We started our life in Maraimalai Nagar when Chitra was a baby in arms. Raju and Chitra both started their Maraimalai Nagar Schooling in Sri Jothi Mission School and later in St. John’s School. They did their 5th Standard in the former and joined the latter for their 6th.
Our home was very small, with just a small hall, bedroom, a partitioned kitchen and a bath/toilet. Slowly we could add additional structures to our premises. We dug a well, built one wall of our compount at one and the next when we had enough to spend. We added a front portion, and later had one room on the first floor, and later constructed the second room, bath, toilet and kitchen. Then we could have one tenant in the ground floor. Maraimalai Nagar had a beauty of its own in the initial years but later it became a clutters of small homes, small streets, small shops.
We were travelling together to the city, taking our 6-month old daughter with us, for our workspots, everyday. We used to start at 6 in the morning with our lunch and breakfast packed, baby food for Chitra, catch the train at 6.20, reach Madras Beach Station around 7.30, sit and have breakfast togher in the Railway Station, and I walked to my office nearby. Kala used to proceed by bus, alight one stop short of her office stop, leave the child to the care of a paid caretaker, and walk to her office. In the evening, she used to take the bus from the terminus, and the caretaker handed over the baby to her in the next bus stop, and we again met in the railway station to take the train back home, reaching it at 8. Then she used to make hot meals for us all, and we will hit the bed at around 9.30.
Life was hectic but pleasant, tiring but satisfying. After sometime, our neighbours, a Maharashtrian family voluntarily took care of our daghter, putting us at ease.
We had many friends and wellwishers there. We had a temple nearby. We went to the city for visits during weekends. Our children grew up, gained good education, acquitted themselves well, and there was goodwill all around. We had very friendly neighbours, and our children had many playfriends.
We lived in Maraimalai Nagar for about 8 years. We felt that if we lived nearer to children’s schools, they will have more study and play time, and they were getting on in years and going to upper classes. So, we moved to Mambalam.
When Raju was promoted to the 11th Standard, we shifted him from Sri Narayana Mission School to D.A.V. Hr. Sec. School in Gopalapuram. He did his middle school years in Narayana Mission School, which was just next door to our apartments complex. Chitra also joined Narayana Mission School where she completed her School Final. We lived on Babu Rajendra Prasad Street off Station Road, very near Mambalam Station. It was a very convenient location for a variety of reasons, with the Bus Stand, Railway Station, the market and all the facilities near at hand, and there was even a barber shop on our street.
Mainly there were many temples and the Ayodhya Mandapam at walking distance. During the music season, we totally freaked out, I and Kala, with the children sstaying home for their studies and home work. Even off music season there were always some devotional activity going on there. Murugashramam was nearby. There wer also carnatic music festivals at a temple nearby. We have listened to many music greats singing or performing there. on general no activity days, we can just sit on the sands there and commune silently with each other. There were Movie theatres nearby, hotels for refreshments, post office and everything you need for a good human settlement. The fresh vegetables we used to get there, the provision shops near at hand, oh, it was nice living there.
Raju and Chitra were both studying in narayana Mussion school and earning good names and performing well, collecting medals and certificates and distinguishing themselves, and making us proud to have such good children. Who bore me such good children? Oh Kala, why did you leave me and your children so soon. God and fate had been too cruel to you. No word can suffice the pain and misery you have undergone in your final days.
Well to return to Mambalam days: It was in Mambalam that Raju cleared his school final and Chitra attained puberty. In 1979 I was serving as Private Secretary to Mrs. Jouher Osman Ali Khan,then around 60, wife of an Industrialist, who was a renowned Honorary Social Worker on her own rights, with whom I served till I left her service in 2001 to join my son , wife and daughter in Hyderabad. Kala had a continuous unbroken service record. She was working in Tablets India Limited, and when she was shunted to their Maraimalai Nagar Works, we changed our residence to our own house there. This was also due to the fact that our Mambalam house landlord sold the house and we didn’t want to change our allegiance to the new houseowner.
