Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Story of a Malnad Boy - 34

The completion of my education at Basavani School was an important stage in my life. My education career was at crossroads at that juncture. I knew that my bother was particular that I went to a High School which had English medium classes. At that time only Schools in Shimoga had one section exclusively for English medium. It was a privilege to get admission to this section. My brother had another motive. He wanted me to be a ‘city boy’ who could not only speak English, but also speak Kannada in ‘city style’. But it was not going to be easy. Our family resources could not afford us even to pay the school fee. The payment of my establishment expenses was simply beyond our capacity.

When the results were published, my brother sent me to Hokkalike with instructions to collect my TC and marks card as early as possible and get back. As expected I had secured very high marks in the examination. But unfortunately the HM had received transfer orders and was on leave at that time. So the issue of TC was delayed. My brother sent me a SOS through my other brother asking me to come back urgently with the documents. Ultimately Giriyappa himself signed my documents and handed over them to me with best wishes.

I reached Koppa in a hurry. There my brother was waiting for me anxiously with his close friend Krishna Rao.They went through my marks card and were quite pleased to see my performance. But the situation appeared to be grave! I was told that all the seats in Shimoga schools had been filled up. Even the seats at Koppa High School were reported to have been filled up by that time. The situation appeared to be worse than the present day admission to Medical and Engineering Colleges! We were expected to reach Shimoga by night and use some influence to get me the seat.

My brother ordered me a masala dosa in the bus stand hotel. That was the first time I was eating a masala dosa after my trip to Chickmagalore many years back. I was relishing the same when I heard the bus agent shouting that Shimoga bus had arrived! My heart started beating fast and I began eating the dosa in a hurry. I was fully tensed up. The fact that I was proceeding to Shimoga direct without seeing my parents at home added to my anxiety. My brother told me to cool down and eat comfortably! He told me that there was another bus to Shimoga which would come in half an hour. That made me relax a bit.

The next bus arrived in time. This bus called CKMS was to pass through Thirthahalli on a good asphalted road throughout (The bus via N R Pura had to pass through an unasphalted road). Besides, it was the prestigious Leyland bus as against the normal Benz busses of Shankar Transport which had a virtual monopoly in our area. I had seen this bus earlier in Koppa bus stand and always had the fascination to travel in it one day. That opportunity had arrived now! This bus had another speciality. It had a driver who when he got down in Koppa bus stand, looked like a Gulliver among the Liliputs! I had not seen such a giant of a personality anywhere else.

We the three of us left Koppa on this bus driven by the Gulliver. It was my first trip to Shimoga. For all of us in Malnad this city was the centre of attraction in view of it being known as arecanut trading centre. I had lot of things going on in my mind about the city where I was going to live. We reached Shimoga by 9 PM in the night. We had our meals in a hotel and straightaway proceeded to the house of one Arunachalam in Durgigudi extension. He was a teacher in the National Middle school. He was running a mess at home only for selected students from Malnad. He went through my marks card and assured us that I would certainly get an admission in National High School with that type of marks. We were also told that I had to appear for a test along with other aspirants to get selected for English medium. We felt relieved for the time being. I stayed in the teacher’s house for the night.

When I woke up on the next morning I found about ten boys from Malnad staying there. Arunachalam’s wife Rajamma was a beautiful lady and a busy housewife. The couple had two sons and one daughter. The first son was studying for diploma in Bhadravathi. The second by name Mohandas was my classmate. The daughter was studying in SSLC. I found the other boys brushing their teeth and queuing up for taking bath. It was the first time I was seeing anybody using tooth paste and brush to clean their teeth! We at home were accustomed to using the ash made out of burnt rice bran for cleaning our teeth. You could say that the same was at zero cost. Spending money for the same appeared to be strange and unnecessary! I was also new to the concept of having a separate set of soap and towel for one individual. The first thing my brother did was to purchase these items for me in the morning. I should say that my entry into the City life started with this purchase! But I had quite a tough time in learning the art of brushing the teeth as I was a late entrant to this business!

I was expecting the teacher to call us for the breakfast once we were through our morning ablutions. But there was no sign of the same. Instead we were called for our meals straightaway at 9 AM. Then only I came to know that there was no morning breakfast system. You can imagine my despair! I was accustomed to eating half a dozen dosas every morning at home and later at my sister’s house! So this was going to be my fate in the City! I had to break my fast by eating my meals instead of the so nice a thing called Tiffin! I could see how busy the couple Arunachalam was in the morning. They had to prepare and serve food for almost fifteen persons by 9 AM after ensuring that each one had finished his morning ablutions including hot water bath. The continuous heating of water in the bath room itself was a major challenge. And the teacher ensured it personally by replenishing the paddy husk continuously in the oven.

