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)------

1 comment:

Narain said...

This is real Dharma Sankata!