Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Story of a Malnad Boy - 50

The news of the death of our beloved prime Minister was a great shock to me. As children we had been brought up hearing and reading all kinds of stories about his greatness. We had at any time a photo or calendar of him at our home. Unlike the present day we were sentimentally attached to our great leaders and loved them in those days. We were aware that the PM was not keeping good health after the disastrous Chinese war. But we never knew the end was so near.

Our destination Guddethota was a village on the route to Kalasa and Horanadu. Only mini busses could traverse in this narrow road. There used to be only one Shankar Transport bus driven by a driver called Thimmappa from Koppa to Kalasa. This Thimmappa and his bus acted as a life line between these two towns. He was more known to the villagers in this route than any particular leader or VIP.

We reached the village bus stop and got down the bus. It was a typical Malnad village with all its natural beauty. We first went to the house of Subba Rao who was a Congress leader and the vice president of Koppa Taluk Board. He was the first political leader from our community in Malnad.He used to dress in only pure white Khadi and had an impressive personality. We stayed in his house overnight. The radio was on till late night. I could hear many great political leaders speaking about the departed beloved Prime Minister.

Mr. Subba Rao was already aware of my circumstances and needs. My father briefly told him about the purpose of our visit in the morning. Subba Rao did not show any reaction. He went inside the house and came back. He handed over six pieces of one rupee notes to me. That was the first contribution I received from my community for my education.

Mr. Subba Rao was more of a middle class farmer than Krishna Rao who was indeed a super rich farmer and a big shot. In fact we never expected a big contribution from Subba Rao. But Krishna Rao was one person who had repeatedly assured financial support to me. It was with this huge expectation we reached the house of Krishna Rao. It was a vast and impressive Malnad bungalow. We met the eldest son of Krishna Rao, Chandrasekharaiah, who was the Chairman of village Panchayath. We were told by him that Krishna Rao was out of station.

We were fully disappointed to hear this. My father explained to him the purpose of our visit. It was also informed to him that his father had assured help to me on his own several times in the past. But he merely said that only his father would handle such matters. It appears no financial powers had been delegated to him at home even though he was the Chairman of the village Panchayath! He advised me to talk to his father when he was on his next visit to Shimoga.

We visited another two houses in the village. One family gave me two rupees. At another house we met a talkative young man. This man spoke to us at length about the need to support poor and merited students like me. In fact he gave some sound advice to us. It was about the art of making the reluctant and miserly landlords to part with their hidden money. But as for him he was very sorry that right at that time he had no cash on hand! But he told us not to worry as he would send us the money order in due course. He took great care to note down our detailed address! Needless to say that his money order never reached us, even though we never anticipated it in the first place! We were later told by reliable sources that this man was a known lotput (bluff master)! He later married a girl from our village.

Our collection drive met with a dead end at this stage. We had to return on the next day. We had collected a grand sum of rupees eight! There was every possibility of our collection amount going red (negative) as we had to bear our transport expenses! Fortunately for us there was a marriage function at a village called Agalagandi which we wanted to attend on our way back. Mr. Chandrasekharaiah and some others also traveled in the same bus with us and he paid our return fare.

We attended the marriage and visited the famous Agalagandi house. The Agalagandi Hebbar was a legendary super rich landlord who was no more. His eldest daughter was married to the son of Belavinakodige Thimmappaiah. Through the good offices of this son Srinivasaiah we requested the help from the landlady. But this super rich landlady was more tight-fisted than a typical landlord! Our visit yielded only a breakfast at her house! We took a break and came home.

I was totally fed up at this stage and wanted to end our collection drive. But father was sure that there were at least some people who were generous. We started on our second drive! This time to have a positive beginning we went to the house of our Ganesh Bhava. He gave me rupees ten. From there we proceeded to the house of his brother-in-law Manjunath in a place called Guddekoppa. This village was in the deep interior Malnad on the borders of Shimoga and Chickmagalore districts. We traveled all the way by foot and enjoyed the beauty of nature.

The original house of Manjunath had been destroyed in a recent fire accident. They were living on a temporary shed at the time. Manjunath was a young, ambitious and enterprising man at that time. He had married the sister of Talavane Srinivas who had helped me. His family financial position was not so good at that time. But he had planned well for the future. He had planted arecanut seedlings in vast areas. He showed me all around his upcoming gardens. He was quite optimistic that one day he would become a rich and progressive farmer. (This was exactly what happened later. Manjunath’s gardens started yielding exactly when the arecanut prices started zooming to the sky. He became a crorepathi and lives in Shimoga now.)

Coming back to my story, Manjunath gave me rupees ten. He further took me to a place called Hulkuli. Here was a rich farmer called Subba Rao. He was a well known person in our community. This gentleman was kind and gave me rupees ten. Our mission came to an end at this point and we came back. We had a gross collection of rupees thirty eight to be netted with our bus fare.

I would like to end the story of our collection drive with the last visit we made in our village itself. I have earlier made a reference to our Belavinakodige family. I have also mentioned in detail the gigantic personality of Ganeshaiah the then Yejaman of the family. This was the most prestigious and rich family of our village. In fact our village carries the name of this family. At that time Thimmappaiah was the Yejaman of this family. As was quite usual for such landlords, he was also known to be quite reluctant to part with his money. But this trait was in conflict with the family prestige. In our community so far only Talavane Srinivas and Guddethota Shankar (son Of Krishna Rao) were the two persons who had become graduates. But both of them were from super rich families. My brother and I would have been the first persons to do so from our village with our poor family status.

We had heard that Thimmappaiah had a grouse that we never approached him for help. My father thought of giving him an opportunity to help me with his contribution. My needs were at a minimum level as I had a free hostel seat and fee concession. With this background we went and met him at his house. It appears that he was quite unprepared for our visit. He had his prestige at his stake; at the same time as a typical Malnad landlord he was reluctant to part with money. I distinctly remember how miserable but eager he was to send us away. He was at a loss of words. But ultimately he got the appropriate words! He said that “he would think it over!” We left his house empty handed to his great relief!

The story of Guddethota Krishna Rao was not different. But whereas Thimmappaiah had not promised anything, he had volunteered to offer me financial support. When I met him later at Shimoga he asked me what happened to our collection drive. I told him that we had collected a grand sum of rupees eight from his village. He said he was shocked to hear that only such a petty sum could be mobilized!  I also told him that his son Chandrasekhar had told us that his father would give his contribution at Shimoga personally. There was no reaction from him on this aspect. He was so much worried about others’ non-contribution that he just forgot about his own contribution! So much for his generosity and his voluntary offer! The matter ended then and there. I never approached him again.

