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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A PASSAGE TO COLONIAL INDIA - THE HINDU 2ND JUNE 2011

THE HINDU Metroplus  Life & Style

June 2, 2011

 A passage to colonial India – Flavours from the Past


Bridget White-Kumar takes Mini Anthikad-Chhibber through the delicately spiced pages of history into a world of memsahibs, cucumber sandwiches, kedgeree and khansama

Stepping into Bridget White-Kumar's house just off the busy Koramangala Ring Road is to step into another world altogether. There are the flowering trees, plants, shrubs, lovebirds all flourishing in a riotous symmetry. The old world charm of the house with its glass showcases, the colourful aquarium with its plump, brilliantly-hued fish is an echo of Bridget's life-long project of preserving the Anglo-Indian legacy through its cuisine.
Having written seven recipe books including the latest, “Vegetarian Delicacies” and a book on Kolar Gold Fields, where she was born — “Kolar Gold Fields – Down Memory Lane – Paeans to lost Glory,” Bridget is doing her bit to see that a way of life does not pass off into the dusty pages of history.

“It all started when my daughter  was going to England to study,” says Bridget with a smile. “I wrote her a small recipe book. The original little black book! There were recipes for regular cooking like rice, curries and snacks. When Kusum returned, she said all her friends had enjoyed the food. That Easter, while we were eating the traditional Easter lunch, my daughter said these recipes would die out unless they were recorded.
That got me thinking and I set about collecting recipes.”

Collating recipes handed down from her mother and grandmother, Bridget soon had a wealth of information about Anglo-Indian recipes. “I sent the manuscript around and Roli Books showed interest. But it was all taking too much time. I decided to pick out the most famous Anglo-Indian dishes and publish it myself.”

And that is how “The Best of Anglo-Indian Cuisine – A Legacy” was born. “I tempted readers with the picture of classic Anglo Indian dishes — coconut rice, devil chutney and ball curry, on the cover,” Bridget says with a laugh. The book was a super success. The other books followed including “Flavours of the Past” with colonial favourites such as Railway mutton curry, Dak Bungalow Curry, etc

After her graduation in Kolar, Bridget came to Bangalore to do her B.Ed, which is where she met her husband. “He was my first cooking instructor! He taught me to strain rice. I asked my mother and mother-in-law for recipes. “Since my husband is from Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, known for its fiery cooking, and I am Anglo-Indian, my cooking was a fusion of the two. I started off with simple dishes and then graduated to more complicated recipes. My first big success was the biryani, which was not too bland nor was it too spicy or too rich. I realised ethnic cooking is dying out and needs to be preserved.”

About the legacy of Anglo-Indian food, Bridget says: “Roasts, stews, bakes, sandwiches and white bread, fish and chips, cutlets, croquettes, sausages, bacon, ham, egg variants, puddings, custards, became part of the Anglo-Indian culinary repertoire. The Sunday English breakfast of eggs, bacon and kippers, toast, cheese, butter, jams, and English roast dinners complete with steamed vegetables, roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and gravy, English sausages, colloquially known as bangers with mash, became very common in Anglo-Indian homes.”

Anglo-Indian cuisine has a strong Scottish influence too. “The bread pudding, treacle pudding, mince and tatties, steak and kidney pie and of course kedgeree (kichdi) are a result of the cross pollination between cultures.” Anglo-Indian food should not be looked at as a homogenous entity, Bridget says. “The recipes are an amalgamation of the tastes and spices of the region. So the Anglo-Indian cuisine from Bengal will have more sea food and mustard oil while the cuisine from landlocked Kolar would feature more meat.”

Bridget took VRS from Canara Bank after working for 23 years. She says she is busier than before. She started a blog on KGF “four to five years ago. Every time I visited, I saw the deterioration. I felt the nostalgia and the need to preserve the story of KGF for coming generations”. That is how “Kolar Gold Fields – Down Memory Lane – Paeans to lost Glory” was born. An easy read, the book effortlessly brings to life the world of dances, food and hard work.

As I look through Bridget's collection of recipes, written by her mum and grandmother on little pieces of paper and also flip through this rare, old book, “Original Madras Cookery” published in 1874 written by an anonymous British Resident's wife I am transported to a world of khansamas, mulligatawny soup, bone china tea services and delicately-sliced cucumber and chutney sandwiches. At my back I can hear the insistent hum of Koramangala traffic as it speeds down our very own information highway. It is however nice to sometimes take a break and indulge in some heavy duty Raj nostalgia.

Bridget can be contacted by email bridgetkumar@yahoo.com

MINI ANTHIKAD-CHHIBBER

Friday, October 19, 2012

THE NANDYDROOG CLUB, KGF - MEMORIES

The Nandydroog Club was quite simple in its architecture and design unlike the KGF Club. However, the Tennis and Badminton Courts were very well maintained and Manickam the Marker always kept the Courts in pristine condition. He spent many hours doing the markings and ensuring the whole court was swept clean.

