Monday, August 29, 2016

The Story of a Malnad Boy - 43

I had some very bad experiences with the hostel management. Our warden was a true professional and he treated all the boys in the same fashion. However the manager and the assistant warden were quite different.

My brother had given me a torch for my usage in the hostel. It was one of my valued possessions and I had great attachment for the same. One particular night there was a sudden load shedding. I took out my torch and was using it with full satisfaction while going round the hostel in the darkness. The assistant warden, Sripada Jois, saw me moving with the torch. He asked me to hand over the torch for his usage. I was proud to do this thinking that he would thank me later. But nothing of the sort happened. Rather he was not interested in returning it to me! My repeated requests to him fell on deaf ears. It was so unkind of him. But that was the culture in which he was brought up! Ultimately when he gave it back to me, the battery cells had melted inside and the torch was no more in a usable condition. I had to simply throw it away.

With the Manager Chandrasekhara Sastry the experience was equally bad. On a particular holiday I was sitting with a group of boys inside the corridor of the hostel premises. The Manager arrived on his bicycle and was entering the hostel premises. He saw a boy jumping in the air and hitting the tube light with his hands at the entrance gate. The boy ran away inside the hostel seeing the manager witnessing his action. We had observed this incident sitting in the corridor.  The manager was very angry and came to the corridor to catch the culprit. He pointed the fingers at me and asked me to come to the office. There he started admonishing me for jumping and hitting the tube light! No amount of denials from my side could convince him. As per him the boy was wearing a pink shirt and unfortunately I was also wearing the pink shirt! That was proof enough for him! My other hostel mates also tried to convince him about my innocence. But he would have nothing of it. It appears I had seen the moon on the Ganesh Chaturthi of that year!  I was being made responsible for an act in which I had no role. I felt like telling the Manager that in addition to his known deafness, he also had blindness! But I simply could not do it. After all I was free seat student!

But I had help coming in the form of a friend who was a witness to the scene. He searched for the real culprit who was hiding somewhere in the hostel. He caught him ultimately and dragged him all the way to the office. But somehow the manager was hell bent on treating me as the culprit. The episode ended with the boy accepting his crime. He was indeed wearing a pink shirt and that clinched the issue for me!

The above incidents remain fresh in my memory. They added to my inferiority complex at that time. There was always a feeling in the hostel that the free seat students were being treated shabbily. The incidents were a simple proof of the same. At least that was what I thought at that time.

As a young boy, I thought at that time, I should take my revenge against both the Manager and the assistant warden sooner or later. I had read the Kannada version of the novel, The Count of Monte Cristo, written by the great French writer Alexander Dumas. The revenge taken by Edmund Dantes was indeed so satisfying for readers like me. The Kannada translation by B. Venkatacharya, named Raja Malayasimha was one of the best adventure novels ever read by me. I simply thought that I would also get back at the Manager and assistant warden one day like Edmund Dantes and give them back in the same coin!

There were certain boys in the hostel who never bothered about good manners or habits. Our Manager Chandrasekhara Sastry had a taste of their bad behavior one day. One of the bad habits of theses boys was to urinate in the toilet bowl in a standing position without closing the door and just leaving the place without putting water in the bowl. One night our dear Manager was urinating in the toilet in a sitting position. Unfortunately he had forgotten to bolt the door as he was in a hurry. Also there was a load shedding and hence the lights could not be switched on. In the darkness one of the boys just walked in, opened the door, urinated on the head of our dear Manager and rushed away! The Manager was just a sitting duck for him! In the darkness the boy could neither be recognized, nor could the Manager shout at him for fear of embarrassment!

It was the Manager himself who revealed this incident to us during his mandatory speech after the weekend Bhajan programme! He was highlighting the depth to which some students had fallen in the hostel. All of us clapped loudly and enjoyed the predicament of the Manager at that time! We thought that the Manager deserved this urine therapy treatment every bit. That was the type of feeling we had for him! I actually thought it was my curse which did him in!

All of us, the High School students, had great respect for the students of first year B. A. and B.Sc. students. All these boys were allotted and staying in two adjacent rooms. I have already written that in those days there was this feeling that it was very difficult to pass the PUC examination. The reason for the great respect for these students was that they had all passed PUC examination in the previous year! It was also giving us some confidence that the PUC examination was indeed conquerable! R V Sastry, who later rose to the position of Chairman of Canara Bank, was one of these first year B. A. students. In our opinion unlike the PUC students, who we thought were raw and headstrong, these students were mature, polite and treated us with love and affection.

The annual hostel day celebration was held in the month of January. There were several sports and talent competitions. The winners and runners were eligible for cash prizes. All the cash prizes of individuals would be clubbed and the total prize money would be arrived at. The students had the option to indicate their choice for any items that could be purchased out of the prize money. There was a carrom champion by name Ranganna who was a PUC student. It was indeed a pleasure to watch the way he played the game. He was capable of clearing all the paans if he got the first strike. There was no way anybody else could defeat him. The singles first prize was available just for his taking. There was a big demand to partner him in the doubles game. The partner was sure to get the first prize effortlessly. The moment the strike went to Ranganna he would simply clear the board! The other competitors had to simply watch his game and shake their heads in disbelief!  I have never again seen another person who could play this game so perfectly.

We had a roommate by name Dattatri. He was studying for 9th standard in our School only. He had squint eyes, looking handsome and hailed from a place called Sorab. To put it rather straight, he had certain female features! There was a PUC student by name Krishna Sharma. He somehow developed a close friendship with Dattatri. All of us the other room mates did not like their association at all. Sharma was very dominating and had his own gang of friends in the hostel. He used to come to our room on several occasions and take out Dattatri. Some of the boys had seen Sharma kissing Dattatri on a few occasions. This news spread fast but Sharma cared a damn. Rather he became very bold and aggressive. Dattatri was an equally willing partner! The pair became so bold that Dattatri used to go to Sharma’s room and stay there overnight!

Slowly we formed a group of students who were against Sharma and his activities. We started addressing Sharma as the Kisser! He never bothered and rather took it as a title. His group and our group became bitter enemies. The situation turned rather grave and there was almost a gang war on a few occasions.

Our roommate Lachhu hailed from a rich family and had lot of guts to face any situation. He was very vociferously anti-Sharma and was in the forefront. The other group had marked him for attack. They hired a gang of street boys to attack Lachhu. One morning we were on our way to the river to take our bath. This gang of boys picked up a quarrel with Lachhu and started beating him up. We had to stop them with the help of on lookers. Lachhu got really wild. He had a bully in his class by name Satyanarayana Setty. He had his own gang. When this bully was informed about the incident, he could not hold himself back. The next day his gang was near our hostel! Lachhu was asked to identify his attackers. Within no time the gang gave such a lesson to the street boys, they never showed their faces near our hostel again!

The animosity between our groups continued. Only the arrival of annual examination in the month of March reduced the intensity. The groups broke up with the commencement of terminal holidays.
The hostel had a system of providing late night tea for all the students during their final examination time. The thinking was - by drinking the tea the students could study till late night. The tea was supposed to act as a sleep remover! We were aware of this facility and were just waiting to have our late night tea drinking party! The serving of tea did commence from the first of March. But there was a catch here. As written by me earlier, the permitted time for us to go to bed at night was 9.15 PM. The hostel bell would ring at that time. But to ensure that the boys who had tea did study till late hours, the time for tea was fixed at 9.30 PM. For us, the High School students, it was indeed a tall order to remain awoke at 9.30 PM.

