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Memories of my family and of weddings in Kolar Gold Fields

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Bridget was born and brought up in Kolar Gold Fields, a small mining town in Karnataka. She got her B Ed degree in Bangalore, taught for two years, and then joined Canara Bank, from where she retired a few years ago. Now she is a self-published author of six cookbooks specializing in Anglo-Indian cuisine, and works as a consultant on food related matters. Bridget has also published a nostalgic book on KGF entitled Kolar Gold Fields Down Memory Lane. For copies of her books, contact her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or visit http://anglo-indianfood.blogspot.com

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My family

I was born and brought up in Kolar Gold Fields (KGF), a charming little mining town in the erstwhile Mysore State, which is now a part of Karnataka. I was the second born child to Sydney and Doris White. My brother John was born two years earlier than me, and my younger sisters Maryanne and Bernadette were born two and four years after me, respectively. We were a well-known Anglo-Indian family, which traced our roots to British ancestry on my paternal side and Portuguese and Dutch ancestry on my maternal side.

KGF had an old world charm and bonhomie about it and was known for its very affectionate and warm people. It was unique for its secular and egalitarian society not found anywhere else in the world. KGF was known as Little England due to its colonial ambience and European and Anglo-Indian population. The Kolar Gold Fields were owned and operated by a British mining firm, John Taylor and Sons, for almost a century. Four generations of my family lived and worked in KGF. Since we were part of the Anglo-Indian community, our lives were greatly influenced by the culture and ways of the British.

My dad, Sydney White, served as a Warrant Officer, (Staff Sergeant) in the Royal Mechanical and Electrical Engineers (REME) of the British Army during the II World War. He served in the Middle East, Eritrea, Malta, Egypt, etc. He was awarded the Africa Star for bravery and other medals and citations during his military tenure. After his release from the REME, he joined the KGF Mines as a Covenanted Officer. He worked as an Underground Engineer in Nandydroog Mines, and was in charge of the Section dealing with the Hoists, pipes and sand stowing functions underground. He had about 300 miners working under him. He was a strict disciplinarian as well as a kind Boss.

My mum also served in the British Army. She served as a Military Nurse in Wellington in the Nilgiris during the World War II. After the War she worked at the General Hospital (or G H, as it was known) in Madras. My parents met each other through my dad's cousin Millicent Fernando in Madras. They married after a short courtship on 26 January 1949 at Our Lady of Health Church in Velankanni.

As was the practice in those days, my dad had to write to my maternal grandmother formally requesting for my mum's hand in marriage. My maternal grandmother then replied in writing accepting him as a suitable husband for her daughter. I have much happiness and pleasure in sharing these two priceless letters with my readers. I am sure you will find them quite quaint and sweet.

My father's letter to my maternal grandmother - 1My dad's letter to my maternal grandmother - 2

My maternal grandmother's reply to my father

Weddings in KGF

When I was growing up, weddings in my community in KGF were grand occasions, yet homely and full of fun. Since KGF was such a small place, everyone knew each other. Most of the Anglo-Indian families were invited for every wedding either from the bride's side or from the bridegroom's side.

In the early years, arranged marriages were the norm in the Community. Parents of girls would always be on the look out for "good boys" from "good families" for their daughters. Girls were not allowed to mingle freely with boys and were always chaperoned by their mother's and aunts at parties and get-togethers. However, towards the beginning of the 20th Century, a small change set in and boys and girls started falling in love. They mostly ‘eyed' each other at Church or at other functions and events. Eloping and marrying was very rare and they would inform their parents of their intentions when they decided to get married. The parents then took it from there - where the boy's family would approach the girl's family for her hand in marriage.

Preparations for an Anglo-Indian wedding would start months in advance. The bride and groom's families would meet to decide on the details of the wedding. These included the venue, the theme, the colours of the wedding, the Church Service, the hymns to be sung at the wedding, the number of bridesmaids and best men, the number of flower girls, the venue for the reception (almost all weddings receptions were held at the Skating Rink), the menu for the reception dinner, the wedding favours, the decorations, the Centre Piece, the Entrance Piece, etc. They were all serious issues that were discussed threadbare and decided after forming a joint consensus.

