Friday, January 6, 2017

The Story of a Malnad Boy-69

The first year degree classes used to have only class examinations in those days. The students used to take the examination very lightly. There was absolutely no pressure to perform. At least that was what the students thought. I should admit that I was also not an exception to this thinking! I had spent more time in teaching the hostel students than for my own studies. But we were not right in the eyes of the JCBM college management. The management always meant business. It did not want its students to lower their guard just because the examination was not held at the University level.

The faculty, in general, was simply livid on going through the answer papers during their correction.  It was decided that the students should be taught a bitter lesson. When the college reopened after the summer holidays, the students were shocked to see the notice board. It had a list of students who had failed in the first year degree examination. The list contained the names of almost all the students except a handful of us including me. I felt relieved; but heart of hearts, I was also feeling that I had not done justice to this particular examination. The failed students were asked to appear for a supplementary examination. Ultimately they were promoted to second year degree; but the management succeeded in teaching them a lesson.

I suddenly woke up to the realities. It was time for me to take stock of the situation. I could not survive on the laurels I had earned for my PUC rank. I had fully enjoyed the benefits-the adulation from the faculty & hostel students and the financial rewards from the University and other sources. I was also cautioned by many that it was easy to achieve a milestone; but very difficult to remain at that level. One has to do hard work to retain the level achieved. It was indeed true.

The bottom line was - I had to secure a rank in my final examination. We had to appear for examination of our major subjects (Physics and chemistry) only in the final year for a total of 800 marks. In the second year we had to appear for the minor subject of Mathematics for a total of 200 marks. The ranking would be based on the total of 1,000 marks put together after the final examination.

In those days the maximum marks one could secure used to be in the range of 80-85 percent for Physics and 70-75 percent for Chemistry. However, one could secure cent percent marks in Mathematics either as major (400) or minor (200) subject. There were several examples of students having secured cent percent marks in Mathematics. I made several hypothetical calculations to prove that a student with Mathematics as minor subject could never secure a rank from one to ten (only first ten rank holders’ names were being published). Even if I were to presume that I would secure cent percent marks (200 out of 200) in Mathematics as minor subject, a student who scored 90 percent in Mathematics as major subject could overtake me with marks in Physics and Chemistry considered to be at the same level. I saw absolutely no scope for me to even have a remote chance.

With this position in my mind, I felt it was necessary for me to explain this to my well wishers so that they would not burden me with their expectations. I first raised this issue with my lecturers. I had thought that I could easily convince them with my notional calculations. While none of them disputed my calculations, they were of the firm view that I could still secure a rank! In fact one of them even told me, “Your calculations are all fine, Krishnamurthy! You have done a good job of it! But still let me tell you, you have the capacity to secure a rank! So you better stop this business of convincing us about your inability! You just concentrate on your studies!” He effectively put an end to my mission! As regards my family, friends and others, they could not have understood what I was saying in the first place, so I thought it was futile to talk to them on the issue.

I came to the conclusion that I should sincerely try to retain my position and leave the rest to God. As a first step I concentrated on securing cent percent marks in Mathematics. But it was a tough call; the reason being the subjects taught by Mr. Sastry. I had to struggle very hard as I could make out very little in his classes. But I kept my spirits high.

We got a new demonstrator for Chemistry by name Venkatesh Rao. He was a young B.Sc first class graduate from MGM College Udupi. He was a very handsome man and gave me lot of encouragement. He was sure that I was going to secure a rank in my final examination. He told me about IIT Bombay and advised me to seek admission after my B.Sc.  I grew very fond of him and we became very close. He resigned the job and joined IIT Bombay in the next year. We used to exchange letters for some time. But the friendship melted away with time!

I had to face some delicate situations after becoming cash rich with a handsome bank balance. My family’s financial position continued to be bad and I was in a dilemma as to whether I should part with my money or hold it for my future studies. Of course my parents were totally relieved of my burden and were very happy for me. They were also quite clear that they did not want my scholarship money for family maintenance.

I remember one particular incident. My mother was left with only one gold ornament-a heavy gold chain-from out of the gold jewels her parents had given her. When in urgent need of money, my father used to pledge it, in Karnataka Bank for a loan. The bank was charging exorbitant rate of interest. Now that I became a depositor of Syndicate Bank, my father asked me to raise a loan against it with them for his urgent needs.

It was for the first time in my life that I was handling gold jewel, so precious and valuable. Besides, it carried a lot of sentiments as it had been passed on to my mother by her parents from out of the family collection. I carried it to the bank one day and handed it over to Mr. Nayak asking him to sanction me a loan against it. Nayak was surprised to see that age old heavy gold ornament in my possession. He even thought initially that I must have brought it without the knowledge of my parents. But the ‘heavy’ balance in my bank account proved that I had no bad intentions!

