Sunday, May 06, 2018

More Gulbarga

There definitely was a Marathi group and a Kannada group in Jain Hostel. Then there were the “secular people” from Shahabad and Wadi, who were neither this nor that. Some from Shahabad were definitely of the “Marathi group”, but others were "secular". We used to get a newspaper in the Hostel, which some seniors would read. The Kannada group wanted The Hindu and the Marathi group wanted The Times of India. That is how, long ago in the unknown hinterlands of India, I first learnt that newspapers had linguistic, religious and caste affiliation. Till then I thought newspapers gave us news. I gave up reading newspapers altogether then. Televisions were not yet around. I bought The Week, a news magazine for 2 Rupees per issue. I also bought the Science Reporter. These cost me about 12 Rupees a month but gave me what the newspapers could not. Analysis and in depth reportage rather than knee jerk reports of what just occurred. I was not to know then, that the Editors of both The Week, Mr. Prasannan Radhakrishnan and K.S.Sachidananda Murthy and the Editor of Science Reporter, Hasan Jawaid Khan Sahab will all become my friends later in life.  Perhaps this period made me inured to the charms of television, which is an even more half baked medium,  in later years.

Damodar Dattatreya Lele was a  Marathi leader in Jain hostel. He was in the final year of engineering at the HKE(Hyderabad Karnatak Education)Society’s Engineering College, now called the Poojya Doddappa Appa College of Engineering. Lele was considered rather a genius of the first order. He was short, stocky and fair, wore a white loose pyjama and a half sleeved vest at all times when he was in the hostel. He seemed more interested in ideologies than in mechanical engineering, but marks seemed to come easily to him. One September morning in 1982, he came around to every room with a steel container (called dabba in India). With a steel spoon he frugally measured out half a spoonful of sugar and gave it to us all, in the manner of a poojari (priest) distributing Prasad and said, “Sheikh Abdullah mar gaya. Moonh meetha karo”. Not many knew who Sheikh Abdullah was, but I, the reader of The Week did, though I did not know why we should eat sugar if he died. We used to offer what is called a shraadhh for my grandfather at home, on the anniversary of his – my grandfather’s I mean -  death, and made sweets to be offered to Brahmins on those occasions. Perhaps Sheikh Abdullah is a kind of grandfather to Lele - I thought.

Lele also was very supremely but subtly arrogant and superior, though he smiled condescendingly as he deigned to explain certain things to us – though never mechanical engineering. His hair was always cut short – about half an inch in length. Formally it was he who ragged us and his ragging was as subtle and insipid as his other activities. It was always whispered by his acolytes, one of whom was my classmate from MCC, Shahabad, Ravi Rahalkar, who fashioned himself after Lele by close cropping his hair, that Lele would go on to win the Nobel Prize. Lele treated Rahalkar like a retarded younger cousin. Now Rahalkar’s father worked for AVB (ACC Vickers Babcock Ltd. which was now called ABL after the departure of Vickers in Shahabad. He was rather high in the hierarchy – compared to Lele’s father.  What Lele was to the Marathis of Jain Hostel, Mr. Rahalkar was to the Marathis of ABL colony.  While Lele’s father was subordinated to Mr. Rahalkar in Shahabad, 30 kms upstream, Ravi Rahalkar was made to realise that he was far far inferior to Damodar Dattatreya Lele.

And then there were those who were neither this nor those. I was room mate to one Pradeep Oak for six months. This was another curious feature in Jain Hostel. Your room mate was changed every six months, lest you develop nefarious attachments. We were also required to quit bag and baggage every six months and seek - literally SEEK re admission in June and January, by giving an interview along with ones fathers, to Mehta about whom I had talked earlier. The kids stood still while the fathers of those who did not know Marathi (my father did not) grovelled. Mehta qualified as a Marathi in the above scheme of things, and unlike proper Marathi Brahmins or Jains, Iyers were plain plant eating animals without any ideology and hence admitted as a matter of grace. It was thus that I got put in with Pradeep Oak once. Oak was a Marathi anchored in Hubli in Karnataka (one who later went on to become the brother in law of the famed Ananth Kumar of the BJP). Funnily Oak also dressed like Lele. White Pyjamas and half sleeved white banians. All of these talked of Hinduism being not a religion but a “way of life”. It was long after that I learnt that these men were affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh of Nagpur. My arrival at this city in 2015 May, solved a lot of mysteries that have been lingering in my mind since 1980 – but then opened up new mysteries as to why Lord Buddha was the enemy of Lord Ganesha. I am learning.

