And dad is on TV again

Over the years, in his position as a senior Psychiatrist, Dad has been called by channels on various related programmes and appeared on state and local TV. This evening, I switched between PV Sindhu’s brilliant Rio semi-final victory and Dad’s interview on a Mangalorean news channel. The live streaming helped and I thought I would chronicle this moment. So here is a screenshot capture of the show that tackled the topic of addiction.

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Mangalore Haunted Stories Episode 1 – The Lane of No Return

(The following is a mixture of fact and fiction… mostly fact)

It was the darkest of nights and the cold rain pounded the pavement… Oh fuck it! Whom am I kidding? Mangalore never has the Arctic darkness nor the chill of the British moors. So here goes.

The Cheshire Home Road near Kankanady now lies in the midst of the hustle and bustle of traffic crossing from Valencia and Jeppu to the Falnir. With cars occupying every inch of tar on the road and beyond there is no way that one would imagine the Cheshire Home to be what it was 30 and more years back. Some say there are remnants from that past. Here is a true tale I have to get off my chest.

1986 was a lonely year. For some reason that year had the most holidays and school was scarce, at least for me. My health too added to my school woes as I missed a lot of classes, but there was hope. Aunt Tina had this membership of a cul-de-sac of a library that had some of the most amazing books on the planet – at least they were amazing for this 9 year-old. Every week, she would religiously take me down to the library. It was just three stops away by bus. The Standard Circulating Library near Vas Bakery was a treasure-house of fables of some of the most popular and exotic authors. I stuck to popular, picking out Tintin and Asterix and the latest Commando comic consignments. We would then pack some meat puffs from Vas Bakery and take the bus back to Valencia. All this in good time.

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Photo Courtesy: Dark Road by Sophia-T

Now it so happened that one evening we were down at the library later than usual and by the time we checked out it was 7 PM. In those days Mangalore shut down by 7 PM, latest 7:30 PM. We hurried down to the bus stop. I clutched my set of comics and had to run to catch up with Aunt Tina. Bus No. 5 was our bus and fortunately we got to the Balmatta bus stop in time to grab one of the last buses down to our part of the city. The evening humid air and the quick run along with the buzzing malarial mosquitoes made it quite a challenge to sit still in the still night air.

No. 5 buses are notorious. One – they are notorious for knocking down all and sundry in their path. Two – they had a reputation for breaking down. Probably some bones or ligaments of those they ran over may have got stuck somewhere between the axle and the brake liners. Whatever it was, they weren’t the most reliable modes of transport in this part of the world. But they happened to be the only one.

As we approached Bendoorwell Circle and Kankanady market, we all heard the first strains of something going wrong in the bus. There were creaks, then jerks, then a shudder till the bus stopped short of Kankanady market. The final shudder made me bump my head against the metal headrest in front of me. Damn! that hurt. The peeved conductor began running around like a headless chicken while people tried to collect back their fare from the stalled bus. Aunt and I slipped off. Our home was around a kilometre from where the bus stalled. It would be hard in this weather, but we could walk back and survive this ordeal.

And so we walked. Walked past the Kankanady post office – a tiny landmark whom the next door hospital authorities were trying to evict as it was their property. We passed the Fr. Muller Hospital – Mangalore’s pride in healthcare and the joint where all those of unsound mind found solace in (I am not being rude, but that was how the hospital was considered in those days). There used to be horror stories coming out of the psychiatric ward there. Tales of possession – incurable even with the most modern methods in the field, clashes between the exorcists and the psychiatrists and tales of blood curdling experiments ran through the Mangalorean grapevine. We never knew what was true, but we sure as hell avoided the hospital except for the inoculations.

The hospital premises was followed by a dark stretch of road with gloomy, leafy trees lying still like crouching giants ready to pounce. And there to the left of this stretch was the Cheshire Home lane. This narrow stretch of road was to the left of the main road. Leonard Cheshire had visited this place some time in the past and the home was a silent place for the aged at the end of the road. The Cheshire Home lane sloped downwards and with no streetlights it was dark as hell. Actually the K.E.B. (Karnataka Electricity Board for the uninitiated, now MESCOM) did install a light pole somewhere in the middle of the road, but the tube light had long fused into oblivion.

