Monday, June 12, 2017

My friend Venkataramana

Early to mid seventies scenario, old locality of Chamarajapuram.   After school in the evening, all the children would be on the street, playing various games on or across it.   Opposite our house was Capt. Srikantaiah's.  With him was a teen aged boy who answered to the name of Venkatesh.  His actual name was Venkataramana.  He had been summoned from his town of Sringeri to help in various chores for the elderly Captain, his wife [with chronic back problem] and her old parents [who were 'founders' of what was the "Liver House"].  They also had engaged an elderly lady, Sarojamma to do the cooking.  Venkatesh was from a humble family, probably known to the Capt.  It is likely that his parents had removed him from school unable to meet expenses for his schooling.  Both Venkatesh and Sarojamma were 'part of that family' and both resided with them.

Wearing a white dhoti is typical for boys from Sringeri, a very orthodox temple town.  Venkatesh wore it too.  He would fold the dhoti at the knee and tuck it at the waist to facilitate running when a ball came towards him and sometimes when the ball came the dhoti would loosen at the waist and unfold at the wrong time.  It was a funny sight to see him attend to the priority of tying it up at the same time he had to run to the ball!  All other local boys wore knickers.  The boys teased him for it without hurting him.

The Captain was the son-in-law of one Dr. Rama Shastry who had his own formula to treat young children for 'liver issues' and hence "Liver House" was a landmark for the street for several years which even the tongawallas and autorickshaws knew.  They are our distant relatives too.  The doors were open in those days and we were free to enter other houses for any trivial thing almost at any time.  Very homely and social atmosphere prevailed in the neighbourhood, a typical Mysore thing of those days.

When I was free I went looking for Venkatesh asking him if he too was free for play.  If not, I would just be there watching him do his work or if there was nothing, we just chit-chatted.  He was also being helped by the Captain's family to study school books.  He later passed his 10th in private examinations.

There came a time that ended his stay, may be 2-3 years with the Captain. He was to go back to his parents.  By this time, our friendship had developed, as he was my age, or so I had believed.  Before he left, I had given my address so that we could exchange postcards.

A few years passed and one fine day, there came his postcard, from Bangalore, updating his progress.   About the same time, I had our club's league match there and I had written back about this.  The day after the match I went in search of his new place, which was close to the Race Course.

I reached the location, a big house, which was of a 'big lawyer'.  The Race Course area is considered a porsche locality.  Venkatesh had been allotted a small outhouse to live.  His expression of pure joy when he saw me stand in front of his door really defies words!  I still recall this vividly.  I was also very happy to know he was being helped by the kind lawyer to make a career.  He had been brought there for possible help from Venkatesh's family friend, one Iyer who visited Sringeri [also his parents].  He revealed this on my request recently.  He said he was also attending typing classes at that time.  Thereafter we kept exchanging letters once in a while.

His typewriting skills had found him a job in the state govt. and still continues to work there.  I had visited his rented house once from where he had also taken me to the small plot which he bought from his earnings.  When the invitation for his house warming ceremony came a couple of  years later, it was honoured.  He is an example of  how people can rise from humble beginnings to reach a stage where one can live life in a very contented manner, through simplicity, hard work and honesty. It heartens to note he is doing comfortably in life being able to give good education to his two children, now grown up and I learn that Venkatesh is one year older than me!  It is so heartening to see him live a contented, busy and good life.  His generous attitude, simplicity, honesty, hard working nature, sociability and friendliness would have helped in what he is today.

Last year Venkatesh visited Mysore for some wedding and called that he cannot come home for want of time. I went across to where he was to meet  him for two minutes.  Photo at the top taken during that little occasion.

From postcard to cell phone,
our contact
is in tact.

