|By Rajanikanth Shenoy, Kudpi [ Published Date: December 3, 2010 ]|
I was reminiscing over the past. Suddenly I was reminded of the Sixties when my brother declared that our parents have not given us the right name. He went on to the extent that we must approach a Notary Public and change our names filing an affidavit costing 5 Rupees.
I was shocked to hear that. For a moment, I too was confused and thought, my name is not right. It has a girl's name to begin with and her husband's name to end with! Then I told him, sky is not going to fall on our heads and let's keep our cool and watch other names and what they mean, or how people act.
I started observing life from then on. Not that accumulating 5 Rupees was a big issue. There were our classmates who used to demand even 10 Rupees for a Time Table from their unassuming Land Lord fathers those days! Those Land Lords proudly used to say – "My son is studying in the best school that is Besant Basic School. Time Table costs only Rs. 10/-. I heard that other schools charge even more in high season!"
Rukku(Name was Rukmini) was my nanny and she was very fond of me. With affection, she used to call me ‘Ajju'. Since I was too small to understand what it meant, I never cried or raised an alarm about it. My mother used to say, "Rukku carried you all around and thus you became dark skinned!" Whatever the reason for my skin tone may be, I am happy that my pet name or my skin tone has not hampered my activities even after 52 summers!
Annu and Devu were two good friends of mine from the neighbourhood, both belonging to dalit family. They were strong, friendly and affectionate. I even tried toasted dry bangude with ganji at their home after a tiring game of Kutti Donne. I was branded at home for eating at their home, but I had no regrets. Annu and Devu had great names and were proud that they convinced a boy with better name, from a so called higher family with their hospitality.
Hospitality! Yes. That makes us forget the shortcomings within one's name. Some of our friends used to eat at Akkammakka's Mess near Roopavani Talkies those days. They used to explain how heaps of hot steaming boiled rice were flooded with the thin aromatic fish curry and how tasty the fried sardines used to be. Somanath, a classmate of mine used to powder the outer part surrounding his mouth and nose to overcome the smell of fish after he ate at home in the afternoon. I used to ask him whether he felt guilty that his name resembled Lord Shiva's. He used to smile and say, "God created us and he also created fish for us to eat. We should not disturb others with the smell that they don't accept. Our name however, will be accepted by all as time comes and when people get used to it!" Somanath is working as a successful corporate executive today.
One of my brothers' classmates was Benaka. Benaka is another name for Lord Ganesha but it was so funny those days. Benaka also looked skinny and funny with big ears and a long beaky nose! Whatever, he used to beat us all when we used to play ‘Mara Manga' in our compound! Benaka was the true hero when it came to that game those days!
Seetharama was another boy in the neighbourhood. His grand mother Koosu and his mother Jalaja used to work for our neighbours, while Seetharama used to play with us. He was a strong boy. He knew quite a few acrobatics and his style of rolling sideways on his two hands and legs like a wheel was inimitable! He also was good at making ‘Girgitlis', fan like toys with waste paper and sticks. His expertise at Lagori, Kutti Donne and Bachche were too good. His father was a driver in Bombay and Seetharama gave me the first Fruitex toffee that his father had brought from Bombay! Seetharama has a big house of his own and has successfully married all his three daughters to well placed boys today.
We had a domestic servant Mechu. Mechu was a very strong woman, looking ferocious but was very mild natured. She served us for only 3 years, but since last 30 years she had come to see my mother during Dasara when we normally give away charities to needy ones by way of cash or in kind. No news from her since last 6 years. No idea about her whereabouts.
Kumara was adept at knocking down tamarind and raw mangoes with his left hand aim. His brother Narasimha was not only a good climber on the tile roof, but also a Chess player par excellence! Dingy was a music buff and he introduced us to many western groups like the Beatles and Dawn. Kumara Bhatta has a farm near Konaje and Narasimha is well placed in a Government of India Undertaking.
My classmate Mohana was speech impaired, but he had a sharp memory and perfect left hand aim too! No matter how irritated he may get when children made fun of him, he was always friendly with me, for I used to give him a piece of jaggery whenever I met him!
Vishnudasa was a good cricket player and also was good at romancing and dancing. He made us jealous with his long list of Christian girl friends with whom he used to dance during Christmas and Roce parties! Today, I heard he is working in the Middle East.
Then there was Mingili, who worked for an Ice Cream outlet. Mingili was a dark and short plump chap without a smile on his face. They were selling Ice Candy, cool drinks and local Ice Cream those days, and Mingili was an expert in dispensing them accurately and report perfectly to the owners across the street!
