Monday, May 21, 2007


It is Mysore’s good fortune to have hosted Rev. George W. Sawday, a great missionary of the Wesleyan Mission. One of his greatest and important contributions to the Mysore citizenry is the “Mission Hospital”, which completes a grand century, precisely on 21st August, 2006.

On June 3, 1904, Mrs. Mary Calvert Holdsworth (of Hastings, England) laid the foundation stone. On 21st August 1906, HH Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV declared the building open. The hospital premises, in what was then called the ‘Edgah Extension’, occupy an area of about seven acres, the gift of the Government of His Highness the Maharaja. The building had cost nearly Rs.1,50,000/-. (Source: Handbook of the City of Mysore by TG Lakshmana Rao, President of Municipal Council, 1915)

This is a handsome, imposing and commodious building and was one of the first buildings seen as one entered the city by train from Bangalore, of course, in those days. (A picture of the Hospital building is also reproduced from the above Handbook.)

The hospital bore the name of “Mary Calvert Holdsworth” who, with her husband, the Rev. W.W.Holdsworth, M.A., lived for several years in the city and took a never-failing interest in the welfare of women and children, esp. in the plague-swept years. (Hence, “Holdsworth Memorial Hospital”). In days when there were only eleven small hospitals and dispensaries in the city, this ‘centre of healing’ with modern equipment came as a great boon to the citizens of Mysore and around. The Wesleyan Mission maintained the hospital.

The “Mission Hospital” (in 1915) had several wards with accommodation for about 70 in-patients for all classes of people, irrespective of caste and creed. One of the chief features was for gosha patients where curtains for privacy surrounded every bed. Also, small separate rooms meant for patients from other distant parts of the state and ‘family’ wards were provided. There was a large Operation Theatre with up-to-that-date features. They were those days’ attractions that had gained great popularity, besides great service.

In 1928 alone, 1,648 in-patients and 11,817 out-patients were treated and the total attendances were 48,097. By then, there were facilities for 100 in-patients indicating the rapid growth of the Hospital. Lamps and apparatus for ultra-violet ray treatment had been added and staffed with European and Indian doctors and nurses. Two of its fine band of doctors, Dr.Alexander and Dr.Anne Hardy Banks, who gave all they had to give, brilliant gifts and tender service in the 1920s, must be remembered here. They died as a result of over-working, in unceasing efforts to heal and help the sick and suffering.

Constance Parsons writes in his book Mysore City: “The hospital is a great memorial to a lovely life; and no less to the generosity and untiring efforts of the Rev. G.W.Sawday.” Rev. Sawday served tirelessly in Mysore for more than 50 years.

In fact, Rev. Sawday, in addition to his multifarious duties, planned and built, and was responsible in collecting subscriptions, with the exception of the Govt. grant, for its regular maintenance. The Mysore Royal Family lent its valuable support with generous donations to the cause and saw that it was on a sound financial footing.

When visiting Mysore, before the opening of the Hospital, the Prince and Princess of Wales (later King Edward and Queen Alexandra) on their visit to Mysore were much interested in the progress of work towards the hospital and to evince their sympathy, had sent large autographed portraits to the Hospital for the opening ceremony as they could not visit. Subsequently, King George V and Queen Mary sent theirs. The Maharaja also gave to the hospital a large handsome picture of himself.

HH Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV in his Opening Ceremony Speech, appreciated and admired the yeoman services of Rev. Sawday and his fellow-workers. “The Wesleyan Mission are old friends of us all in Mysore. They were the pioneers of modern education in the City and their good works are well-known to everyone …..” He also went on to request, after announcing a munificent donation of Rs.10,000/- from Her Highness the Maharani of Mysore, the charitably disposed citizens of Mysore to contribute generously.

The solid foundation built then has taken the Hospital where it is today and the good services have been ceaselessly carried on for a hundred years. On a personal note, I have two lucky privileges: of “experiencing” the Hospital’s tender service, having been born there after its golden jubilee year and of living next to what is known as the “Sawday House”, a famous landmark since my great grandfather’s time! Our house used to be identified as the one next to Sawday House.

The Hospital has now greatly grown in stature and reputation. As coincidence would have it, its recognition as a Scientific & Industrial Research Organization by the Dept. of Science & Technology, Govt. of India comes as a fitting tribute during its Centenary Year.

The Highness while declaring the hospital open, had said “I pray that under the Divine blessing, the aspirations of its founders may be fulfilled a thousand-fold." Truly, the great King’s prayers and the efforts of the selfless Rev. Sawday, et al, have not gone in vain. Will never, in spite of the emergence of competition from other commercial medical giants.
[This was published in Star of Mysore, August, 2006. Pictured above is the Mission Hospital building, 1915]

I'm a Mysorean!

Pictured above is the Mysore Palace, 1930.

In one of his articles in the local daily, STAR OF MYSORE [some years back], Mr.T.S.Nagarajan, wrote a few things: "Don't ever underestimate the Mysorean, who generally appears contemplative and self-effacing. You will take some time to realize his wit and wisdom, which unfolds slowly and unobtrusively - majjigeyolagina benneyanthe - like butter emerges from buttermilk. There is an unintended artistic expression by the people even in seemingly ordinary matters.

