With deep gratitude to our parents, for this precious gift of life. For their unconditional love and
cherishment. For giving us roots and wings.
For Sekher, celebrating your sixtieth birthday by recalling some of our wonderful childhood
memories together. Thanks for being an amazing brother, a pillar of support and sometimes a
partner in crime.
For truly honouring the Raksha bandhan through protection, affection and care.
May you continue to enjoy a blessed, beautiful and long life.
To Chetana, for the priceless joy she brought into our lives, the marvelous experiences we have
together, the bonds we share and for being the family connector.
Appreciating our spouses, children, grandchild, in-laws, extended family and friends for enriching
our lives, with their affection, kindness and support. For the beautiful experiences and numerous
memories that we continue to build together.
HAMARE BACHPAN KA SAWAN
woh kagaz ki kashti: woh barish ka pani
“Adi - Sekher, you can go out and play now. Come back when the street lights come on ”
Their mother would tell them every evening when they got back from school, finished the homework and had a glass of milk
They were “fauji ’’ kids. Spent most of their childhood years living in the north of India moving through a couple of cities and changing at least a dozen schools.
Their father Wg.Cdr T.K. Sarma was a pilot in the Indian Air force and mother, Parvathi was a stay-at-home mom. Most of Daddy’s postings were in the north
and east of the country (Delhi, Chandigarh, Ambala, Purnea, Bagdogra, Puri, Udhampur etc).
Sometimes they lived in Airforce camps and other times in civilian accommodations. Playtime was always fun. In the camp all the children would form a gang.
Often, they would be going to the same camp school and so would have a lot to share. In the evening and on holidays, all the children would assemble in the park
or ground. The games they played included, “Maran Pittu” (seven stones), marbles, “Gilli Danda ”, hide and seek, playing catch, cricket or climbing trees. land and
water, On holidays in the afternoon after lunch, Mummy would sometimes set up board games like Spellofun, Monopoly or “Diacut ” (which was her favourite). In
summer mummy allowed them to play in the first rain. That was real fun.
If the unit had a mess or club, there would be a children’s section with games like table tennis, carroms etc. On Sundays there would be a game of Tambola and
children were sometimes allowed to participate. The first time Adi played Tambola in the club as a 10 year old, she began to write the numbers being called out in
the empty boxes of her ticket. When the boxes were over, she looked around and wondered what to do next!
1962 to 1965- The early childhood years @ Palam
Adi was born in Hyderabad ( Andhra Pradesh) on 23rd April 1960. Sekher was born one
year and 3 days later on 26th April 1961 in Koraput ( Orissa). Adi (short for Adilaksh-
mi) and Sekher’s (short for Venkata Seshadri Sekher) grew up like twins. Their parents
treated them both equally. Adi got no concessions for being a girl and Sekher got no spe-
cial treatment for being a boy. When Adi entered her teens, they became a trio with the
birth of a cute little sister, Chetana (short for Chetana Soundarya Sumukhi).
The experiences and interactions of their childhood years left a deep impact on the chil-
dren. It helped to build values and frame their personality.
The early years were spent living at Palam Airforce base at No 7 sports view. With the
airfield close to their house, Adi and Sekher could see the planes and helicopters take
off every morning and land in the afternoon. Camp life was fun. They had lots of friends.
The Chopra’s were neighbours and grew really close to the family. They doted on Adi and
Sekher who would call them “Bada Daddy ‘’ and Bada Mummy”. (The relationship stayed
strong for many years even after leaving Palem). The Chopra’s had three grown up chil-
dren, Parveen, Naveen and Rachana. Adi and Sekher spent a lot of time in their house.
Mrs Gamma’s nursery was a small kindergarten in the colony. She was very particu-
lar about teaching etiquettes. (Eat with your mouth closed, was one of them). Adi and
Sekher started their schooling with her. They later changed a couple of schools in and
around Delhi within the next few years of the kindergarten and early primary (Bal Bhara-
ti, Carmel Convent and Jesus and Mary). There was one class difference between Adi and
Sekher. While Adi would get new text books every new academic year, mummy
would give Adi’s old text books to Sekher and only buy new notebooks for him.
“Why do I have to use her textbooks every year? ” Sekher would grumble. “See,
she keeps her books well so you can use them too ” mummy would say. This prac-
tice carried on till Adi reached grade IX and chose to go into home science.
On Republic day in 1965, Daddy was given the task of flying a helicopter over the
parade in Delhi and shower rose petals. He got passes for the family to view the
parade. Mummy, Adi and Sekher, woke up early in the morning and got ready. It
would be cold, so they covered up well in woollens. Daddy dropped them off at the
parade grounds before going to the air-base to fly. While watching the parade,
Adi and Sekher kept looking out for the helicopter. As soon as it arrived, they
began to jump up and down waving with joy. “Daddy, Daddy” they screamed!
During his flights to the north east, Daddy would bring back interesting things
like Kullu caps and Chilgoza (pine nuts) . Those were a rarity in Delhi.
With birthdays being three days apart, Mummy would insist that they celebrate Adi’s birthday belatedly along with Sekher’s. (she believed that one can celebrate
after the date but not before). Birthdays were always great fun having a party with friends and playing games.
When Adi turned 5 and Sekher was 4, mummy organised a birthday party at home. She invited all the neighbours and the children’s friends. Bada Mummy baked
a cake in her baby belling oven. Mummy made mango ice cream in a wooden ice cream bucket. It was a joy to watch her add ice and salt in the bucket while turning
the handle around to create the ice cream. She set up a parachute in the front yard as a canopy and laid out all the treats. In the evening Adi and Sekher’s friends
arrived for the party. Bada Mummy, Bada Daddy, Rachana, Naveen, Narayana Murthy Annaya (who was living with them) were all there too. Mummy said, “okay
children now look out in the sky for daddy’s helicopter” we will start the party when he comes home”. All the children craned their necks to spot the helicopter. As
soon as they saw it, they all began to cheer and clap. They could see it land on the runway. Daddy got off and rushed home to join the celebrations. They cut the
cakes, played musical chairs and had lots of fun.
