Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Story of a Malnad Boy- 28

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)……..

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Story of a Malnad Boy - 27

Slowly I started getting introduced to all the boys in my group. The boy Manju from Melkoppa soon became a close friend of me. He had a sister in a place called Hombuja which had a famous Jain temple. It was also a pilgrim place for the Jain community. This place was close to Shimoga and the Tunga dam at Gajanur. He used to tell a lot about these places of interest as he had lived there for some time. For me, a boy who had very limited exposure to outside world, his narrations were of great interest. I liked the association of this boy very much.

The second boy Laxmi Narayana, who was my classmate, hailed from a place called Charanabyle. I liked him immensely as he was a very simple but lovable boy. Being the first son of a rich landlord he had responsibilities at home. He could not concentrate on his studies and failed in 6th standard itself. He discontinued his studies and I felt his loss of company very much. The other boy Shivaramu, the son of the priest of Kolavara temple, hailed from a poor family. I had visited his home several times for drinking water as it was on midway to Basavani. He was the second son and had a large family. His mother was very kind; but it was very painful to see the poor conditions of the family. I am told that this Shivaramu is well-off and owns a petrol bunk near Sujatha Talkies in Bangalore at present.

Let me now come to my other members of the group. Their names were Puttappa Nayak, Venkataiah, Puttappa, Shankarappa, Thimmappa and Gopal. These boys belonged to the “non-vegetarian” section of our group. This section had two major characteristics. They were generally hot tempered and ready to strike you physically with least provocation. They were also generally weak in studies (with a few exceptions, my classmate Jagadeesh was one such) and this added to their ferocity. We, the vegetarians, were referred to as “pulicharu boys” and generally lacked guts to face physical attacks. There was hardly any scope for offence from our side. Rather we had to exhibit lot of diplomacy to defend ourselves from their offence!

Two things helped me defend myself from their offence. Our Vishnu had a personality which gave no scope for the offence against us. He was tall and well built. It gave an impression that he could hit back strongly against the offender. This was in fact not true at all. He was such a mild person who would not kill an ant! But his personality and physic did help me in defending myself from the marauding non-vegetarian gang! The other thing which helped me in the first year was the presence of Shankarappa in the gang.

This boy, whom I have already mentioned as the Captain of one of the Kabaddi teams, was an exception. While he did look like a bully and had the appearance of a big bull, was really mild in nature. He hailed from a poor family and was staying in his uncle’s (Puttappa’s father) home for pursuing his education. He was a very good boy by nature. He would not allow his boys to attack us. He was exploited and ill-treated by his uncle’s family. I had seen his uncle beating him all the way from school to his home on one occasion. Thus both Vishnu and Shankarappa were a case of “appearances are often deceptive”. I had the best of both! These two were like ‘Firewall’ for me!

There was a boy called Nagabhushana in our class. He was a senior boy and was a close friend of Vasachari whom I have already referred to as Captain of one of the Kabaddi teams. They were birds of the same feather! While Vasachari was stuck in 8th standard, Nagabhushana was stuck in 6th. They were finding it difficult to keep a track of number of years they were stranded in each class! If only they could maintain a spread sheet, the things could have been quite different! Unfortunately nobody knew about Guinness records in those days! Otherwise both of them deserved a place therein effortlessly!

Nagabhushana’s this elegant record was broken on account of strange and unforeseen circumstances!  While he was stuck in 6th standard, his younger sister could not be prevented from joining him in the same class!  He was trying to manage this embarrassment somehow. But our class teacher AG would not allow him peace of mind. In those days there was this cruel and embarrassing punishment meted out to students who could not answer the questions in the class. The student who answered correctly was supposed to punish the student who had no correct answer. The mode of punishment was to hold the nose of the student and hit him/her on both the cheeks! AG would ask the same question to both of them. He would ask the young sister to give punishment to her elder brother once she gave the correct answer and the brother could not! Things reached such a stage when Nagabhushana was forced to give up his education. Thus his great records came to an ignominious end!

The students in the 8th standard were highly respected and we were all in awe of them. The best student was Chidambara who hailed from an aristocratic family. His father was a big shot and owned a beautiful and vast bungalow in the middle of the Basavani town. He had a big land holding and owned the rice mill. The family members maintained a class of their own. Except one handicapped boy, all others had great looks and cause for much envy from ordinary folks.

Two of the boys, Thimmappa and Phaniyappa were competitors in a ‘business’. On my first day at the school both these boys approached me and asked me to place my orders with them and went away. I was at my wits end.  I could not make out exactly what type of orders they were referring to. The mystery was solved by my classmate Sridharamurthy. He told me that these boys were selling textbooks after bringing them from Thirthahalli town. We had to pay them in advance and they would keep a margin of one Anna per book.

My brother had purchased all the books for me. Only Hindi text was missing as it was an optional subject taught in only Basavani and Thirthahalli. For me Phaniyappa looked a nice and sophisticated boy. On the other hand, Thimmappa appeared to be a bully! I did not know with whom to place the orders. While I wanted to oblige Phaniyappa, I could not think of incurring the wrath of Thimmappa, the bully. The problem was solved when it came to light that the Hindi books at Thirthahalli were already sold out. They were not interested in placing an indent only for one book for me from Shimoga. Both Phaniyappa and Thimmappa were disappointed to loose the one Anna margin from me! While I felt relieved for the time being, the real problem for me was how to manage without the textbook. My ambition to beat Sridharamurthy in Hindi subject faced the first and foremost hurdle! But Vishnu told me that his maternal uncle Nageshaiah had one old book with him. This was an old edition of the same book and the new edition had some minor changes. I got the book and had to some how manage with the same.

There was another handsome boy in 8th standard by name Rangappa. He hailed from the village Laxmipura from where my classmate Jagadeesh also came. It appears that the name Laxmipura was quite appropriate as all the families from this place were well-off! So was Rangappa. He was a very good boy and good in studies as well. But he became famous for a different reason all together.

