Friday, July 29, 2016

The Story of a Malnad Boy - 35

Srinivas introduced me to two famous teachers in National High School. He knew both of them thoroughly as he was an ex-student of the same High School. The first one was Suryanarayana Rao (SSR) who was a very famous Mathematics teacher. He used to give tuitions at home to students including B Sc.students, even though he himself was only a B.Sc graduate. But he taught us, his class students, also equally well. We were lucky to have him as our class teacher. The other was Srinivasa Adiga who was a famous Hindi teacher. Both of them assured all the help from their side for my studies. I should say that this added to my morale which was otherwise low at that juncture.

Our class had five sections of about forty students each. All the English medium students were put in the prestigious A section. Ours was an exclusive boy’s school and there was a separate National Girls High School. We had some very good teachers but the best of them was the class teacher SSR. The Head Master Srinivasamurthy was a Post Graduate in Commerce and Arts. Ours was one of the very few High Schools in Mysore State which had an exclusive Commerce department. I was indeed lucky to get admission to such a good school. We had an option for second language between Kannada and Sanskrit. It may not be an exaggeration if I say that my Kannada language knowledge and depth along with my immediate elder brother were of fairly of high standard because of the exposure we had to Kannada literature at home. But Sanskrit was known to be a scoring subject and hence my option. Quite unexpectedly, this option also turned out to be remunerative for me! I shall come to it later.

The subject of Sanskrit was a highly neglected one in our High School. The reason was partly because the teacher Nanjunda Sastry, an elderly person, was not given due respect by the HM. He was a part-time teacher with a meager salary of thirty rupees per month. There was no regular classroom and we had to sit in almost a shed like structure; this was in spite of our School having a very good building. Sastry was not even allowed entry into the teachers’ room! We all felt very sorry for the aged teacher. He had a younger brother who lived in Sringeri and was known as a very good Harikatha Vidwan. He was comparatively well off. But he had conveniently forgotten his elder brother who could hardly make both ends meet! I had an occasion to visit his house once. His wife was a mental patient and the couple had no issues. The conditions at home were simply appalling. Later after leaving the School I had visited the house again to bid him farewell. I offered five rupees as Guru Dakshina which he received so gracefully that tears simply rolled down my eyes! If only I could offer him more! But that was not to be. God was so unkind to this great soul! Even today when I am writing this memoir, I feel so miserable to think about this sage like person who could never meet his earthly needs in full!

Quite contrary to the fate of the subject Sanskrit was the subject Biology! The reason again was the teacher concerned. The teacher, Khajane Krishnamurthy (KKM), was an exceptionally talented handsome man. He used to dress well and taught his subject with great style. He had a wonderful command over the English language and the subject of biology. I have no hesitation to say that I have never seen again in my entire education career such an interesting and enterprising teacher. He was an expert in staging the dramas written by the great Kannada legend T P Kailasam. He could mono act with great ease and command. During the Annual School day function he would train the students to stage dramas and sing the famous Khavvali songs of O. P. Nayyar, the legendary Hindi film music director. We the students simply enjoyed his shows.

There was another side to his personality. On account of his charming and handsome personality, several beautiful ladies were after him! Mind you, this was no one way traffic business! He enjoyed every bit of it and was equally responding! The result was a number of stories getting circulated about his affairs and escapades! We had on several occasions seen beautiful young ladies visiting him in the teachers’ room. For a boys’ school with no female teachers, the sight of beautiful ladies once in a while, was a refreshing change! Our HM did not like this one bit. While he could bar the rightful entry of the soft and helpless Sanskrit teacher into the teachers’ room, he could not stop the entry of the fair sex friends of our KKM! He was a real Krishna Paramathma and had no hesitation to entertain his Gopies!

The subject Kannada was taught by a great scholarly teacher by name K. Venkataramana Bhat (KVB). He used to wear highly traditional Mysore dress of Petha and Coat. He had a very fair complexion and was almost a look alike of the great Kannada litterateur B M Srikantaiah (B M Shree). I was unfortunate not to attend his classes. There was another famous science teacher by name T S Ram Kumar (TSR). He was a postgraduate. He had a dark skin but was a handsome man who always dressed well. His classes used to be very interesting. He used to tell us several English film stories. I vividly remember the story of Psycho which he told us in such a style that we started shivering with fear in the class room!

Our school students were known to be very creative in one aspect. It was customary to address all the teachers by their initials. The students would use their ingenuity in finding suitable expansion to these initials. These expansions were usually based on the individual physical specialities of the teachers concerned. For example a fat teacher by name A.Manjappa (AM) was called Aanemari (elephant calf); another light weight with name T R Panduranga (TRPR) was called Tar-Purr; even the HM was not spared and was called Huluku Mande (Rash Head) as he had some skin disease on his bald head! We used to often wonder whether the teachers were aware of this trait of their beloved students! If so how they would react on hearing their own initials expanded in this fashion? Of course nobody had the guts to check this out!