"A man's friendships are one of the best measures of his worth." ~ Charles Darwin

Friday, March 31, 2017

Family Priests through four generations

Most Hindu families, like ours, have grown through religious traditions and customs followed over generations.  Worship of the family deity etc. was part of the daily activities besides the festival days, which are also many in the calendar.  The specially allotted worship room is maintained with great sacredness.  It is a strong rule that if the family had a 'Saligrama stone' it had to be worshiped with a water ritual [ಅಭಿಷೇಕ] regularly.  If male members of the family, in spite of knowing the rituals cannot do it due to their study or work routines, a priest was employed to carry out these on behalf, for a monthly fee.

When I was young, it was priest Puttaramaiah who was coming on a regular basis.  A tall, lean man whose house was more than a mile away in Jayanagar from where he used to walk barefoot every morning, in clean loin cloth [a second one to cover his chest], holy ash on his forehead and usually white-hair stubs.  The first to wake up at home was my grandmother, at five a.m. She would quickly finish the ablutions and make ready the worship room and then prepare for cooking as my father used to have his first meal early at quarter to eight before he left for work. Puttaramaiah used to come around quarter past eight or half past. 

Puttaramaiah was not extraordinarily equipped with the knowledge of the Vedas.  But he could smoothly do simple ಶೋಡಷೋಪಚಾರ ಪೂಜೆ.   His mantra chantings, ringing the bell, the smell of camphor and incense burning were part of the morning air.  My mother or aunt would pluck flowers [Barleria - ಸ್ಪಟಿಕ, Jasmine - ಮಲ್ಲಿಗೆ, Night Jasmine - ಪಾರಿಜಾತ, Crape Jasmine - ನಂದಿ ಬಟ್ಟಲು, Hibiscus - ದಾಸವಾಳ] from the garden for worship.  A lady seller brought betel leaves, required for the rituals, from ಎಲೆ ತೋಟ.

Puttaramaiah would do the ಅಭಿಷೇಕ to the 'Saligrama stone' and this 'charged water' [ತೀರ್ಥ] would be served at the end of the ಪೂಜೆ [worship routine] along with camphor flame [ಮಂಗಳಾರತಿ] to the members available.  In between he would have extracted paste from sandal wood pieces, both yellow and black varieties. The male members were to apply the black paste on their forehead.  My grandfather would return from his morning office work and have his meal at quarter past ten before he went to the Court at eleven.  Before the meal, it was a must that he took ತೀರ್ಥ and apply that paste [see photo] as a dot on the forehead.  Every meal is viewed as God's gift [ಪ್ರಸಾದ] and that dot also indicated that he has had his meal. That is the custom. 

The 'worship room' we had in our house at Devaparthiva Road where Puttaramaiah used to come.  See the large piece of vintage sandalwood under the Mantapa. It serves decades!

The photo below is during the 60th birthday of my grandfather in 1956.  You can see him along with other 'lesser priests' assisting the main priest [seen extreme left] in the ritual of pouring water. To his left is the priest whom he had succeeded.

Closer view.

Puttaramaiah became old and could no longer continue his priesthood from late 70s.  He went to Bangalore to live under the care of his son till his end.  So someone had to do the rituals here.  At this time, another priest, Ramaswamy Shastri, who had also been coming for other special occasions even before Puttaramaiah's time had met with an accident.  He was well versed in the Vedas, so was too busy to come daily. He had nominated his young son who was still a novice to help us.  He came for some months managing his school time for a few days a week until he too felt difficult. Brother took this up for some time. 

Puttaramaiah's predecessor was Narayana Shastri [N].  He had been coming since my father's young days in the late 1920s. Photo below is of the same 1956 occasion as above.  See 'N' facing the camera.  Young Ramaswamy Shastri [R] is seated next to a renown Sanskrit and Veda Pundit Gundavadhani [G] whose house was a stone's throw away from ours. 

Narayana Shastri sported a thin tuft at the back of his head.  It was tied into a knot.  He must have been connected to one of the temples of Mysore Palace.  He lived in a very small humble house near the Palace, behind where the present JSS building is. He was a widower and lived with his daughter, separated by her husband.  Her brother was an electrician and lived on his own earnings.  It was not a secret that they fought on trivialities and lived separately.

