K.N. Krishnamoorthy, or
KNK as he is
affectionately called is
certainly a gentleman to
be reckoned with. He is
best known for organizing
events such as weddings,
air shows or
with a huge attendances,
and even trips either with
family or with friends. He
uses his sharp wit to
pinpoint flaws in plans,
and then provides quick
solutions to change
flawed processes and
make them work. He is
often put in charge of
running events, and takes on these herculean tasks with an easy aplomb. To
receive a compliment from him (a rare occurrence!) is a major feat. He had
(and still has) very little patience with any incompetence. If he felt that
something could be done by a certain time, then it should. His unfailing
sense of ‘doing the right thing’ has kept him on top of things. Always an
early riser, he has a boundless energy and self confidence that help portray
him as someone to look up to, and indeed he is a person who is well known
and respected throughout the DRDO/MIT community, the RT Nagar
Cultural group, as well as the Thiruppugazh community. Here’s a toast to a
man who is a force!
Sharada Krishnamoorthy or Charu as
she is affectionately referred to is a
spiritual and creative person. She
epitomizes that old adage, “behind every
successful man there is a woman”. She
has unfailingly done whatever is needed
to support her husband in his various
endeavors. She is often guileless, and is
surprised when people don’t act the way
she would. She has herself shown a
formidable skill for organizing events all
the way from teaching classes to
arranging Ragaranjani katcheris to
major events such as Rukmini
Kalyanams. She hasn’t stopped learning
and creating. She has even mastered
that dastardly machine – the computer,
has learned to send emails, search for
information on the web, make CDs of MP3s, and has learned to blog and
more, and I’m sure will be tweeting very soon! More importantly, she
knows what she doesn’t know, and is not afraid to learn about new
technology! Despite her uncooperative health, she often forges ahead to get
things done, where she leaves people that are perfectly healthy in the dust.
Her creative energy and her penchant to include everybody make her a well-
respected and loved person. This is a tribute to a beautiful woman inside
Their journey began on April 27th 1959.
They settled down in Bangalore and moved from one house to another in
Vyalikkaval. Here they are at their 1st. Main Road home.
They had their hands full with four children.
Before long, they invested their life savings into constructing a home in
Mattadahally (later renamed to R.T. Nagar)
Both herald from large, nuclear families. Since they are the eldest in their
respective families, there were numerous occasions for family gatherings.
At Dr. K.N. Swamy’s 60th birthday (shastiapdapoorthy) in Karungulam
Seated (L to R): Dr.N.Venkatasubramanian, KN. Krishnamoorthy, (Late)Ambichamy
chithappa, (Late)Chithi Pati, Sujatha, (Late)Dr.KN.Swamy, (Late)RSS Vasan,
Dr.N.Padhmanabhan, Dr.N.Meenakshisundaram, Ashok, (Late)Mani Mama
1st Row (L to R): (Late)Ponnamal, Sharada Moorthy, Lalitha, Rama,
(Late)Ramakrishnan, Meenakshi, Shanta Vasan, Dr.N. Rajam, Jaya Sundaram,
Parvatham mami, Meera
2nd Row (L to R): Lakshmanan, ??, Shivakumar, Prakash, Chitra, Sundar, Mohan,
Rajesh, Kutti Maman
On Sharada Moorthy’s side, the family lived in Trivandrum:
Sowmini Ramakrishnan, (Late) N.Ramasubramoni, Sharada Moorthy, (Late) Ponnamal,
Lalitha Krishnamurthy, (Late) S.Ramakrishnan, KN Krishnamoorthy, S. Krishnamurthy
For the remainder of this book, there are recollections/ reminiscences/ anecdotes from the
immediate and extended family:
Delivered by the Postman
I was six years old when Sujatha was born. While Rajesh, Mohan and I were born in
Trivandrum, Sujatha was born in Bangalore. Ponnamamai (pAti) came to Bangalore to
help Amma with the delivery. I remember having a completely different diet before and
after the delivery. Suddenly, we were eating a lot of "keerai" (spinach) and "pavakkai"
(bitter gourd). After Amma was gone from home for a few days (during which time pAti
got us ready for school), suddenly there was a little baby in the house. The first thing
I noticed was that the baby had a distinct blue mark on her hand. I decided that it was a
postal stamp and told everyone at school that there was a baby in our house delivered by
Cuts, Falls and Bruises
Being a parent of three children, I certainly relate to the fact that something or the other
happens all the time. As a parent, one needs to be resilient and patient. Appa and Amma
certainly had these skills - they must have, else they could not have kept their sanity!
Rajesh was particularly prone to "accidents".
I still vividly remember the time when we were living on the second floor on 6th Main
Road in Vyalikaval. The landlord, Venkoba Rao, lived on the ground floor. There was an
overhanging balcony that led from the bedroom of our house, which was above the
entryway to the house below. Needless to say, there were no ledges on that balcony. We
had come back from school and were playing, of all places, on that balcony - despite
Amma's protests to the contrary. Mohan threw a ball to Rajesh and in an attempt to catch
it, he fell all the way down on to the road below! There was blood all over. Luckily Appa
had just come back from work. He calmly took a wailing Rajesh on his Lambretta scooter
to Dr. Sidenur's clinic on 2nd Main Road. I had gone along - while Amma was taking
care of a distraught Mohan and Sujatha at home. I must have been to Dr. Sidenur's clinic
umpteen times. I distinctly remember the antiseptic odor of the place -- the odor mainly
emanated from the "Compounder's" room but permeated right through the clinic! It was a
husband/wife team. Both were doctors and they ran their clinic out of their home. He
calmly stitched the dangling portion back onto Rajesh's lip. My job was to hold down a
flailing, wailing Rajesh. No local anesthesia, no complex procedures.
On another occasion, Mohan was tripped and bumped his forehead against a rusted clasp
that holds water pipes to the wall. (These pipes would run along the base of the house and
the clasps would hold them in place) By this time we had moved to 1st Main Road in
Vyalikaval and the closest doctor was Dr. Krishnaswamy. Here it was a father-son team
that ran the clinic out of their home. The son, Dr. Rajaraman was a better tabla player
than a doctor. He would beat to the tune of his father's flute. The son was a dentist and
the only thing in common between his tabla playing and dentistry was that when faced
with the prospect of listening to his tabla, having ones teeth pulled out when not under
anesthesia seemed a better option! There was never a dull moment!
Nothing but the best
I did my Elementary and High School at St. Joseph's Boys' High School in Bangalore. At
the time, it was considered to be one of the premier schools in Bangalore. I was fortunate
enough to do well in my class. This also meant that the expectations on me were high.
We used to get "report cards" at the end of each school term. The marks from the tests
were transcribed by hand into the report card by the school clerk - the old, irascible
Mr.Iyer . I was known as "K.N. Prakash" at school. Now, there was another "N.K.
Prakash" in my class. This guy would even (gasp!) "fail" tests. Mr. Iyer had a tendency
to put N.K. Prakash's scores on my report card. He even had the temerity to underline the
failed subjects in red. The first time this happened, I remember trembling while taking the
report card home for signature. I recall going straight to my friend Gopal's house from the
bus stand. His mother said, "Don't worry. I'll take you home and explain to your father
that this report card is in error."
