RANJANA RAO writes from New York City: I am Gulmohar—that’s my pen-name. Does it make you wonder what sort of a person I am? Female or male? Does it denote the tree or its beautiful flowers?
Why the hell would a person name herself after a tree anyways?
Gulmohar to me is a tag that denotes a “state of mind”. A state that I reminisce in the month of May; a state that I would love to go back to if possible; a state that I relive over and over again.
“May” holds a very special place in my heart. On a very superficial level, it is my birth-month; but I’d like to credit myself with a little more depth than that. In the past, May has ushered in some of the best days of my childhood. With the annual exams completed in March results out on April 10, May was usually the peak of summer vacations—one thing I miss dearly from my childhood.
I would give an arm and a leg to re-live the wonderful moments I enjoyed with my friends and cousins in those long summers.
In May, the resplendent Gulmohar trees would burst into bloom and cover my dear town—Mysore—in a floral canopy of crimson red. A gust of wind sprinkled these sashaying May-flowers to adorn the roads below, fill the air with a light fragrance, and usher a festive look.
My cousins and I spent many a summer days playing under these Gulmohar trees in a park close to my home. These magnificent trees staved off the harsh rays of the summer sun and created a gentle, translucent awning.
Innocence bloomed in this ornate canopy with intermittent sunlight.
We exchanged dolls, stories and glass bangle pieces. We drew a quick block of squares on the ground and were jumping all over it with “Am I right?” in kunte-bille (7 squares). While we stuck the long yellow calyx of the Gulmohars on our nails and pretended to be princesses with long nails, the boys would prance around imagining these as tiger claws and scaring the girls!
Every once in a while, we would tune our ears to the morning ragas we would otherwise miss during school time. The ragas were not just from Aakashvani.
“Soppu; dantu, palak, menthya, pudina; soppu” a predictable vegetable vendor would chime the names of his greens.
Mango, ‘the fruit’ of Indian summers, would make its entry into the street and people would flock to make a good buy. Kids rushed in for the ever-popular totapuri raw mango with salt and chilli powder. From rag collectors to dasayyas with conches, a stream of humanity made their entries.
If we were lucky, we would run into the “Kole Basava”—an adorned bull with his multi-coloured embellishments accompanying his master with the volaga. The only bigger attractions than the Kole Basava were the snake charmers and the monkey handlers.
Lunch was quick—we did not want to lose out on the fun.
Once back, the afternoons were spent climbing the low branches of the Gulmohar, relishing tamarind rolls (with salt, chilli powder and jeera), poppins or the gaadi ice-candy. Half-hearted calls from moms to get in and take a nap expectedly fell on deaf ears. This was a time with not many rules.
It was the time of freedom, and everything seemed to be at a standstill. We caught what we thought were fishes (but were actually tadpoles) in a nearby pond, played hide and seek, buried our feet in the warm sand from a construction site next door, or searched for small conches and did craftwork. As the evening drew closer, we exchanged horror stories and waited for our dads to arrive home.
We said our goodbyes amid “bande ma, ondu nimisha” (coming mom) as our moms called out to us.
Each day brought with it, abundant stories of the day to narrate to our parents, irritating them while they tried hard to keep up with Nagabharana‘s or Ravi Kiran‘s TV serials.
The day would end with a simple dinner. If we had our cousins over, it was always “Kayyi Tuthu“—an elder sitting the kids in a circle and handing morsels of food to each by turns. Curd rice with nimbekayi uppinakayi (lime pickle) on a moonlit terrace with a faint, scented breeze.
If mangoes were for dessert, a tussle would ensue for the vaate (pit) while it was split up amongst the kids. Good times.
As we went to bed reminiscing the day, a cool breeze from the Gulmohars would flow in thru’ the open windows. Luckier teenage guys would take their roll-up beds to the terrace and sleep in the open beneath a star-lit sky.
As the day ended, a sense of contentment would wrap us like a blanket and a promise of another beautiful summer day tomorrow would fill our dreams.