I wish to record here that I have written this episode in detail only to highlight the typical attitude of rich landlords in those days. While Thimmappaiah had not promised anything to me Krishna Rao was vocal only in his lip sympathies devoid of any actual intentions to help. These gentlemen had quite typically not delegated any powers to their grown up sons who were more enlightened. I should particularly mention the name of B T Shankar, the son of Thimmappaiah, who was a close friend of my eldest brother. He later helped my family and particularly my brother in critical times. Even at that time one single visit to Srinivasaiah of Puradamane could have solved our problem. He was a bidugai dore (extremely generous person) and would have paid not less than rupees fifty straightaway. He had done that in the previous year. This amount was much more than what we had collected in our big collection drive! But we did not want to trouble him again.


Personally I treated this episode as a painful chapter in my life. I felt it utterly shameful to expect others to contribute for my expenses. After all it was their money and it was for them to decide what to do with it. I even wrote a type of an affidavit listing out the contributions received. I had undertaken to pay of all these amounts once I started earning. In case of my demise earlier to that I wanted my brothers to pay it off! I had preserved this document for long! In any case subsequently I never had the misfortune to beg other unwilling persons to contribute for my education. But I had the privilege to receive money from great souls who contributed on their own without any request from me. I would come to it later!

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

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Story of a Malnad Boy - 49

My parents were back at home before evening. I found them in good spirits as they had been paid well by Nakra Poojari. Their spirits went up further when I told them about my scholarship. The money was sufficient to comfortably complete my 9th standard at the School. My immediate elder brother (Puttanna) also came home for the holidays. We decided that we would work hard and support our father during our ensuing summer holidays. Father told us that the owners of our tenancy land had not considered our request for waiver of geni. They had mercilessly collected their share of the arecanut. Hence very little of the produce was available for sale by us. We had to depend on subsidiary activities only for our maintenance till we had the next crop.

I went back to Shimoga after my Christmas holidays. I could spend my further three months of education comfortably. In this period I was through with all of my scholarship money. I was back to square one by the time I came home for summer holidays.

In view of Sampige Kolalu uncle’s insistence for recovery of dues in one stroke, we had cut off our relations with his family. Even though the family was closely related to us and was one of our immediate neighbors the relations could not be restored till many years. We had in our possession a big vacant land near our house called Achemane (neighboring house). It was actually the solid foundation of an ancient ruined house. Our village had a good number of stone inscriptions of Jain period. We could make out that this foundation must have had its own story to tell in view of its solid ancient foundation. Only an archeologist could have found out.

We used to grow all sorts of vegetables in this land. My father was an expert in growing vegetables. When the management was in my brother’s hands, the Sampige Kolalu uncle requested him for using a part of this land for raising arecanut seedlings. My brother was obliged to accede to his request in view of our indebtedness. About one third of the land was thus used by the uncle for raising seedlings. It was supposed to be a short-term affair. But once our relations were cut off, the uncle fenced the land and treated it as a part of his garden. We were simply helpless and could not even protest for his highhandedness.

The summer months of April and May were very critical for our Malnad people in those days. As our village used to be cut off from the towns during the rainy season, we had to store all our requirements for a period of six months during these two months. Besides, there were certain tasks peculiar to our Malnad and our village which were to be carried out during this period only. My brother Puttanna and I chalked out a programme to finish all these tasks before we rejoined our Schools after the holidays.

The first task was to collect firewood from the forest. In our village all the forest adjoining the gardens were allocated as hola (land earmarked for the use of the respective garden owners). We had to use this land for the supply of green leaves (soppu) for our gardens and for cowsheds. Similarly a portion of such forest, called daragina- hadya (land for dry leaves), was to be used for collection of dry leaves for the cowsheds during the summer. Both the hola and daragina-hadya were not to be used as sources for firewood. The trees in these lands were not to be cut under any circumstances. The allocation of this land was scientific and was based on an unwritten understanding.  But this had no legal sanctity. We had sufficient hola and hadya of our own. Only we had to ensure that there was no trespassing. Such instances, though not frequent, did arise.


Beyond these adjoining forests there were thick forests. We had to climb the hillocks to reach these dense forests. We engaged a person called Subba to cut wood in these deep forests on contract basis. We had to allow the wood to dry in the sunlight for a minimum of one month before the same could be transported to our home. While the rich landlords could afford to transport the firewood on their bullock carts, we had to manually carry the firewood to our home on our heads. Even if we were to hire the cart, the same could not reach our home as there was no pucca road. We two brothers with the help of our parents completed this task first.

The next task was to cover the roof of our house with the dry leaves (soge) of arecanut tree. The collection of these leaves starts during winter as the trees start shedding the leaves. These leaves are picked up at weekly intervals and stored in soge-ottlu, a platform specially set up in the gardens for this purpose. Before the leaves are used to cover the roofs of houses, we have to separate the haale (the top portion of soge) from the soge. The haale is used as firewood in the ovens.

It took more than a week for two of us with our father to cut all these soge as we had to cut each piece individually. Thereafter we had to transport the same to our house on our heads. We had to fix one particular day for the task of covering the roof by replacing the existing leaves. In our village the task of covering the house roof is called Mane- hochhuvudu. This is done every year before the arrival of the Monsoon. We have to invite all the households in the village for this purpose. Each household will depute at least one person on the appointed day for this work.

We have to first remove the entire existing cover and sort out the leaves which could be reused. The process of putting these leaves back on the roof along with freshly cut ones is a skilled job undertaken by only a few experts. The others have to assist them. The task includes covering the roofs of annexes to the house and the cow shed. The entire work takes one full day and we have always enjoyed this day in the year. It is indeed a community work with a festival atmosphere. Special food for the day is cooked by the ladies from different houses joining together. The completion of this activity is taken as the culmination of a major event in the household concerned.

We had certain daily tasks cut out for us during this period. Our gardens were being irrigated by three different tanks during the summer. The water from these tanks is drawn by different households on rotation. We had to draw water in the morning which would flow in small canals to the garden by gravity. After emptying the tank we had to close it. By evening the water would fill to the brim again. It would be again drawn and fed to the garden in the evening. This activity generally requires two persons. Once the summer came to an end we had to keep the tanks wide open. The various canals of distribution in the gardens are also opened so that the heavy rain water flows out and joins a stream. This would ultimately join a tributary of River Tunga.

Another daily task was to go to the hadya and collect the dry leaves in a big bamboo container called Jalle. We had to carry it on our heads to our homes and spread the same in the cowsheds. It would get converted to fine manure with the cow dung. Once in a month we had to manually remove this manure from the cowshed and put it in a dumping yard called gobbarada gundi. Normally these jobs are performed by labourers. But in our case we had to do these ourselves as we could not afford to pay them. During the rainy season we had to put green leaves from the forest in the cowshed as against dry leaves in summer. The rich manure is fed to the arecanut garden once in a year. This was to be done manually by carrying the same in baskets on our heads.