As you will see mentioned by other raconteur's later, we always looked forward to our
regular summer sojourns to Trivandrum and Karungulam. Appa would get LTC's from
the Government and we would use those to take "Island Express" from Bangalore to
Trivandrum. I vividly remember all of us pressing our faces against the bars on the train
window and arrive at our destination with soot-covered faces! Given the large extended
family, there would always be some occasion or the other. With Appa and Amma being
the oldest on their side of the family, they would be given the "seat of honor" at these
functions. It was such joy to have 25-30 people at home. The women would be busy in
the kitchen. The men would be busy making plans and doing the logistics for the event.
That left us kids to play. We would run around the house with gay abandon. It was a time
to laugh, a time to play with cousins that we were meeting after months, years. We did
not have a care in the world, no "penance" to pay. We would sneak into the "paaul"
(pantry) and steal some sweets that were prepared for the occasion. The only person who
would even notice us was "Periyappa". (He was actually Amma's periyappa. However,
everyone called him "Periyappa".) He had a nose for catching children doing "mischief".
He was very firm and very stern. No one dared to work against his wishes. He was
consulted for all decisions and had the final word.
In Karungulam, given that thatha (Dr. K.N.Swamy) was paralyzed, Appa was the one
consulted. He was referred as "Periyanna" by his kin and cousins and as "Periambi" by
the rest of the village. The respect that "Periyanna" commanded was amazing to witness.
Even behind his back, people would not dare do anything that he would not approve.
Seated (L to R): Dr. N. Meenakshisundaram, (Late) Dr. K.N.Swamy, K.N.Krishnamoorthy
Standing (L to R): Dr. N.Venkatasubramanian, Dr.N.Padhmanabhan
I remember the time during Ambi chithappa's wedding when he railed after the
person serving food in an aluminum bucket. I don't think that person ever
touched an aluminum bucket in his life after that day!
The biggest honor in the village was to carry the lord on your shoulders. It was not easy
and required a lot of coordination - a single misstep by the lead person could be
disastrous and even fatal. The men would all smear sandalwood on their chests and
would be asked to "take their positions". Inevitably, Appa would be the lead person
taking charge of the proceedings.
Later, when we grew up, we followed suit and went bare-chested to the temple and even
carried the lord on our shoulders! Here is a picture of Prakash, Rajesh, Mohan and
Sundar in Karungulam.
Wafting smells and sounds
Growing up, we never needed an alarm clock or radio. Every morning, we would be
woken up to the wafting smells from the kitchen and Amma would sing her Lalitha
Sahasranamam and Soundarya Lahiri shlokams. To date, when I listen to any song in
Bageshree, I think I am waking up to Amma's shlokam in Vyalikaval! It was quite a
challenge to cook for six people, get us all dressed and ready for school. Yet, Amma
would do that singing her shlokams every morning.
There are some famous cooking incidents that come to mind. Amma was quite
possessive of her kitchen (like any other woman) - even when relatives came home to
stay for extended periods. Once chithi pati (Karungulam thatha's chithi) was staying with
us and she was cooking because Amma was unwell. She used the Catherine hair oil (the
label of that green bottle and label is still etched in my memory) for cooking and the
potato curry ended up tasting strange! Yet she would refuse to admit that she has made a
Deepavali in Bangalore
Deepavali was the festival that we always looked forward to the most. Not just because it
was a holiday, we would get new clothes and there was festivity in the air. We would all
be woken up for our pre-dawn oil bath. Amma would already be up and about. We would
get anointed with the oil, and then scraped with chika podi (Rajesh would say "chika podi
thEkAdEngO"), dressed in the new clothes, eat the specially made Deepavali marundu
and finally be ready for the "pattAs". There would be brass vilakkus (lamps) lit across the
front wall. Friends would start streaming in from around 7:30 am and we would exchange
Appa and Amma's friends
We would constantly have visitors at our home in Vyalikaval. Given that there was no
TV and we rarely went out, "socializing" was the most popular form of entertainment. In
fact, we would have someone join us for brunch almost every Sunday. I certainly miss
that nowadays - where there is no time to socialize! It would be hard to recall all of Appa
and Amma's friends - but some of them definitely stand out:
Jayaram mama - He was one smart guy. He had an elitist attitude. The most distinctive
feature in his face was his bulging tonsil and bulbous nose. He was a poet. I still
remember his neat hand written poems on various topics. We had a variation of "Humpty
Dumpty" - which ended with "Jayaram mama thin and Chhabra mama stout".
Chhabra mama - He had a cherubic face and constantly smelled of cigarette smoke.
Kota mama - He had an infectious laugh and would talk in a loud voice. Appa's famous
joke is once Kota mama was talking on the phone (in Bangalore) to his boss in Delhi. A
person passing by his office asked Kota mama's secretary why he was talking so loudly.
She said, "Sir is talking to his Boss in Delhi." The person responded, "Why does he not
use the telephone?"
Somasundaram mama - He would not speak much. His brilliance was evident from his
demeanor. Somehow, whenever we saw him (or he was mentioned in conversation), we
would all break into singing, "Somasundara madana mohana jai jai panduranga" :) His
son, Sriram Somasundaram completed his P.hD. from Case Western and is currently a
Staff Scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
Bhattacharya mama - Yet another brilliant engineer. He and his wife spoke with think
Bangla accents. They were our only Bengali friends. Their son, Himanshu Shekar
Bhattacharya (aka "Bapa"), was Mohan's classmate. Much to Mohan's chagrin, he would
always finish at the top of his class and his mother would make it a point of bragging
about Bapa's accomplishments whenever she visited our home. Once, Appa and Amma
had to go somewhere on a Sunday morning and they had agreed to look after us. I still
remember aunty yelling out to remind me, "Prohosh. Remember, ten phorty phie ah".
Chaturvedi mama - He was one of the folks (along with Appa) who went to France for
training. My most distinct memory of him was in the CASSA office picnics, he would be
the most boisterous. He would sing loudly and take the effort to engage with the kids.
Natarajan mama – He was a friend, philosopher and guide for all of us. His prowess in
astrology led to our consulting him for most activities. When I joined BITS, Pilani Appa
could not come to enroll me. It was Natarajan mama who came as his proxy.
Krishnaswamy mama – If there was one person that we could turn to for help for just
about anything, that was Krishnaswamy mama. In fact, among all of the friends
mentioned so far, he and his children are the ones that we continue to maintain regular
Govindan mama – We came to know Govindan mama and Nalini mami when they
started building their house in R.T. Nagar. Now that we are all away from Bangalore, our
greatest solace is that they are close to Appa and Amma and can help them in a time of
Ranganathan mama – Rangu mama and Leela mami were our neighbors in 1st Main
Road. Leela mami and Amma were such close friends that on any given day, either Leela
mami would be at our house or Amma would be at Leela mami’s house. In a sense, they
became part of our family and we would share our trials and tribulations with each other.
Rukmini mami – Rukmini mami was the only family that we had in Bangalore. She was
Appa’s cousin. Her son Prakash Krishnaswamy was a role model for all of us – with his
penchant for Western Music and Hindi speaking friends! Mami would regale us with
stories when we were young. If Appa and Amma had to travel to attend to pressing
family responsibilities, Rukmini mami would come to stay with us during the time they
were away. During such sojourns, she would tell us stories, make sure we were all well
loved and looked after. Although her worldly experience made her more than an elder
stateswoman, she was always a friend, a mentor and an advisor – almost an equal. She
commanded respect, love and adulation not from her age or her experience but from the
way she carried herself - with dignity, with pride and with a lot of love.
