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) ------

1 comment:

Narain said...

What a tricky spot to be in! How did you get over it? Suspense...............