Our days in Mambalam were over when our landlord asked us to either vacate or stay on as we wishes, because he was selling his house to someone who was prepared to keep us continuing as tenants. But by then we had our own house in Maraamalai Nagar which we had rented out. We also requested our tenants to vacate so that we could move into our own house. Thus, we left Mambalam behind and started to live in Chromepet
p.s: In Mambalam, our religiousness was very evident and our life was at most cultural best phase. In our complex, there was a Ganesh Temple and every evening there used to be a mass recitation of Vishnu Sahasranamam at which my son and daughter regularly participated and recited it totally out of memory. There were traces of theism amidst us even when we lived in Maraimalai Nagar and later at Chromepet. I think it was only when we were in Hyderabad that all of us even including Kala become more of sceptics, distancing ourselves from rites and rituals slowly by and by.
I and Kala were betrothed to each other in January, ’74. Our wedding was on the 25th of March, on a Monday. It was a good ceremonial wedding with purohits representing both the families present, and benevolently blessed by our parents, relatives and friends and people from our workplaces. Her father, a Ganapadigal in his own right, rituals chanted all the wedding mantras all through the ritualistic conduct. There was general happiness and celebration with a few tears also being shed by Kala’s mother.
It started with Janavasam, Mappillai Azhaippu, Kasi Yathirai, oonjal etc., with Kala having to change into different sarees, all silk sarees, all new, during the two days of celebration. The wedding was well attended and I don’t think any of our relatives or friends or colleagues missed attending. The wedding was solemnised with the tying of the Mangal sutra, which we call ‘Tali’ in Tamil, with ‘ammi midithal’, ‘arundathi parthal’, and the frivolous and enjoyable ‘vilaiyadal’. There was also this ‘maalai maatral’. We hadn’t arranged any staged concerts. The same night was our nutial night. With the ‘Sathu Kudai’ the next morning, the functions at the wedding hall concluded, and Kala entered our home, as wife to me, daughter in law to my parents, and sister in law -Manni – to my three sisters.
We stayed with our parents for around 18 to 20 months; It could even be between two and three years. And then we shifted to a rented house nearer Kala’s office. I commuted by bus to my work spot, and kala just had to walk a kilometer to her office. Our son was born in 1976 and our daughter in 1981. We named our son Rajagopalan, which is also my father’s name. Actually my paternal grandfather was called Narayanaswamy after whom I was named. That is why my grandmother never called me Narayanan but called me Subramani instead. My daughter was named Chitra.
I and Kala never had any honeymoon throughout our life, and our only pastime was an occasional movie, a weekly trip to Marina Beach, visits to our parents’ homes, and a once-a-month eating out at Udipi Hotel at the Wallajah Road Mount Road Junction which has now disappeared. My mother passed away on the 15th January 1979, and was around to take our son in her arms and pet him. She was very affectionate and attached to him because he was the family’s progeny. My sisters’ children were all loved by her but she loved Raju specially because he is her own son’s child.
My mother was around to conduct and participate in the marriages of my three sisters, and tended with love and affection the children of her first two daughters. She was no more to see Lalitha’s children and my daughter. However my father gave Lalitha all the moral support love and affection.
When my mother died in ’79, I stayed back after all the ceremonies were performed, but my father left us to stay with Lalitha who needed more of his support and love.
Our daughter Chitra was born when we were in Triplicane. Afterwards we disposed off the house to discharge some of my fathers’ loans, the long outstanding medical bills and treatment expenses due to our family doctor, Dr. Shivaji.
We again moved to North Madras, to a place nearer to Kala’s office. Raju, as we called our son, was away in Delhi with his grandparents for one year, and when we could bear the parting anymore, we brought him back to Madras and put him in school. He was a good student from Class one, always getting First Rank.
Kala always wanted to live in a house of our own but we had no savings. There was this Godsend then, two satellite towns were planned , one at Vyasarpadi and the other at Maraimalai Nagar. Kala visited the Vyasarpadi plan area to see firsthand, butwe decided on Maraimalai Nagar. So we raised a loan to make the initial deposit and waited for theallotment. We were one of the lucky few to be attotted a house in the first phase of the township plans. Thus we received the key of our own home in 1980. We started paying the monthly instalments which continued for 18 years.