His voice was not pleasing but distinct with a little crackle and a bit hoarse.  He was a short-tempered  and impatient character which might have had a negative impact on his humble profession.  Making ends meet was tough for him and that had probably made him a little greedy to expect more and he was not shy to ask straight.  He was employed for the post death ceremonies of my grandfather in 1976 and I remember the occasion when an umbrella was donated to him had passed a comment that it was not good, much to the displeasure of my grandmother!  Knowing him for decades it did not surprise her.

A couple of  years after my father died in 1981, Narayana Shastri was engaged to do the annual ceremonies which I did.  Age had been catching upon him.  Then Ramaswamy Shastri used to be engaged after he had recovered from that accident but he was not the same.  He was also getting weaker.  Gradually, he 'retired' from such work as his son had also grown up and his family was reasonably comfortable.

Narayana Shastri became old and frail.  But he managed to come as long as he could, occasionally, to our house asking for financial help as even a meal was difficult for him and his daughter.  Priesthood of those days were different and difficult, unless one was qualified in the Vedas.  One day we heard the bad news that he had died.  His daughter was alone and she continued to visit certain brahmin houses she knew and we would give her a small sum to keep her going.  She had managed a small room somewhere to live and slowly she too vanished. 

Ramaswamy Shastri used to come on his green Raleigh bicycle from his house near Anathalaya [Devamba Agrahara].  He was much above the level of ordinary priests in several aspects.  So he was called for special occasions.  He also had a busy schedule.  Any call from "Subba Rao family" [grandfather], he never hesitated to agree to come, unless he had very important engagements.  

Ramaswamy Shastri was another tall, bespectacled man possessing a personality one had to respect just by a look.  And his voice was a very special one, deep, loud and resonant, which surely must have been trained by his long experience in chanting the Vedas. His pronunciation of mantras was crystal clear, a true joy to listen.  It still reverberates in my mind. For the Sacred Thread Ceremony [ಉಪಾಕರ್ಮ] annually, he was the main priest who conducted this - it was a mass event as people from the street also came - fine days that people cherish even now!  He was also the one who conducted the 70th year birthday celebration of my grandfather in 1966.  Picture below. The rhythm in which he shook the bell was something wonderful. 

On that occasion, I find in this photo, all the 4 priests who succeeded one another are in this single frame!  N, P, R and S.

Shankaranarayana Bhat [S] was the son of the priest at Sri Prasanna Vishweshwara Temple at Gita Road since 1940s and lived in the out house provided behind the temple.  He had been coming for many of our family events from his younger age also and so had good acquaintance. I will shorten his name to 'Shankar', but we referred him as ಭಟ್ಟ್ರು.  He was another great priest of high repute, had attained fine knowledge of the Vedas and knew the traditions and customs very well.   

Shankar's forte was his knowledge of Sanskrit, the Vedas, the traditions.  He was also a Yoga exponent, sported a finely shaped body, large lungs and sinewy biceps.  As a young boy I used to see him in awe.  His conducting the activities was par excellence, despite his temper which people knew was due to workload stress in his later years. So he was never mistaken.  His voice again was special, pronunciation proper and clear to the sound the mantras meant. He got angry if someone mispronounced some word and corrected it then and there and warned that the meaning would change, with an explanation.

In the 1970s the onus of the temple rituals fell on Shankar after his father died of old age.
Shankar had yielded to our slight compulsion to do the daily ritual in our house despite his busy morning engagements at the temple.  But when managing time became too tricky he substituted his son Prasad.  He too felt tight on time as he was also working.   

In 1998 I had moved to our ancestral house in Lakshmipuram.  Shankar was the one who did the customary rituals before we moved in. 

Worship room at the Lakshmipuram house. This portion of the house is also history now. 

