MY LIFE – TRAINING IN BOMBAY

In March 1960 , R.B. Shukla and myself were called to attend training for six months at Bombay. We started together, after giving away things like bucket, stove, charpoy etc. to those who needed it.

En route, at Surat we broke journey and went to Shukla’s home at Bardoli, famous for satyagraha during freedom movement. I was surprised by the extensive banana plantations, the Kerala variety, the bananas being exported to Europe, in special air conditioned ships owned by farmer’s co-operative societies. His parents and a tall, slim, fair siste,hardly fifteen, welcomed us and I felt quite comfortable in their midst.

A bucketful of water was placed in the hall and I was told to take bath. I did not know how to do it in the presence of all. Then I removed my cloths, covering nakedness with the bath towel, and poured water over the head and wiped the body with another towel. Only, I used minimum quantity of water.

During the meal, his mother put rice in the plantain leaf, spread on the floor, with her hands,which I did not like, but kept mum. Inevitably there was plantain dish, like our own in Keralam.

 His sister wanted to talk to me but didn’t know any language except Gujarati! In the evening we left for Bombay.

In Bombay, I stayed in a hotel at Dadar, where I, earlier used to roam about aimlessly, thoroughly dejected, but not desperate, hope still kept alive in my heart. I am an incorrigible optimist!

 Now I felt secure. I sent money every month to my mother. She was happy as never before!

In the office at Churchgate station building, overlooking the cricket stadium, everything seemed posh. The Bharat Caffe, just near the building, offered Udupi food, very cheap and delicious. Mirchandani and Nambeesan were also there for training. We have just to be there; no examination at the end of the training. I read THE INTRODUCTION TO INDIAN AUDIT AND ACCOUNTS, RAILWAY AUDIT MANUAL, CHIEF AUDTOR’S OFFICE MANUAL (given to all free of cost) etc.

There was a strike by railway men. It was rumoured that George Fernandes would picket the train at Dadar. Mirchandani and myself went and stood on the foot overbridge. There were policemen every where. Suddenly, Fernandes came from nowhere and threw himself on the track, to be picked up by the police instantly! A lathi charge followed and we escaped immediately.

We have to pass a cofirmatory examination at the end of the first year. I did not know how to make a Travelling Allowance bill. Even after some one gave me a scrap of paper showing the details, I was fumbling. Then he dictated to me.

On passing the exam., my basic pay was raised from Rs. 80 to 100, (before pay revision).

At the end of the training, we were asked to give our choice for posting. I mentioned Jaipur.

 

SWEET DREAM

I was walking in my village. It was about eight in the evening. The whole place was flooded by moon light, almost ethereal in its intensity. I felt intoxicated . Suddenly, the realisation came that I was alone, yet I did not feel any fear. Just an uneasiness! When I came near the river, the village temple and the huge peepal tree came in view. Now I was really afraid. There was none in the vicinity. I started running and fell down…. SUDDENLY I WOKE UP.

WATER LEVEL OF THE OCEANS

The water level in the great oceans of the world have been fluctuating over long periods, during the past several millions of years.

It is agreed by all, that the two worlds, old and new, were once connected by land, when movement of men and animals from one world to the other was possible. The Berring sea area was once dry. Similarly, Dwaraka of mythological Krishna was land; now it is under water. There is reason to believe that Shreelanka and Tamilnadu were interconnected, once upon a time. Almost all people have floods in their mythology.

The READERS DIGEST ATLAS speaks of the Pacific Ocean shrinking in size, whereas the global warm mongers predict the submergence of vast areas of the sea coasts around the world, unless we do something about carbon dioxide emission, as though forest fires raging over several parts of the world, from time imemmorial, had no role in global warming, if at all it is true.

The crust of the earth, supporting the oceans, is neither static as a steel bucket nor hard as we imagine. The very weight of the mass of water, continuously presses down the ocean bed; and the steam pressure underneath the oceans causes upward thrusts, making the earth’s crust pulsate like our heart !

The mass of the Pacific Ocean is almost equal to that of the moon. It will surely press down the crust, increasing its depth. Naturally water level will go down. As the volume of the “clay “ with which the earth is made is constant, there is bound to be some corresponding change in the contour on the opposite side. We can observe this in the Asia continent, where the land mass, including the Himalaya mountains, is continuously rising up and up. It is not the land mass alone that is rising. The entire crust is bulging out, even as the CRUST BELOW the Pacific ocean is pressed down, as explained above.

