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) ------


Narain said...

Very poignant!

Govinda Rao said...

The big handicap for AVK's parents was that there was no avenue to generate income except from Arecanut and Beetle leaves with small land holdings. One way in which the agriculturists used to generate income for sustenance was by way rearing good milk yielding cows and buffalos. But AVK's native place had no access to market as the village had neither roads nor transport to market milk to the place where there was demand.

B. G. Rao