My earliest memories were of Bangalore where I was staying with my family (My mother Mrs.Suvarna Mampilly and my two brothers – Ajay & Vijay) in a house in a army locality called the GUN TROOPS OFFICERS COLONY, AGRAM. This colony was used for housing the families of officers who were serving in parts of India where they couldn’t take their families. We were in this colony because my father then Major E.A.Mampilly was stationed in the Northern Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir. Our colony was in close proximity to all the ancillary facilities supporting the defence forces such as hospitals, administrative and logistical services and schools. I was in my Lower Kindergarten (LKG) in a school inside the close-by Army base which housed what was known as the ASC Centre (Army Service Corps – a logistical arm of the Indian Army).
I now break from the story so as to introduce the main actors of my narrative:
My father was from a family of doctors and landowners. His grandfather Dr.Ephraim Mampilly had started a dispensary in Kochi in the early 1900s called the Mampilly Dispensary. And his father Late Lt.Col. Dr. A.E.Mampilly was a dentist in the Royal Indian Army (later Indian Army). My Dad probably got inspired by his dad to join the army, and this in turn probably inspired two of his brothers to join the army as well. In the end, there were quite a few Mampillys in the Indian Army from the 1930s till the mid 2000s! Two things I especially liked about Dad was that he loved eating and travelling and throughout our travels, he made sure that we tasted a majority of the cuisine and saw a majority of the landmarks of our great country. He enjoyed his job and always had a great sense of humour!
Mom was from a wealthy business family in Kerala. Her father Mr.K.L.Ouseph (a native language variation of ‘Joseph’) was one of the owners of a company KPL Oil Mills which manufactured coconut oil. Her family background meant that she was hardworking & industrious and most of all she was a very good cook! Her cooking would earn her many fans everywhere she went. She generally ran a tight ship with the help of either the ‘batman’ (a soldier provided by the army to assist an officer’s household) or with a servant. One of her most interesting assets was that she always seemed to have some uncle or cousin or acquaintance from her family somewhere in India who would invariably help us in some sort or the other. Her only limitations were her health problems – Asthma and varicose veins.
While I was dropped and picked up from school by my mother, my brothers went by an Army Bus to the Army Public School which was a little farther away. Though my father was far away, we were in safe hands because my paternal grandfather Late Lt.Col.A.E.Mampilly (Retd) was settled in Bangalore after retiring from the Indian Army in the 60’s. He and my grandmother Mrs.Ammini Antony made it a point to occasionally come over for a visit and similarly we went to their house in Koramangla (then a developing suburb) which was roughly 10-15 kilometres away, during festival days or other important occasions. Like all grandparents, they were a treasure trove of information & instructions and they did their best to control their unruly bunch of 3 grandsons.
Grandfather — “Appapan” as we called him in our native tongue Malayalam, was especially particular in channelising our excess energies towards physical pursuits like gardening, cleaning his car or walking his 3 dogs (three Apsos named Gypsy, Tiggy & Lassie). For our exertions we were rewarded with compliments, titbits from his army life or biscuits & other snacks which were otherwise kept out-of-bounds for us. My special interest were the small toys (an assortment of cars & planes) which were kept in the glass case in the sitting room, which previously belonged to my father and my uncles. Try as I might, these toys were only to be seen and rarely touched, let alone played with. My father’s youngest brother Dr.George Mampilly who was then studying to be a doctor in the St.John’s College, would occasionally be found at my grandparents house but he preferred to let us be and generally kept to himself.
My mother being from an extended Business family from Irinjalakuda (Thrissur, Kerala), had a couple of her cousins who were studying or working in Bangalore. And she being much elder to them, she often donned the role of their unofficial guardian. There were 3 of her cousins that I was particularly fond of – Ephraim uncle, Alice Aunty and Sabu uncle.
(…work in progress)