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My days in bijapur

In April 1973 I reported at the Bijapur branch leaving Bangalore after 17 happy years. I had to start a new life all by myself. I had to find accommodation and food primarily besides learning to live away from my family for how long I had no clue. I took up residence in the Govt. tourist guest house temporarily while my colleagues helped me to locate a suitable place for permanent residence. After shifting a few temporary places I finally managed to find a house built in modern style. I said modern because most of the places we looked up were built several decades ago and as I told my friends were fit only to house my dog! I shared the first floor of the house with two other gentlemen one a traveling medical representative who was a Tamilian Brahmin and not married and the other an elderly gentleman who was a Jew and had left his family in Secunderabad. He was working in the Food Corporation of India. He had been pressing me to visit his home and spend a day with his family. So one week end I accompanied him on his weekly trip to his home town. As my sister lived in Secunderabad I planned to combine the trip with a visit to her also. The journey was by bus via Gulbarga where we had to change bus. It was a tough journey as there was an enormous delay in getting the connecting bus and when we did board the bus it was so crowded that I had to stand all the way for about four hours to Secunderabad and reached home at midnight. The next day I visited my friend’s home and had the opportunity of witnessing the customs of the Jews at close quarters.

Bijapur is a historic city founded by the Adil Shahs and abounded in plenty of monuments built by those rulers over 400 hundred years ago. The most famous of such monuments was the Gol Gumbaz, the mausoleum of one of the kings, located very close to the railway station. The building was an architectural marvel built over the tomb of one of the kings of Bijapur and his family with a huge dome over sixty feet in height towering above in the centre. When you go up half way there is a gallery more famously known as the Whispering Gallery where if you whisper to the wall at one end it could be heard nearly 100 feet at the other end and if you clap it will reverberate inside the entire structure seven times. The surroundings are maintained beautifully by the Archeological Survey of India. The other major monuments are Bara Kaman, Chand Bawdi, Gagan Mahal, Ibrahim Rauza, Malik Maidan, Asar Mahal and Juma Masjid all architectural marvels each with a history of its own. The weather is dry most of the year with water a scarce commodity. The people spoke a mixture of Kannada and Marathi and are mostly agricultural folk. The town has one major thoroughfare with a few shopping centres. There were a couple of cinema houses which showed Hindi and Kannada films. Bijapur is the headquarters of the district of the same name. The Govt. Treasury, the Magistrate Courts and the District Commissioner’s Office were all located in the heart of the town and the Bank’s branch was housed in one of the old buildings. The branch had three officers and a head clerk besides about thirty other staff. I had been posted as an additional officer. Another clerk from Bangalore newly appointed also reported a few days later. He was known to me in Bangalore, as his father was a colleague of mine in the Bangalore City branch. We had rented the house which had a wonderful view of the Gol Gumbaz when the sun rose in the morning. With two more gentlemen, an elderly Jew who was working in the Food Corporation of India and who had left his family in Hyderabad and a young traveling medical salesman joining us we had a comfortable and affordable place to stay.

The house was spacious enough to accommodate all the four of us. We prepared our morning coffee and went out for breakfast and lunch. Some days we had dinner out but mostly I had bread and milk at nights a practice I followed since those days when I was acutely suffering from Asthma. The Branch Manager was a Malayalee while the rest of the staff including the officers were all either local or from other parts of North Karnataka. The city was experiencing a dry spell when I arrived there. There were no rains for the past year and all the wells were dry. Water that was brought to the city was muddy and was not fit for drinking. It had to be boiled and filtered if we have to consume it. Taking a bath everyday was a big problem. A few well meaning residents whose wells had not dried up helped us with small supplies of potable water every day. But mostly I quenched my thirst by frequently consuming aerated water (Fanta) which arrived from the bottling plants in Goa and sold like hot cakes. I had made arrangements with the Tourist Home for my afternoon food. The food served was wholesome and nutritious and clean. There were a few hotels also in the town but their preparations were not to my liking. However occasionally we used to have food there in groups. Weekdays passed without much trouble as I was totally immersed in work and with friends whose company I started enjoying but the week ends were terribly lonely and it was then that I missed the company of my near and dear ones left back home in Bangalore.

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