Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Story of a Malnad Boy - 61

The scenario at the college had totally changed in its second year. The college office was brimming with activity. Certain new lecturers had joined the college. The existing departments had also been strengthened by addition of new lecturers in view of the commencement of first year B.Sc. B.A. and B.Com Classes. I also came to know that the college management had decided to start hostel facility for the outstation students. This was absolutely necessary in view of several students from Birur, Kadur and Chickmagalore joining the college. The management and the faculty were in a festive mood. The Principal was in very high spirits and was in total command.

The degree classes were to commence shortly. But there was no word from the Academy as to how they would arrange for payment of my fee and other expenses. I did not want to miss any of my classes. On the day of opening of degree classes I reached the town and attended the first day classes. The hostel had also been opened on the previous day to accommodate the outstation students. I came to know that the food in the hostel would be prepared and served by the prestigious ‘Mallika-Mandir’ management. As already mentioned by me elsewhere, this hotel was famous for their excellent quality tasty food. I was eager to join the hostel and was waiting to hear from the Principal. Meanwhile I made a temporary arrangement for my stay in Sringeri.

I used to meet the Principal daily at the college office. One fine morning he told me that he had received the cheque from the Academy. He also told me that I had to sign some documents before receiving the cheque. To my surprise I found the amount of the cheque exactly matching with the total annual fee of the college. I could smell immediately that something was wrong. I also found that the Principal was behaving in a different manner altogether. When I asked him about the hostel fee, he asked me to stay put. He gave certain documents to me to get my father’s signature as I was a minor at that time.

I was a bit unnerved by the sudden change in the behavior of the Principal. I went through the document given by him. To my shock the document was found to be a demand promissory note. Even though I had not seen such documents earlier, I had come to know that the money lenders always took such a promissory note from the borrowers. In fact my brother had taken loans from Sampige Kolalu uncle against such promissory notes. I went back to the Principal seeking his clarification in the matter. He simply told me that the Academy as an Institution had to take this ‘receipt’ from the receiptant. But he was underestimating my capacity to differentiate between a promissory note and a receipt! I clearly remembered that we had obtained a receipt from the Sampige Kolalu uncle once our loans against the promissory notes had been cleared. I had also seen receipts while receiving my scholarship amounts. Hence I told the Principal that the wordings in the document were not like a receipt.

In the past I had, on several occasions, received appreciation from my teachers and others for my general knowledge. But this was one instance wherein the Principal did not appreciate it a bit! He just asked me to get it signed and not to exhibit anymore smartness! He told me that being a Principal he was aware what was best in the interest of his students!

When I discussed the issue with my elderly well wishers, they agreed with my contention. However they also told me that the question of the Academy asking me to repay the amount at a later date may not arise at all. Ultimately I got the signature of my father on the document and handed it over to the Principal. The office staff took my signature on the back of the cheque and issued me receipt for the total annual college fee.

I wish to mention here that I was totally allergic to the very word loan. I had lot of justification for this attitude of mine. As mentioned by me elsewhere my father had this ‘loan-based’ model of life! Our family earnings were always earmarked for repayment of loans. I was aware that all other families in our village visited the banks only to deposit their money. It was only our family which was a borrowing client of the bank. The bank loan in those days was only against gold jewels. My mother being the only daughter of her rich parents had lot of jewels on her when she married my father.

My father found having such high value jewels at home a risky proposition. In those days there used to be no lockers at the banks. He thought of a novel idea; that was to raise loans against these jewels! That way there was the benefit of safe keeping of the jewels without incurring any expenditure! The idea was no doubt very brilliant; but the problem was that the loans were never repaid. Ultimately my mother was left with only one gold chain other than her ‘mangalasutra’.

I had consciously avoided taking a loan even as a scholarship. In my PUC I had been offered the Government of India interest free loan scholarship. I simply refused to take it. I did not want to start my earning career later with the burden of a loan on my back.

Viewed in my above background, I never felt safe after getting my father’s signature on the promissory note. I wish to tell my readers here that my doubts really came true at a later date. At that time my Principal, who wanted me to treat the promissory note as a receipt, was blissfully teaching Hindu philosophy to his postgraduate students at the Mysore University! I was left to fend for myself!

The next time when I met the Principal he had to let the cat out of the bag. The definition of my entire ‘education expenditure’ meant only college fee for the Academy; whereas the Principal had interpreted it as ‘all the expenditure other than clothing’. The Principal was now finding it very difficult to admit this fact and disappoint me. That was the reason for his strange behavior towards me. He now came out with a compensatory offer. He told me that I can have my food on one day in a week at his house. For the rest of the week he expected me to request other lecturers (who had their families) to help me out. In fact he asked me to approach the lecturers straight away in the college office.

 I left the college office in a huff. Actually my position was back to square one. No! It was not even that. It was far worse! I had discontinued my studies at Shimoga as I did not want to be at the mercy of somebody. It was despite having the free seat facility at the hostel. For my PUC the entire fee had been paid by Shankar Rao. The present position was - the Academy had paid my fee instead of Shankar Rao. While there was no question of repaying Shankar Rao, the Academy had obtained a promissory note from me! The bottom line was - my securing a rank had resulted in myself turning out to be a borrower of the Academy! Not only that, the Principal was asking me to beg my lecturers for feeding me against my conscience. The very idea appeared to be an anathema to me!

------ (To be continued)

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