"To the Mysorean, coffee is booze. He is very particular about its quality. The test of good coffee is that the guest sitting in the hall should savour its elevating aroma from the kitchen, ahead of the housewife walking up to him with a cupful. Talking about cofee is also a convenient opening gambit for most casual chats, don't be amused if instead of saying 'good evening' to you when you meet an acquaintance on the road, he says "coffee aayithe?", meaning "have you had your coffee?". It does not matter evenif you have just had your dinner!" I liked the way he has beautifully pictured some of the characterestics.
[Mr.Nagarajan is the brother of the world-famous photo-journalist, TS Satyan.]


My mind runs a bit on 14.12.2007:

Just as we find ourselves grumbling about this and that, HSK brings out many points and locations and compares it with the past. I have to agree that Mysore WAS a livable city, not IS. The Commissioner can do wonders only if the public, at the individual level can cooperate with him. But then, with our "who cares" attitude, the efforts will make no impression. When are we beginning to think that spitting on the road, easing ourselves to compound walls, throwing rubbish into the open areas, lighting matches to plastic and other harmful waste, mixing kerosene to petrol, dirtying the public places, taking dogs for 'excretory walks', leaving cattle to the streets to graze, honking of automobile horns, cutting avenue trees, drilling holes in the earth for water....... is bad for the city's health from every angle? Mainly it could be the utter careless and selfish attitudes of the public and also the influence of many villages in Mysore's vicinity, the reasons thwarting healthy progress.

If a genuinely strong rule is enforced in public interest, that is thwarted by the one with a vested interest through a phone call, or even a visit to the Commissioner!! With such interferences, the city will be like a bull in the mill.

Mysore IS now just a name no longer synonymous of its old and famous tags. It's just growing, growing fast, into just another modern city with more problems than peace, thanks to various negating factors that seem to have been eating up all the goodies Mysore is renown for.

Here's HSK's article:

[Star of Mysore, 14.12.2007]
"HSK's Moving Finger"

Some time ago I read an interesting report in the newspapers. It said that Mysore is one of the most livable cities of India !
The question is — 'Is it ? or will it become one ?'
Mysore is not a livable city today. Anyone who says so will be under an illusion. It was, once upon a time, a livable city and also a lovable city. It was during the days of the Maharajas.
If Bangalore was deemed to be a commercial and industrial city, Mysore was considered as a cultural city. One of the greatest cultural pageants of the city was the Dasara. The city which was a sleeping beauty would suddenly wake up to the beating of drums and the tingling sou-nd of bells tied to the necks of majestic elephants.
Dasara crowd
It was not the practice then to bring the elephants (tamed, of course) from the forest and hurriedly parade them in the streets to get them accustomed to the din and buzzle of the city and the Dasara crowds. 'Ane Karuhatti' or the 'Abode of elephants' was on the spot where the JSS institutions today stand. The building on the Shivarathri Rajendra Circle was Hasuvina Karuhatti or the place where the Palace cows were kept. There was a separate accommodation for horses.
Dasara durbar was a beautiful function which even Gods would love to witness. The procession was a feast for the eyes. All that pomp and pageantry have disappeared and today Dasara is a pale and lifeless imitation of those celebrations.
Soon after Dasara the representative Assembly of the State was being held at Jaganmohan Palace. The University convocation would follow. In addition to these, a number of celebrations, social and religious, were attracting huge crowds.
The powers that be did not fail to attend to civic amenities. The water supply system as well as the underground drainage was ideal. It is said that when rains failed and the city had to face the ordeal of water shortage, the Kukkarahalli tank, which is now a part of the Mysore University, was constructed. It was a beautiful lake then and far more expansive than it is today. Many daring swimmers were swimming in the tank from one shore to the other shore at the opposite end and return swimming. Today the tank is half dead and half alive.
Another beautiful lake was Doddakere — the spot where the exhibition is being held now. In those days — just about seven decades back — the waters of the tank extended from the front gate of the Palace fort to almost the foot of the Chamundi Hill. The space between Doddakere and the hill was occupied by another tank called Gobbalikere. The Doddakere was dried up because of the fear of Malaria. The smaller tank also almost perished. In those days the illuminated Palace and Chamundi Hill would be reflected on the placid waters of the tank. It was so beautiful that many drama companies of those days had the main curtain of the theatre painted with that scene.
The Karanjikere, as the name itself suggests was another bea-utiful water body. The Karanji tank also was facing the threat of extinction. Thank God ! It is revived. The Dali Avenue Thandi Sadak was a beautiful road by the side of the Karanji tank. It was like a tunnel, covered by creepers grown on either side of the road. It looked like a very long pendal from one end of the road to the other end. Alas, it is today encroached by the Zoo. The public who used to walk along the cool grove in the evening are deprived of that pleasure. It looks rather drab in the Zoo.
Drab environment
Lalitha Mahal Palace today looks very pale. All its majesty is lost because of the drab environment around it. The Lalithadri on the Chamundi Hill is only a name today. Our poet Kuvempu has written a beautiful poem eulogising it. Nobody seems to be interested in reviving it.
The Rajendra Vilas Palace on the top of the Chamundi Hill was later converted into a hotel. It lost all its glory. At the Central Hall of the Palace, huge mirrors of the size of the walls were erected close to the walls on all the four sides and if you happened to enter it upwards, you would be flabbergasted by the innumerable images (infinity) of yours reflected by the mirrors on all the four sides. Perhaps those mirrors are no longer there !
The roads of the city were broad (from the standard of those days) with footpaths on both sides. They were well maintained. The dome lights adorned the roads and at night they looked like myriad stars descended to earth to praise the glory of the city.
The parks have shrunk. They are filthy. In the evenings, the citizens used to flock them for recreation. The Palace Band (later the Government band) used to play songs once a week in the evening. The band stand and garage were two beautiful constructions. They are gone.
Ideal road
The Mirza Road was an ideal road which served as a rendezvous for evening strolls. But alas! It looks today like a beautiful damsel cruelly raped and bruised by a bastard. The Hardinge Circle with a thrilling fountain surrounded by ornamental flower plants is today drab and lifeless, with vehicles ceaselessly plying along the labyrinth of roads.
The Krishnarajendra Circle, which is said to be built like the Connaught Circle of Delhi, is a poor imitation. The planners had no aesthetic sense. The erstwhile circle with a fountain called Elgin Fountain, and a statue erected on a high pedestal and greenery all round was one of the most beautiful spots of the city.
The city is full of filth and dust. Eateries have encroached every available spaces, especially footpaths. The customers throw away the papers and render the whole area quite dirty. Sweeping the roads at least once a week is a rarity. Building construction is going on unabated and the small water bodies are occupied by buildings, causing the drying up of the source of underground water. Who cares ? The several tanks surrounding the city are slowly dying.
Natural environment is disappearing. Pollution levels are high. The Chamundi Hill also may disappear some day. The city fathers fail to plan for the next 25 years or more. They are thoughtless.
Can you revive the city to its previous pristine beauty and make it a real livable city, Mr. Manivannan ?


