Reading Mohan in ‘Bricks and Bouquets’, took me back in time when I was a schoolboy myself. In Saraswathipuram.

A suburb with a fine mix of intellectualism (a whole bunch of Mysore University’s professors lived there) and rusticity (good old KGK, short for Kanne Gowdana Koppal, being next door).

The annual Ramotsava celebrations in our own version of Shivaji Park, the Tengina Topu, situated between the 3rd and 4th main roads. Where we vigorously played Ais Pais (Hide and Seek) navigating between the groups of men and women who would settle down to listen to heady carnatic music or a flute recital or a harikathe, in the evenings, on the grassy knolls between the coconut trees, some of which grew at amusingly weird angles.

My childhood mate Jayachandra, a funny character, who could whistle with all his ten fingers underneath his tongue in one go or completely separately if needed. His hair-rising stunts on his Raleigh cycle, which he would accelerate almost half way up a particular coconut tree in our topu that had grown in an expansively wide arc, lending it a strange curvature.

And cricket.

On the streets.

In the fields.

The famous Balu team that played in a ground close to the 9th and 10th main roads. Getting into that team being somewhat like hoping to play in the West Indies team of the ‘70s under Clive Lloyd!

Gawky youngsters watching the games in progress, cheering lustily at the fall of a wicket; invariably clean bowled. With a wisp of red dust rising from underneath the middle stump.

Churumuri with a dash of lime; Venkatappan ice candy–‘inswalpa cream hakanna’–two cone sizes, 10 paisa and 15 paise; Mariyammana ‘batani’; coated in cheap, hideous red. The tiny explosions inside the mouth as we carefully manoeuvred the hard little bombs between our still adolescent molars.


Home to one of the greatest actors of the Kannada screen, K S Ashwath. Walking down the main road, wearing a fancy lungi, jubba and a pair of canvas slip-ons, he would make an imposing picture. Stern faced; brisk striding; slightly cold; with a hint of aloofness; he was a standard ‘puram’ sight.

And ‘coffee pudi’ Vasu!

Vasu, the owner of a famous coffee pudi angadi near Mr. Ashwath’s house. Portly, short and pot-bellied. Always in a tight T-shirt that accentuated the immensity of his girth.

Vasu, seller of Ganesha idols besides coffee powder–one of which, a massive, multi-coloured creation with the tiny ili in attendance, adorning his own angadi for ever, beside the vibhuti-smeared grinding machine.

Vasu. A passionate lover of cricket; a love often metamorphosing into fanaticism. Terribly concerned about the Indian team’s fortunes; always adoringly happy with the performances of B.S.Chandrashekar, E.A.S. Prasanna and G.R.Vishwanath.

Cricket as it was played in the ‘70s. No television. All India Radio commentaries. Waking up at 4 in the morning. Tuning into the transistor. A palpable flow of adrenaline; the right hand turning into a tiny fist which pumped the air as I heard Surinder Amarnath get a hundred on debut against New Zealand. My father seated on the ground and shaving. In front of a mirror with a teak wood base—a family heirloom—gifted to him by his sister on the day of his wedding, circa 1964.

Cut to ‘coffee pudi’ Vasu again.

A little after 1975 or thereabouts. My humourously whacky childhood mate, the humongously built Sampatha, he of the bison-like frame and the heart of a baby, asking Vasu what he felt about one of G.R. Vishwanath’s rare, cheap dismissals: ‘What do you think would have happened in the dressing room after Vishwanath got out and returned to the pavilion?’

Vasu listened. Intently.

He closed his eyes ponderously. A while later he opened them again. They looked grim. And angry.

And suddenly he yelled, ‘ Boli makkla, neev aadi iga. Aadi neevu. Naan adadnalla Madrasnalli. Neev adudra? Adudra neevu…’ Vasu’s right fore finger was pointing directly between the two of us, Sampatha and me.

We were transfixed.

Vasu was alluding to the innings of 97 not out by Vishwanath against the mighty West Indies in the Madras test of 1975, which even to this day, is hailed as one of the most courageous rearguard acts on a cricket field by an Indian.

Vasu was doing mimicry. Of G.R.Vishwanath’s assumed diatribe against his team mates in the dressing room even as was unfastening his pads!!

Those were the days, eh. Oh, how I love to ramble on and on. About Saraswathipuram and….

I sink into the beanbag on the balcony of my flat; the noise of traffic below dims for a moment as I play an old Jagjit Singh ghazal in my mind: ‘Lauta de mere bachpana…

The driver’s hand is where the heat is

The heat is on…. goes an old, popular English number.And for those taxi drivers whose cars have an air conditioner, it must be all the more so. Or so it seems!

Look around anywhere on the roads in our part of the world and you’ll see an incredibly ridiculous line on the back glass of most taxis, stuck prominently in white. In radium-sticker material.