My introduction to this family began very reluctantly on my part – I was being compelled
by my parents to go “visit” with these people during a rushed day trip to Delhi a day
before I was supposed to leave for Ohio – back to my mice and my experiments. After
all, I hadn’t even met the guy and here he was already calling the shots, insisting that I be
“seen” by his parents! Anyway, I went, gnashing teeth (with a terrible cold to boot) and
all. We met at the Hyatt Regency hotel and the one thing I remember most was that I was
most taken with the grandmother (who sympathized with me struggling with my cold and
wished I could have gone to their house to have hot milagu rasam!) The parents, I treated
with disinterest, telling them that my specific immediate goal was to finish my research
work. The rest, as they say, is history.
Where to begin? When Prakash and I met, one of the vital things we discussed
was how important family was to each one of us. I think that was one of the major
“selling” points for the both of us. I knew that I would “get along” with almost anybody
that matched my personality. But what I got was a big bonus – I could relate to this new
family because they were warm people and quite like what I was used to families being.
Amma, with her kindness, gentle manner, and understanding was ready to be of help no
matter what her health was. She is the heart of the family. Appa, with his discipline,
organization and the “right” way of how things are done kept this family running and is
the mind of the group.
There probably are innumerable occasions when both Amma and Appa have
contributed to make our lives easier to deal with. I did manage to spend quite a bit of time
with them when they moved from Delhi to Bangalore and helped them unpack and set up
the RT Nagar house. This was probably the time that I got to know them. Every visit
since has only made the bonds tighter; highlights include celebrating Akshay’s
ayushyahomam (you had to be there to see/feel their pride in their grandson!), the
sashtiabdapoorthy trip (when Akshay was down with chickenpox); their visit when the
twins were born (I think they would have easily logged hundreds of hours of singing just
to get them to go to sleep!); Amma’s visit to join us to celebrate the twins’ first birthday;
our pilgrimage tour (with my broken foot!) to Karungulam and Tiruchendur; our Mysore
trip; their trips to Fremont; and the list goes on….
I think the best testimony to these two people is in their family. By instilling in
their children the right values, the moral ethic, the compassion and sense of responsibility
that I see in Prakash on a day-to-day basis, and in Mohan, Rajesh, and Sujatha from what
I hear of and from them would have to be things that they learnt by example from their
childhood. Their generosity with the time they lavish on people and causes around them
are laudable. I have seen that same generous spirit in Amma and Appa. Appa continuing
to work (be it the Thiruppugazh involvement or his consulting work) well after his
retirement from a busy demanding, successful career is another trait that is praiseworthy.
Amma’s pride in her music, her compassion for the less fortunate, her piety, her pride in
her children and grandchildren, her desire to cosset her family, her patience with her
grandchildren irrespective of her own health is amazing. I can only hope that some of
these attributes have passed to the next generation!
So, congratulations! Here’s wishing them many more years of healthy, peaceful,
and happy marriage.
What drink will you have?
A few years ago, when Amma visited Melbourne, we went to Paddy and Padma's
farmhouse. Our friends, Raju and Meena were also there. We got there a bit late. Raju,
Paddy and Padma were drinking red wine. Meena was drinking white wine. As she
poured out a glass of red for me, Meena asked Amma, "What would you like to drink?"
(pointing to an assortment of bottled juices on the table)! Amma said, "Please do not give
me red wine. I actually prefer white!"
That story has grown "eyes and ears" and, some 10 years on, is still doing the
rounds in Melbourne!
A few years back when, I was living in 7 Wanda Street, Mulgrave, Amma visited
Melbourne. One day, after an evening walk, she got a bit lost. She walked on the side of
the road opposite to our home and could not find "7 Wanda Street" between "6 Wanda
Street" and "8 Wanda Street". I ran after her as she had over-shot our house.
I then pointed out to her that she would find "7 Wanda Street" on the opposite side of the
road! It then struck her and she blurted out. "Oh that's nice! One side of the road has even
numbers and the other side has... ummm! ummmm! urrrrr! uneven numbers!"
S for Sharada:
This one was in England. Amma had rung an airline company to re-confirm an
airline ticket. The sales agent must have asked her for her name and Amma said
"Sharada Krishnamoorthy". Possibly stunned by the intrinsic simplicity of the
name and the fact that it somehow sounded slightly different to Meg Smith, the
agent may have asked Amma to spell her name.
Amma: Well first name is SHARADA
Agent: Can you spell that please? Is that F?
Amma: No no. S... S for... S for... S for Sharada!
Black but Nice:
This one was in England too. Amma had just returned from USA after visiting Prakash.
We picked her up from Heathrow airport. On our way back from the airport, we asked
her whether her flight was comfortable. She said she was fine and that the flight was fine.
She said, "Actually I was sitting next to this friendly woman. She was black..... but she
was nice!" So much for PC!
We were not allowed to go to movies as we were growing up. I won't blame Appa and
Amma for this! After all Rajesh had a nose that was either permanently running or
bleeding! I had a wheezing problem on tap! Sujatha would always cry loudly and launch
into a Bharatanatyam dance if a mosquito even said "hello" to her! And Prakash.... was
Prakash! So who would want to drag 4 kids with an assortment of issues and problems to
the movies! However, within days of seeing it, Amma made sure that she told us the story
of every movie that she would go to see with Appa. I remember gathering around the
wrought-iron Usha sewing machine as she stitched a garment and recounted the story of
the movie she would have just seen for us! I still remember the stories of movies like
"Pattikada Pattanama", "Thanga Padakkam", "Manmatha Leelai", "Anand", "Andaz", etc.
The most difficult story for her was "Apporva Ragangal". When I think back,
I must say she skirted around the "tricky" moments of that story with remarkable
Often the stories would take their own course! For example, if she were to tell her
version of "Sholay" to us, Amitabh Bachchan may not have died in the end! And
certainly, in her recounting of "Sholay", Dharmendra and Hema Malini would not "fall in
love"! But these stories would make our day as we grew up despite the fact that more
often than not, the session would end in a disaster as Rajesh would have miraculously
jammed his leg or hand (or both) against the spinning wheel (or the foot pad) of the
wrought-iron Usha sewing machine! He would cry! Sujatha would cry -- she always did!
Prakash would do a "Duh", roll his eyes and wander off into the sunset. And I'd just sit
there wondering "what the..."! But those story sessions were certainly fun.
Although at surface level it may appear that these may demonstrate that Amma
takes one foot out just so that she can put the other one in, that is not my assessment of
her at all. What this actually demonstrates in my view is a child-like, untainted innocence
that is at the core of her being. She worries not what people will think of her and would
rather assume goodness in everyone around her. Although she did have friends
that she had named "Mundukanni" and "Ottakuchi", the wine story and the "black but
nice" story demonstrate that all she wants to do is "fit in" and that she does not really
have a hate-bone in her body. More power to her!
Rukmini Mami and the cups:
Raising 4 kids can't have been easy especially when two of them (the pretend-dancer and
the nose-bleed dude) were somewhat troublesome, one who was always in a "Duh Zone"
and one who was, for some reason, called either a oomakottan or mochakottai -- I could
never figure that one out! Anyway, it made it hard for Appa and Amma to visit their
relatives, attend a poonal or wedding or just go on holidays! On the rare occasions that
they did go out of Bangalore for a few few weeks or so, we would have either Rukmini
mami or Paati (aka, Kopokoi, Kopatussssss, Kops) stay with us.