It would be quite appropriate to call this as “Rangappana Pranaya Prasanga” (The romantic episode of Rangappa).  He had a classmate called Sharada who was good looking. She hailed from a rich family. One fine morning the Head Master called both Rangappa and Sharada to his Chambers. He enquired them as to what was going on between them! Nobody knows exactly what happened afterwards in the Chamber. But the words spread fast that the two had a romantic association. It was also said that the pair was meeting regularly in a secluded place between their villages. This became a hot topic for discussion in the School.

That evening our group was waiting anxiously to get the full story from Thimmappa who was in 8th standard. He was equally eager to disclose the same to us. But we had to wait until Vishalakshi dropped out at Nenangi. Soon after, Thimmappa began the story. As per him it was Manjappa, a 7th standard student, who played the role of an investigator. He, some how, had a hunch that the ‘pair’ was up to some thing. He kept an eye on Rangappa’s activities after he left from the school.

His efforts were fully rewarded when on a particular day he found Rangappa deviating from his usual home route. He followed him surreptitiously and found Sharada waiting on the way. They exchanged some words and proceeded to a secluded place. They were found holding each other’s hands at this stage. As per Thimmappa, this in itself was vulgarity! He stopped the story at this stage to know our reactions. Our group fully agreed and wanted to know what happened next as we could not hide our curiosity any more! Our imaginations were running wild.

As Manjappa found it difficult to hide himself while on their trail, he mounted a tree on the way. From there all he could get was a bird’s view! As his view was limited he could only confirm that the pair was found in a deep embrace! He had no camera to click. But could give a graphic description of what he saw. Thimmappa finished his story here. That was enough for us, the gossip hungry group. The story was passed on by word of mouth. It had value additions at every stage depending on the power of imagination of the storyteller! For me Rangappa appeared to be a great romantic hero! I had read some romantic Kannada novels by then. But this was a real and live story! There was quite nothing to beat it at that time!

 ---- (To be continued) ----

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Story of a Malnad Boy - 26

My sister got me up early in the morning. I had an early breakfast after finishing my daily chores. We were expected to leave for school at 9 AM. I was called for another breakfast at this time! I was told this second round was as per instructions left behind by my brother! He was not sure that I would relish the canteen food at school. Knowing the penchant for breakfast we children had at home, he thought it would be better for me to have one more helping to keep my energy levels running till 5 PM. That was the time I was expected back from school. Believe me! This system worked well for me. Rather I quite enjoyed it!

Vishnu and I started our journey to school by foot. From Hokkalike road we entered a small forest and crossed a small stream. This stream flows through out the year and feeds the areca gardens down stream. We entered a road thereafter and came to a place called Melkoppa. Here we were joined by three boys - Manju and Puttappa, my classmates and one Venkataiah, classmate of Vishnu. We reached a place called Kavadekatte where another classmate of me, Lakshmi Narayana, joined us. This place is a junction of three roads and had a big Banyan tree in the middle with the Katte. On proceeding further we came to a place called Kolavara with a famous temple. Here we were joined by one Shivaramu who was the son of the temple priest.

After crossing a bridge on a stream at this point we were at Atthikodige, which is on the border of Shimoga and Chickmagalore districts. On entering the Shimoga district I was surprised to see the metalled road on our way to Basavani even in those days. Busses used to come from Thirthahalli up to this point. Here we were joined by two boys Puttappa and Shankarappa. On our way further we saw the big and beautiful bungalow of Kolavara Thimmanna Gowda, the Patel of the village. His was a highly educated and aristocratic family. His son Venkataiah became Taluk Board President and got lot of work done for the villages around. One of the family members was in the services of horticulture department of Karnataka and rose to be its head. He was recognized as an expert in horticulture matters.

Next we came to a place called Nenangi where a beautiful girl joined us. Needless to say the journey became interesting from this point! Her name was Vishalakshi. She was a senior student studying in 8th standard. We crossed another bridge on a big stream at this point. Half a kilometer journey from here brought us to Basavani.

Our school was located on the banks of a big tank. This was the source of drinking water for the place. Basavani was a model village and had piped water supply even in those days. The water was pumped from the tank to a sump located in a hill behind our school. From there it was distributed to the entire village. The Basavani village is actually on the banks of the River Tunga. It has a famous Someshwara temple. It had all modern facilities including post office, hospital, library, etc. There was also a rice mill and a branch of Arecanut Marketing society to cater to the needs of farmers in the vicinity. The people were enterprising and knew exactly how to avail the benefits provided by the Government. There were good leaders who guided them in this direction.

My first day in the school was one of getting introduced to the teachers and my classmates. I was more interested in knowing who stood first in the class. My brother had made one thing clear to me. He would not accept anything less than my standing first in the class. While he had this immense faith in my abilities, the same was to become a burden on me in the days to come. The boy who stood first so far was Jagadeesh. He was followed by Sridharamurthy, son of an influential Congress Party leader in the village. He used to wear a Gandhi cap which appeared strange for us! He had already passed Hindi Madhyama examination conducted by the Dakshina Bharata Hindi Prachara Sabha. The Hindi teacher Gopal was his elder brother’s classmate. I was clearly told that nobody could score more than him as far as Hindi was concerned. Jagadeesh used to come from a near by village called Laxmipura. His uncle was a Communist party leader. Believe it or not! Basavani had a Communist Party (Marxist) office run by this gentleman. This Party was unknown in Malnad except in Thirthahalli Taluk.

During the lunch break I was told to eat the mid-day meals served in the school. The item was upma (uppittu) on all days of the week. In addition we were also served milk made out of milk powder from USA. I enjoyed neither of them. I made it a point to miss this facility from day two. All the boys of the school used to gather in the play ground during break. The game played daily was Kabaddi. The daily team formation went like this: Vasachari, a tall boy from 8th standard and Shankarappa, a sturdy boy from 7th standard, would lead the two teams. They would call names of other boys for their teams by rotation. Good and strong players would be selected first.

