Watching VVS train in Secunderabad

Monday, December 21, 2009 Dr. Vishaal Bhat 3 Comments

When I was a kid, I went to school at the St. John’s Primary school and then the St. John’s high school. During this period we used to reside just opposite the school grounds and this provided me with lots of opportunities to play all my favourite games.



During the summer holidays however, we used to pack off to my parents native place in Karnataka. One summer this routine was not observed due to some reason. That year I watched kids play at the school grounds. There was a summer cricket coaching camp organized and there were many kids in white. One kid however had a separate training facility and a dedicated coach.



Though I did not realise it then, I was watching one of the stalwarts of present day Indian test cricket – The very very special VVS Laxman.

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Sachin Tendulkar and the 17,000 runs saga

Thursday, December 10, 2009 Dr. Vishaal Bhat 0 Comments

Sachin smilingImage via Wikipedia

Pakistani off-spinner Abdul Qadir cast a look of mockery at the young padded and helmeted man all set to face him armed with a willow. 'Man'!!! It would have been rather suitable to call him a kid. Aged sixteen and standing at a puny 5 feet 3 inches, the kid couldn't even reach Qadir's shoulders. Playing in a 'practice' match after rain had washed out play during the Indian tour of Pakistan in 1989, Qadir decided to teach the young kid a lesson in spin bowling. Six balls and twenty runs later, Qadir was the one who was taught a lesson in the art of playing against spin.

Twenty summers ago when a 16 year old was selected to play in the Indian cricket team, it was just the initiation of the world to the genius of one Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. It was the d(o)n of a new era - Sachin's era.

In India heroism is a virtue treasured and often worshipped. and in a cricket crazy country like India, its cricketers are nothing lesser than immortals. 'If Cricket is Religion, Sachin is its God' - This is often what we read on T-shirts, placards and posters during a game.Sachin could have been easily carried away in that cacaphony of possessed fans, of glittering lights and cash rich matches. Even after years of toil and performance, a single bad series is enough to dent your image and following. Similarly a single misdeamenour off the field can endanger your career (as Tiger Woods has found out recently and as Shane Warne found out earlier).

Taken at SCG, 3rd Day, Australia vs India, 4th...Image via Wikipedia



Yet after 30,000 runs and 87 centuries, we still find this kid from Mumbai still has his skills honed at the peak. His recent knock of 175 against Australia at Hyderabad was one for the Gods. India lost the match by a narrow margin chasing a mammoth 350, and 10 other team members together couldn't muster 175 between them - yet the media in the comforts of their press seats wrote - Shouldn't he have finished the match?

A man who had shouldered India's batting line up single handedly in most of the last decade, till Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid came along, one who has a century against every test playing nation, and with 17,000 runs in ODI's with 44 centuries, isn't it a bit harsh to still doubt his commitment and temparament??

'Before Elvis there was none' is one of the famous quotes of John Lennon. In Indian cricket - 'Before Sachin there was none and After Sachin there'll be none.
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Uday Shankar and love marriage

Tuesday, December 08, 2009 Dr. Vishaal Bhat 0 Comments

Marriage à-la-mode : The Marriage ContractImage via Wikipedia

I was watching the movie Daud, starring Sanjay Dutt and Urmila Matondkar the other day. In one of the sequence, they identify themselves as Uma Parvati and Daya Shankar respectively. The names reminded me of a schoolmate of mine at St.John’s School in East Marredpally, Secunderabad, where I studied up till my 4th standard.

He was a lean and unusual guy, with very vertically pointed hair, which, refused to lie down still. In those days, we children did not have video games or television to while our time away. Our society also hadn’t evolved to the present extent. As such, the lunch break and after school hours were spent playing various outdoor games, such as hide and seek, catch, cricket, football etc among other things.

In those days arranged marriages were the norm (Even today they are the right thing to do in our society) and speaking about love and such other things were considered taboo and if elders heard such stuff, we were to be severely reprimanded. So it was a day of shock to me and some of my friends, when one day, Uday Shankar, while lying on his Mother’s lap, during lunch hours at school, said with an air of nonchalance- “My mother had a love marriage”.