On one such occasion, Rukmini mami had an extended stay with us of over a
month or so. It was fun because Rukmini mami would always have a story to say to put
us to bed every night. We were also introduced to a pre-bed-time cup of hot milk with
pepper and turmeric. Rukmini mami somehow did not like the stainless steel cups in our
home. She felt that the cups -- which were carefully machined in Trivandrum -- were too
big and, as a result, had a rather high centre of gravity. She concluded that the way to
resolve this was to flatten the somewhat rounded bottom on these cups! So, one evening,
she took it on herself to grab a stone and proceeded to bang in the bottoms of each of the
stainless steel cups. All 30 of them were banged in and "disfigured". Even as she did it, I
remember thinking to myself, "Oh oh! This ain't looking good. This may be the last of the
bed-time stories and pre-bed-time hot cup of milk with pepper and turmeric"! It
was! Amma came back, saw the flattened cups and proceeded to attempt flattening our
respective backsides for not intervening in the said act of Rukmini mami.
I remember this incident involving Appa from when I was in Class-6 I think. It was the
last day of school and I had received a whole stack of new books for Class-7 the
following year. I got them all home and realized that my brand new "Chemistry practical
exercise book" was in tatters. A rat appeared to have had the corner of that book for
breakfast! Later that evening on Appa's return we would all sit around the new books and
do the "book binding exercise" with that awful smelling brown paper roll. Appa hadn't
arrived from work yet and I was dreading the moment he would set eyes on the tattered
practical note book! Lest he thrash the daylights out of me for having accepted a torn
book, I quickly trudged off to Balaji Stores on 2nd Main Road. I told "Mr Balaji" that
I had purchased the book from there and did not realize that it was torn! "Mr
Balaji" believed me and kindly offered me a replacement. Feeling rather smug about my
rather devious exchange, I returned home! My jaw hit the floor as Appa opened the
door! He saw the book in my hand and asked where I had gone. I saw the world flash past
my eyes. I told him. He asked me to go to Balaji stores, apologize to "Mr Balaji" and get
my tattered book back! I did. That incident also taught me an incredibly valuable lesson
at a young age.
This incident was again around the Class-6 vintage. I was in Baldwin Boys' High School
by then. This was a "posh public" school. Rich kids went there. Kids like Jayesh Lakhani,
Sanjay Udani, and Sudarshan Chari would arrive from places like Palace Orchards,
Kumara Park Extension and Indira Nagar would get dropped by car driven by chauffers
in white hats and starched uniforms. And here I was, driven by Aslam in a dirty brown
uniform on bus 17B from Vyalikkaval. I had envy! Serious envy! It was further fueled by
the fact that the rich kids would splurge on chikkies, oily curry puffs and rich cakes at the
school canteen. They had "pocket money" you see! So, I gathered my courage one day
and asked Appa, "Could I receive 'pocket money' from next week onwards?" Appa
looked at me as though I was a deranged Martian! I still remember that look. It wasn't
one of anger, but one of sheer incredulousness. He calmly said, "The problem with school
trousers these days is that they have pockets. If we snip the pockets off your trousers, you
won't need 'pocket money" will you now?" Another valuable lesson there for me. I told
myself that I had to be thankful for what I had -- which was really a lot. Moreover, I still
had a pocket, even if it had nothing in it! I also learned to learn to live within my means.
Last year when I was in Bangalore, Amma insisted that I get something for myself. I was
really reluctant to do that mainly because I did not want her to strain herself shopping
with me -- Mo will attest to the fact that I am a fastidious and painful shopper who'd
easily spend 10 hours shopping and still come back without even a hair
clip! Nevertheless, she insisted that she took me out shopping and that I buy something of
my choice! And so we went from shop to shop hoping I would buy a saree at least.
Unfortunately, the planets were not aligned that day! Although I did see some reasonable
sarees, I just did not find anything I liked! We had to return home. Amma was extremely
dejected and despairing. She was also quite sad that I did not pick up anything in spite of
the fact that there were many nice things we saw. On my part, I just did not want to buy
something just for the sake of buying it. I wanted to ensure that I would wear what we got
and that that would make me thank Amma every time I wore it.
But what I remember most about Amma was her persistence. She was just not willing to
give up that evening. Time was running out too. With just 2 hours left before I had to
leave for Cantonment Station to catch the train to Chennai, Amma asked that we try one
last store. This was a "designer" saree store. And there I did find something that I liked. It
is one of my favourite sarees; a hand-painted saree. It was exactly what I was looking for
and every time I wear it, I think of Amma's kindness, her persistence as well as her
We got home just couple hours before I was to board the train back to Madras that
Everyone knows that Appa is quite finicky when it comes to organizing transport,
especially for train drop-offs and pickups. He would often (no, on reflection, change
"often" to "always") organize a car pick-up way ahead of when we would have to leave.
Often we would get to Cantonment station just as the Bangalore Mail was pulling into
the station; but on its way to Bangalore City and not from Bangalore City! The result
would be an uncomfortable one and a half hour wait at a horribly smelly and ill-lit
Cantonment Station where one could be pre-occupied with any combination of the
following activities: (a) slapping mosquitoes against ones hand, (b) slapping mosquitoes
against a random passer-by's hand, (c) contemplate purchasing a coffee that has just
enough sugar in it to convince oneself that one is not consuming hot water, (d) purchase a
magazine from a news-stand that one would not be able to read in the dark of that station
anyway, (e) walk aimlessly to the other side of the station and walk back!
Anyway, there was this one occasion when I had to attend a cousin's wedding
reception in Jayanagar or some such place. The reception was to start at 7.30pm and
I was aiming to get there only at 8pm. So I rang the local cab company and asked for a
cab to pick me up at 7pm! Appa overheard this conversation, rang them a few minutes
later and changed it to a 5pm pickup, saying that it could take me some 2 and a half hours
to get to Jayanagar -- he did not want me to be late! Moreover, it was pouring down with
rain that evening and he said that the trek to Jayanagar would take even longer! I tried all
sorts of delay tactics! But that did not work. In fact, it got worse!
At 4pm I wasn't yet "ready" and the cab had not yet arrived. Fair enough. We had all
agreed on a 5pm departure! But then Appa started to get quite tense! He asked that I get
ready immediately! And so there I was... ready at 4.15pm for a 7.30pm reception. The
bride and groom were probably asleep at the time. But hey! I was ready looking for
mosquitoes to pass by! At about the same time, Appa stormed out of the house, went
straight to the cab company and dragged the driver by his ears back home! The cab,
which needed to arrive only at 7pm, but was booked for 5pm, was at our doorstep at
4.30pm! Precisely 5 minutes later, I was in said car, ostensibly because I "was ready
I was out of the house at 4.35pm and in the cab. I asked the driver to head out to
Mekhri Circle, asked him to drive up and down that road that leads to Yeshwanthapur
and then returned home! I then actually spent half an hour in the cab just outside our R.
T. Nagar home! I could not get back into the house because Appa and Amma had left for
a bajanai! I spent the half hour reading a magazine -- possibly purchased at Cantonment
Station the previous night! Then, out of pity for the cab driver, I asked that we start
driving towards Jayanagar. I instructed the cab driver to drive slowly! I also asked the cab
driver to chose the worst routes that would grab all possible traffic jams. I was collecting
traffic jams like Ria, Madhuri and Sanjana would collect sea-shells on a sea-shore! The
cab driver must have thought that I was cuckoo that evening. Every time I said to him,
please make another round of this lovely Kempe Gowda Circle, he looked at me as
though I was from another planet! I must have driven to Mysore and back that evening!
