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 touchéd 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) -----