During the week ends we had to assist our father in collecting banana from the garden. The sorting out and arranging the betel leaves in to Kowlige was another week end job. Both of us would carry these on our heads with our father up to the bus stop which was more than six KMs away. This was on the Sunday for Koppa market. Father would return in the evening carrying our weekly requirement of provisions on his head.

We had to somehow collect sufficient provisions for consumption in the rainy season. Father could not visit the Koppa market during this period. One particular week end father visited the house of his nephew Ganesh Rao (Ganesh Bhava for us).  This nephew was one of the sons of my father’s eldest sister. As he lost both his parents while he was quite young he was brought up by my father in his younger days at our home. He had great regards and affection for his maternal uncle. He was an enterprising and progressive farmer. He had developed and brought up very good arecanut gardens in a place called Karigerasi near Koppa town. He had done this single handedly with hard work.

My father’s visit to his house was rather self explanatory! Ganesh Bhava was well aware of our financial needs. He simply addressed a letter to Siddi Sab of Koppa and asked my father to travel to Koppa town on his bullock cart. As per the letter, Siddi Sab loaded the cart with our six month’s requirement of provisions. The items consisted of mainly rice, cooking oil, jaggery and Tur dal. Over and above this Siddi Sab handed over one hundred rupees (cash) to my father as instructed in the letter. Ganesh Bhava had a tradition of never sending back my father empty handed! He was also particular that the items were home delivered on his bullock cart!

We were very happy and relieved to find our father coming back with a cart load of provisions. With one stroke Ganesh Bhava had ensured our smooth survival for six months. We started thinking about our going back to the School as the month of May was coming to an end. There was the same problem of mobilizing money for me to go back to Shimoga.

At that stage we suddenly remembered that certain rich persons from our community had assured me help when there was difficulty in securing free seat for me at the hostel. In fact Guddethota Krishna Rao had told me that it was better for me to collect some money from such people and keep the same in bank for my future requirements. My father thought it fit to visit our community people’s houses for collecting money for my education. As Mr. Krishna Rao had already assured his help we decided to visit his house first. We left our home and on our way reached Jayapura town. To our surprise, we found all the shops closed in the town. The day was 27th May 1964. We came to know that our beloved Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was no more!
----- (To be continued) -----

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Story of a Malnad Boy - 48

There were two very big provision shops in Koppa, owned by two Muslim businessmen. One shop belonged to Mavinakatte Sab (it appears earlier there were some mango trees opposite this shop and hence this name stuck to the owner) and the other was owned by Siddi Sab. The major clients for both these shops were big landlords of Malnad. They would order their needs of the entire year’s provisions at a time. My father’s rich nephews Krishna Rao and Ganesh Rao were two of the major clients of Siddi Sab. Through them my father was also well known to Siddi Sab. Of course we never purchased any items from them as our requirements were small.

The shop of Siddi Sab was just opposite the Koppa bus stand. Sitting in his shop,  Siddi Sab was observing my father running desperately here and there with the bag of arecanut. He called him inside and enquired the reasons for his desperation. My father explained to him his predicament. Siddi Sab was already aware of my father’s financial position. He simply ordered one of the shop assistants to weigh the arecanut. It weighed exactly ten kilograms. He asked my father what was the amount he needed. He was told that the need was about twenty five rupees. Without any further queries he handed over five crisp five rupee notes to my father. For us at that moment, Siddi Sab appeared like God (call him Allah or Eshwar!). We offered him our Salaam and immediately walked in to the bus stand.

Father handed over twenty rupees to me. That was more than sufficient for me in the given circumstances. But I could understand how difficult it was to earn money. I was also worried as to how my father would pull on the entire year with hardly any resources at his command. I reached Shimoga late in the night thinking all along about the fate of our family.

The things were going normal for me at the hostel but for my continued financial crisis. I had one acute problem. My brother had got me two sets of clothing when I got my first School admission in Shimoga. They were getting torn out now and one of them reached a stage wherein I could not wear it anymore. On the day I washed the remaining one, I had to get it dried in the morning sun so that I could wear it for the School. I remember on some days I had to wear it in partly wet condition. It got dried up on my way to School!

My brother’s friend Krishna Rao (younger brother of Srinivasaiah) used to visit me on a few occasions whenever he was in Shimoga. He used to hand over me one or two rupees on these occasions. On one such occasion he found my misery of drying the cloth in the early morning sun. He took me to one textile shop and ordered one new shirt to be stitched for me. In those days there used to be no ready made dresses. I got some relief on getting this new shirt.

I could not understand one thing in my difficult state of affairs. I had been granted a merit scholarship of rupees thirty in my middle School itself. Nobody could tell me why the same was not being continued for me even though I continued to stand first in the class. May be it was available only in the Government Schools. But I was hoping against hope that one fine morning somebody may tell me that I had been sanctioned the scholarship again.

One particular evening, I had left the School early. I had not taken craft subject and that period was off for me. I was eating my tiffin at the hostel. One of my School students, who came from the School at the normal time, told me that my name had been put up on the notice board! I was accustomed by that time to see my name on the hostel notice board as a defaulter. I immediately concluded that I must have defaulted in some fee payment in the School also. But he told me that I had been sanctioned a merit scholarship for my performance in the Sanskrit subject.

It is very difficult for me to express my feeling in writing of the joy and relief I felt on hearing that great news. I thanked that boy profusely as if he himself had got me that scholarship. I was curious to go to School and see for myself my name displayed on the notice board. I finished my tiffin in a jiffy and ran to the school all the way in that evening. Indeed I could find my name on the notice board there! I read it again and again to confirm that I was not day dreaming.  I also saw the senior clerk still sitting in the office doing some official work. I went to him and asked him as to what was the amount of the scholarship and when was I going to get it. I was in absolute hurry! He told me that it was a new scholarship instituted for the first time by the Government. He had no clue as to the amount and when the same would be received. I was told that the other scholarships were mostly between rupees thirty and forty. He expected this also to be in the same range.

The Christmas holidays were approaching fast. I was anxious to draw my scholarship amount before I proceeded home. I wanted to inform my parents only on receipt of the amount. But till the last day the amount had not been received. But on the last day the senior clerk called me and told me that the money could be collected by me. I was to take my father or guardian for receiving the amount. He asked me to bring them on the next day.

There was no possibility of me asking my father to come to Shimoga for collecting the money. I discussed my predicament with a senior B.A. Student by name R. R. Kanchi. He had been very close to me. He had a commanding personality and was very dominating by nature. He simply told me that he would accompany me as my guardian. Next morning he came with me to the School. When the clerk asked him as to what was his relationship to me he simply told him that he was my uncle! He told it in such an authoritative manner that the clerk was fully convinced of our relationship! But the clerk had a problem. He told us that he had forgotten to draw the money from the bank on the previous day! He told us to come and collect the amount positively on the next day. Mr. Kanchi (my beloved uncle!) warned him that the things could be very bad for him if the money was not disbursed to me on the next day!

