‘Where you grew up becomes a big part of who you are for the rest of your life. You can’t run away from that. Well, sometimes the running away from it is what makes you who you are.” – Helen Mirren (actor)
HAL (Vimanapura), the heartbeat of India’s aircraft industry is where my husband Srivathsa lived all of his childhood and school-college years. And life for the family revolved around HAL Hospital where his father Dr Nagarajan worked. This week, we took our sons for a walk down the streets of HAL Colony.
In the old days, there was a daily commuter train service to HAL. There was no road median and the track ran right next to the road (where the blue-roofed shelter stands in the pic above). Train speeds were low and the level crossing into the hospital was unmanned. Once, our relative Vasanth Joshi’s car stalled right on the track, but the steam locomotive couldn’t stop and rammed right into the car. The Herald was smashed and Vasanth was lucky to have been able to jump out in time.
Even after the train was discontinued, the tracks remained for several years. Now, for the most part, this train line has been made into a park with a walking track.
The first quarters Dr Nagarajan lived at was M6. In less than a year he moved to M11 that had 24 hours water, attached toilet and enclosed veranda, where his mother joined him (in 1964), and then his young bride Leela came to live here. The family moved houses twice more in the 30-odd years of living at HAL. Srivathsa was born while living at MD9 and the last house they stayed at was MD1.
MD9 (and MD8) no longer exists as it was demolished and the space was taken by HAL School (just as well… it was full of ghosts “they” used to say), but we saw MD1 from the outside. MD = Medical Department, but it seems the house now has a non-medical occupant.
The house was three-bedroomed with helper’s quarters, and had bigger rooms than MD9. My mother-in-law recalls that the kitchen (where she spent a lot of her time) was so conveniently located that she could see everyone who entered the gate. Also, the milkman would deliver the milk right into the kitchen through the window.
One of the most gruesome memories of the road is the murder that took place at Sr Devdutta’s house. The domestic help was strangled and the three children Monica, Jessica and Rebecca were tied up while the thieves burgled the house. The children of the neighbourhood were all geared up to solve the case like Sherlock Holmes but were shooed away by the police.
Another terrible incident was the suicide of domestic help Sarla of Dr Manwani at MD8. No one knows why she set herself on fire at night, but it was concluded that this was one of the reasons for the ghosts in the area.
HAL Primary School was Srivathsa’s first school, 1974-1975. He used to just climb over the wall of MD9 to enter the school. It is now called HAL Public School, a full-fledged CBSE School till Std 12, for HAL employees’ children.
The FC and FD houses where many friends lived were on different roads. Don’t know what FC and FD stood for, but FD houses were the bigger of the two.
FC5-FC8 was one building, next to MD9. The Bapats (Priya, Reena) lived at FC7 with a blue Fiat car, and the Sandhus (Bubbly, Lovely, Sweety) at FC8. Bapats later moved to MD9.
One memory of the building is that of a cobra that they’d seen slither into the gap below the front gate pavement slabs. The local snake catcher was called to catch it.
Another memory is of the day Srivathsa and his sister Anu went to Sandhus’ house, and found the door locked. Instead of walking down the stairs, Anu decided to slide down the cement banister and came crashing down. Both sat injured and crying.
Vasanth recalls the time Sandhu uncle bought a 5-inch B&W portable television from Singapore. A big gang would crowd around it to watch cricket, Chitrahaar and movies on Doordarshan, while Sandhu aunty prepared hot parathas.
There were only four FD houses. The Dhingras (Amit, Kuky) were at FD4 upstairs, and the Sandhus moved downstairs to FD2 from FC8. Madhav Rao family (Rama, Uma, Bharathi) were at FD1 and Pillais (Raji, Vishwam, Suba, Babu) at FD3 above them.
When the Dhingras moved out, the Sharmas (Vidhi, Rituraj and Vineet) occupied FD4, when the Sandhus left Bangalore, the Pillais moved down, and when Madhav Rao left, the Jankiraman family (Kalyan) moved in.
Whoa! Can’t believe we’ve kept track of move-ins and move-outs, but it’s nice to recall all the old neighbours.
The Joshis, Vasanth and Meera, lived at FC3. Anu recalls that little Rohan would be at the balcony facing the main road, waving to the other children. Venkat lived at FC1 and he finally married Vidhi.
Unlike earlier days, the entire colony (now called Tejas Enclave) is bounded by granite walls and guarded gates.
Large trees, many of them probably close to 100 years, would be doing well to keep out the heat and pollution. The main road has a nice footpath but it was surprising to see a lot of rubbish thrown in several places in a defence-related colony – it needs a good clean-up. And if the houses are given a coat of paint, the colony will start looking as good as it used to in the days gone by.
Written with inputs from Srivathsa, Anu, Dr Nagarajan, Leela Nagarajan, Vasanth, Krishnaswamy
Pictures taken on 5th November 2018