Initially with great difficulty we waited till 9.30 PM and had our tea. The tea was indeed very good, strong and tasty. But they were serving only a half cup and this made us crazier to enjoy it. To our surprise we found that we were getting sleepier after drinking the tea. We simply forgot our studies and enjoyed a sound sleep! But after some days we could not postpone our sleep any more. We simply went to bed at 9.15 PM foregoing our tea entitlement. But we felt that we lost our great daily tea party and felt cheated.

Cheated indeed we were! One particular day Devraj who was serving the tea to us told me that we were lucky to get our tea served at the room itself! I could not simply understand what exactly he meant by that. When asked to elaborate, he told us that our roommate Lachhu was collecting six cups of tea from Devraj daily on behalf of all of us! He used to carry all our cups in a steel plate to the kitchen. There he would ask Devraj to fill all the cups to enable him to hand it over to all of us. As the practice was to fill only half a cup, he could get three full cups. He drank these three cups comfortably with all of us deep in sleep, not knowing anything about his activities in the night!

When we confronted Lachhu about this, he simply asked us what exactly we had lost in the bargain! Indeed he was right! We had not lost anything because of Lachhu enjoying our cup of tea! But somehow we were not convinced. We felt we were cheated by Lachhu. But there was no way we could convince Lachhu not to drink our rightful cup of tea! At the same time, we could not keep ourselves awake to drink our tea!

We had a good number of hotels near our hostel. While Krishna Bhavan was famous for masala dosa, Geetha Café was known for its plain dosas and Laxmi Bhavan had the best Saada (kaali) dosas. I could taste these dosas somehow with my limited resources. I had the company of my roommate and classmate Venkataramana for these visits. We were simply crazy for these hotel-made dosas.

We had a small hotel by name Ashwini next to our hostel building. We used to visit this hotel occasionally. The owner was Mr. Adiga and we slowly developed a rapport with him. This hotel was serving Jamoon at a cost of twenty paise per cup. Our eyes were always looking towards the tray holding these Jamoons in the glass cupboard. One day I was telling Venkataramana that if only I had the cash I would eat a cup of Jamoon each day. He suddenly told me that it was possible even without cash. I was simply curious and asked him to tell me how. He told me that the proprietor Adiga had maintained a notebook for credit sales. I asked him to be clearer. I was told that one could eat daily at the hotel and enter the bill amount in this notebook. At the end of the month the total amount could be paid off in a lump sum. Oh! What a God sent scheme for me!

The next day both of us approached Adiga requesting for this facility. He was such a nice man that he simply allotted one folio in the notebook for each of us. Our Jamoon party started from the same day! I never thought about the way I could explain this expenditure to my brother. Such was the craze of Jamoon for me!

At the end of the month the amount due from me came to about six rupees (my monthly hostel fee itself was six rupees!). I somehow managed to pay two rupees. Adiga was kind enough to continue the revolving facility. Hence I continued the daily Jamoon eating activity. But I could not pay any more money and the dues ballooned to sixteen rupees by the end of March when my examinations came to an end. I was just left with sufficient money to cover my bus fare to my village. The same was the position of Venkataramana, my friend and partner in the venture.

I could not sleep properly on the night previous to the day of my departure to home. The trouble was - we had to pass through the front of the hotel Ashwini to reach the bus stand. The proprietor would be sitting in the cashier’s chair looking towards the main road. There was every possibility of him stopping us on the road and asking us to settle his dues before we left the place.

In the early morning both of us left the hostel carrying our bags. We had our heart in our mouth when we were passing in front of the hotel. We desperately hoped not to attract his attention. But we were in for a shock! Adiga was just waiting in front of the hotel for us. He shouted at us to stop and come to the hotel! We felt like running away from the place. But our legs could not support us. They simply gave away!

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

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Story of Malnad Boy - 42

One of the important things for me to become a city boy (Pete huduga) was to learn cycling. I had my own apprehensions as a village boy about my capacity to learn and ride it in the busy city road. But somehow I had to make a beginning. My classmates Neelakanta and Venkataramana helped me in this venture. In those days we had to pay hire charges of one anna per hour per cycle. To get the cycle one had to be properly introduced to the shop owner. It was also important to get the best cycle for one’s riding. There was one MI Cycle Shop near the Convent School which was located half way between our hostel and School. I became close to a Muslim boy who would ensure that I always got a good cycle. He used to address me as Kitten and I somehow liked it very much. May be I thought it as the better city version of my rural pet name Kitta!  So peculiar was the psychology of a rural boy!

I was taken to the famous Nehru Stadium in Durgigudi for my first lessons in cycling. It had a vast playground with lot of big green trees at one end. I got a good training on the evenings of a Saturday and a Sunday. The Sunday learning exercise became more interesting. The reason was we could witness the amorous adventure of a romantic pair! We had initially observed a girl waiting for somebody below one of the big trees. We were sure that some boy would turn up sooner or later. We kept a close watch by taking our cycle close to the tree in each of our trip. We were not disappointed. The boy appeared in a short time. We discreetly kept an eye on their movements! They held their hands together and moved towards the woods (thick group of trees away from the grounds). Our cycling destination also shifted accordingly! For me it was just a recollection of the romantic episode of Rangappa. But I could watch it live now! There is no necessity for me to describe it in words!

We had earlier read about many romantic episodes in Kannada novels. And we were not an exception to the natural human curiosity and the eagerness to witness the forbidden things in our life. We did visit the same spot on subsequent Sundays. But alas! We never saw the pair again! But I had picked up my cycling well. We could go on a jolly trip to the Tunga river dam at a place called Gajanur on our hired bicycles. I enjoyed every bit of this journey.

Even though I learnt cycling I did not take it as a big hobby, one of the reasons being lack of money. But somehow news reached my home that I spent a good time in cycling! So much so that a fracture I had in my left hand was taken as a cycling accident automatically! Actually it happened like this. I was playing Kabaddi with some of my hostel mates in front of our hostel. I was always interested in this game and allowed no opportunity to go wasted. In this case a boy from Mattur (whom I didn’t like a bit!) made me fall down with my left hand palm hitting the ground with great force. I already had an earlier fracture on the left hand by falling down a Sampige tree. The bone was very weak and this fall resulted in another fracture. I was rushed to the McGann Hospital. There the X ray confirmed the compound fracture. I had a harrowing time at the hands of a young doctor. He was supposed to put a plaster bandage to cover my fractured bone. But he was more interested in playing some games with a young nurse! He put some plaster on her cheeks! May be I could have enjoyed their love game if only I didn’t have that severe pain in my hand! It appears that I was not given any pain killers. As a result I had to face severe pain for many days. Besides, it was most uncomfortable to sleep and take a bath with the plaster on the hand. I had to face this situation for a period of one and a half month. I had to be helped out by my hostel mates which they were kind enough to do. I received a letter from my brother advising me to avoid cycling and to concentrate on my studies at least in future!

My friend and senior Vishnu was already in Shimoga and he had joined the Government High school. He had to put up with lot of inconveniences as there was no support from his family. He had to survive on having his free meals at different hotels on Varadamane basis. In those days it was common for the poor boys to visit different households for free meals once in a week. These families had the generosity to feed poor boys on a particular day in a week. These boys had to ensure that they had such arrangement with different houses to cover all the days in a week. In Shimoga certain hotels also offered this facility as a charity. Vishnu was one of the beneficiaries of this facility. He had also tried desperately for free hostel seat, but could not manage to get one in his first year in High School. For the second year the hostel permitted him to stay in the hostel, but without boarding facility. He had to continue with his hotel food.

