Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Story of a Malnad Boy - 18

Let me get back to writing about my teachers at this stage. As already referred to in the earlier episodes my eldest brother was the first and foremost teacher in my life. However, I would like to credit two other teachers with the honour of guiding me at the initial stages of my education and for their contribution for what I am today.

As stated earlier there was frequent break in my primary education as the teachers posted to our village school either failed to report or abandoned the place after two or three months. In fact it was even said that certain teachers were drawing salary for having worked in our school even though they never reported at the school. They were doing this in connivance with the education officer and school inspector. This fact came to light when my brother wrote a letter to the editor of Prajavani, a Kannada daily.

We had almost forgotten the presence of a school in our village when suddenly, one fine morning, news came that one teacher named Subba Bhatta had arrived. He had arrived with his family in tow and it meant that he was here to stay. My immediate elder brother Puttanna had already completed his primary education by that time. I headed a group of students, all girls, including my younger sister while going to school from my house. The school building was in fact a part of the house of Puradamane Shingappaiah. It was a very big bungalow and a portion in front was donated by him as school building. At that time Srinivasaiah, adopted son of Shingappaiah, was the owner of the bungalow.

Subba Bhatta was a great teacher. He had earned a very good name in his earlier placements. Within a short time he found that even though I was to study in 3rd standard as per records, I had already completed studying all the books for 4th standard - courtesy my brother. By making some adjustments in the school records, he upgraded me to 4th standard. He did this by taking some risk. But unfortunately one visiting school inspector found this out and took him to task. I was present at that time and thought that the game was over and I had to move back to 3rd standard! But the teacher was quite adamant and stood his ground. He challenged the inspector to test me and find out for himself which standard I deserved! I am proud to say that the teacher was found hundred per cent right in his assessment of me! The inspector was pleased to give up! He however asked the teacher not to publicize this adjustment and land him in trouble later. I used to get frequent dreams in those days wherein I was forced to get back to 3rd standard by another inspector! But fortunately it never became a reality.

Subba Bhatta and his family became close to our family. He respected our family for our superiority in education level and our habit of reading. Suddenly we felt ourselves proud.  He taught us well and encouraged extra curricular activities also, which were unheard of till then. Everything was going well for quite some time and my brother even requested him to give me tuition for 5th standard after my annual examination. My spirits were really running high in those days. But like all good things this good thing also came to an end abruptly!

One fine morning (not so fine for us!) news came that Subba Bhatta had been posted to undergo training in a place called Bellare. Believe it or not, the training was for a period of two years! Later we came to know that the long duration was for the reason that Subba Bhatta was a non-matriculate. But it spoiled our party and we were completely stunned. There was no way this training could be cancelled. Our entire family was literally in tears for the departure of this great teacher and his family. But that was it. We had to simply say goodbye to them even though we didn’t like it a bit. Another chapter in my education had come to an end.

For some time no other teacher was posted to our school. Meanwhile the relation between our family and Puradamane Srinivasaiah family was severed as already written by me elsewhere. One fine morning we got the news that another teacher by name Visweswaraiah had reported in our school. But there was a hitch this time for us to attend the school. My father did not find it appropriate to send us to a school in the Puradamane Srinivasaiah house as our relations were severed. But the new teacher was very much interested in our attending the school. He personally visited our house to request my father. Ultimately my father yielded and after consulting other important village elders he permitted us to attend the school.

Visweswaraiah was also a very good teacher. He had passed his SSLC and belonged to a place called Narve about 8 KMs from our place. He taught us well. The annual examination was conducted and I completed my 4th standard. My next destination should have been a place where there was a middle school. But my brother asked me to continue to go to our village school!

Visweswaraiah was quite surprised to see me at the school even after passing the 4th standard. He sent a letter to my brother through me to clarify my presence. My brother in turn sent his reply requesting him to give tuition to me for 5th standard. This correspondence was because my brother could not visit the school as it was attached to Srinivasaiah house.  Visweswaraiah readily agreed without even quoting his fee. My official entry to English language study began with a textbook called Ideal English Reader, written by J C Rollow.

At this stage I had to face another problem. By the time my tuition started it was almost mid academic year. As such I could not get all the textbooks in spite of best efforts of my teacher and brother. I had to manage with English, Kannada and Mathematics text books only. The texts for history and geography were missing. But for that my tuition classes went well.

Visweswaraiah gave lot of encouragement for us to exhibit our talents in other areas like public speaking, singing, etc. He conducted physical drill classes also. He had a brother called Chandri (Chandrasekhar) who was highly talented in fancy dressing, mimicry, etc. He was studying in Narve middle school and often would visit our village with his brother to exhibit his talents. We enjoyed every bit of his actions. Everything was going fine for some time.

All of a sudden Visweswaraiah started acting tough with all the students. The reasons for such provocation were unknown to us. He started punishing the students severely for even silly reasons. The students who came a bit late were asked to stand outside the school for a long time before they were permitted in. I was observing this and didn’t like this attitude at all. I was waiting for an opportunity to see myself how I would be treated on such occasions. The occasion came up very fast.

I have already mentioned earlier that I was leading a group of students on the way to school from my house. My group had grown to almost ten by that time. Being the senior I was in total command of this group. On a particular day there was a religious function in my neighboring house. It took some time for us to finish our lunch there. In the process there was a delay when we reached our school for the afternoon session. I was entering the school with my group behind me when suddenly I was asked to stop at the door by Visweswaraiah. He simply told us to stand there. I had always thought that such punishments were not applicable to me! But my pride was being tested on that day! I was stunned.

I simply took a right about turn and asked my group to follow me. The school building was located just below a small hill. We had to climb down this hill daily to reach the school. I asked the group to climb the hill on the way back to our homes. We started climbing up without even looking back. Visweswaraiah had not expected such rebellious action from me. To say that he was stunned may be even an understatement. He came out of the school and started shouting at us desperately to come back.

We were on the top of the hill by that time. We turned back and looked down at our school. All the students had come out and Visweswaraiah’s desperation could be seen from the top of the hill. All the members of Srinivasaiah household had also come out to watch this ‘tamasha’! Visweswaraiah really had a problem on hand! As our family and Srinivasaiah-family had strained relations, the whole thing would be seen as a provocation from Srinivasaiah family to us! The general public would definitely think that the teacher had played in to the hands of Srinivasaiah in sending us home! In fact this was what exactly happened when we were back at our place!

I reached my neighboring house (where the function had taken place) along with my group. The elders were playing cards at that time after the special lunch. They were all surprised to see us back from school so early. They stopped playing and asked me to explain. I gave them a briefing about the way we were treated by the teacher. I told them that we were late only by a few minutes on account of late lunch after the function. As per me we did not deserve the punishment as such occasions were very normal in our place.

There was full support for my action from all the elders present. In fact my brother even felt that school rules were not applicable to me as I was only a student taking private tuition! The general opinion was that the teacher might have been provoked by Srinivasaiah family as he was staying with them and was indebted to him. But in fact it was not. Honestly Srinivasaiah had no role in the entire event. My brother drafted a letter to Visweswaraiah. But it was decided that the same may be handed over by me on the next day as it was late by that time.

 ----- (To be continued) ……..

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