And then there were those peculiar characters – Sunil Jhanwar from Jalgaon, Some Chawda from Navsari, another Mehta from Akola (a thin short guy who was immensely rich and worshipped Sant Gajanan and who often in Marlon Brando style fun looked at the server in the hoster saying, "Mere dahi me fase? Ah fase?" something about which I do not know even today, a joker called Sanjay Biyani from Pune, a fat guy whose name I do not remember from Solapur who did his D. Pharm, then B.Pharm and then M.Pharm with a fanatical devotion of one who had committed a murder in Solapur and was hiding in Jain Hostel as a student of pharmaceuticals till the heat cooled off. Only sadly, the heat didn’t perhaps cool off, for he went on to register for an M.Phil in Pharmacology. It was from him that I first learnt the word “pharmacognosy” though God alone knows what it means.  Will continue in the next post.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Jolada Rotti and tappala palya: Food fit for an astrologer

Well days passed in a daze at Jain Hostel. I do not remember a lot. Gulbarga was at that time a dusty mofussil town. There were Khanavalis, typical north Karnataka Lingayat eateries, which served rotis made of Jowar flour, sajji roti, which has almost zero gluten. The rotis literally came apart in your hands and did not have anything to call a taste or a flavour. They were eaten typically with eggplant curry (badnikai playa) and what is called kaal and saaru. These are two ways in which lentils were prepared, Kaalu being thick (sukhi sabzi as they say) made of alsandi and things like that and saaru was liquid. There were chutneys to go with it. Typically we had groundnut chutney and black sesame chutney. Thinking back, they tasted divine, but at that time, I was not very happy. There were huge round steel plates which you washed with water before using and then had your food served. The food was spicy but wholesone. Those days it cost 180 Rupees for two meals a day per month. Sundays were special. We had sweet, curds etc. On amavasya or new moon days, we had pooran poli or holige. All in all it was good. The Khanavalis were invariably named after Lord Shiva. We had our meals at the Jain Hostel mess, but for sometime it was closed and I got intimate with north Karnataka cuisine.

Breakfast in the morning was sometimes poori subzi sometimes susla sometimes mirchi bajji. Tea to go along. We walked for a small distance from the hostel and there was a Babu hotel on Jewargi Road run by a person who went by the homonym Babu. He was a Muslim youth and we finished our breakfast there before the day started. Now if you ask me what I did during the day, I would be at a loss, because, we did nothing after the breakfast. We came back to the room, gossiped, slept and went for lunch, came back, gossiped, slept and went out for long walks. Saikrishna, who was junior to me by four years in school and who was the brother of D.M.Murali who was our classmate, became a very close friend. We went about 5 kilometers south along Jewargi Road and back, talking about all kinds of things. We were practically inseparable during those times, though he was not my roommate. My roommates were varied. Earlier there was one Fat Patil, who must have been atleast 10 years elder to me from Aland. He was doing B.Pharm. Then I had Arvind Agarwal, two years junior to me in school. I also had the hero or the person who was the ganglord of the hostel, the person who was given the rights to rag newcomers, Sanjay Biyani as a roommate for sometime. The guy actually called me “scientist” and respected me, though why he called me scientist, I have no idea. I practised astrology at that time, and since most students at the Jaoin Hostel were rich spoilt brats, I scarcely had any problems predicting their future. “You will fail in 3 papers this semester”, I told one. “You will fail in five” I told another. I always gave the highest numbers to Biyani and he worked hard to keep upto my predictions and I do not know if he got away from Gulbarga with a degree at all. The reasons I gave to each was different. To one I said, “Your Mercury is burnt. It is within a few degrees of the sun in your horoscope” or else, “Your lord of 9th is associated with Saturn” or “your moon is occluded by Rahu”. In short using the students in Jain Hostel, I became a very expert astrologer. I learnt how to predict believably. Though like Feynmann, I told people that I am bluffing, they believed me intensely and my predictions were 100% true. Not a single hostelmate was immune to the lures of my predictions and even people from the other hostel of Gulbarga on this side of the Railway line, the Maulana Azad Memorial Hostel came to me for predictions. I was also therefore bestowed with the moniker of Swamiji. I therefore wonder how I did not come to meet my future boss Mr. Shivaprasad Khened, though I had predicted the future of almost everyone known to him by then. To those of the Maulana Azad Hostel, I gave different predictions. “Within two years, you will go to the US”, “By 1986 you will be in a big city almost 600 kilometers to the south of this place”(that being Bangalore – and I wonder at the stupidity of those who scored 90% in papers like Network Analysis and Synthesis but believed that there is some particular, as yet unnamed big city 600 kms south that will accommodate them in the future).

