The Legend of ‘Chappal Day’

For the safety and security of all except me, I have changed the names wherever necessary. Any resemblance to known people could be intentional.

I used to hate the word ‘chappal’ but this has changed with reminiscences of the day where we boys became men through this ubiquitous piece of footwear. The all boys Jesuit run school we were in had a super strict dress code. Besides the obligatory navy blue shorts and white button down shirt there was a further strict rider – no chappals, only shoes and socks. And being a high school student meant our class was expected to set an example to all those we hazed when the teachers looked away. Considering all this we still managed to look like a mauled bunch in some African safari by the time the day ended.chappal

Now our teachers had some quirks. There was one who coudnt stand boys who sweat in class. You were immediately puled up and made to sit down on the ground before the blackboard if this ever happened. And god-forbid you had an afternoon class in the Mangalorean heat. You had to make sure not a drop of sweat came down your brow.
Now as we were completing our 10th standard (we had just finished our mock final exams for which I definitely did not study) we had a few classes left before hitting the SSLC final exams. We were made to know that this was a do-or-die exam that would define our future. Who knew from then on we would be told that every exam was a life defining point. Now as our classes concluded, we decided to do something that would make us stand out and remember our days in high school. Oh boy! How memorable we made it that we even talk about it today on the WhatsApp class group.

Was it a good old school hall send-off with speeches and all – No. Was it a felicitation of performers followed by distribution of sweets and Thums Up – Nope. Was it prayer followed by song and dance for our teachers and juniors – No No No. A good classical send-off it was not. We ended up with Chappal Day.

I still have no clue as to who started this thing, though my suspicions surround our last benches as the originators. Every trip to the principals office was facilitated by the last bench (I was an integral part of this througout, though I managed to escape trips to the office at the expense of others).

Our class teacher was Achal Sir, a genial Kannada teacher who went on the rampage if anyone disturbed his class. “Hey pattinga” and the duster flew towards you if you ever whispered sweet nothings to the Debonair magazine centerfold on your lap as Pampa and Ranna were explained from the dog eared textbook on your desk. This combined with the fact that Achal Sir was a career NCC man made the subsequent whackings something to remember. But he was an extremely sporty guy who knew that high school boys need to let off steam from time to time. Now, I dont know why chappals were selected as a send off motif. Maybe it was the antithesis to the strict dress regimen we had, or the need to needle some of our teachers who let a holier than thou approach pin us all year long. Well, whatever it was we just decided that we would come one Monday (which also happened to be the last day of class before the revision holidays) dressed in our best whites and well pressed navy blue shorts, but with chappals. Further, we also got a buy in from Achal Sir to go ahead with this. In not so many words he said OK. Basically as he was finishing class on Friday, we slipped in the fact that Monday would be Chappal day. He ‘Hmm’ed and that was good enough for us.

Monday came up and we trooped in to the morning Assembly in our finest chappals. Bata, Paragon, Action, Premier, and every Market Road brand were on show as we went through the Assembly without a hitch. Some teachers were looking at us weirdly, knowing something was amiss. The first class of the day was Mathematics. Now, we had Michael Sir or Mickey as we all called him – a nervous, twitchy sort who came in with a martyred look like St. Stephen about to be stoned. His wailing explanation of Acute, Obtuse and all sorts of angles that you might as well learn from the Kamasutra, made it the most boring lecture of the day.

As soon as Michael Sir entered he saw the words “Happy Chappal Day” chalked on the blackboard with some cheap flowery motifs around it in purple and green – the only other chalk colours that were available. This was the work of Edmund (last but one bench, even then the usual suspect). Mickey looked up and we saw his face going red as hell. Oh Oh, someone’s gonna get hurt real bad. He stood quietly on the platform for sometime, possibly trying to get his BP down. For once we were thankful that his goody-two-shoes boys in the second bench were in his face to soften his anger. These choir boys were tall guys who couldnt make it to the first bench but were good enough for a second row.