I link below some interesting information about old Mysore.

Prof.AV Narasimhamurthy recounts 100-ft. Road.

City Improvement Trust Board - brief history


In the early 19th century, Mysore was confined within the limits of Hale Agrahara, the Fort, Dodda Petta and Lashkar Mohalla. Municipal activity began sometime during the reign of HH Krishnaraja Wadiyar III about the mid 19th century. As decades passed and the town gradually evolved into a city, there reached a stage when the need was felt for a separate body that could handle the city's development, improvement and health matters.

The deadly epidemic Plague struck Mysore and took a heavy toll of life, esp. in 1898. The root cause was poor sanitation and unhealthiness. It was a grave public concern. The Municipality, with the help of the Plague Commissioner, tried to combat future ravages. Spreading the populace apart, opening out lanes and streets in congested localities and creating extensions seemed the best answer. It required heavy expenditure. By the time plans took shape, HH Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV had ascended the throne (1902). The inadequacies of the Municipality's resources to handle the demands of such crises, surfaced. The Government of H.H. Maharaja came to the rescue by appointing a committee with the Chief Engineer as the President to formulate proposals for the improvement of the city.

Improving sanitation and removing unhealthiness in the city received prime attention. During the first (1894-1902) of two important stages in Mysore's sanitary history, a Sanitary Division under Mr.Standish Lee, was established by Dewan Sir K.Seshadri Iyer. It is pertinent to mention some of the works carried out during this period before the creation of the City Improvement Trust Board:

- A portion of Purnaiah's Nalla, a deep drain cut by the former Dewan to lead water from the Cauvery to the town, which was a source of unhealthiness, was filled. This is now the Sayyaji Rao Road.
- The ditch around the Fort was filled and was converted into a park.
- Main sewers serving the KR Mohalla and Devaraj Mohalla were laid.
-Chamarajapuram (called after HH Chamarajendra Wadiyar), the first important and successful measure carried out in extending the town, was constructed.
- The supply of wholesome drinking water by a system of water pipes from the Kukkarahalli Reservoir and from the Cauvery by pumps worked by turbines. This was a material step in the interest of the general health of the city.

The second stage (1902-10), coincided with the beginning of what became the 'golden reign' of Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar. Many important developments took place in right earnest, following the passing of Mysore Improvements Regulation III of 1903. Work was pushed forward vigorously by the "Trust Board", under the able officers lent from the Government Public Works Department. Mr.Seetharama Rao was the Chairman and Mr.D'Cruz was the Executive Engineer. The Mysore City Municipality was governed by Regulation VII of 1906 (Mysore Municipal Regulation). It was also a Corporation with a President as its head. He was also the Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Improvement of the City of Mysore. The Health Officer was the Vice-President in Sanitary Matters. It is worthwhile to quote excerpts of the Govt. Order No.4168-79.L.F.3602, dated 18.9.1902. The general lines on which improvements designed were:

"The slums of the city, wherever they exist, should be first improved, by knocking down unsanitary buildings, providing against overcrowding, bad drainage and otherwise defective sanitation. Proper quarters should be found for surplus population from such localities, and such assistance as is possible and reasonably practical should be extended to poor people for building proper houses. A comprehensive scheme for proper drainage should be devised, not necessarily with a view to attain theoretical, but impractical, perfection, but to meet the reasonable needs of the city."

Accordingly, unsanitary areas were removed en bloc in some localities, all the narrow lanes were widened, conservancy lanes opened for the facility of drainage, many low-lying and ill ventilated houses dismantled, and extensions were formed to provide room for the displaced population. Drainage facility was made possible practically for every house.

Up to 1911-12, the Trust Board acquired about 6,000 properties including open areas, of which 3,616 were houses, paid Rs.13.5 lakhs as compensation, spent Rs.9 lakh in drainage work and other improvements were of the highest beneficial utility and added much to the comforts, convenience and the health of the public. In 1911, Mysore had a population of 71,306 as to 68,111 in 1901. The city was divided into seven mohallas: Fort, Lashkar, Devaraja, Krishnaraja, Mandi, Chamaraja and Nazarbad. In 1913-14, there were 12,122 houses, out of which 701 were terraced, 10,838 were tiled and 583 thatched.

