within my means. 28
Girija Persistence: Last year when I was in Bangalore, Amma insisted that I get something for myself. I was really reluctant to do that mainly because I did not want her to strain herself shopping with me -- Mo will attest to the fact that I am a fastidious and painful shopper who'd easily spend 10 hours shopping and still come back without even a hair clip! Nevertheless, she insisted that she took me out shopping and that I buy something of my choice! And so we went from shop to shop hoping I would buy a saree at least. Unfortunately, the planets were not aligned that day! Although I did see some reasonable sarees, I just did not find anything I liked! We had to return home. Amma was extremely dejected and despairing. She was also quite sad that I did not pick up anything in spite of the fact that there were many nice things we saw. On my part, I just did not want to buy something just for the sake of buying it. I wanted to ensure that I would wear what we got and that that would make me thank Amma every time I wore it. But what I remember most about Amma was her persistence. She was just not willing to give up that evening. Time was running out too. With just 2 hours left before I had to leave for Cantonment Station to catch the train to Chennai, Amma asked that we try one last store. This was a "designer" saree store. And there I did find something that I liked. It is one of my favourite sarees; a hand-painted saree. It was exactly what I was looking for and every time I wear it, I think of Amma's kindness, her persistence as well as her tenacity. We got home just couple hours before I was to board the train back to Madras that evening. 29
Wedding Reception: Everyone knows that Appa is quite finicky when it comes to organizing transport, especially for train drop-offs and pickups. He would often (no, on reflection, change "often" to "always") organize a car pick-up way ahead of when we would have to leave. Often we would get to Cantonment station just as the Bangalore Mail was pulling into the station; but on its way to Bangalore City and not from Bangalore City! The result would be an uncomfortable one and a half hour wait at a horribly smelly and ill-lit Cantonment Station where one could be pre-occupied with any combination of the following activities: (a) slapping mosquitoes against ones hand, (b) slapping mosquitoes against a random passer-by's hand, (c) contemplate purchasing a coffee that has just enough sugar in it to convince oneself that one is not consuming hot water, (d) purchase a magazine from a news-stand that one would not be able to read in the dark of that station anyway, (e) walk aimlessly to the other side of the station and walk back! Anyway, there was this one occasion when I had to attend a cousin's wedding reception in Jayanagar or some such place. The reception was to start at 7.30pm and I was aiming to get there only at 8pm. So I rang the local cab company and asked for a cab to pick me up at 7pm! Appa overheard this conversation, rang them a few minutes later and changed it to a 5pm pickup, saying that it could take me some 2 and a half hours to get to Jayanagar -- he did not want me to be late! Moreover, it was pouring down with rain that evening and he said that the trek to Jayanagar would take even longer! I tried all sorts of delay tactics! But that did not work. In fact, it got worse! At 4pm I wasn't yet "ready" and the cab had not yet arrived. Fair enough. We had all agreed on a 5pm departure! But then Appa started to get quite tense! He asked that I get ready immediately! And so there I was... ready at 4.15pm for a 7.30pm reception. The bride and groom were probably asleep at the time. But hey! I was ready looking for mosquitoes to pass by! At about the same time, Appa stormed out of the house, went straight to the cab company and dragged the driver by his ears back home! The cab, which needed to arrive only at 7pm, but was booked for 5pm, was at our doorstep at 4.30pm! Precisely 5 minutes later, I was in said car, ostensibly because I "was ready anyway"! 30
I was out of the house at 4.35pm and in the cab. I asked the driver to head out to Mekhri Circle, asked him to drive up and down that road that leads to Yeshwanthapur and then returned home! I then actually spent half an hour in the cab just outside our R. T. Nagar home! I could not get back into the house because Appa and Amma had left for a bajanai! I spent the half hour reading a magazine -- possibly purchased at Cantonment Station the previous night! Then, out of pity for the cab driver, I asked that we start driving towards Jayanagar. I instructed the cab driver to drive slowly! I also asked the cab driver to chose the worst routes that would grab all possible traffic jams. I was collecting traffic jams like Ria, Madhuri and Sanjana would collect sea-shells on a sea-shore! The cab driver must have thought that I was cuckoo