The way the two Captains played their game was worth seeing. While it was almost impossible to catch the bulky Shankarappa, the tall and lean Vasachari would run away with more points in each raid. I had developed some Kabaddi skills in my village school. I had understood that the following were the requirements:
  • The capacity to hold breath for long
  • The capacity to slip away when being held during the raid
  • The capacity to catch the legs of the raider and hold on to it.
I could join the team from day two and my selection ranking reached the top level after some time. While I was not strong physically, I was a slippery customer! I was also capable of catching the legs of the raider and hold on to it viciously. That helped me in this game and I started enjoying the game immensely. Vishnu, though strong physically, never played any games.

The sounding of school bell by the peon Nagappa would stop our game abruptly. With great reluctance we would get back to the classes after the break. In addition to the Head Master, the class teacher (AG), Hindi teacher Gopal, we had another teacher by name Ramappa. He taught only one subject for 6th standard. We had five girl students in our class. Most of us were shy of girl students and there was very little communication between boys and girls.

Our return journey was equally interesting. We started in a group and dropped out from the group as and when the respective homes were reached on the way back. The first to drop out was Vishalakshi at Nenangi. The group’s spirits also dropped at this point! Vishnu and I were the last to reach our homes. Even though we had to walk for long distance we never felt tired. My sister served me lunch cum dinner at 5 PM. I ate the same with great hunger. I never felt like eating again in the night.

... (To be continued)....

Friday, June 17, 2016

Kakolukiam - The Crisis in the World of Crows

The Crows’ Association in Karnataka’s capital city of Bengaluru had called for an urgent meeting to discuss various current issues. The issues included:
1. Scarcity of homes  (nests)  for the community due to cutting of trees – mainly by Bangalore Metro
2. Insult to their Master Shani Maharaj by Revanna son of Deve Gowda, former Prime Minister
3. Insult to one of their members by Siddaramaiah, the Chief Minister of Karnataka
The meeting takes place in Palace Grounds under the Chairmanship of Meghavarna  (refer Panchatantra).  It starts  with a prayer to Shani Maharaj.  The Chairman invites a senior crow named Kaka to come on stage and initiate the discussions. Kaka comes on stage.
Chairman:  Tell us Kaka. What do you want to say on the first item of the agenda?
Kaka: The City of Bengaluru was once upon a time known as the Garden city. But the rising population and real estate boom has virtually made it a concrete jungle. There is wanton destruction of trees denying us the place to build our nests.
Chairman:  Who is responsible for this? Can you name them?
(Before Kaka could say something, a middle-aged crow stands up and starts shouting that  Modi is responsible! )
Chairman: Who is he? Why he is blaming Modi? In what way Modi is responsible for what is happening in Bengaluru?
Kaka: His name is Kejri, Sir. He is in the habit of blaming the Prime Minister Modi for anything and everything, Sir!
Chairman: What is wrong with him?  What is that white thing he is wearing on his head?
Kaka: He appears to be a psycho, Sir. He calls the thing on his head as AAP CAP, Sir!
Chairman: Ask him to shut up. Let us proceed with the agenda.
Kaka: The real estate developers are partly responsible. But the main culprit is Bangalore Metro, Sir.
Kejri: Modi is responsible! Modi is responsible!
Chairman:  Will you kindly shut up? Let us proceed with the agenda.
Kaka: The Metro Phase-I has destroyed a number of trees especially in Lakshman Rao Park. It is planning to remove nearly 500 more trees in Phase-II.
(After deliberations, the meeting decides to go on a deputation to the Managing Director of Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation to request him to stop cutting trees anymore)
Chairman:  Let us come to the second item on the agenda now. Kaka can you brief the meeting on the subject?
Kaka: JD (S) leader and son of former Prime Minister Deve Gowda Revanna has called the eight rebel MLAs who voted Congress Candidate in the Rajya Sabha elections as Shanis and has said that the Shani Kata has now been transferred to Congress, Sir. This is an insult to our community who worship and carry Shani Maharaj - as his official Vahana, Sir.
Kejri: Modi is responsible! Modi is responsible!
Chairman: This is too much. Has he gone mad?
Kaka: My suggestion is to go on a deputation and meet HD Deve Gowda and tell him that his son  has hurt our feelings.
Chairman: You are right. I am told that he is a highly religious person. I am sure he would appreciate our position. Let us come to the last item on the agenda now.
Kaka: This is a very simple and straight case, Sir. One of our beloved members was taking a short rest on the official car of the Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, Sir.
Chairman: That is very normal. What went wrong then?
Kejri: Modi is responsible! Modi is responsible!
Chairman: Can somebody make him shut up his mouth? I am getting mad now!  Please go ahead Kaka.
Kaka: You may not believe this, Sir. The CM, an atheist,  who is known to be against  superstitions and who is trying to bring a law against superstitions is said to have consulted astrologers, Sir!
Chairman: Please continue.
Kejri: Modi is responsible! Modi is responsible!
Kaka: My patience is also running out.
Chairman: Never mind.  Please continue.
Kaka: The astrologers told the CM that it was a bad omen and advised him to go for a new car. Accordingly, a brand new Toyota Fortuner has replaced the SUV on which our member had taken short rest, Sir.
Chairman: This is too much. It is a great insult to our community. It is high time we proceed en masse to Vidhana Soudha and lodge our protest with the CM Siddaramaiah. But where is our member who sat on the CM’s car?
Kaka: Sir. He is business-minded. Right now he is with the Toyota dealer who sold the new Fortuner to the CM. He is asking for his share of commission! After all, it was because of him that the dealer could sell the car to the CM!
Kejri: Modi is responsible! Modi is responsible!
(The meeting comes to an end)

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Story of a Malnad Boy - 25

My brother had a clear picture before him of what I should achieve in my life. Denied himself of the opportunity to go for higher studies, he had made it a point to ensure that the same was not denied to me. The fact that I was good in studies egged him on further. He was very particular that I should come up in my life as a highly qualified person.  He had a target of making me a city boy who could speak fluent English. For that he first wanted me to speak pure Kannada that was being spoken only in cities. He had observed educated boys speaking such a language. This was quite in contrast to the rural and colloquial Kannada spoken by us as unexposed boys.

