“Vajradapi katorani mrudooni kusumadapi!
Lokottharanam chetamsi konu vijnathum arhasi?”
(Harder than diamonds and softer than flower petals!
Who can decipher the minds of great men?)
I was expecting a lot of fireworks at the school on the next day. In fact I could not sleep well in the night as I went on thinking whether I had done the right thing in having a showdown with the teacher with whom I had the best of relations so far.
But certainly it was an anti-climax for me. Visweswaraiah did not raise the topic at all. He simply went through the routine. Even though he read my brother’s letter, he did not show any reaction. What is more, he taught me the subjects as if nothing had happened on the previous day. Later when he was on a visit to my house my brother raised the subject. But he simply shrugged it off! He also clarified to my brother that Srinivasaiah had nothing to do with the whole incident. With this, the issue got buried once for all. But there was a positive change of attitude in him as reflected in the treatment meted out to students thereafter.
Visweswaraiah gave me lot of encouragement to develop my leadership qualities. He took it as a pride to present me to the visiting dignitaries to the school as a model student. He would send me with the company of another student to visit different houses in the village. This was for the purpose of inviting them to the various functions in the school. I was also expected to collect the contributions from each family. I immensely enjoyed this role as it gave lot of exposure to me.
The month of March in the year 1959 arrived fast. Visweswaraiah had already spoken to the Head Master at Narve middle school regarding my appearance for the annual examination of 5th standard as a private student. But for the two subjects for which I had no textbooks, all the lessons in others were fully taught to me. Visweswaraiah told me not to worry too much about the examination. But as a village boy first time appearing for the examination in a town I had my apprehensions. I was equally anxious to get my ability tested by another teacher for the first time. The opportunity came to me even before the examination!
One evening Visweswaraiah had to visit the house of our village Panchayath chairman for some official purpose. He took me along with him. The house was about three KMs from our place. We were asked to stay back at the place as it was late night by the time the official work could be completed with the chairman.
The chairman had engaged a private teacher named Vittal Shetty for teaching his children who were in middle school classes. They were also to appear for their examination in middle school at Jayapura for 7th standard. This teacher was known as a very good English teacher and he had earlier taught the children of another big landlord in our village. During the night he started testing his students in front of us by asking oral questions. We saw his students struggling to answer certain simple questions put by him. After some time he asked Visweswaraiah whether he could test me for my preparedness for 5th standard examination. Visweswaraiah readily agreed. The teacher took me through a viva voce. I could answer all his questions correctly to the full satisfaction of him and my teacher as well. He congratulated Visweswaraiah for the way he had prepared me. But Visweswaraiah gave full credit to me. Looking back, I should say, this was one of the finest moments of my life.
Visweswaraiah made it clear to my family that I should stay at his house in Narve town during the examination. Accordingly he took me with him to Narve on the weekend before commencement of examination. His house was located in an agraharam in the town on the banks of the River Tunga. The family welcomed me wholeheartedly. It was a big well-knit family. Visweswaraiah’s father was a postmaster in a different town. He had nine children. His second son was also a primary teacher. The eldest was a daughter who was already married.
This was the first time I was staying with another family. But they made my stay so comfortable that I really wondered whether I deserved such a nice treatment at all! I was taken to the house of the head master named Hirannaiah for introduction. He was a very famous teacher in the district and carried lot of respect. He told me that he had already been briefed by my teacher about my merit and he would personally test it in the examination.
My examination began on the Monday with English as the first subject. Head Master himself was conducting the examination viva voce. I was the last one to be called. I could correctly answer all the questions comfortably. But the last question was confusing to me. Pointing at his watch Hirannaiah asked me what it was. Actually the word ‘watch’ had not appeared in any of my English lessons. As the word was used in our daily Kannada conversations I was under the impression that it was a Kannada word. I told him that I didn’t know the English equivalent for ‘watch’! He laughingly told me that it was actually an English word.
In the evening the head master sent a word that he had awarded the highest marks to me. He also mentioned that none of his own students came anywhere near me. There was a big celebration in the teacher’s house. Everybody started praising me and my teacher. I was totally basking in the glory I had achieved! I did equally well in Kannada and mathematics. Then the real problem came. I had to attend the examination of history and geography for which I didn’t even have the textbooks!
Today when I am writing down this episode in my life I really wonder how my teacher could ask me to attend the examination without having even seen the text books! But that was it! I had butterflies in my stomach when I went for the examination on that eventful day in my life!
As usual I was to be called last for viva voce in geography in the first session. All of us were waiting in a classroom to be called one by one by the examiner who was sitting in another room. By that time news had spread that one ‘unknown boy’ had stood first in the examinations held so far. While I was anxiously waiting for the call to come, three senior students came to see me. They congratulated me and asked me how my preparation for geography was. I explained to them my predicament. They could not believe that I had not even seen the textbook.
They went out for a while and came back with a plan. One of the students would walk into the room of the examiner and observe what kinds of questions were being asked. As senior students they had this freedom. He would come back with the information. The other two students had already collected the textbook from one of our class students. They were to prepare me for all those questions by referring to the textbook.
The student came back after some time with a list of questions. The first common question was ‘what are the physical features of
When they asked me I told them that I had not even heard such words! They then asked me what was lying to the
north, south, east and west of our country. I told them the presence of Himalayas, Indian Ocean,
Bay of Bengal and Arabian
Sea. I was told that the answer was correct and complete. On a
similar way I was prepared for the other common questions. I had this capacity
to memorize and repeat whatever was told to me. This capacity came in handy on
When my turn came for the examination I was fully prepared and could walk in confidently! Needless to say that the examiner was totally impressed by me (courtesy: the senior students)! A similar strategy from the same students in the afternoon session for the history subject made me come out in flying colours! I did not know how to express my gratitude to these senior students!
When I look back on this episode in my life I am really not able to guess what exactly made these students to help me out like this. I never met them later in my life. In fact the reader may not be even able to believe this as true. But I only feel that such ‘angels’ do appear in everybody’s life and these favours are on non-returnable basis only!
- (To be continued)-