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) -------

No comments: