Friday, January 13, 2017

The Story of a Malnad boy-72

Actually I had a limited interest in the second year degree examination to the extent that I needed to secure full marks in Mathematics to ensure that I stood a fair chance of securing a rank in my final year examination. However, I had all along maintained a record of having scored good marks in languages and other subjects also. In fact this had enabled me to secure the rank in PUC where overall performance was the criterion.

Viewed in this background, my results for the second year were really an anticlimax. Me performance in languages was not satisfactory from my own standards. Added to this, a student from our college, by name H M Nagaraja Rao had secured a rank in the Sanskrit subject. As for Mathematics, even though I had correctly solved all the problems in both the papers, I had been awarded only 188 marks out of 200.  There was no provision for re-totaling/re-correction of the answer papers in those days. I was hugely disappointed with the results.

My lecturers felt that my marks in Mathematics were still sufficient to offer me a chance in the final year to secure a rank. I had to somehow maintain my morale to achieve the goal set for me by my well-wishers. But my immediate problem was to face Srikantaiah. I thought that he may also be disappointed with my performance.

I had lot of apprehensions when I met Srikantaiah at his home after knowing my results. But to my great delight he expressed happiness that I had scored very good marks in Mathematics. As per him it gave me a fair chance to secure a rank in the final examination. He also felt that I need not attach much importance to my performance in languages. It was a great relief for me. Actually I needed some morale boost at that juncture as I was very low on spirits. One could always trust Srikantaiah in such matters. He was there to help you out when you needed it most! I forgot all my worries and decided to take it as a challenge to do well in the final examinations.

One of the important events that took place that year was the inauguration of a direct bus KSRTC service between Sringeri and Bangalore. It was a day time bus service starting from both places in the morning and reaching at about 8 PM in the night. Till then one had to either go to Shimoga or Chickmagalore to catch a bus to Bangalore. Very few people had the opportunity to visit Bangalore in those days. This bus service opened a new chapter in the history of Sringeri.

The most important event of that year, however, was the shooting of the Kannada film Samskara in and around Sringeri. The film was based on a Kannada novel written by the famous writer U R Ananthamurthy. The Film script was written by Girish Karnad, the noted Kannada drama writer. Both of them have since grown in stature and have received Jnana Peetha Awards for their literary achievements. The film was produced by Pattabhi Rama Reddy. Even though Reddy was the official director, it was Karnad who did most of the professional job.

The lead role of Praneshacharya was also played by Karnad himself. We had an opportunity to see his multifaceted personality. The female lead role of Chandri, the prostitute, was played by Snehalatha Reddy, the wife of Pattabhi Rama Reddy. Snehalatha, a talented lady, was later jailed during emergency, became sick and lost her life in a young age. The cinematographer was a visiting Australian by name Tom Cowan. The main negative role of Naranappa was played by P Lankesh, another controversial Kannada writer.

The film was a path breaking venture in many respects. The story was based on a controversial subject. Originally the film was banned by the censor board. Eventually it was released and went on to win the President’s gold medal as the best Indian feature film of 1971.

This film shooting remains a memorable event to us and the Sringeri town folk of those days. We were seeing the live shooting of a film for the first time. The entire film was shot outdoors and only in and around the Sringeri township. We were able to see many of the well-known Kannada writers and personalities for the first time. I should mention here that the film had none of the regular Kannada actors of those days. Most of the actors were either amateur artists or first time actors. The important personalities included Rajiv Taranath (musician), S G Vasudev (artist), Dasharathi Dixit (writer, dramatist and artist) and a host of others.

Most of the film was shot in an old house in a village called Vaikuntapura, near Sringeri on the banks of the river Tunga. It was a typical Malnad village and fitted into the story perfectly. The hotels in Sringeri had a roaring business during the shoot which went on for not less than three months, if I remember correctly. There used to be a festival atmosphere. We made it a point to visit the sets and witness the shooting of all important events in the story.  Those occasions remain fresh in my memory even to this day.