And so the class began, with an obviously still simmering Mickey explaining for one last time the intricacies of algebraic equations and summarizing chapter after chapter. During the class a bit of chappal football took place. With the boys removing their chappals and trying various positions with their shoe-free feet for the first time, others took advantage and began playing footsy with the slippers. And that’s how Praful’s chappals ended up under the lecture platform, having started its journey from the last bench. All this while Michael Sir knew something was afoot. He droned on while suspiciously looking around – like a meer cat checking out the landscape.

And so the class ended as the old electric bell rang. Michael Sir collected his books and register and began his walk down the platform. He hadn’t even wished us the best of luck for our exams. It was at exactly this point that Edmund decided he needed to add to his artwork on the board. He sat on the last but one bench, right in front of us, and gave a rapid clap under the desk. Now a clap spreads like a Mexican wave and in this case the whole class took this as a cue to give one thunderous clapping farewell to Mickey. I am sure the whole school heard us and thought it was an appreciative send-off to a teacher from one of the 10th standard classes. If only they knew. Mickey turned around immediately snarling, “who was that idiot who clapped. I want that fellow to come to the staff room within the next 10 minutes.” As if we would give up one of our own! But then we have our holier than thou souls.

And so it happened, after Mickey walked out, we had Achal Sir come in for the Kannada class. And surprise, surpise, our class teacher had on a pair of black slippers. He had given up his shiny shoes to ensure that he joined us for our last class givng in to our quirky request. The class began with all of us forgetting about Mickey and his scowling brow, to an excited chatter. “Shssssh” was the first thing that Achal Sir said and the class fell silent. One thing Sir would not tolerate was insubordination. Just because he acquiesced to our request didn’t mean he was going to let us off the hook. The class respectfully fell silent and the final Kannada lesson began.

Fifteen minutes into the lesson our class had a visitor. No, it was not a crow roaming the verandah searching for scraps of cookies that someone threw out of the classroom when the teacher spotted them. It was our principal Fr. Savio. He walked in with a genial look on his face like he had come to wish and bless us all for the final exams. Boy, were we wrong! The first thing that caught Fr. Savio’s eye were the slippers worn by Achal Sir. This was an obvious anomaly considering that fact that no one had ever seen Sir without shoes. The principal then moved his eyes to us scanning every John Johnny Janardhan and it was obvious he got the drift of what was happening. “All those who have worn shoes please come out”. A couple of guys who missed the boat when the message had gone out about Chappal day and a few other Judas’s made their way to the podium. We counted four. And then we heard a shuffling from one of the last benches. Peter (or Pedro as we all called him) was half standing and slipping on some shoes. He had worn shoes to class and had changed into slippers later. He was now trying out the goody two shoes act and make it up front.

Post this hungama we escaped the wrath of the principal. Call it providence or the SSLC exams round the corner, it died an immediate death. Maybe our class teacher had something to do with that, I don’t know. However this event is still talked about in our WhatsApp groups and was brought up during one of the conversations. I need to chronicle this event cause it really signified what our class was all about. A rowdy bunch with the coal and steam to make it in life. We continue in that vein, though operating under the radar.

Green fingers

I would attribute the above title solely to my parents. Landing late last night in Mangalore, I noticed a new layer of grass adjacent to our front verandah. As I got out of the vehicle the lights were shining down on a neatly trimmed lawn that I came to know later was a type of Mexican grass. It did stand out beautifully and I couldn’t help but make a rare comment on the green addition to our house to the delight of my mom.

Lawns definitely add to the soothing atmosphere of a home and along with this I have seen cherry trees and palm trees provide the right amount of shade and beauty to a yard. My parents green fingers may not have completely been bequeathed to me, but I do take pleasure in doing my bit of gardening whenever I can. While watering the yard this morning I noticed the phenomenal growth of the plantain tree that has already yielded a bunch. Constant manuring in the form of vegetable and fruit compost and plenty of water have helped this tree develop rapidly and no sooner did the first bunch get plucked and you had the next set popping out of the pods.