Adi and Sekher loved spending time with their aunts, uncles and cousins. Most of them lived in the South. Some of them lived in
cities across the country and abroad. On trips to the north many of them would visit the Sarmas’ home. Adi and Sekher looked
forward to these visits with excitement.
When the India-Pakistan war broke out in 1965 and Daddy was called on duty. Tatagaru (Mummy’s father) got worried. He
came to Palem from Hyderabad to stay with Mummy and the children while Daddy was away. He would be anxious but kept Adi
and Sekher occupied with games and stories. He would wear his shirts inside out. “I must feel comfortable. I am not worried
about what people say. The stitches poke me “he would say. A few days into his visit, Tatagaru developed high fever and got
quite sick. An Air-force doctor came from the hospital to check on him. “Why are you wasting your time on an old man like me?”
Take care of the soldiers” Tatagaru told the doctor. “Sir if we treat you well, your son-in-law will be able to fight the war with
peace of mind that his family is being taken care of, ” said the doctor.
1966 to 1969: The primary years @ Arjan Ghar
In early 1966, Daddy was posted to an Air force unit in Arjan Ghar. This was in Gurgaon. The area was very remote and underdeveloped. It was about 15
kms from INA market in the city. The family lived in the unit camp. The houses were assigned as per rank. During a visit with Daddy to the commandant’s
house, Adi asked Daddy, “why is their house bigger than ours?”. “you can come and play here as much as you want, “said the Commandant.
Daddy was very fond of gardening. He grew tomatoes and other vegetables in the kitchen garden. Their house had the most beautiful front lawn in the
Adi and Sekher went to the Camp school. It was located within the unit. Mummy vol-
unteered to teach there. Camp life was good fun. The children made lots of friends and
played together in the evenings. Since everyone went to the same school, there was lots
to share. There was a kirana store in the camp which served for all the basic needs of
families in the camp. For anything exclusive, one had to travel to the INA market.
The kirana store owner hung out sweets and lollipops outside his shop to attract chil-
dren. Each one had a little toy inside it. Adi and Sekher wanted to buy some lollipops but
were scared to ask Mummy.
Daddy kept some change in a small white round box in the glove compartment of the car.
He would give it to beggars on the road or for filling air. One day Adi and Sekher said
to each other, “lets pick up some change from this box and buy lollipops. Daddy will not
know”. They quietly picked up some change and went to the kirana store. They bought
a few lollipops. Ate some and shared a few with their friends as well. After playing with
the toys that came with the lollipops, they hid them under the clothes in their cupboard.
A few days later, when they got home from school, Mummy was waiting for them angry
and upset. She had discovered the toys in the cupboard and wanted to know where they
came from. Adi and Sekher spilled the beans and began to cry. When Daddy came back
home, he was very angry. He said, “don’t steal money. you have to ask for it or earn it”
They also got a sound thrashing for the act.
When Adi and Sekher told their friends about their misadventure, everyone decided that
they should earn money by doing errands. They would go to each house in the camp and
ask, “Aunty is there anything we can get you from the Kirana shop? Please buy some-
thing”. The officer’s wives would encourage the children by giving them a few things
to fetch and tip generously. Now there were lots of lollipops to go around.
The values of honesty and integrity were very important to both Mummy and Dad-
dy. They tried to ingrain it in the children as well. Mummy would often say ‘’ nenu
Vadali Rangiah Kooturni” (I am Vadali Rangiah’s daughter) referring to the reputa-
tion that Tatagaru had for his integrity. This quality of his landed him a job in the
endowments department to evaluate temple assets after India became independent.
Daddy was also particular about being organised and neat. “a place for anything and
everything in its place” he would say.
Daddy and Mummy were from the south of India. Daddy belonged to a town in Andhra
Pradesh called Tenali. They were eleven brothers and sisters. Mummy grew up mostly
in Nellore and other parts of Tamilnadu and Andhra Pradesh. They were six brothers
Daddy was fond of driving and was very adventurous. For the summer vacation of
1968, he suggested that the four of them go to Hyderabad from Delhi by road. He
studied the map and explained the route to Adi and Sekher. He involved them in the
The peacock blue land-master car ( DLF 9936) was serviced for the long trip. The
journey by road between Delhi and Hyderabad would take one week. Mummy packed a
stove, some kitchen equipment and provisions in the dickey of the car to use for cook-
ing. Hold-all’s were stuffed with bedclothes and placed at the leg of the back seat.
The carrier on top was set up to hold the suitcases. Daddy had a tyagal (a leather
water bag) tied to the front window so that he could have cool water. Whenever he
felt sleepy during driving, he would splash some water on his eyes.
Adi and Sekher would count milestones along the way. They played games and sang
songs. Daddy had booked MES (Military Inspection Bungalows) bungalows enroute.
They made stops there at night. Mummy would cook food for everyone. At some of
the rivers and streams, they would stop and get down for a swim. They had a fun
time swimming in the Godavari.
Somewhere near Gwalior, Daddy got confused about the route. He called out to
a roadside tea vendor, “yeh Jhansi ka rasta kaun sa hai? (which is the route to
Jhansi) “he asked. The vendor pointed out the road and said, “Eise jao Sahib” (go
this way Sahib).
After driving for several hours Daddy realised that they were on a wrong route.
He checked the map again and found that they were now closer to Indore. Daddy
said, “we have come 100 kilometres in a different direction. let’s see the Ajanta
caves on the way and go to Hyderabad from there”. They made a detour towards
Ajanta and reached Hyderabad one day later than planned.
Once they reached Hyderabad, they spent a few days in the houses of their uncles
and aunts both from Mummy and Daddy’s side of the family.
While they were at Pedda Pedanannagaru’s house in Ashoknagar, one day Mummy
suggested that all the children could go together to the zoo. There were about
twelve of them. How would they fit in the car? The youngest cousin, Anjan sug-
gested, “some of us can sit on the carrier and in the dickey”. That’s how they
went. Inside the zoo they had great fun driving around and seeing the animals.