The appearance of Plague gradually waned away as the city's design as well as healthiness, noticeably improved, thanks to the excellent work carried out by the Trust Board. Time-honoured housing requirements, where each family needed a house with a compound or backyard attached for outhouses, cattle, etc., necessitated the creation of extensions for housing those displaced by the demolition and rearrangement of parts of the city. The work of acquisition and demolition of properties, for opening conservancy lanes, leaving air spaces, admitting light and removing congestion was completed in Ittigegud, Nazarbad, Fort and Lakshmipuram (built on the site of Old Dodda Holageri, for some time a hot-bed of plague, etc.). Edgah extension was also created.

By then, Sir M. Visvesvaraiah was the Dewan and also the Chief Engineer of Mysore. It was under his leadership that saw the system of drainage undergoing a complete change. From his vast experience, he favoured the underground drainage system that worked by gravity, to open surface drains. Many of those are still functioning - an example of "made to last" quality! The sullage water from every house in this system was directly connected to the underground street sewer and the whole sewage was brought down to one common out-fall in the valley below Doddakere, where it was treated for purification in a septic tank, and the effluents were utilized for agricultural purposes.

For many years, the CITB offices were located at the Rangacharlu Memorial Hall (Town Hall). CITB (now MUDA) built its own office buildings on Jhansi Laxmi Bai Road in the early 70s, at the very place where a very old, dilapidated set of 'dungeons' (rumoured to have had an underground secret tunnel), existed. (Is that why the 'underground dealings' still prevail in the area?).

Is Corruption Impossible To Banish from Mysore's Ultimate Defraud Authority? That is the common man's FAQ! But when someone like Mr. Pankaj Kumar Pandey comes and tries to answer it, in as transparent a manner that would have pleased Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar, he is quickly packed off! Preserving such persons to serve the public would only serve the real purpose of the Authority. Let us wildly hope that, even in this 'kaliyuga era', there will be more of Seetharama Raos and Pandeys at its helm!
{My above article published in Star of Mysore, 2005}
[Reference source: Handbook of the City of Mysore, 1915, by T.G.Lakshmana Rao, a complimentary copy given to my greatgrandfather K.Mylar Rao who in his diary of the 1920s mentions his schedule "Trust Board Meeting", indicating that he was also one in the committee being one of the elite persons of Mysore.]

Economy bathing

Economy Bathing
These are days when everyone of us must prevent wastage of water. I have found out a method to economize use of water for bathing in such a crisis. Usually the mugs we use are of one litre capacity. Take the first mug of water and begin by wetting the body with a sponge / kerchief / palm of the hand. Pour the second mug all over the body, SLOWLY. Next step is 'soaping'. The third mug is used for washing off the soap lather. Follow it by slowly pouring a couple of mugs. The bath is now complete! Actually, on an average, just five to six litres of water is sufficient for a clean bath. Add 1-2 mugs in case of the head-bath.Do you know that about 50% of water falls directly to the floor if water is poured hurriedly? There are people who consume more than two buckets of water for one bath! I know a friend who does this. Asked why, he says that his bath ends only when a certain 'current' passes through his body! This 'economy bath formula' would come in handy in such a crisis esp. to such excessive consumers. Let us use water judiciously. It is precious.

How we pose for pictures

Decades ago, people were shy to stand in front of the camera. But now, attitudes have changed. There are no better 'posers' for the camera than our great 'netas'. They are so fond of 'posing' that they invariably look into the camera in the most artificial manner one can get to see. Keenness to show their faces for the picture seems to be more important than the purpose of their presence on stage. Not for nothing our 'netas' are staple food of cartoonists! A silly picture had appeared sometime back of some of our netas 'inaugurating' the city-cleaning drive. Lo, they were not sweeping, but standing one beside the other, brooms in thier hands. [nobody knows how many sweeping strokes they made!]
Some years back, I was at the 'receiving end' on one occasion. The prize was handed to me by the chief guest. Being not a neta, the hand-over happened naturally, which took the photographer unawares. He must have been unready for the natural event! Or his angle was unsuitable for it I don't know. But the event of handing over the prize was re-done on demand for the sake of the picture which made everyone laugh. The final (funny) picture shows both of us smiling and the ones in the background, laughing, looking at the camera. In the confusion, the chief-guest's hand was holding my hand at the wrong place and the prize had come in the way! And we both knew the funny thing!!
I wonder when our netas and the photographers (on such occasions) learn to give weightage to naturality! How I wish most of the photographers said " you carry on, I'll take pictures"!

Here are two nice examples from my collection: This is from Sport & Pastime magazine. The Prime Minister is presenting the trophy and the actual event is frozen! No drama here! All real and "real time"!

Another example from my album shows my grandfather accepting his trophy in Golf from His Highness The Maharaja of Mysore Sri Jayachamaraja Wadiyar at the Mysore Sports Club, in the early 1960s. Farrokh Irani applauds. This unknown photographer has captured this moment nicely!

Vani Vilasa Sannidhana


The name of 'Sri Vani Vilasa' is to Mysore what Queen Victoria is to the British. Maharani Kempananjammanni of Vani Vilasa Sannidhana [in full] occupies as high a place as any in the annals of Mysore history. Her contributions to the citizenry, in her roles of Maharani-regent and as mother of Nalwadi Krishnarajendra Wadiyar, one of the most illustrious rulers of our country, stand aloft. She was considered as a rare gem in our erstwhile princely state.