However, as with all the well loved and fondly remembered landmarks of our younger days in KGF, The Nandydroog Club is now closed and the Tennis and Badminton Courts are unused. There is an eerie silence around the place. The thud of the Tennis Balls are heard no more and Manickam the Marker and Shankar the Bar man died a long time ago.

Our house was just opposite the Nandydroog Club and the Skating Rink. Since my dad was a member of the Nandydroog Club, we were also allowed to make use of their facilities for tennis, badminton, Billiards, Snookers, cards, caroms etc. During the school term we were busy with our school work etc so we didn’t have time to avail of these facilities. However, during the school vocations, weekends and holidays we would play badminton and squash at the club, and also attend the Housie and Bingo Sessions.


The Bingo and Housie Sessions at the Nandydroog Club were such fun. Each of us would get our own Bingo cards which were priced at Two Rupees a card. One of the members would call out the Bingo Numbers and we had to be very quiet and attentive as the numbers were being called out so as to strike out those numbers on our cards.

I still remember the rhyming words used while calling out the numbers – Kelly’s Eye No 1, What Babies do No 2, All by itself No 3, Knock on the door No 4, Punjab Mail No 5, Pick up sticks No 6, lucky No 7, One fat major No 8, Doctors Orders No 9, Downing Street No 10, and so on. It was quite exciting waiting to win. The prizes were for each line, Full house, Jaldhi Five or Quick Five, Bamboo, Kings corner, Queen’s corner and the Jackpot. The Prizes were small gifts or small amounts of cash.

The Club also organized functions on Independence Day and Republic Day. There would be a Flag Hoisting function followed by a cultural programme and light refreshments. We would attend these functions and also take active part in the cultural programmes. On Republic day a Sports programme for the children was always held, and we won many prizes in various events.

The Billiards and Snooker Tables were the constantly in use by the members. Whist Drives, card Sessions and Ladies Meets were also regularly organized. The Bar was well stocked with the choicest foreign and Indian Liquors, Beers, and Soft Drinks. The club boys were kept on their toes by Shankar the Barman who was a strict disciplinarian.

The Nandydroog Club Canteen sold mouth watering snacks like fried groundnuts, fried green peas, chips, fries, sandwiches etc, It also stocked Jams, Cheese, Sandwich spreads, tinned fish, Cream Crackers, Biscuits, etc., and soft drinks like lemonade, ginger beer and orangeade.

These soft drinks were specially made in the Soda factory owned by the mines. The Ginger Beer, Lemonade and Pittalo were delicious. The Soda factory was situated beside the Rescue station and the Swimming Bath just behind our house. It was very easy to order and buy crates of these soft drinks if there was a party at home. Sadly the Soda factory too was shut when the mines closed down.

The Nandydroog Club is now closed and the Tennis and Badminton Courts are unused. There is an eerie silence around the place. The thud of the Tennis Balls are heard no more and Manickam the Marker and Shankar the Bar man died a long time ago.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

KGF's VERY OWN LITTLE ENGAND - THE KGF CLUB

This is is an extract from my book KOLAR GOLD FIELDS DOWN MEMORY LANE that was published in the Deccan Herald, Bangalore on 25th September 2012

www.deccanherald.com 

KGF’s very own Little England - DOWN MEMORY LANEBridget Kumar , Sept 25, 2012

In 1885, the British Mining Company of John Taylor and Sons established the first club in Kolar Gold Fields and named it the KGF Gymkhana Club. Bridget Kumar charts the history of the club. Among its members was T P Kailasam, one of the greatest Kannada playwrights.
By the end of the 19th century, a sprawling British township was in place in Kolar Gold Fields and it came to be known as ‘Little England’ due to its British and Anglo-Indian population and its colonial ambience.
Being a British mining colony, the social life of people at KGF was greatly influenced by British culture. The region saw the establishment of quite a few Associations towards the middle of the 1800s, such as the Kolar Gold Fields Choral and Dramatic Society which organised plays and choral functions, The Royal Army Temperance Association, The Trades list, etc. These Institutes catered to the social and cultural needs of the local British and European population. 

However, the need for recreational and sports facilities and clubs was greatly felt. In 1885, the British Mining Company of John Taylor and Sons established the first club in Kolar Gold Fields and named it the KGF Gymkhana Club. They built a 12-hole golf course and a beautiful Victorian Club House. This club was the first of its kind to be established in KGF and is ranked as the fourth oldest golf club in India.

 It had its own polo, golf and hockey teams. The club was and still is affiliated to Indian Golf Union and is also affiliated to all the major clubs in India. The club house was equipped with a traditional bar, library, snooker and billiard rooms, tennis courts, shuttle badminton courts and a ballroom with a wooden floor – all built and completed in a period of just six months since the company had vast man power and resources to complete the project in record time.


The foyer of the club was decorated with many deer and bison heads on its walls, as mementos of hunting spoils by the members. The club was surrounded by a beautiful garden with well-maintained sprawling lawns and flower beds. The serene surroundings of the club, with the golf course on the side looked like a picture from the English countryside.