The wedding reception was at 7.30pm. After all my delay tactics, the best I managed to
do was to get to the hall at 7.00pm. The bride and groom had not even arrived. Indeed,
they only arrived at 8pm!
Yet, every time I think of this story, I can only think of Appa's concern as well as his
attention to detail, his assiduousness and his meticulousness.
Proud of You:
There are several things that I am proud of when I think of Amma and Appa.
But, in my book, there are two things that stand out: (a) Amma and Technology, (b) Appa
and event organization skills. It can't be easy to live in a technology-rich world that is
moving at such a fast pace of change. But none of this appears to faze Amma. She takes
to the generation dominated by eMail, mobile phone, mp3's, iPod, Chat, Wiki, social-
networking and much more, like a duck to water. Kudos to Amma for this.
Despite his bouts of extreme tension during such gigs -- which frankly worry me --
I think that Appa was made for event organization and event management. It is not often
that you get a person who cuts across all elements from visioning of an event, to strategic
planning of the event to attention to detail. He has it all -- and in spades! He would be a
boon to any event planner in the world. I am forever in awe of his passion for this as well
as his ability to pull things off with aplomb.
Growing up I can certainly state that attending Bal Vihar every Saturday was not my
favorite activity. Every Saturday we would head over to the house where we would be
introduced to Bhajans, Shloka’s, readings from the Bhagavad Gita. It did feel like a
chore rather than something that we would benefit from. How wrong I was…I am so
glad that Amma forced us to go to those classes…I have that much more of an
appreciation of the Gita as a result.
It looked like a stork
The only time we had seen an airplane was when it was up in the sky heading over the
city. In 1970, Appa was heading over to France for an extended duration as part of a
delegation that was going to work at Mécanique Avion TRAction or MATRA. We got a
chance to go to the airport to see him off. He was flying to Bombay (now Mumbai)
before heading over to France. The next day all I could talked about in class was the
airplane that I had seen that Appa had boarded…I got in to trouble because, Dinesh
Kumar, did not share my enthusiasm…he ratted me to Flora the teacher…I could not get
over the fact that the airplane looked like a stork with the black windows of the cockpit
that resembled the beak of a stork…it was a Indian Airlines Caravelle.
Value of money
If there is something that I have learnt from both Appa and Amma, it is about respecting
and valuing hard earned money. I have seen how careful both of you are with your hard
earned money. I have learnt from you not to be frivolous or laissez-faire with my
spending! I am sure this trait is a frustrating point for many people around me as I am not
a spendthrift. However, building a good foundation for self-sufficiency is a key trait that
I have learnt from both Appa and Amma.
The lost Diamond
There was a mad panic when we realized that there was a stone missing in Amma’s nose
ring. It was late in the evening and suddenly we realized that there was a diamond
missing in the nose ring. Out came the stories about how the ring was made and how
sentimental it was and how expensive it was. Everyone at home started asking about the
last steps, the tracing of movements all things that Sherlock Holmes would be proud of.
Every nook and cranny of the house was scanned…finally the diamond was found by
Sujatha…it was in the carpet in the corridor. Needless to say the carpet was
unceremoniously dumped after that and Sujatha was hailed as the hero! All’s well that
ends well…Amma was absolutely relieved!
Grown men do not cry!
Growing up we had regular trips to Trivandrum. The trips in the summer were filled with
excitement. Meeting with Lalitha Chitti, Murali, Thatha, Pati, Periappa and Perimmai
made the trips very eventful. Memories of those trips are permanently etched in our
collective memories. On one such trip, to Trivandrum (I think it was for Lalitha Chiti’s
wedding) was eventful. Everyone had gone over to hear the “story telling” master
Santhana Gopalachari. He was legendary. He was narrating the Ramayana and on this
day the story was the episode relating to the abduction of Sita. The story was intense,
emotion filled and the narrator had got so much into the story that he was weeping
uncontrollably. I bolted home convinced that he was done for the day. I was trying to
explain to Amma and Pati (Ponnama Ammai) why I was home early and that the rest of
the folks should be back home soon. Both of them patiently explained that the outburst
was perfectly normal and that grown men do cry!!
Is it a duck?
After Appa returned from France, one fixture in the front room was a clock. It had
numbers for the hour and the minute display and every minute/hour the top half of the
number would drop to reveal the bottom half of the next number. A fascinating
contraption. Growing up, we never got to stay up beyond 9 or at the latest 9:30. I often
wondered what happened after 23:59. I had no occasion to observe this and touching the
clock was never in question. One day we had to go to the railway station to pick up
Padhu Chittappa and family (they were heading into Bangalore for the poonal of
Prakash/Mohan). The train was delayed and we got home at 11:45 pm. I got to stay up
late to observe the clock go past 23:59 and say the magical 0:00. The funny thing with
the clock was that one of the sleeves was missing on the minute hand. After 03 would
flip you would see the bottom half of 05 as the bottom half of 04 was missing. It was an
intriguing sight of the triangle of the 04 and the curved bottom of 05. A weird duck like
object. It was also interesting that despite the heavily motorized nature of the clock that
name that all of us had for the clock was odd…we simply called it “Digital”
We used to live on 5th main road in Vyalikkaval on the 2nd floor of Venkoba Rao’s
house. The house had an arch above the gate at the base of the steps which was not doubt
meant for plants that creep over the arch. Needless to say that there were no plants over
the arch and the arch was a magnet for kids. Dangerous at it was I loved balancing over
the arch and flirting with danger. However one day I slipped and fell down! Hard!
Amma had to pick me up and rush to Dr Seshadri and eventually to K C General As
Appa was still at work Jayaram mama (who used to live in the room above (3rd floor)
helped as we went to the hospital and got my mouth fixed (4 stitches…that was painful).
This was certainly not the first time that Amma had to run around dealing with the
problems of one of the kids…How she put up with all the shenanigans has never ceased
to amaze me!!
Our Radio was an interesting device. It was assembled by Appa and had some interesting
valves, transformers and other interesting objects. Progressively, bits and pieces kept
falling off but the radio amazingly worked. One day the knobs fell off and hence we had
to resort to getting rid of the chassis. The only way to operate it as a result was to tweak
the stubs of the rod to tune/change the volume. One could move the lever in the device to
tune it as well. One day I was operating the device to tune it and Mohan was operating
the knob to tune it aw well except we were intending to go in opposite directions (me to
All India Radio and Mohan to Vividh Bharati (I presume). There was only one possible
outcome…the tuner broke. There would now be no way of finding out which frequency
we were listening to! Both Mohan and I were in a mad panic. Instead of heading out to
play, that evening we hid under the bed hoping that Appa would not find out when he
returned home from work…we were not so lucky!
The news every morning
Every morning we got into the habit of listening to the news first in Hindi and then in
English at 8:00am. Just before we headed off to school (and Appa to his office). This
was a routine for a very long time. Initially I was convinced that there was someone
inside the radio because of the way the announcement came through (we are talking
1967/1968 here). The news used to always start with, This is All India Radio, the news
read by …I for the longest time was convinced that the voice actually said…”This is
John in the Radio” Amma and Appa did very little to dispel the myth.
