Friday, September 21, 2007

Dankey, Sankey.

When an enthusiastic colonel in the Madras Sappers regiment built it in 1882, he definitely had a different plan for it. It was meant to supplement the scarce water supply of thirsty Malleswaram and Sriramapuram. It cleverly channeled in water from the surrounding tanks and streams into a natural ravine blocked off by a stone bund. Col Sankey's tank turned out to be a disappointment though, when the water turned brackish from the mineral deposits in the soil, very soon after it was built. Its purpose since then has remained pretty much the same - to be a thing of beauty.

Legend in the family has it that my great grandfather actually had to swim across the lake to reach his property on the south bank of the tank, when he bought it in the 30s. The surrounding areas, once a fruit orchard of the Maharaja, was eventually replaced by a residential layout, that has developed its own charm over the years. The lake sees more vistors today than ever before, with its big new joggers park and pretty but rather bland landscaping.

In the 60s and 70s, lines of donkeys bearing laundry lined the bund, and the slap-slap of clothes being smacked mercilessly against the bund wall would ring clear across the lake's surface all the way into my great grandfather's dining room. The less-than dulcet tones of novice nadaswaram players practicing at the crack of dawn on the lake's edge greatly assisted in curdling the milk in my great-grandmother's kitchen. Strangely though, the lake was never really batheable. My rebellious mumsy once dived into the lake for a swim in the 60s to disprove this. She went down with typhoid instantly after.

The 80s rolled in, the donkeys disappeared and were replaced by love-birds of all kinds dotting the bamboo clumps on the lake's edge. A sight that we were well shielded from as kids by our protective grandparents. We would spend all our summer holiday afternoons poking around on the banks, trying hopelessly to catch fish to put in my great-grandfather's tank. A search party was once sent out for me when I had fallen asleep in the bullrushes while playing hide and seek with my brother and our cousins. Hey, it was a comfortable hiding place!

I also remember a time when my aunt stooped down planted a big kiss on my head for pulling her out of knee deep slush when we were looking for crabs as kids. She told my grandmother that I came and rescued her from deathly quicksand with my big muscles. I was 3 feet tall and weighed about 20kg then. I would valiantly assist all manner of people across doorsteps and imaginary dents in the ground for weeks after!

Thanks to BTS (now BMTC)'s dubious reputation for being Bekaada Timealli Sigolla (Never there when you want it), the best bet was to trudge across to Malleswaram 18th cross bus stand to catch a bus to college. My joy knew no bounds when I discovered a secret path on the west side of the lake that I needed to jump across a culvert and several lake inlets to negotiate, to get me there faster. The ethereal morning mist would send white wisps out to the beautiful grassy knolls on the lake's edge for me to catch. Kingfishers would pierce the glassy surface of the water at bullet speed, and emerge with their breakfasts moments after. Water snakes would scuttle away into deeper water the moment they sensed me coming. Man, those mornings!

I'd even made friends with the forest department gardeners, who'd actually time their day with my comings and goings. On my way back from college, they'd say "Swami bandawre. 4:30 aiyth kanrroiyy". There was a secret nook where black magicians would fling vermillion and turmeric at bizarre looking clay effigies by the water's edge. When they saw me slink by trying to look as unobtrusive as possible, they'd laugh loudly, blowing powders in my direction as I passed. I never had the courage to go look at the idols more closely when they were not around though.

When the boat club opened in the mid 90s, the family would dutifully take all visitors out for an obligatory boat ride on the lake. OK lets face it, the lake's pretty and all, but its not really large enough for a scenic boat ride or anything. I still remember an aunt muttering to herself as she got off the boat after a 15 minute circle around the lake: "Ippadi kodakku kodakku nnu poi enna sugaththa kandon?" (What pleasure did we get by rattling around kodakku-kodakku like this?)

The late 90s saw a few bizarre instances of mass fish-suicides. All of us were certain that the water was poisoned, until the fisheries department discovered that the fish had overbred and died of oxygen starvation. Needless to say, the hundreds of cormorants, dabchicks, kingfishers, snakebirds and kites that lived around, had month long foodfests whenever that happened.

The lake, which would earlier dry out partially in the summer, now brims over with water all year round, thanks to the successful efforts of local residents to unblock the water inlets. Bangalore's recently aquired heavy monsoon pattern, and a Lok Ayukta's decision to raise the spillover weir by two feet have in fact caused it to flood heavily of late. The monsoon of 2005 completely washed away the recently completed 4 crore BMP landscaping, and submerged large parts of greatgramps' garden.

The jogging track is back now, bigger and higher than before. The old trees that perished due to water logging are now replaced by promising looking saplings. The wild serenity of the west bank is gone forever, replaced by a vast tract of landscaping that is no longer mine alone to enjoy :(

The Sankey Tank has metamorphosized dramatically over the hundred-odd years of its existence: from an almost-forgotten failed project, into a charming and much needed oasis of calm in bustling Bangytown. It still serves to ease the lives of thousands of people around, albeit in a completley different manner from what was intended.

The two most beautiful things about the lake however, are what nobody can ever change: The glorious sight of a full moon shimmering over its placid surface, and most importantly, The warm fuzzy feeling of finally being home!


Abhipraya said...

Hey Bikerdude,

I have spent the last 2 days reading pretty much your entire blog (yes I am jobless). You are insanely funny! Loved the blog! Looking forward to read more :)

And this post brings back memories from those days when I used to get off the bus at Sadashivnagar to watch sunset and then walk home 3 kms!

freespirit said...

awww...u just brought back some long forgotten childhood memories. I was 12 when we moved to bengaluru and Sankey Tank is my first real visual memory of the city. My family lives in IISc, so back in the day we'd actually take a walk from the campus trying to get acquainted with our surroundings and spend hours hanging around by the lake. i am going to cry coz i am homesick.

Roopa said...

That was a good post. While Bangalore has never meant anything more than teach-me-to-swear traffic, overflowing drains and grumpy autowalas, this post was definitely an eye opener. Ok, the opened eye closed the moment I stepped outside..but still, nice post!

Bit Hawk said...

Superb post, very nostalgically written! Never been to Sankey tank before, feel like visiting after reading this :)

Preeth said...

Nice. Really nice. Remember going paddle boating with friends on Sankey.The blokes behind kept time and all that and 15 minutes later screamed out -'Now my turn.come back'. We had to do so some major balancing manuevours to swap positions and keep moving around in circles.

RustyNeurons said...

BD! You should be writing more and often! Apart from your ribtickling sense of humor, you have an amazing knack with words! Loved the post...

Hey, I saw you, I saw you in the Sunday Times article on the classical! (if I am not wrong, you were the tallest in the group, no?)
sori, I couldnt make it :(

Spunky Monkey said...

Okay, I came for the performance, and it was fantastic. Figured you were the tallest guy there. And the conductor has the voice of an angel. Very nice very nice.
Now I am determined. I am going to have to learn Western Classical music.

RustyNeurons said...

Spunkymonkey - you went to the concert and did not meet BD??

Spunky Monkey said...

@rustyneurons - No? I mean, I don't know the guy. I just went because it was music, and I love it. Besides I had to rush to Alliance Francaise later. There was a performance there too. Also, I thought if I went up to him to talk, he'd think I was stalking him or something(oh dear lord). Heh.

Harishhh said...

Simply superb!! I still go visit dear old Sankey when I get time.

BTW I was introduced to your blog by a friend and am hooked on ever since. Love your style of writing. And like rustyneurons said... "You should be writing more and often" Keep rocking! :)

Bikerdude said...

abhipraya - uyyo thanks I say :)

freespirit - yikes sorry! come off back no?

roopa - lemme guess, you live in south bangalore and travel to e-city every day? I know, different city altogether. Actually you should consider moving into this side of Bangalore. Yoru commute might be a bit longer but its a little pleasanter.

bit hawk - thanks

preeth- oh yeah we've done those too. Got screeched down by the boat club ppl once for almost tipping someone into the lake.

rusty - Thanks I say. Haudamma, am the onte mari of the group :P Concert went fairly ok, minus the fuzzy organist. Will let you know of the next one :)

spunkymonkey- thanks for coming bro :) So you went to the BSM choir thing too, did you? I used to sing for them until a coupla years ago. How did that go?

harish- thanks man :)

themartianscientist said...

was that sudha aunty???during your gruhapravesham???

Thoppai mama said...

Ondh maath kaeL-bekaagaith ree!

between movements chappaaLi thattidavaru esht mandhi?

Anonymous said...

This must mean you're related to MA Sreenivasan and several of his ilk. Interesting!

Bikerdude said...

martianscientist: Yennada pasangalaaa, ingeyum vandhooteLaaa? :)

anonymous: yes I am the ilk of human kindness as it were.

Bikerdude said...

thoppe mama: churchalli chappaaLi not allowed anthe. But-aadru thattidru sumaar jana. Nanna friendsu (Daaly, Monica etc) bandidre innu joragi thattuthidreno LOL

Spunky Monkey said...

That BSM thing was well, meh.
Okay, it was.
Or may be I liked the acoustics at the Cathedral. The high ceilings do something to the way music sounds.
The acoustics at AFDB are, well, non-existent. At least, none that I have been able to discover all these days.

Now, I am full enthu about this western classical thing I say. Nimm e-mail ID enaadroo iddidre chennagirodu ree.

vijay said...

dai machan ! suppar read..

to add a morbid touch, one of dad's old pal's commited suicide in the tank many years back :( pavam such a gregarious gent

oh well..nice to cya at the party


L N Srinivasakrishnan said...

> The two most beautiful things
> about the lake however, are
> what nobody can ever change: The
> glorious sight of a full moon
> shimmering over its placid
> surface,

Yes, the Moon on Sankey Tank shall always be glorious. Read the foll. post inspired almost entirely by memories of Sankey Tank;

cyrus said...

lyrical, totally lyrical. and yet so personal. cyrus.

Bikerdude said...

spunky: adhe eeg gothaythalla- condagt maadi :)

vijay- thanks for sahring :P Actually a great childhood treat for us was to go watch a suicide tamasha much to the disgust and horror of our parents lol

LNS: Nice link thanks :)

Cyrus: Thanks for stopping by men :)

Prats said...

I started with the first post and I have been reading it all really make me love Malleswaram and Bangalore all the more now...
thank you...and this piece on Sankey is so great....I insist on driving by even tho it could take me a fewer more still stays so beautiful and serene

Vijayashree said...

Sankey tank is world famous in a way as lot ov VIPs have visited/ passed on its bunds... Princess Diana and Prince Charles during their visit to Bangalore drove over the Sankey Tank bund road in their open Car. Rajiv Gandhi inagurated the Children Film Festival in the park adjacent to Sankey Tank.. and my granpa used to say it was one of Sir. C.V. Raman's fav place to spend evenings said...

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