Two of the cousins of Vishnu, whose families were well off, also joined the hostel as full payment students. They were studying for their PUC. One of them had a personality which made some of his hostel mates suspect that he was a TB patient! A rumor started spreading that he was indeed suffering from TB. All the boys started avoiding sitting with him in the dining hall. It amounted to a virtual boycott and was very painful to the concerned boy. Ultimately he was forced to leave the hostel. This incident remains fresh in my memory. I was a witness to this unfortunate humiliation meted out to that boy.

It was on 20th October 1962 that the famous Sino-Indian War commenced. In fact, on October 26, 1962, the Government of India announced that ``India is being put on a war footing to face the Chinese menace.'' Indian president Dr. Radhakrishnan even proclaimed a state of emergency. Following this announcement, India went into hyperactivity in order to put an end to the two-pronged Chinese aggression in the then North Eastern Frontier Agency (now, Arunachal Pradesh) and Ladakh.

Overnight, a 31-member National Defence Council headed by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was set up to monitor the rapid development at the border. In fact, the Chinese troops made inroads into the Indian Territory - they occupied Tawang in NEFA and inched towards Chaushal in Ladakh. The Indian soldiers' progress was severely hampered by lack of warm clothing and difficulty to acclimatize to the hilly and cold ranges where the battles were raging.
To tide over this, the then finance minister Morarji Desai flagged off the National Defence Fund with an appeal to the people to contribute generously in rupees, gold and/or gold ornaments. And, people contributed with patriotic fervor. 

In Shimoga also different associations started collecting funds as contribution towards National Defence Fund. In our hostel the students association started the collection. Our Secretary Subramanya was in the forefront and he was forcefully convincing all the boys to contribute. A decent amount was collected and remitted to the Fund. While everybody was quite appreciative of the efforts put in by the Secretary, one of the boys had a small query (comparable to our present day RTI Act!). He just wanted to know the amount contributed by the Secretary himself. Believe it or not! He was informed that the Secretary had not made any contribution!  It was a shock for all of us. We could never appreciate the reasons for the same.

The River Tunga was flowing very close to our hostel. Once the rainy season came to an end the boys were permitted to go to the river for their daily bath. I always wanted to learn the art of swimming. My room mate Lachhu (Lakshminarayana) was an excellent swimmer. We chose a particular spot in the middle of the river for our daily bath and for my learning exercise. I could pick up the swimming skills slowly.  One particular day I and Lachhu were alone in the river. I was aware there was a very deep spot in the river where there were no currents. I swam to the other end and was coming back through that very spot.

Suddenly I felt totally tired and could not push my hands and feet within the river. I simply gave up and sank deep in the river. However deep I went, my feet were not touching the grounds. With all my strength I pushed myself up and reached the surface of the river. I waved to Lachhu desperately and went down again to the bottom. I was indeed lucky. Lachhu was not only a great swimmer but also had a great presence of mind. He reached me within seconds and pulled me up with all his strength. While swimming with a single hand, he could hold me in another hand and brought me to the shores. I had already drunk a good quantity of water. Things were looking hazy to me. Indeed Lachhu had given me another birth! I would remain indebted to him for life. But for him ‘The Malnad boy’s Story’ could never have been written!

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

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Story of a Malnad Boy - 41

I was extremely happy to be back with my family after living for a considerable time in the city of Shimoga. I spent a long time in telling my experiences in the city, particularly, the hostel life in which everybody was interested. The city life had certainly brought in lot of changes in me as a person. My elder brother was watching me closely especially my spoken Kannada. I got a feeling that he wanted further improvements. He gave me some advice on that. There was another pleasant change for me. All along I was being addressed by a nickname Kitta by my family and consequently by the all the villagers. To be frank, I never liked it a bit. Now that I had become a city boy I hated it more. I simply wanted me to be called by my first name which my beloved maternal uncle had given me so lovingly! It appears that my eldest brother had understood my predicament. He started addressing me by my first name. Slowly all others also took a cue and I got back my original name! It was such a relief for me! Looking back on this aspect of my life I now feel that this nickname was not so bad after all! However, it was also true that I evolved as a city boy with the restoration of my first name with the help of my dear brother!

Most of my villagers were very curious to know about my hostel life. It appears that I was the first boy to stay in a hostel. Many of the boys from the rich Belavinakodige family were studying in Shimoga. But they were staying with their uncle. I was the first boy from a poor family to stay in city for High school studies. My immediate neighbor Kittajjiah’s family heard the full story from me. They were so much interested that I subsequently made it a practice to visit them during all my home visits and brief them on my city life! But I had another type of experience with another family. When I was explaining the difficulty in securing the hostel seat they were wondering why in the first place my brother had to send me to Shimoga! In fact one of them told me that my brother was quite foolish to send me to Shimoga just for the sake of so called English medium!

One day suddenly my brother asked me to show him the notebook of my expenditure account. I had always dreaded this and was quite aware that I had to face this event one day with my brother. He went through the accounts in detail. Probably he was aware of my efforts to hide the expenditure towards my hotel bills! Luckily he was not particular to dig up the entries and embarrass me. But he simply could not tolerate certain entries which violated the basic principle of accounting system! I had made some entries as expenditure which was in fact repayment of borrowings from my friends!  I tried to explain it away saying that after all I had to repay the loans! But I could not satisfactorily answer when my brother asked me where I had entered the amounts received as loans earlier! Somehow the issue was closed thanks to my brother.

The Dasara holidays came to an end early. My brother took me to Koppa town on the way to Shimoga. There he took me to the residence of Military Doctor. I should give here a brief introduction of this great doctor. His real name was Dr. (Captain) M. R. R. Iyengar. He had served as doctor in the Military and had seen the Second World War. He had settled down in Koppa town and had agricultural lands nearby. He was a very distinguished citizen of Koppa town and was a Municipal Councilor for a long time. He was the only doctor who would not mind visiting any village in any corner of Koppa and Sringeri taluks. He had that giant Royal Enfield motorcycle on which he could reach any village, however bad the road may be! For the villagers he was like an Apatbandhava (A close relative who helps you in emergency). You could expect him to visit your place at any time during an emergency.

 For the villagers, he was simply Military doctor and nobody bothered about his name. In fact I came to know his name only because he was one of the persons who had given me a recommendation letter for the hostel. The letterhead contained his name!

As a boy I used to run away the moment I heard the sound of his motorbike. That was quite normal for all other boys like me. We were mortally afraid of his injections! His arrival in the village would be first heralded by the sound of the Royal Enfield! He would be followed by another village helping hand carrying his dark leather bag containing medicines. He would act as a Compounder. The moment we saw this Compounder we would run for cover! In fact we would mount a hillock called Kithlekatte Gudda and would only come down after seeing the Royal Enfield being driven away. That was the type of fear we had for this Military doctor and his injections!

The doctor was always quite jovial but at the same time very commanding. He would address the patient in his own style. His very appearance with a Military hat on his head would invite great respect and confidence in the mind of the patient! I had several times felt that my fever disappeared the moment he took my hand to check my heart beat. His soothing words would act as a healing balm! There was no system of writing prescriptions. He would give injections and deliver the medicines on the spot from out of his bag. I have seen several doctors later in my life. But this Military Doctor had a class of his own! Nobody could beat him!