Kempananjammanni was born in 1866 to Narase Urs and Kempananjammanni [same name] of Kalale. When she was five, an efficient teacher was engaged to educate her on Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagavatha. She was a brilliant girl with amazing gifts of sharp memory and grasping power. People adored her unique skill of memorization of stories on Sita, Savitri, Draupadi, Damayanti and Ahalya and also for her remarkable qualities like patriotism, humility, nobility, kindness, affection and generosity.

When Kempananjammanni was 12 years old, her mother decided to get her married. Since Narase Urs was known to the Royal family and also that her fine prowess had reached their attention, a proposal was made for the young Maharaja Sri Chamarajendra Wadiyar. Both parties agreed.

The Palace was in debts due to drought in Mysore at the time, 1878. But it was decided to proceed with the marriage in spite of the prevailing conditions. As it so happened, the rain-god rescued the situation with a great bounty just a couple of days before the royal wedding which took place on 26.5.1878 and appeased everybody.

In 1881, the famous Rendition of Mysore was carried out and the British handed over the rule back to the natural prince [Sri Chamarajendra Wadiyar was now 18], after 50 years. In 1884, Nalwadi Krishnarajendra Wadiyar was born to the royal couple. In quick succession, they also had another son in Kanteerava Narasimharaja Wadiyar and three daughters.

Sri Chamarajendra Wadiyar, on one of his annual visits to Calcutta in 1894 [to the Court of Viceroy who resided there], developed diphtheria and died there, thus abruptly cutting short, a promising reign that lasted only 13 years. He was just 32 and had already left his mark as an excellent leader. His death suddenly created a void as prince Krishnarajendra Wadiyar IV was still in minority. The unexpected tragedy was regarded as a great national misfortune throughout India and was deplored by the British Government as an Imperial loss. The royal family plunged into great sorrow and the citizens felt orphaned. Such was his stature.

The burden fell on Maharani Kempananjammanni. It was here all her sterling, divine qualities came to the fore, as she courageously stepped forward to play her beloved husband's responsible role in such a crisis. She was nominated as Maharani-regent, a post this saviour faire held for eight tough years [1895-1902] and served the people with great aplomb, dignity, devotion, discipline and distinction. She earned the respect of one and all for the fabulous way she held fort.

It was fortunate that the services of such great intellects as Diwan Sir K.Seshadri Aiyar was on hand at that time. His excellent guidance to the Regent helped Mysore recover from slump. Progress in all fields resulted from their efficient administration and beatified the entire citizenry. Generation of electricity from river Cauvery, construction of Mari valley anicut, construction of the new palace, extension of new localities in Mysore, water supply through pipes and laying of foundation stone of Victoria Hospital in Bangalore were enough testimony. Also, the Maharani's concern for mankind shone like a diamond.

Maharani Kempananjamanni was a great believer in women's education and under her patronage Maharani's College got all its due attention. She was a staunch follower of Hinduism, but respected all faiths equally.

When Nalwadi Krishnarajendra Wadiyar came of age, it was time for her to retire. On 8.8.1902, he ascended the throne that marked the end of a memorable regency and the beginning of what was to become Mysore's 'golden era', an era that came to be known by the encomium 'Ramarajya'. All her exemplary qualities that had been imbibed on the young prince was in full glow during his long reign of 38 years hence. That he was reckoned as a 'Rajarishi' was ample proof. In recognition of her fine regency, the British Government awarded her with a 'C.I.'. She continued to share her wisdom till the end.

After a brief illness, 69-year old Maharani Kempananjammanni died on Saturday midnight, 7th July 1934 [ekadashi, uttarayana], believed to be an auspicious and rare moment. It is said that the end comes at such moments only to great persons, of purity, calibre and stature.

For a girl born in a poor family and achieving what she did in a most praiseworthy manner, considering Mysore's predicament in that period speaks for itself, her greatness, which few have equaled. Rao Bahadur R.Narasimhachar, paying tributes had said, "…there are three jewels in Mysore's history, who have struggled for the country's good. Maharani Lakshamanni, Sri Sitavilasa Sannidhana and Sri Vani Vilasa Sannidhana. She was not only a mother to Nalwadi Krishnarajendra Wadiyar, but also to all the citizens. For the contributions they have made, their names deserve to be written in golden letters…"

Prefixing 'Vani Vilasa' to a Mohalla, Water Works, Maternity Hospital, Girls High School, Bridge, Ladies Club and a Road [now mercilessly being attempted to superimpose with that of Mahatma Gandhi's name] is a privilege Mysoreans [and ruling netas] are fortunate to have. We must never ever forget the invaluable role of this "Mahamatrushri" to our city. Such a name has to linger for ever!

[Published in Star of Mysore]

The Perfect Head

"Hair by hair maks the carl bare", says an old Scottish proverb. The head of hair is homo sapiens' crowning glory. It is for this reason that even a little loss of hair on the crown or its whereabouts, makes the young man under it panic. Panic, because this 'thinning process' is famous for its irreversibility.

Baldness, or alopecia, is a gift handed down through the genes. Though it is a harmless physiological disorder, its virtue of giving an illusion of oldness creates an odd feeling in the 'unfortunate' person. Medical science is yet to find an effective cure. In spite of this, we hear of ads with 'before and after' pictures having fooled gullible men. But a shallow "cure" is on the market - the wig!

"Baldy" is a popular pet name for a bald-headed or even a balding man, often referred behind his back. It sounds so nice and smooth!