It is always important for an astrologer to keep his ears to the ground, as James Hadley Chase would say. Know your client. Start with, “You are basically a very good and kind person, but people often misunderstand you” That statement is invariably right. Then go on to establish your credentials by saying “between the ages of 6 and 14(or 13 or 17 or whatever), I see blood on the region between your neck and groin”. The person invariably helps you out saying, “My God, you are a saint! How did you know? I had an appendicitis operation when I was 11”. “There!” I would say, “that means Mars and Venus. Meaning middle East. 11 you said, and what are you now? 21? At the age of 31, certainly before 23rd July, you will be in the Middle East, as a senior executive. I see heavy machinery very clearly. Yellow. What is your branch BTW?” I already know he is doing mechanical engineering and that most heavy machinery are painted yellow. Thus was how I became a saint. It would take months to write the techniques of prediction, so I stop here. 

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Wednesday, March 09, 2016

My Life in Gulbarga Part III

I often used to travel back home to Wadi, which was about 40 kilometers by train from Gulbarga to be at home. But home too was somewhat different. It was no more the home that I left to Moovattupuzha for in April 1980 and for which I pined when I was in Moovattupuzha. I was no more the kid of the house. My brother Srinath was. I was more or less an interloper who was fast becoming a burden, and I remain that till now – in every place I have considered home. It is because of this singular lack of love and attachment that I fail to remember anything about those days vividly.
One thing I remember was a road trip to Mantralayam to worship at the Brindavana of Raghavendra Swami a Madhwa saint of the 17th Century CE who was widely venerated and worshipped all over Karnataka but Mantralayam, where his Samadhi was located was curiously in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh. The Telugus apparently did not care much for Raghavendra Swami and the situation was much like in the Nankana Sahib in Pakistan. The saint was popularised by Rajanikanth who eventually grew more popular than the Saint himself. I was in B.Sc second year and one thing that comes to mind is that I had not yet begun to shave my beard at that time. I must have looked pretty horrible. I also chewed pan for good measure, making me look like a tramp.
I remember the Tungabhadra river, relatively clean, its banks strewn with rocks, the worship at the temple and I also remember having a pimple that bothered me no end. I was told by many that the pimple was a result of my not shaving. One prayer I had to the saint was that that if the pimple is cured, I would shave regularly thereafter. This is an indication of my proclivity to worry myself thin over inconsequentials right from an early age, and go to the gods over it. It must I think have annoyed the gods thoroughly and later when I really needed them, they showed their backs to me. Eventually I showed my backs to them too.
My reluctance to shave came from the fear to apply a cut throat razor blade to my face. I could not believe that the blade would have the intelligence to discriminate between skin and hair and would selectively cut one and spare the other. There was a hostelite called Prasanna in the Jain Hostel. One night, he caught me and sat me on a chair and shaved me. It must have been around midnight and that therefore was my first shave.
By now I had started enjoying the traditional food of north Karnataka. I did not know much Kannada till then, but I started speaking Kannada in the Gulbarga lingo thereafter, very fluently. I also relished the jawari rotis with eggplant curries and chutneys made of groundnuts with garlic and of black sesame seeds. These were accompanied by a fairly liquid dal, and another cooked item consisting of some pulses that was called Kaalu. New moon days brought Pooran polies, bread stuffed with a sweet mixture. There was in the hostel mess a short thin cook called Gowda who cooked reasonable food and appeared harassed all the time.  He was famous for making irrelevant statements. Ask him why there was more chilly in the dal and he would say the tomatoes were costly. After some questioning in this direction, we tired of it all and ate what he offered us. There was also one Lingappa, who it appears was a major factotum in the hostel and kept tabs on ordinary students and let those students who paid him do what they wanted to. He was corrupt to the core.