All the other tourists were amused to see some of the children seated on top of
From Hyderabad Daddy, Mummy, Adi and Sekher, went to Tirupati for a dar-
shan of lord Balaji. They had a wonderful darshan there. On the way back they
travelled to Tenali and Peravali. There they visited Maviya and Attiya at Popuri
house. They called him “todapaysam maviaya” since he would jokingly say “todpay-
sam pettanu” (I will pinch your thigh).
From there they visited Tatagaru and Ammama at Nellore and also visited the
Mypod beach. After that they went to Kavali to meet an aunt who lived there.
On the way back to Hyderabad, while they were driving along the highway in the
afternoon, one of the tyres of the car got punctured. Daddy changed it with the
stepney and continued driving. Sometime around evening another tyre got punc-
tured. It was getting dark on the highway. There was no petrol bunk close by
and barely any traffic. Daddy said, “let’s stay here for the night. three of you
sleep in the car. I will lie down on this culvert. Tomorrow, I will get the stepney
fixed and then we can proceed”. The next morning Daddy went in a lorry to get the
tyre puncture fixed. He returned and changed the tyre. The family then proceeded
towards Hyderabad and then back to Delhi.
1968 to 1972: The middle years @ Chandigarh
In 1968 Daddy got transferred to the Base Repair Depot (BRD) in Chandigarh. It
was a beautiful city with wide tree lined roads and well-planned sectors. Located at
the foothills of the Shivalik range, the city was designed by the French architect “Le
Corbusier” and was the capital of both Punjab and Haryana.
The Sarma’s were offered a bungalow in Sector 9. It was a civilian house built on a
six-canal plot. The house was not too far from the mall road on sector 17 which was
the nerve centre of the city. Having lived in air force camps earlier, this was indeed
a new experience. During the farewell party at Delhi, many of the officer’s wives
commented, “Mrs Sarma you will enjoy Chandigarh, it will change you”.
One evening, after they had settled into the house, the family went on a drive
around the city in their land master car. Daddy showed Adi and Sekher how the
sectors were divided by the network of roads. He explained the layout of each sec-
tor. They then went around the city looking at the skating rink, city central library,
shopping mall in sector 17 and their school (Central School) in sector 47. Daddy said,
“I want you to know your way around the city so that you don’t trouble your mother
and are safe. “
Later both Adi and Sekher learnt to ride bicycles and would run errands for Mummy.
Going to the bakery to get Nankahtai baked, or the tandoor to get roti’s made from
dough and shop for other odds and ends. She would give them pocket money of 50
paise a week.
To productively use the area around the house, Mummy suggested to the milkman
that he can grow some crops and the produce could be shared 50:50. The milkman
said to mummy, “Memsahib ye jameen to sona hai. Is poore jagah par note bichay-
enge to bhi etha nahi hoga jitna iss zameen ka moolya hai (Memsahib this land is
gold. Even if you spread notes across the entire land, it will not come up to as much
value as this land.) He grew corn and chickpea on the land. Adi and Sekher enjoyed
watching the planting and harvesting of crops. Mummy would roast the Bhutta and
make corn cutlets. She also made Makkai ki roti with Sarson ka saag. The roti tast-
ed nice with jaggery as well. The house also had several trees all around. Eucalyptus,
Jamoon, Figs and Guava
On the first day of school at Central School, Chandigarh, Adi ( 8 years ) and Sekher
(7 years ) were dropped off by Daddy in the morning. He told them to take the city
transport bus on their way back home. The school was in Sector 47, while their
home was in Sector 9. The distance was about 10 kilometres.
As the school bell rang at the end of the day, all the children rushed out of their
classrooms towards the main gate. Sekher was there waiting for Adi. They went to
the bus stop and waited for a city bus.
A bus came by and they got into it. The conductor came over and said, “Ticket le lo,
kidhar jana hai” (take the tickets, where do you want to go). Sekher replied, “hame
sector 9 jana hai” (we want to go to sector 9). “ye bus sector 9 nahi jati” (this bus
does not go to sector 9) said the conductor. Adi started crying, “we are lost now!
What will we do?”. Sekher was more confident. He said,” don’t worry Adi, I will get
you home”. He asked the conductor, “Kaun sa bus jayega sector 9 ko?” (which bus will
take us to sector 9). They were dropped off at the next bus stop and told how to
get to sector 9. On reaching home they told Mummy about their little adventure.
By the next academic year, the school had acquired a school bus. Adi and Sekher travelled by the school bus
everyday. Adi was now in class VI and went to the secondary section. Sekher, in class V and went to the pri-
mary section. Every afternoon, the school bus would first pick up students from the primary block and then
come to the secondary block.
One afternoon Adi did not find Sekher on the bus. She began to get worried. She asked the conductor about
her brother. “mera bhai kidhar hai? (where is my brother)” she said worriedly.
“Nahi maloom beti. Chada nahi hoga. Chalo wapas jake dedkhte hai ‘’ (Don’t know he may have missed the
bus; we will go back and check) Said the Conductor. On getting to the primary block, Adi saw Sekher playing
with his friends having lost track of time. She rushed him into the bus. When they finally got home, Adi com-
plained to her mother and made sure that Sekher got scolded for missing the bus.
Every morning Adi and Sekher would carry their aluminium bags and walk to the bus stop by themselves.
During winters they would take a bath in the night and wear their inners. They had to lay out the uniform
that they would wear the next day. Shirts, pants/skirt, socks, shoes etc. In the morning, they would have a
wash and quickly dress up for school. It would be foggy while walking to the bus stop. Sekher would blow out
fog from his mouth and say, “Adi look smoke”.
One day, while returning home from school, Adi and Sekher, decided to play a prank on Mummy. The bus stop
was about a kilometre away from their house. One could see the bus arrive from between the trees. In the
afternoon, their mother would watch the bus come in and know that they were on the way home.
That afternoon, they decided to hide after getting down from the bus. They chose another route to come
home. Mummy who had seen the bus come in began to get worried and was frantic. Daddy was sleeping at
home having just got back from the office. She rushed to him and woke him up. “The bus has come and gone,
but Adi and Sekher are not here as yet. I hope they have not missed the bus” she said. Daddy came out and
began to look too.