Now, as I look back as an adult, the Gulmohar on our street and the park in front of us was our common denominator; a silent pillar of that beautiful summer scape that was my happiest. It was a state filled with no worries, abundant innocence, the sheer joy, gay abandon and lot of simple fond memories.
Memories, as much nurtured by the Gulmohars as by my loved ones.
Yes these are the greatest common denominators for children in summer. The onus is us(adults) to give it to the children of today as well. It doesn’t mind if Kayi thuthu and maavina hannu is given while watching a TS Nagabharana serial or the IPL! The objective is to keep up the tradition!
Perhaps Ranjana also remembers the energetic “Sriram Govinda Govinda!” boys, bare-chested except for the janavara, visiting homes during Shraavana Maasa for Bhikshe (a fistful of rice).
Or the schoolboys who crushed Gulmohar seed pods, the over-ripe ones, to make amateurish “cork balls” for road cricket. Those balls would only a couple of overs, unless they were tempered with Kadle Yenne which doubled their durability.
The soppu vendor’s “raaga” acted as my alarm clock many mornings. (I was not his fan!)
The decked-up “Kole Basava” who visited homes during Chaitra Maasa was accompanied by a quiet, big-moustached, man with a red turban who carried an old printed shoulder-bag that jingled with solicited coins.
The “color-color” Poppins gave the best bang for our kaasu since it could be shared among so many friends. (Wonder if Parle still makes Poppins?)
Then there was the gentle “Goorkha” who — in the very middle of the quiet night — blew his piercing whistle or fiercely struck his bamboo cane on the road. What a din he made! But everyone loved him: On the 1st of the month he unfailingly, almost graciously, showed up at the doorstep to collect a humble fee of Re. 1 or Rs. 2.
Thanks for the nostalgia, churumuri. (Why, I can even see part of my parents’ house in the picture!)
This is the season to see and remember Gul Mohar. Wonderful! Should our children be told about all these things? Yes, absolutely. If we don’t tell them of these sweet things we will be the culprits. JaarubanDe, gultoria, marakoti aaTa,aLaguLimaNe……chaukabhaara…Oh God!
On some festival day, I wore a panche and went to a couple of houses, saying “Venkateshaaya Mangalam,” and no one mistook me for a professional beggar. Oh, those happy days! The Idli, Wade combination at the Krishna Bhavan, near Mill Corner, the point where Malleshwara/m became Seshadripura/m, which in turn became Nehrunagaram.
At all these places, now, alas, I see people showing pictures of Shani and scaring the hell out of me.
Childhood in Mysore, beautifully depicted. Loved it!
The Ramavilasa Road was one such place, full of Gulmohars in full bloom in May.
You are right, add Gilli-Dandlu, Gante Goli aata, buguri aata, Lagori, Maanja paynge haaku gaalipata competion, The earnestness in chasing and running shouting “pata cut, pata cut” in the bylanes to be the first person to get hold of the kite.
I miss the joys of calling out to the person holding the maanja & glass powder tainted thread reel “deal hodi deal hodi” in the heat of the moment to be one up and cut the chord of the kites of other fliers
Unfortunately none of the present generation know of how “gilli-dandlu” is played. The words like “Dakku double two dandlu” will forever be forgotten The sense of proportion we learnt when we called out “ondu(1) gatta, yerd(2) gatta” (1 gatta = 10 dandlu lengths) is all but a memory
The sheer joy of belting with a stick my father’s old unused scooter tyre at break neck speed along with the other guys and the joy of artfully running along with a bicycle rim with a stick in its groove to control it, is a simple unadulterated pleasure that is still unsurpassed.
Yes this is what we did in the summer hols later as the years passed we grew up and the idiot box came into our lives.
Gulmohar trees! Go to Kantarajaurs road in the morning by 6am before they clean the road, there will a carpet of flowers on the foot path from Kennegowdan koppal entry at one end to JL road at the other end. It used to be a real beauty to see this. Ballal circle used to be decorated with flowers.
Is this PHENOMENA still exist!??
Have you played KOLI JAGALA with the Gulmohar buds,stamen before they bloom?