Sadly after we shifted out of Marredpally and I joined a new school, I lost all contact with Uday. I still recall his face to this day, whenever my friends ask me about my marriage.
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The Chamundi betta Episode

Friday, December 04, 2009 Dr. Vishaal Bhat 1 Comments

Summer holidays in our childhood meant visits to our grand parents’. For two months every year, we would be off to Tirthahalli and Brahmavar, small towns in southern Karnataka, where we would enjoy the atmosphere with all our relatives. More about those summer escapades in some other post.

I, Prakash Subbarao, took this image on 23rd J...Image via Wikipedia


This story is on a different topic. Dad would be offered one all expenses paid trip to any destination every two years by the bank he used to work for. One summer he decided to take us on a trip to the South Indian city of Mysore. Mysore lies close to Bangalore and is about a 3-4 hour journey. We had relatives in Mysore at that time and went to stay with them. Mysore is famous for its dassara festival usually held in the month of October. Now this was a summer trip so we did not get to see the festivities. However there are quite a few other attractions in this once lovely city – almost a hill town those days (early-mid 1980’s). There are the Brindavan gardens, Gopalaswamy betta and Chamundi Betta , the mysore palace and other nearby tourist attractions.

During our stay there we visited the Chamundi Betta (Betta is the Kannada word for Hill/hills). This is a temple shrine for the hindu goddess Chamundi (an avatar of Kali) and is located on top of a hill named after this deity. There is a huge figure of Mahishasura at the entrance, if I recall correctly (20 years of data to recall). Now, where there is a temple, this being true of most shrines in India, there are monkeys. The Chamundi hills were no exceptions. We were advised to keep all loose belongings and eatables inside bags/pockets and proceed to the temple. Kids were to be held close by so that the monkeys would leave us in peace.

Parle Poppins were a favourite for kids those days. The circular candies were a hit with both parents and children. With parents because they were cheap and affordable and with children because they cam in so many flavours. After our visit to the temple and while returning back down the hill, my sister without us knowing, took out her pack of Poppins and proceeded to eat one. No sooner was the pack out a monkey grabbed it and made haste and my stunned sister – she must have been around 4 years of age then- started bawling and wanted the pack back. No amount of consoling would calm her down. An offer was made to buy her a new pack when we descended down the hill… but still there was no sign of her calming down. Finally I offered my pack and seeing that I wouldn’t have one if she took it, she grabbed it and stopped crying.

For a considerable period of time after that, whenever she had something I wanted and needed urgently, a gentle reminder of what happened at Chamundi Betta and things got better !
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Lost in Monda Market

Thursday, December 03, 2009 Dr. Vishaal Bhat 0 Comments

Secunderabad is quite a large city in the State of Andhra Pradesh in the south Indian peninsula. However it is not that well known as its immediate neighbour – Hyderabad, the capital city. Together they are the twin cities, divided by the Hussainsagar lake. I grew up in this very beautiful city in my formative years. It had huge open spaces and clean and uncluttered roads and was a very cost-economic city in the eighties and early nineties, prior to globalisation and cable TV. The Secunderabad of today though is just like any other metropolis and has completely lost its charm. However that is not the story of this piece.



A few months after the tomatoes at Muddunur episode, my sister was born and around the same time, dad got transferred to a branch in Secunderabad on promotion. This was quite a welcome change for my parents. The city was then a good place for people from Karnataka as there were quite a few localities with Kannada and Konkani speaking families. Also my dad had begun planning for us and considered it a god given opportunity to begin my schooling at a good convent school. A few years after the transfer the episode – lost in Monda market happened.



As at Muddunur, Sunday was still regarded as the day for shopping, because dad was free only on this special day, other days were spent working on countless files, account sheets and what not at his office. This was the cost he had to pay to assure his children of a good life and the remaining day was for us. On Sundays, after breakfast, dad used to set out to the nearby Secunderabad market or as it was then known as the Monda market. One hand would hold a shopping bag or basket (I do not remember which), the other would be carrying my sister who was still very young to walk on her own. And since those where the only two arms he had, I used to put a hand in his trouser pocket and walk alongside. Mom usually stayed at home in those days. After a few hours, the shopping bag would fill up with vegetables and fruits and then we would walk back, for mother to cook us a delicious lunch. This was the usual routine for quite a long time and was a very exciting thing for me at that age.