Adi and Sekher slowly came out from their hiding place with wide grins. Those grins turned to squirms when
Daddy and Mummy together gave them a tongue lashing.
Trips to Hyderabad meant fun with cousins, and extended family. In the
Summer vacations of 1969, Daddy, Mummy, Adi and Sekher travelled to
Hyderabad to visit them and spend time with all of them.
Pedda Pedanannagu (Daddys’ Eldest brother) lived in Ashok Nagar, he
was a teacher and would compose songs and poems that he taught Adi
and Sekher. Amma was a sweet lady who loved to make gorumuddalu
(small balls of rice with curry) and feed all the kids. Their family consist-
ed of eight sons and two daughters.
One of his compositions which he taught Adi and Sekher was,
ABCDEFG: yavaro tesla Gandhi Ji,
HIJKLMN: Bharat jaati ki superman.
OPQRSTU: Balatata mana Nehru,
VWXYZ: Both of them are very sacred.
Suri Pedananagaru (Daddy’s Second brother) lived in Marredpally, He
was in charge of the NCC centre there. He had four sons and a daugh-
ter. Lakshmi Akkaya was in college, and Ramu Annaya was in the Air-
force. The younger sons, Bablu, Chandu and Murali were around the ages
of Adi and Sekher.
Peddamaviaya (mummy’s elder brother) and Attiya, lived in Vijaynagar
Colony. They had a son and daughter (Babu and Papa) similar in age to
Adi and Sekher.
Aamma (mummy’s eldest sister) and pedananna lived in Chintal Basti.
Their daughter Papalamma Akkaya was studying in college and was
very fond of mummy. She had a brother Babu who was much younger. Tatagaru and Amma also lived in
For about ten days, Daddy, Mummy, Adi and Sekher, stayed at Marredpally in Suri Pedganannagau’s house.
They were given a bedroom on the top floor. Adi and Sekher had good fun playing with Babloo, Murli and
Chandu. Babloo said one day, “let go to the Secunderabad club. We can swim there and play games”. So, the
five of them began to go to the club every day for swimming. After swimming, they would all feel very
hungry and would rush back home for some snacks. On day Babloo, “let’s eat here”. He ordered cokes, French
fries and cutlets with tomato ketchup. It all tasted very nice particularly since they were hungry after the
swim. This continued for a couple of days.
One afternoon daddy came into the bedroom while Adi and Sekher were playing there and began to scold
and beat them. “How did you get the money for the snacks? Where did you steal from?” He shouted. Both
Adi and Sekher began to cry. “we did not steal anything. Babloo Annaya ordered the snacks at the club and
signed for it” they said. It turned out that Suri Pedannanagaru saw the club bills and wondered how they
were paid. He told Daddy about it. Later Babloo got whacked by Amma for stealing the money.
When they were returning to Chandigarh, Papalamma Akkaya came to the station and gave them two Enid
Blyton story books to read along the way. Adi and Sekher read them in no time. At Nagpur station they got
down and exchanged the books for comics at the Higginbothams store there. Most often they would go on
the upper berth and play cards or watch the trains passing by.
Passion for reading and books was developed early. Mummy was always proud of the fact that she had done
her graduation and also passed the Hindi Visharada. During dinner time she would tell stories to Adi and
Sekher. Some were about her childhood. Others would be stories with morals like “Ramu and Somu” or tales
from the Panchatantra. She also liked to tell them abridged stories from the classics and tales from Shake-
speare. Adi’s favourite was “The merchant of Venice”.
To encourage reading and learning, daddy ordered a world book encyclopaedia. It was a set of seven books
which gave them lots of information about the world.It had some stories as well, which Adi liked to read. He also gifted Sekher, Dale Carnegie’s, “how to win friends
and influence people”. (That book probably influenced him significantly in later life)
To keep Adi and Sekher busy during the summer vacations of 1969, mummy bought a few story books. She also ordered the “pedda bala siksha” by post from Hyder-
abad. This was to make sure that they knew how to read and write their mother tongue Telugu.
Adi and Sekher finished the story books in no time and began to ask for more (Telugu learning was going a bit slow though). Realising that it would be difficult to
buy as many books as the kids wanted to read, Mummy took them to the children’s section of the city central library and got a membership there.
This was heaven! Adi and Sekher devoured books like two caterpillars eating leaves. They would read all morning at the library and also bring books home. They were
introduced to Enid Blyton’s “Secret seven” “Famous five” and a whole range of world fiction.
Telugu however continued to be a challenging language for them to learn. They would sometimes speak it at home with Mummy and Daddy but never were able to
read and write it well. On one occasion, Ramu Annaya, (eldest son of Suri Peddananagaru) who was a pilot in the air force, called to say he was going to visit their
home in Chandigarh. Sekher took the phone call and spoke to him. “naku dova tel-
idu” (I do not know the way) said Ramu Annaya. “Daddy ve unnayi (we have dad-
dy’s) “said Sekher. He understood it as “Dhovati ledu” (I do not have a dhoti).
“Why can’t Annaya come to our house, if he does not have a dhoti? “Sekher asked
Mummy. She took the phone and cleared the misunderstanding.
The skating rink at Chandigarh was along the Mall road. Mummy registered Adi
and Sekher at the rink. It was a new and beautiful rink. It had a lovely wooden
floor, bars for beginners and a bridge to challenge the experienced skaters. They
were both coached in skating and within a few months graduated to being able
to play hockey on skates. The roads in Chandigarh were so good that they would
sometimes skate all the way back home.
Weekends were always fun since it meant a trip to the mall at sector 17 to
watch a movie, go for a picnic in the rose garden or do some shopping. When softy
machines were introduced, the first one was set up there. How exciting to watch
the ice-cream fall smoothly into the cone! That was a real treat to eat!