Shankar's 'enlarged heart condition' had become worse and felt too weak to honour all requests, but by then, he had his son Prasad trained, up to a level.  Shankar's end had created a big void esp. in the temple.  

He was my favourite after Ramaswamy Shastri and was the last one whom we engaged, also to do my father's death ceremonies annually until he was fit.

Gradually, situations changed in the family and observing father's death ceremony was also taking a different shape.  In the meantime, the Saligrama stones also could not be attended to by any.  It is believed that if it is kept at home, it has to be taken care of by rituals.  So it was given away to his temple in his lifetime itself. 

Priesthood demands honesty in their lives too.  They are supposed to and not to do certain things.  It is with great pleasure to have known that all the priests mentioned above were sincere and lived up to the expectations in that regard.

This post is a tribute to their honesty, wholehearted and invaluable service they have rendered to our family at various times honouring our requests during occasions both auspicious and otherwise. We were fortunate to have had such ones.

Recorded mantras started to become available in cassette tapes [now CDs] to assist.  "E-priest!"  But nothing can surpass the physical resonance of a priest's chants.  I silently miss these great humble men. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Audio Cassette tapes - now only memories!

In the 1980s and 90s when we so dearly recorded, collected, protected and stored cassette tapes, we did not imagine them being forced to extinction only 20-30 years later.  Millions have done that globally and built cassette libraries in their homes containing rare audios, music and whatnot. Computers are doing everything now.  So what did the geeks do to soothe the worries and save those audios trapped in cassettes for 'eternity'? They found out ways of converting those golden possessions into digital formats like MP3, etc. In other words, 'digitizing', using computers.

My music collection - mainly of old Hindi and Kannada movie songs.  All of them were selected and got recorded, paying a fee of Rupees twenty for each cassette, almost the same as the cost of the cassette.  

Music and song clips from movies are available on the Web but none can recreate the original golden memories of relatives and kids whose voices in speech or song were recorded on 'magnetic tapes' housed in cassettes. The main danger is of the record players going into oblivion faster than the tapes themselves. Manufacture of cassette players and spare parts have stopped already.

Now the only option left for those who want to preserve their beloved audios is to 'digitize', sooner than later.  If the cassette player/recorder stops working, it is the end of it due to danger of non-availability of spares.

Even a decade ago people had started to digitize tapes, but due to software cumbersomeness many could not do it easily.   Magnetic tapes have a life and if we keep them beyond their time, we may not be able to reproduce the sound at all.  Luckily, I have my dear cassette player whose 'playing head' is still in order. I replaced the rubber belt of the motor myself. It had gone brittle over time and being idled. I was able to digitize some of my rare tapes.  How did this start off? 

One day I was having an informal chat with my friend Krishna Rao who was heading the computer section [at the workplace].   A computer geek - because he was the first one in the early 80s to get trained in 'computers'.  Having known my interests he raised the subject of digitizing old audios.  He was in delight telling me how he had digitized his mother's songs in her own voice from two very rare and special wax-coated gramophone plates, which have been saved by him with great effort.  They were recorded in 1953.

Rao then introduced me to a user-friendly software called 'Audacity' [click], a downloadable freeware to digitize audio to MP3, etc.  On first look, it looks complicated, but with a bit of guidance which is also available on the web, one can do it quite easily.  For me, Krishna Rao provided that initially.  In fact, he digitized one cassette tape containing the only recording of my late aunt playing on the Veena [stringed musical instrument].  She was a good artiste.  Later, I was able to digitize using 'Audacity' a few rarest sounds of my tiny tots from cassette tapes. 

So let's get going!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Aahkshhooo! The Sneeze

My father was a rather loud sneezer.  And he has passed it on.  When he sneezed sometimes, my grandmother would get rattled and there was a comment from my mother or aunt. So he used to demonstrate [with an unreal sneeze] how his colleague Mr. Dastur's sneezed... just an almost unheard funny sound near his vocal chord!  That was another extreme.

