Itinerant idiolects - 4 by U Atreya Sarma

U Atreya Sarma

(Autobiographic, with poetic flashes)

A home bird’s flight of feelings

When I was at home, I was in a better place.
– Shakespeare, As You Like It, II, iv

Pune is an adorable place – sparkling with historical landmarks, dynamic developmental activities, neat roads and cleanliness, and mainly – the scenic splendour of the bounty of hills that run through the city. It’s a city with the largest number of hills in the country. If you are in Pune, you should make it a point not only to look up at the hills and be wowed, but you should climb them up to feast your eyes on their sylvan cover, to enjoy negotiating their slopes and summits, to explore their cavernous niches, to leap across their crevices, and to rollick on the rambling plains atop them. And those plains are large enough even to play first class cricket or football, if only one is haunted and driven by the passion. Above all, the very act or adventure of climbing the hills is in itself a source of thrill. To wend your way through the shrubs and boondocks, to balance yourself on the way, to look back every now and then down the gradient and survey the city – is all an engaging exploit.

However, you won’t have the feel of any virgin spot, as it is, on any part of the hill – for wherever you step in, you’re invariably greeted by irregular dumps of emptied plastic water bottles and booze bottles strewn around. They are the paleontological evidence of the packs of pioneers that preceded you in the exploration. Whatever the laws, rules and regulations, civic obligations or ethical values or compulsions of common sense, we have an unquestionable and incorrigible birth-right – and it is to cause ubiquitous pollution – pollution at every elemental level – soil, water, air, and space. And we also commercialise pollution – in the avatar of adulteration. Adulteration of everything including blood collected by blood banks.

The mind has its mysterious ways of flying zigzag from one spot at one place to another spot in an entirely different realm. It’s how this attitude of pollution, by some eerie phonetical affinity, wafts us along to the phenomenon of pollination, and from pollination to the looms of blooms. These blooms are waving their heads beckoning us over to them.

So, let’s take wing in that direction and land at Bidaraguppe on the outskirts of the garden city of Bengaluru for a morning walk. When you stroll around the apartment complexes along the circuitous pathway in the gated community of Shri Ram Smrithi, you espy the large flowers – white and elegant – hanging from the boughs of the bushy trees canopying the boundary wall. And for your post-prandial promenade, come back here during the noon time, and you will be tickled pink to see the same flowers in a different colour – in pink. Then, visit the same spot on your crepuscular perambulation around 6 pm, and the same blossoms blush with a difference – changing their colour, this time, to red, yes to red! A triune change on the same day!

In the animal kingdom, we know only of chameleons which are proverbial for changing colour for camouflage. And in the kingdom of the homo sapiens, we know of the demagogic class who are notorious for seamlessly and shamelessly changing colour. But so far, we haven’t, at least I haven’t, known of any species in the plant kingdom that changes colour, though I had botany as one of my three mains in my BSc. Your – nay, my – ignorance doesn’t mean that such flowering plants are non-existent. Yes, let’s take our hat off to that unique bushy tree – Hibiscus mutabilis, the specific name of ‘mutabilis’ in it denoting mutability, change. It is also known as the Confederate rose, Dixie rose-mallow or the Cotton rose-mallow. But this rose-mallow is altruistic, delighting us with its aesthetic change of makeup thrice a day.

Seeing places – coupled with their treasurable memories – like Mumbai, Chennai, Pune, and Bengaluru during the last seven years – away from the home city Hyderabad – has its own pleasures. And it has its deprivations too, relatively speaking. We lose our roots a bit and we are neither here nor there. Anything that calls for a proven local identity so as to jell well with the locals – is out of scope in this itinerant situation. The peripatetic mode distances many kith and kin with whom we will otherwise have much more contact and at a greater frequency. That’s why, it’s said that one’s homeland or birthplace is in itself a heaven.

And we recently got a ticket to that heaven, and with that we are back in Hyderabad, for good, after a hiatus of seven years. The ticket was sent by Harsha’s new corporate employer based in the outskirts of Hyderabad. Thus, we shifted base from Bengaluru – even as we did like the place for multiple reasons – about a couple of months ago. However, we are yet to fully reassimilate in the new environs of our old place.