On Saturday’s the family would sometimes go for a chat treat. There was a
famous chat shop in sector 26. They would start with pani-puri, and move on to
chat and samosas and finish off with rabadi. This was delicious and sweet, since
the milk was kept boiling in the Kadai at a low temperature all day. At the end
of the meal, Mummy would invariably say, “I can make these things better at
The moon landing in 1969 generated a lot of excitement. It was all over the
news and children at school were talking about it. The museum in Chandigarh
received some samples of the moon rock for display. These samples were being
taken to different museums around India. Mummy took Adi and Sekher to view
the exhibits. After taking a look at a rock sample Sekher said to Adi, “this looks
like poop”. They both burst out laughing.
Mummy was extremely fond of celebrating festivals. She would wake up Adi and
Sekher in the morning. The copper boiler would have been set up with fire wood to
heat water for their head bath. She would apply oil on their head and ask them
to massage their body with oil and bathe with chickpea powder. Adi would be
given a head bath with soap nuts which would invariably get into her eyes making
them burn and go red. After bath they would both get to wear new clothes.
All festivals like Diwali, Dussehra, Holi, Sankranti, Varalakshmi pooja were cele-
brated in a grand way. The previous evening, mummy would grind a rice paste on
the grinding stone and use a small piece of cloth to make muggu along the border
of every room and at the entrance. For Diwali she made palkova sweet and muruk-
kus. For Varalakshmi pooja she would make Mysore Pak and namak paras. Adi and
Sekher loved the sweet treats.
Rakhi and Bhiya dooj were festivals that Adi looked forward to. For Rakhi, Mum-
my would give Adi a Rakhi to tie on Sekher’s hand. She would then give him a
rupee coin to give Adi. For bhaiya dooj, Adi had to put a tilak on his forehead.
One-year Sekher grumbled, “she only has to tie a Rakhi to me and gets one ru-
pee for that. What about me?” Mummy began to give one-rupee coins to both of
One year, their cousins, Narayana Murthy Annaya and Nagendra Annaya visited
Rakhi. Adi tied a Rakhi to them as well. Later they all went to the mall where An-
naya bought a new dress for Adi and some toys for Sekher.
On 26th January, 1970, after breakfast, Daddy said, “let’s drive down to Kasauli.
The weather is good. It will be a pleasant drive”. He readied the car for the trip.
Mummy packed some snacks and essentials.
The drive was beautiful, as they left Chandigarh and got into the ghat section, the weather
changed. It began to get cooler. There were beautiful streams along the way. Tall Chinar trees
and a gentle breeze made the drive delightful.
At Kasauli they went to the monkey point. It was a high point and gave them a view of Chan-
digarh. From his experience of flying over the area, Daddy was able to identify many landmarks.
He pointed them out to Adi and Sekher.
Later in the afternoon, Daddy said, “Shimla is just 70 kms from here. Let’s drive down” Adi and
Sekher were very excited. Mummy was game too. So, they began to drive towards Shimla. They
must have gone about 50 kilometres when it began to snow. That was the first experience
of snow for Adi and Sekher. They were very excited. Daddy warned them to keep the windows
closed. As he continued driving the snow began falling harder and covering the windscreen. Every
few minutes, Daddy would roll down his window to clear out the snow on his windshield and drive
After driving about 5 kilometres like that, they reached a bend in the road where there were
several cars lined up one behind the other. One of the drivers in the car ahead came up and said
to Daddy,” There was too much snow on the road, the cars cannot move ahead. We will have to
wait for it to be cleared”. “What will we do now?” Asked Adi sounding worried. “Let’s stay in the
car and wait for the snow to be cleared”, Daddy replied.
They spent the whole night in the car, eating the food that Mummy had brought along (luckily,
she always had more food). In the morning an emergency vehicle came down and cleared the road.
Daddy then drove to Shimla and checked the family into an MES bungalow. After breakfast,
they went for a walk on the mall and played with the snow. They had lots of fun.
Adi and Sekher enjoyed having visitors in the house. Satyam Bava (Daddy’s eldest sisters’ son)
was posted as a Doctor in Chandigarh. He would visit every weekend and spend time with them.
His love for movies ensured that they all went out often to watch movies at the theatre in
sector 17. He would regularly buy the “Filmfare” magazine and bring it along with him when he
visited their house.
Lokesh Annaya (Pedapedananngarus eldest son) who was a classical singer visited the family in Chandigarh on his way to Kashmir. He was part of a troupe select-
ed by the Indian Cultural department to entertain the Javan’s there. It was the middle of winter and quite cold. Also, probably Lokesh Annaya’s first trip to the
north. He arrived from the station, early in the morning. Adi and Sekher looked at him and found him to be looking different. He looked a little fat compared to when
they had seen him the previous year in Hyderabad.
After he had settled down a bit, Mummy Said” Lokesh neelu veda ga unnai, snanam chestava” (Lokesh the water is hot, will you take a bath). As he began to take
off his clothes and get ready for bath, Adi and Sekher watched with amusement as the layers of clothes came off. One coat, then another coat, muffler, monkey
cap, one sweater, then another sweater, socks, gloves…it all formed a small pile in the living room. “Annaya, if you are feeling so cold here in Chandigarh, how will you
manage in Kashmir?” Adi asked jokingly.
Nayanamma (Daddy’s mother) once visited Chandigarh. She stayed in Adi’s room while she was there. She was a widow and so wore a white sari with no blouse. She
used to keep her head shaven as was the custom at the time. During her stay, she would spend the mornings praying and, in the afternoon, Adi would watch her de-
tangling knotted embroidery threads and wool for mummy. “What is that you are applying Nayanam-
ma?” Adi would ask looking at her rubbing some oil on her knees. Naku mokalla noppi. Edi eucalyptus
oil. Baga pani chestundi”, (I have knee pain, this is eucalyptus oil. It works well) She would say. In
the evening after Daddy returned from office, they would have long discussions on family matters.
One Morning, Daddy took Nayanamma and Adi to the helipad. He showed Nayanamma the helicop-
ter that he was flying. They took pictures standing in front of the helicopter. She said, “jagarta
naina. Bagundi kani chala peddaga undi” (Be careful. this looks nice but is very big)
In 1970 Daddy was posted to command a unit near PatniTop in Kashmir. The Air force allowed the
family to retain the house in Chandigarh since it was a field area posting. When they went to the
station to see him off, Adi thought that he was going on camp for a few days. The next morning
when Mummy told her that it was a posting and he would be away long, Adi began to cry. Mummy,
Adi and Sekher lived by themselves in the house.
