Guntur is 4th largest city in Andhra Pradesh. Well, its actually an overgrown town that pretends to be a city. But it definitely qualifies to be called as a city for the sheer size of its economy and population, and, of course, let’s not forget its contribution to Telugu literature and culture. For rest of the state the name Guntur is associated with chillies and heat. Justifiably so. While others may be looking back at that hot summer afternoon spent in Guntur with trepidation, we “Indians of Guntur Origin” recall those hot summer days with deep nostalgia.
Some of my memories of summers in Guntur are:
· Non stop cricket we used to play at “police parade grounds” through out the day (with temperature reading 48 degrees centigrade) taking breaks only for a glass of refreshing lemon soda. 15 years later, on a cloudy day in Hyderabad, I tried bowling 3 overs on the trot, and I was practically carried off the ground after collapsing with fatigue. Lesson learnt: You lose your fitness if you don’t spend at least a month every summer in Guntur.
· Watching matinee shows in theatres that barely have 1-2 ceiling fans that are in working condition. That too when 500 humans some how manage to cram into a 30’ X 20’ hall. But, it did not seem to matter in those days, especially when you are too relieved to buy a ticket after jostling near the ticket counter for 1 hour. Most memorable moment – watching matinee show of “Ben Hur” (that runs for 4 hours) in Leela Mahal (that has single asbestos sheet as its roof) on a day the temperature read 50 degrees centigrade.
· Mid night tiffins at Bombay Tea stall (in Lakshmipuram) during “combined studies” when preparing for Intermediate Exams or EAMCET.
I can go on and on like this, but I will spare you from the pain and will instead reproduce here a piece on the same subject by one of the best online writers of Guntur Origin I discovered recently.
Musing about hot sunday afternoons in Guntur, authored by Sri Kanneganti Rama Rao (www.kanneganti.com)
Thanks for the memories
” Danke Schoen, darling Danke Schoen.
Thank you for all the joy and pain.
Picture shows, second balcony, was the place we’d meet,
second seat, go Dutch treat, you were sweet.”
Turns out that those days were different. I was naive; I believed in the infallibility of youth; I even adored Tilak’s poetry. I was ever so wistful about “bhavishyadmukhangaa, sukhangaa, naDichipOyaam”
Those days I spent my summers in Guntur. Coming from Sowpadu, Guntur appeared to be the center of earth. Early in the morning, at 5 AM, you could wake up and lie still in the bed, and listen to the city waking up with you. The milk men, the villagers coming into town, people setting up Dosa and tea stalls, bicycles ringing bells, a stray car going on the streets — the city has its internal rhythm of waking up.
In the mornings, after the city stirs itself up, you could walk outside, say in Lakshmi puram, and see the city as an overgrown village. People from the same village live in the same neighborhood, and in the morning they get up and do the same things — tend to their livestock, clean in front of the houses, and sprinkle water to keep the dust down. I suppose we all carry some of what we leave behind (Cf: TANA and ATA conferences).
Guntur has only two seasons: hot and hotter. By the afternoon, the roads get unbearably hot. The main ring road resembles a western town at high noon — not a single soul stirring, except an occasional rickshaw passing by. The dusty streets stretching endlessly into the horizons, and the sound of wind whistling by — one could expect Gary Cooper and Krishna to duke it out on the streets.
The evening brings the cool air, whispering possibilities mixed with mystery. Just step out near to Sankar Vilas(now non-existent except as a name for a bus stop), and closeyour eyes and ears. You could feel yourself in the halcyon gardens with all the smells of flowers wafting over in the cool, humid air. But then, open your eyes and ears and prepare yourself for the cacophony of flower market, the crowded roads, and the smell of gasoline. I wonder, if they write a “prabhandam” about Guntur, would they describe the “pushpalaavikalu” of Sankar Vilas?
If you really want to find out the answer to that question you could visit Navodaya, just a stones throw away. You could browse, buy, or even borrow, if you belong to the literati of Guntur. As it happens, Guntur was famous for its writers — even Vi.Saa. was there for a while. Koku, being from Tenali, immortalized Guntur in several of his books.
If you are not into books, you could hang out with people. You see them in every street, each group staking out their own corner. You could talk politics endlessly, or better yet talk about the other groups hanging around other corners. If you are inclined, you could hang around the medical college canteen with people dreaming of Mass. general hospitals.
Of course, you could always go to movies. You could go early and get two tickets. If you are lucky, your eager wait at the movie hall is rewarded with the glimpse of anxious ankle getting down from the bus. Possibly, you may even see a shy conspitorial smile. You should avert your eyes from the carelessly exposed mid rift because of that cool breeze. The sweet smell of jasmine, coconut oil, cinthol soap, and perspiration may even take your breath away. But you all are from respectful families. You keep respectful distance. If the fingers touch in a brief exciting moment of exchange of money, it is a mere accident. Once on the second balcony, next to each other gazing at the gyrations of geriatric actors, what would you talk anyway? If you are young and artless you could talk of Tilak. May be you could listen to Koku and at least take her a brooch as a gift. Or, in jaded sensitivity, you could talk of “Prufock”. Or, you could look into the heart of silence.
Years later, may be you would feel thankful for the mere memories.
“Danke Schoen, darling Danke Schoen.
Thank you for seeing me again.
Though we go, on our separate ways,
still the memory stays, for always,
my heart says, Danke Schoen”