11 August 2016. On our way back home from Commercial Street, I noticed that Cavalry Road had been renamed as Kamarajar Road. As we passed, I took a picture of Sivanchetty Garden Road.
It looked unchanged—ugly and chaotic as I remembered it. I would use this road to walk over to Cavalry Road from beyond Lavanya Talkies (this is the other word for cinema and pronounced ‘taakees’) where I lived from 1974 to 1977.
Looking back, I did a lot of stuff that my parents had no knowledge about. They did not ask and I did not think to tell them. I came as a 10-year old to buy a snack called Bangalore Bajji, which was available in a little eatery on Cavalry Road.
On Sivanchetty Garden Road, a lady had a little shop, where she sold interesting things like kites through a window (must have been a window) that opened out to the street. I always stopped to chat with her. She was kind and used the endearing term “da” when she spoke to me.
I have many more memories of my walks through this area. Perhaps the heavenly city will have an old-earth facility where we can play back these things and perhaps even ask questions of the angels who might have had our back. But I digress.
I did not realise that we had turned into Mosque Road because it looked different and I could not see the trees at first. But soon it became recognisable. With recognition comes more nostalgia.
Beautiful Mosque Road, which used to be peaceful in the shade of those lovely Rain trees, was far too busy now.
Then we passed Bethesda, the church connected with Clarence High School. The view of the church building from the road was different. In fact, I don’t thnk I even saw much of the building. I cannot thank God enough for the good that came to Bangalore from this quarter.
We turned left from Mosque Road into Fraser Town. In the picture, the white building is where many in this part of town learned to type. It housed the typewriting institute.
Till 1979, those who completed the ICSE-board examinations would have a break of six months before they resumed their education in college as Pre-University students. Those six months would be the time to learn other life skills such as typing and shorthand. When I finished school in 1981, the old pressure of having to learn typing was still prevalent. I did not learn shorthand but went to this Institute to learn typing. I can still hear the din from two dozen typists doing their exercises.
Our next stop was at the neighbourhood where I spent the years from 1978 to 1986 —Williams Town Extn sandwiched between Williams Town and Pottery Town, on the other side of the railway line from Fraser Town.
Even as we approached the area, I noticed many changes, but the familiar things did things to my heart.
We passed these Ganesha statues ready for the Ganesha-Chaturti festival in September. Hindus celebrate with lots of tasty snacks and poojas after which the statues are immersed into rivers and lakes nearby.
This was it, a street parallel to the one where I lived. My first impression was that it looked so unkept. While Premi akka and Hannah waited in the taxi, I took a little walk, turning left into the street by the man you see in the photo above.
The read and white striped wall is the temple. I had to go in because I was looking for someone.
I saw an old woman inside and asked her where Vijaya was. She looked at me oddly and went to get her daughter.
My old house is on the next street, and that is where I first befriended Vijaya. Every night at about 8:00 pm, she would come with her father and mother and make their bed outside the shutters of a shop opposite our house. Vijaya’s mother, that very old lady who had gone to fetch Vijaya, would sweep the ground and then spread out the mats and sheets, making it as cosy and comfortable as she could. So every night when my parents and I slept in our bedroom, Vijaya and her parents slept just outside. Her father was always completely drunk and was very loud. Vijaya’s mum easily warded off any blows in her direction, shushed him and got him to lie down. Night after night it was the same. Some nights it rained, and it was miserable.
One time when I got the chicken pox and was confined to my room for over a week, my only companion was Vijaya with whom I had long conversations through the window. We seemed to have so much in common somehow.
Her father died of liver cirrhosis and they were allowed to stay in the temple in exchange for taking care of the place.
Vijaya walked towards me very slowly, obviously unwell. She looked at me for a while before asking me if I was Selvi. Yup that is who I was. I had grown healthy and strong and she was withered and tired. I said that I was taking a quick walk around and would she come with me. I took her hand; it was clear that she was running a temperature.
We came to this wall that said Excellent English School. It is a Muslim school that began when I lived on this street. At the time I found the name of the school hilarious. Then we turned left again.
My house is the third one on the left.
When we lived there, it was painted white and looked much nicer. It sits on a little 30 ft x 30 ft plot that was sold to us by my 4th-Standard teacher Mrs Katary. We loved our years here. Many of my life’s milestones were experienced in the years we lived here. Great is His faithfulness.
Vijaya sweetly modelled for me in front of my house. That window behind her is the one we used for our long chats. The house had been called Yesu Illam, meaning the Abode of Jesus.
Opposite the house and to the left, is the Marvadi shop still. The men there were watching us curiously. I turned to them and told them that I used to live in that house before. Then I told them that I knew their family actually. I told them that I remembered that the family had many children and the two little ones at the time were Rakesh and Kamlesh, who would be running around. The man who is standing in the photo said, “Madam, I am Kamlesh”. We all burst out laughing.
I remember going over to this shop to buy paper covers made of colourful wrapping paper—so convenient for gifts. They in turn remembered my mother’s kindness to them. These boys would remember my parents, who lived here for about a decade after I married and left.
My walk was turning out to be like a square. On our last turn before we got to the taxi, we passed this chapel. When we first settled here in December 1977, this building was a little Reading room, where the public could go to read the daily papers. The next thing I knew was that it was a Roman Catholic shrine of sorts. Initially, I don’t think the temple behind it, where Vijaya lives, or this shrine had any legal status. Young people from both sides competed to hold religious celebrations one after the other, getting louder and louder every year. It was especially hard at exam time. A generation later, both facilities probably have gained repectable status, and along with the mosque on the next street, everyone coexists peacefully. I think.
In those days, in my house, my friends and I held what we called “Saturday School” for children in the area. About 50-odd children attended regularly, and we taught them good habits like not littering the street and lessons from the Bible and heaps of songs. I wonder what became of them and if what they learned then has impacted them in their lives.
It was time to let Vijaya go. “God bless you, my friend, I can only leave you in the good hands of God. He knows best what needs to be done.”
On our way home we saw more Ganeshas.