During the summer vacation of 1971, Daddy asked Mummy to bring the children and come to Patni
top. Patni top is between Jammu and Srinagar. It is a plateau in the Shivalik range and a beauti-
ful hill station. Daddy’s unit was located at 9000 feet above sea level and a three-hour drive from
Patni top. Adi and Sekher were very excited. To reach PatniTop, they had to travel for 7 hours in
a state transport bus from Chandigarh to Jammu and then go by the Air force vehicle to the unit.
They reached Jammu in the evening.
Daddy sent an Air force Jonga to pick them up at Jammu. It was evening when they started and soon began to get dark. As they approached the ghat section,
Mummy was getting worried. She said to the driver, “ab to bahut andhera ho gaya hai. Aap ko road kaise dikhega?” (it is so dark; how can you see the road). The
driver replied,” Madam maine tho is road par itne bar gaadi chaliyi hai ki ankh band karke chala sakta hoon.” (Madam I have driven on this road so many times, that
I can drive with my eyes closed) That made Mummy even more worried. Finally, they reached the unit and were excited to see daddy there. Adi and Sekher were
shown their room in the mess. They were so exhausted from the trip that they soon fell asleep.
On waking up, they wanted to use the toilet. The orderly showed them a DTL (deep trench latrine) “Oh my God, how will we use this? “said Adi wrinkling her nose.
Luckily since Daddy was the commanding officer, he had one just for himself.
Ten days of vacation flew by at the unit. They went hiking, visited some temples nearby and played around. They also saw bunkers being built. (India was getting
ready for a war). They would interact with young officers who were posted to the station. When someone came from the south and asked for rice, the Khansama
would say, “bus kuch hi dino ke baad roti kane langenge” (after a few days he will start eating roti’s). To keep the morale of the Javan’s high, the unit officer would
play movie songs on the loudspeaker. Movies were screened once a week on an open-air screen.
Around the end of the second week of their vacation, when Daddy came to the mess at lunch time, Adi and Sekher heard him tell Mummy that he had received a
telegram. Lokesh Annaya (His eldest nephew) was getting married in Hyderabad. Daddy and Mummy, discussed for a while and decided to cut short the vacation and
travel to Hyderabad for the wedding.
Mummy decided to pack all the woollens and leave them at the unit. Daddy could get them delivered later at Chandigarh. They packed the rest of their luggage in
suitcases. On the afternoon of their departure there were some visitors to the unit. A grand lunch was arranged in the valley. As the lunch ended it began to rain.
“Nature is also saying goodbye” said one of the guests.
Daddy, Mummy, Adi and Sekher got into a three tonner along with a few Jawan’s who had some work in Jammu and were all going there as well. The road between
the unit and highway was a winding dirt track. The rain began to get more intense and turned into a hail storm. The road was getting slushy. About 15 kilometres
from the unit, the three-tonner got stuck in the road and would not move. The driver got down and told daddy, “commander sahib, yeh road to bahut kharab hai.
Nahi chal sakte. Raat yahi par rukna padega. Kal subah recovery ko bulwa lenge” (Commander sahib, the road is very bad, we cannot move, we will stay here for the
night and call recovery tomorrow).
It had begun to get dark and late. There was nowhere
to go for the night. It was also getting very cold. Since
all the woollens had been left behind at the unit, they
had nothing to keep them warm. Mummy opened up the
hold-all’s and asked Adi and Sekher to sleep in them. Some
of the Javan’s were carrying their high-altitude rations
of dry fruits and chocolates. That’s what they had for
dinner. The next morning a recovery vehicle came in. It
got the three-tonner out of the slush and towed it to
the main road. From there on the family proceeded to
They all settled into the mess at Jammu and began
preparing to catch the train to Hyderabad the next day.
In the morning however Daddy received a message that
the J&K commandant wanted to visit his unit. Daddy had
to be there to receive him and show him around. Daddy
said to Mummy, “ stay here at the mess. I will go back
to the unit and return tomorrow after the inspection”. “ What about the train
tickets?” Mummy said. “ we will have to postpone them,” Daddy replied.
The family left two days later for Hyderabad. They had great fun at Lokesh An-
naya’s wedding, visiting family and friends.
The India-Pakistan war broke out in December 1971. Chandigarh was an expect-
ed target due to its proximity to the Bhakra dam. Adi was 11 years and Sekher
10 years old. Before the war began, some Jawan’s from the Army came and dug
trenches in the front garden of their house. The Jawann’s said, “madam jab siren
bajega to aap sab trench me aakar chip jaeye” (when the air raid siren comes on,
all of you must come and hide in the trench) (Mummy did not feel that the trench
was safe and sent Adi and Sekher under the table and diwan when there was an
actual air raid later during the war). They also had to cover the windows with
black paper to keep the house dark.
Satyam Bava was enlisted for the war. being an Army doctor, he was to be tak-
en to the forward area. He called Mummy worriedly, “ Naku message vachindi,
aircraft lo yekadiko teeskeltunnaru ta. Teledu”( I got a message that I will be
taken in the aircraft to the forward areas. I don’t know where I will be going).
Mummy reassured him and said, “ Yemi bhayam ledu, Anjaneswami ki vacchi danam
petuko”. ( Don’t fear. Come and pray to Hanuman in the house. You will be fine).
The neighbours were all very friendly. The Sharma’s who lived at the end of the
road and Nehra’s who lived next door were particularly very helpful. Especially
during the war. There was no phone in the house. All through the war, Mummy
kept listing to the radio and reading newspapers to get the latest updates
Daddy would call the Nehra’s at night from Kashmir to let them know that he
was safe and well. Nehra Uncle would call out to Mummy over the wall in the morning and say, “kal rat ko Sarma ji ka phone aaya tha. Woh theek hai.” (last night I
got a call from Sarma ji. He is well) Mummy would be livid. “mujhe kyu nahi bulaya. Mai baat karna chahti hoon “(Why did you not call me; I want to speak to him) she
would say. Nehra Uncle would patiently remind her that it was not safe to come out at night and take a call”.