We had lived in North Madras for around six years, at three different places; first on Avadanam Ramaswamy Iyer Street, opposite to Maharani Theatre, then on Solaiappan Street behind Agasthya Theatre, and finally in Corporation Colony, nearest to Kala’s office. Blessedly we had very good friendly neighbours and good landlords. Those were happy years because our children were small and gave us immense pleasure. Kala and I were both warm-blooded and liked physical contact very much, she more apparent than me.
Though we were earning our modest salaries, it was Kala who was really running the show because I never really grew up except physiologically. She was far more mature, more acute, capable of solving any problem and facing any situation and I was just trailing along with her. The question of man and woman, who is superior, never entered our minds because we were well tuned to each other. We went to functions and entertainments always together, inseparable. It is not to say we didn’t have our spats. But ego never entered our relationship.
We then shifted residence to Maraimalai Nagar.
Kalavathi: Kala for me and for many relatives, friends, colleagues and even to my son who never addressed her as ‘Amma’ which means Mother in Tamil. Kala’s father is S. Ramamoorthy Dixit, an octagenarian, a Ganapadigal, is retirednow, after serving in the Archaeological Survey of India office. He is a Post Graduate majoring in History. My mother in law is no more, bless her soul. My father in law now lives in Delhi with his son, daughter and daughter in law. His other two daughters are married and they also live in Delhi.
Kala was the first born in her family. Her sister Vijayalakshmi is ten years younger to her, followed by Dr. Murali, M.D., D.M., and Lakshmi, M.A., M.Ed., and the last one is Sharada, B.A. (Sanskrit), who is 20 years younger to my wife! Kala’s father called her “Gundu” affectionately. She was his pet. The family is originally from Karur.
Kala attended school and college in Hyderabad. She had grown up there for twelve long years. She spoke, wrote and read excellent Telugu. She always addressed me “Emandi” which is the respectful way of addressing a husband in Telugu. She studied in Reddy Women’s College and obtained a Honours Degree in Botany and Chemistry.
She could also speak fluent Urdu, had a passable grasp of Kannada, and was good with English. She could sing well. She dressed well, moved easily with people holding her audience clinging to her words, eager and appreciative, and oh God, was she voluble. She can talk thirteen to the dozen, all full of sense, and ready with a good laughter.
Just around that time when her parents started to match alliances for her, they moved to Madras. Our houses were near each other in Triplicane – hers on Big Street and ours in Tiruvateeswaranpet. The only occasion we met each other before marriage was at our engagement function.
On this occasion, just to boost up my self-confidence, I took my cousin and nephew along, and they were both more handsome than me. So Kala was not sure which one was the prospective bridegroom. Anyway she must have been told later that the lean one with a tiny neck is the one. Both of us readily agreed for the alliance, and the process for the conduct of the marriage started rolling.
I will elaborate on my days in the service of Suraj Agencies. My eldest brother in law, Mr. T.V. Lakshmikanth, who passed away a few months back, recommended me to Mr.
Karnik and I was appointed as the filing clerk and typist. It was s small set up, with me, Mr. Karnik and his stenographer Ravi, as constants, while a number of people entered, stayed and moved on from the post of sales reps. I remember Mr. Karnik’s family, consisting his wife and their small child.Karnik . Theirs was a love marriage, I heard.
The reps were a colourful lot, each with a different character. One man with his ulcers and stock of biscuits to feed his ulcer; Another who was also a qualified chef. Once I met him with one of former Catering Institute colleagues.
Another Rep. drifted in and out of our company as a Sales Rep. I heard him mention that his father was a scientist with C.L.R.I. He plain hated the work and made a quick exit.
One other Rep. was also an accomplished drummer. Once when I had been to his house, he told me he had already made his first saving of a lakh of rupees, a big sum in the Seventees. He was friendly and cheerful. Another Rep., who was also a personal friend of Mr. Karnik. He was a very humorous and friendly person. Another Rep. was the one who was sharp and shrewd.