It is a routine that still lives with me to this day. Every morning without fail Appa would
wake up and digest (no make that devour) the newspaper for at least 45 minutes before
doing anything else. Being informed about the world around him was just the way he
operated. I cannot recall a single exception to this rule. This is a habit that I have picked
up and has become part of my daily routine. I am sure that people around me must be
wondering what this guy does waking up at 5 am in the morning! I used to read the
newspaper on the train on my way into work but for the last 12 years I have been driving
in to work in Canada. I do feel that I am a better person as a result of being better
A package from Delhi
Initially on 5th main road, we used to live above Chandrasekhar’s house. On one
occasion, Appa had gone to Delhi on a trip. All I remember was that he was meant to
come back home late one night. The next morning, Prakash said that Appa had returned
late night with a surprise. When I came out of the room I saw a now Moda in the room
and asked him if that was the surprise. No, “go into the bedroom and see, It is a baby”.
For the longest time, I lived in the belief that Sujatha was someone that Appa had got
from Delhi as a gift for Amma!
We had to buy milk from the Bangalore dairy milk booth every morning. Appa or Amma
would wake one of us up at around the time that the van was off loading the mike at
Fernando’s shop. One of us had to go and pick up the milk from the spot outside Popular
store. Without fail every time I was awoken, I was convinced that I was that target of a
conspiracy. As invariably, whenever I was awoken to get the milk, my response was,
“not my turn”. Needless to say these protests fell on deaf ears!
Rush to the front door
Every evening when the gate at the 7/17 Vyalikkaval house was opened, we know that it
announced the arrival of Appa back from work. The squeak was inimitable. There
would be a mad rush between Mohan and I to get the front door opened. It was a
competition and every day someone got to win and claim bragging rights. This day was
no different. I was in the kitchen (sneaking a combination of sugar and
Ghee…affectionately called manAngatTi…don’t ask why) and Mohan was in the study
room. When the gate squeaked, there was a mad rush. As I went past the hall and the
front door was in sight, I was already claiming victory! Just as I passed the threshold of
the hall into the front room, I felt the smile getting even wider when BANG! Mohan’s
head was lodged firmly in the cheek! He did not stop…and went on to claim victory by
opening the door. Appa had to rush the kid again to hospital…stitches again.
It was incredible the talents that Amma possessed. She was a singer, a painter, a Veena
player (a south Indian sitar hero) and teacher pretty much picked up things very quickly
became proficient at it in a short period of time…many of the fads were passing phases.
Beads, wire baskets, croquet, Jute weaving knitting. If she put her mind to it, she was
able to quickly figure out the basics and soon become ultra efficient at it. The key was
she was always willing to disseminate the information to a few folks around her and
motivate many around her to get to her level of proficiency rapidly. I once remember
seeing a cotton filled rabbit that she had made, stitched on to a cloth (which was framed).
It looked so real that I was convinced that initially it was an actual rabbit!
Watching my first game of Cricket
The date was Jan 7th 1973. It was a Sunday. The game was MCC VS. South Zone. The
game was being played at the newly created M Chinaswamy stadium. This was my first
game of Cricket that I was seeing live…seeing many of the legends that I had only heard
of. Bangalore seldom got to host many games involving international players. I was
seeing the likes of Pautadi, G R Vishwanath, Venkatraghavan, Chandrasekhar, Abid Ali,
Dennis Amiss, Tony Lewis and Alan Knott. I remember on that day that we went to the
game, Pautadi got a century(and declared) and Alan Knot hit a brisk 156. It was a
strange experience for me as when people shouted fielded, I was not sure what was
happening…was that out? A terrific introduction to the game of Cricket live for me, it
gave me an appreciation and affection (some say obsession) for the game that I share till
When I first met Amma some 16 years ago, I was not exactly calm and collected! After
all, she was going to size me up and hope that her son knew what he was doing! Well,
whether or not he knew what he was doing, I was so pleasantly surprised and relieved
that all I got in that first meeting with her was her unconditional love and kindness. At
that point, Appa did not know that Amma was meeting me and that was our little secret!
It was a very special and important moment for me. It was a time when I needed that
acceptance and trust. It was also a time when I realized that I really had nothing to worry
I completely understand that every person has some things that he or she feels
very strongly about, so much so, that compromise is not in their dictionary. I am a prime
example and have many such quirks that I hold very close to my heart finding it difficult
to settle for anything less. I have to admit that I had many pre-conceived notions about
Appa before I first met him. I was introduced to him the very first time in September
1992 just before my engagement with Rajesh. Everyone knows it was not a smooth ride
till then and I will not make any bones about it. But I have to say, when I was first
introduced to Appa, I was stunned by his warmth and the fact that he went out of his way
to make me feel absolutely comfortable, so much so that I felt rather foolish, and guilty
for expecting the worst! I will always remember that day and the days that followed till
our engagement and after, with much fondness. He welcomed my family into his with
open arms and gave my parents the confidence and reassurance that their daughter was
going into a family that would accept her as their own.
Every marriage has its fair share of ups and downs. I am sure 50 years have seen
a lot of that in Appa’s and Amma’s lives. Rajesh and Mohan have regaled me with
stories from their childhood, the tough times and more importantly the fun and happy
times that they all cherish. Appa and Amma have raised four absolutely wonderful
children and they are obviously so because of the values, guidance and love that they
have received from their parents. I applaud them for their patience, perseverance and all
the sacrifices that they have made to ensure that their children got the best that they could
give them in life.
Nakul, Ria, Rajesh and I are so looking forward to this reunion in July! It will be
THE most memorable event in our lives. I hope Amma and Appa have an absolute blast
free of worries and intense event planning! It is time for us to take over and give back to
them more than what they have given us, if that is indeed possible! Happy 50th Wedding
Anniversary, Amma and Appa!
One of my earliest childhood memories are in my father’s village, Karungulam. I
remember we had made a trip when I was probably about three yrs old. This was one of
several trips made to the village. I remember being awed by what seemed to be a huge
house with lots of people in it. I remember the padis we had to climb to go up to the
temple. I remember all sorts of aromas coming from the kitchen. Amma was a
whirlwind in the kitchen directing all the traffic and activities. She was just at ease being
part of the group as she was leading the group with the daunting task of feeding several
mouthfuls several times a day over several days. It is remarkable that people made it a
point to get together with their siblings and family, and spent their precious time in each
other’s company. Most of my early summers seemed to be days filled with family even
after Karungulam thatha moved to Madras. These trips were certainly not without the
squabbles, however, but I DO remember most of all just listening to all the adults
gabbing along and making everyone laugh. It was wild and raucous. I was small enough
where Mani Chittappa and Padhu Chittappa would pick me up and throw me to each
other! I can clearly remember Appa’s penchant to take photographs up at the Temple (a
trait he passed on to the next generation!). We had to sit still for him in various
combinations of people in various poses. He made sure everyone from the oldest to the
youngest was included. Everyone looked at Appa with somber regard and followed his
direction to the T. I also remember going to the Athankarai and hoping the river
wouldn’t take me along with it. My brothers, having no fear of the water at all, were
carefree and swam in the water without fear. I probably played with my cousins who
were closest to me in age, Ashok and Meera, although I don’t remember exactly what we
played. We did spend a lot of time on those steps leading to the temple both during the
day and at night! The garudasevai days bustled with activity (and several photo ops!).
The grandiose flower arrangements and the fervent chanting was mesmerizing. The
Deeparadhanais were the highlight with flashes of brilliant color blinding the eyes.
Appa went to France for almost a year when I was about five. I have very little
recollection of how we passed the time while he was gone. It seemed to be interminable.
I remember being corrected to say, “my father has gone abroad” as opposed to “my father
has gone to foreign’, and that was it. When Appa came back, there were lots of goodies.
