Itinerant idiolects - 3 by U Atreya Sarma

(Autobiographic, with poetic flashes)
By U Atreya Sarma

U Atreya Sarma

काव्य शास्त्र विनोदेन कालो गच्छति धीमताम् |

व्यसनेन मूर्खाणां निद्रया कलहेन वा ||

The wise spend their time in literary, intellectual or scientific edutainment; whereas the fools fritter away their time and energy in gambling, vices, quarrels and excessive sleep.
                                                                          – Hitopadesa

Walk the talk, and fuse with the muse

The garden city of Bengaluru found a passing mention in episode-2 of this column (Jan 2018 issue). It’s a city I instantly fell in love with especially for the verdurous cross-country walk it offers on the outskirts we have been living along the Attibele-Sarjapura road. Abutting it at Bidaraguppe is our Bengaluru home in CC 502 nestled in the large cluster of apartment buildings, Shriram Smriti. The red-soil terrain is temptingly undulating, with a hilly line on the eastern horizon beckoning you over. The gentle dawning sun from over the hilly ridge spreading out its gleaming rays; the terrain alternating with long rustic trails, and stretches dotted with a variety of robust virgin trees, and the impervious wild backwoods, and the waving crops; the salubrious currents of breeze and the sundry avian twitters hailing you on your way – it’s simply an idyllic treat!

And the gargantuan banyan trees with their matted locks! Lost in deep meditation! They are a signature mark of Bengaluru and its surroundings, though a good number of them are being hewn down owing to the rapacious and fast-paced urbanisation. Yet there are some good Samaritans in the form of green activists. Thanks to them the proposal of the steel flyover was successfully resisted in 2017, despite the Karnataka government’s adamant stand. Otherwise, as many as 800 trees would have been ruthlessly brought down. Visit any banyan tree in Bengaluru, observe it with your keen eyes both physical and mental – and its architecture would fill you with loads of reflections and Parnassian springs. And this writer was blessed with such a thing, and the final 50-line product “I am an autochthonous edifice” found its way into SETU (Apr 2019).

The cross-country walk or jogging or running not only keeps you fit but also gets you surprising acquaintances and friends – not only humans but also cows and canines. Such walk-the-talk or talk-the-walk sessions have given me a few good friends like Ambarish, a senior driver with the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation who has won several state-level best-driver awards; and the local postmaster Srirama Murty the members of whose extended family are in the service of many temples in the area. Karnataka is one state where a large number of people are god-fearing.

The overall Bengaluru sylvan ambience and the multiple pleasures that a cross country walk offered made me somehow to gravitate to the SBI Green Marathon 2018. I took part in my maiden run on 18 Feb 2018, just five days after I turned 71. Though mine was a raw attempt, I didn’t do badly. I finished 10 km in 90 minutes. And I have so far partaken in 6 organised runs, each time changing my technique aiming at a better result. My son Harsha and son-in-law Srinu who run far faster than me encourage me a lot treating me as their friend and not as an elder.

Sometimes when my daughter’s family from Hyderabad visit us on a holiday trip, we amble out on a cross-country stroll after sipping our first cup of coffee. We make it a point to carry a shoulder-bag of select veggies, fruits, almonds and cashew nuts. At random, we greet some of the passers offering them a few dry fruits or nuts and they smile back some of them giving us in return a handful of peanuts. Level of education or social standing doesn’t matter at all. It’s just the spontaneous vibes that bring about the chemistry. When we pass by a cow or a dog we offer them bananas or biscuits and they gladly accept them and they say an unsaid ‘thank you’ which touches our hearts. Noticing it, a nearby neighbour in the amiable village of Bidaraguppe invites us for a cup of tea. More about this bonhomie, in one of the future episodes. But one particular mention here.

When Smita (my spunky daughter) and her kids Deeksha (the tall girl with art in her veins) and Lakshya (with an infectious warm smile in the contours of her little face) and I went out in April 2019 on such a hike crossing through a couple of villages, passing by a couple of outlying gated communities, and reaching the hillock-line in the east, and climbing it through the twisty and brambly sprigs and branches. Reaching atop it and heaving a hooray of self-applause! And an exchange of high-fives!

While on the return trail, we spotted a file of about ten bucolic boys in their early teens sheering off onto the main road we were on, from a narrow dirt track lined on either side by thick growth of trees and shrubs. A glance through the track showed no traces of habitation as far as the eye could see.

They had raw mangoes in their hands and were moving along prattling away about anything they liked. The very sight of the mangoes at the beginning of the season tickled our palates. The urchins had a gambol about their gait but their faces had a touch of unsullied naturalness about them. I asked them in Telugu wherefrom they had got those mangoes. Though Kannada is the language of Karnataka, a good number of Telugu people have settled down in many pockets of the state for centuries, and they know and speak Telugu. They replied in Telugu that there was a mango orchard quite far from that point along the muddy bypath. We had already covered about eight kilometers of walk and another three more were due. So we would be too late for our breakfast being specially fixed by Laxhmi, my better half and a tireless chef. Hence I said, let’s drop the idea of venturing forth to fetch the mangoes, though it would have been a sour-sweet thrill. I could sense a lace of disappointment on the countenances of my grandkids.

The lads sauntered away, biting into their mangoes and relishing the taste. They were about a hundred metres away when one of the younger boys was briskly brushing a couple of mangoes in the folds of his shirt. He paused awhile, and looked back toward us. We thought, maybe he would try both the mangoes at the same time to bite into and chew. He let his pals go ahead, and veered back toward us. He polished the mangoes once again against his shirt, and with a naïve charm offered them to Deeksha and Lakshya. We were touched by his gesture to the core of our hearts. One can learn even from an unlettered kid.


The letter ‘M’ in the Mangoes takes me back to a couple of M’s of about two decades back. While serving as an officer in State Bank of India (SBI), and when my next transfer from the city (Hyderabad) was due, I opted for a Mobile duty as auditor of the Manjira Grameena Bank (MGB), one of the rural banks sponsored by SBI. The top-brass and the auditors of the rural bank always came from the sponsor bank. The headquarters of MGB was at Sangareddy, the district headquarters of the then Medak revenue district. Sangareddy is known for its vast Fruit Research Station and it grows nearly 500 varieties of Mango.  Besides, there are many private mango orchards and many people drive to Sangareddy from Hyderabad during the season to buy loads of mangoes – raw to semi-ripe to fully ripe – for the prices over there are very fair.

After taking my orders, I drove to Sangareddy 60 km away from my Hyderabad residence on my Rajdoot motorbike. I had to report to the chairman of MGB, and he was one whom I had known earlier during my stint in the HRD at Local Head Office. He was Ashfaq Ahmad who was earlier a senior vigilance officer and since promoted as AGM. Whenever he would visit the Circle Development Officer (CDO), our common super boss, he would stop by and talk to me endearingly with an unfading warm smile until he got the green signal from the CDO’s chamber.

Meeting the chairman of MGB should be a memorable moment, and so it should have a touch of the Muse, I perceived. By that time, I had cultivated a habit of composing and presenting poems on some important occasions to people that mattered to me. And I had acquired a notoriety as someone to reckon with, what with my perceived language, literary, anchoring, theatrical, and trade union bouts. And I greeted Ashfaq Ahmed with the following poetic lines, just a few days after I reported.

Manjira Melody – Mystically yours

As soon as he was worthily elevated as AGM

Selected was he to step in as Chairman of MGB,

Heartily to be greeted by expectant friends.

Friendly & forward looking, gently smiling forever,

Actuated to serve the rural & weaker folk better.

Quiet efficiency, disarming modesty are his motive power.


Agriculture and other activities would further pick up,

Horticulture and work culture would in the MGB flourish.

Manjira River-sprinkled Medak District historic

Endearingly, effectively he nourishes. In short,

Development all round is his laudable & decisive aim!


The above poem was presented on 04 Oct 2002 to Ashfaq Ahmed, and it is an acrostic – the style I was fond of during those times.

Going back to the mango reference and rooted to the ongoing mango season, we can say with certainty that the fascination for the Mangifera indica fruit is irresistible and evergreen. When my bubbly granddaughter Deeksha sought my help some six years ago with a poem of hers on the king of fruits, I chipped in. And you can see her poem titled ‘Angel Mango angry with me!’ in the current issue of Setu.

(For Episode-2, visit the Jan 2018 issue)


  1. How lovely to accompany the author on his wonderful adventures with his family. Images of the community spirit existing in the area, the exchange of small gifts and friendly greetings, touch the heart. Images of the beautiful environment are brought to life and cannot fail to bring the reader closer to nature. Right now, I would give anything for a juicy mango! Strong images leap from the page because of the obvious creativity and sensitivity of the author. The excellent use of language is a skill to be admired; a gift indeed.

    1. Thank you very much, dear friend, for your insightful & empathic applause. If I was able to convey some of the epiphanic beauties around me, the credit goes to the environment redolent with a rainbow of exhilarations.

  2. How lovely to accompany the author on his wonderful adventures with his family. Images of the community spirit existing in the area, the exchange of small gifts and friendly greetings, touch the heart. Images of the beautiful environment are brought to life and cannot fail to bring the reader closer to nature. Right now, I would give anything for a juicy mango! Strong images leap from the page because of the obvious creativity and sensitivity of the author. The excellent use of language is a skill to be admired; a gift indeed.


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