Friday, December 2, 2016

The Story of a Malnad Boy-64

Our College had a good library. A full time librarian was also appointed that year. His name was Vishwanath and he was a very good professional.  I could read a good number of literary works. I read the auto biography of Mahatma Gandhi (The Story of My Experiments with Truth) and it had a very great impression on me. I wanted to follow at least some principles followed by Gandhiji.

I had one habit right from my younger days. In our Malnad houses the usage of salt during our meals was a matter of routine. In fact the practice was to first serve salt and pickle on the plantain leaves on which we took our meals. As a result even though the salt was already used in the dishes served, we would again add some salt after mixing the dish with the rice. I decided to stop using the salt in my meals. It was difficult to follow in the beginning. But I stuck to my decision and I am following it to this day. The success of this exercise gave me a confidence that I am capable of enforcing some tough decisions in my life.

The library also had almost all the works of R K Narayan. I read all of them and was greatly influenced by his style of writing. The romantic ‘Guide’ left a great impression on me. I could also lay my hands on certain great works of English literature by reading the abridged versions of them in the Readers Digest, collected and published in the book form. The famous Kannada writer and professor, S V Parameshwara Bhat, came on a visit to our college. It was a memorable occasion for me. He had a brought a copy the Autobiography of Jawaharlal Nehru especially for me and presented it to me as a token of his appreciation of my securing rank in PUC. Reading the same was another great experience for me.

One particular student who joined hostel as a new student was Krishnan from Chickmagalore. He had finished his PUC in Chickmagalore. His father was the Manager of the Coffee curing works there. His was a basically traditional Iyengar family. But Krishnan had a great style in dressing. He was, no doubt, handsome in his looks. He arrived in Sringeri like a bull in a China shop. While the traditional local students were struggling to wear a pant in those days, Krishnan brought with him the tight pants. He had taken botany and zoology (BZ) as his major subjects with a view to pursue medical profession later. While our PC major section had no girl students, the BZ section had a lone good looking girl student. Some of the students in this section were concentrating more on impressing this girl student than their teachers! The arrival of Krishnan (he joined late) on the scene created some sort of sensation.

Already the boys who were running behind the girl student were in the bad books of the teachers’ community. They were being referred to as alankara- vidyarthigalu (decorated students) by the teachers. Krishnan with his great collection of tight pants offered tough competition to his peers. But he was not sure whether the lonely girl appreciated his looks and tight pants. She kept her opinion equally tight and never gave a clue! Krishnan was very close to me. He tried to give me some tips in the matter of dressing. But unfortunately I had no money to even wear a pant in those days except for the NCC uniform! Poor Krishnan! He just gave up!

As the first year degree had only a class examination in the end, the students in general took the classes very lightly. I was no exception to this. The PUC students in the hostel wanted my guidance in preparing for the examinations. I was also guiding Nanjundaswami, my roommate, regularly in his goal of securing cent percent marks in mathematics. He was showing good progress. I started conducting tests to all the students at frequent intervals with the assistance from the other degree students. It gave me a good exposure and I derived lot of satisfaction out of this exercise. The junior students became very close to me. One handsome boy from Birur by name Chandrasekhar (Chandru) became so close that I shifted to his room as his roommate. His father was a Sheristedar in the Kadur taluk office. I even wrote some poems for this boy. He used to write some intensely worded personal letters to me even after leaving Sringeri. But like all good things, this friendship also came to an end.  The fire simply burnt out with time and distance! Only ashes remain today!

As already mentioned by me, NBN was the first warden of the hostel. He stayed alone in a room near the hostel. I used to visit him frequently and spend time with him. It was a great learning exercise for me. He had travelled a lot and studied the human nature closely. He had a good collection of books. He had to face a great tragedy that year. His elder brother was a Senior Engineer in Government service in Mysore. His two young sons were in Sringeri to spend some time with NBN in their holidays. They went for swimming in the Tunga River and lost their lives, in very distressing circumstances, in the river current. It was very painful to see NBN face this unfortunate situation.

After some time, the post of warden was handed over to Gundanna, the new lecturer in the Kannada Department. Gundanna was also a very good teacher. He hailed from Mysore city. But my problems started with his wardenship. NBN had some method of collecting my hostel fee directly from Chandramouli Rao. Hence the onus of collecting the same was not on me. But I had to take it on me under Gundanna’s wardenship. In the first week of the month I had to visit Chandramouli Rao’s house for collecting my hostel fee. On first three occasions I met Srikanta Rao, his eldest son, there. He used to receive me with due respect and write a cheque for the amount immediately. But on the fourth occasion he was not available. Chandramouli Rao made me visit 2-3 times. Meanwhile it got late as per hostel rules. On that particular day I was having lunch in the hostel along with other students and lecturers. Gundanna all of a sudden told me that I was a defaulter in fee payment. It almost amounted to a public announcement! I could not stand that humiliation at all. I simply left my lunch half-way and proceeded to my room.

Gundanna and some other bachelor lecturers were staying in a house. I went there in the evening. I started protesting to Gundanna about the treatment he meted out to me in presence of others. I told him that I could not stand such humiliations. I virtually created a scene there. Gundanna was quite unprepared for this demonstration by me! The other lecturers present there were also quite shocked. Frankly they were not aware of my financial position.

As a rank student I was known to all the lecturers and they all used to show me recognition whether they took class for me or not. Gundanna also recognized the same. But he was quite unaware of my financial position; neither had he known about the arrangement that the fee is to be collected from Chandramouli Rao. He had reminded me as a matter of routine. He asked me to cool down and tell him whatever I wanted to convey. After hearing my story he regretted having hurt my feelings. He also assured me that he will not remind me thereafter. He told me to pay the fee only after I got the money from Rao.

Indeed it became a tough job for me to collect the cash from Rao. He used to delay the payment for whatever reasons only known to him. Unfortunately Srikanta Rao was not available during that time. As it was the fag end of the academic year, I had to collect the fee only for another two months. I decided that I had to go for some other arrangement in the next year.

In those days, joining the National Cadet Corps (NCC) was compulsory. The Kannada lecturer Pradhan Gurudatta was in charge. We had an army man by name Machaiah to train us. He was a tough guy. Those of us who were not up to the mark were being punished severely. I should say most of us had a tough time with the army type of discipline being enforced on us. The only consolation was that we were served refreshments after the daily training.

That year we had to attend a NCC camp at Hassan. That was my first visit to Hassan. The camp was held in the premises of Malnad college of Engineering. The camp went on for about ten days. It was a great experience for us in community living. On the last but previous day of the camp we were permitted to go to the city and enjoy full day. We had a great time. We went to the newly released famous Hindi film, Dev Anand’s Guide. I had read the romantic novel that year only and it was fresh in my memory. I found the film highly entertaining with great music by S D Burman. On our way back from Hassan we visited the Hoysala temples in Belur and Halebeedu. All in all we had a great time.
------- (To be continued)

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