The doctor was quite aware of my progress in studies. He fully supported my brother in sending me to English medium School. My brother told me to gratefully acknowledge his support which I did. He told me that I should ensure that I always secured a top rank from number one to four! It appeared as a concession for me! For the first time somebody (that too the doctor!) told me that securing a rank below number one was not bad after all! I looked towards my brother for his reaction! But he was expressionless! There appeared to be no concession from his side!

I was back at the hostel after the holidays. As expected, the teachers started handing over our answer papers duly corrected by them one by one. We had six subjects. I had secured distinction in the subjects for which marks were announced initially. But it was very difficult to find out who stood first as some of the teachers simply handed over the papers. The last paper to be handed over was Mathematics by our class teacher SSR himself. He had awarded the highest marks of ninety seven for me. The second highest was eighty four. With that the issue was settled finally. I stood first in the class with the highest total marks! I had achieved the goal set for me by my beloved brother! A boy by the name Mahabaleshwar had secured the second rank. He was the one with whom I had to compete for the coveted first rank. The others were nowhere nearer. Mahabaleshwar later joined the Mysore Medical College and completed his MBBS. I am told that he is presently a top doctor at NIMHANS, Bangalore.

My brother was quite pleased with my performance. I also wrote a letter to Srinivas who was with Indian Agriculture Research Institute, New Delhi. He wrote back an encouraging letter to me. I was suddenly feeling a sensation of great relief. I had unburdened the load of high expectation which was causing a lot of mental stress to me. At the same time the boys started calling me a rank student. This title was to create further stress on me. While I enjoyed the title very much, the huge anticipation was causing me trouble.

Our HM used to invite distinguished guests to our School on important occasions. Shimoga Subbanna was one of such invitees. He was a budding artist at that time. He had also started his practice as an Income tax consultant at that time. He sang some of the poems of Kuvempu, the great Kannada poet beautifully. Another occasion I remember is the mourning we held for the death of John Kennedy, the then President of America. 

It was the 22nd day of November 1963. I distinctly remember, even as young boys we had great affection for this great handsome international leader. We were all his admirers and felt his death as an irreparable loss to the international community in general. Our HM was overcome with feelings and wept on the stage and we simply joined him. 

While reading the English newspaper daily I used to read about the game of cricket. Earlier I had read an English lesson in my 6th standard where there was a mention of the game of cricket. It stated that “Hazare, the famous cricketer, is one of the eleven best cricketers in the world.” It had made me curious to know about this game. In our hostel there was a group of students all of whom hailed from a village called Mattur near Shimoga. These boys always used to discuss the game of cricket. One of my classmates and also hostel mate Anantha also hailed from this village. By interacting with this group I learnt all about this game over a period of time.

I was told by this group that the English team would be visiting India shortly for a five test match series. They advised me to hear the commentary over radio to enjoy the game. I had so far neither heard any radio programme nor knew about the cricket commentary. By that time I had developed a kind of rapport with certain senior college students. I told them about my desire to hear the radio commentary. I was assured that they would help me once the test match series commenced.

The English team arrived in India and the first test was held in Chennai (then Madras). I had to satisfy myself by reading the reports in the news papers. I gently reminded the senior students about their promise. You may not believe this. But these boys were so close to the hostel warden, they took me to his house for hearing the commentary! The house was very close to the hostel and I could hear the commentary on Saturday afternoons and Sundays comfortably. Thus began my craze for hearing the cricket commentary over radio.

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

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Story of a Malnad Boy - 40

In those days there was no system of conducting class tests in our School. There used to be a first terminal examination in the month of October just before Dasara festival. The holidays would follow. The annual examination used to be held in the month of March. The summer holidays would start immediately thereafter. The absence of class tests was the reason why I could not make out who were my competitors in the race for the class rankings. I used to discuss this with my classmates Venkataramana and Neelakanta who were close to me and appreciated my position. They were telling me that I could secure first rank in spite of tough competition. I was quite uncertain about this and my brother’s letter only added to my tension. However, I kept my studies at an optimum level to ensure at least that I stood a chance of securing that coveted first rank.

We had a teacher by name VS (V Srinivasachar). He was taking Social Studies subject for us. We used to make lot of fun of him. The main reason was that he used to teach the subject in Kannada even though we were studying in English medium and the textbook was in English!  Such was his English vocabulary and the capacity to teach the English medium students! We were all getting an impression that our HM was under some obligation to assign him English medium teaching! We could never understand the logic behind this punishment meted out to us by our HM who himself was known as a great English teacher.

VS had a pet student by name Gopinath. He would mention his name repeatedly and make us believe that he was the best student in the class. Actually Gopinath was a good debater. He participated in several competitions on behalf of our School and brought Shields and awards. But we were not convinced about his studying abilities. For me who was trying to identify the close competitors, he appeared to be one. Somehow the impression one gathered in those days was that the boys who occupied the front benches were superior to others. This impression proved to be utterly wrong in the end!

Unlike VS, the other great teachers like SSR, TSR and KKM showed no favouritism of any kind. But SSR had one peculiar feature of his own. He would identify certain students for their specialities and go after them! He appointed one boy by name Narayana as the monitor of the class. He was the grandson of the famous advocate Srinivasa Iyengar. He would come to the class with the thrinamas displayed prominently on his forehead. He was quite an average boy as far as studies were concerned. But he used to act tough and talk some nonsense with softies like me. I used to totally dislike this boy.

By making him the class Monitor, SSR used to make him responsible for all the happenings in the classroom. He would award him some strange type of punishments for his failure to discharge his duties. The monitor could punish the students who were engaged in petty talk during the break between two periods or when the arrival of the teacher was delayed. He could make the culprits to stand upon the bench by writing their names on the board. But somehow, we were getting a feeling that the monitor himself was getting more punishments than the culprits he had caught! It seems SSR had his own reasons to justify this. In any case, we enjoyed the strange ways of SSR and thought that Narayana deserved it and much more! On the succeeding day of Gokulashtami every year SSR would ask Narayana to bring the special vundes (ball shaped sweet items made up of groundnut etc.,) prepared at his home for the occasion. He would then ask Narayana to fully describe as to how the event was celebrated at his home. He would be asking some searching questions which Narayana found it very difficult to answer. We used to comment that while Gokulashtami was celebrated as the birth day of Lord Krishna, the next day was celebrated as thithi day of Narayana at School! Indeed Narayana used to dread that day for that special SSR treatment!

We had one classmate by name Ravindra. He was a well behaved average student in the class. He had three close friends and all of them used to sit on the same bench. We had an occasion to choose a class representative to represent our class in the School governing council. There were three candidates in the race. One of Ravindra’s close friends by name Siraj Ahmed (the only Muslim student in our class) persuaded him to stand for the election. His other friends kept mum. Ravindra was very reluctant initially. But somehow he consented to please his close friend.

The voting duly took place.  The class teacher, being the returning officer, started the counting process. To everybody’s amusement Ravindra had secured a single vote in his favour!  He could not simply believe it. His close friend Siraj Ahmed who had proposed his name immediately told him that he was the one who had cast that vote! Ravindra told us that he had absolute faith in his friend.  We had a simple question for Ravindra. In whose favour he had cast his own vote?  Ravindra had no clue! He kept repeating that he had no reason to doubt the genuineness of his friend. We also told him that we had no issues as far as his friend’s faithfulness was concerned. But we only wanted him to clarify about his own voting! Needless to say that the puzzle continues even to this day! Ravindra ultimately could never find out in whose favour he had cast his own vote! So much for the immense belief he had in the faithfulness of his close friend!