And to think indicators that start blinking at the tug of a small lever to indicate where you’re turning were invented much earlier, I’m sure, than the ACs that came to be part of an automobile’s paraphernalia!

Why not, for Lord Sharanam Aiyappa’s sake, just turn on that amber light on your damn car’s backside and inform the whole world where on earth you want to turn, while at that wheel?

AC or no AC!

Meanwhile, I saw a white taxi hurtling down the Kanne Gowdana Koppal road the other day.

I suspect I heard the music system playing, well, the heat is on…

If we can find five crores for a godman, why can’t we find a few for god’s own creatures?

How hollow in our thoughts can we get? How uncaring and indifferent can our attitude be? How superficial and fake can our expressions come down to?

A state like ours that’s endowed with some of the most sought after hot spots of bio-diversity anywhere in the country, if not the world, has a forest management system that can make you cry, laugh, tear your hair and perhaps your clothes too, all at once.

In sheer frustration and dismay. In total consternation and hopelessness. Illogical, absurd, impractical, tenuous and vague are the principles of our forest management.

‘Conservation’, ‘wild life protection’, ‘flora’, ‘fauna’, ‘Save the Tiger’, ‘Project Elephant’… words, words and more words. Mere words. Utterances that have become the mantra of the rich and famous; an elitist gang of movers and shakers; in keeping with trends of today, much like fashionable, designer clothing.

Where the game—yes, it’s nothing but that—is to merely put on a facade of being environmentally conscious and be seen around in the right places where you fleetingly talk of tigers and elephants and then settle down for one, good, long session of whiskey drinking and chicken eating.

‘Oooh, I was in Nagarhole the other day. Wow, how exciting it was, you know. We even saw a tiger. And that elephant, my god, he came sooo close to our jeep. Omigosh! It was so scary. And I didn’t like the food at the guest house, you know. Yuck.’ This is one type.

The other type, stern faced, looking terribly all-important, eyes focused on the game road, seated pompously with an arm stretched over the backrest of the driver, is to be found travelling around our jungles in gypsies (the jeep from the Maruti stable, I mean), olive green in colour, with an emaciated forest department guard sitting delicately at the back of the vehicle with an outdated, outmoded and completely non-functional double barrel gun in hand.

Now, invariably these are the naturalist/biologist types. Both these types can never ever save our jungles and the wild life within.

How about a serious, conscious, deeply committed, sincere, honest, and a no holds barred attempt to literally shake the mandarins at Vidhana Soudha or South Block or wherever else they may sit and TELL THEM that this charade of conducting forestry practices is just not on. Never on.

How do we do it?

By taking to the streets, holding a jatha, a hartal, a strike, a demostration, picketing and haranguing the powers-that-be; involving the sane sections of the media and society at large, the intellectuals, the concerned, the caring; drumming up help and support in as many ways as possible; getting a few hundred like minded individuals to come together to start with.

Much like the Narmada Bachao Andolan orchestrated by the venerable Medha Patkar and her ilk.

The government should be asked in shrieking, loud terms, what the hell it has been doing vis-a vis our forests and wild life. The forest minister and the army of bureaucrats that lives in the air-conditioned cocoons of the Aranya Bhavan should be made to stand trial, in a manner of speaking.

The tiger needs to be saved. After all, the striped magnificence, is at the apex of the food chain and its viable population is a sure barometer of the overall health of the jungle.

Yes. But may we make sure, just by the way, that the hundreds of posts of forest watchers and guards in our state are regularized.

May we for instance, have more gypsies patrolling INSIDE national parks and NOT parked in the porticos of Aranya Bhavan, Malleswaram.

May we for a change, have guns that work and staff that are motivated.

May we request forest officers to show more aptitude and attitude.

May we have some money for diesel for the few ramshackle jeeps that exist inside forest ranges nevertheless.

May we show a modicum of respect and love for the wild?

Does the government and its Babus, in the first place, need to be told such basic, completely comprehensible, and coherently palpable facts? Haven’t they themselves been able to understand such needs at all?

Or do we deserve the status of a mindless, incorrigible, callous, corrupt and fake nation where the ‘moola mantra’ is self-preservation. To hell with preserving tigers and elephants. And all the trees around which they live.

I have in my own humble way posed these very same questions to an array of forest officers over the years. ‘Budget illa, ivare.. Tumba khasta ide, Sarkardalli dudd hondusodu. Swalpa artha madkolli.’

And the very same government announces a whopping–hold your breath–five crore grant for the 100th birthday celebrations next year, of Shivakumara Swamiji of the Siddaganga Math. ‘If the need arises, more money will be allocated,’ said B.S. Yediyurappa, the deputy chief minister who is also the finance minister at Tumkur recently.

Chief Minister Kumaraswamy said that the Swamiji has silently brought about a ‘Daridra Nirmoolana Kranti’.