My anxiety was growing in the meanwhile. I was curiously waiting to know the amount I was going to get. The next morning I visited the School with Kanchi. The clerk asked Kanchi to sign on a revenue stamp of ten paise which he did. He then asked me to pay ten paise being the cost of the stamp. I had nothing in my purse. In fact I had no purse at all! Kanchi firmly told the clerk to hand over the money to me without any further fuss! He also threw a fifty paise coin on his table.

The clerk then gave me a bunch of one rupee notes asking me to count the same. I had not seen so many pieces of currency notes in my life so far. When asked by Kanchi what the exact amount of scholarship was the clerk told him that it was one hundred rupees in full! Hearing that my hands started shivering and I could not simply continue the counting! I had never imagined in my wildest dreams that the amount could be as large as one hundred rupees! I just handed over the notes to Kanchi requesting him to help me. He counted them within no time and confirmed that there were one hundred pieces exactly. He dropped me back at the hostel on his bicycle along with a consignment of one hundred one rupee notes in my bulging pockets! I could not thank him enough for his valuable support to me.

Now that I was sitting on a pile of money, that too my own earnings (if it could be called so), the first thing was to settle all my dues. I immediately went and cleared all my hostel fee arrears. The next and most important was the dues of Arunachalam. I immediately remembered that it was a Wednesday. I knew Arunachalam would be available at the Scout Bhavan in the evening. I went there carrying rupees thirty with me.  He sure was there. He could see me in a state of anxiety as I was excited to tell him that I got a scholarship and I was going to settle his dues. He gently enquired whether everything was fine with me. When I told him about the scholarship he congratulated me. But as for his dues he said that he was not even aware that I had dues to him! He told me that he would accept the amount only because I was telling him that the same was due from me! Indeed it was so kind of him to say so! I had tears in my eyes.

I was indeed in a very happy state of mind at that point of time. All of a sudden I realized that if any one person was responsible for this scholarship it was my Sanskrit teacher Nanjunda Sastry. The students with Kannada as their second language were finding it difficult to score even seventy at the maximum. But I was being awarded between ninety to ninety nine marks in Sanskrit by my teacher. In fact in one of my answer papers I had found him having originally awarded one hundred seventeen marks and later brought it down to ninety nine! The reason was he never was in the habit of prescribing marks for each question in the question paper. He would award marks for each answer depending on his assessment and finally ensure that the total was less than the maximum! I was the main beneficiary of this quixotic but unique system of paper correction! Somebody at the Education Department must have thought that here was a genius in Sanskrit language and sanctioned that hundred rupee scholarship for me!

I went to the teacher’s home in the night and met him. He was very happy to learn that I had secured the scholarship for his subject. I gave him rupees five and touch├ęd his feet. He accepted the amount with all his humility. As I have mentioned in an earlier episode he was in dire need of money. I was very sad to see the state of affairs at his home.

I started for my home for the Christmas holidays in a jubilant mood. It was a short holiday for me. When I reached my home I found only my younger sister and brothers at home. I was told that my parents had gone to a place called Kanamadlu. A rich person called Nakra Poojari was conducting a Satyanarayana Pooja and my parents had undertaken the job of cooking for the function.

Nakra Poojari was originally a contractor (mestri) of labourers. He used to bring the labourers from South Kanara district for working in our Malnad gardens. Srinivasaiah gave him all his paddy fields for cultivation as a tenant. He became a big shot and later the entire land became his under the tenancy act. He respected my father and was liberal in making payments. I was anxious to see my parents to tell them about my scholarship. But I was very saddened to find them working hard for the survival of the family.

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

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Story of a Malnad Boy - 47

Kaisi Paheli Hai Yeh?
Kaisi Paheli Hai Yeh?
Kaisi Paheli Zindgaani?
(What a puzzle?
What a puzzle?
What a puzzle the life Is?)
                         - Swanand Kirkire

As rightly felt by me, our family was really at the cross roads at that critical juncture. The system had simply collapsed both financially and as a joint family. Its very survival was at stake. My father actually was not new to such a situation. He had faced it any number of times right from his young age. But to my mother it was indeed a great sentimental moment. It was she who had entrusted her first son the responsibility of running the family when our father had failed in his leadership. Even though our brother was quite successful initially, the circumstances had later led to his failure in accomplishing the role. The role was now back with my father. It was a great challenge to him. Unlike earlier, he now had a big family to support. The means available were very limited with the added burden of huge loans.

I was very much anxious to go home and find out the details of the events that led to my brother’s departure from home. I had to wait up to Dasara holidays. I had another hitch. I simply had no money for the bus fare. I did not know how to mobilize that money. In fact I had no money even for my hair cut! Just at that time I overheard some boys planning to go to Udaya Motor Office. I have already mentioned that the hostel Secretary Avadhani was a major partner in Udaya Motors. I was told that the company was issuing some concession passes to the hostel students going home.

 I immediately went and met the authorities. I was told that I could get a half-rate pass. For the full free-pass I had to meet Mr. Gundu Rao, the managing partner, who was also a member of the hostel management committee. I had seen him earlier at the hostel. This gentleman was very nice to me and generously ordered a free pass for me. But that was up to Koppa only. From there I had to catch a Shankar Transport bus - the ticket costing fifty paise. I had to raise a personal loan of one rupee from one of my friends! One fourth of which went for my haircut!

I left for my home on the first day of commencement of my holiday. At Koppa I purchased biscuits for my younger sister and brothers at a cost of twenty five paise. With the available balance fifty paise I got in to Shankar Transport bus and reached our bus stop at a place called B G Katte. Here I had to cross the river Sitha which was still deep as the rainy season had just ended. I found that the work for construction of a bridge had already started.

I had to pass through our arecanut garden before reaching my home. As I entered the garden, I found some unknown persons engaged in plucking arecanut bunch from the trees. I could not find my father or any of my family members who should be normally present on such occasion. I felt it strange and could not tolerate the unpleasant scenario I was witnessing.

I reached the home in an anxious and excited state. I saw my mother and father waiting for me. The first question I asked was who was plucking the arecanut from our garden. My parents told me to finish my lunch first before they could tell me the events that led to such a situation. My second elder brother had already reached the home for his holidays. After my lunch all of us sat together and my father briefed us all the events that took place before our eldest brother left home.

As already highlighted by me earlier, the financial position of our family had reached a stage wherein it was impossible to clear the loans and maintain the family. It seems the rich father-in –law of my brother had invited him with the assurance that he would give a particular piece of land from out of his large landholdings to enable him to live independently. In the given situation it was a fait accompli for him as there was no other alternative. However my parents were not fully convinced, as they were aware of the huge indebtedness of my brother’s father-in-law.

