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Monday, October 24, 2016

JATKAS / TONGAS - THE ONLY MEANS OF TRANSPORT IN KGF IN THE OLDEN DAYS




Public transport was very limited when we were growing up as children in Kolar Gold Fields . We had no local bus facility to take us around the mines and to Robertsonpet, the Town. The only buses that passed through the Nandydroog Mine where we lived, were the long distance buses that came from Bangalore and Kolar via Bangarapet. These buses too were quite infrequent so no one really depended on them as a means of local conveyance.
 KGF also didn’t have a regular Taxi service. There were only one or two people like Mr. Parker, or Mr. Das from Robertsonpet who ran their old cars as Taxis. 
The ‘Jakta’ Service was the only means of conveyance for many, many years. People either traveled in the jaktas or else just walked.
 The Jatka or Tonga or the Horse drawn carriages came into existence in mid 18th century through the traders of East India Company in Calcutta. It was originally conceived and built for use of the Company but soon spread to other places in India and soon became a popular means of transport for the common man. The Jatkas and Tongas were the most used mode of local conveyance in KGF from the early 1900s till the late 1970s. These Jatkas were fondly called ‘BANDIES’ by the Anglo-Indians which was an Anglicized version of the Tamil word “WUNDIE’.



Whenever we needed to go to the market, church or to our grandparent’s house in Town, we invariably went by Jatka or Tonga. There was a Jakta Stand near the Oorgaum Railway station where one could engage a Jakta. We had a few known Jatka wallahs who we usually engaged on a regular basis. However, our favorite Jakta man was ‘Sabu’. Sabu was a fair skinned Muslim man with bright blue eyes which were always twinkling. Sabu knew our Saturday routine well, as we visited our grandparents in Town every Saturday. He’d come home with his Jakta exactly at 3.45 PM every Saturday, without being told and wait for us to set out at 4 o’clock. While waiting for us to get ready, he’d release his horse from the jakta and leave it to relax and enjoy a nosebag of grass and hay.
Sabu’s jatka was our own personal limousine service in those days. John would sit in front of the jakta with Sabu and once in a way twirl Sabu’s whip with great flair. We three girls would sit breadth ways inside the jatka resting our backs on the sides and stretching out our legs. Mummy and daddy sat at the rear and hung their legs outside the jakta. 
 Sabu loved his horse and his horse loved him in return and listened and obeyed his every command. Sabu knew a few English words and his famous one liner was “Giddy up a Ding Dong” .No one knows how or from where he learned this but his horse obliged him whenever he uttered these words by trotting faster, the bells tied around its neck jingling merrily. He always had a whip in his hand and would twirl it all the time but never once did we see him using it on his horse.
 Sometimes, Sabu and some other  Tonga drivers  would have races on the ‘Oorgaum Station to Robertsonpet Road’. They’d urge their horses to go faster and the horses too enjoyed this little bit of fun. His ‘Giddy up a Ding Dong’ would be uttered more often and his horse would oblige by throwing back its head and cantering faster. The horse also looked as it was enjoying the race and its mouth seemed to be smiling all the time.
 Of course my parents didn’t approved of this type of racing with all of us seated in the jatka with the risk of the horse slipping and all of us falling out of the jatka. So they’d sternly tell Sabbu to stop his nonsense and take us at a more sedate pace. Sabu with disappointment writ large on his face would have to obey them. Nevertheless we children enjoyed all the excitement. 
 As the years rolled by Sabu’s horse grew sick and old and eventually died and he had to get another horse. Sabu also grew older and when Auto rickshaws were introduced in KGF in the late 1970s, everyone began using them and that was the death knell for the Jatkas and soon the old fashioned jaktas became redundant.
 The Jatkas are now used only to transport goods such as hardware, pipes, sacks of rice and pulses, electrical items, etc, instead of passengers. Sabu faced a lot of hardship as his means of livelihood was threatened. We hardly saw Sabu after that as we too began traveling by auto rickshaws instead of the jatkas. We later heard that Sabu became very ill and died. All of were sad when we heard the news. It seemed like the end of an era.  


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