There was a huge doll (it seemed big at that time as it was probably about 3 or 4 feet
tall). Amma took the doll and showed it to me and then promptly locked it in the hall
cupboard. The same thing happened to the police car and the motorbike with the remote
control that my brothers received. Those got locked up too. These toys were to be seen
and not played with. In fact, they were kept so carefully that I have a suspicion some of
them STILL exist! Ask Sundar, and he'd recount his favorite car with great gusto ("It
was a yellow car with blue stripes on the bonnet. It had humvee-style wheels. Appa
would proudly set it on the center table and switch it on! It had a lever near the front-
wheels that would release detecting edge of the table, upon which the car would reverse
and set off in a different direction")! There was also a chemistry set that Prakash
received. His set was allowed to come out and we were allowed to reverently watch
while he played with it. Being the ‘Golden Son’ surely had its perks ;-). The prettiest
thing Appa brought (besides the gorgeous chiffon saris and various materials for Amma)
was a gondola that played music when keyed, and had a couple dancing to the melody.
This occasionally got removed from the shrine in the cupboard and was displayed for
visitors. I remember watching it with yearning wishing I were on the boat dancing
whenever the key got turned. One of the most memorable things that used to happen
after Appa’s return from France was the photo watching sessions. He had all his pictures
converted to slides, and would load them into the slide projector and we’d have slide
shows with the picture projected onto the wall while he explained the sights and sounds
of Europe. It was as if we saw the whole place with him. He had a good balance of
places as well as people. His camera was also put to good use when he took pictures of
all of us in our school uniforms and in dressed up clothes – some smiling and some not!.
I remember one particular striking photo taken at Cubbon Park with us and with Lila
Mami, Renganathan Mama, and Maya and with beautiful bougainvilleas in the
background. Those were good times indeed.
Escape to Trivandrum
I was quite privileged to be the one to accompany Amma on a trip to Trivandrum. This
was when I was in 1st Standard. I’m not sure if all the required paper work was filled out
at Stella Maris School but when I got back, Ms. Fatima (my class teacher at that time)
was quite puzzled as to where I had gone. One of my classmates blurted out that I had
gone to Mysore, and although I denied it, that story just stuck. We spent quite a while in
2nd Puthen Street. Kunju Chitthi was also there with Priya. All the boys were missing. It
was a conspiracy to keep them out (not that Priya or I complained!) I do remember
picking out golu dolls for the house. I remember being amazed by the number of golu
dolls that were packed for each family. We got a beautiful Saraswati doll although I
really wanted a Krishna that was dressed as a cowherd. I also remember all the ladies
making a lot of things, including Appalams. Not knowing that Appalam maavu (dough)
was quite pungent, I believe I blurted out (to Amma’s chagrin) “Amma, nee kushu
pottaiya?” at the nascent aroma. Ponamammai had a blast repeating and embellishing
that story to no end! Murali was still around and she was left in charge of keeping Priya
and I occupied most of the time, which only added to the fun. That was one Holiday that
I still remember and relish.
The day the Sky fell
Our neighbors ran a school called “Nandanavana” and held Sai Bhajanais every Saturday
night. These Bhajanais were quite well attended, and were heard throughout the street.
The clashing cymbals incited a lot of people into usually joining in the fervor. This was a
time we were all growing up in the 7/17 house. It would be an understatement to state
merely that Mohan and Rajesh fought a lot. As close as they were (and are), their epic
arguments often ended in brawls. Their wrestling was so appalling that Amma had to tell
me to let her know the minute they started battling with dire threats to them on the
consequences of such actions. Of course being given an important job of telling on my
brothers was one I HAD to take seriously. They did indeed have another clash that
ended up in what seemed to be a boxing match. I, in all my wisdom and glee that Mohan
and Rajesh would now get into trouble, immediately went to Amma and told on them. I
expected her to rush to them to stop the fight. Instead, …“THWACK”. I got whacked! I
got whacked HARD! Not being prepared for this, I let out a yowl of indignant fury and
then immediately started wailing. You see, it happened to be a Saturday night. It also
happened to be the very night that Amma had decided to record the Sai Bhajanais on the
new tape recorder …
The Nazia Tapes
Rajesh and Mohan, needless to say, loved to tease. They still do. Our neighbor (after the
odious Nandanavana school closed down) re-acquired his house and then renovated it,
and moved in. They rented their upstairs to a nice family with 2 boys the same age as Mo
and Raj. Both sets boys happened to own the same LP Nazia Hassan album with “Disco
Diwane” and other songs (which we all sang to with much gusto then but now allude to
with typical adult horror at our taste in music). It didn’t take very long to realize that
Mr. Doraiswamy Iyengar hated the song. It got on his last nerves. So of course, being
good samaritans, Mohan and Rajesh played the music at the loudest volume. Then, as
soon as it got over, the boys next door would play it over again at the loudest volume…
and so on back and forth until Amma got wind of what they did…. I don’t think the LP
has surfaced again.
To compete or die trying
Ms.Anantam, my Sanskrit teacher was famous for running competitions. These involved
memorizing and reciting slokas from all over. When I was little, I hated the stage or
having to do anything in front of a whole bunch of people (strangers or not). Of course I
was told that I would participate. I learned what I needed to, but choked when it was my
turn. I had a terrible case of stage fright. When I go home, Amma got to know that I
didn’t perform on stage. I got quite a beating!
The Delhi/Musoorie Trip
One summer, Appa was invited to attend a conference at the Hill Station called
Mussoorie in the foothills of the Himalayas. His organizational fervor kicked into high
gear, and he made it into a full-fledged trip starting from Delhi, moving through Rishkesh
and Haridwar and ending up in Mussoorie . Delhi was, to put it bluntly, scorching hot.
The withering heat was debilitating to even the strongest person. Steam would rise out of
the sidewalk. Appa had an agenda, and by golly we were going to stick to it. We took a
tour of Delhi, and climbed up the interminable steps of the Qutb-Minar at which point I
don’t think anyone in the group cared about the history but rather getting the tour over
and done with. I was parched and asked for something to drink – but instead a kind
neighbor offered a cucumber saying that would be better. The dastardly cucumber
decided it didn’t like my stomach and immediately decided to come out… the wrong
way. Poor Amma had to go find a way to clean up the tourist bus, while Appa yelled at
anyone and everyone responsible for giving me the cucumber in the first place. Of
course, the stop at Rishikesh and Haridwar and had the requisite snanam in the Ganges.
Rishikesh was very pretty with the town built around the fast flowing river. There were
some adventures in restaurants and a few mishaps (some green faces) which got Appa to
a quick boiling point. Haridwar was quite polluted even then, and the river flowed quite
fast to my consternation. Taking a dip in it still causes me to shudder. My favorite part
of the Delhi/Mussoorie trip was indeed Mussoorie . The weather was beautiful. We got
to immerse ourselves in the gorgeous beauty of the Himalayas. During the daytime, all
the kids were out playing various games. We made some good friends. There were
parties in the evening, which were quite enjoyable. However, the family stuck together
and came away from the whole trip with lots of memories that could be relived. Of all
the trips we made as a family, this has been my most memorable. In fact, it might have
been the only trip with all four kids! I got to be lucky to accompany Amma and Appa on
several trips – but this was one trip where everyone was included.
Appa’s organizing talent came to the forefront during the Vishnu Saharsanamam days.