We had a Stenographer with us, who hailed from Kerala. He was fond of the Hindi movie song “Chalte, chalte, meri yeh geet yaad rakhna’. He had an escapade with a girl from his native place whose acquaintance he renewed. She was slightly elder to him but he had an infatuation for her and he ended taking advantage of her. He was also a cool operator because he used the office phone to keep in touch with a friend in Calcutta and eventually landed a steno’s job there and left us to join a company in North India, which he managed through his unofficial trunkcalls from our office telephone.
It was during my tenure with Suraj Agencies that I married Kala. All my office staff working with us then and the manager himself, attended our wedding, in separate batches. Almost all of Kala’s office friends were present at the wedding. All of Kala’s relativers and my relatives graced the wedding to bless us. More about my marriage in my forthcoming posts.
So I was bundled and sent to Madras. It was March or April in 1970. I got dropped on Mount Road, now Anna Salai, near Addison , crossed over, took the fork, walked along Thayar Sahib Street into Ellis Road, and turned into Nagappier Street, and slunk into my own street, Subradral Street, and discreetly knocked the door. I was admitted into the house. My father was not at home, and I came to know he had gone to Poona searching for me. He met my room mates and co-boarders. Incidentally there was also a paper news about a boy and girl eloping. How were they to know I never did have any such romantic notions in my mind then. After abour three or four days my father returned home a dejected man. Seeing me brought relief to him which he reacted by mildly tapping me on the head. For a long time nobody asked me what happened, and slowly by and by I told everything to them. Thus they all came to know that it was plain timidity, cowardice and stupidity that drove me to my drastic reactions to the situation.
Life gradually settled down to a pattern again, and I started to look out for other jobs. I had hastily sent in my resignation and was pestering the Department to settle my accounts, like a demented fool. Then one of my distant relatives, Mr. Shankar who was a high official in Southern Railway, called me to his office one day. He dictated one letter on my behalf to the CDA’s Office, Poona, which his stenographer typed and brought for me to sign. He arranged to post it. However it was too late by then, and my resignation was already accepted and settlement processes were afoot.
Then on I landed temporary jobs all starting with a starting salary of Rs.250.00 uniformly as if they were all conspiring against me. I settled down in The Madras Race Club Accounts Department, but after six months I left because the Government of Madras brought asuit against it seeking court injunctions to close it once for all. However, later I learnt that Race Club survived this subversive attempt, and it exists to this day and prospers making many people paupers.
I found a good break with Suraj Agencies, which was the manufacturer’s own agency. It represented Taparia Tools manufactured in Nasik with collaboration from Ab Bahco, Sweden. It also represented Permanent Magnets Limited, which is also a sister concern of the Taparia family. Again I started at Rs.250 per months. Due to my finickiness I left this organisation to go and work with one of its former employees, and was out on the platform again, in a wink. Then I again went to Suraj Agencies, but was shown the door because they have already apointed someone in my place, who deserved the job better than me. I didn’t know it then, but later I learnt that had I continued on there when I left on a whim, I would have been been appointed as a direct employee of Permanent Magnets Limited with an upwardly revised salary, and on the direct payrolls of PML and not its Agency. What lousy luck.
It was just some months before I left Suraj Agencies that my old friend Jeelani happened on me. He had been working with Road Transport Corporation till the partners of the Company, namely its Chairman and his son fell apart and the staff were also split in the middle. In the melee, my friend was left in the lurch, a kind of a no man’s land. I had typed a number of appeals for him all addressed to the Chairman to reinduct him. Finally he did rejoin.
So to continue, I was looking for a new job and remembered Jeelani who owed me one.He did do me a good turn by providing me with a job as Private Secretary. I was slightly disappointed though because it was not an office job. I will now launch on my twenty years’ service as P.A. to an hon’y social worker cum industrial magnate’s wife. In my next few posts.
Poona has pleasant climate. Rains are moderate and tolerable compared to heavy showers of Bombay. The cold season is nice, cool but not cold. I remember Ganesh Chaturthi during the Seventies.
They celebrated Ganesh Chaturthi piously and colourfully. Throughout these celebrations they installed huge idols of Ganesh, in a variety of themes, some with political insinuations, some humorous, and some idols done up combining the qualities and manifestations of other deities of the Hindu Pantheon like Hanuman, Shiva and Vishnu. A lot of floral decorations and festoons went into the beautification and variety of the idols.