Other than some petty loans, my brother had raised the entire loans from Sampige Kolalu uncle only. The loan was mainly on account of the two marriage expenses at home and the clearance of dues of rupees one thousand five hundred of Srinivasaiah to get the land transferred to us. The amount had shot up to rupees three thousand four hundred inclusive of interest. The moment the uncle came to know about my brother’s intended departure from home, he insisted on clearance of the entire dues in lump sum. This was possible only by selling our entire landholding. This obviously meant that our family would be on the roads.

My father invited his nephew Mardi Krishna Rao and his first son-in-law Mahabalaiah (my eldest sister’s husband) for the Panchayath (arbitration). Both of them were highly respected and in fact known as financial wizards. Together they pushed a hard bargain with the Sampige Kolalu uncle. They had to somehow ensure the survival of our family. They requested the uncle to accept the repayment in three annual installments, the first one to start immediately out of the arecanut crop on hand. But the uncle was bent upon insisting the clearance of the entire dues at a stroke.

Ultimately he gave one offer. He would take the entire arecanut crop on hand from our one acre land and accept the same as the clearance of his entire dues. The arbitrators had no other alternative than to accept it. Being masters in this line, they immediately obtained a conditional receipt from the uncle for the settlement of his entire dues. This was against an agreement to sell the entire crop on hand to him executed by my brother as the land was held in his name. The arbitrators also got a transfer deed executed from my brother in favour of our father and all other brothers jointly.

The above transactions meant that our family would be left with only a nominal income from the tenanted land of about half acre for the current year. That was indeed a great challenge for survival!  On the positive side we were free from the major loan liability which was like a sword hanging over our heads since long. But the best part was that the total value of one year crop could not have exceeded two thousand rupees at the prevailing rates. In other words the dues of rupees three thousand four hundred got cleared with rupees two thousand only! Perhaps the uncle thought that some cash on hand was better than full amount in installments! The arbitrators were happy to conclude the settlement without the selling of the land owned by us and which was the only hope for our survival. Mardi Krishna Rao also sent us a quintal of rice which could meet our needs for about three months.

I could understand now why some unknown persons were in our garden plucking arecanut. The clearance of entire loan at a stroke was indeed a great relief. But it was very difficult to accept somebody plucking crops from our own dear garden! Our sentiments were really hurt. I remembered how Tipu Sultan had felt when he was asked to send two of his sons with the British to Calcutta on his defeat in the Mysore war. I thought our situation was similar. Here we were made to surrender the crop in our land thereby allowing other party to enter our land and pluck the crop.

For the first time in our life my immediate elder brother and I felt that a stage had come in our life wherein we had to virtually fight for our survival. We had to support our father fully. It was not just the moral support. The physical support by way of working in our garden and other related work was rather more important.

Our immediate step was to take out the crop from our tenanted land. We had about half acre of arecanut garden under tenancy. Major portion of it belonged to the Belavinakodige family. We had to remit to them a geni of six maunds which was actually on the higher side. It had been fixed taking the total land as half acre; but the actual area was much less. Our request for re-fixation had not been considered by the rich family even though the same was a pittance for them in comparison with their large holdings. Another small piece of tenancy land near our house belonged to Krishna Rao the younger brother of Srinivasaiah. The geni for this had been fixed at one and a half maund. Krishna Rao’s wife was in fact the only daughter of my mother’s maternal uncle. Thus the family was closely related to us. We expected both Krishna Rao and the Belavinakodige family headed by Thimmappaiah to waive our geni as a special case for that one year. But both the families took the geni without showing any favour or mercy!

In our Malnad the areca crop plucking (adike koyilu) is conducted three times with a gap of one month between each plucking. We finished the first plucking for our tenancy land during our holidays. It went fast as we had to do this for half acre only this year. We assisted our father in the collection and selling of bananas, betel leaves, plantain leaves and soapnut. Our father had no other way than to depend on this source of income. We could find that he was an expert in this line and knew all the tricks of the trade. He had not concentrated on this so far. But in the given dire situation his skills came out.

I had one major relief in the meanwhile. I had been thinking of my eldest brother during this period and missed him a lot. I had somehow concluded that he may not evince interest in my education any more. But he visited our home during my stay. He enquired about my performance in the first terminal examination. He made it very clear to me that he would continue to monitor my progress even though he was not supporting me financially any more. It was a great reassurance to me. I felt relieved to a great extent.

We were at the end of the month of October and my holidays came to an end. Father was aware that I had to pay two months hostel fee. I needed about twenty rupees for going back to Shimoga. On that Sunday afternoon he accompanied me to Koppa. He had carried about ten kilograms of arecanut of the Bette type (this is a second grade areca as against hasa, the first grade). The first grade could not be parted as the same was to be given as geni to the landlords. He was hoping to mobilize the money for me by selling the same to some shopkeepers in Koppa.

To our ill luck the market for areca was at the lowest at that time. Besides, there was no shop in Koppa town which was trading in arecanut. The main market for our Malnad arecanut was only Shimoga. Even there it was difficult to sell areca in small lots. Some petty shops only sold areca on retail basis to the labour class. But this market had a very limited demand. We went to different shops to sell the item. But nobody showed any interest. I could see the CKMS bus leaving for Shimoga at 4 PM. But we had still not sold the areca and hence I could not get in to it. We were tensed up. There was only one last bus to Shimoga at 5 PM. I had to somehow get in to it. We were in a desperate position.

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

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Story of a Malnad Boy - 46

I was waiting for the money from my brother. Suddenly I thought of making some money on my own at least to meet my petty expenses. The idea was simple. I had all the 8th standard textbooks with me in a very good condition. I thought of selling them to the new batch of 8th standard students. But I did not know how to approach the students. Also by that time many of the students had already purchased their books. I was told by some body that there was a second hand book shop in Doddapet (Big Bazaar). The name of the book shop was Raghunatha Book Depot.

One particular day I went to this shop carrying all my old textbooks in a bag. The shop was open. I could find lot of old books lying here and there in a very haphazard manner. But I could not find the owner! I searched the whole shop. Suddenly an old gentleman appeared to me behind one dump of old books! He looked at me with a question mark on his face. It appeared to me that he was not happy with me for disturbing him from whatever he was doing among those old books. I told him that I wanted to sell my 8th standard textbooks to him. He took my bag, took out all the books and noted something in a chit with a pencil. In those days it was customary to pay half of the original rates for the one-year old second hand textbooks. As my books were looking as good as the first hand books without even carrying my names on them I thought they would fetch something more for me. But I was in a shock to find that the amount scribbled on the chit was rupees 2.25 only! I had to simply return as the man was not prepared to pay a paisa more than that.

