When I reached my home on that evening, my parents could not believe me when I told them that Shankar Rao had paid the fee of rupees three hundred fifty for my College admission. They could recollect that I could hardly collect a sum of rupees forty when I had gone on a collection drive during the last year. The generosity of Shankar Rao was simply unbelievable to say the least. To remember that the same gentleman was at the receiving end of choicest abuses from none other than my own father was indeed painful in the present context.
But the payment of fee was only a part of the job accomplished as far as we were concerned. For my parents, the real problem was to arrange for my boarding and lodging at Sringeri. I was paying a monthly fee of only rupees six at the Shimoga hostel. That luxury was not available at Sringeri. My cousin Subrahmanya owned a house in Sringeri. He kindly permitted me to stay in a room in front of the said house. As regards the food there was a mess close to the room run by a gentleman called Holla. The arrangement was that he would charge a sum of rupees thirty per month for the morning bath, tiffin and two meals. There would be a monthly burden of rupees forty in all for my parents on my education. The annual burden would almost equal one third of our annual earnings! Even though I myself was least convinced on our capacity my father said that he would somehow manage. He could not simply allow me to discontinue my studies now that Shankar Rao had made such a big payment.
As told to me earlier I visited Vishwanathapura on a particular evening and stayed with the Rao family. Next morning he took me to Sringeri for the inaugural function of J C B M (Jagadguru Chandrasekhara Bharathi Memorial) College. It was the 27th day of June 1965. There was a huge gathering. The function was presided over by the Deputy Commissioner Dr. H L Nage Gowda. The inauguration was done symbolically by lighting of Jyothi by Dr. T M A Pai, the Registrar of Academy of General Education Manipal. It was indeed a historical moment for the people of Sringeri town. In spite of being very busy in the function, Srikanta Rao, the eldest son of Chandramouli Rao, spoke to me and got it confirmed that I would be attending the College on the first day.
My Barefoot Journey to Sringeri
That Sunday afternoon I left for Sringeri with my bag and baggage. I had to walk a distance of eight miles from my village to reach the town. As I was walking the long distance, my childhood memories came flooding back.
I have earlier mentioned that our family used to visit Sringeri every year during the Navarathri celebrations. While we enjoyed the festival at the Mutt and the mandatory viewing of a film and a Yakshagana Prasanga, we hated the journey part of our trip every time. For us children, especially, the barefoot journey for such a long distance was very painful and tiresome.
The onward journey was, however, better with our spirits flying high in anticipation of the events at Sringeri. But we used to be totally tired during the return journey as we had to lose our sleep in the previous night to witness the film and the Yakshagana. Once we reached our house we used to be in a hurry to hit the beds. We would be in a sound sleep in the afternoon even though we were normally not accustomed to this day time sleeping.
But our deep sleep and the dreams of the Yakshagana characters used to be invariably disturbed by the antics of my immediate elder brother! He had this problem of Somnambulism! In the midst of the sleep he would suddenly wake up and start playing one of the characters of Yakshagana! He would walk out of the house half awake! It was very difficult to control him and bring him back to bed! Many a time he would reach the neighboring house and enact the scene in front of them! They would be fully amused by his antics! This part of our Navarathri celebrations also became a routine at least for some years!
As against this painful journey in our childhood, I found my present journey quite pleasant. The difference was the enjoyment I had now developed for the nature’s beauty. From the valley of our village I had to first reach a plateau and traverse for a small distance on the road before reaching a place called Yellalli. Here one could find the ruins of an old house and the discarded areca garden. The house had a history for us as my father had been brought up in that house by his maternal uncle. There was ample supply of flowing water in this area throughout the year. The reasons for allowing the house and garden to become a part of the ancient history remained a mystery.
From Yellalli one would reach a place called Voorugudige. Here was the house of Subba, the Harijan. He had a beautiful daughter named Devi. This Devi, even when she was wearing a dirty sari, could give blushes to an upper caste young lady from a rich family! Such was her beauty as a young maiden. Subba was the only Harijan land owner in our village. He had been sanctioned a fertile paddy field by the Government under the Darkhast scheme. But he was least interested in agriculture. He would rather work as a cooli and earn his living. He used to work for us on several occasions. Basically Subba was a great storyteller. He had this uncanny knack of converting the ordinary events in the life of the villagers in to interesting tales. We used to hear him spell bound when he was narrating such tales. The ownership of land appeared to be a burden for him! He wanted to sell it off and become a free man! But the Government had put a condition that he could not sell it for ten years. Poor Subba! He had no alternative than to carry on with this burden!
