Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Story of a Malnad Boy - 51

I was back at the house of Arunachalam by the first of June. Early July found me back in the hostel, this time duly settling the payment of Arunachalam. This year no additional building was hired and I was allotted a room in the main hostel building itself.

We found our stature improved as SSLC students. We were the senior most students at the School. We felt ourselves very proud. There was ample encouragement for us both in the School and at the hostel to do well in the public examination we were going to face. Our Head Master himself started taking certain English classes for us. He (Srinivasamurthy) was a post graduate in Arts, Commerce and teaching (MA, M Com & M Ed.). We sometimes used to wonder why he was underemployed in a High School like ours. Later he became the first Principal of National Commerce College in Shimoga.

We found him an excellent teacher in English. I distinctly remember how beautifully he taught us the poem,” I remember, I remember, the house where I was born…”written by Thomas Hood. He had grown old by that time and he could describe to us the wonderful recollections of his boyhood. I have always felt this poem as one of the most beautiful poems ever written. In fact I had commenced the writing of this memoir by quoting the poem.

The Unfair Competition
This time one of my roommates was a boy called Nagaraja Rao Bapat. He was an intelligent boy and a classmate from our School. But he was studying in Kannada medium and that was a reason for his inferiority complex. Somehow he took me as his competitor. While I was least interested in this competition, from his side it went to the ridiculous heights. Even while getting up in the morning, he would jump out from his bed the moment I started making moments to get up! He would go to bed only after I went to sleep! My other roommates started cutting jokes on this close competition.

For Bapat this close and unhealthy competition rather ended in a tragedy. In our School there was a special optional subject called craft. The students had an option to take this as an additional subject. It had three branches namely civil, mechanical and paper-making. It carried total marks of fifty with twenty five each for theory and practical. The marks would not be considered for the rankings.

 I had not taken this subject. But Bapat had taken it. In the public examination the theory paper was completed along with other papers. But there was a gap of a few days for the practicals after our last paper. I was to leave for my home after the final paper. Bapat wanted to be the first even in going home! So he left for his home earlier to me thinking that he would come back for the practicals later.

Once going home he thought there was no necessity to attend the practicals as the marks had no consequence on the final results. The same was the thinking of some of my other classmates also. But to their horror, the SSLC Board took a stand that the students were absentees to that particular subject. The Board announced their results as failed! These students simply lost one valuable year of their student career. They had to repent for their life. That was the end of the close competition between Bapat and me! Surely I was not a party to this. At least for some time, I admit, I had a feeling that a poetic justice had been done for the unfair and undesirable competition!
I remember certain special events in the hostel during the year. The renowned dramatist Master Hirannaiah used to conduct one benefit drama every year and donate the entire collections to the hostel. That year he held the show of Lanchavatara at Shimoga and the proceeds of the houseful show were given to the hostel. We had a big dinner in the hostel in his honour. We enjoyed it every bit. In fact we enjoyed the dinner more than the drama!

A rich party wanted to have its family member’s marriage conducted in the hostel. The rent offered by them for the building was so much that we had to vacate the hostel for three days and move to DVS High School building! The entire hostel set up including the kitchen was shifted to this building about one KM from the hostel premises. It was a unique experience for all of us. We did enjoy our new temporary location!

There was scarcity of rice in the market quite for some time. Our Secretary Avadhani owned vast paddy fields in his native place Koodli. Because of him our hostel could escape from the scarcity atmosphere.

A Thief in the Hostel
All of a sudden hostel inmates started losing their valuable items. It started with boys losing money in the beginning. But soon other valuables like watches also started disappearing. It reached a stage where we started losing our stainless steel coffee cups also. I was one of such losers. Actually it was one of my proud possessions. I had won it in a hostel sports competition!

The hostel had full security and no external thief could enter and have access to our rooms. It apparently appeared to be an insider job. The management engaged some internal detectives to keep a close watch on some suspicious characters! Indeed they did a marvelous James Bond job! One fine morning we heard that the ‘thief’ had been caught red-handed and packed off to his home!  He was none other than a second year B.Sc. student by name Shivamurthy.

Shivamurthy hailed from a poor family in Chitradurga. He had a fascination for seeing films. We were told that he had a better attendance in Shimoga Theatres than in the Sahyadri College! He wanted to see at least one film per day be it a morning show, matinee or first show. How he managed it was only known to him. But he had kept one meticulous record, a note book wherein he noted the full details of the films including the name of the Theatre. That was his undoing. The James Bond team had kept an eye on him. At their instance, one of his roommates could lay hands on this valuable record. Naturally the first doubt was regarding the source of funds. He kept a close watch on his filmy roommate.  He could catch him red-handed when he was searching the pockets of one of his roommates! That was the end of the story for our filmy hostel-mate Shivamurthy. We never saw him again. Of course none of us could get back the valuables we had lost. I never had the risk of losing money as I never had it in the first place! My only valuable possession was that stainless steel cup! Shivamurthy did not even have the courtesy to spare it!

