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)....

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