In my workplace room we were three. My colleague Manju was my competitor which rattled the lady colleague who sometimes got angry but did not show it.  She would tell us "Why don't you tell me just before it was coming, cannot you control it?"  We always told her "I'd love to, but there was no time for that, Madam."  When my sneeze happened loudly most of the time, it would get the appreciation from Manju and when he performed better, I would praise him profusely and wait for the reaction of the lady.  At times she would not be there.  "She would have got really angry at that one!" we would look at each other and imagine. 

Yes, sometimes we know it is coming.  It develops slowly, but we are busy enjoying the beautiful work going inside the nostril - the moment cannot be missed.  Our eyes are half closed and the mouth half open - someone who is nearby can make out from the face that a sneeze is brewing up!  "A...aa.a.aaaa....."  But then, all of a sudden, it explodes ".... Kshooeee!  

I am on my scooter, when the 'Ahckshoo' happens.  People look in my direction with what-was-that-sound look.  There is that something that tickles that one tiny part in the nostrils.  There are mischievous youngsters who have troubled their room-mates in the hostel tickling with a piece of thinly rolled paper or thread in the nostrils while they are asleep! 

My other colleague Murthy used to present his sneeze whenever we wanted, free. We would ask for one esp. when we went out of the building into the sun on our way to the canteen, a furlong away.  Murthy used to say "Okay, wait, take this?" He would look towards the sun blinking in a funny way, his facial muscles contracting weirdly, then "Aksheeee", not loud, but a normal one.  Then a smile. He had this knack of getting the Sun to tickle that something in his nostril. I think we can do it too, it is somewhat psychosomatic! They say the sun can trigger a sneeze.  But nothing can beat Soapnut powder.  Just open a box of it and take the nose close!  

At home I also get comments on the loud sneeze. What to do, it is my nature, I argue!  "Can't you control yourself and let it out softly?"  There we go, same request!  I try to be musical dividing the sneeze into two sounds with different pitch and even end up with a long drag, but still they are not impressed!

The best and my most effective sneeze happened in 1995.  Our cricket team was traveling in a bus from Trichy to Kumbakonam. Most of us, including me were in the back seat where the door was.  All was well until there was a great explosion.  I still do not know myself from where it came and how it came, in such suddenness!  It was my sneeze!!  Our eyes always close the moment the sneeze happens and the moment my eyes opened, I saw people in front of me turning in the direction of explosion asking "Yenna, yenna adu?" in Tamil [What, what was that?]  My team mates who were near me were also aghast with a "What-happened-look."  The explosion had even shocked the driver who pushed the brake and almost stopped.  Everyone soon realized it was just a loud sneeze and not a bomb.  They told the driver "Vannu ille, vannu ille, po, po" [Nothing, nothing, go on, go on.].  My team mates started laughing but it was no laughing matter for me.  It was the first sneeze of tens that signaled the onset of a bad cold!!  Luckily, I played in all the matches [all six days of half day each] and even contributing well to the team's fine performance, despite the tiredness [being young] and the hot weather there. The cold ran its normal duration. My sneeze did not break the Guinness record for the loudest!  May be some other time!

At home when someone sneezed once, my grandmother immediately told "Shathayushi" [Live a hundred  years] and then waited for the second one to follow.  If it did, then she would tell "PoorNaayushi" [Full life].  Somewhat the equivalent of "Bless you."  One must bless the other with long life when the other sneezes!  `Dheergaayushmaan bhava' [Sanskrit].  The sneezer would say 'Excuse me.' as a show of 'good manners', a western tradition.  I do not know if the one who farts also asks for an excuse!

There are several superstitions the sneeze is tagged with.  One sneeze is 'bad omen', two is good and so on.  They say that a sneeze must not be prevented, but it can be controlled... if there is time! The funny feeling is when we know a sneeze is brewing slowly and is about to come but just wanes away! Then we give the nose a good rub! 