During the festival the evenings were a gala affair, with crowds of devotees interspersed with petty pleasure seekers, youth of both sexes and the elders elbowing each other in the milling and churning multitudes. people called on each other. There used to be poojas and staging of dramas and movies in the open air. On the day of immersion they used to take the idols, in long processions with a lot of fanfare, bands etc., and with the immersion of the idols in any water body, the festival culminated.
Those days, if I remember right, there was a mild protest against South Indians whom they branded as Tamils collectively. At the slightest occasion or provocation, there used to be crowds of people screaming ‘Sab Madrasi sala ko utao’. Ironically I also remember that the Poona Mayor of that time was one Mr. Iyer. The Tamils who were settled there for generations integrated with the Maharashtrians, adapting to their many customs and life-styles and even food habits, and they put a distinction between themselves and the other Tamil speaking people who happen to be there as they were employed in private companies or government and Defence departments.
Long after leaving behind my Poona days, I still have nostalgia for those days of carefree life and my forage into Church music. After nearly thirty years, I had two occasions to visit Poona once again, once to attend my niece Revathi’s wedding, and the other a trip with my daughter Chitra to Bangalore, Poona and Bombay. But I could never evoke the old spirit, primarily because I never revisited Rasthapet, my Defence Accounts Office , the Camp area or the Methodist Church. So curtains to my life in Poona.
In my next post I will pick up the threads where I left you all back at the time I was put in a van and sent on my way home from Pondicherry back to Madras. I will be turning a new leaf in my life. From hereon I continue my life in chennai from 1970 onwards.
I will retrace my life from the moment I reached home and go on till 1974 to my wedding, my married life till my wife Kala breathed her last on 25th November 2005. Her hospital discharge paper mentions the time of death as 2.30 p.m., though I reported to the nurses that she is apparently dead at 1.30 p.m. as I was with her when she exhaled for the last time. Life continues to carry me along beyond this painful, irreparable loss, and I am where I am now.
There was this other guy who was with us for a comparatively shorter duration. While playing the game of cards his hands used to shake if he had good cards with him, and the others easily escaped by scooting immediately. He had also had the habit of standing very close to you while talking, and when you move away he will move in again closer.
An old peon named Patil was working as general errand boy in our section of the office, and it was a simple pleasure for me to say ‘kasa kai, Patil’ which were a few smatterings of Marathi tongue. My knowledge of Hindi language also used to give me the slip sometimes like when someone once asked me for time in my watch, instead of telling it is ‘sade bajeh’ which means 12.oo, I said ‘pandrah’ which means 15. That person might have thought that I was either slightly affected by the sun or that I was from the Navy where the day and night time is measured in 24 hours.
I remember one restaurant in Camp area which is on the way to the Methodist Church. I used to like to sip a cup of tea there with a cop cake or some other pastry item to go with the cake.
I also remember Budhanis Hot Chips. They had imported machinery which pea, cut and fry potato wafers, which they ladle out with big long-handled ladles. It was a pleasure to get piping hot potato wafers from them to munch during movie times. One other landmark which I remember is the Three Coins Night Club. I had never been there, but my Christian roommate was a regular customer there, and sometimes he also filled in as one of the guitarists on the staage. H had two other friends who were regulars there with him for a drink or two, watch the shows and generally loaf around there chatting among themselves or with others. He once mentioned about a dancer girl whom he met there who had a habit of saying ‘Oh, I am f@&#ed’ , whenever she remembered just a little too late.
He deserves a special mention. As I said he used to play the guitar, go bar hopping, even must have imbibed drugs, stayed away late at nights, and among all these attended choir practice sessions regularly and attended the Sunday Mass and singing in the choir. He was quite a good man, hailing from Nazareth in the Tirunelveli District of Tamil Nadu. He was a dark but handsome man. He taught me how to appreciate English songs which were popular those days; songs like Strawberries Cherries and Angels, House of Bamboo, Pearly Shells, Que Sera Sera, Red River Valley and a lot of other songs from the Guitar lessons book and Negro Spirituals.