Along with other boys and my brother we went to the National High School which was at a walking distance from the house. My admission process went on smoothly. We were told that the test for the English medium would be conducted on the next day. I had another three classmates in the teacher’s house hailing from Malnad. All of us including teacher’s son Mohandas appeared for the test. Except for one boy by name Ganesh all of us got selected. My brother’s one greatest ambition in life had been fulfilled! But the more challenging part of meeting the cost of my stay remained.

Quite unknown to me my brother had planned for a free establishment facility for me at Shimoga. There was a hostel for Brahmin students in Shimoga. It had set aside certain free seats for the poor and meritorious students of our region. The hostel used to collect donations from rich personalities. My brother was aware that certain big landlords from our Malnad had given their donations. The idea was to use their influence to get me a seat. One requisite for admission was that the boy should have had his Upanayanam. I could understand why my brother had desperately managed to get me that eligibility in a hurry! But there was another major hitch. The hostel had the main aim of getting the boys admitted to the college after their SSLC. Hence hardly any free seat was being offered to the High school students. The idea was High School facility was available in Taluk centers and there was no necessity to come all the way to Shimoga! Naturally the hostel management could not appreciate my brother’s ambition to put me in English medium.

My brother had a classmate by name Talavane Srinivas. He hailed from a super rich family from our Malnad. He was an exceptionally brilliant student. He was the first boy from Malnad to secure rank in his B.Sc. His example was being quoted by all the families while asking their sons to perform well in studies. He had since finished his M.Sc. and was doing research in IARI (Indian Agriculture Research Institute) at New Delhi for his PhD. He had earlier studied in Shimoga National High School and had a good number of acquaintances in Shimoga. My brother had requested him to use his good offices to secure me a free seat in the hostel. He had come home for summer holidays and came to Shimoga on a personal visit.

We met him in a hotel room. I found him a handsome young man very eager to help the brother of his classmate. He was impressed with my marks. He took me personally to one Dattatreya Sastry who was a member of the hostel managing Committee. The Sastry family owned a big Arecanut Mandi in addition to being very big landlords. The Talavane family of Srinivas was sending major portion of their arecanut produce to this Mandi. Hence they were a prestigious Client for them. Besides Srinivas was personally known to them as a brilliant student from Malnad. We were assured by Sastry that he would put in a word for me in the Managing Committee meeting.

My brother had brought two letters from highly respected personalities from our place recommending my case to the hostel authorities. The same were handed over to the hostel Manager as annexure to my application for free seat. In view of my merit coupled with low income and recommendations it appeared that a seat for me was guaranteed. All the other boys who were staying with me at the teacher’s house had also applied for the hostel seat. They included two younger brothers of Srinivas studying in National High School. But they were sure to get the admission as their application was for full payment seats. Being students from well off families they could comfortably pay in full unlike me. I was the only exception. The hostel was to open only on July 1st to coincide with college opening day whereas High Schools had opened on June first.

My brother had to make some more purchases for me including one steal trunk to keep my belongings. For the first time in my life I was to handle my affairs independently including money matters. I was handed over some petty cash and was asked to maintain an account of my expenditures in a small notebook. Having arranged everything for me brother was to leave for home along with Krishna Rao who was with him throughout and involved himself fully in the venture. Both of them were staying in a Hotel called Meenakshi Bhavan. On the night before their departure day, I felt miserably home sick.  My brother could see it from my expressions! He asked me to stay in their room for the night and asked for an extra bed. We went for a late night Hindi movie in the nearby Modern Talkies. That was the first Hindi movie for me. To my ill luck it was a tragedy with the famous tragedy queen Meenakumari as the heroine. The film simply added to the gloom for me!

The morning saw me bidding farewell to my brother and his friend. I returned to the house of Arunachalam in a melancholy mood. For the first time in my life I had moved out of my easy going village life. Actually when I was staying with my sister it had made me no difference. The lifestyle was the same as at my home. Besides, there was the comfort and security of my sisters’ presence. Here in the City I missed them very badly. I had to live in a strange place with so many boys who were quite unknown to me. I really felt like weeping! Actually I was in good company. Besides, the Arunachalam couple was quite considerate and kind in dealing with me. But for the first time in my life I felt detached from my Malnad village life to which I was so dearly attached!  Truly my life journey was at cross roads! I never could return to my original Malnad village life from then on till today!

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

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