The Primary School of our village was located at a prestigious house called Puradamane. This legendary house belonged to a great philanthropist called Shingappaiah who was a big Zamindar. The school was located on the front side of this huge fortress like square-shaped bungalow. This school had a great legacy. During the regime of two great teachers called Ramanna and Thimmappa, it had reached its pinnacle in its high education standards. The school had become so famous that the boys from distant villages used to stay with their relatives in our village to attend classes here.
The most prestigious name in this list of students was that of Dr.Talavane Srinivas. He was a classmate of our eldest brother AVR. He, along with his elder brother Manjappaiah, studied in this school. The two of them were staying in their aunt’s house called Naduvinamane, which was our neighbouring house. Dr. Srinivas went on to secure his doctorate from the Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI) New Delhi way back in the early sixties. He was the first person from our Hebbar community to achieve this distinction. Perhaps he was also the first person from our entire Malnad region.
My first teacher was Sri Srikanta Jois. I remember having attended the classes during his posting in our village school. But I don’t remember him having taught anything to me. Strangely, he was known more as a Purohit than as a teacher. He had married the granddaughter of a rich Landlord in our village. He used to stay with the said family. His elder brother was a well known Sanskrit scholar in Sringeri. Jois was an expert in matching horoscopes. I distinctly remember that he was responsible for matching the horoscopes of my eldest sister and my brother-in-law. It was a highly successful marriage and in fact theirs was one of the ideal pairs I have ever seen in my life! My mother gave full credit to Jois for this. I should say that more credit was given to Jois for his expertise in matching the horoscope than to the post-marriage adjustments made by my sister and brother-in–law!
As far as teaching was concerned, Jois gave it the last priority! He would attend the classes only if there was no religious function in any of our village houses on the given day! Jois ensured that regardless of his attending the school or marking the attendance of the students, his attendance was always marked promptly! This ensured his pay role in full! Our villagers had absolutely no objections for this! They were happier with completing their religious functions than in the education of their children! We students were so accustomed to his attending of religious functions than the school that we had composed a song for him. The tune was in tune with the English poem “pussycat cat, pussycat, where have you been”! It started with “Teacher, Teacher, where have you been” and ended with him saying “I had been to a place to attend a religious function!”
I remember Jois especially on account of certain peculiar reasons. The concept of underwear was unheard of in those days. Further, the boys were eligible to wear the half-pant (Cheddi) only after the age of three years! But the son of Jois, whom he used to bring to School along with him, was wearing the half-pant even though he was aged less than two! No doubt we were envious of him. But there was one peculiarity! This boy was made to hang his male organ out of his half-pant by keeping the same unbuttoned! We were told that the idea was to make it convenient to pass urine without wetting the half-pant! We really appreciated the idea. However, we could not understand what purpose the half-pant would serve if it is not covering what it was primarily intended to!
Jois had a great talent in giving funny names to his students. In fact he would never address any of his students with the names given by their parents! I was a great admirer of Jois for this particular talent! He would always ensure that the name given was most suitable to the student concerned. One of the names given to a student who lived in my neighborhood was “Tettette”. To this day, in my opinion, that name sounded more appropriate to the student concerned than his original name!
Another matter of great interest for all of us was that a brother of Jois was said to be working for Indian Airlines. We were informed that he would drive (pilot) all sorts of aeroplanes. We were all quite envious and in awe of him. Whenever we heard the sound of an aeroplane moving in the skies, we would run out of our house to find out if it was driven (piloted) by the brother of Jois! On one such occasion my brother told me that he did see the brother of Jois piloting the plane. When asked how he could recognize him he told me that he was having a Juttu (Shike) just like Jois! Not to be left behind, on another occasion I told my brother that I also saw Jois brother and for good sake I added that he waved to me from the plane! In the first case I believed my brother and in the second he believed me! Both were envious of each other. Ultimately it turned out that the brother was actually working for HAL Bangalore and had nothing to do with piloting an aeroplane!
Our school had to shut its doors after Jois was transferred. There was no teacher in the school for a quite long time. Thus my second teacher was not a school teacher at all. He was a ‘home teacher’ (Mane Meshtru) at my cousin’s house. I was sent to this cousin’s house along with my sister for attending classes of this particular teacher. This teacher had the looks of our great Gandhi Mahatma! I would even say that he would have perfectly fitted the role of Mahatma in ‘Lage raho! Munna Bhai’. He was actually a very good teacher. But alas! Unfortunately his teaching assignment with me ended in a disaster!
Here I should tell you that we had been brought up with certain ‘Sanskara’by our mother. Our second elder sister (Rukmini Akka) had been made the enforcing authority and we had to simply fall in line! One such aspect was not to use any ‘four-letter words’ in our conversations! Although our father used these against servants whenever he was angry or upset, we were strictly forbidden. Naturally we were averse to hear any such words used against us also.
In the beginning the classes started rather well. I was even appreciated for my ability to pick up fast. But there was a minor problem. I had somehow developed a weakness in writing a certain vowel in Kannada in a wrong way. I used to write it upside down! I was warned twice for this mistake. But when I repeated the same third time the teacher could not stand it. He shouted at me and used a four-letter word (Mundeganda) against me! Translated to English, it meant “widow’s husband!” I was totally shocked and decided that I would not take it lying down! My ‘Sanskara’could not stand it!
Next day I told my mother that I would not attend the classes. She heard my case and advised me to talk to my father. When I approached him, he was busy cutting firewood with an axe. He was in an angry mood with his body wet with perspiration. After hearing my complaint, he simply told me “whoever is calling you that name; he himself must be a ‘Mundeganda”. I had my answer. I left for the classes jubilantly! When the scene repeated on the day, I simply told the teacher “that is what you yourself are!” I also added that this fact has been confirmed by none other than my father himself! The teacher had the shock of his life! Possibly not even in his wildest dreams he would have thought that a young student would respond like that. Needless to say that there was a big commotion in the house. An urgent message was sent to my father.
I would only conclude by saying that the classes came to an abrupt end after this episode. The teacher left the place shortly thereafter. We never saw him in our life again.
--(To be continued)--