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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

KGF - Namakara Hawker and China Man John

Namakara Hawker was a Walking fancy Store. He had everything that could be found in a regular Fancy Store among his wares. He had all his wares packed between layers of brown paper and tied with white sheets in two huge bundles (An excerpt from my book KOLAR GOLD FIELDS DOWN MEMORY LANE)
Namakara Hawker and China Man John were the other hawkers who visited our house on a regular basis. As little children, we didn’t know that Namakara Hawker’s actual name was Mr. Venugopal. He was known as the ‘Namakara’ Hawker only because (being a Brahmin), he had three ‘Namus’ or 3 vertical Red lines drawn on his forehead which was the sign of his Hindu caste. The word ‘Namakara’ meant ‘Man with Namus’.
Namakara Hawker was a Walking fancy Store. He had everything that could be found in a regular Fancy Store among his wares. He had all his wares packed between layers of brown paper and tied with white sheets in two huge bundles. Namakara engaged two men to carry the bundles for him on their heads while he walked at their side carrying his umbrella.  Namakara Hawker had everything from safety pins, elastic in running length, Cotton Bras, Dress Materials, Nail polish, Hair Pins, Hair clips, Clothes Clips, Cotton Vests and Banyans, Men’s Briefs, locks and keys, screw drivers, nail clippers, nail files, scissors, handkerchiefs, scarves, Naphthalene Balls, etc to Reels of white and Coloured thread for the Sewing machine, Skeins of embroidery thread, machine oil, balms, hair oil, bundles of knitting wool, knitting needles, machine needles, plastic brushes, combs, pens, shirt material, pant material, etc, etc in his bundles. Each variety was packed separately between layers of brown paper.
Whenever Namakara Hawker visited out house, we’d eagerly wait for him to open his wares. It was so exciting watching him open each layer of brown paper and reveal the items concealed in them. There would be ‘Oohs’ and ‘Ahs’ of delight when we saw something we liked and much smirking and sly smiles when he came to the Bras and Panties. We’d worry my mum to buy us stuff from Namakara even if we didn’t need it.
Namakara Hawker was a permanent fixture in our lives during the first and third week of every month. He extended credit and installment facilities to all his customers and each family had a separate page in his account book. He would collect his dues in the first week of the month after the salary day, and bring his wares for sale again in the third week. He was always sure of making a sale in whichever house he went to.
I remember Namakara Hawker coming around to the houses in the mines right up to the 1970’s. He must have been about 80 years old then and he was still healthy and active. However, his walk had slowed down and he was quite bent up. We were all very sad when we heard that he passed away in 1976. It seemed like the end of an era.
Chinaman John was another Hawker who regularly visited all the Anglo-Indian homes in KGF. Chinaman John was a Chinese National settled in KGF. He was married to a local Tamil lady and had 4 children. His son studied in the KGF Boy’s School and his daughters Violet, Charlotte and Lilly studied in St Joseph’s Convent. We didn’t find it at all strange that while they had Chinese features, they had an Indian dark complexion. Chinaman John would get consignments of soft, beautiful Silk dress materials, Silk Cushion Covers, silk table cloths etc from China and bring them around to the Anglo-Indian houses. Sometimes, he would get beautiful Silk Kimonos with elaborate embroidery of dragons and lanterns in gold and red silk threads. Chinaman John never left an Anglo-Indian home without making a sale!!!

Monday, June 2, 2014


The Jamun / Jamlum Season  is on in Bangalore and the sight of these dark, luscious Black Plums brings back many nostalgic memories of the Jamun / Jamlum and other fruit Trees in our garden in KGF.
Our Mining  house in KGF was an independent bungalow surrounded by a huge garden with lots of plants and trees. Our garden was always a profusion of colors, with huge beds of lovely flowering plants and shrubs in the front and back gardens. Asters, Daisies, Lilies, Roses, Cannas, Tiger Lilies, Spider Lilies, St Joseph’s lilies, Phlox, hollyhocks, Cockscombs, Hydrangeas and Pansies were some of the flowering plants in our garden, besides the jasmines, and frangipanis. We didn’t have to go to a florist to buy a bouquet of flowers for anyone’s birthday. We had ample flowers in our own garden to make beautiful bouquets!!!
Our garden also had a number of fruit trees such as mangoes, guavas, jamun / jamlums, custard apples, goose berries, papaya, Jack Fruit etc. All these trees had been lovingly planted by my grandmother Nana Maud and later nurtured by my mum. The garden with its abundance of plants and trees were home to numerous birds, squirrels and insects as well. We woke up every morning to the sounds of the birds chirping in the trees and hedges. The cawing of crows, the chirping of the sparrows, the sounds of the mynahs and the cry of the Koel and the Cuckoo bird was music to our ears in the morning.  Wild parrots, bulbuls, mynahs, crows, sparrows, wild pigeons, blue Jays, and squirrels built their nests and fed off the Jamlums, guavas, mangoes and papayas in our garden. It was so enjoyable to watch these birds sunning themselves and trying to attract their mates by fluffing out their feathers and strutting around. 
The Jackfruit trees bore delicious Jackfruits that were huge and as sweet as honey. Since the trees bore so many Jackfruits, my mum would distribute them to the workers who worked under my dad and to all our neighbours, friends, domestic helpers, etc. 

During the Mango season, the 4 Mango trees in our garden would be loaded with fruit. My mum would use some of the green mangoes to make delicious Mango pickle and lots would be left to ripen in straw for us. Since the trees bore so many mangoes we would distribute the rest among lots of people. My mum  would also make delicious Jams, Juices and Squashes besides a variety of puddings, custards, fruit salads etc with this golden fruit.

How could I forget the Jamlum Trees in our garden. During the summer months the 2 Jamlum / Jamun trees would be loaded with fruit. The dark, luscious black plums would gleam in the sun. The birds and squirrels would have a feast  everyday and by evening they would get drowsy from being intoxicated with this fruit. We would feast on these delicious black plums with salt and sometimes a little chillie powder. My mum was an expert in making a delicious Wine with the Jamlums from our garden.

The guava trees, Custard apple trees, Gooseberry trees and papaya trees too were always laden with fruit. We had quite a variety of fruit to choose from every day. The lime trees always bore a profusion of juicy limes on them and there was no dearth of lime juice or lime pickle in our home as mummy always made use of our own homegrown limes. I still remember the sweet smell of the lime blossoms from our lime trees when they were in season.
We also had a few Curry leaf Trees and Drumstick trees in the back garden The curry leaves were used for seasoning the curries and Pepper Water. The Drumstick tree bore long and tender drumsticks. Mummy would cook the Drumsticks along with meat or in a Dhal Curry and the drumstick leaves were turned into a delicious ‘Foogath’ which is a vegetarian side dish. Our gardener also grew green chillies, Coriander greens, Fenugreek greens, Mint and Coriander in a small kitchen garden on the left side of the garden.
With so many trees in our garden we were quite adept at climbing the guava and mango trees when we were children. These trees also made excellent hiding places for us during our games of Hide and Seek and Police and Robbers. The mango tree in front had a broad branch from which my dad hung a swing with a wooden seat for us. We spent many happy hours swinging from this mango tree shaded by its copious branches.

The memories keep rushing back and a smile lights up my face remembering those happy days in Kolar Gold Fields.