I had a fascination for movies in those days. I started seeing the films in the company of my friends. There were two old theatres by name Krishna Talkies and Vijaya Lakshmi Talkies. The cost of tickets used to be very low. I even remember having seen a Kannada movie Karuneye Kutumbada Kannu while sitting on the floor in Krishna Talkies. It cost only four annas. This Theatre was known as Doddi (Cowshed) in view of its vast capacity and bad maintenance.  The Vijaya Lakshmi Theatre was also old; but a change in management saw this small theatre releasing some famous Hindi films on the day of all India release itself.

The first of such films was Dosti under the banner of Rajshri Productions. This was the most impressive first Hindi film for me. The film focused on the friendship between two boys, one blind and the other a cripple. The music by the famous duo, Laxmikant Pyarelal, was a total hit. We purchased the film songs book and by hearted all the songs. The best was the Film Fare award winning song Chaahoonga main tujhe sanjh savere sung by the legendary Mohammed Rafi. One hostel boy by name Ganeshmurthy used to sing this song beautifully. We also saw the highly romantic film Mere Mehboob directed by H S Rawail and enjoyed it thoroughly. Another romantic film we very much enjoyed was Madhumathi directed by the legendary Bimal Roy. It was released for the second time in Shimoga (it was a 1958 film). I have no hesitation to say that we were totally smitten by the two beauties Sadhana and Vyjayanthimala!

The Ganesha festival was celebrated with all gaiety in our hostel. The brother of our Sanskrit teacher Shringeswara Sastry from Sringeri delivered a Harikatha on the occasion. We enjoyed the same immensely. The famous Kannada poet Gopala Krishna Adiga was then the Principal of Sagara College. He and another famous Kannada writer V M Inamdar (the then Principal of Purna Prajna College Udupi) were special invitees on one of the days. The legendary Kannada poet D R Bendre was also invited on another occasion. We were provided the great opportunity to see and hear these famous poets and writers.

Our first terminal examination started in the first week of October. As we used to have ample time for studies daily at the hostel, not much of extra preparations were needed for the examination. I thought I had done reasonably well. Our examination ended on a Saturday. Next morning I stepped in to the 8 AM Udaya Motor bus in front of our hostel and proceeded to my native place. I had a lot to tell my mother and other family members regarding my experiences in the great Malnad City of Shimoga!

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

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Story of a Malnad Boy - 39

I had an altogether different living experience with my new roommates. I was glad to have Venkataramana my own classmate with me. Another boy Ganesh had failed in English medium test and was studying in Kannada medium. Both of them had lived with me in the teacher’s house earlier. The boy called Dattatri was from 9th Standard English medium of our School. The other two boys were Nadig and Lakshminarayana (Lachhu), both from DVS High School 9th Standard English medium. Dattatri and Nadig were free seat holders like me. While Ganesh and Lachhu were both from very rich families and had full payment seats. We were envious to see them getting money orders for huge amounts at the beginning of each month. We were simply struggling to some how pay a paltry sum of rupees six per month! In reality, this paltry sum was a huge amount for our parents! At the same time the huge amount of money orders appeared paltry to their parents! Needless to say that the respect commanded by these rich boys was commensurate with the value of the money orders received by them!

There was a healthy competition between the students of our National High School and the DVS (Desheeya Vidyashala) in those days. Actually there was another big Century old Government High School in Shimoga. The seats for English medium were going abegging there! But nobody was interested, particularly the merited students, in view of the non-availability of good faculty. While we were very proud of our faculty with the likes of SSR, KKM, TSR, and KVB, DVS students did have their peers as I came to know from my roommates. They had CVK (C V Keshavamurthy), VDR (V Devender) and HMR (H M Ramaswami). The competition was in fact very close with not much to differentiate between the two. But we had an advantage! Our School students were experts in expanding the initials of our teachers! There was no such practice in DVS. We were one up on that score!

One PUC student I met in the hostel was already known to me. His name was Hiriyanna and he came from Kalasa town. Earlier during my Upanayanam at Horanadu, I had seen him with his family. He had spoken to us there. My father had told him that my brother was trying for a seat in English medium for me in Shimoga. He had told us that in Kalasa town itself there was English medium in High School and I could join that School. But it was not feasible for me.

Hiriyanna was surprised to see me at the hostel. He was happy that I could somehow secure the free seat. He was a very friendly and popular guy in the hostel. One day he visited our room and started talking about an organization by name RSS. I had earlier seen certain people assembling daily morning in front of Arunachalam teacher’s house in the big play ground. They were all wearing half-pants and doing some exercises equivalent to the drills conducted in our School. But the difference was that the commands were being given in Sanskrit! For me the elderly persons wearing half-pants looked funny! But I used to very much like a song sung by them in the end:
“Namasthe Sadaa Vatsale Mathrubhoome
Tvayaa Hindu Bhoome Sukham Varditho Ham
Mahaa Mangale Punya Bhoome Tudarthe
Pathatwesha Kaayo Namasthe Namasthe.”

This song and the way they sung it had appealed to me. What had appealed to me more was the way they fought with the canes they carried! The people appeared to be very highly dedicated. Arunachalam did not like this people only because once during their cane fight practice his son (a spectator) had been hit accidentally. He had to go for medical treatment! Their daily exercises used to remind him of that incident and he liked it the least!

When I told Hiriyanna that I had already seen the Organization people conducting the drill and singing the song he was happy. But he didn’t like it a bit when I described the funny side of it! He told us that it was a seriously dedicated All India Organization and there was nothing funny about it! Then suddenly I remembered a speech delivered at our School by a person named Suryanarayana Rao. It was a highly patriotic, powerful and interesting speech. Our HM had introduced the person to us by calling him a mini Swami Vivekananda! He had also told us that the person was a Pracharak of RSS. When I told about this to Hiriyanna, he was very much pleased. He promised to invite and introduce Suryanarayana Rao to all of us.

Hiriyanna had a close friend by name Chandrasekhar who was also his roommate and classmate. They always moved together. So much so that the boys started calling the pair as Hakka & Bukka! This Chandrasekhar had a penchant to speak in English! He would also use some words which were totally unheard of by any of us! One day he was carrying a new small hand bag with him. One Mr. Kanchi, a first year B.A. student, asked him what price he had paid for the bag. Chandrasekhar told him that he had paid twelve and odd rupees! None of us including Kanchi could make out what the word odd meant in the context! We were simply flabbergasted! Chandrasekhar explained to us that what he meant was the price was some where between rupees twelve and thirteen. I liked his style and thought him to be useful to me in my endeavour to speak fluent English! After all I had to fulfill the goal set for me by my beloved brother!

Hiriyanna was a man on a mission. He was totally committed to the ideology of RSS. During the very next week he took us to an open field very close to our hostel. There he introduced us to a gentleman by name Jade Chandrasekhar. We found many other local young boys having already assembled there. This gentleman looked highly educated but a very simple and scholarly person to us. He gave us a brief speech on the origin and philosophy of RSS. He also informed us that we had become members of the new Shakha (branch) which had just been inaugurated by him. Hiriyanna was the Shakha Pramukh and will be in charge of the daily evening assembly.