When Harsha described the history and location of his new work-spot, it rang a bell. Way back in 1984-86, I had worked in the SBI branch, captive on the vast premises of the Air Force Academy (AFA) Township, Dindigul about 40 kms from Hyderabad. We lived in the officers’ quarters over there, and enjoyed certain facilities on par with the Air Force officers. Part of the public entertainment for the community of the cosmopolitan residents came from the open-air theatre Nav Kiran. The environs abut on the Narsapur forest with its variegated flora and fauna. A different picnic spot it was, for those who were agog to run away from the humdrum routine of the city life, for a refreshing break. During that stint, my colleagues and I did meander through the forest, cooked our food on improvised natural ovens, feasted on it, and downed it with mugs of concessional ale, and lost ourselves in the card games, the sound of their shuffling becoming a part of the faunal orchestra.

Considered to be a gregarious creature of sorts, and having an unsaid weakness for some facets of limelight, I contested for the post of Zonal Secretary of the SBI Officers Association – covering three districts – Medak, Nizamabad and Adilabad with about 40 branches of SBI. With the guidance of several well-wishers and by touring across the three districts for my canvassing on my Rajdoot motorbike, I won hands down. To celebrate the victory on demand, I hosted a party for a cocktail of Air Force and civilian officers and men, unaware of – and jumping – the military social protocol. To my good luck, nobody raised their eyebrows in that consciously and scrupulously hierarchical military township. There were some ruffled whispers though, behind my back. I didn’t, however, get ostracised. Maybe, this impunity was due to the blessings of the Almighty. For my family and I had been visiting and praying at the Veerabhadra Swamy temple at Bonthapally, a village, a few kilometres away from the AFA on the way to Narsapur, the forest town. And the work-spot of Harsha is located at the very same village. The company he has now begun to work for, had already, during those days, raised one of its buildings – cool-coloured – and displaying its softly elegant sign, and it was operational during my AFA stay itself!

What an epiphanic connection between the past and the present!

Wahoo! Now a sudden whiff of north-west bound breeze is levitating me up into the air and transporting me back to Pune. I am made to gravitate by the echo of a poem I had written and read out there on 16 September 2015, when we were living at E/606, Sangria Megapolis, Hinjewadi Phase III… and relive that flash of experience. Would you please lend an ear?

I come upon her every day in my morning walk.

She has an easy and carefree air about her;

Her gait at a gentle and leisurely pace.

As she glides along, the flutter of her dress fans the breeze;

Her eyelashes tickle the waving tender leaves;

Her smile – a lesson to the starry flowers in the grove!

The fresh lawns feel refreshed with the touch of her feet;

The twinkle from her eyes softens the rays of the sun.

Simply she blends in the sylvan setting like a nymph.

This graceful Sangria girl is the apple of Rapture’s eye;

An endearing angel of cosy comfort to her cute little two;

The darling daughter-in-law blessed by the Lotus-seated goddess!

The dame’s stroll always anti-clockwise, whereas mine is otherwise.

How else to sight her calm and comely face!

She is not anti-clock though, for she always has good time.

She comes from a family –

Of culture and values,

Of purity and patience,

Of peace and prosperity,

Of civility and divinity.

Well, who’s she?

She is that sweet serene girl –

Indira, aka Indu!

Accompanied by my better half Laxhmi, I presented the above ode to Indu a few days before we were to leave Pune for Bengaluru… in the presence of her hubby Santosh, daughter Sahana, son Shreyin, and mother-in-law Saroja at their abode, G/1101 in the same Sangria skyscraper community. Indira’s father was Ganapati Rao, an engineer, who wasn’t present on the occasion. Saroja too was from the big banyan of State Bank of India though we had never known each other or crossed each other’s path while serving it. Serving most of her time in Jharkhand, she got transferred to Visakhapatnam where she eventually had a ‘golden handshake’ with SBI. I couldn’t, however, be blessed with the ‘golden handshake’ though I looked upon it as the fortune of a lifetime and really strove hard for it. More about this ‘golden handshake’ in another instalment.

House-cats have attachment for places; and dogs are bonded to people, it’s said. In the case of humans, both the places and the people do matter. Dear friends! Don’t for a moment think I am given to blarney. Somehow, as my age is advancing, I am tending to have a more and more friendly disposition… provided, of course, there is fair enough reciprocity. Be good, breathe goodwill, diffuse goodwill.

(For Episode-3, see the Apr 2021 issue)

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

(ForEpisode-1, see the Jun 2017 issue)


  1. Exhilarating piece of work...Read you after some time Sir and it was a refreshing experience.

    1. Thank you, dear Aalia, for the read and the comment.

  2. Ode to Indu is evocative indeed.

    1. Thank you, dear Murthy garu, for your time and the appreciation.

  3. Really enjoyed this article; it covered so much and I learned so much! Love the description about changing colours in nature. Visual images leap from the page as each topic is addressed. Written from the heart- homeland is heaven. Great skill displayed throughout. Beautiful poem!