While the poachers and timber smugglers are also busy silently mounting a ‘Huli Mattu Aane Mattu Mara Nirmoolana Karyakrama’, in the depths of our famed jungles!

Oh, I forgot. Must get some furniture made for my drawing room. Now, how do I contact the DCF, Hunsur….

Tony Grieg asks Inzamam a question

Those who don’t really speak fluent English have standard, prepared answers for questions.

Especially cricketers. Who get asked a lot of questions especially at the end of the match or day’s play.

Tony Grieg: “So Inzy, fantastic, you’re wife is pregnant for the second time?”

Inzamam: ” Bismillah-e-rehman-e-rahim. All credit goes to the boys. Everyone worked hard for it, especially Afridi. It was a tight situation when he went in. Without him and Youhana, who stroked very well, it was not possible. Our coach Bob Woolmer also kept a close watch and pushed hard….”

Green Peace Fry: Human Balls on Sale in Mysore English as a language has always confounded, confused, perplexed, bewildered, foxed and puzzled most of us Indians.Long years of British rule have nevertheless imprinted the Anglican tongue quite irrevocably on our national psyche.

Speak English we must and write it, we will.

Should it matter if it’s not exactly what the Queen of England would nod and approve! Check this out. Scanning the menu in the up-market Grand Maurya resort on Hunsur road, I burst out in convulsive laughter.

My eyes zeroed in on a dish that for a moment I felt, had been picked straight out of the ancient recipe book of the not-so-friendly grandmother of the headman of the cannibalistic tribe that perhaps lived in the depths of the Congo, some 152 years ago!! The resort had manicured lawns, smiling faces and a friendly service, all so full of tender courtesies.BUT… Under Chinese, it said, Balls: Human Style!!!Yes, you read that right. Balls: Human Style.

Gosh, I frantically rummaged my wallet. For money. To the onlooker, I surely would have looked terribly desperate. Phew, I found some crisp notes. What if, just if, I had had a hearty meal comprising my usual malai kofta and aloo parathas and realised that I had forgotten my wallet for the day! Do you think you would have still ordered anything Chinese that day!!!!

Although the friend who had accompanied me for dinner that fateful day kept insisting that it was only Hunan that the menu meant!! To err is Hunan….and all that, eh!
The next bus to Chandra Naadi

Down the famous Andolana Circle along the Vishwa Manava Double Road towards the Ring Road is a signboard at one of
the crosses to the left.

It could well be Mysore’s sauciest name to be boldly painted in recent times. Add to the name its qualifying attachment ‘Needs’, and you have quite a bawdy situation!

A situation where you could well think for one fleeting moment at least, how nice it’d be if you could fulfill it after all!

The name is Nagnika!!

Now if you are imagining that Nagnika ‘needs’ whatever it is that she would need, you could well be excused. But hold those loins, it is just a provision store!!

For Lord Ramachandra’s sake! Hmmm.. Nagnika. Of all the names! Now is that not what they say in Kannada for a naked, nubile thing? Or am I just fantasizing?

Now standing in a queue near you: Mysore’s real mascot Having seen Javagal Srinath standing in the queue to
buy a ticket at the Mysore railway station on those
few occasions that I myself have been forced to take a
train to lung-choking Bangalore, I’m beaten and bowled
middle stick from one that swung in from outside the off!
Not that cricketers should expect the divisional railway manager to hand-deliver tickets at their doorstep. Nor is it done. But in this age and time, with cricket being what it is in this country being what it is, those guys in white or blue, somehow tend to imagine somewhere in a small corner of their brains that the country exists for them and because of them!To come to the point, what is it about this man Javagal Srinath, who from the tiny back alley of our own Rama Vilasa road, went on to become one of the greatest exponents of fast bowling. The like of which, this country of a billion plus souls, had never ever
seen before in its 50 odd years of cricketing history.
A man who put the sure fear of the devil in the hearts of those who ever got to wield a willow at the cricket crease. This tall, gangling, broad shouldered gent, who made the best of batsmen –Aussie, South African, English, West Indian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan–carefully consider their moves while he stood focused
at the top of his bowling mark.

Yet why is this Mysorean mascot humble to a fault, unassuming to the point of embarrassment (to the others!), simple, cool, controlled and so very easy in his demeanour. Well, that’s the way he is made and boy, how unrealistically refreshing indeed!

Considering that more often than not, you get to meet men who come to be called cricketers; the type who shake hands with you on being introduced, like they imagine you to be the lowest scum, an insect to be ticked off, a pathetic worm!

Men, who for all you know, just sporadically played Ranji Trophy cricket, the last of which was perhaps eleven and half years ago against Kerala on a dusty ground, in the presence of 196 spectators, three kilometers from the Kannur bus stand!

Javagal Srinath, take a bow. The only un-Mysorean trait in you was your pace!!