He was so good that he didn’t want to spoil a girl’s life when his parents were looking for alliance for him, that he went to a hospital for a complete check up to confirm that he has not contracted any communicable diseases, and then only consented to marry. He had an only girl child as far as I can remember, because during pregnancy his wife had epilepsy as well Jaundice, but by divine intervention survived in one piece with her baby successfully brought into the world.
I remember a picnic, when we all fellow boarders went to Lonavla and Khandala. These were famous picnic spots, full of hills all around and scenic beauty. You would actually be among clouds at that attitude and because of the low temperature. There was this play area where I was swinging from a big pipe. It was so big that my fist did not go fully around it and so when I was swinging faster I lost my grip and fell flat on my back, stunned for a few minutes. My friends asked me to lie dows and take some rest. I found a big ‘chulla’ which must have been unused for over a century, spread my handkerchief inside it and lay down with my head and neck totally inside the chulla which emitted a comfortable warmth and I had a small nap.
Just before commencing this post, I stumbled upon the Scobleizer Blog, which I found through WordPress Dashboard. My son was surprised that I found it but it was just by pure chance. I have saved it to my favourite blogs. I will give it a once-over now and then. I hear Scobleizer’s is the most popular blog.
I remember everytime I went to the Railway Station either in Madras or in Poona to reserve my train tickets. The counter clerks had those very large booking ledgers stacked one above the other, and just moving them and shuffling them was itself a cumbersome process. All that is old history since ticket counters are now computerised with all services in all the computers. The computers are very fast but some counter staff still manage to be slower than their other colleagues.
One of my fellow lodgers was a very handsome, tall and fair man with cheerful manners. His window faced the neighbour’s window through which their young daughter used to sneak peeks at him. One day he found a folded paper arcing from her window into his window and he saw this cute Hindi couplets written on it
Phool gulab se har dam suha karo; Yaad aaye tho khidki se dekha karo.
which when translated reads as ‘imbibe pleasure from the rose-flower; and look out of window if you remember me.’
He was a gentle giant. once after I returned permanently to Madras, he visited my home and shared our meals with us. The next time I heard about him was through a mutual friend that Santhanam died soon after marrying his uncle’s daughter. He died childless.
Another fellow boarder worth mentioning is an M.A. (Econ.), M.A.(Pol.). Again in his case I met him a few years later. I learn that his first wife was a close relative of his, an unwilling bride, who had a frank discussion with him, obtained a divorce, and went on to pursue a Medical Course. He remarried later.
Then one afternoon suddenly I received a call from the landlord of the apartment and he said he has sent goondas to wait for me to return to my room. Fearing to face the situation, and knowing what to do, I just left my office, leaving every one of my possessions, and without telling anyone, not even my colleagues or roommates ir fruiends, went to the Railway Station, got a ticket to Bombay and got into the train. That changed my life for ever.
There have been many termini in my life, dead ends, cul-de-sac-s in my life. I have ill treated my life but life had done me many good turns to mee in return, like a good mother.
To continue my train journey where I left it at Poona Railway Station:
I reached Bombay V.T. as it was called then, now it is renamed as C.S.T., for Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus. I was without a direction.
I remember the two occaisions I had been here earlier; once long long ago, when I was young, and I was on a tour organised for ICF employees children. ICF is Integral Coach Factory in Chennai where my father was working then. I, my sister Soundaram, both were in our early teens then, and a lot of other children, with our tour guides, we visited Bombay. The next occasion was when as member of the Methodist Church Choir, visited Bombay to sing in the Byculla Church Church. This visit is of relevance in my narration here.
I took a local train to Byculla intending to locate the church where I sang with my choir. Actually I reached it and wanted to contact the pastor or the conductor there or anyone who will remember me and will lend me some money for me to buy my ticket to Madras. I drew a blank. I had some money and found out that it was enough to take me to Arkonam. I reached Arkonam penniless with just a napkin in my packet and a ballpen. I thought I will try to cadge a hot cup of tea from the Railway Canteen but could not bring myself to beg for it. Instead I asked for some hot water to wash my face and drink some.