From Voorugudige one had to pass through a deep forest before reaching a place called Aradalli. During day time itself one would find this forest very dark and deep. One would be generally unnerved by the total silence in the darkness till he reaches the green paddy fields of Aradalli. Later, one particular evening, I was returning from Sringeri. I wanted to pass through this forest well before the night started. But I was late. I was carrying a torch for seeing the narrow path in the darkness. The branches from the trees on both sides were entangled in such a way that even the moon light could not enter inside. I could hear the sounds of wild forest animals coming from the top of the nearby hills.
All of a sudden I found a powerful beam of light approaching me from the front. It was moving towards me in full speed at a distance of about six feet from the ground along the narrow path. I had heard of Kolli Devva in my childhood which had been taught a lesson by my father. I simply thought that it was taking a revenge on me now! I reduced the speed of my walking. My heart was literally in my mouth as the light approached me!
Suddenly I could find a person in front of me with the light fixed on his forehead! It was none other than Soora from the nearby village called Chittemakki. He was on a hunting mission. I was aware that these hunters carried a headlight in the night. I was fully relieved of my fear and tension. Soora came with me till I crossed the forest to relieve me from my fear.
At the other end of the forest I had to enter a vast paddy field. A big stream was running in the middle of this paddy field virtually dividing the field in to two equal parts. The entire land originally belonged to Hurulihaklu family of my brother’s father-in-law. He had sold half the land to Sampige Kolalu uncle and the other half to Rama Rao of Balehaklu. These two families had a big fight over the rights of water flowing in the stream quite for some time. The fight ultimately ended when the sister of Rama Rao was married off to the nephew of Sampige Kolalu uncle! Later the things improved to such an extent that the eldest daughter of uncle was married off to the younger brother of Rama Rao!
After crossing the paddy field one would reach a place called Melinakodige. Here one had to pass near the house of one Nanjunda Bhatta. This gentleman was originally from Sringeri. He had also purchased the land from Hurulihaklu family and settled down comfortably in the village. He was a highly knowledgeable man and was always eager to pass on the same to others. He used to quote extensively from Sanskrit Scriptures. But the trouble was none of the public was interested. The reason was simple. He did not know how to stop his talking! Things reached such a stage that people used to virtually run away on seeing his face! I became a victim of him on a few occasions. But I learnt my lessons fast and took to my heels on seeing him from a distance!
The next place on the way was called Megalabylu. Here one had to pass in front of the house of a rich man called Sheena. The path would then lead to a place called Kondaguli. Here was the house of a rich man called
Krishna. This man
was famous for his fascination for playing cards! As my own father used to lose
lot of money in this game, our all other family members had a total hatred
towards all card players! Krishna was just one
in this list!
From here one had to pass through a pucca road for some time before reaching a tributary of
This was a big stream and would be quite turbulent in rainy season. There was
no bridge available at that time. Hence crossing of the stream would be a minor
adventure in those days. Once crossing the stream one would arrive at a famous Ganapathi
temple at the entrance of the Jayapura-Sringeri main road. This was called the
Honnemara (Golden Tree) Ganapathi temple. The Ganapathi here was known to be
very powerful. Tunga River
Once entering the main road here one had to walk a distance of three KMs to reach the Tunga-bridge near the Sringeri town. Our College building was situated on the banks of the river immediately after crossing the bridge. The town was located another half a KM distance from here.
I had taken about two hours to reach the town. It was late in the evening .I unloaded my belongings in the room given to me by my nephew. It was located close to the Mutt and the famous
in the main road called Sharadamba Temple Bharathi Street.
It was for the first time I was entering the famous temple alone. I first went to the river inside the Mutt and washed my hands and feet. After first visiting the
I went to the . The decorated
Sharadamba is such a great sight that one feels a sense of peacefulness and
attainment of spirituality simply by standing there for some time. After
sitting in the temple for some time I reached the river bank again. Here I sat
for quite some time watching the Tunga river in flow. From the busy city of Sharadamba
Temple Shimoga I had moved to the small and peaceful town of Sringeri. Another chapter
in my eventful education career was getting unfolded!
-------- (To be continued)