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.)
Arunachalam’s payment for one month
Hostel advance
Adiga’s payment
Amount already spent by me (bus fare etc.)
Cost of text books etc.

Grand Total

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)----


Narain said...

So, the crisis continues!

Govinda Rao said...

Tongawalas used to capture customers and start arguing only on dropping at the destination.
This is the trick adopted everywhere. But AVK had a saviour.