By C.P. Belliappa
My maternal grandfather, Biddanda Ponnappa Mandappa, lived in Palangala village near Virajpet. I remember Palangala during my childhood days as a remote place, which took more than half a day to reach from Gonikoppal. However, once in this idyllic pristine place, it used to be pure bliss.
Mandappajja passed away before I was born, but he was a constant reminder to all his grandchildren who used to spend at least a week in Palangala during summer vacation. Every nook and corner of the walls in the house used to be covered with vintage photographs taken by grandfather. Unfortunately, the house is unoccupied now, and most of the photographs have disappeared.
Photography was grandfather’s passionate hobby. He used to not only click the camera but also develop the films and take prints. He had a darkroom and all the chemicals and equipment required to pursue his favourite pastime.
I faintly recollect seeing the large box camera mounted on a tripod, which my uncles used occasionally. The entire body of the camera and the tripod stand were made of wood. Photographic film was fixed on to a wooden frame in the darkroom and loaded at the back of the camera. Only one photograph could be taken at a time. A black cloth was used to cover the camera to prevent any light leaking into the chamber and accidentally exposing the film. After everyone stood in front of the camera the focusing was done by manually adjusting the lens fixed at one end of a bellow. It probably had a long cable, which the photographer could use to ‘selfie-click’, and include himself in the photograph. Or, it is also likely the camera had a timer.
Mandappajja was in great demand by his relatives and friends to take group photographs of their families, especially of newlyweds. Even now, several homes in the vicinity of Virajpet have vintage photographs taken by my grandfather a century ago.
Here are two photographs taken on the day my grandfather got married. It would have been in around 1915. (His eldest son, Col BM Chengappa, was born in 1917, and will be celebrating his 100th birthday in May 2017.)
My grandfather and his younger brother Devaiah, got married on the same day. The first photograph is of the family with the two grooms in white kupiya and their brides seated in front of them. (Mandappajja is standing second from left.)
The second photograph, taken on the same day, is that of grandfather (second from left), his three brothers, and their four sisters seated.
My grandfather and his brother Devaiah lived in the same house in perfect harmony. Both the brothers had ten children each! My grandmother was from Koothanda family, and granduncle Devaiah married from Mukkatira family. I remember, there were enough grandchildren to make up two hockey teams!