I had thought that taking a bank loan against a gold jewel was very simple. In fact I had imagined that Nayak may keep the jewel in a locker and handover cash to me by taking my signature on a slip. But it was not so simple and Nayak had to explain it to me in a painstaking manner. The bottom-line was, I had to return from the bank empty-handed! No! Not exactly! I came back with the jewel in my hand!

I told Srikantaiah about my predicament. He offered a simple solution to me. He suggested that I keep the jewel with me and pay my father by drawing money from my bank account. It was a good suggestion; but I had the problem of keeping the jewel safe. Srikantaiah’s house had a peculiar mode of keeping cash and valuables. There was a massive wooden table in the big hall. At the one corner of it, a heavy steel box with locking facility had been embedded. It was some what similar to single-lock cash box of a bank. Only Srikantaiah had the masterkey which was attached to his sacred thread (Janivara). The jewel found a safe storage there. After about two months, my father managed to pay the money to me and I returned the jewel to my mother. The matter remained a secret between me and Srikantaiah.

The fact that I could save a good amount of money in the bank as a student had some strange justification and was in fact was as per predictions. In our Malnad homes there is a method of finding out in childhood itself, whether a person is capable of saving and accumulating money. It was a customary to prepare and serve payasam made of Bengal gram in most of our festivals. The thin and watery payasam would be served on the plantain leaves. It was indeed difficult to eat the same without allowing it to flow out of the plantain leaf. If a person is skillful enough, he could manage to eat the payasam without allowing it to flow out. I had developed that skill and I never allowed the payasam to flow out! As per my mother, this clearly indicated that I could save and accumulate money later in my life! The fact that I had a good bank balance as a student appeared to foretell my future good fortunes in life! At least that was what my mother foresaw basing on my payasam eating abilities!

There was one gentleman known to me through my cousin Subramanya. He lived in a village close to Sringeri town and always used to wish me and speak to me nicely. It appears somehow that this gentleman got a scent of my good fortunes! One day he spoke to me for more than a normal time. Ultimately he came to the point. He was in need of money for some urgent purpose. He promised to pay back within a week.

I had all along my life, seen how difficult it was to borrow money from others. I genuinely felt it was an opportunity for me to help a deserving person. Without allowing him to speak further, I paid him twenty rupees immediately by drawing the amount from the bank. He thanked me profusely. I really felt great that I had reached a stage where I was able to help genuine people.

Hardly within four days, the gentleman met me again. I was happy that he was returning the money so fast. But he told me that he had come to thank me again! I had two other friends with me at that time. They asked me what the matter was. I evaded the issue and did not reveal the loan transaction.  The next week I was with the same friends and this gentleman called me aside again. He expressed some difficulty in paying back the money and again thanked me profusely. This process of his calling me, offering the excuse and then thanking me profusely, went on for some more time. The fact was-I had never followed up the repayment; rather that gentleman was following me like a Nakshatrika! So much so that one of my friends, who was observing me being followed by that gentleman, told me that it was high time that I paid back the money! He had concluded that I had borrowed money and defaulted! It became very difficult for me to convince him about the real position! I thought enough was enough and fired that gentleman (borrower) left and right asking him to stop meeting me again. That was the end of my first loan transaction in life!

 I have mentioned in the previous episode that my bank balance reached almost rupees one thousand at the end of the academic year on receipt of scholarship money for second year. My bank balance caught the attention of none other than my beloved philosopher Principal! One fine morning he called me to the office. The way he started talking to me, I felt suspicious that he was after something which was not to my liking. He was driving the point that I had become very comfortable financially on account of the generosity of the Academy of Manipal. He suggested that it was high time that I also reciprocated the good deeds of the Academy. I was wondering what exactly he meant by that. But soon the cat was out of the bag! He wanted me to invest in the 7-year savings bond of the Academy! It would fetch me around 6.5 percent interest; much more than what syndicate Bank was paying for fixed deposits in those days!

I tried to reason out to him that I required the money for my future studies. Naturally there was no way I could invest in a 7-year bond, for whatever interest. It was as simple as that! I felt that the Academy could not think of an investment from a college student!  But the philosopher was quite adamant. He felt that I was ungrateful to the Academy! He gave me a final warning-either to invest in the bonds or face a recall notice from the Academy for the money reimbursed to me as college fee! These words were coming from a gentleman who had assured me that there was no question of repaying the money in spite of signing a pronote! I felt the sky was falling on me! I was speechless!

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

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