Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Story of a Malnad Boy - 29

There were a number of developments in my home front during this period. My second eldest brother (Puttanna) who had discontinued his studies was given tuition by Visweswaraiah. He appeared for 6th standard examination at Narve and came out successful. His 7th standard tuition was given by Subba Bhatta, who had come back to our school after his training. With that we both landed in the same class.  Our eldest brother was entirely responsible for ensuring good education for both of us.

Meanwhile my second sister’s marriage was fixed. The bridegroom was again from Hokkalike only. He was the first son of Thimmappaiah, a highly respected and knowledgeable gentleman. The family had sufficient land to maintain their normal life. But my brother had tough time in arranging finances for the marriage expenditure. Naturally the uncle from Sampige Kolalu was the only source. While the loan could be raised from him, there was absolutely no surplus income to pay it back later.

At this juncture need for another loan cropped up. In the presence of village elders it was decided that we should have some compromise with Puradamane Srinivasaiah. Our relations had been cut off after an incident highlighted by me earlier. During the negotiations, Srinivasaiah agreed for the restoration of the relations on one condition. As per him, he had paid one thousand five hundred rupees to my father at the time of registering the lands in his name. He wanted it to be paid back. Actually my father had registered the land in his favour purely on trust (Nambike Kraya).  But the document clearly mentioned the consideration as rupees one thousand five hundred, thus corroborating the version of Srinivasaiah. I have to mention here that let alone receiving rupees one thousand five hundred, my father had not even seen a hundred rupee note till that time in his life. But the records were against him and as expected in those days he had signed the documents blindly. There was no point in asking the witnesses, they had obviously witnessed the signatures and not the transaction!

I clearly remember the day on which my brother returned from the meeting and spoke to mother in a hush hush tone. While the general opinion was definitely in favour of a compromise, the cost of the same was no where nearer even to our annual gross income. With the marriage expenses added up, the loan to be raised from Sampige Kolalu uncle could simply blow up to a huge amount. With our limited resources there was no way this loan could be liquidated. Unfortunately that was exactly what happened afterwards. I would come to it later. Ultimately the decision was to go for the compromise. The money was borrowed and paid to Srinivasaiah. The land was transferred by him back. But somehow, the same was registered in the name of my brother alone. Our relationship with the family of Srinivasaiah was fully restored.

My sister’s marriage was held in a place called Andagaru, located between Narve and Koppa. The dibbana (marriage group from our side) traveled on five bullock carts. The function was held on a reasonable scale keeping in tune with our living standards. It took place on my summer holidays. My brother-in-law’s family owned a bullock cart. I accompanied my sister on the cart journey to her in-law’s place. From then on we had two sisters to visit in the same village. We have always made it a point to visit both the houses on each of our journeys unfailingly. Next to our eldest brother, these two sisters have always played the roles of mentors to perfection for all of us, the youngsters.

I should mention here certain great things that happened in the cultural life of our village in those days. The school was shifted to a new government-owned building on the main road. The strength of teachers was increased to three. The posting of a new teacher called Subbanna from Davanagere added some variety. He joined Visweswaraiah in introducing many cultural activities in the students’ career. The boys were trained to stage a Kannada drama written by Kshirasagara. Puttanna played the lead role in this drama. It was well directed. It became so successful that it was staged again and again during the Navarathri celebrations in Belavinakodige and Puradamane. Another drama by school girls also became quite a success. My younger sister Leela played the lead role in this. The annual school Ganapathi festival was celebrated with great enthusiasm and spirits. There was total involvement by all the villagers.

Meanwhile the Adult Education Department officials visited our village. They were instrumental in starting a village library. The same was named Shree Vidyathirtha Pustaka Bhandara. A good number of books were donated by the Village Panchayat Chairman Laxmi Narayana Rao, Belavinakodige Yellappaiah, Hosalli Venkappaiah family and my brother. A news item appeared in the Kannada daily Prajavani wherein all the donors’ names were published prominently. We were thrilled to read our brother’s name in the newspaper.

One more school was opened in our village near the Chairman’s place called Hurulihaklu. This school got the advantage on account of posting of an excellent teacher. He single-handedly built a drama group of his school boys. They staged some excellent Kannada dramas which became very popular. These dramas were not only staged in our village functions but also in Koppa town bringing laurels to the group. Two of the elder sons of the chairman, Thimmappa and Ramesh, were recognized as excellent artists. There was a healthy competition between the two schools. When I look back, this appears to be the golden period in our village life. Unfortunately this period never came back!

I should mention here about the creative talent of my second elder brother, Puttanna, which was evident even in his school days. He was very much interested in writing in Kannada. As a school boy he single handedly brought out a Kannada magazine called ‘Chandravali’. The magazine contained stories which were fully hand written with even some sketches of the characters involved. He would cut the sheets and stitch them into a book form. I was the only subscriber! The subscription had no fee, rather it was free! If I remember correctly, he brought out a good number of such issues. But the response from elders was rather lukewarm!

His creativity did encourage me. I also thought of writing stories. To add to variety, I decided to write detective stories! The backside of last page of Chandravali was reserved for advertisements! Puttanna put the advertisement of my coming detective story there! The story was named ‘Bheeshana Kole’ (The Brutal Murder)!

To my great disappointment this story was never published. The only reason was that it was never written in the first place! Today, when I think about my failure, despite all the encouragement by the magazine editor (Puttanna!), I can easily find out the reason. I had committed a tactical mistake. I should have first conceptualized the story and then given it a name. Instead I had given the name, advertised it and then thought about the story! I had wild imaginations about the murder plot. But it got so complicated that there was no way any detective could solve it! Obviously I could not fit in the role of a detective in the supposed to be ‘detective story’, my brother had so well advertised! It rather turned out to be a ‘defective story’!

My brother had indeed taken the horse to the water; but he could not make it drink! In fact he tried to help me out. I explained to him the murder plot. He found it indeed interesting. It had three characters all of whom wanted to murder the same person. Ultimately the murder took place and the detective was expected to identify the real murderer with proof. But I could not make my detective investigate and find out. You may not believe this. But Puttanna was shocked to find out that I, the author, myself, was not sure who the murderer was! So much for my creativity in my boyhood! You may even say that my creativity was nipped in the bud by none other than myself!

------ (To be continued)------

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