The coconut trees have benefited from this form of irrigation and manuring too.Additionally the falling coconut and plantain leaves act as a protective cover for the manure for it to fertilize the soil.

Next in line is a pomegranate plant that was given to my Dad by one of his patients. This plant is all set to join our garden and we are now in the process of identifying space for this. Would it be good next to the plantain tree or the Tulsi plant. A conundrum for now.

Another time… same place

I love nostalgia. The past is always strong, but the smiles and frowns it brings about do play out a deeper meaning of who we are today. So when I was asked to clean out the top cupboards in my bedroom in Mangalore this weekend, I gladly complied, cause everytime I do some spring cleaning (summer in this case) I end up setting aside some time to pour through some papers/documents/photos from the past that do fascinate me. For god’s sake, I did want to be a history teacher at one point in time 🙂

Anyway, I stumbled upon a stack of albums from my younger days and it was fun going through the lot. What I got from them – I was a brat as a kid, yes it brought back some very bratty memories, we cousins got together more often than today and had FUN, I loved every moment of my childhood except studies… and there are times I still do slink into that mode. While it feels good to be all grown up and doing grown up things, reliving my childhood always brings a smile to my face. I was not indulged, mind it, maybe a little bit, but hey I was disciplined enough not to turn into a serial killer.

Here are some of the snapshots of what I found in the top cupboard of my bedroom on May 19.

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Grandma and us cousins – L-R Mikey, my sis Veena, Mai (Grandma) holding our youngest cousin (at that time) Kenny, Karina and me. This was when the gang was down for the holidays from Florida and the photo was taken in Grandma’s home in Mangalore.

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Mai used to love watching Chitrahaar and Ramayan. These were her two loves on television. In fact till her last days she used to read a copy of the Ramayan along with her Bible. She used to encourage us to watch the serial too and we used to diligently follow her and sit with her.

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The Fernandes sisters 1988 – Mum and her younger sisters were called the Fernandes (their maiden name) sisters in Mangalore even after they got married. Here they are in Chicago, L-R – Gemma, Jovita and mum. The kid is Karina (Gemma’s daughter). This was taken when Grandpa passed away in Chicago and Mum had to travel there to help with formalities. Grandma was in shock and a year later we remember we being in shock when Grandma was diagnosed with Cancer.

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All the animals in the zoo – That’s us cousins again in the early 90s, It was always a noisy bunch of cousins that landed in Grandma’s place and drove her crazy. It’s been a while since we cousins got together like this.

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I love cars – Coming from someone who still doesn’t have his own four-wheeler, I used to love vrooming on Dad’s lap in his Beetle in Ketu, Nigeria. I remember identifying car brands as a kid and being indulged with all the latest Matchbox wheelers (including a sixteen wheeler). Thank you Dad! I still treasure those toys.

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Dad and me – I love this photo. This was taken on the steps of our estate bungalow in Mallandur, Chikmagalur. I remember Dad holding my hand and taking me through the estate paths and Mum warning him repeatedly to be careful as there were snakes and critters. Dad loved the outdoors (he still does) and instilled in me a love for nature and adventure that I still hold on to.

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Cousin Sonoo and me – We were both brats, no one would say that if they met us today 🙂 This was taken at my paternal Grandmom’s place in Mangalore when Sona Lisa Bose was down for the holidays from London.

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At Bon-Rose (paternal Grandparents place) – Seated L-R Aunty Hazel, Mum, uncle Gerard, Uncle Donny (both the uncles from Mumbai). Uncle Donny used to study in manipal Medical College and come down for the weekends. Standing (L-R) Cousins Shaun, Sonoo, Sharon and me

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Brat written all over – I was one, climbed all sorts of heights, sat on the bonnet of the car and got shooed by the driver’s, the driver used to complain to grandma about me all the time for loitering around the car and then sitting in the drivers seat and honking and fiddling with the switches and dials. There was even a time when everyone thought there was a rat nibbling on the car upholstery and in the end they found out who did it!

