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

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