The total expenses for the wedding would be worked out and budgeted. The expenses shared equally by both families. Unlike other Indian communities, Anglo-Indians did not follow the tradition of dowry, and hence there are no demands from the bridegroom's side for money or gifts. It was left to the bride's family to give their daughter and new son-in-law whatever they could afford to give them.

The wine for the great day was either prepared by the bride's family or ordered from another Anglo-Indian family. The cake and its design were also discussed by both sides, and then an order for the same was duly placed with the Cake Maker or Bakery. Depending on the number of guests invited, slices of the wedding cake, wrapped separately in cellophane paper, were also ordered. All these preparations went on in full swing and were ready by the time the wedding day drew near.

The bride's wedding dress, a flowing snowy white gown, and the dresses of the flower girls, bridesmaids, the bride's mother and other family members, were normally tailored in KGF by the local tailors, who were expert dressmakers. These tailors could copy any pattern or design given to them but most often, they would design the wedding dresses themselves. Some of the more affluent families had their wedding dress and the bride's maids' and flower girls' dresses tailored in Bangalore or Madras.

Some lucky brides who had relatives abroad got their wedding dresses either from the UK or Australia.

The bridegroom's suit and the suits of the best men, pageboy, and other male family members were also tailored at KGF.

The actual wedding day was full of fun and activity right from the morning. The bride and the bridesmaids had their makeup and hair done at the bride's residence by one of the Anglo-Indian ladies who were experts in hair dressing We had no beauty parlours in those days, so it was a friend of the bride who normally did her make up for her.

The bride was not allowed to see the bridegroom on the day of the wedding as it was considered inauspicious or unlucky. Meanwhile, all the men and boys in both families would go to the Church and the Skating Rink to decorate it for the reception. The flowers for the Church were usually brought in from Bangalore. In no time at all, it would be time for everyone to leave for Church for the wedding.

The wedding service was always solemn and touching. The bride would look radiant and the bridegroom handsome. Many in the congregation would be seen wiping a tear, as weddings always make some people cry. Emotions are always high at weddings. All too soon, the wedding service would be over, and the couple were now man and wife.

After the church service, the bride and bridegroom normally went for a drive to have some precious moments alone together before the Reception. Their drive was invariably to the The Big Banyan Tree (a popular picnic spot) on the outskirts of KGF on the KGF-Bangarapet Road, where the Bharat Earth Movers Ltd., factory stands today. The calm and serene surroundings of the "Big Tree" gave the newly weds time to unwind and cuddle after the Church Service.

When they returned for the grand reception, all the guests would have gathered at the Skating Rink for the reception. The reception was always a homely, joyous affair, and everyone had a good time. Wine and spirits (Whiskey, Brandy, Rum and Beer) was invariably served and the bar would remain open till the end of the Reception. The Wedding March, the Waltzes, the Fox Trots, the Birdie Dance, the Cha Cha, Salsa, etc. had everyone joining in and tapping their feet to the music played by one of the local Anglo-Indian Bands.

Before the end of the Reception, all the young unmarried girls would gather in a circle. The bride, who was blindfolded, would throw her bouquet for them to catch. The lucky one to catch the bouquet was considered to be the next bride.

Likewise, all the young unmarried boys, gathered in the same way, and the bridegroom's Buttonhole Favour was similarly thrown to the group. The young man who caught the favour would then be paired with the young girl who caught the bride's bouquet, and they went round the Hall to the tune of the wedding march.

Our community in those days followed the adage that ‘Marriage was for keeps'. It was considered a sacrilege to remove the wedding ring under any circumstances. Divorce or separation was unheard of. The very word Divorce was not even uttered. Most of the older Anglo-Indian Folk married when they were very young, and their parents instilled in them that marriages were forever. Hence, they stuck together in spite of all problems. They took their marriage vows seriously and lived together in good times and bad, in sickness and health, till the demise of either one of them. They in turn passed this on to their children and grandchildren, and were quite scandalized when the present generation took their wedding vows lightly.