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Veena and Aunty Berna – A beautiful and happy picture if there was any. As a kid, my little sister Veena used to love hiding in corners. When Aunty Berna came down, Veena graduated to suitcases. She began hiding her small self among the clothes in the suitcase. It was cute and even cuter was Aunty Berna carrying Veena in her large shopping canvas bag around the house. Veena loved it!

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Aunty Jovita and Uncle Francis’ wedding in Philly – This was taken in 1986. You have Mom and her sisters, their husbands, moms brother and grandpa. Grandma never came for the wedding as she had a deep rooted fear of flying. Grandpa was the opposite – a real high flyer. i don’t think there is a country in the world he did not cover…ok that’s exaggerating, but he did cover quite a bit of the United Nations list.

Epilogue: Going through these images from the past, I realise how fortunate I am to have a family that lived life to the fullest and still does so. We may be at different corners of the globe, but the love and affection we share can never be taken away. There will be disagreements, hard days, silence at times, but in the end we always come together as one to celebrate and have fun. I love my family and all the characters that make up this large group where each individual retains her/his exclusiveness. Thank you for imbibing the best in me. The rest, I will figure out and learn.

The Gurudwara in Mannagudda

Mangalore’s only Gurudwara for the miniscule Sikh community moved to the outskirts of the city today. The community had been using a rented house as a Gurudwara in our area and it was the first symbolic representation of the community in Mangalore. An elegant and softer addition to our area, it was with a touch of sadness that we saw them move out today. When you get used to the presence of something culturally significant it always leaves a void when it moves on. Here are a few snaps from the final farewell to the Sikh community in our area. All the best to them wherever they may go…

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(The photographs featured in this post are the sole property of the author of this blog)

Yawnnnnn… and more yawnnnnssss

I am bored. Bored of everything around me. The World Cup was supposed to be a ray of hope in this boring life, but two days and 5 matches later… yawn. Maybe Maradona‘s antics at the sidelines were the only saving grace so far. Hope Brazil live up to some football with flair.

I am in Mangalore for the weekend and the weather is simply lovely. I love the first rains – they are an inconvenience agreed, but the first rains with the slight chill and the coastal breeze does make for a pretty scene especially with the cocnut trees waving in the wind and the semi-dark clouds that bring in a Middle Earth sort of feel in the monsoons. The last couple of days saw sporadic showers that have settled down this Sunday evening as I type out this post out of boredom.

Me and the folks are planning to go to the beach. Its been some time since I have been over there. Looking forward to this. The beach is at its best during the first rains.

Exploring Panambur

On my last trip to Mangalore I decided to make it a point to visit Panambur Beach. Caught up with Vishal, a Manipal classmate, who promised show me areas in Panambur I had never seen before. We first went to the old beach near the NMPT colony and surprise, surprise there was a parking fee, that too 15 bucks which is pretty steep by Mangalore standards. The ticket said that this went to the beach beautification fund, but from where we looked we just saw a sea of people throwing empty charmuri and chip packets all over the place. They had begun some water sports over by the beach and beautification definitely seemed to be far from everyones minds.

Averse to crowds, we took a diversion from the beach towards the rocks. On the way we spotted a couple of peacocks roaming around in the middle of the road. I tried to get them on my camera phone, but they were too quick.

From the Panambur rocks you have a clear view of the harbour with ships entering and exiting the port. When I had been year a few years back, a trail of broken bottles and garbage littered this part of the beach. For now, people seemed to be too bothered about the water sports to bother coming over here. Guess this was the only way to beautify places. Make people discover some other area to pollute to leave you in peace and cleanliness.

I was also taken to the NMPT colony, an area where Vishal relived his childhood memories. I was going right in for the first time in years. The last time I was in the NMPT school was as a kid in 5th standard when I attended an elocution competition on Jawaharlal Nehru. The colony is beautiful during the night and is one of the best planned layouts in Mangalore. Though some of the houses seem dilapidated, there seem efforts to upgrade these quarters.

Mangalore, I miss you.