Next day I went near the class room for English medium 8th standard. I spoke to certain students directly offering my books for sale. Some of them were ready to take the books at half the rates. Accordingly I sold most of my books to them on the next day against cash. I was left with two more books when Sadashiva, younger brother of my classmate Neelakanta, saw me. He wanted one of the books for himself. He said that he had no money with him right then but he would pay me next day. Believing him I handed over the book to him. Neelakanta, Venkataramana, Sadashiva and other boys from our place had not joined the hostel that year.  They had rented a house near Arunachalam’s house and were having their food at Arunachalam’s house itself.

As already written by me Srikanta, Neelakanta and Sadashiva were the sons of Guddethota Krishna Rao, a super rich man, who had also promised financial help for me. The eldest brother Srikanta was handling all the financial matters. He was very strict and would keep the accounts perfectly without wasting any money. Next day I went to meet Sadashiva for collecting money. He said he just forgot to bring it and would definitely bring it tomorrow. But unfortunately for me that ‘tomorrow’ never arrived for him. Rather it was a wild goose chase for me. In fact he started getting annoyed the moment I asked him the money! It seems he had taken the money already from his brother and spent it. But I was desperately trying to recover the amount. The amount was hardly about rupees two. But it was quite a big amount for me given the circumstances!

Several times I thought of going to his house and raise the issue with his brother. But I had a problem. The house was next to Arunachalam’s house. I myself had defaulted in my payment of dues to Arunachalam. There was every possibility of Arunachalam seeing me which I wanted to just avoid. My brother was also not aware of my dues to Arunachalam. Ultimately I had to forget my dues from Sadashiva. He had absolutely no guilt feeling for not paying me! Each time I approached him he would promise me to pay on the next day! Unfortunately for me that day never came! But I could never forget the same in view of the financial difficulties I was facing at that time.

Almost twenty years later, I was working in Bombay as an Officer in Canara Bank. I was staying in Santacruz and my colleague and neighbor Venkatesh had a guest couple from Bangalore. It was a lady classmate of Venkatesh’s wife and her husband. I was told that the husband’s name was Sadashiva who was working in State Bank of India. I was also told that Sadashiva hailed from Malnad just like me. I somehow had a hunch that it was the same defaulter Sadashiva. How true it was! When my colleague tried to introduce him to me I told him that I already knew him. In fact I felt like asking him for my two rupees! It could have been something like ‘Paanch Rupaiya Barah Anna’ scene from Kishore Kumar’s famous film Chalthi Ka Naam Gaadi. Needless to say Sadashiva had conveniently forgotten the incident (dues!).

I do not know whether the above narrations will make an interesting reading. But I am just recording them to highlight the difficult situation I was in as a school boy.

I received a letter from my brother congratulating me for having stood first in the class. He had enclosed another letter addressed to one Subba Rao for paying me rupees ten. Subba Rao was the husband of my mother’s cousin Kaveramma. Their family was camping in Shimoga for some medical treatment. I went and met them at their house. They were extremely nice to me. Subba Rao paid me rupees ten.

 I could clear my hostel fee and was left with rupees four for my petty expenses. The dues of Arunachalam could not be paid at all. I could do nothing other than hiding from him! There was a Scout Bhavan near the Government High School which was close to hostel and on my way to School. Arunachalam being a Scout would promptly attend the weekly Scout meetings on Wednesdays. I had made it a point to avoid passing in front of the building on Wednesdays!

I was expecting a similar letter from my brother in the month of September. But there was no communication from him even by 15th of the month. The hostel management displayed my name on the notice board promptly as a defaulter. I was very much worried. The warden spoke to me about the arrears. But I had nothing to say. In the third week of the month I had a visitor at the hostel. It was the uncle from Sampige Kolalu. He told me that my brother had left our house along with the sister-in-law. They had moved to Hurulihaklu, my brother’s father-in-law’s house. I was also told that my father had taken over the management of the house. The uncle handed over exactly rupees six to me telling me that the same had been sent by my father.

I cleared the hostel dues immediately. But to say that I was in a state of shock would be an understatement! I could not visualize my home without my brother being a part of it! He was not only my beloved brother but also was my mentor, a role he had played to perfection so far. There was no way anybody else would play that role for me! To put it in the words of Shakespeare - “not that I loved my father less; but that I loved my brother more.” It was a period of darkness for me. Suddenly the world appeared quite gloomy.

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

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Story of a Malnad Boy - 45

I had to somehow come out of the situation without hurting the feelings of my brother. After discussing with my father again I thought of a simple drama. I told my brother that I was leaving for Sringeri. Accordingly I left my home with the silver cups. After about half an hour I returned home. My brother was shocked to see me back so early and asked me what happened and why I had to return. The dialogue went as follows:

Me: I was on my way to Sringeri. I met Srinivasa Subrahmanyam on my way.
Brother: Then?
Me: He asked me why I had not left for Shimoga even though the High Schools had opened on June 1st.
Brother: What did you tell him?
 Me: I had to tell him that I could not because you could not mobilize money so far for my initial expenses.
Brother (anxiously): Did you tell him that you were going to Sringeri to sell the silver cups?
Me: No.
Brother (appeared relieved): OK. What happened then?
Me: He asked me to come to his home. There he handed over rupees fifty to me for my expenses (I showed the currency notes to my brother).

My father was just watching my performance. It appears that he was satisfied that I had given a good performance. In any case I had not let out his name. I had saved the embarrassment for my brother also by telling him that Srinivasa Subrahmanyam was not told about the silver cups. But somehow my brother was not fully convinced of my cock and bull story! He was also not happy for my revealing our financial difficulties to an outsider. I could feel it from his expressions! But I was happy to get out of the situation!

With the money on hand I left for Shimoga in the afternoon. It was for the first time I was having a royal sum of rupees fifty with me. I was indeed excited to deal with such a big amount of money! I reached Koppa town and there I got in to CKMS bus for Shimoga. The same giant driver was on the wheels. It was thrilling to travel on that Leyland bus with the Gulliver in charge! But my spirits were short lived. After passing through the Thirthahalli town and a few KMs later, one of the front tyres of the bus suddenly burst and gave away! Fortunately this happened at a point just after crossing a bridge. The driver could somehow maneuver to stop the bus without allowing it to roll down into a nearby gorge.

This was my first long trip on a bus alone and it was already evening. The situation caused me great anxiety. We were informed that there was no spare tyre and the driver had to get the same only from Shimoga.Unlike other company busses CKMS did not have any other busses running in that route. All the passengers were in a fix. Just then a lorry was passing in the same road and the driver sent a message to the company depot through the lorry driver. All the passengers gathered on the road side cursing our fate. It was clear that we had to spend our time on the road till the help came from Shimoga.
Among the passengers was a person from near our village by name Keremane Thimmappaiah. He was a Yakshagana artist and a great talkative man. He was known for his Draupadi’s role. We all found him a good company. At our request he staged a one man (actor) show of a Prasanga from Mahabharata. His actions went on till the help arrived from Shimoga late in the night and the bus started moving again. This was a great experience for me and remains fresh in my memory till date.