Wikipedia says: A sneeze, or sternutation, is a semi-autonomous, convulsive expulsion of air from the lungs through the nose and mouth, usually caused by foreign particles irritating the nasal mucosa. The function of sneezing is to expel mucus containing foreign particles or irritants and cleanse the nasal cavity.

The air from a human sneeze can travel at speeds of 100 miles per hour or more -- another good reason to cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze -- or duck when you hear one coming your way.  

  Cartoons show dentures flying away on the sneeze!  Seriously, those who wear should be careful.

Enjoy this short video clip of my favourite comedians: 

Bless you!

A tribute to Pillai, the Boss.

Hot-tempered, hard working, workaholic bosses are always a pain in the neck esp. for his subordinates in workplaces.  More so when the boss himself is a 'Yes Master' and a favourite to his superior!  One such, Pillai, headed our department for 15 years till he retired in 2001 much to the relief of many in our department.  But then the tiger in him had meowed, nay, mellowed a lot in his last three years in service, thanking and showing 'crocodile appreciation' even for simple tasks completed, gestures never seen from him before!  I was one of his targets to show off his official power, but this target was created by the cunning tale-carriers that lurked around!  We knew he was good at heart but was disliked for his 'tale-listening ears', tempers and showing 'seat powers'.   His ego was high that had prompted one colleague to nickname him as 'Stiffneck', which also went with his 'chin drawn back' postures. 

A pencil cartoon I had made of Pillai. My work is good if the 'stiffneck' is noticed!

"You take retirement and go." said Pillai to one senior colleague Srinivasa Rao during a tiff.   This aroused Rao who replied shouting "I will retire you from this world!"  This happened in front of the many of us.  Pillai then had 20 years of service, Rao had a few left and I was just a few years new.  Rao was very happy that he 'gave back' to him something, he being a 'blue eyed boy' in the dept.!  Many things like this used to go on.   In some years, he was to occupy the 'boss chair'.

But work went on as usual and these kind of incidents was fun gossip for coffee breaks.  He was a jovial person at times, when he was not at work.

There was a period of tense years where he had made me a target for trivial allegations - the background and something that followed when I felt being at a 'dead end' finds a separate story - in another post:  Click  here.  Freedom and some peace resulted, that changed my ways at the workplace.

Pillai settled in his Kerala home town immediately after he retired in 2001.

I had prepared a poem and had presented to him as a 'scroll' for that occasion.  The poem lists many of his qualities and was read out by my colleague.  Here it is:


Our Sri Pillai lays down office at the end of March,
To Sri Prabhu he will pass on the torch.

As spearhead of TT and B Development,
He brought laurels for the Institute's betterment.

His great virtue has been the art of conversation,
Which fully deserves our appreciation.

When there was no question of an agreement,
He outwitted the other in the argument.

His forte was his courage and wisdom in decision making,
The speed with which he did so was truly amazing.

Working with him had been mostly a pleasure,
The rest of the time it was pure pressure.

With the pen he was ever ready to sign,
Many a time, he had to 'draw a line'.

The bell switch will no longer feel his fretful finger,
But those typical "ting-ting ting-tings" will always linger.

The engaged telephone at the other end drew him nuts,
And his own, suffered from bruises and cuts.

When situations made us feel his presence,
We wished for his temporary absence.

Up until the time he crossed well over fifty,
He was the Chairman of Doorvas Committee.

Saviour faire had become one of his top attributes,
Also to all his other good ones, we pay tributes.

What we all usually saw was Pillai the taskmonger,
But the real Pillai happens to be a humdinger.

Le'im settle at Cochin, Calicut or wherever,
Let health and happiness be with him and family forever.