My journey towards this end began on the day my brother took me along with him to my sister’s house in the place called Hokkalike.  He had already brought for me all the textbooks for sixth standard. He had specially brought an old Film Fare magazine from his close friend.  The same was not meant for reading! The special quality paper from the magazine was used for binding all my textbooks!  My English text was covered with a photo of Raj kapoor and the Kannada text by Madhubala! Other books had Dilip Kumar, Mehmood and so on!

But the most important need for me was clothing. I hardly had two sets of dresses which could be used only for daily wear. On our way, we went to a textile shop in Koppa. We purchased cloth for two sets of dresses and went to the tailoring shop of Seshagiri. He was a very famous tailor in Koppa in those days. But he was not famous for his stitching skills! Rather he was notorious for the delay in delivering the stitched dresses!  There were times when the dresses given for stitching in Gokulashtami were delivered in Mahashivaratri!

Knowing this tailor fully well, my brother did not want to take any risk. He ordered Seshagiri to stitch my dresses on the spot and left me in the shop to monitor the progress! I had to spend almost half a day in his shop for this. Meanwhile, my brother decided a revolutionary step for me! In those days no person in our village, poor or rich, used to wear chapples or shoes. My brother got me a pair of canvass shoes. This was another step towards making me a city boy!

While sitting in the tailor shop I had to remove my shoes to go to toilet inside the shop. I had a problem while wearing them again. I simply could not understand how to identify the one for the left feet and the other for the right!  Some how I thought I managed. But one of the tailors pointed out the wrong usage to my brother and he was very much upset with me. He must have thought that I had to go a long way before I became a city Boy! But that was me in those days! I couldn’t help but disappoint him!

With the new dress ready, we left for a place called Gadikal (border stone) on a Shankar Transport bus on the way to my sister’s place. This place is called so because it is on the border of Koppa and Thirthahalli taluks, which again belong to Chickmagalore and Shimoga districts respectively. This place is nowadays very famous as it is located very close to Kuppalli, the place from which ‘Kuvempu’, the famous Kannada poet hailed.  From here we had to cover a distance of three KMs by foot to reach Hokkalike. There was a middle school in Gadikal, the Head Master of which we met on our way. He saw my marks-card and was very happy to know that I would join his School. He told us that he would welcome a merit student like me with pleasure. It appeared to me that merit commanded respect everywhere!

My sister was very happy to see me at her house. She was glad that one member from her ‘Tavarumane’ (mother’s home) would stay with her for three years. By that time the other boy Vishnumurthy to whom I have already made a reference had arrived in the neighboring house. He had been admitted to 7th Standard being one year senior to me. However, we came to know that he was admitted to the Government school at a place called Basavani. This place was at a distance of 5 KMs from Hokkalike as against Gadikal which was 3 KMs away. We were told that this school had a very good faculty. Besides, being located in Thirthahalli taluk and Shimoga district it had more facilities than our own Gadikal in Koppa taluk and Chickmagalore district. Hearing this, my brother decided to admit me in Basavani.

We were at the Basavani School on the next day. Again I had a nice welcome on account of the high marks I had scored. The Head Master Varadachar was a well-known teacher all over the Thirthahalli taluk. He had an impressive personality and commanded respect from one and all. My class teacher was a tall gentleman called Gurushantappa (AG). This School had one special facility. While all the Schools in Mysore State had a subject called ‘Hygiene’ for 6th Standard, here we had Hindi as a subject in its place. There was a part-time teacher called Gopal for this subject. This came as a blessing to me as my brother had already introduced me to Hindi. I could have a head start.  The advantage would help later in our High School education. The School had a subsidized canteen facility even in those days. The funds were from the famous PL 480 funds from America. The milk powder used to come from the USA direct.

My brother left for home after making all the arrangements for me. For the first time in my life I had some pocket money from my brother! I had tears in my eyes as I was to stay there without his guidance and away from other family members. I did feel homesick for quite some time. Of course I felt fully secured under the protective wings of my sister. However, it took some time for me to settle down in the new set up and environment. I had a good company of Vishnumurthy.
---- (To be continued) ------ 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Story of a Malnad Boy - 24

The death of Chowda created a void in the life of villagers. Of course his successor was already in place in the shape of Thippa, his son. But the comparison was between chalk and cheese! For Thippa, the succession was not as a matter of right but as a matter of fate! Left to himself, he would have loved to continue as a vagabond without any attachments. But he had the burden of a big family left behind by Chowda. While he cared little for the legacy of Chowda, he had no other alternative than to continue his profession for the survival of his family.

Thippa continued the profession from where his father had left it literally! What I mean here is that he followed the routine of gathering the animals in the morning meticulously, but evaded the responsibility in the evening! For the villagers the return of animals in the evening was more important. But slowly they had to reconcile to the reality in the form of Thippa! For all said and done, this job of cowherd was not only hereditary; it was also the monopoly of Chowda family!

There were several other responsibilities which only the Chowda-family could undertake. While the removal and burial of dead animals was as a matter of routine (which of course nobody else could undertake), the death of humans called for his onerous services! He had to gather the firewood near the river bed for conducting the funeral of the deceased. His role was more important than even the Purohit’s, as without the firewood burning the body, the soul could not reach the heavens! In fact no amount of ‘Manthra Patanam’ would help unless the body was burnt with the help of firewood bed arranged by Thippa! It was simply his monopoly! It was even said that people on their death bed would try to ensure the presence of Thippa in the village before they breathed their last! While the Purohit would take care of sending the soul to the heavens, Thippa would assume the ownership for destruction of the body thereby facilitating the emancipation of the soul!