Unique golf course
Because of the hilly terrain of KGF, the 12-hole golf course was located in a winding picturesque landscape with bungalows and villas along its course. Unlike other golf courses which have putting greens, the KGF Golf Club had no putting greens. Instead it had ‘browns’ constructed of river sand in place of greens. The golf course had a number of natural canals cutting across the fairways lined by huge trees planted when the club was established and gave it the setting of a British country side.

The club house


The KGF Club House has a regal colonial ambience. The old club house that is now more than a century old, was built of stone quarried from the area itself, with beautiful teak wood doors and windows. It also had a teak wood floor and the floor was always polished.The door handles, hinges and knobs and other fittings for the Club House were brought specially from England by the John Taylor and Sons Company, when the club was constructed. The solid brass door handles and hinges shone like gold all the time with constant polishing. The sterling silver cutlery and the beautiful crockery with the club’s emblem were also specially ordered and brought from Sheffield in the UK.

The KGF Club also had the distinction of having an exclusive ‘ladies bar’ just off the main lounge, where the ladies enjoyed their pims and sodas, gin and lime or vodka and orange juice, whiskey and soda, etc while catching up with the latest news and exchanging gossip.

The ladies lounge also had a huge grand piano and the ladies invariably gathered around it singing all the old songs and ballads while one of them played the piano. The gentlemen had their own bar to enjoy their evening drinks, and the ladies were strictly prohibited from entering it.

The KGF Club was famous for its English and colonial food in the old days. Mulligatawny soup, roast lamb with steamed vegetables, mashed potatoes, club sandwiches, cucumber sandwiches and caramel pudding were the main items on its menu.

In those early days, getting membership in the KGF Gymkhana Club was practically impossible if one was not British or European and was totally out of bounds for Indians. Only the British and European officers could become members. Even Anglo-Indian officers of the Company were refused membership to the KGF Club. 
T P Kailasam, an exception
However, in the 1930s, an exception was made in the case of a young Indian, a Tamil geologist who returned to Kolar Gold Fields after his studies in Ireland. His name was T P Kailasam (one of Kannada literature’s greatest playwrights), the son of one of the old timers in KGF. He charmed the British with his wit and impromptu singing and ball room dancing that he picked up in Ireland.

It was only because he was a “foreign returned” Indian who according to the British, knew his manners and etiquette, that he was given the ‘honour’ of becoming a member of the Club. No other Indian was allowed these liberties in the club. 

However, in the 1940s, things began to change and the management realised that they had to change the rules to some extent. They made an exception that only Indian covenanted officers would be allowed membership of KGF Club. This trend continued even after the mines were nationalised and the British left KGF.
Over the years with most of the old members retiring from the mines and the eventual closure of the mines a few years ago, the KGF Club now allows membership to persons from outside KGF as well.

Tale of the iron bucket

The foyer of the club has many deer and bison heads on its walls. There are also a number of framed photographs of all the old superintendents and chairmen of the mines starting with John Taylor in the lounge of the club. Besides these there are a lot of other photographs as well.

One particular faded sepia print of smiling Britishers standing around an iron bucket on one of the walls of the lounge draws one’s attention. The old barman, Susairaj, was often willing to share the story behind this photograph to anyone who was interested in listening even if it meant repeating the story any number of times.
According to Susairaj’s story, when the KGF Golf Club came into existence, and a new club house was built, and the 12-hole golf course was laid, the club hosted the First KGF Gymkhana Golf Tournament.
However the organisers forgot to arrange for a suitable trophy for the first tournament. It was quite an embarrassing moment when it was time to award the winner and there was no trophy to be given. The organisers had to just improvise by making use of an old cast-iron bucket with the words ‘The Cup’ painted on it. The old sepia picture on the foyer wall is of the winning team posing with the trophy of the very first tournament.

The KGF Club still maintains its gymkhana status even today and is affiliated to the Indian Golf Union and to all the major clubs in India. Like the rest of KGF, there are visible signs of deterioration in this once prestigious club. 

The mounted antlers and horns still adorn the foyer of the club. However, the beautiful garden surrounding the club has disappeared, the grand piano in the erstwhile ‘ladies bar’ now lies unused and is in need of repair. The brass door knobs and handles no longer shine, the beautiful crockery and cutlery with the club’s monogram have all disappeared.

The club still has almost 600 members on its rolls. The members still enjoy their rounds of golf and visit the club for a game of billiards and snooker and enjoy a drink in the bar.They still conduct many golf tournamentsas well

Mr Patrick Taylor, The great grand son of Mr John Taylor the founder of the John Taylor and Sons Company visited KGF after reading my book KOLAR GOLD FIELDS DOWN MEMORY LANE. I had the pleasure of acompnaying them to KGF on the 8th November 2011.










This is a picture of Mr Patrick Taylor with his wife heather steading before the Photograph of his Great grand father in the bar of the KGF Club



Patrick Taylor with the old bar man Sausairaj and the other Club men. Susairaj regaled Mr Taylor of old memories of his father mr Arthur Taylor the last Chairman of the Mines before it was nationalised by the Government of India.












Mr Patrick Taylor looking at the photographs of his ancestors on the walls of the Conference Room of the KGF Club.