I founda train going to Pondicherry and got in. There was a lot of time for the train to start. I got on the upper birth of an empty coach and drifted off to a tired sleep. I suddenly woke up and saw someone trying to open my pant zip. On seeing me getting awake he beat it. The train started moving and made its way ultimately to Pondicherry. Luckily for me, there was no train ticket examiner to trouble me.
I got down, and tried to pass the ticket examiner at the exit gate, but he caught me sneaking and detained me. He took me to the T.E.s room and asked me to pay the fine. He could see I was penniless and miserable and tired. He took my only possession of a ballpen as a very mild punishment and let me go.
I went looking for Canteen Street, asking people for the way. One lady advised me to ask for Rue de la Canteen. I reached No.10, Canteen Street, and fortunately found my friend, my only friend in life, S. Sankaranarayanan. I stayed in his home for about ten days, eating their food and catching up with each other’s life so far. We visited the beach a number of times.
Then one day they got tired of me or perhaps wanted to help me reach home. His father arranged for a van to take me to Chennai (Madras), and I retraced my way back home. I will continue this in my next post.
I had registered my name in the Post Graduates Employment Bureau in the Madras University Campus, and immediately after registering I got my first opportunity to step into my long, chequered career.
I was called to sit for the entrance examination to enter the Defence Accounts Department. I sat for the test and dashed off my answers to the questions on my test paper, and was shortly called to attend the interview at Poona. My father took me to Poona and I was selected as a Temporary Upper Division Clerkto take my seat in the Travel Allowances Section of the Department.
I carried an introduction to a family on Jew Street in Rasthapet, who found me a room in their landlord’s big house. I shared my room with Christopher, Suri, Krishnamoorthy, and when Krishnamoorthy vacated from the room, with a Christian named Dhanapal. Later when Suri drifted to a bank job, his place was taken by some one else whose name I cannot recall now.
Ours was the only bachelors room on the groundfloor, and on the first floor rooms, looking out to therear part of the building where the bathrooms and toilets were placed. I remember only Santhanam and Ganesan from the first floor and there were another six to seven people there. One of them I remember was working in the Intelligence Department.
We used to have our meals and breakfast in a mess nearby. I remember the name of the man who was running the messroom as Guru. Guru was also the name of our landlord and I presume they were either Maharashtrians or Konkanis. We used to assemble in a room on the first floor in the evenings after having our supper, and most of the days the others used to play rummy while I stretch on a cot and read some novel. I was never interested in playing cards, and the only times I have played cards was an occasional online Solitaire after I retired from service.
Sometimes we used to have tiffins in a Udipi hotel nearby, and the items I liked were kadak dosa eaten with spoon, knife and forks, and uppit which is what they call uppuma there.
I walked to my office which is perhaps about a mile away. I had tiffins in the afternoons in the office canteen. A few people I remember from my Section were among others whose names I have almost forgotten now, Mr. Chipulkatti and Mr. Gujar, both of whom were far far aged, but were friendly with me. I struck a strong friendship with Mr. Chipulkatti. That was betwenen 1967 and 1970.
My pastimes were regular weekend English movies generally at the West End or Empire Theatres, which were on the way to Camp area, and on the way we have to pass Atul House which was a big bungalow with a wall to wall glass from their hall or lounge facing the street. It was a compounded house, and on one occasion I caught a glimpse of a bikini clad young girl through the glass wall. She must have become an old person by now if she is strill around. The image stuck in my memory.
During the second year of my life in poona, I started to sing in the Methodist Church choir, along with my friend and room mate, Samuel Dauson Peace Thanasingh Christopher, Christopher for short. Let me catch my breath. I was a first tenor and Christopher possessed a booming bass voice, and our conductor was Mr Daniel Manoharan.
I did the most foolish thing in life. I shifted my residence to a new place and was the cotenant of one Thangaiah who was the manager of our mess. From the time I shifted to share his apartment, he never came to the apartment and after a few months during which I was paying the rent to him as his subtenant, he disappeared suddenly, and the landlord was on my neck asking for four months’ rent. Since I had already paid the amount to Thangaiah, I would not pay the landlord also, and in protest shifted back to my previous premises on Jew Street. Life took a very bitter turn with the landlord phoning to me in office frequently and threatening me.