Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Story of a Malnad Boy-76

When we came out of the city bus stand we found a good number of autos waiting outside. I was seeing the autos first time in my life. I was surprised to see them with only three wheels! They reminded me the three-legged race we used play in our schools. I wondered how they could maintain their balance with three wheels only! I did not have to wait for long to find out.  My brother told me that we have to travel in one of them to reach Seshadripuram which was not far away.

We reached a hostel called BBS Home in Seshadripuram. My brother had stayed there for his studies. It provided only staying facility for poor students of the community. The students generally took their free food at different homes on different days (a system called ‘Vaaraanna’ referred to by me earlier). We stayed there in the night.

Bangalore’s first Kamath Hotel had opened in Seshadripuram just then. Later another hotel was opened next to Sangam Theatre. The hotels belonged to the Bengre family hailing from Hubli. The hotels were known for their cleanliness, fast service and tasty south Indian dishes. People took it as a privilege to eat in these hotels. A senior and elderly gentleman from the Bengre family used to silently monitor the service and look after the customer service in the hotel. When my brother took me first time there I was so impressed with the entire atmosphere and the tasty food served there. The dishes at our Sringeri Mallika Mandir came nowhere nearer. In fact I felt it a pleasure to spend my money on such great food items.

My brother had a very big friends circle. Many of them came and met us at the hostel. My brother had told me that the Tata Institute was not far from Seshadripuram and was located in Malleshwaram the immediate next extension. It was necessary for me to visit the Institute once before the test and interview, which was to be held two days later.                                

We visited the Institute in the morning. I was overwhelmed to see the statue of Jamsetji N. Tata and the well-known landmark IISC building. We straightaway went to the Department of Physics to meet the son of Dr. T K Bhat. The Physics department in the Institute had been established under the legendary Nobel laureate Sir C V Raman. Mr. Bhat was an Associate Professor in the Department. His father had already spoken to him about me. We found him to be a very nice gentleman. He telephoned to an Assistant Professor by name K I Vasu in the Department of Metallurgy. Mr. Vasu came to meet us immediately. Mr. Bhat introduced me to him and told him that he had to take care of me as my mentor.

Mr. Vasu was an exceedingly nice and helpful gentleman. Even though he was in an Assistant Professor, he was a very simple man and went out of the way to help me. Later I found that the other faculty members were not at all like him. Many of them, even as lecturers, felt that they were in a highly exalted position as faculty in the prestigious Institute. Mr. Bhat also invited us to his house in Malleshwaram next day morning for breakfast. We went there next day morning and had breakfast with his family.

I attended the test on the next day. There were a good number of students from all over India. The results were announced in the evening and I had come out successful. The interviews were held on the very next day. My interview was conducted by Mr. Abraham, Associate Professor in the Department of Metallurgy and my mentor himself, Mr. Vasu, the Assistant Professor. I came out successful and was among the thirty students selected. I had to come back to Bangalore for admission to the Institute in the first week of August. Our mission to Bangalore for admission in the institute ended successfully.

Before leaving Bangalore, we went to a horticultural farm just opposite Lalbhag and purchased several plants for Srinivasaiah. I had another matter to be confirmed at Bangalore. It was very important in the scheme of things I had planned for my financial tie-up. I had been informed that all the students who had secured University ranks up to ten were eligible for State merit scholarships. The disbursing authority was the Director of Collegiate education. The office was located near Maharani College. I went and met the Director. I was told that he was yet to receive the rank list from the University. However he confirmed that I was definitely going to get the scholarship once the list was received. He also informed that the amount was Rs100/=per month. It was a great relief for me. I thought that I had tied up for at least Rs100/=per month of my expenditure. I had already been informed that the hostel bill in the Institute was around Rs110/= per month.

Back at home it was time for me to get prepared and pack up for Bangalore. Srinivasaiah was very much pleased to get the rare and special plants from Bangalore. I visited the College to get all the necessary documents. Dr. Rama Krishna Rao had been relieved from Principal’s post and he had joined the Mysore University as Professor of Hindu Philosophy. In his place Mr. N B N Murthy, Reader in English, had taken charge as the Principal. He was the natural and deserving successor. I was always very close to him and considered him as my mentor. He was very much pleased to know that I had secured admission to the Institute. He helped me to secure all the requisite documents including a personal certificate from him, which I have preserved till this day. Krishnappaiah was of course equally happy. It was he who had advised me to seek admission in the Institute.