During the lunch time of half an hour all the teachers used to visit a hotel by name Gopi Hotel. It was at a walking distance from our School. This hotel was very famous for the delicious dosas and fruit salad with ice cream. The daily routine was to order one plain dosa and a cup of coffee. The habit had got so firmly entrenched that it almost became a part of the time table for the teachers! Actually the hotel was located near a circle by name T. Seenappa Setty Circle. But the hotel became so famous that the circle came to be commonly referred to as Gopi Circle. Many years later the hotel closed down thereby ending a landmark in Shimoga. But the Circle is still carrying the Hotel’s name by legacy! Poor Seenappa Setty’s name appears only in a stone fixed at the center of the Circle! It is crying for attention; but who cares?

We used to come back to Arunachalam teacher’s house during lunch time. But it used to be a very dull and drab time. Unlike the teachers who were tasting the plain dosas at the Gopi Hotel we were left to fend for our selves by drinking water! We simply envied the teachers! But the evening had something good and interesting for us. The teacher and his wife used to serve us different items like Chapathi, Poori, dosa, etc. They served them hot and with great affection to each of us one by one. Except the item curd rice, which in my opinion could not be treated as a snacks item, all other items used to be quite tasty. The couple made no distinction between their own children and other paying guests in serving the food! They used to prepare some special food items on Sundays for lunch. During the mango season they used to serve one big fruit during lunch. The teacher used to look after each boy with care. He would keep an eye on the quantum of food we ate. If on any particular day we ate less he would seek an explanation. If any of us had hotel food he could immediately make it out! He took it as an insult to the food served by him with such great care and affection! I would only say that such persons are a rarity in the present day world!

Our class had most of the students who had studied in local schools. Many of them were from a Government School called the Main Middle School. It was a century old School in Shimoga. The other group was from National Middle school in which our Arunachalam was a teacher. His own elder brother was the HM of that School. The National Education Society was founded and run by a famous freedom fighter by name S R Nagappa Setty. He was an able and totally dedicated administrator. Under his leadership the society went on expanding and presently runs a vast number of well run educational institutions, even though he himself is no more.

Other than me there were only two boys who came from rural middle schools. Both of them stayed in their community hostel which was located next to our school building. There was no scope for me to develop friendship with the two. Both of them were a sort of bullies who would prefer to talk more through their fists than their tongues! I had one or two such experiences with them and learnt to deal with them diplomatically to save my skin (bones!). I was in search of a savior for me to protect me in case of physical assaults. Indeed I got the best one in the form of one by name Govinda.

Govinda hailed from a lower middle class Maharashtrian (settled in Karnataka more than a century back) family. He had lost his father and was being brought up by his elder brothers. He was a toughie as far as the tough guys were concerned. Even though he appeared to be soft and was indeed soft with soft guys, he would not tolerate any nonsense. He would fight it out even though the matter hardly concerned him. He had the requisite physique to help him out. He could within no time make out my vulnerability, as a rural boy, to hardened bullies. He appreciated my merit and asked me to sit with him on the same bench from 9th standard. From then on I was under his full protective cover. Even to this day I have a feeling that I was a younger brother for him!

Talking of bullies, there was one real bully in our class. Even though he had the name Mahavira, his behavior had nothing to do with the great last Tirthankara of the Jain religion. Left to himself he would always prefer to hit a person before talking to him! His father owned a workshop in Shimoga in an area quite inappropriately named as ‘Garden Area’. If you thought that the area had many parks and greenery you would be in for a shock! There was not even a single tree in the area for name’s sake! The area was known for all kinds of mechanical workshops. In fact the area is famous even today for a very big foundry by name Bharath Foundry. It is delivering quality items to major automobile manufacturers in India.

This Mahavira was in a group of three boys. Luckily the other two, Jayaprakash and Narasimhamurthy, had none of the qualities of a bully. Jayaprakash was the son of the owner of a transport company by name Vijaya Motors. He had the class of an aristocratic family upbringing. Even though he belonged to the Konkani community with the surname of Shenoy he never displayed it. The other boy Narasimhamurthy actually belonged to the Konkani community only. But he had none of the features of that community. He would always wear spotless white dress including a neatly ironed Gandhi cap. Often this was a matter of discussion in the class and the boys would ask Jayaprakash to explain how his friend was an exception to the normal community features. He would explain it away by calling his friend a ‘Kadu Konkani’ (a Jungle Konkani)! This Narasimhamurthy later completed his CA examination and set up a very good practice in Shimoga. Some of my bank friends were going to him for CAIIB accountancy coaching. Jayaprakash joined his family business and in fact became a client of our Canara Bank.

Our class teacher SSR had a special capacity to identify and to extend suitable treatment to bullies like Mahavira. Of course nobody had guts to complain against these toughies. But it was not necessary. SSR could somehow find out on his own. On a fine day he would catch one of these guys on wrong foot and start his treatment! It was not that he would beat them with a cane and leave it at that. He would start with asking the student to stand upon the bench. He would ask the guy how the class looked from that height! After this initial treatment for one period, the student could proceed to the second stage in the next period! Meanwhile he would be given some side dish in the form of boxing of ears, etc. The next stage would be to stand on one leg! As the class teacher used to have not less than three periods in a day, the going used to be tough. The punishment would generally end with a cane treatment and a severe reprimand. We all enjoyed this special SSR treatment for the bullies. Of course we could never show it in the open! That was, for sure, inviting trouble!

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

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