I honestly do not remember much about my hostel life because nothing really happened. Except that we who studied till late in the night sometimes crossed the railway line to the other side to have tea well past midnight. The Dadar Madras Express passed through on its way to the Gulbarga station at about that time and we stood by to watch it rush past. It was on one such occasion that we saw a man of indeterminate age and indeterminate provenance sitting by the track and smoking a beedi. We stopped as usual waiting for the Express to pass. As the express turned the curve ahead and we began to see its light, the man looked animated and started puffing fast on his beedi as if he was in a hurry and wanted to finish it soon. He took quick hard puffs. Having finished the beedi, he threw it aside and jumped in front of the train just in time for the engine to run over him. It took about 2 minutes for the whole train to pass and after that, we saw three pieces of the man in the tracks. It was not really gory. There was no post mortem twitching or blood and intestines all around, but just three pieces. The man must have planned well. This is the only suicide I have watched from beginning to end till date. His treatment of the beedi was what left an impression on me however.. Whatever the case may be, we did not really feel like having tea and studying thereafter and so came back to our rooms and slept.

My Life in Gulbarga Part II

SB College was about three to four kilometres from the Jain Hostel. People did not normally take any motorised transport those days for such distances. Anyway, I did not attend many classes during my B.Sc. I had initially taken admission for a B.Sc in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics, driven by a love for organic Chemistry that Cyriac Master had instilled. I was still brimming with Organic Chemistry. But that year, SB College started a B.Sc with Physics, Mathematics and Electronics. My parents and grandmother felt that it was a good combination for an upcoming young man of my great intelligence. That they overestimated both the value of Electronics and my intelligence is a different matter altogether. I therefore paid a “donation” (called by several other names these days, a donation is simply a bribe) and I got into B.Sc Electronics. It was a subject that I neither understood nor cared for, but was stuck with it for long. That was a singularly unimaginative choice on my part, but that was just the first. I chose many wrong things over the years.

We had the venerable B.K.Chalageri and Y.K.Hakkaldaddi teaching us physics along with people like L.A.Udachan, B.S.Maakal, Ishwarappa and others. Maths was something I hated with the core of my heart and I refused to attend math classes, so I do not remember the manes of any lecturer now, though I remembered some till a few years back. Deshpande I think one was. Electronics was again taught (it was not actually taught, but minced up and offered) by again people like Narasappa, Maakal, Udachan etc. English was taught by one Divakaran, a Malayalee. All in all B.Sc was not at all a happy experience. The classmates were also varied. There was one Dhruve Kishorechandra Shah from Mumbai, the son of an LIC officer, who appeared very cute and fair and lovely, there was Ramarao of the Singamshetty fame, there were other people from all over the Hyderabad Karnatak area (Bidar, Bellary, Raichur and Gulbarga districts).

I mostly walked to the college from the hostel when I felt like going, which was very seldom, and the hostel was also not a happy place. There happened to be two lobbies, Kannadigas and Marathis. I developed an abiding friendship with some people like Pradeep Oak, Sanjay Biyani and others. I remember being offered sugar from a steel container by one Damodar Dattatreya Lele one day when Sheikh Abdullah died. There was also a nominal ragging when I was asked to sing etc. Everything was rather watered down, the hostel, the college etc. that there is very less that I remember of those days now.

I also did not perform very well in B.Sc and somehow emerged with a First Class though it was just 68% overall. 