"Colleagues", 29th March, 2001
* * * * * * 

In May 2016 or dept. got the information that Pillai had passed away. He was 75.
May his soul rest in peace.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

N.S. Sitaram - tribute to a teacher

On Saturday 14th May, 2016, I passed very close to the house of my high school teacher NSS [N.S.Sitaram] on the way to the market.  There were thoughts of stopping by for a minute to say a respectful hello to him. But I did not. I had been longing to meet, pay respects and take his photo, but kept procrastinating.  Our houses are not very far apart, may be one kilometre.
The evening paper of 16th May had this to shock me:

It was terrible news considering what I failed to do just two days ago.  He had died on Sunday.

Sarada Vilas High School [for boys] is an old institution with a very fine reputation through its dedicated teachers who had moulded characters and imparted great knowledge and culture to its pupils, some of whom becoming famous nationally and internationally.  

2009 photo of our school. [Click to enlarge]

NSS was one among the great teachers who had served there for a long period of time and retired as Head Master.  My father and uncle were also students in that school around the mid 1940s, but it may be before the time NSS joined. When I joined in 1970, NSS was the Asst. Head Master. When I passed out from 10th, he had succeeded Sri M.N.Lakshminarasimhaiah as Head Master. His signatures are on my Admission Ticket as well as Marks Card. 

NSS came on his bicycle clad in a simple mull-cloth ಕಚ್ಚೆ ಪಂಚೆ [white dhoti], leather sandals, light gray 'close-collared' coat, old but neat, worn on a white, long tailed, full-sleeved shirt, the same length of the coat.  His headgear was a black ಟೋಪಿ [stiff cap] and he wore a wrist watch.  His fair-face had features one had to appreciate.  His eyes required a pair of spectacles for short-sight.  The costume was typical of the older generation Mysorean 'school masters'.  We were fortunate to have been students of this 'last batch' of them.  

I try to roughly show how NSS appeared.

[Or did he wear an open collared coat that exposed the two shirt buttons?]

The cardboard headgear used to be like this [without the dark band shown here]:
Click on the image for larger view.

It was a delight to see his writing on the blackboard, the letters forming neatly, equal in size and uniformly white.  He held his chalk softly and never seemed to apply any pressure as he wrote sum after sum.  It was also something as much appreciated as his teaching.

NSS' forte was Mathematics, but used to fill in with some English or Science subject occasionally when that teacher was on leave.  He used to take Algebra which most students remember for his fine method of making the difficult subject to be understood easily [I admit I was an exception!].

He was a very lovable and approachable teacher, mild mannered but strict.  When NSS walked in there would be silence.  He was never armed with a stick for lashing [like MRK], or needed to slap any boy [like KRK] if the homework was not completed or some sum was wrongly answered or someone was not attentive in the class.  He would correct it so that the pupil learnt.  NSS was never one to get teased or his dhoti pulled by mischievous boys, [we heard they did it to one VSS who also came in a dhoti] but was one who had commanded respect through his dignity and quality as a teacher.  Yet, on the lighter side, he had been nicknamed in Kannada for fun, like other teachers' initials also, as ನೊಣ ಸಾಯಿಸೊ ಶೂರ [Fly killing expert] to expand his initials of NSS.

The last I met NSS was about 5-6 years ago.  He had said "86" when I asked his age.  He had been on his walk on Krishnaraja Boulevard when I was on my bicycle on my way home.  I had the opportunity to walk with him pushing my bicycle along for a long way, while we talked on a few subjects, also of moral values, teaching standards and the teachers of my time.  I had told him I would take him on the scooter to his contemporary PV's house one day.  This never happened and PV also passed away last year.  He was our history teacher.