_______________________________________

© Bridget White-Kumar 2012

Comments
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T.S. Nagarajan   |2012-11-05
Dear Briget-White Kumar,
I enjoyed reading your lovable piece. The two
gems, hand-written letters, you have so carefully preserved, speak so much
for the times in which you were married. A few photographs of KGF of
those days would have vastly enriched the text. I belong to a tiny
village called Devarayasamudram, not too far from KGF. This is why,
perhaps, I felt, a bit closer to all that you said in your
well-written contribution.
Regards,
T.S. Nagarajan
Bridget White-Kumar   |2012-12-08
Dear Mr Nagarajan. Thank you for your comments. Happy to know that you were from
Devarayasamudram. You could visit my blog http://memoriesofkgf.blogspot.com for
lots of KGF Nostalgia and many photographs of KGF. I've also written a book on
KGF entitled KOLAR GOLD FIELDS DOWN MEMORY LANE. Warm regards Bridget
SHIVARAM Rangaiah   |2013-02-02
Dear Bridget, I was born in Bangalore but my father and grandfather both
origined from KGF. My Grandfather owned a Bakery near the square and moved to
Bangalore to persue a business in Cenima and owned a theater. I've heard so many
stories about the skating ring the club house, the town, etc. It's like a
fascinating world lost and frozen in time. I wish I had more time with them so I
could learn more about it. Nevertheless thank you for sharing your memories, as
the richness of the past was not really in the gold but the people were
themselves made of gold.
zeal   |2013-09-16
Sir. I this you are mistaken. The land was gold and still the GOLD... you know
the situation now is becoming hell.. what you saying people are gold that was
age's ago ...now decoits ... roming the streets of the LAND OF THE GOLD. i was
feeling proud about KGF ..once but now ... please read local news. its painful
Bridget white-Kumar   |2013-02-03
Dear Shivaram. Thanks for the nice things you've said. KGF was a wonderful place
in the olden days. In order to preserve the memories of KGF I've brought out a
book entitled KOLAR GOLD FIELDS DOWN MEMORY LANE. You could learn more about my
book and for lots of KGF Nostalgia, please visit my site
http://memoriesofkgf.blogspot.com
Warm regards
Bridget
Lorraine White   |2013-03-15
Hi Bridget,
I have read many of your recipes but this article is beautiful. I
too am a WHITE. My Paternal grandfather Denzil Harold White was from Bishop
Cotton Bangalore, and an Engineer by Profession. I have always tried to find
the roots of my White Family. I traced them back to my Great Grand Parents -
Edgar & Mary White. Would be having anyone by these names related to your
family
Bridget White-Kumar   |2013-07-15
Hi Lorraine how nice to know that we have the same surname. I really dont know
if we could be related as none of my ancestors have the names Edgar and Mary
White. However, we could stay in touch. Warm regards
Bridget
Sandhya Seth ph 9810978810   |2013-07-14
Hi Bridget
This is Sandhya Gupta(D/O P. D. Gupta who was the C&MD of BGML.Will
get a copy of the book for sure. Dad will be too happy.Was born in Kolar so KGF
means the world to me. Will tell him about your family. will be thrilled.
Bridget White-Kumar   |2013-07-15
Hi sandhya thank you for getting in touch. Happy to know that you are Mr P D
Gupta's daughter. You must be quite a few years my junior in St Joseph's. We did
have a lovely life in KGF didn't we? Do hope and pray that good days come back
to our beloved KGF in view of the Supreme Court ruling. Do email me on
bridgetkumar@yahoo.com and I'll let you know how to get my book on KGF. You
could also join the KGF FRIENDS ACROSS THE GLOBE GROUP ON FACEBOOK where you'll
find a lot of your friends. Infact, Janice Jain did mention you on the group.
Please convey my warmest regards to you parents and your family. Your dad would
know my dad Sydney White. Warm regards Bridget
Santoshkumarg   |2013-08-22
Thank you mam for ur memories of kgf.i read the this memories i back to
my old age.thaks.thaks.formemories
Bridget Kumar   |2013-08-23
Thank you Mr. Santosh Kumar. Please do visit http://menoriesofkgf.blogspot.com
for more KGf Memories. Warm regards. Bridget Kumar
Magesh   |2013-10-06
Hi Bridge Kumar hope that your doing good i really thank you for giving
wonderful memories of KGF.
I need your help for posting some old photos in this
site.My father Mr M.Subramani(Late)former foot ball player from KGF and moved to
madras representing southern railway.
He was also part first kolar district food
ball team inuagurated by then MD of kolar gold fields JTM TAYLOR having this
photograph help me to post it.
Usha   |2014-02-09
Hi Bridget very interested in your blogs i grew up partly in KGF but like you
have wonderful memories of it. I am so proud to be from the fiest grade college
during 1986 to 1988 and stll am very fond if all my teachers i am a doctor in UK
currently. I always go to KGF when I am in idea and try to go past the places i
lived in. It is so unfair that such a joyous place can be turned into a lifeless
place so quickly. I still love it and keep dreaming of some magic where it could
become a very popular retirement development and me going back to live there
sometime in the future. I studied in the st josephs convent only for my primary
school. I dont remember much if it as moved out of KGF after it and returned
fory college.
There is so much i could go on and on about but will leave it fot
next time.
Kevin   |2015-03-27
Dear Usha,