Quite for some time we were regularly attending the Shakha in the evening. After the routine drill we used to play games like Kabaddi in which I was very much interested. Thereafter Jade Chandrasekhar used to address us for a week. We learnt a lot about the great patriots like Bhagat Singh, Chandrasekhar Azad, Subhash Chandra Bose and saints like Swami Vivekananda and Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.

Hiriyanna used to ask us a frequent question about our goal in life. We used to find it difficult at that stage of our life to reply such a question. One day I just thought over the matter. Actually there was an impression in our villages at that time that it was impossible for a village student to pass the PUC examination. The reason was simple. All the village boys from our villages had failed in this examination. The exceptions were very few, the one being our Talavane Srinivas. Hence my immediate goal was to achieve this impossible! When I told that to Hiriyanna he just laughed! It seems he was expecting me to tell him that I wanted to become a great patriot! Actually I had not told him my other goal. I just wanted to impress a skirt wearing beautiful girl in our village about my great achievements in the City! I was very fond of singing a poem written by the greatest romantic Kannada poet of all times, Narasimhaswami. It began as follows:

“Naviloorinolagella neene balu chaluve!
Adake nammibbarige naleye maduve!”
(You are the most beautiful girl in our whole village!
That is why our marriage will be held tomorrow itself!)

“Bella bellage tellagihe neenu!
Betegarana billinanthiruve neenu!
Kappagi oppagi belediruva hubbu!
Parivalada kange neralanittihudu!”
(You are very fair and thin!
You are like the bow of a hunter!
Your eye brows are dark and neat!
They have shaded your pigeon like eyes!)

That was the type of romanticism slowly developing in my mind in those days! Naturally the patriotism expected by Hiriyanna was no where near my mind at least at that stage. Even though I was a patriot by heart, I felt there was no point in thinking on the lines of Bhagat Singh simply because the British had already left! But I had no guts to tell this to Hiriyanna! Hiriyanna left the hostel in the next year. With that my association with RSS came to an end.

The annual election to the hostel students association was announced. The senior students who stood for election would call on us and request us to vote for them. Suddenly we felt lot of importance given to us for a simple vote. We started gathering information about the candidates. We concluded that H L Subramanya a final B.A student was the best candidate for the Secretary’s post. We were indeed right. The hostel management gave an opportunity to the candidates to address all of us for canvassing vote for them. We were left spell bound by the oratory of Subramanya. Another candidate R V Prabhakar also impressed us very much. We elected Subramanya as the secretary and Prabhakar as the assistant secretary. Subramanya later came as a Kannada Lecturer to me in Sringeri College. Prabhakar joined BHS College, Jayanagar, in Bangalore as a lecturer and retired as its Principal.

The Government of Mysore suddenly announced an increase in College fees. S R Kanti was the Education Minister at that time. The students protested strongly. All negotiations with him by the students’ associations failed. Then a Statewide strike was announced. I was closely following the issue through reading the newspaper and hearing the discussions by the students. Subramanya was one of the top student leaders in Sahyadri College. Another student leader was by name Mallikarjuna Prasanna from Birur. He later rose to the position of Education Minister of Karnataka!

At that juncture Nijalingappa, the Chief Minister of Mysore, came on a visit to Shimoga to lay the foundation of a market building (Shivappa Nayak Market). The students took a decision to go in a procession and demonstrate in front of the CM during the function itself. It was a Sunday. I was so enthusiastic that I joined the procession along with my some other friends! The leaders had coined special slogans for us to shout during the procession. They were so funny! One slogan said, “S R Kanti! Pakka Kanthri! (Kanti is a total cheater!). Another said “Dikkara! Dikkara! Bharatha kantige Dikkara! (Down with Kanti the Bharatha!). Kanti had dutifully handed over the Chief Minister’s post to Nijalingappa on his winning a re-election. That was the reason for this ridiculing slogan!

Our procession started from the Sahyadri College and went all the way to the market foundation location near bus stand. There was full Police security outside the venue of the function. The leaders wanted to meet the CM. The Police refused. The shouting went up and many of the students tried to barge inside and disturb the function. The CM refused to yield to the request of cancellation of fee hike in his speech. On hearing the same students became violent and started throwing chapples towards the podium. At that stage Police resorted to laati charge. We all started running helter and skelter. I enjoyed every bit of this tamasha and the incident remains fresh in my memory even to this day. I wrote a postcard to my brother describing the whole incident. He wrote me back saying that I should not write about politics in a postcard as the same is prohibited! Till date I do not know whether he was actually right!

In fact that was the first letter (card) written by me to anybody by post. I had followed the letter writing format in Kannada diligently to impress my brother. I had written on the top left the word ‘kshema’ (safe) and on the right hand top the date and place. I had began by addressing my brother as Thirtharoopu samana (Father like) and ended saying ‘Baki sankthi moktha’ (other things in person) and ‘Inthu beduva Ashirvadagalu’ (seeking your blessings). I had expected an appreciation of my efforts by my beloved brother. I got the reply on the following lines in Kannada:

Dear brother,
 Glad to receive your letter. Here everybody is safe and happy to know that you are keeping good health. I am glad that you are enjoying the hostel life and fully settled down. I advise you not to write any political matters in an open card as the same is prohibited. You should know that!

Your card missed an important aspect. It does not mention anything about your studies and your School! Did they conduct any class tests so far? Who stood first? What was your rank? I am sure you would continue to secure first rank as you did so far in your career! I await an early reply from you covering this matter!

Your loving brother

This letter suddenly brought me down to the earth! I was indeed concentrating more on hostel life than my studies. It was time for me to take my studies more seriously. My brother was not prepared to accept anything less than 1st rank for me! This burden of expectation was going to weigh down heavily on me!

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

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Story of as Malnad Boy - 38

The hostel management had the setup of a manager, a warden and an assistant warden. The warden Mangalamurthy was a retired teacher. He had secured the prestigious President of India award as a distinguished teacher. He had been provided quarters near the hostel and lived with his wife. His two sons, Ayodhyanath and Dwarakanath, had been given free hostel seats and were studying at Sahyadri College. He was an able and upright administrator. A strict disciplinarian, he devoted his entire time for hostel duties.

The manager Chandrasekhara Sastry was a teacher in the Government Middle School. He was working part-time as the hostel manager. He used to work only in the evening at the hostel. He would play the harmonium during the weekend Bhajan programme at the hostel. He was hard of hearing and used a hearing aid always. He had some sort of wickedness in him and was totally disliked by the boys in general. He was partial to students who were on full payment. He would maltreat the free seat students. I had one such occasion to face his wickedness. He would invariably be giving some sort of a speech at the end of weekend Bhajan. He would make it a point to repeatedly praise the secretary in his speech. The boys had given him a name considering his hearing aid. They would address him as Goota behind his back. In Kannada this word represents a small stick inserted in a hole to plug it. As the hearing aid was plugged into the opening of the ear the boys selected this name for him as quite appropriate!

There was an assistant warden by name Sripada Jois. He was working in Karnataka bank and it was a part-time job for him at the hostel in the evening. He used to write the accounts. He was comparatively young. He would be friendly with full payment students. However, he would treat the free students with scant respect. His policy was not to help anybody. However, given an opportunity, he won’t mind harming them!