"Wow, our NSS", I used to mentally exclaim on seeing him walk leisurely in front of our house and along the calmer streets in the area, clad in his simple white dhoti and white shirt.   At times I went closer to be seen and bowed the head to greet.  He had mentioned why he had chosen the time for his walk which was an hour before noon - low density of traffic.  I remember him having mentioned of his normal health and kept himself active with a long walk daily.  He used to be in my thoughts often, because of some unexplainable, special admiration and impression.  He had known my grandfather also.  About 10 years ago we wanted to put our daughter for maths tution with him, but it did not work out.  I had gone to his house for this and had taken the opportunity to get his blessing by prostrating at his feet as an old student.
Another great old timer now joins light, aged 91.
May his soul rest in peace. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Doing a 'Krishna'

Brothers Krishna and Venkatesh lived [until recently] in their old house that faced the lovely Manuvana Park in Chamarajapuram.  It was across the road a hundred feet from 'Chandra Cafe', a popular landmark hotel which served tasty Masala Dosa and flavourful coffee.  Our connection since the early 70s was Tennis ball cricket.  We played for the same team later.  Our house was a hundred yards away, in the parallel road.  All of us are around the same age and so we had a good rapport that made us meet often.  

Venky is more fun loving than his elder brother.  The short temper of Krishna was well known. He has stopped tennis-ball-cricket matches a few times when he used to get angry in the midst of a game due to disagreement with the umpire's decisions and would walk out frowning, sometimes kicking the stumps in disgust and spoiling the spirit of others that led to abandoning games!  Hot blood days!

In our college days there was lot of time outside of 'study time'.  In fact, I cannot say if we had allotted a set hour for 'studies'.  In daylight it was some play or other and when it was dark, it was time for chatting, with friends.  This has given many enjoyable moments and memories.  It used to be in their house premises or ours.

Venky is in the forefront in 'bell bottom pants', a fad in that era.  Photo taken by me during our bicycle trip to Sommathpur in 1981. Krishna had not come.

Facebook grab of Krishna, a smiling one at that - after all, we mellow down with years!  I must never forget to mention that he was with me when the first scooter came home.  Two decades later he drove our first car home from the showroom, not to mention he was our wedding photographer as well.   
He used to meddle things, break, repair and learn.  I was fascinated by this because I am of this type!  He used to tear apart his bicycle to overhaul it.  When he had his scooter, he did the same and later his car.  So much was his interest in mechanics that he had a job related to it and continues to be in the same line, with distinction, in a reputed car showroom.  
So do not judge him just because he kicked the stumps and ran home! 

It was an evening, post dusk, in the early 80s.  Myself and Venky were sitting on the compound wall by the gate of his house, for a chatting session, which was very common in those days.  Inside, we had seen Krishna doing some work involving the strongest adhesive known to us, "Araldite".

After a long time, Krishna was done with his project.  It also meant we had spent that long there!  The gate and their main door were separated by a 30-feet walkway.  Krishna walks along here, holding a sheet of paper that was used for mixing the adhesive.  He was in a bid to dispose it off outside the gate.  He approached the left side of the gate to the low compound wall. We were sitting on the other side.  Krishna stretches out his hand well away from the compound, flicks his hand to get rid of the thing.  Since his fingers were also a little sticky, the paper did not properly detach instantly at the force of the flick.  It stuck that little bit longer, wobbled back and fell inside the compound, near his own feet!

Venky and I were watching this.  It was one absolutely funny scene, more because it was involving a character like Krishna.  The scene of him feeling annoyed and him having to re-do the act was a very hilarious sight to me and Venky!   Krishna achieved his goal, in slow motion as we started to laugh loudly almost instantly! This caused even more irritation to him. Krishna turned towards us and sprayed a few angry words and went back in to wash his hands!

We laughed and laughed so long that our sides cramped out and we gasped for breath!

Even now, after about 35 years, myself and Venky recall this scene and still laugh. I have to check with Krishna if he remembers it.
"Doing a Krishna": You throw away an object but it boomerangs only to fall back in, all in one action!

It has happened to me also many times esp. in my garden and I laugh at myself telling "I did a Krishna".  It is something like 'Doing a Mankad' [wiki link] in cricket.  It has become a mode of dismissing a batsman!

The Krishna scene is so strongly impressed that it seems impossible for it to fade from my memory!