Our college had Indology as an optional subject for B A classes. This department was headed by Professor Sundar. I have earlier made a mention of the personality of Mr. Sundar. This department had a project to excavate and trace the history of Malnad. The site selected for the project was located near the age old Ganapathi temple in our village. The team of students headed by Sundar landed in our village one fine morning. As there was no hotel facility, they reached the nearest house. It was the house of our Puradamane Srinivasaiah. He was a great host and he gave them all the facilities and entertained them in full. When he came to know that they were from Sringeri college, he asked them why I was not there with them. Then only the team came to know that I hailed from that village!

The excavation revealed that our village had some ancient history. It appeared as frontline news in Kannada papers. Indeed our village had several stone scriptures located at different places. There were several leads to prove that our village did have some ancient history. In fact there is a big ancient foundation of a house by the side of our own house. We used to call it ‘Achemane” (neighboring house). It must have been the living place of a very big family in the olden days. But the history stands buried and only the foundation remains to make us have our own imaginations!

Among the B A students, was one bright student by name Lalithamba. She was a very intelligent girl and always stood first in the class. She was in the team of students who visited our village. After coming back to Sringeri she met me.  She felt disappointed that I was not present during the visit. She was very happy to see our beautiful village and the hospitality extended by Srinivasaiah and family.

Lalithamba and I had great respect for each other. That year there was an English essay competition in which she got the first prize and I stood second. We met for the last time during our convocation in the Mysore University. She was married off to a nephew of Srikantaiah immediately after her graduation and moved to the US.

I had two close friends by name Vishwanath, a distant relative of mine, and Padmanabha, only son of a rich landlord from a place called Kodigethota. They were roommates and I used to visit their room daily in the evening. We used to discuss all the day-to-day news of our College/Sringeri town. Later in the evening we would visit the Mutt and the temple together. One of our classmates, by name Vivekananda pandit used to join us. His family had an age old textile shop. He was the first boy in the family to venture into higher education. He was very popular as a NCC cadet as he used to look very smart in the uniform. He was a very jolly jocular fellow who would indulge in mimicry. We liked him immensely. After we graduated and left Sringeri I heard that he committed suicide. All attempts made by me to ascertain the reasons failed miserably. I am unable to forget this boy and I dedicate this episode to his memory.

Another person who was close to us in those days was a gentleman called Raghupathi. He hailed from a village called Agalagandi on the Sringeri-Jayapura road. He was a school teacher and was posted to Hulgar School (the place of Chandramouli Rao). He used to meet us daily in the evening and gave us good company. He was a very talkative man and would tell us some interesting events including local gossip.

Raghupathi was not married at that time. He had remained a bachelor even after reaching the right age. He used to tell us that he had one great ambition in life. If and when he got married, he had a plan for his first wedding night. That was to behave as if he was totally ignorant of the man-woman relationship and simply go to sleep! He wanted to know how the girl would react!  I have never heard about a more bizarre ambition in one’s life!  Raghupathi later married a girl, who was working as a midwife in a Government hospital! I never met him later and could not ascertain his first-night experience. But being a midwife, the girl must have taught him a proper lesson in the man-woman relationship by waking him up from his sleep! I am quite sure about that.

Our college had several important visitors from all fields of life. They included Swami Chinmayananda, K S Narasimha Swami, Professor Venkataramappa, Dr. Prabhushankar and others. We had an opportunity to hear them and personally talk to them. All in all, our college was blessed in this respect as these personalities had great interest in Sringeri as such and took it as a prestige to visit our college.

The academic year was coming to an end and so was my student career at Sringeri. One fine morning after the usual prayer, our Principal made an announcement. The college had instituted a gold medal in the name of Dr. T M A Pai. It was to be given to the best outgoing student every year. The management had also decided the name of the first receiptant. He added  that there was tie between two students. It was between me and a student by name H M Nagaraja Rao( who had secured a rank in Sanskrit). In order to break the tie, the management added another qualification to the eligibility. It considered whether the student had attended all the examinations. I had not attended a preparatory examination for my PUC examination. It came in as a handy excuse for the management(Principal)! The gold medal was awarded to Nagaraja Rao who had attended all the examinations.

The announcement was greeted with murmurs from the faculty. My teachers were shocked and could not understand the reasons for this strange manner of selection. They expressed their unhappiness to me. But none of them could raise the matter with the Principal. But I knew exactly the reasons for choosing a peculiar criterion to eliminate my name. The philosopher had his revenge!
------- (To be continued)------

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