that evening. Every time I said to him, please make another round of this lovely Kempe Gowda Circle, he looked at me as though I was from another planet! I must have driven to Mysore and back that evening! The wedding reception was at 7.30pm. After all my delay tactics, the best I managed to do was to get to the hall at 7.00pm. The bride and groom had not even arrived. Indeed, they only arrived at 8pm! Yet, every time I think of this story, I can only think of Appa's concern as well as his attention to detail, his assiduousness and his meticulousness. Proud of You: There are several things that I am proud of when I think of Amma and Appa. But, in my book, there are two things that stand out: (a) Amma and Technology, (b) Appa and event organization skills. It can't be easy to live in a technology-rich world that is moving at such a fast pace of change. But none of this appears to faze Amma. She takes to the generation dominated by eMail, mobile phone, mp3's, iPod, Chat, Wiki, social- networking and much more, like a duck to water. Kudos to Amma for this. Despite his bouts of extreme tension during such gigs -- which frankly worry me -- I think that Appa was made for event organization and event management. It is not often that you get a person who cuts across all elements from visioning of an event, to strategic planning of the event to attention to detail. He has it all -- and in spades! He would be a boon to any event planner in the world. I am forever in awe of his passion for this as well as his ability to pull things off with aplomb. 31
Rajesh Bal Vihar Growing up I can certainly state that attending Bal Vihar every Saturday was not my favorite activity. Every Saturday we would head over to the house where we would be introduced to Bhajans, Shloka’s, readings from the Bhagavad Gita. It did feel like a chore rather than something that we would benefit from. How wrong I was…I am so glad that Amma forced us to go to those classes…I have that much more of an appreciation of the Gita as a result. It looked like a stork The only time we had seen an airplane was when it was up in the sky heading over the city. In 1970, Appa was heading over to France for an extended duration as part of a delegation that was going to work at Mécanique Avion TRAction or MATRA. We got a chance to go to the airport to see him off. He was flying to Bombay (now Mumbai) before heading over to France. The next day all I could talked about in class was the airplane that I had seen that Appa had boarded…I got in to trouble because, Dinesh Kumar, did not share my enthusiasm…he ratted me to Flora the teacher…I could not get over the fact that the airplane looked like a stork with the black windows of the cockpit that resembled the beak of a stork…it was a Indian Airlines Caravelle. Value of money If there is something that I have learnt from both Appa and Amma, it is about respecting and valuing hard earned money. I have seen how careful both of you are with your hard 32
earned money. I have learnt from you not to be frivolous or laissez-faire with my spending! I am sure this trait is a frustrating point for many people around me as I am not a spendthrift. However, building a good foundation for self-sufficiency is a key trait that I have learnt from both Appa and Amma. The lost Diamond There was a mad panic when we realized that there was a stone missing in Amma’s nose ring. It was late in the evening and suddenly we realized that there was a diamond missing in the nose ring. Out came the stories about how the ring was made and how sentimental it was and how expensive it was. Everyone at home started asking about the last steps, the tracing of movements all things that Sherlock Holmes would be proud of. Every nook and cranny of the house was scanned…finally the diamond was found by Sujatha…it was in the carpet in the corridor. Needless to say the carpet was unceremoniously dumped after that and Sujatha was hailed as the hero! All’s well that ends well…Amma was absolutely relieved! Grown men do not cry! Growing up we had regular trips to Trivandrum. The trips in the summer were filled with excitement. Meeting with Lalitha Chitti, Murali, Thatha, Pati, Periappa and Perimmai made the trips very eventful. Memories of those trips are permanently etched in our collective memories. On one such trip, to Trivandrum (I think it was for Lalitha Chiti’s wedding) was eventful. Everyone had gone over to hear the “story telling” master Santhana Gopalachari. He was legendary. He was narrating the Ramayana and on this day the story was the episode relating to the abduction of Sita. The story was intense, emotion filled and the narrator had got so much into the story that he was weeping uncontrollably. I bolted home convinced that he was done for the day. I was trying to explain to Amma and Pati (Ponnama Ammai) why I was home early and that the rest of the folks should be back home soon. Both of them patiently explained that the outburst was perfectly normal and that grown men do cry!! Is it a duck? After Appa returned from France, one fixture in the front room was a clock. It had numbers for the hour and the minute display and every minute/hour the top half of the 33