Thippa’s community had one great advantage. The marriage of widows was not barred in their community. Kundi (wife of Chowda) took advantage of it and married a man called Subba. While Kundi could rehabilitate herself by this marriage, for Thippa and other children it amounted to losing both father and mother by death and otherwise!  Since Thippa was unmarried, the responsibility of house keeping fell on the young shoulders of his sister Karku.

I have already mentioned that Thippa was a good boy and had no bad habits even though he was not interested in his occupation. He had a good personality and always wanted to dress well even though he was also the enemy of a concept called ‘washing of clothes’! As per him, this concept was quite unnecessary! He used to overcome this weakness by booking the dress used by boys of his age well in advance! Following the legacy of his father he would replace one dress by the other.

Thippa suddenly developed a fascination for cinema. In those days there were no permanent theatres in any Malnad towns other than Thirthahalli, which was far away from our place. There used to be camps of touring talkies at Jayapura, Koppa and Sringeri only in winter and summer seasons as these places were not accessible in rainy season. Also the tent covering tarpaulin could not withstand the heavy rains of Malnad. Initially Thippa used to visit only Jayapura talkies. But here they exhibited mostly Tamil films to cater to the coffee and tea estate workers. So he shifted his destination to Sringeri. We used to wonder as to how he could manage to pay for the tickets. The mystery was solved by Thippa himself for us. Thippa had discovered that the tarpaulin enclosure for the tent had a few big holes in it to facilitate him to view the cinema standing outside! In other words the hole in tarpaulin was in fact a major loophole in the touring talkies set up! Thippa was fully benefited by this loophole!

By the time this loophole was detected and plugged, Thippa had made inroads in to the hearts of the talkies-owner. His amiable personality and friendly behavior attracted the owner. Thippa would supply him several forest produce including the flute made of bamboo. Slowly Thippa was allowed to stand inside the tent to watch the shows. Thippa could sing film songs and imitate the big actors by his dialogue delivery. He would bring us film song books which were sold in the theatres in those days. We would by heart all songs and sing the same as cradle songs while cradling our young brothers.

As the number of Kannada films produced was very less, the tents were forced to exhibit Tamil films even in Sringeri. Slowly Thippa developed a fascination for them. He told us that unlike the sober Kannada films, the Tamil films were very powerful in dialogue, adventure and heroics! As per him, the names of Kannada films themselves indicated how sober they were. He cited the examples of ‘Jaganmohini’,’Bhaktha Markandeya’, ‘Santa Sakhu Bai’, ‘School Master’ and ‘Vidhi Vilasa’ as proof. As against this, the Tamil films had names like ‘Veera Pandya Katta Bomman’, ‘Neela Malai Thirudan’, ‘Vanji Kottai Valiban’, ‘Kappa Lottiya Tamilan, etc. For us, young boys, in those days nothing was more attractive than reading, hearing and seeing the adventurous stories. We were quite convinced by Thippa’s views considering the awe inspiring names of Tamil films!

I, for one, immediately asked Thippa to teach me singing a Tamil song. He taught me a song which ran as:
“Ponal Pogattum Poda!
Inda Bhuvi Lilayai Vandavar Yarada!
Ponal Pogattum Poda!”
I started singing this loudly as a lullaby while cradling my young brother. To my surprise, the child, instead of getting lulled into a deep sleep, appeared disturbed and in fact started crying! My elder sister came running and asked me to stop singing immediately for God’s sake! She had two questions for me:
 1. What was supposed to be the meaning of the song?
2. Why was I shouting it when I was supposed to be singing?
I told her that I sincerely thought that I was only singing it. As for the meaning, I told her that I had absolutely no clue! She told me that she had nothing against Tamil as such but the cradle songs should not be harsh. They are supposed to be sober and melodious to the tender ears of the child.

I had to revert to Thippa as I did not want to give up Tamil singing so easily! On hearing my plight he taught me another song which ran as:
“Ninnai Kande Nanada
Yennai Kande Ninada
Ullasam Pongu Inba Deepavali
(Kanneerum Kadashulyam Deepavali)
Uringu Mugildum Honranga Kalandum
Uravadum Neramada”

“Kanna Thil Yenne Vennu Kadenagathada
Kanna Thil Vilayada Kalaye Nivada”
..So on and so forth
This song indeed worked for me as my young brother would go to deep sleep on hearing this from me.

Thippa tried his hand in hunting of wild animals. There used to be several hunting parties for wild animals in our village those days. Thippa used to join these parties for hunting. But as luck would have it, he could not proceed beyond hunting down Kurka and Barka! (The terminology used for petty animals).

Thippa married a girl called Devi and enjoyed his family life. Considering his disinterest in his hereditary occupation and his fascination for other ventures, we used to frequently ask him where he was headed ultimately. He was firm in his goal setting. He used to say that all he wanted to was to end up as a gatekeeper in a cinema theatre! That way he could fulfill his desire to see all kinds of cinemas free!

At a particular stage in his life, Thippa abdicated his hereditary occupation in favor of his younger brother Mariya. He simply left the place without disclosing his destination. However, we came to know later that he had indeed achieved his greatest ambition in his life! He had been appointed as a gatekeeper in a permanent cinema theatre in a town in the district of Hassan! While none of his boyhood friends including me could achieve our ambitions in life, it was only Thippa who could do it! I would like to end this episode as a tribute to my great friend of boyhood, the lovable Thippa!                                                                

…. (To be continued)…..

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Story of a Malnad Boy - 23

“Some had name and fame and honour,
Learned they were and wise and strong;
 Some were nameless, poor unlettered
 Weak in all but grief and wrong.”
-William Morris

In my previous episode I had made a reference to Chowda, the cowherd. He was such a character and was a part of our daily life that it would be unkind of me to dismiss him with only a casual reference. It is time for me to bring him back alive!