Baldness is a scourge and nature's malediction, having a potential to affect wedlocks. But when you look at the positive side, it can save the worry about hair-do, hair oil, shampoo and combing time. The head-bath becomes far smoother! But the tall baldy will curse his height when he bumps his vertex against a doorframe. Baldies make the job easier for the barber but there are no concessions on offer. It is hard to identify a hiding-under-a-wig baldy because those wigs look so very natural. But some wear that shame-proud look.

Naked pates are concealed with unique methods. My friend Haridas has grown hair on one side of the head, long enough to arrange those available strands neatly to cover his shiny vertex, from pinna to pinna. He is always armed with a pocket-comb because his enemy is the sudden gust of wind. I have seen another dark middle-aged 'bold' baldy in a crowd. Believe me, he had conspicuously black-dyed his entire head, yes, entire head, to imitate a crop of hair. There are some who start wearing a cap once they notice the receding hairline. It only contributes in hastening the process. The more it is thought of, or looked at in the mirror, the speedier it recedes, up, up and behind!

My pen friend Prabhakaran sent his second picture, five years after the first 'hairy picture'. His top had "blown off". He had given an explanation: "…due to too much study…". He had become a professor. One middle-aged Nayyar from Delhi and I meet for our respective cricket teams, annually. But last time round, his appearance cheated me! After some teasing, he revealed with a wink that he wanted to look younger and so he had undergone a complicated fifteen-thousand-rupee-3-month-"weaving" treatment to his pate. A few others 'run for cover' and buy themselves a wig.

When I was a kid, I used to fondle my grandpa's balding head, which had a traditional "juttu". Why me, he himself was caressing it when he had nothing else to do. Just look at a baby's astonishment when it sees or lays its soft palm on the hard and smooth surface. To kids, most bald men are 'tata'. But agree they wont, even if that poor young fellow is a 'victim' of alopecia. Guess what my balding friend Ravi's most treasured thing? It is his own photograph taken in his "hair-days".

The bald pate is a good site for tattooing too and there have been a few 'bald men clubs' in active existence, enjoying their commonness. Hair or no, what is of value is the content inside the cover, much like a coconut.

Curves are naturally appealing. Ask any cartoonist how they enjoy drawing a Gandhi, Yule Brenner, Churchill, Lenin, Seshan, UR Rao, Anupam Kher, or a Brian Close…. The list goes on. Brian Close, the England Cricket captain revealed when he was bald enough to say that his childhood dream was realized: he had always wished to go bald whenever his mother pulled his hair.

Samuel Hoffenstein in Songs of Faith in Year After Next says:

Babies haven't any hair;
Old men's heads are just as bare;
Between the cradle and the grave
Lies a haircut and a shave.

God only made so many perfect heads. The rest he covered with hair!

Interesting link about baldies


(Published in weekly supplement, Star of Mysore, November, 2006)
Same also featured here:
By nature, man is a social animal. It is this natural instinct that pushes him to be with other people as and when he can almost all of his waking hours, be it with family or friends. Mysore's salubrious atmosphere has been typically most suitable for lazing and relaxing. The Maharajas have even arranged lovely stone platforms and benches, called kattes in convenient places which has bred so many somaaris!

All the somaaris (lazybones) need is such kattes to sit. They usually are in convenient locations usually in their houses' vicinity. It has been a popular practice, almost a sacred tradition in our city, to spend time that way, usually after the day's college/work. A small group of people of differing wavelengths (otherwise it will be dull!) somehow get together and a somaari katte is thus formed. Its formation almost goes unnoticed. The simple qualification is that all have to be somaaris. Sometimes attending the katte sessions gets priority over other works on hand, even studies! There can be danger of shortage of attendance too! Somehow, time is squeezed in for this. Such is its force of attraction.

Many somaari kattes are in vogue for many decades! Age or status is no bar (gender is!). Somaari kattes function usually from dusk and extend as late as 10 or 11pm (Sundays, there can be morning sessions) depending the hotness of the topics. Topics are not set. They keep diverting as they branch about. All subjects under the sun come up. Members voice their views in their own style, freely. At times, leading to healthy arguments and also unhealthy, leading to quarrels. The next session, they are friends again, even if the controversy resurfaces.

New ideas crop up in free discussions at the katte, unlike probably at formal meetings. One remarkable discussion was the cause of the formation of The Mysore Gymkhana in 1936. It happened in one such session on the stone steps in front of the then University Union building facing the Maharaja's College ground where a group of youngsters were chatting in the evening. Sri M.Ananthaswami Rau, now 90, is a living witness. There must surely have been many such starting points at many other kattes too.

There was one somaari katte in the 60s on Gita Road that was quite popular - among the members, but not the neighbourhood for obvious reasons like eve-teasing, loud speaking...... Of course now it is dead, since they have got their own responsibilities or have moved away. There is another, much dignified, still in vogue, almost a next generation, close to this where yours truly is a 'member' for almost 3 decades. Most of us are connected to The Mysore Gymkhana and Javagal Srinath also makes it a point to attend whenever he is in the city even now. As I have noticed, this somaari katte culture has been partly responsible in building team spirit which has helped us win many cricket matches! Another now extinct katte was quite notorious to the same neighbourhood where even the police had to be called in to pull them up more than twice.

Older group of men choose bus shelters, closed-shop steps, stone benchs under trees, even on the road's kerb stones (now heavy traffic disallows this). Often, sentimental attachments grow towards the katte. Younger members that have moved away and visiting after a long while crave to see the spot where a lot of their happy evening hours were spent while his knowledge expanded.