Sunday, December 02, 2012

My stay in Gulbarga Part I

A week later, I was back in Gulbarga. The faithful Bargal which left Wadi Junction at 7:45 AM, chugged into Gulbarga an hour later and I walked down to Sharanabasaveshwara College of Science. It was - and I would like to believe it still is - one of the premier colleges in Gulbarga whose Principal at that time was a genial near bald gentleman S.M.Holi. Holi taught Chemistry. He was accessible and was very demonstrative in his devotion to Shree Sharanabasappa Appa - Appa in short, the spiritual leader of Lingayats in Gulbarga. Appa ran an educational empire in the northern part of Karnataka to which the HKE Society's PDA College of Engineering also belonged.
Having obtained an application form for admission to B.Sc, I filled it up and took up a B.Sc with Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics as subjects. The classes were to begin soon and though there were many who regularly travelled from Wadi to Gulbarga to attend college, I preferred to stay in a hostel. There were old friends from MCC like Ramarao, Ravi Rahalkar and others who also had obtained admission in the college So I was in good company.
Though SB College had a hostel, many from Wadi and Shahabad preferred a certain hostel called the Walchand Hirachand Lok Kalyan Trust Students'Hostel (WHLKTSHG), called Jain Hostel in short. It was administered by the management of the Company which manufactured the Premier Padmini Cars at Walchandnagar in Maharashtra and was locally run by one Mehta who was a an elderly Jain in Dhoti and white Gandhi cap. Jains were in abundance in northern Karnataka and southern Maharashtra and had names like Shah, Mehta etc. They as is known are strict vegetarians and Mehta was rather firm about discipline in the hostel. He held personal interviews of prospective students in the first room of the Hostel every six months to admit or reject them. The Hostel itself was located on the western side of the Railway line running from Madras to Bombay and was in the form of a square with a quadrangle in the centre. It had an excellent vegetarian mess run by a committee of students. The caretaker was one Lingappa and the cook was one Gowda who tuned up excellent north Karnataka fare. The food was excellent and wholesome to say the least and the ambience was serene. The lodgers were mostly rich Jains from Maharashtra and Karnataka, some Kannadigas who were students of the nearby PDA College and several students from Wadi and Gulbarga. I managed to secure an admission for six months at a fees of something like 300 Rupees for a six month period. The mess bill was expected to vary from 100 to 200 Rupees per month. It was thus that I settled down to a spell of 5 years of study at stay at SB College of Science and the Jain Hostel in the June of 1982. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The attempt to secure an Engineering seat

The June of 1982. Engineering and Medicine were the only two options boys and girls in Gulbarga district considered after their 12th(PUC, PDC whatever). No other career avenues occurred to them. Thinking back, very few students from Wadi or Shahabad even aspired to take up Medicine as a career. Securing a job in the ACC factory was the priority, and a simple ITI or a Diploma or, if you were extremely ambitious, an engineering degree in Mechanical Engineering was what one aspired for. Engineering colleges in those days were few and far between. The mushrooming of private engineering colleges was a nascent phenomenon which started in Karnataka and spread to Maharashtra. But in the early 80s Karnataka had something like five government engineering colleges and close to 20 private engineering colleges. Most of the private engineering colleges operated from sheds with asbestos roofs like the Raichur Engineering College. The HKE Society’s Engineering College in Gulbarga was fairly well off by private engineering college standards. HKES by the way stands for Hyderabad Karnatak Education Society. The four northern districts of Karnataka, Gulbarga, Raichur, Bidar and Bellary along with the northern districts of Andhra Pradesh like Medak, Rangareddy etc. were considered to be an integrated cultural unit with similar culinary, linguistic and sartorial traditions. The culinary traditions of Hyderabad Karnatak area is elaborated in the post

The HKE Society was run by the Lingayats who overtly conducted the affairs of Institutions like the Sharanabasaveshwara Group of Colleges and covertly ran the affairs of the HKE Society. More about the Lingayats and the Sharanabasaveshwara Institutions later. The HKES Engineering College is now called The Poojya Doddappa Appa (PDA) College of Engineering.

It was on a June morning that I and my father boarded the Bargal, with my PDC Certificates with the hope that I could secure a seat in engineering in the HKES Engineering College. I understand that it rains heavily ,and Gulbarga goes green and verdant these days during the mid summer months, but in those days the rains were far and few between and June was a hot and sunny month. The ticket from Wadi to Gulbarga, I remember was a paltry(by today’s standards) one rupee and fifty five paise. But then, my father drew a salary of Rs. 753 per month too. We therefore reached Gulbarga at a cost of three rupees and ten paise. Ten paise coins in those days were made of alnico and had a wavy border.

Surprisingly the Bargal was on time that day, and we reached Gulbarga station by 8.45 am. We had enough time to have a breakfast of huge bondas and idlis liberally covered with dilute coconut chutney at the newly opened Janata Café at the Aiwan-e-Shahi Road, followed by coffee. We had to reach the Engineering College only at 1030 am. My beard was just sprouting, and I had not yet thought of shaving. We reached the college gates and I had my first glimpse of a Fighter aircraft that was displayed prominently in the front of building. It was an unimpressive building built of grey limestone blocks and mortar. The Principal of the College that time was SV Mallapur, a dark balding gentleman. My father and I were led into the Principal’s chamber where sat the Principal, with the redoubtable Shankar Rao Chincholikar who was the Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. I learnt later that Chincholikar had a Java motorcycle, whose engine he had modified to run on kerosene oil. He rode this invention of his around the college, exhuming noxious fumes. The kerosene engine created deposits of carbon in its insides, which Chincholikar used the First Year BE (Mechanical Engineering) students to clean.
Be that as it may be, the interview with Mallpur, Chincholikar and the other professors present, did not go as well as presumed. After a cursory perusal of my certificates, the Principal demanded a 25000 rupees donation to the college, which on negotiations came down to Rs. 20000/-. Considering that my father was earning a mere Rs. 750 per month at that time, this was more than two times his annual salary. Neither he nor I took this seriously and having paid our respects to the HKE professors, left.