    1. Thank you, dear Betty. Your analytical appreciation means a lot to me.

  4. Replies
    1. Thank you very much, dear friend. I'd have been more glad had I got your name. Best regards.

    2. The anonymous comment happens to be from Makineedi Surya Bhaskar, a well-known Telugu writer, who later on responded to me via a phone message.

  5. If there is ever a stationary travelogue, Atreya Sharma’s article is the one. The flight of feelings of the writer spans three cities - Pune, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and the A F Academy near Hyderabad. The narrative of experiences is exquisitely presented in a racy style that keeps the reader rather glued to the account. The Narsapur Forest episode is of course the icing on the cake - the cake to be eaten slowly even as the flavour of the icing is savoured. Certainly an enjoyable narrative.

    1. Thank you, dear Seshu garu, for the colorful & unreserved compliments that would keep me on my toes.

    2. Dear Seshu garu, your comment laced with an unreserved appreciation of my write-up is in itself icing on the cake. And coming as it does from someone who has an impeccable command of English, it helps me keep on my toes.

  6. Dear Sarma garu,
    Your flight of feelings started from the adorable and beautiful city, Pune and concluded on returning to the same city, the city having large number of hills.
    During the flight, you have reflected the beauty of Pune , particularly the scenic splendour of the hills. No doubt , the flora and fauna make a feast to our eyes but it is heart-rending to be greeted by the paleontological evidence of pollution. Here, the irresponsiveness, and adulterating attitude of human beings is well depicted in your words.The flight of feelings shifted from the dirty act of pollution to the phenomenon of Pollination and from there to the looms and blooms of Bangalur city, the garden City of India where we can enjoy the sight of cotton rose-mallow which changes colours thrice in a day exhibiting its easthetic sense. In animal kingdom, Chameleons change their colours according to environment only for getting protection from enemies. As you said, homosapiens change their colours seamlessly and shamelessly to achieve their selfish ends.
    Your stay at Hyderabad, your election as Zonal Secretary of Officers Association for three districts and particularly your association with your Rajdoot vehicle are no doubt , very sweet memories.I feel your Rajdoot is as associated with you as Chetak, the worthy horse was associated with the mighty warrior Rana Pratap who fought bravely with Akbar, the Moghul emperor.
    Your ode on Indira madam is simply superb.
    Your feelings are heart touching.
    Your memories are as sweet as the melody of your poetry.
    Your adoration to nature is admirable.
    Your knowledge in various fields of life is im- measurable .
    Your depth of knowledge in English language is un-fathomable.

    Bolla Venkata Rao, Vizag.

  7. Thank you, dear Venkata Rao garu, for the appreciative comments that gush out of a genuinely literary heart like yours.

  8. A veritable treat for me and for those who like to savour flights of imagination. Having plumbed the pool of his sharp memory, Atreya has taken us on a guided tour of cities, their flora and fauna, the treasures nature offers to those who look at her mindfully and receptively. Along the way, he offers insights into life, and flashes into his own personality and values: pollution is derided, pollination that leads to prolificity and continuity of beauty is held up as a marvel. The affectionate Ode to his blessed daughter-in-law reveals his tender poetic side. No better gift than a lovely poem could be given to Indu!

    The style and linguistic finesse of the write makes the read immensely enjoyable.
    (Atreya, friendliness is your nature. Of course, without reciprocity no relationship can survive, leave alone thrive.
    Stay like this always)! God bless you and yours.

    1. My dear Subhash, Thank you very much for your analytical and appreciative comment, as ever. Please excuse me for my delayed acknowledgment, for I happened to see your feedback only a little while ago.

  9. C.N.Sarma,
    The flair for literary and poetic expression of Sri. U.A.Sarma garu is unchanged over the past four decades since we first met in Kaikalur as colleagues in the big banyan of State Bank of India. The piece of poetic expression is really nice.
    C.N.Sarma, Hyderabad.

    1. My dear Narayana Sarma garu, You've reinforced the value of friendship not only by reading my piece & commenting on it but also by alluding to our friendship that took roots at Kaikalur in 1970s. Yes, I cherish the intellectually & emotionally stimulating moments you and I shared together. The quality of my writing is a product of the continuing environment that includes souls like you.


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