As stated earlier Chowda was the cowherd for our entire village. It was a hereditary occupation for him. He had a permanent house near the house of the biggest landlord of our village. We used to refer to his house as Gudi.His wife was called Kundi. His eldest son was called Thippa. This Thippa was in our age group and was a good company for us. Both Chowda and Thippa would address the elderly males as Aiah and youngsters like us as Sannaiah.

Chowda had several roles to play in our daily life; So much so that his official occupation of cow grazing was relegated to the background on many occasions. He would be visiting each house in the morning at about 8 AM. By that time the daily feeding and milking of the cows were expected to be completed. He was to be given yele-adke (a system of giving pieces of arecanut, pan leaves and tobacco to all labourers/servants daily- practiced only in Malnad) by each household. He would gather all the cows and buffaloes from each house, herd them together and proceed to the hills, fields or nearby forest for grazing depending on the season. All the cows were given names by the households and he could recognize them by their names. Generally he would carry a flute with him. He would keep playing the same. The sound of flute in the morning would herald his arrival! This would also help us to know his location at any given time.

By evening 5 PM Chowda would ensure that all the animals reached their sheds. He used to have some tough time during the visit of tigers to our village. This was almost an annual affair in those days. The tiger would arrive at a cave called Oranakkal on the top of a small hill. Its roaring could be heard up to far off places during the nights. It would manage to catch some cow or calf during their grazing. It would drag it all the way to its cave and enjoy its meal. We could know the fate of our animals only in the evening. If any animal was found missing its fate could be presumed to have been sealed. I remember such occasions when we had to simply mourn the loss of our beloved animals. We used to weep loudly on such occasions as we could not accept the loss of animals which were so dear to us.

Chowda was mostly helpless on such occasions. Still there were occasions when he could save the animals by his intelligent moves when the tiger was about to strike. He had also the misfortune to announce the death of certain animals which were dragged away by the tiger in his very presence! He had to accept it as a professional hazard! The villagers did appreciate his predicament and never made him responsible for such loss.

Chowda had the responsibility to remove and bury the dead bodies of the animals. His cash earnings used to be very limited. People used to offer him meals, breakfast, coffee etc. He was always a very satisfied man and his necessities were very much limited. He used to wear only the second hand dresses (used and worn out) offered by the villagers. He hated the very concept of washing the clothes! My brother used to threaten him saying that he would give him a cake of washing soap and make him wash his clothes! Chowda used to simply run away on hearing this! He would rather wait to get another set of used dress to get rid of the existing dirty dress!

Chowda was liked by village women as he would bring them forest produce like soapnut , bellatte leaves (leaves of a particular shrub which would be boiled in water and used to wash the women’s hair in place of soap), etc. For boys like us he would make flutes and pettlu out of tender bamboo wood. While the whole world knows the flute, the item Pettlu is known only in Malnad. It is made by cutting out a small length of tender bamboo. The pettlu bush is peculiar to Malnad and it bears Pettlu kai (small fruit like produce). These are used like bullets in the Pettlu. They are inserted in the hallow portion of the Pettlu and shot out by pushing them with force by an instrument called Gaja made out of wood.

Every year the Pettlu Habba (festival) is celebrated by the children of Malnad. The festival date is fixed as per the Vontikoppal and Sringeri Panchangams. The supply of Pettlu used to be taken care of by Chowda and later by his son Thippa. We used to celebrate this festival with full gusto. We enjoyed the shooting of Pettlu as if we were firing a gun itself. There used to be full support and co-operation from the elders.

Chowda was a master in story telling and gossip spreading. As he used to visit all the houses he was privy to certain inside information. He would either overhear or gather directly from the family members such private information. His whole disposition and manners used to be so endearing that the people would pleasingly convey such matter to him. He had a knack of soliciting and collecting such news. He would add his own masala and disclose the same to another household in a very presentable format. This would cost them only a cup of coffee and yele-adke. In those days there used to be no newspapers or radio and the news was always at a premium. People were hungry to hear any form of gossip and story. Our Chowda was the only village media available and the cheapest at that! He knew it well and enjoyed his monopoly!

At his old age Chowda found it difficult to manage. His son Thippa was a vagabond. Even though he was a good boy, he neither attended the school nor was interested in his hereditary occupation. There came a stage where Chowda would simply come in the morning rounds to collect the yele-adke and coffee. He would gather the animals and let them off without any further supervision from him. In the evening most of the animals would return to the sheds on their own by force of habit. He would just check in at each house enquiring their return. If any of the animals was missing he would leave stating that he would go in search of them which he never did.

I distinctly remember one particular day when I was returning from my school. I saw Thippa on the way and in the usual manner spoke to him jokingly. Thippa was upset. Addressing me as Sannaiah,  he told me to spare him on that day at least! He left the place in a huff.

On returning home I was told by my mother that Chowda was no more. All of a sudden the truth dawned on me that I could never see Chowda in my life again. The one common thread that ran between the entire village was broken and was no more. Chowda’s flute went silent and was to be heard never again. The only vocal media of the village was closed down permanently. Chowda went away unwept, unhonoured and unsung.

Today when I am writing down this memoir of Chowda, tears come to my eyes. Chowda’s distinctive personality appears in front of me and expresses the gratitude for recording his story and immortalizing him for the future generations. I feel a sense of satisfaction amidst the sorrowful memory. I pray for the soul of Chowda that is playing the flute in the great heavens!

....... (To be continued)……

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Story of a Malnad Boy - 22

One of the best times in our life in my younger days was when our family had an occasion to grow sugarcane and produce jaggery. In our Malnad the whole process of producing jaggery when the sugarcane is ripe is called conducting of Alemane (I am not able to find an equivalent word in English for this). We were offered the land by Srinivasaiah of Puradamane for this purpose. It was the land where somebody else had already raised the sugarcane crop in the previous year and hence it was easy for us as we could use the same saplings. This saved a lot of investment for us. Also as agreed we were to keep the entire produce without surrendering any portion to Srinivasaiah.