As we passed this lane the quietness of the main road was even more pronounced. There was no traffic, the only soul was someone in the distance but he/she too faded into the night as we walked on. The Cloistered Carmel convent was on the other side of teh road, home to the Cloistered nuns who never stepped out of the premises. The Gothic structure remained hidden in the darkness with only the spires piercing the sky that shone the last light from the sun. It was now well past 7:30 and darkness had fallen. We had nearly passed the lane when we heard an anguished cry from the depths of the lane. It was a sort of wail, loud, blood curdling and angry at the same time. It hurt, it raised the hairs on our skin and it sure as hell was unnatural. We have heard cries from the horror classics, be it Bram Stoker or Edgar Allen Poe, but the reality of horror struck home here in the darkness. We froze.

My one hand clutched the comics tightly while my other hand held Aunt Tina’s. She was shivering and you can imagine my plight. We were now at the top of the lane and even though the main road beckoned us, fearful curiosity made us peer down the road. We looked and we looked through the darkness. Nothing.

And then we heard it – a scuffling as if something was making it’s way to the top of the lane. It stopped and then it began again, faster this time. We couldn’t move. And then through the darkness we could make out a silhouette. It wasn’t even a silhouette, it was like a piece of the darkness moving around. As it moved towards the top of the lane, it began screaming a string of obscenities. To my young mind I could pick out only a couple of words that I could interpret, the rest was just a high pitched stream. Aunt Tina finally found here feet, she grabbed my hand tightly and ran as we heard the whoosh of the movements of that unholy body moving towards us.

We ran on the main road, ran till we reached the front gate of grandma’s house. Ran into the verandah and collapsed on the rattan chairs there. “That was Miriam”, Aunt Tina finally gasped. “Who?” I was not in a position to gauge anything from this encounter. All I had was gratefulness that we managed to evade the monster down that lane. “Miriam, she used to be an inmate of the hospital adjacent to the lane.” And then I learnt about the closed ward in Fr. Muller hospital. A ward that was home to some of the most violent patients under psychiatric care. You could hear their cries and screams throughout the day and Miriam was the most troubled of the lot. One night she managed to pry open the window bars using the metal headrest from her bed and jumped from the 5th floor ward. Some say she fell into the adjacent Cheshire Home Lane from where her room faced. However, no one found her. There was no doubt that her survival was left to the imagination. The only trace of her existence to this day remains the silhouette of that creature screaming after dark down that lane. No one ever knows where she goes during the day time nor how she sustains herself, but people swear it’s her out there in the night.

These days, the area is crowded with hawkers and traffic. The hustle and bustle continues well into the night. And the psychiatric wards no more face the lane. But people who have made the lane their home do say that on some summer nights you can hear the anguished scream and the scampering around of something desperate. It claws through their gardens and destroys fences. And no one has seen this entity.

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.

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.

The Mogul Treat Restaurant, Mangalore

This is one restaurant that I will unabashedly campaign for. Accuse me of crass commercialism… go ahead, cause I need this restaurant to be in business if I have to keep getting my fair share of the world’s best biriyani.

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I have eaten biriyani in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi and Mumbai – eaten it in restaurants that matter and even those that don’t to the outside world. But never have I tasted such fine biriyani as that at The Mogul Treat in Mangalore.

The mutton biriyani is juicily cooked in fresh spices and the masala layers in the biriyani match the aroma and taste of the basmati rice. It is not too oily or greasy on the fingers. Besides the biriyani you have a whole lot of mughlai dishes. Sheekh kababs are pretty good too. But when you get to the restaurant make sure the mutton biriyani is on top of your menu. You can get a takeaway or sit in the cozy ambience of a simple but well decorated restaurant. Would suggest takeaway as the restaurant is small and tends to get full almost immediately.