Time spent at the somaari katte could be rejuvenating, inspiring, entertaining and enriching experiences, each evening having its own charm. A katte culture is unthinkable outside India where many from the city have traveled for greener pastures. Loneliness is a common ailment for them as they don't get to experience this katte culture and this is one thing they miss badly. The somaaris may be doing physically nothing at the katte but then those that know first hand its fun, beauty and real value, can say with pride that they are indeed the lucky ones! It is better than any TV channel and you need not click any button! Long live somaari kattes!


Horn 'musicians' in traffic

We have all manner of pollution these days affecting our senses. Noise pollution is one of them which silently bothers many people (including the traffic policemen) with stress and depression leading to many diseases. Noise may be from moving vehicles, blaring horns and even from "music" played in those four-wheelers. Making noise is almost a habit and a fashion! We can notice many two and four-wheeler drivers simply honking horns usually for no sensible reason, in such a 'tone' (in Morse Code terms, using only frequent 'dashes' instead of a 'dot') that some big buffalo is standing right in front, forgetting that other vehicles too are moving ahead with them! Does this not look silly? Oftentimes, they honk the horn without even analyzing the availability of space for the other fellow to leave for him. They press the button simply because they have the facility! The horn is usually a loud one which always annoys the one in front and not the one using it. There are some countries where the the horn is used most judiciously because there, sounding the horn is considered an insult. But then, does this affect us people living among insults and having utter disregard to others?! More than real urgency, it is their restless and want-to-be-ahead-of-others attitude that prompts such unmindful honking. Since there is no punishment for these trivialities, I think, at best, the authorities should strictly instruct and educate all prospective DL applicants about good driving ethics and discriminate use of the horn which may greatly contribute in reducing the decibel level of noise pollution. There are so many good things that the authorities can do, but then who cares?

Gesturing in Traffic

Nowadays, most of us find ourselves contributing our all to the already chock-a-block traffic. Even grandmothers are out driving merrily on the road! We barge around, just because we have vehicles often compromising safety for speed. Pretending to be busy is becoming a habit and a fashion. Perhaps, the pace and style of 'Kaliyuga life' has much to do. Most of us use the wheels instead of legs these days, don't we? In such a chaotic situation, our dear wheeled vehicles are our 'right-hand' things.

Did I say 'right hand'? Let me deviate to the anatomical right hand. Gesturing in traffic to signal intentions by the rider to others, the right hand is [supposed to be] used. It is not an art, but perfunctory. But there are involuntary artists who gesture in their own special manner, the sight of which can tickle the funny bone. The dress may be the index of character; the face, of the mind. Even their gesturing, perhaps. Let's see how some two-wheeler riders show off, or don't.

A certain Menon, a strict disciplinarian, his dress neatly pressed, stretches out his right arm sideways, exactly at 90 degrees to his upright trunk like a cricket umpire signaling a 'no ball'. There are those who do it a la an Ambedkar "action-statue", compelling the onlookers to curiously look in 'that' direction. There are others who exaggerate the angle of the arm, almost pointing skyward, making those around to look up there.

There is one Ratnakar who is of the restless type that gestures in RAM-style -- Rapid Arm Movement, fluttering the arm. Ah, those automen… we should be lucky enough to notice a few curved fingers, half-heartedly jutted out, barely visible from any angle. Then we have these great thinkers-on-wheels, who seem to suddenly wake up from a slumber and remember, bang on the point of making a turn, sending the right arm out in a flash, like a frog's tongue catching prey. Some do it in a startling split-second action like the shutter of a camera. Then there are those who do it in a stiff, military manner, akin to the trafficators of yore.

The over-careful ones, like my friend Suresh, honk the horn every 10 ft., slow down, look up, down and all other directions, at every intersection, make all the signals diligently as if he is a student watched by the teacher. Those speeding adolescents seem to respect and adhere to the proverb "fortune favours the brave"! Their only goal is to cover road-distance and all else is utter nonsense. People riding with shaky rear-view mirrors use an amazing body language that drives home the point, without use of the hand. There are those, who, for unknown reasons make the gesture soon after the event.

We seldom see quiet pillion-riders. Do we? They are arguably, the best 'back seat drivers'. I sometimes take my 88-year-old friend, Shama Rao on my scooter. Restless as he is, waves his right arm far too early. He never gets the point when I ask him to sit still and do nothing.

Once I saw a man showing his intention by stretching his right arm sideways. Nothing special. When about to make the intended turn, lo and behold, he suddenly changed his mind, promptly slowed down and sincerely 'cancelled' that signal by writing a big 'X' in the air and then rode straight.

I have seen some real buffalo-headed riders who neither look at the traffic nor do any signaling. The curmudgeons give such a one a pip with knotted eyebrows if someone errs, but when they are on the wrong side of the right, two hoots.

Mr.Brown, my late friend, was a retired guard in the Railways, led a relaxed, disciplined life. He used to ride his favourite Humber bicycle for short errands. Expectedly, he used the bell and did his prompt signaling while riding it. But renounced using it and wisely turned pedestrian, the very moment he realized that the citizens' road-sense was way too crazy. And he got annoyed being a pedestrian too, after being hit by a cyclist.

