Journey through the past
N J Ravi Chander
A recent visit to my favourite childhood haunt, the Bengaluru East Ground in Fraser Town, to witness a tennis ball cricket tournament rekindled memories. The ground skirting the East Railway Station is a popular venue for football and tennis ball cricket tournaments and my siblings, and I spent a lot of time dabbling in cricket, hockey or kite flying.
Honing our hockey skills on this very ground enabled my maternal uncles, siblings and me to represent our organisations in the sport with a fair degree of competence. A game of marbles was one of our favourite pastimes, and we became adept at hitting the “bulls-eye”.
I recall my younger sibling, Prasanna Kumar and I setting off with a couple of marbles and returning home with pockets bursting at the seams only to see the father throw them into the conservancy lane with nary a care our efforts.
We also gambled our money in volleyball contests played across a football goalpost. My younger siblings would force me to share the winnings equally or face the elders’ ire should the beans be spilt.
Plays from the epics staged here on festive occasions drew a full house, and street performers would strut their stuff here for peanuts. I had my share of creepy moments while playing, like discovering severed human torsos lying on the rail track and ducks meant for the pot being brutally battered to death on the stone benches in the playfield by wandering tribal’s. However, the below incident was mind-boggling.
In early February 1969, the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, C N Annadurai, popularly called Anna, passed away. The Tamil community that lived in the Bengaluru Cantonment received the news with disbelief, shock and grief. Thousands made a beeline to Chennai to pay their respects to the departed leader. Chaos, commotion, and confusion reigned supreme as people thronged the platform and got into every train that stopped at the station.
Passengers crammed the railway bogies like a can of sardines as commuters fell head over heels to grab every inch of space. People who failed to get inside clambered onto the roof and made the journey clinging precariously onto the train. Garlanded portraits of the deceased Tamil Nadu leader also sprung up in the street corners of the city. For this writer, a mere 10-year-old then, this was an extraordinary sight that will remain etched in the memory forever.
(The author is a former banker who has taken up writing as a pastime. He writes for the Deccan Herald, The New Indian Express, The Tribune, The Hitavada, The City Tab, Bangalore Mirror, The Hans India and Kashmir Vision)