hosts: Shalini Pattabiraman & Shobhana Kumar 3rd January

In our series featuring Indian haibuneers, today we pay tribute to Johannes Manjrekar.

Johannes Manjrekar was born on 5 June 1957 in Hamburg, Germany. His parents Dr. Christa Manjrekar and Professor S. P. Manjrekar were scientists in the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysore, India, where he grew up and went to school.

As a respected scientist in the field of molecular biology, Johannes joined as Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Biotechnology at Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU) of Baroda, India. He was a visiting scientist in Susan Lindquist lab at The Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, USA from 2003 to 2005. He retired in 2019. Apart from science, Johannes pursued his other interests: insect collecting, bird-watching, photography, and the composing of haiku.

Kyatrrrbil Johannes Manjrekar

A superior catapult—locally better known as Kyatrrrbil— was every red-blooded boy’s aspiration. Guava and tamarind wood were considered to have the best qualities of sturdiness combined with flexibility, and a great deal of time and energy were expended in finding the perfect Y-shaped piece. But even more important was the rubber. Your run-of-the-mill kyatrrrbil had flat strips of rubber cut from a retired cycle tyre inner tube, but if you wanted to flaunt a really good piece, nothing but Railway Rubber would do. Railway Rubber was supplied by a mafia no less mysterious than the figures in the French Connection, who apparently stripped railway carriages of this special kind of rubber. It wasn’t easy to come by. Unlike the cycle tube stuff, it was round and had near-magical powers of stretch, recoil and projectile force. If you had been able to make the right contacts and acquire a precious length of Railway Rubber, you kept the source to yourself, or shared it only with your very closest, sworn-to-secrecy buddies.

Strangely and disappointingly, the social prestige derived from owning a Railway Rubber kyatrrrbil seemed to work only on the male half of the species. Girls—or at least the ones in our school—were regrettably indifferent to the power of Railway Rubber. We never could figure out what planet they were from.

the cattie’s smooth grip—

a lizard sidles behind

the tree trunk

source: WHIRLIGIG May 2014 The Haiku Foundation

This is the first in the series featuring his work.

We invite you to share a haibun that captures the essence of childhood games or toys, and what these mean to you.

We are delighted to open the comment thread for you to share your unpublished haibun (within 300 words) to be considered for inclusion in haikuKATHA monthly journal.


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