That Monday morning saw me attending the College on its first day. I was a total stranger for all others in our PUC batch. Most of the students had finished their SSLC in the local High School and were known to each other. There were many students who had finished their SSLC in the earlier years and had discontinued their studies. Now that the College had come to their own town they were back to their studies. Some of them had come very reluctantly on account of the pressure from the College Committee on their parents. I could even find some elderly students who were quite older than the lecturers! Most of the boy students had one thing common. They all had dressed in their dhotis!
Our Principal Dr. K B Ramakrishna Rao was a very learned man and had a doctorate in Philosophy. His very countenance would invoke a deep respect for him. Such was his personality! He used to dress appropriately to suit his stature and looked every inch a great philosopher! The Academy had chosen him for the post with care. He had earlier worked as the Principal of the
in Mulki, in South Kanara. He had to meet the
expectations and maintain the prestige of the ancient and sacred Dakshinamnaya
Peetam founded by the venerable Shankaracharya.
The first lecturer to take classes for us was Pradhan Gurudatta. He had Masters degrees both in Kannada and Hindi. He had already worked as a lecturer in
Mysore. He had dressed very impeccably with
suit and tie and was quite handsome. We found him very outspoken and his
efforts to impress the students was quite visible! And impressed we were indeed
by his charisma!
There were about ten lecturers in all, half of them hailing from South Kanara and the other half from the city of
Mysore. Most of
the lecturers from Mysore dressed in full suits,
whereas only the biology lecturer, Mr. Rai, from South
Kanara had the formal dress. We were very much impressed by
another lecturer. His name was Raghunathan and he hailed from Chitradurga. He
had a master’s degree in Chemistry. He also used to dress impeccably in suit
and tie. As there was some problem in recruiting the lecturer for Physics, he
also took Physics for us initially. The lecturer for Sanskrit was Venkannaiah,
who was the son of the famous littérateur and Kannada Professor T S Shama Rao.
The lecturer for Mathematics was N R Bhat from the border town of Kasaragod in Kerala.
We had an easy time with these lecturers when they introduced themselves and took the first classes for us. But our first English class with our lecturer, B N SriRam was a disaster! This gentleman was a close friend and associate of Shri Purna Chandra Tejaswi. Tejaswi was the son of the legendary Kannada poet K V Puttappa (Kuvempu).He was a budding writer in Kannada. Later Tejaswi himself grew up as a great Kannada writer on his own and died very recently. Some of his stories have been filmed quite successfully.
SriRam was a fresh postgraduate in English. But he was well versed in Kannada language equally. In those days there were very few postgraduates in English. Hence the English lecturers were a scarce commodity. SriRam was quite aware of this. It appears that he had already developed some sort of allergy for the very conservative nature of Sringerians. He belonged to a different school of thought and was least enamored by the Sringeri Mutt and its religious philosophy.
Sriram was quite upset with the dhoti wearing traditional boys of Sringeri. As he got each student introduced to him, his anger and disgust rose to a feverish pitch. He could make out that the students in general were quite inferior in their English language. The fact that none of them had studied in English medium might have been just one of the reasons for this lacuna in them. Being a good Scholar in both English and Kannada languages, he wanted his first batch of students to be a model for other Colleges. That he was very much disappointed may be an understatement!
SriRam asked us to write down an essay on Jawaharlal Nehru. When he went through them, he could find that some of the students could not even write simple sentences correctly. The fact that many of them knew very little about Nehru (except that he was the ex-Prime Minister) added to their misery. He was impressed by the writings of only a few of us, mine being one. I had used the word secular in the essay. He was not sure that I was aware of its actual meaning. He was quite pleased when I could explain the meaning of the word correctly. His was the first appreciation I received for my English writing.
There were good number of girls in the class. But most of them had taken arts as their optional subjects. As such, we used to sit with them only for our language classes. There were only two girls who had taken science as their optional subjects. They had taken biology in place of our Mathematics as both of them wanted to go for MBBS. One of them was the grand daughter of Chandramouli Rao. The other girl by name Nirmala, was appearing for the PUC second time, as she had not obtained sufficient marks to get admission to MBBS degree in her previous examination. She was an intelligent girl and was good in her studies. Among the arts students, there was a girl by name Lalithamba, who used to secure highest marks in all her subjects. She was the daughter of a business man in Sringeri. She conducted herself with lot of dignity and carried respect among other girls. She had a class of her own. The eldest daughter of the local High School Head Master, by name Subhadra, was one of the arts students.
Among the boys there was a boy called Ravindranath Tagore, who was the son of local MLA and co-founder of the College, Mr. K N Veerappa Gowda. His father had named him after the legendary Bengali poet and Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore (He later retired as a top IPS Official of DGP grade in Karnataka). The MLA was very particular that his son should not get any preferential treatment and should come up on his own. Among the PCM students there was a boy called Prakash Kamath who was very brilliant in his studies. He was supposed to give tough competition to me as per the expectations of the other students. One of the students who was his classmate from High School days even challenged me and told me that I should not even think of outscoring him! Prakash was a dedicated hard core RSS member. RSS had a strong base in Sringeri in those days. There was a practicing doctor by name Upendra Shenoy who was totally dedicated to the ideology. He was a learned man and a very good orator. Later he left his practice, deserted his family and dedicated his life for spreading the ideology of RSS.
Among the arts lecturers there was a lecturer of history by name Sundar. He appeared to be well read and knowledgeable. He also used to dress impeccably. Somehow the students were not happy with him. His problem was that he could not smile and appeared to be very serious even in ordinary matters! He always tried to be very close to the Principal. But he had another competitor in this venture. Pradhan Gurudatta, the Kannada lecturer, was also very particular to be as close to the Principal as possible. The issue was who would be the Vice Principal. The competition was rather tough. The students were quite amused to see the antics of the two solicitors!
The arts students had logic as one of their optional subjects. The Principal himself used to take classes for this subject. His classes became so famous that several other non-students used to attend them with his permission. The Principal was a very erudite and scholarly person. His classes and speeches were of great value to the students and the public in general.
was very particular to have commerce as one of the optional subjects. Very few
colleges in those days had commerce as optionals. Few students thought of
commerce and business as a field to be interesting and which could fetch one a
job. Being one of the founders of Syndicate Bank and a pioneer in the field of
banking, TMA Pai gave due importance to this subject. There was absolute
scarcity of postgraduates in commerce. The College had recruited a person from
Andhra, Satyanarayana, as Commerce lecturer. He had to take classes to a batch
of only three students. Academy of Manipal
In the evening I met one of my classmates in my Primary School at the mess. His name was Vishwanath and he was my distant relative. He had joined our College as PCB student. He was staying in a nearby room along with his nephew Manjunath (a High School student) and another boy, by name Padmanabha, studying for his SSLC. Padmanabha was the only son of a super rich man called Kodigethota Krishna Rao. The four of us formed a close knit group. We used to have our food together. We used to visit the Mutt and the temple daily in the evening. I spent most of my time in their room whenever I was through with my studies. Slowly I settled down to a new way of life in the sacred town of
-------- (To be continued)