Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Aa Dinagalu!

“Sir, Very Hearty Congratulations! Now that it is done, we all want sweets from you”


“Sir, You have just become the owner of a fine property. It is no less than finding a beautiful bride for yourself. It is said that getting hennu, honnu and mannu (woman, gold and land) are very significant events in a person’s life and you have just acquired one of them”

“All right then! I will buy all of you sweets”

Saying thus, he searched in his pockets and took out the money. In all, he had just five rupees and twenty five paisa – what treat could he expect to give in such less money? Besides, he still needed to go home by public transport bus with the money left.

The incident took place in 1980 in the vicinity of BDA property Registration office, Devaiah Park, Bangalore. He had just registered a site in the so-called outskirts of the city where no one preferred to go. But he was still happy as he had got a site allocated in the garden city of India- a pleasant place to live in with its peace-loving, friendly people and moderate climate all over the year. Neither the Automobile revolution nor the IT boom had happened then. So you could find few vehicles on the streets and less glass-house offices. More importantly, every street in the city had a dense canopy of trees and every area had big parks where old people could relax, catching up with their cronies and sharing the lighter things of life – earning the city the title of “pensioner’s paradise”.

Coming back to the person in question, he had to now buy sweets for 4 people with the little money he had and manage to get back to his rented room in Hanumanthnagar with whatever he had. ATM s were unheard of then and there were no big, computerized banks offering you all sorts of credit cards that we see these days. He had already agreed to buy them something and could not retreat just like that. They just wanted something – even a chocolate would do … he thought quickly and came up with an idea. He went to the bakery in the ground floor of the office building. He bought 4 honey cakes for 75 paisa each and gave it to each one of them. They relished on it as if it was a feast. Then, he ordered 2 cups of badam milk divided into 4, each worth fifty paisa. So within 4 rupees, he had treated them reasonably well. He then went to the city bus stand in majestic by a BTS bus paying 25 paisa as ticket charges. Finally from there on to Hanumanthnagar paying the remaining one rupee for ticket. He had managed his money extremely well...Over the years, he always remained very careful on money matters and made judicious use of his money, never spending more than what was required. He was indeed, my Dad :-)

Those were his early days in Bangalore. He recollects with so much of enthusiasm all the good things he adored so much - the cool breeze that blew when you roamed near the thousand lakes around the city, the calm and silent walks in the numerous parks around the city in the evenings, the never-too-hot summers and the chilly winters with moderate rain. Even the people in the city were warm, friendly and peace-loving – the enjoyable rides on the BTS buses with very few people fighting for your seat, the one by two coffee along with the tasty masala dosa in Vidyarthi Bhavan with a very close friend, the not-so-hectic 9 to 5 jobs, very little traffic on roads – all these made living in the city a pleasant experience.

Those were the days when even clerks in banks with middle-class incomes could build a house in the city, when people could retire with money in post-offices or banks and manage to lead a happy retired life and never have to do any tax-planning/retirement planning, when they could have all their money in one account and never needed to have PAN cards, when they could just watch a movie in a regular theatre on a weekend and never needed to go the shopping malls and multiplexes and still come out feeling satisfied and happy, when they could go to a hotel any day of the week without having to book for seats earlier and then eat to their heart’s content without needing to pay a four digit bill, when the only people who went to late night pubs and danced were the sons of politicians and film-stars, when smiling auto-drivers returned you exactly 40 rupees and seventy five paisa when you paid them a 50 rupee note.

So much has changed today and it’s for everyone to see. I won’t go into all the differences and compare the good old days with now. I got to know of the old days when I spoke to my dad over dinner this Sunday. So I thought of posting them here. My dad had bought a site in the so-called outskirts of Vijayanagar area. He regrets even to this day that if only he had 10,000 more rupees, we would have our home near Basavangudi. Today, he can afford to get a loan for around 10 lakhs, he can arrange a big party to feed around 100 people much more than the honey cakes that he fed that day, he can even travel in a car to any property office in any area of the city. But he still cannot build a house for himself. No person with a middle-class salary can. And I think that’s what makes the difference between a city where you enjoy living and a city where you can struggle surviving – What do you think?

1. BTS - stands for Banagalore Transport Service, now it has been renamed to BMTC(Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation) and is one of the largest public transport firms.
2. BDA - stands for Bangalore Development Authority.
3. Vidyarthi Bhavan is a old-world hotel in Gandhi Bazaar area of Bangalore. Thankfully, it still exists :-)
4. The title of this post means "Those Days!". Its the name of a very popular, recent, kannada movie.