Saturday, July 3, 2010

Bengaluru Days - The Joy of Summer Holidays – Unlimited Outdoor Activities

Getting up in the morning on the first day of summer holidays was an extraordinary feeling. The exams were over and you were a free bird. There was no attempt by the mother to wake you up and you didn’t bother to look at the watch to see what time it was. In any case I did not possess a watch and the only wall clock in the house was in the drawing room. Bangalore in the sixties was still very cold and one needed a blanket even in April. I still remember the way, entire National High School field used to be covered with mist in the morning. If you stood at the Samaj end one could not see the high school.

The best brand ambassador for Bangalore is certainly one by two coffee. But there were other lesser known traits peculiar to Bangalore only. At the stroke of seven my swimming mate MC Krishna used to be at the gate of my house and shouting “Pabbi, Pabbi, Pabbi” and would continue until someone from the house replied saying “he is having a bath and he will be there or some such thing”. Both the Q and A was heard by all the neighbours if they were awake or definitely got up thereafter. Nobody seemed to mind the loud early morning exchange of communication. After all the poor chap had come all the way walking or at best on a cycle and he had every right to shout on the top of his voice. This behaviour was predominant in South Bangalore before the advent of cell phones. Many years later six of us went on a trip to Kollegal, which is 160 KM from Bangalore on scooters and motorbikes. On reaching our friends house we shouted from the gate“Govinda, Govinda, Govinda” to our utter shock came the answer “Avanu manenalli Illappa” – He is not at home

Apart from swimming, cricket and visits to the theatre there were a number of other activities during the summer holidays. Choice of activity depended on ones age group. However, all activities were mostly outdoors and away from the constant gaze of parents and relatives. Unlike this day, our sports involved no financial expenditure. As long as you did not ask for money from your parents all was well. The options were many.

Bugari or the Spinning Top

For the uninitiated - Wikipedia says “A top, or spinning top, is a toy that can be spun on an axis, balancing on a point. This motion is produced by holding the axis firmly while pulling a string.

Bugari was an integral part of our lives. The game is simple, you draw a circle of 2 ft dia on the ground and the looser keeps his bugari inside the circle. The rest, one by one aim their bugari at the target and hope like hell the nail leaves a mark. Normally there are three outcomes – the target gets a hit and a small chunk of wood flies off (it’s called Gunna), in the next outcome, the nail gets embedded in the target and the rest are free to drop a huge stone on the target so that it splits – the ultimate is when the striker breaks the target into two parts. If the striker’s bugari does not hit the target and dies in the circle, then it becomes the target and so on. Kemp Mane- Red house Sitaram was a pro and his bugaris were huge and more importantly the nail end was as wide as a tooth and razor sharp. Whole of Shankarpuram and the adjoining areas were afraid of him. The cost of playing was almost negligible but loss of pride was immeasurable if ever your bugari got hit and split. The news spread fast and far.

Goil or Marble

Goli needs no explanation and I will deviate a bit from the actual sport. My father used to work in India Tin Industry located near White Field. One of the processes of tin making involved rolling glass balls on the huge tin sheet under weight to give it a mirror finish. At the end of the process the glass balls wore off and were reduced to various sizes, all resembling golis.The glass balls were of no further use to the factory and were discarded. My father seeing I had entered the Goli age brought home a gunny bag full of these golis of assorted sizes and colours. There could have been no better present. I instantly became the most sought after kid in entire Shankarpuram and Gavipuram.I had the power to gift, exchange golis and play recklessly. Not to mention, the golis could be bartered for many other necessities such as pencils, erasers, old stamps and at times Masala Dosa at Sri Venugopala Ananda Bhavan, popularly known as “Jiddi Hotlu”.

Ghalipata or Kite

Kanthu lived next to my grandparent’s house in Gavipuram. He was my hero. Nobody made ghalipata better than him. Unknown to the rest of the world his kites were made from black paper which carried the x ray report. His brother in law worked in an x ray lab and Kanthu had an endless supply of these sheets. But it is still a mystery as to how he selected this particular paper for the kite. An aeronautical achievement indeed. Kite flying involved planning, gathering of raw material, production, QA and finally the product. Apart from paper we required well cooked rice in lieu of glue (as it was costly and no family support or subsidy was available for its purchase), straws from an old broom, balangochi the stabiliser tail made from old news paper or a light sari and finally the thread. Then came the most difficult part of the game – to make the Sutra – a strong thread tied to the kite at two places - on top and at the bottom which held the running thread. The angle of the sutra was the most crucial factor in kite flying as it determined the lift, drag and other aerodynamic forces responsible for the kite to remain air borne. In this Kanthu was simply brilliant. Our kite used to reach the maximum height and reach the longest distance and stay for many many hours. My role was limited to holding the ball of thread and standing close to Kanthu.

