Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Story of a Malnad Boy - 10

Childhood is the time when the curiosity in every event going around us is at its highest level. It was not different in our case also. The life appeared to be so interesting in spite of the difficulties faced on account of meager resources our family had.

The Navarathri festival used to be celebrated with great spirits in our village. Pooja and function used to be conducted in different households on different days. The last three days functions used to be held at the houses of three big landlords of our village as shown below:

v On the Sapthami day at the house of Laxmi Narayana Rao (Chairman of village Panchayath) of Hurulihaklu
v On Ashtami day at the house of Ganesh Hebbar (Biggest landlord and a giant personality respected and equally feared by the villagers) of Belavina kodige
v On the Navami day at the house of Srinivasa Subrahmanyam (village Patel) of Puradamane

The festival would culminate on the Vijayadashami day at Sringeri and all the villagers were expected to visit and participate in the celebrations at the Sringeri Mutt. The God Sharadamba would be decorated specially on that day. The elder Swamiji would be taken around the town on the Ratham and what a visual delight the whole thing was!

We children used to have gala time attending each function at different houses and enjoying the Pooja and the grand lunch thereafter. While the elders used to be busy preparing for the function at each house, we used to be in our own world playing and fighting amongst ourselves! We used to divide ourselves into two groups just like the present day political parties. We fell into different camps just like that without any logic to justify. Some times the fight used to be on one to one basis between two camp members; there were occasions when the two camps would fight it out in groups! It was almost a war between two camps! My elder brother was physically strong and I was always well protected! Somehow our camp used to win all such wars! I think our recruitment of members was on a sound footing!

There used to be a pair of brothers called ‘Grandsons of Gangamma’ from a place called Kelakoppa. This Gangamma was an old aged widow wearing a white sari. In those days the widows were expected to shave their heads and wear only red sarees.But young ladies who lost their husbands were permitted to wear white sarees and retain their hair. It appears Gangamma had also lost her husband in her young age itself. She was seen only during Navarathri festival. Her grandsons would always accompany her. None of us knew who were their father and mother. It was also not clear why they did not have any names of their own. We used to distinguish between them by addressing them as elder brother (Anna) and younger brother (Thamma)! This Thamma was very notorious; at least that was what we thought! We used to hate him just because we thought his very appearance was intimidating! I had several fights with him duly backed by my brother. Later these boys worked as ‘suppliers’ in Koppa bus stand hotel. We were envious of them thinking that they could eat all items in the hotel free! We were also astonished by their physical growth after they joined the hotel service! We presumed that eating of masala dosa, bonda and vadas daily must have contributed to their physical growth! Later we gathered the information that these boys had become hotel owners in Bangalore.

Another boy who became our bitter enemy was the son of a person called  Sanne Bhatta. This Sanne Bhatta hailed from Sringeri town. In fact we used to stay in his house whenever we had to stay overnight in Sringeri. He was a regular visitor to our village for Navarathri functions. He would assist the Pooja team and would be paid for his services. We were always under the impression that he was named Sanne Bhatta in view of his personality (dwarf)! In Kannada sanna means small. His son used to invariably accompany him. We used to get highly intimidated by him. One of the reasons appeared to be his ‘squint eyes’ which we all disliked for unknown reasons. He used to be a bully and eager to fight out! We used to gang up against him and hit him hard. On one occasion the fight reached such a crescendo that this boy went to the kitchen and came out with burning wood to burn us alive! Timely interference from elders only could save our skin!

The function at Puradamane (Patel’s house) had another great attraction for all. During the night there used to be a programme called ‘Jagarane’. Actually this was nothing but a Yaksh Gana episode without the stage and make up of the artists involved. The artists would conduct their programme sitting in the hall itself. The programme included playing of harmonium, Tabla and Chande by great artists. I remember the names of some of the great artists. They are Thimmappaiah of Keremane, Shingappiah of Quaranakodige and one Subbannaiah. Thimmappaiah was well known for his role play as Draupathi. As the programme ran throughout the night, we children could witness only part of the episodes. But we enthusiastically sat through till the sleep overtook us! Another attraction for everybody was the snacks served during the middle of the episode. We used to desperately manage postponing our sleep till the snacks arrived on the scene!

My immediate elder brother (nicknamed Puttanna) and I (nicknamed Kitta-short form of Krishnamurthy) always moved together. We used to share all types of information. Because of his seniority Puttanna always had access to more information. He used to caution me on certain matters. One day he showed me a person who had come to our village on some work. This man was strangely silent throughout and was not uttering a single word. Puttanna told me that his tongue was cut off! It appears that this man was holding his tongue between his teeth during a journey when suddenly he fell down. His tongue was crushed between the teeth on account of the impact of fall! The moral for me was not to keep my tongue between my teeth! I was unduly worried and started seeing my tongue lost in my dreams! I could regain my confidence only after I saw that particular person speaking to some body on a different occasion! My brother could not explain to me how his tongue came back!

At some stage of our childhood we brothers suddenly became very notorious. We started beating up our mother and run away from the scene! We enjoyed our power enormously! However, our proudness in our prowess came down crashing one morning. There was a Malayali labourer working for our neighbor who had a son called Kutty. This boy was very handsome and intelligent even though he was an illiterate.

 One day we brothers were boasting ourselves the way we were able to beat our mother and run away! Kutty heard us and was shocked! He told us that he had so far heard only about people worshipping their mother. And Lo! Here we were boasting our prowess in beating our mother! He asked us whether we had read the scriptures Ramayana and Mahabharata. We proudly said that we did! Kutty was then forced to teach us the value of mother in the life of humans. We felt so ashamed of ourselves that we put a full stop to our proud activity immediately! This incident remains still fresh in my memory. The Rig- Veda says “let noble thoughts come to us from all sides”. In our case it came from an illiterate Malayali Kutty!

There was a big Sampige tree in our village near the Belavinakodige house. The branches were well spread out over a vast area. Many of the flowers bearing branches were at a low height. This enabled young boys like us to climb the tree and pluck the flowers at ease. One fine (?) morning we brothers were on the tree. I was plucking the flowers happily when suddenly I slipped and fell down. My brother came down and found me unconscious. As he had not seen any person unconscious so far, he thought I was dead! He ran home and announced my death to my parents! They rushed to the place with other neighbors. By that time one Yellappaiah had carried me to the house at Belavinakodige. I had regained my consciousness before my parents arrived. They were happy to see me alive!

I had fractured my left hand and was in great pain.  I was taken to Koppa Government Hospital where they put my hand in plaster. It took more than a month for me to recover. Soon I was back in form to climb all sorts of trees!

—(To be continued)---


ashwini said...

Sir, How old were you when this event took place ? I am curious as it makes me wonder how you happen to recollect the names and other details so clearly :-)

Narain said...

Navarathri was a time of great activity in our childhood. That is the time when devotion was fostered. Even without our knowing, values got imbibed through the various cultural incidents associated with this festivity.

AVK Murthy said...

Thanks Ashu. I think I was at the age of 5-6 years at that time. But certain incidents remain etched in my memory including the names of the personalities.

You are Right NN. Navarathri was a great cultural event. We realise only now the values attached to those events.