Monday, September 29, 2014

Rubies in the dust

I was trying to restore an Old Janata watch which i found lying neglected in a toolbox at a friend’s house. I had talked about it in one of my earlier blog ( I was looking for a crown that matched its age and this quest of mine kept me busy during most of the weekends. On one such weekend, I made a trip to an old watch repair shop. After making the required inquiries I decided to move on and continue with my search. As I started from the shop an old gentleman whom I had seen at the shop approached me and asked:

Old Man - “Saab, ghadi kharidte kya ?” (Sir,do you want to buy watches ?).

Me - “Kaun si ghadi hai tumhare paas” (which watch do you have?)

Old Man - “pachhas ghadi hai…chaabi waala hai aur shell wala hai” (I have 50 watches some of them are winding watches others are quartz)

Me – “Tumhare paas kahan se aayi…chori ka hai kya” (How did you get them..were these stolen from somewhere”)

Old Man – “Nahin Saab, mera khud ka hai..mai gaurmant department mein kaam karta tha…abi retire ho gaya…paisa chaiye iske liye ghadi bechne ko shop pe aaya tha..wo kum daam bola..socha tum ko hona to pura lot le lo..accha daam me de dunga”. (No sir, they are mine..i used to work in a government I am retired..i am in need of money so came to the shop to sell the watches..he is giving me a bad deal…I saw you and thought you might be interested and decided to offer you the entire lot”)

Me – “Bade miyan..mai apne shauk ko pura karne ki liye ghadi kharidta hu…bechne ke liye nahi…pachaas ghadi ka mai kya karunga..aur mujhe quartz watch nahi chahihye..hmt ka koi watch hai kya ?” (Old chap…I buy watches for my collection..and not for selling…what would I do with fifty watches..and I am not interested in quartz you have any HMT watches?)

Old Man – “do char hain..mere ghar chalkar dekh lo..mai idhar paas mein rehta hu” (I have three-four of them…come to my house and take a look..i stay close by)

Me – “Mera paas tumhare ghar jaane ka time nahi hai..idhar hi ghadi le aao (I don’t have the time to visit your house bring here your watches and we’ll see)

Old man – “Paas mein hi hai saab..aadhe ghante mein aa jayenge…tumko jame to lena varna koi baat nai” (My house is closeby sir..take whatever you like and its ok if you don’t like them”)

So we took an auto rickshaw and started the journey to his home. During the journey he told me that he used to work in the secretariat and got these watches as gifts from his bosses or visitors. As we talked the auto took us through the by lanes of old Bangalore until we stopped at a place from where we started walking through a maze of narrow lanes till we finally reached his home. It was a small house with beautiful rangolis made at the gate.

Me – “Mai yahin hu..tum ghadi le aao” (I stay here go bring the watches)

Old Man – “accha saab” (Ok sir)

He returned with a tin box in his hand and two chairs. He opened the box and handed it over to me. The box was full of watches . Most of them were quartz watches from unknown companies. He also had some old Seiko and citizen watches, which i did not fancy. Then in the box I found four HMT watches. These were really nice watches –HMT Rohini (manual winding), HMT Samrat, Kanchan and Kanchan deluxe(automatics). These watches were aged and it was quite apparent that they had stood the test of time. I checked and found that all of them were working fine. After a few rounds of negotiations we agreed on a price acceptable to both of us.I was quite happy to add HMT Samrat and Rohini to my collection.These are quite rare watches and I have been searching them for some time.

As I handed over the money to him he said “Saab, mujhe bahut khushi hai ki mai aapko ye ghaadi diya…dukanwala iska purja nikal kar spare mein bech dalta tha..tumhare paas ye ghadi salamat rahega” (Sir, I am very happy that you are taking these watches…the guy at the shop would have dismantled them and sold them as spares..with you these watches will be safe).

I thanked him and let my contact details with him. After that my old friend helped me get a few more watches that his friends had, but let’s keep those stories for some other day.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A bus ride to rare HMT watches

I believe the best way to explore Bangalore is to take a ride on an early morning or late evening BMTC bus. I often do this on a Sunday morning. I travel across the city in almost empty buses enjoying the cool breeze and old Hindi film songs played on the radio. A few weeks back I was enjoying my routine bus journey. While my headphones were crooning “main zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya” a Mohd. Rafi classic, I received a gentle tap om my shoulder. An elderly gentleman was standing next to my seat  I shifted closer to the window to give him enough seat space. He tapped my shoulder again. I removed my headphones unwillingly darting a questioning glance in his direction. “May I ask you a question ?” –Said the man. “Please tell me” was my response. “Can you show me your watch” He enquired. I projected my left wrist towards him in answer. “That’s a nice watch you have their young man”. A conversation began immediately and after a few minutes the gentleman said – “I have HMTs too and have fond memories attached to them. Those were the glorious days, when HMT was the watch of Indians. Would you like to see my watches ?”. “Yes, of course” was my answer. After a couple of bus-stops passed we got down from the bus and headed towards his home. It was a simple and elegantly decorated drawing room of a upper middle class house. Mr. Kumar (name changed on request) introduced me to Mrs. Kumar who bought us our coffees. Mr. Kumar is a retired HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) employee . Over a hot cup of coffee our conversation continued. Presently, Mr. Kumar went inside and bought out his HMT watches. He had a couple of Black Jawahars, a commemorative Kohinoor watch, A Janata and a very special pilot watch. I was mesmerized by the beauty of these watches, the rare pilot with broad indices in particular. He showed me his watches with a lot of pride – “I got it on my service anniversary” he said looking at the Pilot watch. I have worn these watches very rarely and kept them inside my safe box. As we talked more, he learnt more about my HMT watch madness and heard my stories with interest. He shared quite a few instances and stories that he had heard and his experiences related to HMT watches.  

After enjoying his company and his HMT watches for sometime, I decided to take his leave. “Prashant, we are leaving for the US of A in the next few weeks to live with our son and family. We stay alone here and he is always concerned about our well being .We have stayed all our life in Bangalore but since my son is adamant and what he says makes practical sense…we are relocating.” I went silent for a minute and then said “ I have made a lot of friends, thanks to HMT watches. Today is probably the first time I have made and lost a friend in a day”. “No..No we are still here for a few must meet us before we leave Bangalore”. I promised to do so.

I received a call from Mr. Kumar after a couple of weeks. “Prashant, we are leaving for the US this weekend. Let’s catch up over a cup of coffee”. I met Mr. and Mrs. Kumar at their house. I updated him on the watches I had added to my collection in the last two weeks and promised to meet him upon his return. Since their flight was early next morning I decided it was time for me to conclude my visit. As I got up to take a leave he said – “Here this is for you” and handed over a packet to me. “This is a small gift for you. Open it once you reach home”. I had to visit a few more places and reached home a little late at night. After having my dinner I opened the packet. I was dumbfounded – for the packet contained Mr. Kumar’s HMT watches and small note that said “please accept them as a gift from me…..let the made in India stay in India J”.

It was too late to disturb them in the night and I have not been able to reach Mr. Kumar since that day. Friends, It’s just amazing how a wrist watch can turn two perfect strangers into friends. I take this opportunity to thank Mr. Kumar through this blog…Thank you Kumar Sir..thanks a lot”
Mr. Kumar's Broad Indices pilot watch which he received on his 15th service anniversary 
Case back of his Pilot watch with the etching celebrating his 15 years of association with HAL
The beautiful Jawahar watches
His Kohinoor watch which he received from his organization HAL during his service