Columnist Takes A Trip Down The Memory Lane

Our family consisted of a huge number of people. The family strength was more than 25 in our Vysial street house ‘Raju Bhavan’. We moved over to ‘Sri Krishna Nivas’ on Trichy road in 1977. Fourteen of us lived in one old house and it was good fun. Summers were spent with our maternal grandparents. A short trip to Ooty used to precede our trip to Salem with mummy, Aravindakumari. Dad Govindarajulu used to take us to places like Chennai once in a way. The trips were by car or by train. We used to follow the trips made by our family and friends in order to make the trip easy. Our trip to Mysore and Mangalore during the winter holidays of 1979 was one such trip.
My grandparents Lalitha Bai and Krishnan had attended the wedding of our relative Vummidi Srinivas (Vummidiars family, Chennai) and Girija (daughter of M.L.Vasudevamurthy) at Chikmagalur in 1976. Grandmother suggested that we follow her trail during the winter of 1979. I was in my seventh standard and my brother Suresh was in the fifth at GRG School. Mom, dad, Subramaniam mama, my brother and myself travelled by road to Mysore after our half yearly exams. Our old and faithful ‘Ambassador’ car MDG 3833 was the ‘travel partner’ for a week. We moved on Sathyamangalam road and the Bannari Amman temple was our first destination. Mummy told us that all the vehicles entering the ghat section were in the habit of seeking the protection of Bannari Amman in order to ensure a safe journey through the forest. The car negotiated the many hairpin bends and we crossed Dhimbam and Chamrajnagar to reach our destination Nanjangud. Prayers were offered at the Nanjundeshwara temple and we reached Hotel Dasaprakash in Mysore by the evening. Daddy told us the hotel belonged to the same people who owned Hotel Dasaprakash in Ooty and Chennai. We used to savour the Dasaprakash special ice cream and the peas masala with buttered bread during our trips to Chennai.
Granny’s nephew Srinivas was a Manager at the Mysore branch of Lakshmi Vilas Bank for a few years and his wife Amitha aunty was of great help during our trip. She accompanied us everyday and was our guide literally. Amitha aunty had burned midnight oil to make snacks for our outing everyday. We visited the Mysore palace, Chamundeswari temple on the hills, Lalit Mahal palace hotel, museum, rail museum etc., in the city. It was possible to see the coaches that had been used by the erstwhile Maharaja of Mysore Jayachamaraja Wodeyar. Father spoke about the sufferings that had the ruler had undergone post independence. He told us that the word of Sardar Patel had been conveniently ignored by the people who had ruled our country later. A day was spent to visit Srirangapatnam and Melkottai. I can remember our visit to the lovely summer palace of Tipu Sultan, the tiger of Mysore. We went to the Ranganathar temple and were told that there are quite a few deities like him on a few islands of the Cauvery river. The visit to Melkottai was memorable and we simply loved the puliyodhare in the small town. The great Saint Ramanujacharya had spent a lot of time in Melkote. A short climb took us to the Narasimha shrine on the hill and my dad was pleasantly surprised for getting identified as the grandson of his maternal grandfather, the scholarly Setty S.N.Padmanabha Chetty of Salem.
Those were times when I used to scribble on pieces of paper or old unused diaries. I had carried an old unused diary belonging to the pre independence period in order to facilitate my scribbling. Subramaniam mama suggested that I note down the happenings in that little diary every night and I followed his advice. This became my first chronicle. I used to sit down on the hotel desk in the room and write down every small detail connected with the day. Wake up time, breakfast details, places of visit and the stories connected with them were put down on paper. We visited the famous Talakad Kshethram Shiva temples. The place was sandy and resembled a beach. It had been the capital of the Ganga rulers who had once controlled Coimbatore. We visited Sivasamudram and Somnathpur too. The lovely Venu gopala temple was said to be similar to the Belur Chennakesava temple. Daddy told us that this visit ensured that our experience was enriched. All of us ate the Mysore masala dosa and also visited Cauvery Handicrafts. Amitha aunty told us that it was like Poompuhar in Tamilnadu. I came to know later that every state had its own – Lepakshi was for Andhra, Mrignayani for Madhya Pradesh and so on. I remember visiting a complex housing several state handicraft corporations many years later with my childhood friend Santossh while on a trip to Bengaluru.
Srinivas uncle and Amitha aunty’s son Shiva was about 3 years old during our trip and he used to be adorable. Shiva used to recite a song on Mysore very well those days. We took leave of my uncle and his family in order to move to Mangalore on the coast of the Arabian Sea. Enroute we visited Thala Cauvery and saw the simple beginnings of the great river which nourishes South India. My parents did a pooja at Thala Cauvery. Subramaniam mama told us that the famous Sivaji Ganesan, Manjula starrer Doctor Shiva had been shot in the same location and that it was for the super hit song ‘Malare Kurinji Malare’. Subramaniam mama was a movie distributor and we used to watch movie previews in Chennai because of his influence.
Moti Mahal was our ‘hospitality partner’ in Mangalore and we liked the hotel a lot. We visited the Dharmasthala Manjunatha temple, Subramanya temple, Sringeri Sharadha temple, Udupi Krishna temple, Kattil Durga Parameswari temple during our visit. My grandmother had told me that the Subramanya temple area was infested with a lot of snakes. They had been held sacred in our culture and tradition. We saw the sunset at Agumbe. Mummy spoke about the Kollur Mookambika temple but we did not visit the shrine during our trip. It took place several years later in the company of my Siruthuli friends Barathan Srinivasan, Sathish and Suchindran during the August of 2004.
The ancient Udupi Krishna temple was full of cows and the shrine was lovely. Saint Madhwacharya had been associated with the temple. We had to halt for a few hours in Sringeri for it was the lunch break for the temple. Saint Adi Sankara had established the Sankara Mutt at Sringeri. My brother Suresh and myself were enthralled with the calm atmosphere at the Sringeri Mutt. The fish and the wooden bridge which used to take people to the residence of the Sankaracharya were quite interesting. We had a nice darshan of Goddess Sharadha. Our family had been devotees of Goddess Sharadha and many years later, we named our new house as ‘Sharadha’. We ate the food offered at the Dharmasthala temple and it was very tasty. I am told that the ‘Akshaya Patra’ programme of ISKCON had studied the work and kitchen of this temple. We saw the rivers Nethravathi, Tunga, Bhadra, Kumaradhara, Cauvery and a few others during our trip. We were reminded of our geography class in school at that time, But were surprised to see that much of our history, culture and other things had been left out in the text books. We enjoyed the weather, flowers, fruits, forests, animals and the ghat section. Daddy and Subramaniam mama kept us entertained with stories connected to their visits to a number of places.
Subramaniam mama wanted Suresh and myself to predict our half yearly exam scores while relaxing in our room at Moti Mahal. Both of us gave him the list of marks expected by us. Subramaniam mama took a bet with us then and there. I was to get Rs.50 and my brother Rs.10 if we could beat our own expectations. Both of us won the bet and he fulfilled his promise. We returned via Calicut by our car and halted at Hotel Maharani on the New year Eve. The place was quite busy and we came to know that the hotel was going to witness a cabaret performance.
All of use went to bed that night and our New Year had dawned in Calicut that year. We got a glimpse of the dancer the next day. It was time to go back home and we began our drive to Coimbatore on the first of January 1980.
The school was to open the next day. Meanwhile I had made sure that that I was able to note down everything to the minutest of detail.
I am not able to trace the old diary. However, my happy experiences have enabled me to recall our memorable trip to Mysore and Mangalore.
—Rajesh Govindarajulu

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