Friday, October 28, 2016

The Story of a Malnad Boy - 58

All the classes started for us in the right earnest at the college. Our Principal was indeed a great administrator. His stature was such that the batch of young and fresh postgraduate lecturers was looking more like his students than our teachers! Anyways he kept them under tight leash and enforced strict discipline among the students and the lecturers as well. I had earlier seen experienced senior lecturers at Sahyadri College in Shimoga. I had even attended one of their classes. It was in a way a bit of disappointment for me to hear the lectures of raw postgraduates who had just passed out of the University. But on the positive side, I found them very enthusiastic and quite serious in their assignment.

The first lecturer who impressed me most was the chemistry lecturer Raghunathan. As the post of physics lecturer could not be filled up initially, he took the same also for us. Within a short time he recognized me as a brilliant student and marked me for special attention. It was the same case with Mathematics lecturer N R Bhat. He identified me and Prakash Kamath as two students capable of scoring cent per cent marks. I had my own reservations about the same. But he was sure and he monitored our progress closely to ensure that we were successful.

After about two months, we got a new lecturer for physics. His name was Krishnappaiah. He was already in the services of the Academy at Manipal Engineering College. When we heard his name, we were not at all impressed. In fact the name reminded us the proprietor of a famous hotel in Thirthahalli. But we were totally wrong in our assessment of him. In fact he turned out to be the best lecturer and mentor for me! He later retired as the Principal of the college. I have the highest regards for his capacity and integrity as one of my greatest teachers.

Krishnappaiah came to the college with a weightage of one year seniority at the Academy College. Hence the question of who would be the Vice Principal was also settled. He was a no-nonsense man, a very good lecturer and a professional in the matter of administration. He remained an eligible bachelor till he opted for voluntary retirement as Principal of the College.

As far as the students of our first batch were concerned certain students remain fresh in my memory. The first of them was Ummarabba from a place called Kammardi. He was a very jovial fellow and a very good speaker in Kannada. He was also good in singing Kannada film songs. Later as a B.Sc student he developed certain eccentricities and fell out of favour with the college management. It was quite unfortunate. However, many years later when I was working outside Karnataka, I came to know that he had entered politics. In fact he was elected as MLA from a constituency in South Kanara district. He was reported to be a very popular politician. But his drinking habits got better of him and he died a premature death as a young and upcoming politician.

Another student who was very good in delivering speeches in Kannada was Rama Sharma. He was also highly talented and was appreciated for his antics. But soon his antics and eccentricities got better of him! It reached a stage where he was unofficially declared as a man with unsound mind. He had to discontinue his studies.

The student Padmanabha was very stylish and was good in delivering speeches in both Kannada and English. He used to dress well and wanted to impress the girl students always. His talents helped him become the first President of the college students union.

On the Saturdays our classes used to end early in the afternoon. I had made it a point to visit my home on every weekend. There I used to help my father in the various activities at home. Most part of my Sundays I used to spend in our arecanut garden. There was lot of curiosity among the villagers about the new college at Sringeri. I had to spend some time in answering their queries. On the Monday mornings I would start early and reach Sringeri walking all the way for eight miles. I continued this for all the four years I studied in the Sringeri College. I should place it on record that I used to enjoy each of these journeys and never felt it a burden to walk this long distance. My parents and family used to wait for me anxiously on the Saturday evenings. I never disappointed them in all those years.

A letter from my elder brother (AVL) created lot of tension to my parents. He had written that his cousin on whose support he had left for Bangalore for college studies had let him down badly. The cousin who was well-off had clearly assured him that he would offer him full financial support for his college education. In fact my parents had thought that as far as he was concerned they had nothing to worry financially. My father was already finding it tough to meet my mess charges of thirty rupees per month. As per my brother, the cousin had sent him one hundred rupees. Thereafter he had just ignored all his communications for further assistance for his maintenance.

I was staying in the front room of this cousin’s house in Sringeri. He was staying in his village home near Sringeri. However, he used to visit the Sringeri-house everyday. Off late I was hearing that he had fallen into bad company. As his father had suddenly died, he got control of a vast landed property at a young age. He was the only rich man from our paternal side. We were in fact very proud of his financial position. He was the only son and had started mismanaging the property. He had raised huge loans for no apparent reasons. He remained a bachelor and never settled down in life. The things reached such a stage that one fine morning he simply disappeared. His whereabouts are not known till this day. The entire property was taken over by creditors. His unmarried sister lives under a thatched roof today in a pitiable condition.