The bus reached Shimoga at about 10 ‘o’ clock in the night. I was carrying a steel trunk with all my belongings inside. It was a burden to carry. It was obviously necessary for me to hire a Tonga. I had earlier witnessed several instances of quarrelling of Tonga boys with the passengers. They were known to be very notorious in Shimoga. Now it was my turn to deal with them. I was quite apprehensive.

The moment I got down from the bus, one of the Tonga boys simply snatched away the trunk from me. Before I could start bargaining the hire charges he had loaded the trunk in the cart. He almost pushed me inside and drove the cart from the bus stand without even asking me my destination! I told him to take me to Durgigudi (Arunachalam’s house). I also told him that I would pay him twenty five paise only (I had been told that it was the genuine fare). He was in no mood to hear and confirm the same. Within ten minutes we were at the door of Arunachalam’s house. After getting down with my trunk I tried to pay him the twenty five paise. But he asked for seventy five paise and nothing less than that. No amount of bargaining could help. In fact he was trying to grab the trunk from my hands! I was in a desperate position and didn’t know what to do.

Luckily Arunachalam heard the commotion in front of his house and came out. Seeing me he first asked me to get inside the house. He had the personality of a military commander and in fact was a Scouts Leader. He asked me how much I had bargained for. I told him that it was only twenty five paise. He took the Tonga boy to task and told him to accept that amount and pack off. When the boy started argument again he simply banged the door leaving the boy cursing on the road. After some time the boy had to beg him to pay twenty five paise and allow him to go! Thus ended my first deal with a notorious Tonga boy!

I had walked into the house of the teacher without any prior information. It was also late in the night and time to go to bed. The teacher was also quite aware of my financial difficulties. But the husband and wife duo did not allow me to go to bed without having my meals! They were so kind to me. I was so overwhelmed by the treatment given to me that I felt that the world has survived only because of people like Arunachalam couple!

I attended the classes from the very next day. In the evening I went to the hostel and collected the application form for admission. I was told that my free seat was guaranteed and I had to just wait for the formal of announcement. I was required to pay rupees fifteen (rupees twelve being two months advance) including sports, library fee etc. Venkataramana had joined the School on 1st of June itself. He also told me that he had already settled the dues of Ashwini hotel. It appears that Adiga had kept no track of our dues. In fact when Venkataramana went to him for payment he was pleasantly surprised!
Hearing Venkataramana’s experience I also went and met Adiga in a relaxed condition. The guiltiness of a defaulter was no more there with me! The fifty rupees (already down to forty six) currency notes in my purse gave lot of confidence to me! Adiga was immensely pleased and in fact told me that certain hostel boys had never bothered to clear their dues. As per him I and Venkataramana were in a class of our own! As written by me earlier he offered me one cup of Jamoons free as a reward for my honesty!

That night sitting in the teacher’s house I made a simple calculation. It was my estimated expenditure out of the royal sum of rupees fifty.

Sl. No.
Head of Expenditure
Amount (Rs.)
1
Arunachalam’s payment for one month
30.00
2
Hostel advance
15.00
3
Adiga’s payment
16.00
4
Amount already spent by me (bus fare etc.)
4.00
5
Cost of text books etc.
10.00

Grand Total
75.00

Suddenly the sum appeared to be no more royal to me! In fact my budget was already in deficit by rupees twenty five. Even if I had excluded Adiga’s payment (which could not be disclosed to my brother), I had a deficit of around rupees ten. That working spoiled my sleep on that night. There was no way I could get back to my brother for more money. I was in the thick of this financial mess at that young age! I never knew that it was only a beginning and I was yet to see the worst days!

We were handed over our corrected answer papers for our annual examination. I had stood first in the class again. That was indeed good news which I conveyed to my brother. I also got admission to the hostel with free seat facility. I could shift to the hostel only in the second week of July. Hence I was due one month’s mess charges to Arunachalam. But I simply had no money left with me. I had to leave for the hostel without settling his dues. I felt miserable. But neither the teacher nor his wife raised this issue with me! They simply wished me best at the hostel and told good bye!

That year the hostel gave more admissions and the existing rooms were found insufficient for accommodation. They hired a nearby building with about five rooms. This building belonged to an old lady and was in the neighborhood of our warden’s house. It was easy for him to keep a tight supervision on us. The rooms were not up to the hostel’s standards and in fact none of the boys were interested in moving to it. But as High School boys we became the scapegoats! Vishnumurthy also got admission that year and we were allotted the same room. There was another boy Hegde from north Kanara district. The fourth boy was none other than my previous roommate Dattatri (the boy with the feminine features!). He was a changed boy as Krishna Sharma and his gang had left the hostel for whatever reason. We had to face one embarrassment daily. As we had to remove our shirts for meals, we had to pass through the road with our upper portion of the body not fully covered to reach the dining hall in the hostel. Besides we had to carry our plates for meals on the road.

The old lady, the owner of the building, would often come near our rooms and make some complaints regarding room maintenance by us. She was a nuisance to us. But there was a brighter side. The lady had a beautiful granddaughter staying with her! We could see her washing the clothes outside the house close to our rooms. The boys wanted to see this beautiful girl at least once in a day! They thought that one glimpse of this beautiful girl would compensate hundred curses of the old lady and her visits at odd times! They believed in the words of John Keats, “a thing of beauty is a joy for ever.” There is also a proverb in Kannada which means “for a youth even a stick covered with a saree looks beautiful”. Naturally the boys had their justification for getting enamored by a beautiful girl! After all we were definitely in that age group! This privilege was not available for the boys who were staying in the main hostel building!

Just opposite our room there was a small house rented out. It carried a name board in Kannada, Yehovana Sakshigala Rajya Mandira. We were very curious to know the meaning of these words. But we could get no help. Nobody was staying there regularly. It appeared to be a meeting place for certain association/community people. We used to find only two middle aged gentlemen and a middle aged lady having a meeting inside this house regularly. We also could hear them singing some prayers.

It appears that the people living nearby had originally thought that the two men were running a brothel inside. They had raised some objections and in fact had tried to attack them. But we were told that the two men had given them such a beating that nobody thereafter came enquiring about their activities. We had a fearful curiosity about them and kept a close watch on their activities. But we found nothing objectionable. Rather we developed some sort of respect for them. Now after going through the Wikipedia I understand that Yehova is the name of God for the Jews. It naturally means that those people were actually Jews. Nobody had heard about this community in those days in a place like Shimoga. The community had been unnecessarily misunderstood.

I had settled down in my new room in the hostel. The things appeared to be quite normal. But the arrival of the month of August also meant that I had to pay my hostel fee. The same was to be paid by tenth of the month. I was awaiting communication from my brother. It was a period of anxiety for me. I knew the financial position of my family was very bad at that time. Even a sum of rupees six appeared to be a big amount!