Individuality in our actions is always there. Let us not forget to gesture the prescribed signals at the right time without being conscious of the style - the intention is to communicate clearly to avoid confusion and accident. Light indicators must be preferred at night. Signaling while in traffic is as necessary as calling for runs between batting partners while taking runs in cricket. Lest we get 'run out'.

Pray, let some 'horse sense' prevail in our 'road sense'.

National Anthem Music

National Anthem Music

All of us have heard and sung our National Anthem "jana gana mana" at one time or other. But little do we know that the music accompanying it was originally composed as early as in 1943. It was done by Capt.Ram Singh on the request of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose for the Indian National Army (INA) to be played at the Independence Day celebrations of the country, which Netaji believed was just a matter of time.

Netaji wanted zeal and vigour in the music, to suit a chorous and to match the spirit of the country's independence and the whole task had come as a challenge to Capt. Ram Singh. It was to become the music for the song that later became the National Anthem. Capt. Singh spent sleepless nights to get the right tenor to match the military zest. He focussed attention on the last line "Jai Hay, Jai Hay, Jay Hay" and it was here he could put in that extra pitch to build up the right cresendo. Once the decision was made, Capt. Singh's fingers moved on the keys of his piano until he got just the right note.

The excercise was then repeated before Capt. Mohan Singh, who was heading the unit and who in turn, informed Netaji over the telephone. "Ask Ram Singh to practice and polish the song more" was Netaji's reply. What we hear today is that polished music for our beloved Anthem. Jai Hind!

Dasara Flower Show

Dasara Flower Show

Another favourite rendevouz for locals and tourists alike, aside from the Palace and the Exhibition, during the Dasara festival, is the Horticultural Show at Curzon Park. Do we know that the first of the Mysore Flower Shows was organized 90 years back? It was opened by HH Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV on August 15, 1914. This is what he spoke on that occasion:"It has given me great pleasure to listen to Mr.Krumbiegel's address and I hope that many of you will be impressed by the eloquent appeal which he has made to you to cultivate the hobby of gardening. I feel sure that Mr.Krumbiegel's enthusiasm and artistic taste will make our Mysore Flower Shows as beautiful and attractive as those which he arranges at the Lal Bagh in Bangalore."The Flower Show which I am now opening is the first of its kind that has been held in the City of Mysore and I hope that it will become a regular institution. No one who knows the Cities of Bangalore and Mysore can help noticing the great dearth of gardens in Mysore and there is really no reason for such a state of things. The soil and rainfall of the two places are very similar and I can only hope that the institution of this Flower Show will encourage house-owners here to beautify their homes by cultivating private gardens.... I appeal to the people of this city to try and emulate Bangalore and convert Mysore into a garden city. I now declare this Show to be open".In fact, Mysore WAS a garden city for a few decades hence. Those who have been bitten by the 'gardening bug' will nod that "gardening is the purest of human pleasures, the greatest refreshment to the spirit of man", as Lord Bacon said. Green is important to life on Earth and soothing to the eyes. A green, clean and calm Mysore was what our revered Maharajas intended and strove for. Let us be reminded of their good deeds. The Flower Show is one of them.
[My letter in Star of Mysore, 2006]

Physician's prayer of Kaliyuga

(click on the picture to enlarge and read)

There is much ado about the deteriorating medical ethics these days. Not for nothing such things surface through the public eye. It is, more often than not, the common man who finds himself at the receiving end. Factors that have affected are too varied. But it is not entirely the fault of the doctor.
There used to be (not sure about it now) a chart displayed in a doctors' clinics titled "The Physician's Prayer" containing four sentences. Controversial things related to the medical profession keep falling on our ears, too frequent for comfort, leaving the mind confused, and has probably turned the original Physician's Prayer absurd. The modified (in parenthesis) "kaliyuga prayer" would read thus:
~~Dear Lord, thou Great Physician, I kneel before thee (in spite of my ego), since every good and perfect gift (who else, from my patients) must come from thee, I pray (in spite of my tight schedule at various hospitals and clinics).
~~Give skill to my hands (to prescribe costly drugs), clear vision to my mind (to pretend to deeply study all those expensive and complicated test reports/results), kindness (to divert most of my patients only to 'star' hospitals where I have 'links') and sympathy (hey, what is that?) to my heart.
~~Give singleness of purpose (to amass money swindled from patients poor and rich), strength to lift at least a part (nay, most part) of the burden of my suffering fellow-men (of course, with their wealth) and a true realization of the privilege that is mine (after all, I have paid hefty sums of donations/fees for my education and invested lakhs for sophisticated equipments).
~~Take from my heart all guile and worldliness that with the simple faith of a child I may rely on thee (not applicable!).
The first of 291 aphorisms that Dr. Samuel Hahnemann (founder of Homoeopathy) wrote in his "Organon of Medicine" (early 18th century) says : "The physician's high and only mission is to restore the sick to health, to cure, as it is termed." That shows how high he held the patients' health. The patients' predicament in recent times would have been so very different had the medical practitioners seriously carried forward that legacy. Alas! that was not to be. There may still be a few exceptions around of such ilk as late Dr. MN Jayaram (of Vonti Koppal, Mysore) but they are like pins in a huge haystack. The highly sophisticated equipments have made the highly qualified doctors to suffer from intellectual constipation, allowing monetary greed to get the better of all things. Is there any "cure" for this? The victim is always the hapless common man, who is, more often than not, left in the lurch looking for financial resources!
What a paradox to the very basic principle of this noble profession!
P.S. [Dr.SV Subramanya of Chamarajapuram is another name alongside Dr.Jayaram]