Location

Millennium Towers

Highland

Mangalore – 575002

Pricing: Reasonable

All aboard the vomit comet

I have been travelling between Bangalore and Mangalore the last couple of weeks and the trips have been little more than memorable for all the wrong reasons. Last night was my latest trip on this KSRTC Volvo bus as I came down to Mangalore for the Republic day weekend.

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Last week sequence was as follows…

Couple with kid gets on bus in Bangalore. Get into the seats right behind us (Cronin was with me). Man opens tiffin box and stuffs the baby with god knows what. I get this uneasy feeling that something is gonna happen behind as bus bumps along Bangalore’s roads. Pass on this feeling to Cronin. Hardly a minute goes by since this statement is made than the baby retches and pukes all over the couple. Cronin grits teeth and says, ‘You spoke too early dude’. The closed bus with the air conditioning circulating begins to smell and we are the most affected. Go through the night with the rotting, stale air hitting our nostrils. End result – no sleep and puke all over our bags that were placed under our seats. Weekend spent with a splitting sleep deprived headache and washing my carry bag nearly 5 times. Still think I smell something there.

Last night…

Get on bus at Majestic bus stand, Bangalore. No couple or baby behind me. In the middle of the night as I just settle into a deep sleep, someone roughly brushes past me. Open eyes and see man rushing to conductor’s cabin. He grabs a black plastic bag from conductor and we hear a roar followed by a whoosh. Rest of the night filled with bad dreams and a lingering pungent odour. Situation compounded by lady in front who wakes up and then decides that she may also want to go over the falls. Fortunately, sense and self-control prevails. Reach Mangalore clean, tidy but psychologically scarred again. No breakfast in the morning…

Alternative modes of transport being considered now…

Intellectual fraudsters

This has been a quiet weekend save for a function I attended last evening that was organised by a friend. During the function one of the main speakers was introduced as a social worker who had a doctorate from the Cosmopolitan University, USA. This piece of information piqued my curiosity as I had never heard of this university. Of late, in my interactions with ixedoc I had bemoaned the fact that integrity played a very small roll in the present set of people who went about calling themselves (or made sure others did) as ‘intellectuals’. ixedoc is definitely one of those whom I admire for his all-round insights. Mangalore is known for its rich educational and meritorious culture, and the intellectuals who have come out of this city have been recognised by their respective fraternities worldwide.

Now, this lady with the prefix Dr. from the Cosmopolitan University did give a good talk. She was clear, articulate and lively – none of those qualify for an intellectual. When I got home and checked out Cosmopolitan University, this is what I got – an open invitation to subscribe to the honorary doctoral roll and have the opportunity to go by my new title Dr. Papa Bear. All this for a ‘reasonable handling fee ‘ which go towards enhancing their research projects. In their honour list I also noticed that there were a lot more people from Mangalore who had subscribed to this degree and openly went about calling themselves Dr. so and so…

I then checked the antecdents of the Cosmopolitan University and realised it was blacklisted by the US Justice Department and investigations were going on into its functioning. It’s operating centres are said to be in Miami, Belgium, Missouri and even New Zealand. No one has seen or heard about the infrastructure. People have just ‘bought’ degrees, complete with the Latin inscriptions and honour roll of their achievements. All I gotta do for applying is send an email to the University board and state my achievements in it. My antecendents will be ‘checked’ and the degree will be delivered. I would have done it this afternoon if my credit card was not maxed out. Awwww……!!

Their honour list included an eminent educationist from my region and scores of Indians from all over the world. They even had a nationality index percentage list where Indians stood second after Americans with the most number of honorary doctorates. I knew us guys were achievers… but so many, in such a short time, from a single univeristy… gimme a break. The guys who got their doctorates have legitimate degrees from their univeristies in India but just missed out on that Dr. tag. Nor did they want to go through years of research before receiving this tag. Hence the application to Cosmopolitan University.

So much for a university that runs on a name shared with a famous fashion rag. Someone commented the other day that Mangalore was getting more Cosmopolitan by the day. My friend, you coudn’t have said it better. As for the lady ‘social worker’ and educationist from Mangalore… Drs. may we see the prescription please.