Monday, January 30, 2017

The Story of a Malnad Boy-75

With the completion of our final examinations both my brother and I had reached a milestone in our life. We were sure to get through successfully and would be the first graduates in our village. We were anxiously waiting for our results. We were also wondering as to what the future held for us. My brother had decided that he would look for a job, preferably in Bangalore. As for me-it all depended on my results.

Meanwhile the things were very bad, otherwise, in our home front. Our younger brother Madhava had finished his SSLC, but could not continue his education. As a stop gap arrangement, he started working as a shop assistant in Thimmappa’s shop in Agalagandi. We had to look for a suitable alliance for our younger sister. The problem was- we had no wherewithal to conduct the marriage even if we were to find a suitable groom at that juncture. To add to all this, my eldest brother had to come back to village as he could not manage to maintain his family in Shimoga in view of the failure of his business. His Shimoga dream had come to a disastrous end. His father-in-law had also lost all his money in his failed ventures in Shimoga.

For me securing a rank had almost become an absolute necessity. I had set a standard for myself by my PUC rank. It was a challenge to maintain that standard. But there was no way to expect my name in the rank list in view of the low marks I was expecting in Chemistry. As per my own calculations, it could not be more than 70 percent. Whether that was sufficient to fetch me a rank was a big question.

Our results were to be announced on 25th June 1969. My brother Madhava went to the post office to collect the newspaper. He came back at about 4 PM with excitement. He had searched my name in the rank list from top to bottom. His eyes stopped exactly at the tenth and the last rank. There it was - my name at the very end. I had managed to place my name there almost hanging at the tail end! I had scored 79.9 percent marks in the overall position.

When I went back to Sringeri, I was greeted with great enthusiasm by Srikantaiah and his family. Srikantaiah was very happy for me. I felt I had met his expectations. My lecturers were also very happy. The Principal too expressed his happiness. He was expecting to be relieved from the college shortly to join the Mysore University. I told him my intention to join the Tata Institute as advised by Krishnappaiah. I requested him to get a confirmation from the Academy that it had no objection for my joining the Institute. He wrote to them and informed me later that the Academy had confirmed that I could continue my education as per my own wishes. I presumed that it would continue to pay my tuition fee.

I began my journey towards my admission in the Institute in the right earnest by remitting money for the prospectus and application for admission. I received them within a week. The more I read the prospectus, the more I felt it would be a privilege to study there. Dr. Satish Dhavan was the Director of the Institute at that time.

For me it was not only the question of getting an admission in the Institute; I had to plan for meeting the expenditure. The balance in my bank account could make me survive only for a few months. I had to tie-up for the total expenses.

But somehow things appeared to fall in place. My Mathematics lecturer N R Bhat had all along supported me and was responsible for my excellent performance in Mathematics. He was selected as a probationary officer in syndicate bank and was posted for training at Manipal. Before he was relieved he assured me that he would help me financially. He asked me to contact him after joining the institute. Meanwhile I got another support as if from nowhere.

Advocate Srikanta Bhat, who had stood for assembly elections unsuccessfully, sent me a message to call on him. His house was about 8 KMs from my home. I met him as called for. I found him to be a highly polished nice gentleman. He enquired about my future plans. I told him about my Tata Institute ambitions. I also told him about the delicate financial position of our family. He told me that he would take me to some families known to him seeking their contribution. I told him about my earlier painful experiences when my father had taken me around. He told me not to worry and to just accompany him.

To this day I have not been able to understand why Srikanta Bhat took so much interest in my future studies. There was absolutely no reason for him to help me out. He neither knew me personally, nor my family. He was gaining absolutely nothing by helping me. He was quite a resourceful person as I could find out. He took me to certain families close to him. Unlike my earlier experiences, this ‘collection drive’ was a pleasant one. To my surprise all the families had heard my name as a rank student. There was absolutely no necessity for me to request them. The moment Mr. Bhat told them the reasons for our visit, the contributions just followed. The minimum contribution I got was rupees fifty. In all, Mr. Bhat got me a contribution of about rupees six hundred (including his own contribution), a substantial amount in those day standards.

Mr. Bhat helped me in other ways also. One of these families had their son studying at IISC. He was doing his graduation in electrical engineering. I was introduced to him and he briefed me about the facilities and other matters in the Institute. Another family had their son-in-law in the IIT Kanpur as a Professor. Bhat took the trouble of introducing me to him.  He gave me lot of inputs. To put it in brief, Mr. Bhat not only helped me financially, but also prepared me intellectually. Mind you, Bhat did all this without any publicity. Except his own family and my family, nobody else knew his contribution for my education. A rare personality indeed! I remain indebted to him for life.

I got inputs about the Institute from another source. I had earlier mentioned the name of Dr. T K Bhat as an important personality in Sringeri. He was quite aged by then, but still was practicing as a doctor. He sent a word for me. I was informed by him that his one son was an Associate Professor in the Institute in the Department of Physics. His other son had completed the Master’s degree in metallurgy in the institute just then. The doctor asked me to meet his Professor-son and take his help whenever required. I was overwhelmed by his gesture.

I got a call from the institute to attend a test and an interview for admission. They were to be held in the last week of July. I had not visited Bangalore till then. It was going to be my first visit. I planned for the visit along with my brother who had become a Bangalorean by then. My brother’s results had come by then and he had successfully completed his B.Com degree.

The month of July 1969 was very significant in the history of India and in the history of mankind as well. The nationalization of major Indian banks on 19th July was a major event. The then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi announced this sudden decision to the surprise of the nation. The Syndicate Bank branch in Sringeri was closed for business on that day. Majority of the general public were unaware of the consequences of the nationalization. But it definitely had implications for me as the events unfolded later.

The second event was the historic landing on the moon by Neil Armstrong, the legendary American astronaut. This event was well covered by the news papers and we took great interest in this event. The Apollo 11 landing took place on 20th July 1969.  

I have earlier written that Srinivasaiah of Puradamane had helped me financially for my education. He was very happy for me when I secured the rank for the second time. He came to know that we brothers were going to Bangalore. Srinivasaiah was very much interested in growing fruit and flower plants. In fact his house had a big horticulture farm. He asked us to get him rare flower plants from Lalbhag Farm in Bangalore.

We left for Bangalore in the third week of July. The Sringeri-Bangalore bus had limited halts at Koppa and Jayapura only. We got into the bus at Jayapura in the morning at 9 AM. In those days traveling in a Government bus was taken as a privilege. Only private busses used to run in our places. These private busses were mostly TATA-Benz busses and we had lost interest in them. On the other hand, the Government busses used to be the sturdy Leyland busses. The red coloured heavily-built Leyland busses had a lot of charm for us. This was the first time I was traveling in such a bus and that too to visit the capital of our State. I had drawn one hundred rupees from Syndicate Bank for our expenses. I was in great spirits. We passed through Chickmagalore, Arasikere, Tiptur and Tumkur on our way.

We entered the city limits by 8 PM. The bus passed through Yeshwantpur, Rajajinagar and Malleshwaram before finally halting at the Subhashnagar Bus Stand. I had arrived at the Bangalore city for the first time little knowing what the great city had in store for me.
------- (To be continued)------

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