Friday, April 20, 2012
I hold my father in very high esteem for he was a self made man-----living his life in a hostile environment for most of his later life.His early years were no better for he had to struggle hard to get everything he wanted.Born to his parents on 1st. September 1921 he was an extremely goodlooking child.Exactly 9 months 15 days before his birth a cousin of his had passed away at Oxford---the son of his paternal Uncle who lived and worked in Bombay.This Uncle and Aunt felt that given the timing of his birth he was their dead son reborn-----and both treated him as such.When my paternal Grandpa, who was the "Diwaan" and headed the Administration of the Princely State of Kolhapur ,passed away in 1934 at Daddy's age of 13 years--- both Uncle and Aunt were eager and insistent on bringing him to Bombay--so that he could benefit by studying further and bettering his prospects in the much better equipped environment of Bombay.My Grandma Akka agreed and two years later immediately after Daddy completed his Matriculation Exams with flying colours he was sent to his Uncle --Dada's home.
Here he was treated as the son they had lost and both Dada and Vahini--Daddy's Aunt----as well as their daughter Kumud Tai as Daddy called her----- took him into their fold.Seeing Daddy's aptitude for the Arts--he had a wonderful hand for Drawing and a marvellous understanding of Colours as well as a tremendous eye for detail---- Dada suggested that Daddy take up Architecture---for Dada was one of the foremost Contractors of British Bombay and a number of the Buildings he built still stand proud even today--one of these is the Council Hall opposite The Prince of Wales Museum at Kala Ghoda in Fort.Thus for him to have his own nephew join him in the capacity of a qualified Architect was the next step to consolidating his position further!!!Thus Daddy joined the J.J. College of Architecture to qualify as an Architect.Given his sharp vision and ability coupled with plenty of hard work,he was awarded the Scholarship to Oxford----which on Dada's advice he accepted.The shortfall in Funds was borne mostly by the State of Kolhapur in deference to my late Grandfather 's memory on the order of the erstwhile Maharaja Rajaram and in the remaining part by Dada.
Daddy reached Oxford in 1945--the War was drawing to a close and Britain was struggling to recoup and cope with it's huge losses---the stoicism of the British Citizens left an indelible mark on his psyche.He always used to say that the long lines for Rations would begin early in the mornings---but whatever was handed out was accepted with grace and fortitude.He was greatly impressed by their discipline and honesty---their fellow feeling left a very deep impact on his mind.Oxford was a beautiful place---and he made a lot of friends here--among these Pilloo Mody, Ramesh Divecha, Jagat Choudhary to name a few.An extremely handsome man with a tall,well built ,athletic body-----he took active part in Swimming,Rugby,Cricket---but what he loved most was Rowing and Punting.A Punt is a flat bottomed Boat and is propelled forward using a Wooden Pole instead of an Oar.This Pole is lowered to the River bottom and used as a lever to push the Punt forward---extremely hard work!!!
Daddy had a fantastic sense of Humour,was a great Mimic ,Sang very well and loved Dancing.It was during these years when he began smoking his Cigarettes--and turned into a literal Chimney in his later years--lighting a new Cigarette from the earlier one!! Very scared of his extremely dominating but tiny mother he wrote to her about this in these words "The Pea Souper or Smog of London is so thick that at times I find it very difficult to see the end of my Cigarette---lighting it can under these circumstances can be a pain"!!!Another line of the same letter read "keeping warm in the extreme chill of English Weather is partly accomplished by drinking some old Brandy after Dinner--or at times a peg of Whisky and Soda."His younger brother Shyam Kaka would double up with laughter while narrating the electrifying effect of this News on my Grandma--she dashed off a very angry letter toher son berating him of giving in to temptation---and another equally angry one to Dada and Vahini---blaming them for her son going astray!!!
After his Internship stint in Dublin he returned home to India very much the "Brown Sahib"----with a beautiful huge Portmanteau full of clothes--his Burberry Overcoats and Tweed Coats as well as different Suits suited to the Indian Climate--along with a dazzling array of Ties and Bow Ties--which he prided on being able to tie perfectly and were his favourites!!!!!He also got along a selection of various Pipes--and I can still recollect the dreamy scent of the "Marco Polo" Brand of Tobacco he smoked in these!!!He had spent six months touring the Continent with his friend Ramesh Divecha and would tell us about the beauty of the French and Italian countryside--and the Magic of the Sistine Chapel in Rome--for he admired the triumvirate of Michaelangelo,Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael immensely!!It was thanks to him that I read the book "The Agony and The Ecstasy" and later saw the film in which Charlton Heston played Michaelangelo---couldn't get it out of my head for months afterwards!!
Tomorrow I will finally tread where he trod more than 60 years ago---on the streets of Oxford University.Many of my Memories of the stories he told us are hazy and some slightly less so--but for me it will be a dearly heartfelt wish fulfilled-----to stand at some places perhaps where he had stood--connecting to him in my mind!!!