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 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) ------