Mock bomb drills and World War II

During World War II we moved from Madras to Salem. We stayed in my maternal grandpa’s spacious house.

Published: 09th February 2018 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 09th February 2018 02:33 AM   |  A+A-

During World War II we moved from Madras to Salem. We stayed in my maternal grandpa’s spacious house. Traces of some memorable events at times come out of the nooks and crannies of my memory lane.
Those days members of a team called A R P (Air Raid Precautions) armed with whistles would straggle about the streets in residential areas after 10 pm warning the residents to switch off the lights after the stipulated time in the night. Once when my father remained wedded to his studies late at night, an ARP member blew the whistle as a shot across the bow for him to switch the light off. Tout de suite my father turned the light off, with bad grace though, and went to retire for the day.

In schools we were taught how to save ourselves from bombardment through mock drills. On hearing the warning siren we students would run out of our classrooms stuffing the ears with cotton plugs besides holding between our lips the paper rolls issued to us for the purpose and lie supine on the ground till the ‘all clear’ siren was sounded. The exercise would give us a delightful diversion from the bore of class hours.

A man with an ectomorph build, my father would never forget to slather his forehead with three horizontal lines using wet vibhuti (holy ash) and dot it at the centre with vermilion before exiting our house. As for the attire he wore to his office, it always used to be a long-sleeved white silk shirt with a close-fitting collar and a row of buttonholes on its front, each for the round head of the ivory button to pass through and be visible from the front.

Each of the shirt sleeves had a cuff whose ends were joined together with cufflinks passing through holes made especially for them. The geezer had a fob watch with a silver chain attached to it occupying the fob pocket in his shirt.

He always attended office, dressed to the nines in neat, white dhoti worn in panchakacham style—the one adopted by Hindu priests—with a parting between the legs, the garment gathered in folds at the back and tucked in. I still remember how Shiva, the driver of our Morris car, would keep the vehicle ready before our house to drive my father to his office in Salem town. The golden ager with an erect gait never used a walking stick till his last breath as a mid-nonagenarian. His maestoso gait is an inspiration for me which I still follow through with melancholic memories of him.

H Narayanan


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