This is one reason for Dwaraka and the Palk strait going under the sea.

A matter not receiving proper attention, is the role of the two man made canals, connecting oceans, namely the Panama canal and the Suez canal. This is something beyond my capacity to examine. Experts can look into this aspect.

I WORKED AS A CHEMIST

 At that time I bought a book and started preparing for the assistants grade exam., as it is known, for recruitment to central secretariat. There is no interview. Those who qualify, on the basis of written examination, are just given appointment order. That is something I could aspire for.

There was recruitment of U.D.C.s in both Central and Western railway audit offices. I appeared for interview in both offices.

At the instance of some friend, I approached Bharat Pulverisation Mill, a company making DDT. Talcum was being ground to make fine powder, hence its name. I got appointment as chemist and joined on 1.12.1958, lifting a great load off my mind. Now, I am independent.

One Chatterjee was my senior and I did what was told by him. He too was studyinng for asstt. grade exam. He was handsome and very jolly. I had the habit of just making the sound um, instead of saying yes. C. told me to speak, instead of making the sound of a bird. He was weak in theory and asked me to write up notes for all tests we were doing, mainly to find the density of powdered talcum. He sometimes asked for mony, which he never returned, I think to entertain his girl friend.

They wanted me to work in the factory just to supervise the workers, but this was difficult as I did not know Marathi.

Every thing went well until I caught chicken pox infection in early Feb. 1959. I went and was admitted in the same Arthur road hospital as my friend Palur.

I was given a bed in the veranda as the rooms were full. We were told to take bath every day, even if there is fever. A small packet of potassium permanganate was given for putting in the warm water in the bucket. This water is poured over the body. That is the bath. It was refreshing.

A group of students and Professor came at my side. He told them that mine is a typical case, with pustules of different growth appearing at the same time, because, unlike in small pox, FISRT ONE SINGLE PUSTULE COMES OUT, followed by another and yet another. In small pox, all comes out simultaneously. This was a useful hint for me.

At the hospital were two blind children who used to sing film songs aloud. They had a sweet voice.

Because we were given vitamins etc., I had good appetite. On the whole, the stay in the hospital was not bad!

On one side of the hospital were the small pox patients, who were brought on wheel chair for daily bath in the same bath room which we use. One day I confronted a serious patient with pustules all over the body. It was very unpleasant to see.

When I came back to the factory, I was shown the door. My ordeal was not over.

For some days I worked in a Gujarati firm at Andheri, where it was very dirty with the place full of buffaloes. The chemist there was not happy with my performance and I left it, without receiving any wages.

At long last, both Guptan and I got orders for joining Bombay Port Trust. My posting was in Stores in a very dirty locality. I went on making indents for various electrical items, in quadruplicate, pencil tip breaking every now and then! I managed for some two weeks, when I got posting order from Western Railway Chief Auditor. I just went away without waiting for salary for the days I worked. Of course, I told the foreman, who wished me a good future!

WORLI

The railway platform was full of people and coolies. A boy came to me and offered to carry my small luggage. I told him WORLI. He agreed to put me in the proper bus; I knew nothing about it. We came out of the railway station and walked towards the road. When he stopped, I too stopped.A bus came and he told me to get in. Before he could hand over my luggage, the bus sped away. The boy followed, gesticulating and shouting. Even though I could not make out anything, I got down at the next stop. The boy too came up and told me that I should be very quick, as the bus does not stop for long.

This time I took the bag in my hand and successfully boarded the bus. As Menon stayed very near to Glaxo Laboratories, there was no difficulty in locating his flat. There was a namboodiri already there, but Menon welcomed me enthusiastically. Afterwards, Guptan also came there to attend the interview at BARC. As we could not get through, both Guptan and I decided to go to Jamshedpur, where our friends would help in getting a break. However, Menon persuaded us to stay on in Bombay, as it offered the best chance for a job. As we were too many, he arranged for our stay at Star of Cochin Hotel, from there I sfifted to a lodge near Menon’s flat, where we, several Keralites (except Guptan), shared the same flat, thus reducing the rent considerably,than the rent of the hotel.

 Daily, I would go through the advertisements in the paper and attend interviews. It became a routine. Many of us came to know of each other.

 I was becoming anxious. V.B.S sent me thirty rupees every month which was just enough. How long?