Initially our daily job was to ensure watering the saplings. The place was about one kilometer from our house. The location was to be accessed by passing through a small forest beyond the arecanut gardens of Srinivasaiah. It was indeed a beautiful spot with total greenery in place. The daily journey to the place itself was so thrilling to children like us. We would finish our breakfast early and prepare ourselves to reach the place. Once reaching there we would either assist the elders or start playing around. We were filled with great anticipation to the forthcoming Alemane to enjoy drinking sugarcane juice and eating fresh jaggery. Till then we had only heard about the Alemane and had never seen it. Here we were in the process of conducting our own Alemane! Oh God! The gracious!

Our entire family was involved in this great new venture of raising the sugarcane farm. The crops grew up fast in line with our spirits. But suddenly a problem started. As the farm was very close to the forest wild boars started visiting at night to destroy the crops. It was a heart breaking scene to witness the destroyed crop in the morning. The only remedy for this was to keep a watch in the night and shoot the boars using a gun. Srinivasaiah was in possession of a licensed gun. We borrowed the gun and spent some money for purchasing the cartridges. For the first time in our life we saw a gun and were thrilled to hear that the same would be used to hunt down the wild boars. The gun was handed over to a man called Chowda. He was a cowherd who used to take care of grazing the cows and buffaloes of the entire village. He was appointed the night watchman.

We thought the menace would come to an end with the appointment of Chowda as the gun wielding night watchman. But to our surprise the menace continued. At the same time certain cartridges were found missing from Chowda’s gun! Chowda who had the exclusive possession of the gun could not offer proper explanation. Our investigations revealed that the cartridges were fired by Chowda to shoot forest birds. While he enjoyed the supper prepared out of this bird meat, the wild boars continued to enjoy their sugarcane dinner at night thoroughly! It was indeed a situation which called for appointment of another watchman to supervise the gun wielding watchman!

The issue was sorted out by my father and brother with one of them spending the night at the farm to supervise the nocturnal activities of our Chowda! Naturally the menace came to an end with our Chowda spending a few cartridges from his gun to shoot the wild boars.

As the crops became ripe for harvesting, the process of setting up the Alemane started. There was sufficient place in the farm itself to conduct this activity. A big oven was set up to place the Kopparige (a massive vessel) for boiling the sugarcane juice. Lots of firewood collected from the nearby forest was already in place. A big pandal was put up to cover the entire area of operation. About four Alemane specialists arrived from a place called Kardipura under the leadership of one man called Siddha. Within no time this Siddha became a part and parcel of our life and became a great hero for us.

On an appointed day the crusher and two pairs of bullocks arrived on the scene. The crusher was installed with a small ceremony. The crushing of sugarcane started with great celebrations. We spent most of our time in the Alemane and were reluctant to go home even for our meals. The food for the workers arrived from our home. We even spent certain nights in the Alemane itself with either our father or brother. It was great to witness the sugarcane being crushed by the crusher pulled by the pair of bullocks. The juice would then be poured into the big vessel which was mounted on the huge oven. One person had to ensure that the firewood was burning continuously and the level of burning of fire was uniform to ensure the proper formation of jaggery. Siddha would go on stirring the juice till the same got solidified in the form of jaggery. Siddha’s skill would be tested in the way the jaggery tasted later. His role was very critical and he had to monitor the activities continuously to ensure the best quality of output.

We could taste and enjoy several combinations of sugarcane juice mixed with lemon juice, ginger, etc. We also found a method of hanging partly ripe skinned banana fruit in the boiling sugarcane juice. They would be removed after they got a good coating of boiling juice. Such bananas tasted terrific! Siddha would also allow us to take out the foam formed on the surface of the boiling juice in small quantities. The same tasted wonderful. Overall, the days went off so sweetly for all of us literally!

Here I should mention the special culture of Malnad as far as the Alemane was concerned. Even though there used to be no formal invitation, all the villagers were expected to visit the Alemane and taste the sugarcane juice. If only one family member were to visit, he would be handed over a vessel full of sugarcane juice for the other members of the house. In fact such person was expected to bring his own vessel to carry the juice without any inhibitions! It was also customary to hand over a bundle of sugarcane cuttings for eating at home. This type of generosity in entertaining the guests was in fact a matter of routine! It was indeed believed that the more you entertained the guests, the more would be your sugarcane yield! The present day generation may not even believe that such a custom did exist. Thanks to the commercialization of our entire cultural life!

We kept a track of visitors to ensure that no household in the village was left out. This act of entertaining the guests was indeed so satisfying to all of us. We thoroughly enjoyed the same.

The final product of jaggery was placed in tins specially ordered for the purpose. While the jaggery for ordinary usage was in solid form, a few tins of liquid jaggery (called Joni bella in Kannada) were also made to cater to the needs of daily breakfast. Such jaggery in combination with ghee would taste fantastic when eaten with dosa and other similar preparations. In those days sugar was not in use in daily village life. The daily dose of coffee used to be made with jaggery only.

Our joy knew no bounds when the entire jaggery in tins arrived at home. The same were stored in the attic. We children used to daily count these tins just to ensure that all of them were in place! I do not remember whether any of the tins were sold either before they arrived at home or later. But I do remember that they were sufficient to meet our one year consumption.

The winding up of Alemane was a very sentimental moment for all of us. It was as if a great festival had come to an end! Similar sentiments were expressed by Siddha and his team. At least for us children it was a very sad occasion to part with them. As far as I remember ours was the last Alemane to be held in our village. We never had another opportunity to see this team of Siddha in our life. The dedication with which this team worked and became a part of our life at least for some time remains etched permanently in our memory. If only the God was to make available the ‘Time Machine’ to me for a few days, I would use it only just to go back to those Alemane days! But alas! It is only the memory that remains!    
 …. (To be continued)……

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Story of a Malnad Boy - 21

My departure to my sister’s place for higher education was a major turning point in my life. From then on I lived away from my home and never returned there for permanent living even though I used to be back at home on all holidays. Thus I moved away permanently from that special cultural life of my village. Hence before I start writing my life at my sister’s place I wish to narrate certain important events which could not be covered so far.