A Rich Friend and a Romantic Film
I had another roommate by name Chandrasekhar. He was from a place called Kodur near Hosanagara. His family was comparatively rich. He gave me good company. He valued my merit and friendship. The best thing was - he didn’t mind spending money for hotel and films in my company. That was a God send for me. I liked both!

In the company of Chandrasekhar I could see one of the most romantic films of that era. It was the famous Raj kapoor film Sangam. It was released at the Mallikarjuna Theatre in Shimoga on the day of All India Release itself. We stood in a long queue and managed to see the film on the first day. We were simply bowled over by the romantic story and the wonderful music by Shanker JaiKishan. It was the first Eastman Colour film from Raj kapoor.

Quite for some time I could not come out of the romantic world created by this film! I could pick up all the songs and particularly the song Yeh Mera Prem Patra Padh Kar was my favorite. The film took us to a different world altogether. But alas! Those days never come back!

That year I could see many sports events. A cricket team from Hardwick High School, Mysore visited our School. They played a match with our School team in the nearby Durgigudi grounds. We were given a holiday and could witness the match in full. Our School team played excellently and won. For me it was the first match to witness. I enjoyed it fully. Later I could see many matches played by the famous Durgigudi team. This team had great players like Puttappa (Skipper), Naani, Shenoy, Yajna (the wicket keeper) and others. The wicket keeper Yajna was known for his antics behind the stumps!
We liked and enjoyed all his gimmicks.

For the annual Republic Day celebrations there used to be a football tournament. We attended and saw all the matches at the Durgigudi grounds. The teams I remember are Friends Union, Mahatma and Railways. We were the staunch supporters of Railway team. There was one famous player by name Abdul Subhan whose game we liked immensely. He was also a great athlete. As expected the Railway team won the trophy that year.
Brother Moves to Shimoga
One day I was surprised to find my eldest brother at the hostel. He told me that he had shifted his family to Shimoga along with his father-in-law. I was told that his father-in-law B S Lakshmi Narayana Rao (BSL) had sold all his land in our village including his famous ancestral house at Hurulihaklu. It was a great surprise but rather a shock to me. I could not imagine such a well known family leaving our village for good. What hurt me more was that they had sold out their entire property. All of us had some sentimental attachment to the famous house and the family. Even though BSL had received substantial amount as sale proceeds, it was quite uncertain as to what he was going to do with the money. The family had shifted lock-stock and barrel to Shimoga. My brother’s fate also looked quite uncertain, as BSL had failed to keep his promise of giving a portion of his lands to him.

The family later lost everything as BSL could not invest his funds wisely. The first son Thimmappa simply disappeared and his whereabouts are not known till date. Of the other three sons only the youngest is doing well in Bangalore. The family had to see worst days only because the Yejaman totally mismanaged the finances. A huge property built up over generations was liquidated by one single man by his middle age. He had to lead a dejected life fighting for survival at his old age. His life ended in a tragedy. In our village itself several families which had purchased pieces of land from him are doing so well. The person who purchased the original land and the house is a multi millionaire now. By joining with his in-laws my brother’s fate was also sealed. The whole thing ended in a tragedy.

That year there was a student in the hostel by name Madhyastha studying for his PUC. He was a brilliant student. He used to secure hundred percent marks in Mathematics. The hostel management was expecting him to secure a rank and bring credit to the hostel. He was being pampered a lot. We used to envy him. I had a feeling that given a proper support and encouragement I could also secure a rank in my examination. But no such support was forthcoming for me at that stage. Ultimately Madhyastha did secure cent per cent marks in Mathematics; but he failed to secure a rank.

I prepared myself well for the SSLC examination. We were taught well in our School. But somehow I was developing a feeling that we were not being properly briefed as to how we should write our examinations. Meanwhile my Sanskrit scholarship was also sanctioned. I could get the money with the help of Kanchi as in the previous year.

Our SSLC examinations started in the last week of March. I could do well in the languages and the optionals. We were left with general mathematics, general science and social studies. I started that day morning from the hostel for general mathematics paper. On the way I met a big procession of Shri Vaishnavas. They were all wearing the thrinamas prominently on their foreheads! Suddenly I developed a feeling that it was a bad omen for me. I developed an impression that my performance may indeed turn out to be the equivalent of thrinamas!

------ (To be continued) ------

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