My father had his own choices when it came to mangoes. When the season was on, he used to but them by the bushels from Fakir Byari. He used to get the best Mundappa, Pairi, Kadri, Kalappadi, Kaatu Mangoes and ‘Kempu Size' that had dark green skin and red pulp, tasting almost like Alphonso. We have relished that variety at least for 10 years. Then one day, Fakir Byari announced that ‘Kempu Size' is no more available, as the last surviving tree was chopped down by the owner to develop his property!
Long live Fakir Byari's soul and his clan for giving us a chance to relish the rarest breed of mangoes in our life!
Jabbar had his Ambassador Taxi parked outside Government Women's High School near Car Street bus stop. My father used to engage his taxi to go long distance, for Jabbar was the best behaved, and the safest driver then. I remember going to Madikeri, Mysore and Bangalore by his car. He used to wear clean white shirt and Pyjama, treat us with affection and was well converse with our Konkani.
Thimma was handling Bullock Cart in a firewood depot nearby. He used to get us raw Horse Gram and we used to cook that to extract the soup and return the cooked gram to feed the bullocks. Thimma also used to help us replace the broken tiles on the 30 feet high roof of our house, though he had confessed a couple of times about vertigo!
Sankappa had a tragic life. He was serving for the military as jawan, and they say, an empty shell hit his head after which he became insane. He was wearing Khaaki shorts and vest, eating groundnuts with skin and showing his monkey like teeth in ecstasy as he relished them! At times he used to go berserk and shout swearwords, threaten kids with stones, but he had never harmed anyone as far as I know! My father used to employ him to empty the cesspool around a coconut tree once a way and it was fun watching him carry two zinc bucketfuls all the way and empty them at the other three coconut trees opposite, in a distance. After the hard work, he used to gobble up heaps of boiled rice and daalithove. My mother was considerate enough to prepare rice with one Seru (Almost half a Kilo) rice for him!
Eka was a sporty chap mostly cycling around. He even came second when he rode his bicycle all the way to Bombay. He was the one who used to catch pigeons from our attic and ask me to get frog legs from Zoology Lab in St Aloysius College after dissection. Under the ‘Bellada Kodu' tree, he used to roast the frog legs and eat them with salt and pepper!
Drawing Master (Actually his name is Vasudeva Shenoy) was in his sixties when I saw him first. He had a small shop selling general items and Fire Crackers during Deepavali and Tulasi Pooja. He used to get a buns and coffee every evening from Rama Restaurant in Kodialbail and eat it behind the showcase in his shop. He had no teeth and we used to have lots of fun watching him chew that buns and wash it down with coffee!
He had special affection for me. The reason is simple. My father asked me to get Number10 Cigarette from him and he gave Gold Flake by mistake. The price difference was more than double. My father scolded me and sent me back to return that packet to him. I apologetically returned it and confessed that I did not see what the brand was. He was all praises for me, and he used to give me double sweet during Angadi Pooje, and also Vimto to drink. To all other boys, he used to offer goli soda.
Vamayya with limp right arm used to draw my father's attention. My father used to employ him on daily wages. I was charged with the responsibility to supervise his work many a times. Vamayya with his left hand, used to spend his own sweet time applying cement to broken cracks in the walls or sealing the granite slabs on the leech pit after the cesspool was emptied. Watching him work for half a day without any avail, I used to snatch the taapi and finish the job within 30 minutes! Yet, Vamayya never got scolded by my father, nor did he get paid less for the job I did for him!
There were many more like Gibba, Seelu, Nobby, Appy, Venu, Sheve and Kasi who mattered most to me when we were young. They all showed their presence and we felt complete in their presence!
Finally, in this part, I'd not feel complete if I don't pay my tribute to a great soul popularly known as Nemanna. Nemanna, a bachelor Jain related to our neighbors, stayed behind our house in a room. He used to come to our house daily and discuss about politics, sports, food and culture. He used to amuse us with popular Christian folk songs like "Yo re Baltho…haad re koitho…katthar kuvale…!" He also relished Kantola podis and he was the first one to say, kantola was known as ‘Madagila Kayi'. Kaat Peere they call it in local dialect. Never heard the name like he said but recently I found out that ‘Madagila' is also a name for that! Nemanna passed away much before we left that house in Ballal Bagh area.
Today, it is still a mystery for me about a few of them and their whereabouts. There are many more people with more interesting names who happened in my life, about whom I shall mention in the next part. Even today I wonder why we keep worrying about names. It is the fame that makes the name lively. For me, all the names that I have mentioned so far have been equally important, for my life would be incomplete without them. Rather, my name would be nowhere without mentioning theirs here today!
Disclaimer: This article is aimed at good hearted Mangaloreans without malice. All the names mentioned in this article are real. The author to the best of his knowledge has narrated the true story. If anyone differs from this partly or fully, they are welcome to bring the same to the notice of the author through this website with adequate proof.