Great! I feel very proud that you are working in UK as a doctor, but
above to the excerpts, "It is so unfair that such a joyous place can be
turned into a lifeless place so quickly" you really know why it has
happened? Because we have contributed nothing to our mother land (KGF).
You know
our own mother can feed only when the land offers,she is also depended on the
land, then who is our great mother? then why did we forget her? then why we are
coming only to enjoy in our land?
then who will develop our land?
Is it the new
born baby? or the one who settled safely in other place and mocking at the land
which developed you?
So please don't ever mention above excerpts again any
where & to anybody.
Sorry if I am wrong.

If you don't contribute a bit for your
mother land, that is not at all a problem, that is your left to you but don't
mock on it.

Kind Regards,
Kevin
Dinesh ST   |2015-08-11
Kevin, Relax, Usha was just mentioning the glory she saw w r t to the present
timeline. She had nothing to Mock /offend on the current Place. We all love the
Glory of this Golden Land.
Rodriguez   |2015-06-10
Hi Bridget,

This is Rodriguez from Bangalore and I am Anglo Indian . I
am really feeling sad that our community is going to be extinct very shortly. I
am planning to gather our community and would like to stand united to bring back
the memories of KGF ALIVE.....

I am originally from Kochi, kerala... But I
don't know I have some feelings towards KGF.

Let me know your
thoughts.

Regards

Martin Clifford Rodriguez
8553478806
Bridget Kumar   |2015-07-13
Hi Martin. Happy to hear from you. Please email me on bridgetkumar@yahoo.com
with your thoughts and plans. Warm regards
Bridget
Hannah   |2017-01-05
I have come to learn my grandmother maisie Prauchard lived in kgf before moving
to madras. Her mother was called grace. Does anyone know this name or any
history. Thank you
Bridget Kumar   |2017-01-05
Hi Hannah nice to know that your grandmother was originally from KGF. Do get in
touch with me by email and I could put you on a KGF group on Face Book where
some one might be able to help you. Regards
Pops   |2018-02-05
Hi Bridget,

I belong to a small village near KGF, but have been raised in
Bangalore for a decade and the back to my Native and so.The three Letter word
KGF its self makes me Happy...!!!! after reading your article and those beatuful
and Meaningful letters...i felt like i was a part of your Ancestors....Thank you
for posting such a good and Unforgttable arcticle..
Keren Schmitt   |2018-03-22
Hi Bridget
I was born in Shillong in 1947 and I did not know my mother but her
parents were from the Kolar goldfields - their names were Lovejoy and I think
were British - my mothers name was Shelagh Lovejoy - I wonder if you have any
recollection of that name
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