Quite for some time the ‘romantic story’ continued to be the ‘talk of the town’! I do not really remember as to how the characters involved could face this situation. However the person who enjoyed the lime light was none other than the ‘detective in chief’ and ‘reporter’ Manjappa. I am sure if only the present day TV channels were to be present on those days, they would have simply grabbed our Manjappa. He could have been a Campus recruit with a decent pay package! But this great rural candidate for the post of reporter was never recognized. In fact he discontinued his studies and joined his father in agricultural activities. So much for the rural talent going waste!
Meanwhile I had to plan things for ensuring that I secured the first rank in this school also. My class teacher could make out within a short time that my capacity to grasp and retain in memory the lessons taught were far superior as compared to other boys. He started fully recognizing the same. But some how, the Hindi teacher Gopal would not recognize. He used to praise Sridharamurthy in the class in the background of his having passed the Madhyama examination. Here the fact that my brother had already taught me the subject did not help. Further the examination for 6th standard being oral, the scope for comparison was limited. As such I had to wait till 7th standard to establish my superiority. Till then I had to simply wait!
As per the system prevalent, the Head Master had to conduct surprise visits to the classes. He had to test the teaching standards of the teacher involved. He would also put questions to the students to know their absorbing capacity. As already mentioned by me, the HM Mr. Varadachar was held in very high esteem. One day he gave a surprise visit to our class. He started asking spellings of certain simple English words. He found most of the students answering wrongly. Finally my turn came. I had absolutely no problems and answered all his questions correctly. He lastly asked me the toughest question as per him. I had to spell the word ‘certainly’! When I did that correctly he told me that I was ‘certainly’ a bright boy!
He asked me what was the methodology followed by me for studies. Actually I did not have any; but could not say so. I was in complete awe of him. Then he asked me how many hours I was daily devoting for studies. I told him it was about half an hour. Then he told the class that here was a student who could answer all the questions correctly by just studying half an hour daily! He asked them to follow me in this respect. That was really a great day for me! When I look back, it appears to be one of the most satisfying moments of my life.
We had the first terminal examination just before the Dasara holidays. I was awarded the highest marks in all the subjects by the class teacher AG. There was a good gap between my total marks and those secured by the second rank holder Jagadeesh. As expected I could only secure second highest in Hindi. Sridharamurthy secured the highest. But that didn’t affect my first rank. My brother was fully satisfied with my performance. I became fully confident about my continuing my top position in class.
There was a library in Basavani. Sridharamurthy’s father was in charge. He introduced me to the library. I could take home a lot of Kannada novels regularly. My sister also became a voracious reader. Most of the books used to be detective novels. We developed a fascination for such books. I could read all those novels without sacrificing my first rank in my class. There was no electricity in my sister’s place in those days. We used to read these novels in the night in kerosene lamp light. Some of these novels dealt with ghosts and some supernatural elements. Reading such stories at night used to create lot of fear in our minds.
One particular night my brother-in–law had gone out of station. At night we finished our dinner early and closed all the doors one by one. The house was huge and had so many doors. If we had to go to bathroom at night we had to go on opening not less than six doors. I always had this fear that we might have forgotten to close some door. Whenever I woke up in the night I used to develop this fear. I used to get a feeling that somebody had entered the house through one of the doors which had been kept open. That used to make me feel jittery.
After closing all the doors we were both reading two detective novels while sitting on our beds. I was reading a novel called ‘Maatagara Mayanna’ written by N. Narasimhaiah who was famous for such Kannada novels. This novel dealt with ghosts and a sorcerer called Mayanna. My sister was reading another similar novel. Suddenly there was a knocking of the front door of the house. Both of us were so afraid we didn’t know what to do. Nobody was expected to come at that unearthly hour late in the night by village standards. We just froze in our positions! We thought that the knocking may stop. But the knocking continued to our horror! After some time we heard somebody calling us by our names. We gathered some courage and came out to the hall holding the kerosene lamp. It was pitch dark outside. We saw a tall person outside the door calling us again and again. When we moved closer we both were fully ashamed to find out that it was none other than our brother! Needless to say we were fully relieved to see him instead of the ghost as per our wild imagination!
We opened the door in a jiffy. We were told by the brother that the bus had broken down on the way. It had resulted in his reaching the place so late. He could not understand what made us delay opening the door so late. We could not explain to him in any case. So much for the effect of reading the ghost stories in those days!
Sridharamurthy became one of my close friends. One day he took me to his home. He had a big family. Phaniyappa, ‘the business man’, I had referred to earlier, and another poor boy, Shankara Narayana, my classmate, used to stay at his house as free guests. His father was a freedom fighter and was the local branch manager of Malnad Areca Marketing Society. His eldest son was Dattatri who had discontinued his studies after SSLC. This man some how could not accept the fact that I had snatched away the first rank position in the class! He was exhibiting this feeling in different ways!
One day I had been to the library to return the books I had borrowed. That day the usual person in charge was not available and Dattatri himself was in his place. He just went through the books I had borrowed. His eyes simply turned red! He made the necessary entries and put them back. I wanted to borrow fresh books. He asked me why I was still standing there. When I told him I wanted another set of books, he started shouting at me. He was telling others present there that it was unhealthy and unbecoming of a 6th standard student to read so many novels that too the detective ones! Sridharamurthy was with me and found it very bad. But he was helpless. We left the library without collecting any books. Another person who was present there asked me what made Dattatri shout like that. He also asked me how was I in my studies. When told that I stood first in class, he felt that it was far better to read such books and still come first in class than scoring low marks without reading any such books.
For some time I had to stop reading novels. But later I could start again thanks to Sridharamurthy. But Dattatri was after me even afterwards. He had his revenge against me (at least he thought he did) when I was in my 8th standard. I would come back to it later.
I completed the final examination for 6th standard in the month of March 1960. It was the last time I attended an oral examination. The results were announced on a Saturday. We were waiting anxiously outside the school office. Our class teacher came out with a list of students with results. He pasted the same on the office window. To my surprise it only mentioned whether the student has passed or failed. No rank list was published. I was curious to know my ranking. I went inside the office and in the presence of HM asked my class teacher what was my ranking. He smilingly told the HM “see this boy who is so particular to know his ranking”. Then he asked me to tell him sincerely whether I could imagine any other student securing first rank. I was speechless. He then personally marked first rank in red ink against my name. I felt a sense of fulfillment which was simply beyond words!
----- (To be continued)……..