The daily chanting went on for 40 nights at a designated person’s house, and then there
was a culmination ceremony on the last day. We held this at our house for a few
sessions. The TTD Kalyanamandapam people had also agreed to hold this at one of the
rooms. Unfortunately, half way through one of the sessions, they had an issue and
informed the group that they couldn’t hold the session there anymore. Appa immediately
stepped up and saved the day by offering to finish off the session in our house. If Appa
set his mind to it, the impossible became mundanely possible. He learned whatever it
was he needed, and saw to it that even the littlest details weren’t overlooked. He also got
to have sessions held at the Mysore Maharaja’s daughter’s house. Amma, of course
made it all possible by doing the necessary background work to make it all successful.
Thanks to their interest in the Vishnu Sahasranamam, I don’t feel lost whenever I hear it,
and am able to confidently join in.
Has it been mentioned that Mohan and Rajesh teased a lot? Well it permeated through to
music and dance lessons. My poor music teacher was relegated to the misnomer
“Globie” due to the unfortunate shape of his rather immense cranium. He was a good
singer, but came quite infrequently. So my infrequent music lessons were alas quite
frequently interrupted. My dance lessons didn’t fare that well either. I fear Rajesh and
Mohan will have to demonstrate their “Thaiyya Thai” to compellingly reveal the reason
behind that. Their relentless teasing was not the only reason I lost out on continuing
dance, but it helped in bringing on the rapid demise of that art in the house. I wish I had
continued. However, what I take from this is Amma's attitude. While I'm sure she was
disappointed, she didn't let it show. She just continued taking me to dance performances
whenever possible. She also continued to take me to pattu katcheris (especially the rama
navami katcheris at Sheshadripuram college) to help me maintain my interest in music
Thiruppugazh is for ladies only
Appa was not always the Thiruppugazh icon that he is today. A young teacher called
Venkatraman used to teach classes. Amma offered to have the classes held in our house.
So once a week, people would come to our house, and then lessons would be held. Appa
would be relegated to sitting on his scooter in the portico until the class ended. This
didn’t stop him from mocking the whole concept. He’d have us rolling on the floor
laughing by imitating one particular singer, and would burst into a loud and raucous
Umbartharu Thenu Mani, Kashi vaakiiii yennnnnnnnnnnnnn. He did this much to
Amma’s consternation. Some of the songs must have permeated through – because if
you look at him now you’d think he was born singing Thiruppugazh songs! I wonder
whom the joke is on now!
Appa once went on an official trip to Delhi. This was when we were still living in our
Vyalikkaval house. It was just a usual trip, and nothing big happened, except when he
returned… He had taken a suitcase that was exactly the same as what someone else on
that same flight had. He didn’t notice anything amiss until he started unpacking. We all
heard a startled shout form him. Instead of his clothes, he found unopened brand new
electronics goods. It turned out that his suitcase was inadvertently mixed up with another
person’s bag. Luckily, Appa’s tag was on his bag, and the other person was able to track
Appa and exchange bags!
Amma was a huge help for me when Sanjana was born. One of the things she would do
is tell Sanjana stories. As a baby, Sanjana would just stare for hours at her Charummai
while she was told story after story. I believe Charummai/Charu Pati managed to tell all
her grandkids the Kuruvi Kadai. All her grandkids love the songs Kannum Pooti Urangu
and Chinna Chinna Padam Vaithu Kanna Nee Vaa. Sanjana still likes when someone
sings a song to her right before she goes to sleep. Now that they are older, she makes it a
point to find new jokes. Her grandsons all seem to have an extra gene for humor that
snuck in. So she tells her jokes and has them cracking up. What a legacy!
Around the world in 80 days
Appa and Amma made a rare long trip. They rarely seem to venture out of Bangalore to
visit, and so this trip was quite unique in the sense that they went around the world and
visited all their kids before they went back to India. They were able to pull it off by
visiting Oz, and then CA, Toronto and Houston. They have visited a couple of times
Amma was and still is a resolute songwriter. Not only does she sing songs written by
other authors (Meenakshi Sutha, Arunagirinathar), she has also composed quite a few
songs. Her big burst of inspiration hit when she came to help for Suvedh’s childbirth.
She composed and set music to about five different songs in as many days. Her creative
juices still flow and have hopefully permeated through to the grandkids.
Retirement? What does that mean!
KNK is actually officially retired... since 2002. You wouldn’t know it, because he still
keeps working. Perhaps he does it to keep himself occupied. The question is, does the
work call him back? Or is HE pulled back. It seems that he is still quite in demand,
especially for his ability to get things done and organize everybody. He has continued
strong well past retirement. He is so dedicated to his work; he even went back to work
barely three weeks after his bypass surgery.
The rare compliment!
Appa rarely compliments people. When he does pay you a compliment though it is so
sincere that the sun shines and you feel good about yourself for days. I remember yet
another of Anantham's art competitions. While my friends were all drawing complex
mythological figures and Gods and Godesses, I was at a loss. Apparently Amma's
drawing talent did NOT show itself even remotely in my genes. So I drew a Sun up on
top of the page, and a pot with a flower growing out of it at the bottom of the page. I was
6 or 7 years old. I was surprised to receive a third prize award for this paltry
drawing. Appa was looking through the drawings, and looked at mine and said, "This
one makes the most sense. I like it!". It was enough to make me happy for days!
What does CASSA stand for?
Appa worked at CASSA for a long time while we were all in Bangalore. Part of his
duties included keeping up the morale of the office by arranging yearly "CASSA Days".
He would organize shows and games so well that we would all look forward to this day
every year. One year he had arranged for a shadow puppet show. I loved it. Another
year, he gave my dance teacher a chance to show off her students, and I danced with my
friends Gita and Janaki. Another year, he had arranged a complex game that involved
working with a partner and "flying" around the world just using mere poster boards! He
would come up with these games, and execute them to perfection. One year, the game
was a quiz. There were prizes at the end. Prakash did so well that he was one of the last
two standing. The last question Appa asked was "What does CASSA stand for". Prakash
knew the answer. His clear voice rang out amongst all the participants with "Center for
Aeronautical Systems Studies and Analyses". The look of pride on Appa's face was
priceless! I'm sure Appa would have been even prouder if he had heard "VaImanikiya
Prakriya Adhayayan tatha Visleshen Kendra"
Appa and Amma made a visit to the US after he retired the first time. Their intent was to
visit Prakash and then us (in Hudson, Ohio) and then while in Ohio to make a quick foray
into Canada to visit Rajesh. Unfortunately, Appa was quite busy tying up loose ends that
he did not get a Canadian Visa. The plan was for us to take them to Buffalo, apply for
the Visa, receive it, and then drive on to Mississauga. We left quite early in the morning
because we wanted to make it to the consulate at Buffalo before they opened so that we
could be one of the first few served. We got there in record time with Srikanth at the
wheel. The visa process involved obtaining a number, waiting for your number to be
called, then submitting your application, and then waiting further instruction. All of this
went smooth, until the point of submitting the application. Appa had filled out "Retired
Civil Servant" in the form under "Occupation". Being the Honest Abe that he is, he did
not see any flags when the person behind the window started asking him questions:
Lady: "What did you do before you retired".
Appa: "I was a director of a Lab"
Lady: "What Lab"
Lady: "What does that stand for" (yup - ya'll know what's coming!)
Appa: "Aerial Delivery Research & Development Establishment".... this was post
The Canadian Embassy didn't veto his application but stated that they would have to send