After dining at the Timapuri Circle Kamat, we took 9 Dn Bombay-Madras Mail to Wadi , during which journey my father told me that I had better take up a B. Sc. Degree course in the Sharanabasvehswara College of Science. I acquiesced. In fact I was so enamoured of the Organic Chemistry that Cyriac taught, that I was more inclined to do a Masters in Organic Chemistry rather than in manual pursuits like Engineering. That day the 9 Dn Mail reached Wadi on time at 11.50 AM and we were home for a lunch of keerai molagoottal, vendakka kichadi and rice.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Back in Wadi and face to face with a Telugu Proverb

This was narrated to me by my friend Nissankara Bhargava, presently Exhibition Officer at Visvesvaraya Industrial and technological Museum, Bengaluru. There appears to be a folk festival in some village in Andhra called Kanchukotsavam, the festival of blouses. On a particular day of the year, womenfolk of the village go to the river bank, take of their blouses and throw them into the river in spate. The menfolk, who used to wait downstream jumped into the river the moment they saw the blouses floating downstream and grabbed what came into their hands. One for each. They then went back to the women. The man with a blouse belonging to a particular woman got to spend the day (night rather) with her. Good fun and change of bed for all.

One such kanchukotsavam day, as the womenfolk were waiting with bated breaths and bared breasts, all women got their share of goodies while one particularly dumb husband – one like me- seemed to have grabbed his own spouse’s blouse. As she saw him coming towards her she gave vent to her frustration with a phrase which has since become a proverb in Telugu, meaning “Gosh! The same husband even on the festival day!” meaning nothing worth talking about even on a special occasion. “Panduga rojulo kooda paata magudena” May it be said that my homecoming to Wadi evoked similar frustration in the absence of familiar faces and circumstances. Everything had changed. Srinath now was the centre of attraction of the Family. I was a new entrant in the household I possessed and held on my palms. No old friends. Nothing. It was the first time that the truth of passing time changing the space time coordinates of a place was brought home to me so forcefully. I was a new man in Wadi. I had left a favourite child and had returned a new man. I was as much a stranger in Wadi as I was at Moovattupuzha. Happy homecoming, but same old circumstances.

And finally like the singer in TV programmes, I shout, to all of you who are reading this "come on come on comment, lets all comment together" Else gentle readers, I stop writing altogether. Or is that what you want?


Final Part of my life in Kerala - Cyriac and JP

What with my homesickness and culture change, as also with my preoccupations with other activities like music and things, my marks in the first PDC went spiraling down so much so that I just about passed the maths paper. It was not something I could take easily, nor was it something that I blamed myself for. I blamed everything other than myself – the system, homesickness, gods, ill health - for this debacle. There is a Ganapathy Kshetram (temple) and a Noottettupadi (108 stepped) Sivakshetram in kavumpady which were not as well known as the Puzhakkara kavu and the Ramangalam siva temple. I used to be a regular visitor to these temples and after my first PDC debacle cut down on my visits to just two of the famous shrines.

Tutions were something that were frowned upon in Wadi. They were for students whose IQs were in the dangerously low zone of 40-50 and not for geniuses like me. Like a gym going stud who effortlessly runs 100 meters in 12 seconds, just being diagnosed with diabetes, I learnt that IQ, like blood glucose levels tend to rise and fall. Thus having fallen to the level or a moron, I resorted to tuitions. Of course equally lion hearted geniuses like Pradeep and another friend Ajay, were already into tuitions. So I enrolled myself under the venerable JP (god knows what JP stood for) for Maths tuitions and with the lovable Cyriac for Chemistry. Physics I thought I could deal with, myself.