We were back in Bangalore in the first week of August. My brother had decided that he would stay in Bangalore in search of employment. In my scheme of things, for my maintenance at the Institute, I had taken into account my brother’s employment also as a factor. I had a corpus of around Rs1500/ in my kitty when I landed in Bangalore. My preliminary expenses including admission fee, hostel deposit etc. at the Institute came to around Rs1000/. I started with a balance of Rs500/ in my bank account. I was not expecting any financial support from my family. My expected sources were-merit scholarship of Rs100/ per month, assured monthly contribution from my Mathematics lecturer (Syndicate Bank Officer) and support from my brother with his expected employment.

My first day at the Institute was very eventful. IISC had a wonderful system of introducing the new students to the set up at the Institute. We started from our Metallurgy Department and met the entire Department faculty. The Department was then headed by Mr. Krishnan, a Ph. D from the Birmingham University. He was about to retire shortly and was expected to be succeeded by Mr. Abraham, Associate Professor, a Ph. D from Benares Hindu University. Mr. Abraham was known as a very popular Professor in the Institute. The Institute had a very famous library. It had all kinds of reference books sourced from all over the world. We were introduced to the librarian. It was a 24X7 library. We were also introduced to the Registrar, Mr. Vaidyanathan. The post of Registrar was a very powerful one with the entire administration coming under his purview. At the end of the day we met the illustrious Director, Dr. Satish Dhawan. He spoke to us individually and spent a good amount of time with us.

I was allotted a room in the company of one student from Andhra by name Subba Rao. Subba Rao was doing his final year in Master of Engineering in the branch of internal combustion engineering. The Institute had a separate department for this particular branch. He was staying alone and was not at all happy when I met him and told him that I would be his roommate. He said that he would talk to the hostel warden. Initially I could not make out what his grievance was all about. But he clarified to me that it had nothing to do with me personally. I was told that senior students had the privilege to be entitled to a single room. Subba Rao had requested for that facility.

But Subba Rao was told by the warden that he had to wait for some time before I was accommodated in another room. Once he was assured of that he treated me very nicely. He treated me like his younger brother till I vacated his room later. I could learn a lot about the hostel and the Institute from him. He hailed from a highly respectable family from coastal Andhra and was very sentimental when I vacated his room after some time.

I had to get my bank account transferred to Bangalore. Syndicate bank had no branch in Malleshwaram at that time. Most of the hostel students had their bank accounts with Canara bank or Indian bank, the branches of which were located in Malleshwaram. I was told that the nearest Syndicate bank branch was at Seshadripuram. I went to the said branch one day. The bank had opened the said branch as an excusive lady-staff branch. It was also headed by a lady Manager by name Mrs. Padiyar. I was told that she was among the first lady Managers in an Indian bank at that time. I straightaway walked into her cabin with my Sringeri branch passbook and cheque book.

I found her to be an exceedingly nice and helpful lady. She enquired all about the Institute and told me that she wanted to secure more accounts of the Institute. She took my signature on a request letter for transferring the account to her branch and collected my passbook and cheque book. She did not send me to any other Officer and handled the whole thing personally. Within about ten days my account got transferred.

As already mentioned by me the branch had only lady staff exclusively. In those days very few ladies used to go for jobs and there used to be very few lady staff in any institution. While our entire Metallurgy batch did not have even a single girl student, there were two girl students in the Electrical Communication Engineering Department. The Syndicate Bank had posted all young (beautiful!) girls to the branch. These young girls used to work fast and extend quick service to the customers. Believe it or not! It appears most of the customers did not like it a little bit! They wanted to sit on the Bank sofa sets for some time and enjoy the beautiful looks of the young girls!

I was not aware of this fact; but an incident happened in front of my eyes to prove this. I was in the Manager’s cabin collecting my new pass book and cheque book. A lady Officer came and told the Manager that one gentleman had continued to sit on the sofa even after his work was over. The Manager went out and asked the customer to leave if he did not have any other work at the bank. But the gentleman was unmoved! Ultimately the Manager took the help of another customer to get rid of him. The Manager told me that this type of behavior was not uncommon to her.
------- (To be continued)-------

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