As children we were familiar with stories of boys running away from their homes. In fact one of my father’s nephews by name Shyamu had also ran away from his home. He had lost his parents quite early in his life and had three brothers and one sister. The family was well-off otherwise. My father being the maternal uncle was the only person who could have worried about him as his other kins were also young at that time. It was said that after certain time he wrote to my father asking him to come and bring him back from a place (Ballari) where he was stuck. My father being a vagabond himself did not evince any interest. It was also a fact that he had no money to visit the place. Eventually Shyamu never returned to his home. My mother always used to tell us about this boy who never came back even though he wanted to. As per her, my father had the moral responsibility but did not bother to fulfill. She never excused him for that.  In fact the family had allocated Shyamu a portion of the property during partition. But he never turned up to claim the same. We used to wonder about the fate of this boy and always expected him to turn up one day with lot of gifts for children like us. Alas! It never happened and he never came back!

I clearly remember one particular day when as a kid I was playing with my sister in front of my house. My eldest brother was getting ready to visit Koppa town with a consignment of pan leaves. While leaving the house he came to us and embraced me and my sister and bid us adieu. I found that some what unusual. Later we came to know that this unusualness was quite justified. My brother had run away!

The news was quite shocking to my mother, my elder sisters and brother. Of course my father was the reason behind my brother’s running away. He was not given the freedom he deserved as a matured boy as I came to know later. He was not sent for higher education after he completed his Lower Secondary (LS) Examination. He was made to work for the Puradamane family along with my father. But at that young age I was not quite aware of the family problems. In fact the only thought for me and my young sister was that our brother would come back one day with lot of gifts for us! We never appreciated the sorrow and uncertainty felt by the rest of the family.

My father was a ‘Sthithaprajna’as far as such things were concerned. He never exhibited his sentiments outwardly. It was also true that he had no way of finding out what the destination of my brother was. Brother had only a few rupees being the sale proceeds of pan leaves he had sold in Koppa town. There used to be no cash holding in our house and if any thief was to enter our house by chance he could have in fact felt pity for us. There was even a possibility that he would have left a few rupees behind from his own purse for our sake! That was the state of affairs!

Enquiries at Koppa town revealed that my brother had boarded a bus for Shimoga city. But that did not help much. It could have been only a wild goose chase to search him in a big city like Shimoga. But my mother did not allow my father to just sit and wait. He really had it tough and he only knows how he managed the time at that juncture.

Three months passed by. Our family was in regular touch with the post office expecting a letter from my brother. The post office was far away from our house and we didn’t want any letter to fall in to wrong hands to avoid publicity. One evening we received information that there was a letter from my brother. One particular gentleman (a big land lord) had collected the letter from the post office. It was actually a post card which the gentleman went on reading out to everybody before he ultimately reached our house. He was very kind to read it out for us also even though everybody (other than children) in our house was capable of reading it himself/herself! He thought he was doing us a great favor!

My brother had disclosed in the letter that he was in Mysore. He had expressed his intention of returning home provided my father went there to bring him back. He had also mentioned that if my father was not to reach there within a particular time he would pack off to Bombay and may never return! It appears that he was reminded of Shyamu’s fate and issued this warning to my father knowing him fully well! But there was a difference here. Shyamu unfortunately had no mother who could have pestered somebody (he also had no father) to bring him back. But in this case my brother had this great soul called mother who would never allow her son to get lost!

In those days we were somehow given an impression that Bombay was an island which could be reached only by a ship by sea voyage! It was also thought that it would be very difficult to return once you got in to Bombay! Suddenly we were all reminded of the story of Ulysses which had appeared in Chandamama! We thought that our brother also may have to undergo all those travails of Ulysses! My mother’s maternal uncle had read a lot about Bombay. He told us that people of Bombay were so rich that gold was being sold on the streets in khandiges (a big measure prevalent at that time). We started imagining our brother purchasing gold for us all!

My mother ensured that our father left for Mysore immediately to bring back her beloved son. It was indeed an opportunity for my father to visit Mysore which otherwise he would never have done on his own. Three days later he came back with our brother. It was a great sentimental moment for all of us. That particular moment stands etched in my memory till date. We all felt how much we had missed him all those days. As expected he had brought gift items to all of us. We thoroughly enjoyed receiving such gifts for the first time in our life!

For quite some time we had several visitors calling at our home seeking details of my brother’s sojourn to Mysore. We children used to sit with our brother and heard the story repeatedly. He had his own way of describing the events and indeed he was a master in it! So much so we always longed to hear more. As far as I remember, he was the first person to visit Mysore from our village. People were anxious to hear about the great historic and royal city of Mysore. Subsequently another two boys from our neighborhood also ran away from home probably inspired by my brother! One boy reached Puttaparthy - the town of Sai Baba. But their accounts of their sojourn when eventually they came back were nowhere comparable to my brother’s, partly because they were not good story tellers. In any case, our brother was ‘our brother the great’ (Anna) and in our opinion he had a class of his own and nobody could beat him! That was it!

More than five decades later, I was working as a Senior Manager in Canara Bank. I was transferred to Jayalakshmipuram branch in Mysore city. My brother had an occasion to visit us. I was curious to know where my brother had stayed in his first visit to Mysore. I found him equally interested in locating the place. We went to K R circle and searched for the location! My brother clearly remembered that the name of the hotel where he stayed and worked was Chandra Vilas. The owner was said to be a very nice man who was kind to my brother. I was aware that certain hotels of that era were still surviving and in fact the second or third generation was in charge.

Ultimately we reached the particular location. But alas! The hotel was no more in existence. A multiplex had come up in that location. Both of us found ourselves fully disappointed. My brother felt that his memories got buried under the foundations of that new multiplex. An important chapter in my brother’s life had come to an end.
 --- (To be continued) ----
A V Krishnamurthy