Hey, brings back a lot of memories. I particularly remember keeping navilugari in textbooks (when classmates would tell us, adhu mari hakkutthe:)
Also, collecting gasgase hannu, looking for kaage bangara in the playground, playing lagori….
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“Steeeel Patre saamaan” guy who exchanged old clothes for utensils, “Tarkaariyamma” who always selected the best bendekaayi for me, Bombaai Mithai gaadi with its tempting red cotton candies hung all around it, Seeme yennae gaadi with the person hitting the drums with a stick to draw attention, the extremely talented bombae sweet guy who could make an airplane or a doll in a minute, the visit to ‘shetty’ angdi to buy a pack of biscuits just before tea time, hitting the mass of crushed stones during power cuts to see the ‘benki’, ‘kooka?…..kook!!’ during kanna muchchalae, in between playing cricket, keeping a watch at the road end for dad to turn up so that i’ll be the first to run and ‘discover’ what’s in his bag, playing badminton with torn and battered feather cocks….priceless memories.
“You may break, you may shatter the vase if you may will – but the scent of the flowers will linger there still” as Ruskin bond? says.
Vitlan Potli, right. Penda uDis goli aaTa, jebu thumba goligaLu, huNise pachchi, kavade, buguridaara……jaarubanDe aaTa,,, aamele manege banda mele thale mele yeraDu yeTu..
And mother always telling ” let your father come, you will see today…” and as susual before father cringing and some times one or two thrashes…
Grrreat article!! Brings back those childhood memories…I guess these simple pleasures of childhood is missed by the present generation of kids who are hooked to TV/Computers during the holidays
Pease don’t remind me of all these things because I feel like runing back to Mysore from Portland where I have come to see my peopel. Marakothi and swinging from branches like Tarzan and those Bugri aata going round the streets with Gunna tearing the Bugree and so many and may be it is good Imay tell grand children about it though I doubt they can appreciate it I can try though
“If we had our cousins over, it was always “Kayyi Tuthu“—an elder sitting the kids in a circle and handing morsels of food to each by turns. Curd rice with nimbekayi uppinakayi (lime pickle) on a moonlit terrace with a faint, scented breeze.
Thanks for this writeup
Wah.. Feels like all mysoreans had similar fun….
Just carries me back in time… this is quite nostalgic…
I was almost in mysore (virtually) Thanks for this nice write up
Nice one.. All mysoreans have the same childhood experience.. :)
I have always seen the beauty of gulmohar flowers covering the roads in Narayan Shastry road while going n coming back from school.. Making those loong nails, cork balls with my friends, n ya if u remember we used to play those tiny water filled things of gulmohar as GUNs by removing its tip.. searching that itself used to be fun.. I still have the privilege of moonlight kayyi thuthu from my mom when I go home during weekends.. Awesome memories.. :)
Happy blogging.. :)
Ranjana… i just finished reading this.. and halfway thru I started crying like a child….and i cant stop!!.. though i grewup in bangalore… May is the same… or rather “was” the same…
Thanks for blooming this Gulmohar of urs… way to go!!!!!!!
god…i cant stop… :)
Gulmohar is a magical name for me too. Something about that tree is nostalgia inducing. I had the same idea that I would give anything to be back in Bangalore-Mysore (Same really) Looks like my dreams might come true. We have a condo now in Malleswaram. I did not want one in “Dollar colony” I thought to myself..why should I go to Bangalore and live as though I am still in the U.S? Malleswaram is as Indian …as Bangalorean as it can get. I am looking forward to seeing my beloved Gulmohar in bloom again after a gap of 40 some years.
You just told my chilhood story. we would also play chuka bhara when no power. My neighbour used tell us all sorts of horror stories which when remembered now is kind of funny. we would also play amne aata. Make anna saaru aout of “nenesidda avalakki and mensinpudi”. It aches to know that our children are only into video games and pokemon cards.
Feels like you just stole my feelings…..very well written…..I have a question for u…..is this picture by any chance from yadavagiri mysore…..looks like the same park where i used to play cricket with my friends way back in late 80s and early 90s…..was just curious….6th main, yadavagiri ….