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The Child on the Balcony

by Vimala Ramu
(Bangalore, India)

It was known as Officers’ slums, though it sounded like an oxymoron. The old wartime barracks were ready to be pulled down. But till such time as they would be (till the money was sanctioned for it) the barracks, a two storey affair, were divided into household units and allotted to willing officers. Yes, willing. There was quite a queue for these quarters, their USP being the location. Situated on the road parallel to Rajpath, New Delhi, its vicinity to offices, schools, India gate lawns and Connaught Place was something which attracted the officers to occupy them in spite of their ramshackle condition. An added attraction was the National Museum of India right across the road. On our part we welcomed the allotment as all our family finances had been diverted towards building a house in Bangalore.



The hostel (as it was officially known) had all the facilities of the modern gated colonies__sentries at the gate, children’s park, clubhouse with a single TV (Those days TVs had not yet reached our homes), an impromptu open air theatre, a library etc. With plenty of good company children just loved the place. They could even watch the Republic Day parade on Rajpath from the roof.



As for accommodation itself, it was a set of individual rooms connected by a common verandah from which one could carve out their share by blocking with piled up packing cases. Next came a lobby with no door which we had converted to our drawing room. The three big rooms available for each unit were our master bedroom, children’s room and the dining room. The orderly’s rooms were used as kitchen and a store room. The bathroom was spacious with a bathtub of Victorian vintage and dimensions, big enough for
my youngest son to learn his first lessons in swimming.


With all these facilities, one thing the hostel could not boast of was privacy. With a flimsy mesh door separating our part of the corridor from outside, any one could walk in. In fact, a dog had sneaked in once, fought with the stuffed fox displayed in our ‘drawing room’ corner and had the poor fox all disemboweled. He left only when he was sure he had vanquished the enemy!



The ladies had formed a club for whiling away their time with cards and mahjong. I for myself preferred to make good use of the library and my neighbour was a renowned painter.



This lack of privacy would lead to embarrassing situations sometimes. One of my neighbours, a college mate of mine and a teacher walked in one day full of righteous indignation. She told me, “Can you imagine Vimala, a child in the opposite row upstairs, had dragged a chair on the verandah and was trying to look down the balcony? I called the housewife out and gave it real good to her. I told her that people like her did not deserve children and it was sheer carelessness on her part to let the child do such a risky thing.” I asked her to cool down and patiently inquired which lady it was and which child it was. Just imagine her embarrassment when she found that the lady who faced her wrath had just been married and had no children as yet. The child belonged to some other family elsewhere in the hostel.

Of course the real parents did need that lecture but certainly not the young lady who was responsible neither for the situation nor for the very existence of the child!

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Nov 02, 2012
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Happy ending
by: vimala ramu

Thank you, Pushpa for your comments. Well, as for the happy ending, you should read the opposite in my latest blog at vimalaramu.wordpress.com.Thanks for visiting.

Nov 02, 2012
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The Child on the Balcony
by: PUSHPA Raghuram

Thank god. " All is well, that ends well." The child did not bend forward and fall, as was a real incident in Bangalore a couple of months ago. A case of mistaken identity has been brought out well in the writing. It would be nice to read happy ending articles.

Oct 08, 2012
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description
by: vimala ramu

Well, Kumuda, since I lack in imagination, I like to play safe with what I have actually experienced !Thanks for your comments though.

Oct 07, 2012
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realistic
by: Kumuda Purushotham

The description of th rofficer'sw slum was so realistic that I almost lived there witnessing the balcony!
Kumuda Purushotham

Oct 04, 2012
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Most welcome
by: Sneha

Anytime, Vimala, most welcome :) You can please even add 'Lecturer of English Literature' cause that's not the only job am doing - so it gets a tad unfair. :) Thanks ...

Oct 04, 2012
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Experiences
by: vimala ramu

Dear Pankaja, they say that the disadvantage of having itinerant friends is that you have to hear their reports and view their pictures and videos. Poor you, you are subjected to my written accounts too :)))

Oct 03, 2012
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vibes
by: vimala ramu

I am happy to see that you all my friends vibe so well with me. I have put your comments, Sneha, on Colors, with the ad for e book on facebook along with your new designation.

Oct 03, 2012
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Intriguing!
by: Nuggehallipankaja

Very nice piece indeed! Interesting,intriguing,informative. Yes Vimala,
I who have not traveled much,do benefit by your
writings of this kind, and so may many others!
And the way you bring humor in the most serious subject!
Write more,inform me, let me enjoy all the more.

Oct 03, 2012
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Officers' hostel
by: vimala ramu

Dear Lakshmi,
My son wants me to add 'Situated directly across from the National Museum(another attraction for my children) to the location of the Officers' hostel.

Oct 03, 2012
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The Child on the Balcony
by: Sneha

We've also lived in ramshackle(s), Vimala...at the time I was very young and we had no "house" of our own. Fortunately, the localities were decent and given the horrible encroaching real estate agents in Mumbai, houses here have become a luxury now. I'm glad to be reading so many of your experiences of life, they make me feel lighter and even learn so many things from you. I wish I were your neighbor, really.

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