However one Sunday, the usual routine was broken. As usual I was walking alongside my dad with a hand in his trouser pocket. I think what happened was that I got distracted by some sweets at one of the shops in the market and temporarily let go of dad’s pocket; or, maybe dad had to get his wallet out of the pocket and in the process asked me to let go. Whatever the reason, my hand was out of his trouser pocket for a short period. What happened next seems funny now, but at that time it created a lot of stress for my parents and my dad was close to a nervous breakdown.



I placed my hand back in the trouser pocket, but not that of my dad. I had started walking alongside a complete stranger without realising it. As was my habit I was looking at the various exciting shops, while the stranger was completely oblivious to the fact that he had a hand in his pocket which was not his!! My dad meanwhile was frantically searching for me. The stranger kept moving along and when he reached the shop where he wanted to buy a few items, reached for his wallet and there it was… a hand that did not belong to him… tracing it further there I was… a child… which he had not conceived. At the split second it took for him to realise what had happened… I looked up and my tiny brains realised that something had gone wrong. This wasn’t the person I stayed with… this wasn’t my dad!! I began crying.



People in those days were very helpful and compassionate. Unlike in the present, people usually cared for others in all circumstances and not just during adverse situations. This complete stranger could have just left me and gone about his work. However he was genuinely concerned about my safety and picked me up and retraced his steps till he came to a shop where the shop keeper knew me. Here I was given sweets and made to calm down. Dad meanwhile had retraced to this shop and not finding me, searched a few other areas and returned home to inform my mother that he had lost me. He then returned my sister and went to a cousins place to get assistance and return to the market.



Meanwhile the stranger who was looking after me tried to ask me where I stayed. The shop keeper gave me more toffees to calm me. The problem was that I did not know much of the local language – either Telugu or Hindi and they did not know Konkani – my mother tongue. After much pacifying and prompting I indicated that I could diect them to my house. The poor chap then walked in the direction I took pointed (Probably across all of the shops in the market where dad used to buy stuff) which must have been quite a roundabout as I don’t think I could remember a direct route. Finally after much pointing and walking we reached my home and there mom was waiting for me. The Good Samaritan did not even have a glass of water. He just scolded mom asking her whether this was the way to take care of a kid and such other things and left.



My dad by this time was on the verge of giving up the search and posting a missing persons report at the Monda Market police station when as a last resort he reached the sweet shop where I was having some chocolate just a few minutes ago. The Shopkeeper told him about how the stranger had found me. He told my dad that the stranger had decided to take me home. After waiting for a few anxious moments there and since we did not return, he decided to return home and see whether I had taken the stranger along the correct route back home. And there I was welcoming him home. My dad was relieved man that day and the coming Sundays where then spent by me either at home or on trips to the market without my sister.

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Tomatoes in Muddunur

Wednesday, December 02, 2009 Dr. Vishaal Bhat 0 Comments


Everyone has a favourite childhood story. I have quite a few. This one is tomatoes in Muddunur. Back in the days when the computer was unheard of as a household necessity, and when the Colour TV wasn’t available in colour, my dad was posted to a small rural village in the Cuddapah district of Andhra Pradesh . His office was at Prodattur village and the closest town (if you could call it that) was Muddunur. Now the area is very harsh, environmentally and culturally. My parents are from the neighbouring state of Karnataka and were non-telugu speaking. So language wise and culturally it was a complete change, also, the environment was that of a semi-desert. My mom recalls that there were all sorts of reptiles and it was a very dry and arid region. She also used to tell me about all sorts of scorpions which would enter our home and nest in my dad’s shoes. Oh! And yes the, local leader than was one Mr.Y.Rajashekhar Reddy (Who later became Dr.Y.Rajashekhar Reddy, the previous chief minister of Andhra Pradesh – recently expired in a helicopter crash), whom my dad recalls as a customer at his bank.

The harsh weather and arid region made it difficult to grow any sorts of vegetables or for that matter any crops around the house. Hence every weekend dad would go to the nearest town to buy the week’s supplies. It so happened that we fell short of tomatoes one week and since it was not feasible to go to the town to get some, she asked our neighbour for some. I was 3 years old then. Mom asked me to go and fetch the veggies from the neighbours. But then a problem arose… my mom wanted at least 3 tomatoes and my tiny hands could carry only two…. So my brilliant mind worked up an idea!! I asked the neighbour to stuff one into my mouth!

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