During the weekend on Saturday evenings there used to be regular Bhajans at the hostel. The attendance was compulsory. The Secretary Avadhani himself would lead us in the Bhajan programme. He was a great Bhajan singer and would be present without fail on all Saturdays. The devotion with which he sang the Bhajans was simply marvelous. One particular Bhajan sang by him reverberates in my ears even to this day. It was known as Kalabhairavashtakam.  It ran something like:

“Devaraja Sevyamana Pavanangri Pankajam
Vyalayajna Sutramindushekaram Krupakaram
Naradadi Yogivrunda Vanditam Digambaram
Kashikapuradhinatha Kalabhairavam Bhaje

Kalabhairavashtakam Patanthiye Manoharam
Jnana Mukthi Sadhanam Vichitrapunyavardhanam
Shoka Moha Dainya Lobha Kopa Tapa Nashanam
Kashikapuradhinatha Kalabhairavam Bhaje”

The Pooja after the Bhajan was conducted by a second year B.Sc. student by name Shankara Ghanapati. He was well versed in Pooja manthram and rituals as he hailed from a well-known scholarly family of Ghanapatis. We used to remove our shirts and banians, cover our chest with a vastram and participate in the Bhajans with great devotion. The programme would end with the distribution of Prasadam. The next day being Sunday our spirits used to be very high.

Avadhani devoted his entire evening for the hostel administration. Some times the work would extend up to late night. It was an honorary post and he used to contribute heavily for the hostel funds. He left no stone unturned for the welfare of the hostel community. I have seen very few people of his caliber in my whole life so far. Even though he was super rich, he never exhibited his status symbols. He would never raise his voice even while he had to talk tough. People would respect him just by his looks. Such was his commanding personality.

The hostel building was located in a spacious area. There was lot of open space for the students to play games like badminton, Kabaddi, etc. We could also play indoor games like carom and Chess. There were two other indoor games by name traders and spell craft. I found both of them very interesting. Quite for some time I was crazy to wait for my turn to play these games. We could go to the open terrace of the hostel building for our studies. We did so in the morning. We could hold our books and read them while walking on the terrace. We had another attraction here. We could watch the various outstation busses moving on the main road. In those days there used to be so many private transport busses; but there were very few State-owned busses. My own class mates’ families owned quite a few of these transport companies. We would be thrilled to see the Government-owned busses going to Bangalore. We would imagine that one day we may get an opportunity to travel all the way to Bangalore!

For most of us there was another attraction. We had already started the count down for our Dasara holidays! We could watch the busses going towards our places. I would be watching the Udaya and Shankar Motor busses proceeding to Sringeri daily in front of our hostel and imagine myself in one of them on the first day of Dasara! I was very much eager to go home and tell my city life experiences to my waiting beloved family!

There was a small reading room on the first floor. One Kannada and one English newspaper were available for our reading. I started reading the English newspaper regularly. Slowly I began to appreciate the language and picked up the nuances of English writing. This hobby was to help me in my later education career to a vast extent. It enhanced my knowledge level substantially. It also helped me understand the lessons in the English textbook thoroughly.

We had a non-detail textbook by name Oliver Twist written by Charles Dickens, the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. The character of Oliver, an orphan, had some distant similarity to that of my own as a free seat student in the hostel. We had an assistant cook by name Gurumurthy who had a personality almost similar to that of Mr. Bumble in the novel. The following episode and the picture in the novel had some similarity to the state of affairs in which I was placed, though only distantly:

Around the time of the orphan ’s ninth birthday, Mr. Bumble, a parish beadle, removes Oliver from the baby farm and puts him to work picking oakum at the main branch-workhouse. Oliver, who toils with very little food, remains in the workhouse for six months, until the desperately hungry boys decide to draw lots; the loser must ask for another portion of gruel. The task falls to Oliver, who at the next meal tremblingly comes forward, bowl in hand, and makes his famous request: "Please, sir, I want some more."
"Please, sir, I want some more." Illustration by George Cruikshank.
"Please, sir, I want some more." Says Oliver to Mr. Bumble.
A great uproar ensues. The board of well-fed gentlemen, who administer the workhouse, while eating a meal fit for a king, are outraged by Oliver's 'ingratitude'. Wanting to be rid of this troublemaker, they offer five guineas to any person wishing to take on the boy as an apprentice.

This novel and later another novel by the same author, David Copperfield, which were taught to us in School, carried the sort of an impression on my mind which has lasted even to this day. We used to call Gurumurthy Mr. Bumble, considering his close similarity to that of the character. I used to get dreams wherein I stood in front of Gurumurthy asking for more!

The hostel was rearing a good number of buffaloes and was self sufficient in milk. It also had two high breed male-buffaloes which were generating good income. They were hired out for insemination of female buffaloes on job work basis!

There was a main cook in addition to the assistant cook Gurumurthy. He was a senior professional cook and concentrated on his job. Besides, there was a young man called Devraj who was assigned the duty of serving the food. He was a good looking smart guy and an expert in serving the food fast. He used to call me by a pet name Kitten! I liked this young man very much and didn’t mind him calling me by this pet name. I had a doubt that Devraj used to show me some favour while serving food unknown to others! Gurumurthy, whom we called Mr. Bumble, was actually a very good man at heart. We were told that he had a tragic story behind him. He had earlier worked as warden in our hostel itself with great respect. He hailed from a rich family but unfortunately lost all his wealth owing to some unknown reasons. He was in fact close to Avadhani and could address him in singular. But bad luck had reduced him to work as an assistant cook. He was not given due respect by the warden and the manager.

There were nearly one hundred students in the hostel. But within a short time I could recognize all of them by their names and knew in which class they were studying. Such was the level of inter action of the hostel students in those days. Not only that, as all the students in my room were PU students, I could learn the names of important lecturers in Sahyadri College. As most of them had to pass through in front of the hostel on their way to College, I could even recognize them. The famous Kannada writer P Lankesh was an English lecturer in the College at that time. He used to go to the College on his red Lambretta scooter. The scooter was a novelty vehicle in those days and there were very few of them in Shimoga.  The English department had a popular Muslim Professor. His lectures on Macbeth and the story Kabuliwala written by Tagore were greatly appreciated by the students.

There was another famous Physics Professor by name Kariappa. My roommates encouraged me to attend one of his classes. In those days the Sahyadri College had so many students that the classes used to be always overcrowded. Hence I could easily pose myself as a college student and attended one of Kariappa’s classes. He delivered a nice lecture on the subject heat, a form of energy. I had carried a note book with me and took down his notes meticulously. I could follow his lecture comfortably.  Such was the clarity in his expressions! This experience added to my confidence levels.

After about one month of my joining the hostel, a fresh allotment of rooms to the students was announced. The policy was to allot separate rooms to High School students and College students. In this reallocation, I was allotted room number ten with five other High School boys. As I had developed closeness with my earlier roommates I found it difficult to leave them. All of them treated me like their kid brother and tried their best to retain me in their room. But it was not to be. I shifted to my new room with tears in my eyes!

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

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Story of a Malnad Boy - 37

A state of uncertainty about the continuity of my education in Shimoga started with my name being absent in the first list of admission for the Brahmins’ hostel. My brother rushed to Shimoga with some more recommendation letters. Along with Srinivas we visited the house of the President of the hostel committee. He was a senior advocate by name Srinivasa Iyengar. His family owned Modern Talkies and had a major share in CKMS, a bus transport company. He explained to us the difficulty in giving free seat to the High school students. However, he assured us that he would put up my case strongly. We also met another member by name Dr. Dattatri. He was famous for his beautiful Fiat car!  He had purchased it at a princely sum of rupees eight thousand! He appeared to be sympathetic to my case. We also visited the hostel and met the manager and the warden. We were told that another list of admission will be announced shortly.