 In pite of adverse circumstances, I enjoyed the life in Bombay. The sea shore offered the best option for a leisurely walk. There was Tram(a sort of train pulled by electric power) from Dadar T.T. to Bombay V.T, slowly moving along the road, stopping everywhere, charging maximum twenty five paise! It was a boon to the working class.

A friend of Menon had good books in his library. I read the” glimpses of world history” Menon itroduced me to a family. I enjoyed taking the two girls aged, I suppose , some six and four years, to the garden where there was a swing. Once the younger one fell from the swing, causing a bump in her forehead. I felt guilty and miserable.

Once I walked all the way to the southern end of Bombay just to see PATHER PANCHALI, a film by Satyajith Ray. It was quite a thrill to watch something so realistic, though I went on weeping all the while! Another film was MOTHER INDIA. The songs of this film are very sweet even now.

 During this period I met poet Palur, a namboodiri who was working as driver in Y.W.C.A. I used to go to his room and could not believe my eyes, seeing high heeled shoes of ladies there. They must be expert in circus, not to fall, with such pointed heels. Palur was writing his autobiography and he used to read out from his manuscript. I could hardly beieve the stories about some V.I.P. namboodiries, whose driver he was,before coming to Bombay. He was teaching Kathakali to a boy at Bandra, where I went with him once.

He called me urgently one day. He got infected with chicken pox. He didn’t know what to do. I took him to Arthur road hospital where I too took shelter later on.

 At the sea shore I watched the cultivation of methi plants. The sand is made into a bed and the seeds sown. Every day they sprinkle fresh water. It is a joy to see the tender plants growing up. Then they are plucked out and sold in the vegtable market.

GOD’S WAYS

Why do we like some people ?

Even a mother may like some children more than others, why? Why is the evening sky more beautiful than the noon sky?

Why do we love a rainbow? An enchanting landscape? A cute baby?

Poetry is sweet, as is music. Why?

Most of us want some companion, why?

It is God’s way. That is it.

TO BOMBAY

My memory fails to fill the gap between April 1958 and June 1958. There are some fading memories of a room at Pudukad centre,with desks and benches, myself packing SSLC certificate books in a bag to be sent by post, involvement of Bhavadasettan etc., suggesting some sort of tutorial for those who failed, for enabling them to appear in September exam.

Then I applied for recruitment in Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Bombay, for which the qualification was simple B.Sc. with first class. We would get second class fare, to and fro, without producing proof.

In those days, there was first class, second class and third class. Of course, AC was unknown. So I borrowed rupees hundred from Parakunnath Narayanan namboodiri, my mother’s younger sister’s husband, about whom I have to write a lot. He was a gem among namboodiries!

 Withthe help of V.B.S, WHO AGREED TO FINANCE MY STAY IN Bombay, a pair of pants was made and rubber shoes purchased.

Till then I was barefooted.

I met my paternal uncle Vasudevapphan who gave me the address of one V.B.Menon who was living in Bombay. He gave proper directions to get down at Dadar and wished me all success. I knew my weekness, as I had no mathematical background. Somehow, this escaped notice of those issuing call letter, luckily for me.

Alone, I got into the unresrved compartment of Cochin Express going to Madras and got down at Arkonam. In my excitement at seeing new places, I forgot all discomfiture in the jam packed compartment, devouring, wth greedy eyes, every bit of landscape, rivulet, hills and the forest at Valayar, Kanjikode etc. At Arkonam I had some breakfast and waited for the Bombay bound train.

When I saw my fellow travellers heading towards a compartment lying in the yard, I followed them. Some one was demanding Rs. 2 for a seat in it. So I too paid it and got a seat. After a long time it was attached to the train, when a railway official asked whether we had paid any money. We all said NO.

At meal time, they started giving meal tickets. I bought one. When the train stopped at Kadappa, I think, we all rushed to the dining hall of the station restaraunt, where they had already laid plantain leaves with a variety of dishes except rice, which was given after we occupied the chairs. It was a really good meal with ghee, dhal, sambhar,papad etc., very tasty and unlimited quantity of rice as one gets in a motel! As I had only a small bag and a narrow, thin mattress as luggage, I carried the bag with me. Even after we returned to our seats, there was time to spare, before the train resumed the journey.

After the train passed Pune, I saw for the first time, it passing through a series of tunnels. The grandeur of the mountains is awe inspiring! The valleys down below seemed very deep, as if we were travelling through the sky!

We were stuck up at Kalyan, as the track was flooded. The enforced halt continued for hours and we all felt impatient.

 At long last, we reached Dadar Jn.