More Modification and Additions

Life is cyclical.

Sometimes you are at the top of the wheel, sometimes at the bottom.

No matter where you are, the wheel continues to turn.

With the new kitchen, dining and bathroom facilities as well as an additional room on the first floor, life was going on smoothly all through 1988. Never did I imagine that it was the calm before the storm.

After I taught Hema driving, I bought her a second-hand Fiat during the second half of 1987. Ram was about to complete his first year, so we all went to Tirupathi during the end of 1987 for a family ritual. During March 1989, Hema and I registered for Complete Health Improvement Program (CHIP) – a lecture series spread over two weeks by the US Physician Dr. Hans Diehl, who was working as a Professor and Consultant at Loma Linda University, California. The lectures were preceded and succeeded by a complete medical check-up, for Dr. Diehl promised dramatic positive changes in general health if one were to follow his advice. This program was organised by Ramesh Pai who had just then established Manipal Hospital. Hema attended all the lectures but I could not, because I had to leave for Europe on urgent business. However, both of us underwent the medical check-ups. According to the test reports, both of us were fit and fine!

In April, Hema had a swelling in her right knee and could not even take a step because of severe pain. I immediately took her to Dr. Srinivasan, a well-known orthopedic doctor in Bangalore and he suggested that we consult Dr. Mahesh, a rheumatologist who had just then returned from the UK. After a couple of weeks of treatment, Hema got back to normal life. But my father suddenly took ill during the first week of May and was admitted to St. Philomina’s Hospital. Earlier, in May 1987, he was hospitalized for four days for cardiac-related issues but had recovered. This time, he succumbed to his cardiac problem and breathed his last on the night of 11th May. Just a month before I had taken charge as President of Consortium of Electronics Industries of Karnataka (CLIK), an industry body to address grievances of electronics industries. Prior to this, my factory faced the brunt of a couple of raids from sales tax and excise vigilance departments. It was a testing time for me and my family.

As we were recovering from a series of unpleasant events since April 1989, in February 1990 I got a call from one of Raghu’s friends. In 1983, my brother Raghu had shifted from Indian Institute of Technology, Madras to work for a company in Oman. His friend told me that he had lost all his money by investing in a friend’s business and had also quit his job. I wrote to my brother to come back home and join me in performing the rituals for our father’s first death anniversary. In March 1990, he returned practically empty-handed. By early December he got an assignment as the Computer Advisor to the President of Nauru, a tiny island country in the Pacific, northeast of Australia, perhaps with the lowest population in the world –  around 12,500. The situations that I faced in twenty months from April 1989 to November 1990 both in my family and business made me introspect deeply and I took a few decisions:

  1. I should come out of my business enterprises in the next two years in a systematic manner without affecting the business and my family finances.
  2. I should complete the modification of the balance old portion of the ancestral home.
  3. I should plan a foreign holiday with my family for a fairly long duration during April–May 1991 (which was the summer vacation period for both Hema and the children) to get some free time and mental space to plan my next course of action.

As part of perhaps the last stage of modification of our ancestral home, I decided to demolish the other side of the tiled roof (in the old portion) and rebuild the ground floor rooms to enable to build additional room on the first floor. Also I decided to change the roof of the passage and hall from Madras terrace to RCC with skylights. Once again I engaged the services of Raghavendra Rao as structural design consultant. For the construction I engaged the services of Radhakrishna, a civil contractor who had purchased the house next to ours from the Maharastrian family and was building a five-storey commercial complex. I thought it would be easier to get it done through him as he was visiting the site every day and compared to the mammoth structure that he was building, my requirement was significantly smaller. I also thought that by giving him the project I would be pre-empting any possible conflicts that may arise between the neighbours. Radhakrishna agreed to take up the work.

Based on my earlier experience, I estimated it would take around four months for modification and additions. After finalizing the design consultant and contractor, I went about planning my family vacation to Europe and USA. The tour also combined some of my business work at Paris and New York.  The total duration was five weeks, covering Germany, USA and UK.

Having finalized the tour schedule, I bought the tickets and obtained the visas by middle of March 1991. The departure date was 12th April as Hema’s last working day was 10th April. Having completed my two-year term as President of CLIK, I convened an Annual General Meeting of the association and presented the Receipts and Expenses Statement for the Financial year 1990–91 on 10th April, much earlier than the expected last date of 31st July. Meanwhile, we vacated the portion of the ground floor that had to be demolished and informed the contractor about our travel plans so that he can complete demolition work in our absence.

We finished our tour successfully and landed back in Bangalore on 19th May 1991. We were in the process of overcoming our jet lag when on the 21st we heard the shocking news of the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India. He was killed in a bomb blast during one of the election rallies in Tamil Nadu. Later in the day, when I visited our ancestral home I was shocked to note that nothing had happened.

Hari had just moved to the third standard and his school was reopening on 1st June. To speed up the work, I decided to stay with Hari on the first floor (which had been partly let out to one of my friends as an office space). Hema with Ram stayed at Malleswaram with my in-laws. In the course of a week, Hari and I managed for five days with bread for breakfast and dinner in nearby restaurants, during the weekend Hema would come with Ram bringing cooked food from Malleswaram. We spent good time playing computer games and other indoor games. This went on for almost four months. The modification of the hall could not be completed so I postponed it to the following summer. I shifted my family (my mother was living with my elder sister at J P Nagar) back to Ulsoor during Dasara (in October) during Hema’s autumn break.

In February 1992, I arranged to send my mother to Nauru where my brother was working. In May, I initiated the hall modification project. After demolition, the contractor had not arranged to remove the debris for nearly two months, even after repeated follow-ups. I had to call my old contact Kannan Mestri of MES to get that done. For almost six months four of us lived literally in the rear portion of the house. Finally, the contractor managed to complete the modification in time for us to celebrate Ram’s sixth birthday (2nd December 1992) with his classmates and a few teachers.

June 01, 2021 | Ravi 45