All the boys who had secured the admission in the first list moved to the hostel. I was left almost alone with the other members of the teachers’ family. I was feeling miserable and for the first time felt the helplessness of a boy hailing from a poor family. The teacher told me not to worry. He was aware that I could not afford to stay for long at his house. I could ill afford the monthly charges of rupees thirty. Meanwhile my brother and Srinivas thought of some contingency plan for me. The idea was to contact the wealthy persons from our community to contribute for my maintenance in case of ultimate non-availability of admission in the hostel.

The second list was also out soon. Again my name was simply not there! My spirits were totally down and distressed. To our surprise we got the information that one High school boy had indeed got free admission. The reasons for not considering my case favourably were quite unknown. Srinivas had gone back to his home and was not available. But he got the news and contacted some more persons. He was told by somebody that the Secretary of the hostel by name Ramanarayana Avadhani was the only person who could help me out. He immediately sent a message to his younger brother Shankar to take me to the Secretary.

Shankar took me one morning to the house of the Secretary on a bicycle. It was a very vast bungalow built very recently. Avadhani hailed from an important place called Koodli - 15 KMs from Shimoga.                                            

This place is located at the confluence (Sangama) of the Rivers Tunga and Bhadra. The rivers are known to be sisters and we from Malnad are very much sentimentally attached to both of them. Legend has it that the twin sisters who took their birth at a place called Gangamoola in the Western Ghats were separated after some time. The elder River Tunga simply flowed away silently. But the younger Bhadra could not stand her separation. She went on search calling loudly for the elder sister as Akkaa! (Oh! My elder sister!). One can hear her cry by way of the loud roaring of the River near Kalasa on one’s way to the famous pilgrim centre Horanadu. On the other hand, the river Tunga flows almost stealthily through the town of Sringeri. The Bhadra is stopped at Lakkavalli by a man-made dam. Undaunted, she proceeds further through Bhadravathi town to ultimately meet her beloved sister at Koodli. Tunga embraces her sister in all affection and together they proceed to Hospet via Harihar with the joint name Tungabhadra. Here a man-made big dam stops them to feed vast agriculture lands in Karnataka and Andhra. Undaunted, the sisters proceed further to meet their ultimate destination- the River Krishna. Here their mission gets completed in their union with lord Krishna.

Avadhani had vast land holdings in Koodli. He was a highly respected super rich pious man. He was also a major partner in Udaya Motors. This company ran two busses to Sringeri daily from Shimoga in addition to other routes and was quite well known in our Malnad.

We were told that Avadhani was at his daily pooja. We waited in the hall. The family’s aristocracy could well be seen in the way the hall was decorated and the impressive furniture placed. I was in total awe of the family. After a long pooja, Avadhani appeared in the hall. I should say he had a personality worth waiting for so long. He was tall and well built. He was wearing the Vibhoothi on his forehead and arms and looked every inch a pious man. He asked us to sit down in his deep voice and sought the reasons for our visit. Shankar explained to him my need for a free seat in the hostel. Avadhani then looked towards me as if to ask me to justify my needs. I simply started weeping trying to explain my desperate needs. Avadhani could understand my situation and asked me to meet him at hostel on the next day evening.

I went to the hostel on the next day evening. There in the presence of the warden and the manager, Avadhani told me that it was with great difficulty that they could consider my application favourably. He asked me to justify this favour by securing good marks in my examinations. He told me to wait outside. After sometime the warden came out of the office with a short list of names and pasted it on the notice board. I was the only High school student to be given free seat. I should say that it was one of the most defining movements of my life! One visit to the house of Avadhani had produced the result which all other visits to different authorities including the President had failed to achieve!

A free seat student had to pay a monthly fee of rupees six in those days. I made a payment of twelve rupees as two months advance and got myself admitted on the next day. It was a great relief for my family and particularly to my brother who had moved heaven and earth for that one seat! Of course Srinivas had played a major role. Ultimately things appeared to have fallen in line. I gathered the information that people from our village were commenting adversely on my brother’s insistence in making me study at Shimoga English medium School. They felt that it was only the domain of super rich and we could ill afford it. They thought my brother to be crazy! Indeed he was! But to me he appeared to be having a mission to fulfill, which he simply did, least bothered by what others felt about it.

I was very happy to be back with my classmates and others who were earlier with me in the teacher’s house. But they had already occupied different rooms and I was allotted room number six next to the hostel’s office. My room mates were all studying for Pre-University course in the Sahyadri College. They were mostly from Sagar taluk in Shimoga district. They treated me with love and care like a School going kid.

We had to get up early in the morning by 5 AM. The routine started with hot water bath. We had to stand in queue outside bathrooms which were eight in number. The water was boiled continuously by two ovens using paddy husk as fuel. At six AM we could hear the hostel bell ringing for the morning prayer. The warden Mangalamurthy would be present during the prayer session. He would daily give us some thought of the day by way of a small speech. Once that was over the boys were to move to the dining hall for a cup of morning coffee.

There was something special about this coffee. So much so that the moment the warden finished his speech, the boys would run to the dining hall as if they were to catch a departing train or bus at the last minute! Indeed I also found this particular cup of coffee so precious and tasty! We were to sit in rows in the dining hall and the first person in the row would be served first. We had to carry our own cups. Somehow it appeared to everybody that those who got the first servings got the best. Boys were simply desperate to drink it first. In fact we used to take vantage positions near the door of the prayer hall so that the moment the warden’s speech ended we moved out! Sometimes it so happened that the warden was taking his breath during the speech; thinking that he had finished his speech we would move out only to be called back! No amount of efforts by the warden to stop this practice succeeded. For me this morning run appeared quite interesting and within a short time I was in the forefront. Many times there used to be a traffic jam at the dining hall entrance! As a small boy I could push myself between the legs of the big boys to reach the hall early! I could manage to occupy number two or three position at the coffee queue! When I look back on this practice of the boys in those days, I am unable to think about the logical reasons for such a behavior. It simply appears strange!

After the morning coffee we used to study in our rooms till the bell rang for the meals at 9.15 AM. Once the meals were over, we left for our Schools and College. In the evening snacks would be served between 4.30 to 5.30 PM. The evening dinner used to be at 7.45 PM. We could go to our bed only after the bell rang at 9.15 PM. This was a tough call for me! As we had no electricity in our village in those days, we used to go to bed early at 7.15 PM in the normal course. Hence I used to get very sleepy waiting to hear the bell ringing. I found it difficult to hold on!

My roommates were quite sympathetic to me. But the warden was very strict and enforced this discipline mercilessly. He used to go round with his walking stick in hand. We could hear him approaching our room by the sound of the walking stick. He would knock at certain room doors at random. If he found some boy sleeping he would use the stick to unfold the sheet with which the boy covered his face while sleeping! It would be a real nightmare for the boy concerned! He had to get up and start reading! In my case, my roommates would somehow protect me by making my bed invisible for the warden. One boy would stand near the door holding a book giving an impression to the warden that everybody was busy in his studies, while I slept comfortably in a corner!   

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