Marakothi or (is there a translation) Monkey on the Tree

To play this game you need a tree which is low slung but having a number of branches. We had one such Chakotnehannu or Grape Fruit tree in my neighbour Prasannas house. A very strange game where in the looser is left behind on the ground and the rest climb the tree. The people on the tree have to come down and take hold of the game stick being defended by the person on the ground. In the process the tree person is out of the game if he is touched by the ground person and the game continues till all are out. The players needed to be very agile and adept in climbing trees, capability to spot an opportunity and jump from high branches, fast footed and leap up to the tree like a leopard. This game was not meant for the non athletic and the weak hearted.

Soor Chandu or (I think) The Fast Ball

It is played with an old tennis ball. This was a popular game with the male students of Mahila Seva Samaj and played during the lunch break. Two teams were formed. The aim of the game was to hit the opposing player with the ball with utmost force. Like modern day football, this game also involved tactics of marking and counter marking. The best hits were when you struck your opponent from a very close distance. If you happened to be the victim, then you spent a restless night in pain. Richmond was Lionel Messi. Here again, one is required to be fast footed and blessed with strong arms. More importantly thick hide to absorb the strikes.

Bache or (I really do not have a translation)

A very unusual game which has vanished completely from the face of Bangalore. This game is usually played in the afternoons when there is hardly any traffic on the road. Bache is a square iron plate of about 2mm thickness and 5 to 6 cm in width with a hallow in the centre. At the road intersection all the players placed the required number of empty cigarette packets (packet of 10) in a circle. I found mine behind City Institute in a rubbish bin. The players have to stand 100 meters away and throw the disc at the packets. Packets which come out of the circle are your reward.

Gilli Danda

Gilli Danda was an extremely popular game played in many big sports ground. The game involves striking the gilli on the ground with the danda in the hand and measuring the final distance the gilli has travelled using the danda. If you could get the gilli off the ground and pop it into the air with a soft touch and strike it again - was termed Madras and if the gilli was popped twice it was Bombay and so on. The game could take better part of the day. My friend Jay Kumar had Tendulkar status in this game. People used to come from all over Bangalore and take him to play for their team.

Racing Pigeons

Back to MC Krishna. He had a terrace full of Pigeons and some were trained to fly for long hours and in the end come back home. I would spend hours in MC’s house (with a constant supply of the best Iyengar Pulliyogare) watching the Parvalas in the air circling in gay abandon. At that young age it was simply fascinating to see them fly and then return to their master’s house. The game was all about endurance of the birds and their ability to return. MC was good at training them. This sport was carried out in total secrecy as I had an inkling that my parents would not approve of this. Over a period of time the idea of keeping a bird in my house began to take shape. On the fateful day MC and self walked all the way from Shankarpuram to Shivajinagar crossing the great cultural divide latitude at the Double road. Two South Bengaluru boys on their way to North Bangalore to buy Pigeons. On my return from the bird buying voyage I found my mother unusually quiet and appeared to distance herself from both the bird and me. This behaviour was strange as she normally sided with me in many of my adventures. MC had warned me that I should shift the bird inside the house after sunset till such time we built a permanent cage on top of the terrace. Once inside and as the evening slowly unfolded into a dark night two things happened. Father returned home from work and the pigeon started cooing gudugoodu gudu gudugoodu gudu gudugoodu gudu. It took some time for my father to locate the source of this strange noise in the house and a shorter time to pronounce the verdict.

An unsuspecting MC came home early in the morning shouting Pabbi, Pabbi; Pabbi to enquire about my latest acquisition. His enthusiasm was very short lived as he saw me desperately running towards the gate with the pigeon.

During the holidays we came home only for recharging and resting. The entire recreation was outdoors and at no cost to the exchequer. With so many options for outdoor sports it was hardly surprising that the elders complained that we had all become “Beedi Basavanna”.(bull on the road)

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