Mr Nehra was a successful supreme court lawyer. He had a grand office with lots of books. Mrs Nehra was a sweet lady who would offer the children treats every
time they visited their home. Adi and Sekher were however never allowed to go into the living room. It was a special place meant for guests. They wondered what
it looked like there. (they got to see the room finally when they visited to say goodbye while leaving the city in 1972). The Nehra’s had four children, two daughters
and two sons. They were grown up, either in college or working. The younger daughter Anu offered to teach math to Adi and Sekher. While Sekher was quick to pick
up, Adi struggled with the Algebra.
Nehras Uncle had an Ambassador car which he exchanged for a new one every two years. The kids thought that was very grand. During her visits to Kashmir,
Mummy would bring back Shahjeera (for Nehra Aunties Garam masala) and dried fruits. One year when Daddy was making a trip to Hyderabad, Nehra Uncle said,
“I would like to have a Chandelier from Hyderabad. I am told that there are good ones in the old city. Antique pieces sold by people who are selling off their houses.”
Daddy made sure to shop for one. The Nehra’s put it in their living room.
A Coca-Cola truck would come to Nehra’s house once a week to deliver a crate of
cokes. Nehra Uncle would serve that to his clients. Adi and Sekher wanted to have
cokes as well. They would pester their mother to buy a few. After a lot of cajoling,
she finally relent and began to buy a couple of bottles each week.
On one of their visits to the Nehra’s house, uncle called the children to his office.
He asked Sekher, “do you want to be a lawyer when you grow up”? “No uncle, I
don’t want to read so many books’’. Sekhar replied.
Although he was often busy and serious, Nehra Uncle would joke sometimes. One
day when Adi was standing next to Sekher he shouted, “Shake-her” meaning that
Sekher should shake Adi. They all burst out laughing. (Sekher changed his official
name to Venkat Seshadri when he got to grade 10)
During the 1970-71 academic year, to meet the demands of rising enrolments the
school started running two shifts. Adi and Sekher were put in the afternoon shift.
It meant that they returned home in the evening at around 6:00 pm. In Novem-
ber and December, when it began to get dark in the evening, mummy would send
the household help, Bhagwan, to fetch them from the bus stop. On the 3rd of
December 1971, when Adi and Sekher reached the bus stop, they heard an air raid
siren. As they got off the bus all the lights had gone off and it was pitch dark.
They could not see a thing. People around were in panic. Some were screaming. The
kids were shy to call out for the house help, “Bhagwan” since people around may
think they were calling for God. Both of them stayed still holding each other’s
hand. After a while, Bhagwan called out for them. They were relieved to find him
and get home. The war had begun.
1972 to 1974- The pre and early teen years @ Ambala Cantt
After the war, in 1972 Daddy was promoted as Wing Commander and posted to Ambala from Patni top. This was a family station and they were given a house in
the race course road Ambala Cantt. It was a secure colony with ten houses in a circle. There was a park in between. The family was excited about this posting. They
could all be together. There was a good Central school close by and lots of facilities in the mess and club. Tennis, Swimming, Movies etc. In summer the orderly would
set up cots with mosquito nets outside for them to sleep. It was fun to watch the stars. Daddy would point out the great bear constellation and north star.
Daddy first moved to Ambala in February and began living in the mess. Mummy, Adi and Sekher continued staying at Chandigarh. The plan was that they would
move to Ambala at the end of the school year in April “72.
In March that year, there was a party planned at the Ambala mess to felicitate
a film crew who were shooting a movie in the cantonment area. Daddy asked Mum-
my to join him for the party. They would have to spend the night at the mess in
Ambala. “What about Adi and Sekher?” They cannot come for the party’’ Mummy
said. “ They can stay with the Nehra’s,” Daddy said. When Mummy discussed the
situation with the Nehra aunty, she very sweetly offered to keep the two chil-
dren at her place for the night. The house help, Bhagwan would be sleeping in the
servant quarters to take care of the house. Adi and Sekher were happy to get
the chance to spend the entire night at the Nehra’s. Daddy and Mummy left for
The next morning, Bhagwan came rushing over to the Nehra’s saying that the
back door of the house was open and there was nobody in the house. Nehra Uncle
came to take a look. He suspected that there had been a burglary and called the
police. When Daddy and Mummy arrived later in the morning, they saw police at
the house. They were asked to check if anything was missing. The safe was gone.
It had Mummy’s jewellery. There were silver plates in the kitchen which the
thieves had missed since they did not go in there. Adi and Sekher felt very excited
to see the police dog sniffing the place and the police collecting fingerprints. They
felt like the detectives from one of their story books. The police dog took the po-
liceman to a grassy area in the front of the house. This was between the house
and mall road. Here they found the safe. It was empty. The thieves were never
caught though. Mummy lost all her Jewellery.
Living in the camp at Ambala was good fun. Adi and Sekher had lots of friends.
They would all get together to play every evening and on holidays. Both of them
would go to school on their bicycles. On Holi the children’s gang would go from
house to house, eating the treats that the aunties offered and playing with
Sekher told Daddy that he wanted to join the NCC at school. He would have to
stay back after school and practice marching etc. Daddy said, “okay but you have
to be regular and serious”. One afternoon Daddy and Adi came in the car to pick
up Sekher from his NCC practice. It had just finished and all the students were
given cupcakes as refreshment. Daddy saw Sekher’s friend ask him for his cup
cake. Sekher unhesitatingly gave it to him. Daddy scolded Sekher and said, “an
army marches on its stomach. If you do not learn to eat what you get, you will
not be fit for the NCC”.
Daddy and Mummy both liked to visit temples. In May 1972 (Adi was 12 and
Sekher was 11 years old) during the summer vacation, Daddy suggested, “Let’s
drive down to Badrinath”. They would visit Haridwar and Rishikesh along the
way. The Land master was serviced and prepared for the journey and drive on
the ghat section.