JP was a white bearded old man of indeterminable age with long white hair who taught maths effortlessly. He functioned from a first floor room in Thodupuzha road. He advertised his skills with the catchphrase “Phys an angel of JP an angel of Maths”. Though he taught effortlessly the learning was not as effortless. Sines and cosines danced like slim snakes slithering in and out of comprehension. And god alone (and perhaps JP) knew what surds were. But I plodded on. Enough to get a decent score in second PDC.

Cyriac was another thing of course. He was a fair chubby bachelor, struggling to find a job and we had fun learning chemistry from him and being young, he connected well with us. Pradeep attended the chemistry tuitions with me. He functioned from a rented house in Piravom Road. The way he taught organic chemistry, I fell in love with it. It costed me less that 100 rupees per month altogether. We spent hours with Cyriac synthesizing alcohols and aldehydes on paper. Eventually Cyriac married one of our Nirmala college lecturers Valsa. The joy of learning came back eventually but not to the extent one experienced at MCC. Suffice it to say that with all my handicaps I topped in chemistry in second PDC scoring 136/150. My total score was 78% rendering me ineligible for any decent engineering college.

By the time I ended second PDC it was fairly certain that I would leave Moovattupuzha forever and come back to the familiar climes of Gulbarga for further education. So two years after I left Wadi, I came back, bag and baggage, to Wadi, but totally changed. I left an innocent boy and came back as a worldly wise adolescent, with a moustache to boot. That ended my brief sojourn out of Wadi. But Wadi had changed too. None of my old friends were around. No JC, no Santhanam, and achingly no Janaki. All gone. Poof!

Note: There were hundreds of other characters in Moovattupuzha whose lives intertwined with me in one way or the other whom I have not mentioned here, but they deserve special mention for shaping my personality to a large extent. Ajay, Rajkumar Kunnel, Rajalakshmi the class beauty, Nawas PP. Radhakrishnan, a lot of relatives and scores more. Andariki na vandanaalu.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Part V of my life in Kerala

Rains in Kerala are a phenomenon. It is the gateway to the South west monsoons on which most of India depends for is its survival. It is more than just a climatic phenomenon, it has over the years acquired the status of a climactic phenomenon. The earth, parched during the torrid summer months, eagerly waits like a loving female for the climactic drenching to occur and like clockwork, precisely on the morning of the 28th of May every year, the people of Kerala wake up to dark brooding skies and the downpour starts soon thereafter. The green landscape of Kerala becomes further verdant during these four months till September and all sorts of vegetation sprout up. All the quaint little rivers of Kerala are in spate and considering their relatively short lengths and proximity to the sea as also to the tapering topography of the state, they are drained much faster unlike the long lasting floods of the monotonous and brutal plains of northern India.

Anchu Muri Madhom being on the banks of one of these rivers, also experiences these floods almost every year. They bring with them all kinds of washed in reptiles and arthropods like snakes and scorpions, which are left behind when the deluge recedes. When it rains it pours. Water falls down in sheets. People wore rubber hawai chappals and carried umbrellas everywhere. The ubiquitous red KSRTC buses, cramped with corrugated rubberized windows made the interiors into cauldrons. But when the rains ended by September the whole landscape was a silky green, freshly washed. The sun shone back and it was time for Onam, the festival celebrated to welcome back Maveli – the Malayalam version of Mahabali, the sixth dwarf incarnation of Lord Vishnu - Vamana, who ruled Kerala once. Maveli, though an arrogant demon was a benevolent monarch for his people and was cheated by Vamana into being buried under the earth, though not before the monarch extracted a promise from Vamana that he will visit his beloved kingdom on the anniversary of his death every year.

The people of Kerala eagerly await this day on the Tiruvonam star of the Malayalam month of Chingom (August September) every year for it also marks the end of the torrential south west monsoons. Onam vacations are long in Kerala and it was during these vacations in 1980, that I got a ticket to return back to Wadi for a brief sojourn. As the verdant greenery of Kerala gave way to the red hot earth of Tamil Nadu and the redder and hotter earth of Andhra Pradesh, the train entered the familiar black soil of northern Karnataka in Raichur. What a contrast! But what a relief!! I am back in familiar territory – one of dust and searing heat, one of love and brusque etiquette, one that evoked pleasant memories from childhood. Kerala these days is called the God’s own Country, but Wadi was not that. It was My own Country. And forever My own Country will be dearer to me than God’s. I can only marvel at Kerala but in my Wadi I had my rights. It was like going back to your hutment from a five star hotel. Home after all is home.