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

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Story of a Malnad Boy - 44

We were standing at the middle of the road frozen like statues. Seeing us unmoved Adiga came to the road and shook us bodily. I was trying to recollect what had happened to me when suddenly I heard Lachhu calling me! It was actually 5 ‘o’ clock in the morning and Lachhu was trying to wake us up so that we could catch the early morning bus! I felt it a great relief to know that it was Lachhu and not Adiga who was shaking my body!  It was indeed a nightmare which I had witnessed! But there was every possibility that the situation could turn out to be real even now!

As it turned out, Adiga was busy in the hotel kitchen when we passed in front of the hotel. In fact when we later settled our dues after the vacation we came to know that he had never bothered about this recovery from us! As far as he was concerned it was a petty amount. He even served us a full cup of Jamoons free as bonus for settling the dues so promptly! But what was just a mole hill for him was indeed a mountain for us! We had left for our villages carrying all the guilt of a defaulter in our minds!

It was indeed a tough summer in our house as things were quite gloomy. The only relief was my second elder brother had got lot of encouragement for his Kannada writings in Sringeri. He had a Head Master in his Middle School by name Basavaraj who supported him literally!  Basavaraj himself was a good Kannada writer. My brother was a budding Kannada writer at that time. He also got support from his cousin Subrahmanya. He was able to publish his first Kannada collection of poems called Gana Vihara. He got good publicity for this work in our village and community.

As already mentioned, my brother was staying with his uncle Hanchinamane Shingappaiah a rich landlord. Shingappaiah died suddenly and his only son Subrahmanya took control of the family. Subrahmanya was a dreamy eyed handsome young man at that time. He had to handle big land holdings and money at a young age. We were all very fond of him and expected a lot from him. The simple reason was he was the only rich man in our whole family. We thought he could give us a helping hand in our emergency situations.

Subrahmanya suddenly had plenty of money in his possession. He wanted to be enterprising. The result was his venture of starting a Kannada magazine by name Malenada Mallige. The original idea was to have a monthly magazine. Later it became a tri-monthly. The whole spadework for the magazine was done by my brother. Even though Subrahmanya was the official editor, it was my brother who did the entire ghost editing. For him it was a great opportunity. He could improve upon his Kannada writing and at the same time came into contact with a number of Kannada writers including the great litterateur Dr. Shivarama Karanth. Indeed it was a great exposure for him at a young age. He gained tremendously out of this experience. Of course financially it was a misadventure and was never viable in the first place. The publication was stopped after some time.

I had an occasion to visit Hanchinamane. Subrahmanya took us to Sringeri. There we went to a hotel by name ‘Mallika Mandira’. When we entered, we found the hotel crowded with customers and not a single seat available for us to be seated. But to my surprise I found that we could straight away go near the kitchen itself. There we could sit on the floor and order our requirements. I found the preparations so tasty in this hotel. This hotel became a landmark hotel quite for some time in Sringeri.

Subrahmanya paid the bill from out of a hand bag containing a bundle of currency notes! I thought my brother to be lucky thinking that he could just walk in to this hotel with Subrahmanya any time! For me it simply appeared that one was lucky to have a rich man like Subrahmanya as cousin. He would always take care of our hotel bills! Later I came to know that the things were not as rosy as I thought them to be!

As mentioned by me earlier, the things were rather very bad at our home. The two marriages conducted one after another had resulted in huge loans with our Sampige Kolalu uncle. The fact was - the sale proceeds of the annual arecanut yield from our garden was just sufficient to feed our family for about eight months in a year. The money earned from selling plantain and betel leaves could barely meet our other dire necessities. To put it straight, ours was not a viable family unit. The arrival of the sister-in-law from a rich family only complicated the things. Even though my brother had taken a bold decision to send me to Shimoga and other brother to Sringeri, he had simply no means to meet our minimum expenditures.

The summer holidays came to an end on 31st May. I should have attended the school on 1st of June. As the hostel would open only in the month of July I had to stay with Arunachalam teacher for one month. It would require a payment of rupees thirty. I had to purchase my textbooks and other stationery. The bus fare to Shimoga was one head of expenditure. In all a minimum of rupees fifty was required for me to proceed to Shimoga. My brother was simply not able to mobilize this amount. Even sending my other brother to Sringeri was a problem. He had to be given money for purchase of textbooks.

My brother simply handed over two small silver cups to my other brother. These were presentations to him in his marriage. He asked my second brother to sell the same at Sringeri. There was a jewellary shop in the name of Padmaraja setty where he was expected to sell them. The proceeds were to be utilized for his purchase of textbooks. The suspense continued in my case. The funds could not be mobilized at all.

My parents were not on talking terms with my eldest brother at that time. My father was just watching as to how my brother would arrange funds for me. He waited up to about June tenth. On the eleventh of June he went and met Puradamane Srinivasa Subrahmanyam. There he explained my predicament to Srinivasa Subrahmanyam. He also complained that my brother had not taken any steps to send me to Shimoga. He highlighted the fact that I was losing my attendance and valuable classes. Srinivasa Subrahmanyam told him to send me to his house on the next morning.

I visited his house on the next morning. He enquired all about my studies and immediate necessities. Then he simply handed over very gracefully rupees fifty to me! I could not believe my eyes. Here was a person who could hand over rupees fifty to a boy for his studies just like that! I expressed my gratitude to him. He gave some kind advice to me to take care of my studies sincerely.

Back at home my father was very pleased to find me returning with money. But there was a problem on hand for me. My father told me that I should not tell my brother that the money was given to me on his approaching Srinivasa Subrahmanyam for help. He was sure that my brother would get wild if he came to know that father had approached somebody for help that too as a complaint against him. I was in a real dilemma! The day went off without me knowing what to do.

Next morning my brother called me and handed over two big silver cups to me. He asked me to take them to Sringeri. I was to sell them to Padmaraja Setty with the help of my other brother. My brother felt that the proceeds should take care of my immediate needs at Shimoga. I was in real trouble now. When I told this to my father he told me not to go to Sringeri and to return the cups to my brother! He told me to tell the brother that Srinivasa Subrahmanyam had already given me rupees fifty for my Shimoga expenses. But this was better said than done for me! My brother would definitely ask me under what circumstances I met Srinivasa Subrahmanyam for which I had no answer. My father wanted me not to disclose his name. I had so far maintained a tradition of telling truth at all times. Not only that. Whenever I had tried to tell a lie to cover up some thing, I had miserably failed as I lacked conviction myself! In the present case I sincerely wanted not to hurt my beloved brother who had done so much for me. Here was my brother who was selling family silver for my education and an ungrateful me trying to tell a lie to him! Indeed I was at my wits’ end!


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