Most of my youth was spent at Hartland — the home of the Baskarans. Sadly it is no more as we sold the house to a real estate agent who demolished it and built a 4 story complex.I lived at Hartland from the early or mid’50s till I moved to B’lore to join ITI in early ’72.We sold the house in the mid ’90s. The home where our hearts resided is no more .
Many memories come fleeting by. The highly competitive rubber ball cricket matches on the cemented 15 yd courtyard where hand eye coordination and a short back lift were essential,the ashoka trees which I loved to climb on to read or study,learning to ride a cycle in the confines of the court yard by myself with no assistance,our friendly neighbours, the parties which mom & dad threw,where Kaka was the critical support cook who made excellent biryanis, the home coming of the entire family for Christmas and New Year’s eve,the fun New Year’s get togethers with cakes , and coffee from the stately coffee making machine…… and the list goes on.Those were treasured moments.
Royapuram and the lane that ran past our house,West Mada Church Street,changed very much over the years .It was,then,a very liveable and cosmopolitan hamlet.Traffic was minimal,the Parsi Club was just opposite the road where the Parsis often met for their functions and where we played the more conventional cricket,the Parsi Fire temple was just down the road, the Church where we used to watch 16 mm movies on Sunday evenings was down the road a short distance from the Fire Temple,we had St Kevin’s school also just down the road…. the hamlet if I can call it so had a mix of Anglo Indians, Parsis ,Rajasthanies,Malayalees and several large Muslim households.We also had a small but wonderful beach which was a social meeting point in the evenings and inevitably a meeting point for young couples.The Kunhiraman’s stores,the corner shop,was another popular meeting point where young people would park their bikes and eat ice cream. It was a wonderful melting pot of various cultures and religions and every one co existed beautifully.There was never any problem of race or religion of any kind.
Royapuram is not the same any more.The beach was taken over by the Port Trust authorities and the harbour was extended, most of the Anglo Indians migrated to England and Australia. Most of us like me,found jobs outside Madras or Chennai as it is now called and moved away. Royapuram became a staging point for freight operators who bought up the old houses demolished them and converted them into godowns. The hamlet .. and it can no longer be called that,now was full of lorries.Lorry traffic was also high and the road that ran past our house now buzzes with lorry and bus traffic.Sad how such a wonderful little hamlet should be so polluted and spoilt.
We had a wondeful set of neighbours, the Georges,the Mehtas ,the Vishwanathans,the Byramshaws , the Chunnilals were the most immediate ones but we also had several families living within the confines of the Damodhar Envelope factory next to Hartland which was run by the Chunnilals who were also part of our cricket circle.Most of the boys in Royapuram went to St Mary’s to study while the girls studied at St Kevin’s or St Columban’s just next to St.Mary’s.I am sure that the unique culture and ethos of Royapuram was largely driven by the value system that St Mary’s ingrained in all of us.
It has been more than a decade since I visited Royapuram. I will,though I may come away most disturbed.The old memories would come racing back and I would relive those old times in my mind.
There is a poem I like very much that remind me of those times.Let see how much of it I can remember ;
Oft in the stilly night ere slumbers chains have bound me
Fond memories bring the light of other days around me
The tears the joys of boyhood days the words of love once spoken
The eyes that shone now dimmed and gone, the cheerful hearts now broken
When I remember all the friends so linked together
I have seen around me fall like leaves in wintry weather
I feel like one who threads some banquet hall deserted
Whose lights have fled whose garlands dead and all but he departed
Thus in the stilly night ere slumbers chains have bound me
Sad memories bring the light of other days around me.