number would drop to reveal the bottom half of the next number. A fascinating contraption. Growing up, we never got to stay up beyond 9 or at the latest 9:30. I often wondered what happened after 23:59. I had no occasion to observe this and touching the clock was never in question. One day we had to go to the railway station to pick up Padhu Chittappa and family (they were heading into Bangalore for the poonal of Prakash/Mohan). The train was delayed and we got home at 11:45 pm. I got to stay up late to observe the clock go past 23:59 and say the magical 0:00. The funny thing with the clock was that one of the sleeves was missing on the minute hand. After 03 would flip you would see the bottom half of 05 as the bottom half of 04 was missing. It was an intriguing sight of the triangle of the 04 and the curved bottom of 05. A weird duck like object. It was also interesting that despite the heavily motorized nature of the clock that name that all of us had for the clock was odd…we simply called it “Digital” The Arch We used to live on 5th main road in Vyalikkaval on the 2nd floor of Venkoba Rao’s house. The house had an arch above the gate at the base of the steps which was not doubt meant for plants that creep over the arch. Needless to say that there were no plants over the arch and the arch was a magnet for kids. Dangerous at it was I loved balancing over the arch and flirting with danger. However one day I slipped and fell down! Hard! Amma had to pick me up and rush to Dr Seshadri and eventually to K C General As 34
Appa was still at work Jayaram mama (who used to live in the room above (3rd floor) helped as we went to the hospital and got my mouth fixed (4 stitches…that was painful). This was certainly not the first time that Amma had to run around dealing with the problems of one of the kids…How she put up with all the shenanigans has never ceased to amaze me!! Radio Our Radio was an interesting device. It was assembled by Appa and had some interesting valves, transformers and other interesting objects. Progressively, bits and pieces kept falling off but the radio amazingly worked. One day the knobs fell off and hence we had to resort to getting rid of the chassis. The only way to operate it as a result was to tweak the stubs of the rod to tune/change the volume. One could move the lever in the device to tune it as well. One day I was operating the device to tune it and Mohan was operating the knob to tune it aw well except we were intending to go in opposite directions (me to All India Radio and Mohan to Vividh Bharati (I presume). There was only one possible outcome…the tuner broke. There would now be no way of finding out which frequency we were listening to! Both Mohan and I were in a mad panic. Instead of heading out to play, that evening we hid under the bed hoping that Appa would not find out when he returned home from work…we were not so lucky! The news every morning Every morning we got into the habit of listening to the news first in Hindi and then in English at 8:00am. Just before we headed off to school (and Appa to his office). This was a routine for a very long time. Initially I was convinced that there was someone inside the radio because of the way the announcement came through (we are talking 1967/1968 here). The news used to always start with, This is All India Radio, the news read by …I for the longest time was convinced that the voice actually said…”This is John in the Radio” Amma and Appa did very little to dispel the myth. Every morning It is a routine that still lives with me to this day. Every morning without fail Appa would wake up and digest (no make that devour) the newspaper for at least 45 minutes before doing anything else. Being informed about the world around him was just the way he 35
operated. I cannot recall a single exception to this rule. This is a habit that I have picked up and has become part of my daily routine. I am sure that people around me must be wondering what this guy does waking up at 5 am in the morning! I used to read the newspaper on the train on my way into work but for the last 12 years I have been driving in to work in Canada. I do feel that I am a better person as a result of being better informed! A package from Delhi Initially on 5th main road, we used to live above Chandrasekhar’s house. On one occasion, Appa had gone to Delhi on a trip. All I remember was that he was meant to come back home late one night. The next morning, Prakash said that Appa had returned late night with a surprise. When I came out of the room I saw a now Moda in the
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