 Even though I did raise the issue with my cousin regarding my brother’s maintenance at that time, he was not forthcoming in his responses. He had delivered a bitter lesson to my brother. That was, not to depend on the relatives for their support in spite of their own assurances! Ultimately the burden of my brother’s education also fell on my parents. My brother had to struggle hard in Bangalore for his survival. He had to resort to vaaraanna (a system wherein the students will be fed free by certain families on different days of the week).

In the first terminal examination I secured highest marks in all my subjects. I could also secure cent percent marks in Mathematics. Suddenly a feeling started developing among my lecturers that I was capable of securing a rank at the University level. They started putting pressure on me to work in that direction. Unlike in my SSLC examination, the teachers here were very much supportive and were capable of giving directions to me to achieve this goal. I started developing lot of confidence and it came out in my performances. The Principal also spoke to me individually and hinted that the college was expecting me to keep its flags high. In one of the college functions my benefactor Shankar Rao had participated. He was thanked by the Principal and my lecturers for having helped my admission to the college. He felt very proud and thanked me for bringing him such honour!

One fine morning we got the news that our English lecturer SriRam had left the college. It was a great shock to us. What hurt us more was that he had left without speaking to his students. He had joined a college in Mysore. That was a sort of demoralization for us at that stage. His vacancy was filled up only after a gap of two months. The new lecturer Subraya was an elderly gentleman and was well experienced. He made us prepare well for our final examination.

The next lecturer to leave us was Raghunathan, our chemistry lecturer. As already mentioned by me, he was a very good lecturer and was totally involved in our affairs. Unlike SriRam he spoke to all of us before leaving and was in tears. The reasons for his sudden departure never came to light. He joined the Medical College at Davanagere as a faculty member. The third and the last leave that year was Shivananda, the economics lecturer. He was equally popular with arts students. He joined the commercial tax department of State Government. These three departures dealt a big blow to all the students and our morale came down steeply. It took some time for us to recover from the shock. Being small town boys we were very sentimental in those days! We were also quite aware that there was very little incentive to the lecturers to work in Sringeri in view of the non-availability of usual facilities in those days. While people in general were very much interested in visiting Sringeri as travelers, they were reluctant to stay there.

TMA Pai used to visit our college often. It was very interesting to hear him every time. He would explain to us as to how he built up Manipal brick by brick. As an entrepreneur he had established several educational institutions, Syndicate Bank, Manipal Hospital, etc. The then Chairman of Syndicate Bank T A Pai was another regular visitor. Several other important personalities and Kannada littérateurs also visited the college. We were very lucky to hear all of them.

As our final examination was approaching, all of us started preparing ourselves. Suddenly there was an announcement of a preparatory examination. I was very much against this examination. I just wanted to write the final examination directly. I took a firm decision and just stayed back at my house absenting myself from the examination. As my father had some work at Sringeri I sent a message that I was not keeping well.

He met some of my lecturers at the mess and informed them accordingly. They all expressed great concern for me and told him that they were sorry that I could not attend the examination. Seeing their great concern, my father felt that I must have committed a blunder. He was very much concerned and rushed back to tell me. But I remained adamant and took it lightly. Ultimately that did not make much difference for me at all.

Our examinations started in the month of March. I could write all my papers to my full satisfaction. There was one particular question in physics which was out of syllabus. In fact this particular question had appeared two times in earlier years also. I had observed it and had repeatedly requested Krishnappaiah to cover it in our classes. He had assured me initially that he would do it. But at the last minute he told me that there was very little possibility of it getting repeated third time. He failed to cover it as assured.

When I finished writing the physics paper and walked out of the examination hall, I saw Krishnappaiah anxiously waiting for me outside. He was profusely sorry for failing to cover the topic in spite of my special request. He thought I had lost nearly ten marks as there was no choice for this question. But I told him not to worry as I had answered the question without any difficulty!

It was my nature not to take any risks in such matters. I had referred to a guide and had prepared myself well for answering this question also. As a result I was the only student at least in our college who had answered this out of syllabus question correctly! Krishnappaiah could not simply believe me! He congratulated me for my persistence and success in the matter.

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

No comments: