In 1968, when I was 17 (I have a birthday in December and turned 17 in December 1967) I lived in Bangalore, which in those days was a city of gardens, leafy avenues, green-gabled houses, and not yet on the world map the way it is today. I lived with my parents and two younger sisters in a small, Art Deco style house with charming moon windows, in a narrow, winding street called Brunton Cross Road just off Mahatma Gandhi (MG) Road. It was a sheltered life. I cycled to Mount Carmel College, where I was doing my Bachelor’s degree, with occasional excursions to the movies (the Lido theatre off MG Road was a major attraction), and regular visits to the Cubbon Park Public Library. We did not have television; we listened to the radio, and read the single newspaper that arrived every morning, and magazines like The Illustrated Weekly of India. My father, who was an avid tennis player, would take us along to the Rajendra Singhji Institute on MG Road to watch matches and to munch on the most delicious sandwiches.
It was a life of very simple pleasures. Outside our simple and innocent lives, the Green Revolution had taken shape in India, a war was raging in Vietnam, and Senator Robert Kennedy had been shot and killed in Los Angeles by Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, a young Palestinian who spoke perfect English.
In 21st century terminology, I was pretty much a nerd. Very focused on my academic work, with no desire to be distracted by evenings out or anything which would take time away from me pursuing my desire to be at the top of my class. “Boring!!!” I can hear my young friends today say. But I had begun attempts at writing poetry and these first forays were deemed acceptable enough to be published in Desmond Doig’s Junior Statesman.
My sister and I were an impromptu singing duo called ‘The Menon Sisters’, who played guitar and sang at university functions and at family celebrations. For a brief interregnum, during the year I was 17, I learnt Carnatic music from a wonderful singer who worked for All India Radio, Bangalore. When I look back on those days, I feel blessed.
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