Daddy booked MES bungalows along the route for the family to stay during
night halts. At Haridwar, they had a dip in the Ganges and enjoyed a walk on the
Lakshman jhula in Rishikesh. When they reached Joshi math and checked into the
MES bunglow, the manager came and made a request. He told Daddy that the
singer Anup Kumar (brother of Kishore Kumar) was very sick due to the ghat
road trip. He needed a room and there was none to spare. Daddy then gave up one
of their rooms and the whole family had to adjust in one room.
The drive to Badrinath was very scenic. Adi was delighted to see the pale blue
Alakananda merge with the light green bhagirathi to form Ganga. As they drove
higher up the mountains it got cooler and cooler. When they reached Badrinath,
Daddy drove to the hotel and began to park the car. Mummy, Adi and Sekher got
out. Since it was a steep slope, he asked Adi and Sekher to put a stone behind
the tyre while he reversed. As Adi was placing the stone, her finger got caught
between the tyre and stone. It was very painful.
The visit to the temple went off well. They bathed in the hot water sulphur
spring. Met the main priest of the temple who is always a Namboodri Brahmin
from Kerala. Also visited a few places around the temple.
On the return journey, as they were descending on the ghat road, as per the road
rules, daddy was driving to the left giving way to people who were coming up the
hill. “The right of way is for people coming uphill,” he told Adi and Sekher.
As the car turned a bend about 5 kilometres from Joshimath, the gear box failed.
Daddy quickly steered the car towards the hill on the right and stopped it. “I
cannot move the car. We will have to get the gearbox repaired to proceed further.
The three of you walk down to Joshimath and stay at the MES bungalow. I will
get the car towed and join you there” Daddy said. Mummy, Adi and Sekher began
the 5-kilometre trek down to Joshimath. When they got there, mummy asked the
watchman to get some rice and toor dhal. She made khichadi and served it for
lunch. After all the walking, Adi felt that was the best khichadi she had ever had
in her life.
Daddy got back with the car late in the evening. He gave it for repair. “It will
take a day for the car to get fixed. Let’s visit Guru Gobind ghat tomorrow. It
is nearby’’ he said. The next morning the family set out for Guru Gobind ghat to
visit the gurdwara there. “I have been to the valley of flowers from here. It is a
four-kilometre trek” daddy told Adi and Sekher. “We should visit that place anoth-
er time,” He said.
Next day the car was ready and the family began the journey back to Ambala.
On 23rd July 1973, Adi and Sekher were excited to welcome a new member to the
family. Mummy gave birth to a cute little baby girl. They now had a baby sister,
Chetana. Earlier that year, when Mummy told Adi and Sekher about her pregnan-
cy, they were both excited and shared the news with their friends.
Mummy had to manage the delivery alone since there was no one from her family
who could come to assist her. She arranged for help in the house and explained the
routine to Adi and Sekher.
Earlier in March of that year, daddy had to travel to Delhi on work. He chose to
drive by scooter between Ambala and Delhi. On the way while driving, he was hit
by a lorry and fell off the road. This caused him to fracture his arm. He managed
to get to the military hospital in Delhi and get a plaster fixed. When Chetana was
born he did her naming ceremony while cradling her in his fractured arm.
The day after the baby was born, Daddy, Adi and Sekher went to see her in the
hospital. She had her eyes open wide. “How are her eyes open?” Adi exclaimed. “I
have seen newborn puppies. They have their eyes closed”. “That is for puppies,
babies are normally born with their eyes open’’ Mummy explained.
As she grew up, Adi and Sekher enjoyed playing with Chetana. They took her out in the park in her pram and showed her off to their friends.
Mummy developed varicose veins as a complication of pregnancy. When Chetana was six months old doctors at the military hospital told her to go for surgery. She
engaged an Ayah to look after Chetana and asked Adi and Sekher to check on her as well. Daddy was very busy with a military exercise and kept his room door closed
taking calls there.
Before going to the hospital Mummy had begun to wean Chetana and had asked the milkman to bring the buffalo home and deliver fresh milk. She told Adi that
this milk had to be given to Chetana. Adi got the milk boiled by the maid and gave it to Chetan in the bottle. That night Chetana began to cry inconsolably. Adi and
Sekher did not know what to do. They put her in the jhoola that mummy had made by tying her sari to a hook in the ceiling and swung her from end to end. Sekher
standing on one side and Adi on the other. After a long while Chetana cried herself to sleep.
Next morning when all of them went to visit Mummy in the hospital. She checked the milk on her hand and exclaimed ‘’ this is so thick! The little baby cannot digest
it. Did you not dilute it?” ‘’ No. I gave it to her as it was from the vessel since I heard you telling the milkman not to add water to the milk”. Adi replied.
Chetana’s first birthday was celebrated in a grand way with a party for all the children in the colony. She was growing fast!
1974 onwards- Exploring the world
After spending two years in Ambala, in 1974, Daddy got transferred to Purnea
in Bihar. It was a remote place with no school for Adi and Sekher. One of Adi’s
friends in Ambala had moved to the Central School in Delhi Cantt. That school
had a hostel. When Adi mentioned it to Daddy, he thought it was a good plan. He
checked with the school and got Adi and Sekher admitted there. Adi (14 years)
joined grade X and went to the girl’s hostel while Sekher (13 years) joined grade
IX and went to the boy’s hostel. Chetana travelled to Prunea with Mummy and
The years ahead continued to be eventful and interesting. Adi, Sekher and Chet-
ana had many more adventures and beautiful experiences. Their journeys took
them to many parts of the country and abroad. Over the years as they pro-
gressed through their education and life, they kept meeting, parting and meeting
again. Bringing more people into the family fold and building newer relationships.
For Adi, Sekher and Chetana, the spirit of adventure, ability to take risks, values
of integrity and grit which were ingrained in the early years, continue to be the
beacon that shines a light and provides direction for how they live their lives and
all that they do. It also helped them build strong bonds of affection and togeth-
The Trio remain closely connected. They strengthen and support each other
through all the celebrations and challenges of each other’s lives. Gaining new
experiences and building more memories. The story continues………….