Saturday, June 12, 2010

Bengaluru Days - A tribute to Mr. Munivenkatappa. Swimming in the lakes and wells.

I lived, played and schooled in and around Gandhi Bazaar in South Bangalore for a number of years starting 1949, that’s when I was born, until I left home and joined the navy in 1967. South Bangalore was the soul of the city. It reflected the ethos, traditions and the culture of old Bangalore. Those formative eighteen years were probably the most rewarding years of my life, happy go lucky, foot loose and fancy free. There is so much to recall, I really do not know where to begin.

In those days there were hardly any public swimming pools in Bangalore. The one nearest to us was located next to the city Corporation Office. My father used the pool regularly and I have a number of photographs of the pool in its hey days. Over a period of time it had developed an unhealthy reputation concerning its cleanliness and the elders generally discouraged us from using the pool. It was rumoured that the boys living in the vicinity of the pool would come for a bath after their haircut. So, one kept a safe distance from the pool.

When we were staying in Gavipuram I must have been around eight years and used to visit my grand parent’s house very often as they were in the next street. Naga was the son of their domestic help who used to tag along with his mother. Over a period of time we became friends. Between us we hatched a plot unknown to the rest and Naga took me to Kempambhudi Lake to teach me how to swim. Looking back, it appears to have been a very daring and dangerous act. Later on I came to know that the lake was indeed the centre for learning swimming. My father learnt swimming under the tutelage of one Mr. Munivenktappa. Many years later I was privileged to become his shishya.

Mr Munivenkatappa is in the centre with a garland. My father is sitting 2nd from right. A close friend of father and my maternal grand uncle Prabhakar Gurjar is next to him.
Mr. M from Bangalore, not to be confused with the M from James Bond was a bachelor who lived near Gandhi Bazar circle. A man of gigantic proportions, he worked in HAL and represented the state in swimming. He taught swimming to two generations of boys and girls in and around Gandhi Bazaar. His training camps were held in a huge well in Dorasanipalya, located in the outskirts of the city. The main well was very deep and may be 50 feet in dia. It also had a key shaped shallow end meant for drawing water using a Koda. The facility had a pump house and acted as the change room. A load of us, cousins and friends used to be driven to the well in a car three times a week. Under the watchful eyes of Mr. M we learnt swimming – undoubtedly the “King of Outdoor Activity”. Thanks Mr. M.

I can never forget the triumvirate Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara. To mark the end of that day’s training, all of us were subjected to a frightening manoeuvre in the well. It had three deadly parts. Using his massive arms, Mr. M would push us down yelling, “Brahma!” As we were going down, “Vishnu!” was his battle cry and finally he would push us further by exerting a massive force on our shoulders through his legs. The cry “Maheshwara”, accompanying the most powerful of all the three dips. This was followed by tucking down huge helpings of idly, dosa or uppit in the Iyer’s restaurant opposite the well.

For many years, Sunder, Babu and I used the well to enjoy ourselves and also to impart training. We taught Dooma Chandu, Guru, Kumar, Mallesh, my brother and our neighbour’s children Raji and Ramu. The list was endless…..

I learnt my diving in a well located in the compound of Maratha Hostel which was close to my house. Unlike in Doresanipalya, the water level in this well was about 20 feet below ground level. We used to stand on the rim of the well and dive in, a frightful experience till you mastered the technique.

I was posted in Nigeria and our colony had a swimming pool where my children learnt how to swim. It’s now the turn of my grand children to learn. Today, Bengaluru offers many facilities and residential colonies have pools and there is no need to go to either of the wells. Those were the days my friend.


  1. i still cannot believe you learnt how to swim in a well... how scary is that ? :)


  2. Just came here from citizen matters after reading Meera's reference. Yes, ofcourse, how could I have forgotten Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara? :-) and MTR and LBR?

  3. Thanks Usha for going through my blog.It appears both of us had the same instructor for swimming.I have also gone through your article in Citizen Matters and enjoyed it.