Saturday, March 24, 2007

Who's responsible?

Cricket, yesterday, became literally a poorer game with India's quick exit from the world cup. A nation that is quite literally running the game world over with its amazing revenue generation abilities, is rendered helpless by two nations whose combined contribution to the 'growth' of the game is not even a fraction of India's. And ICC looks on helplessly. Such overwhelming irresponsibility!

And as always, the blame has fallen on the wrong people. What can the poor Indian team do? Why should some of them resign? They should not. Instead, a committee should be formed to probe why Jayawardene went on to win the match despite knowing the grave fiscal consequences such an action would have on the "gentleman's" game.

And, even more arrogant was the behavior of the Bangladesh team. How can they be allowed to beat a nation that is cricket's lifeline? What will Bangladesh gain by going to next round or even further? On the contrary, India's exit will cause huge losses to the Indian corporate sector. With rising inflation and with fears of an economic slowdown, this is the least India would have wanted. For their reckless attitude, Bangladesh team should be severely punished.

And finally, ICC should take more responsibility and make all teams sign an agreement that will ensure no more early exits for team India. If these precautions are not taken soon, unprecedented disaster is in store for the 'growth' of the game.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Nanna Kathe - VI

Writing a historical narrative is a difficult task. While writing about the past, sometimes, certain characters, the events that they shaped and the parts of history that those events defined, happen to be left out unintentionally. But such omissions, be they unintentional or otherwise, do not do justice to the past that has brought us to the present. That being the case with this narrative, I decide now to go back in this story to the PTA school days to tell you about those, as yet untold, stories and the people around whom it revolved.

In PTA school, we had a prayer assembly everyday before the school-day started. But what made this prayer assembly stand out from the ones the not so privileged non-PTA kids attended was that it was anchored by our music teacher Radhakrishna. Acting as an accompaniment to the singing was the harmonium of Radhakrishna. Instead of a soothing sound that a harmonium generally produces, Radhakrishna’s harmonium sounded more like a broken drum. For these reasons, he was called by us, the students of PTA, as MJ – Michael Jackson. And alongwith MJ we sang songs from the school songs-book that had everything from Cardinal Newman’s Lead Kindly Light to songs like,
“Namma mane idu namma mne
Ee Hindu Desha Namma Mane”,
(This is is our home; This Hindu nation is our home) which many from the secular establishment now believe was the prime reason for this school producing so many people who in their time of exercising franchise voted decisively for the lunatic, communal right. Well this is just hypothesis; more research needs to be done in this regard to be more cautious in the future about selection of songs to be sung in schools.

Coming back to MJ, he had this habit of calling people by names to which those people generally did not answer to. So, for MJ, Kartik became Bappi, Pradeep turned Latin. And another non-Narasimha Raju became Narasimha Raju. Since he used to do this in the school prayer assembly, these names of Bappi, Latin (these two were in our class itself) became popular across the length and breadth of our school.

And Latin - a reticent, bespectacled young Pradeep - became the character of a hugely popular story, albeit an imaginary one and a product of the imaginative minds of seventh standard C section having story-tellers of the likes of Arjun. Latin, according to that story, would go daily in the evenings to a bar; sit there with his hands holding an alcohol bottle and his legs resting on a table. And there, inebriated, he would, according to the story, sing songs about life, lost-love and many more.

Another person who became famous among students with a name that was not his name was CountryFace. Who was he? Was he the face of the nation? Was he the arbiter of national destinies? Or did he have a face that mirrored the geographical silhouette of the nation? Far from being a man connected with national destinies and geographical boundaries, he was a man who kept vigil at a small library that housed, mainly, loads of kids’ magazine called Misha(This was the only relevant result I got when I googled Misha.).Yes, he was the PTA school librarian. But why such a name? As I told you, this was a name that was not his name. It was the result of translation of his actual name – Deshmukh - to English by Ramakanth(of 20 questions fame).And despite being given such a powerful sounding name, he was dejected(as his face suggested), helpless, incapable librarian who could not even properly manage a library that housed such books as Misha (He would give us Misha for reading even in seventh standard. Probably, in doing so, he said to us symbolically, “Nimma mental level-a ishtu”. And we had no choice except for accepting what he gave because there was nothing else in the library that he could issue). This was amply demonstrated by the fact that Arjun and Sai-Sharan – a man with a great sense of humor – getting a few Misha books in their bags without ever being noticed. These books have not been returned as of this day. But why did they have to steal Misha, of all the books? “Just to test how efficient the system is”, one of them told me. Why didn’t they return? “It was not worth returning”, is what another of them said(I shall not take names here.). Despite his incapabilities and inherent inabilities, Deshmukh - The CountryFace - provided great entertainment as did so many others in this school.

In retrospect, its these characters like Meshwar, Deshmukh, Latin, MJ who made our childhood not just strikingly different from that of kids in other schools, but they also made it profoundly memorable.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Nanna Kathe - V

Ninth standard. That year, I can never forget, for many reasons. One of them being our Kannada teacher H S Sriramakrishna. With excellent teaching and speaking skills, he taught us more than Kannada. He amazed us by showing us how each and every alphabet in Kannada can be written by having a circle as the base. He mesmerized us with stories of his idyllic childhood in his native village. His class would never bore us as his lectures were always filled with rip-roaring humour. And it was humour at it’s best.(Incidentally it was he who told us for the first time, about BeeChi-a master of satire that Karnataka produced.). We could never stop laughing in his class. And when it came to laughing, no one could match Swaroop as he could not stop laughing even a few minutes after the class had become silent.

Silence was infact the one of that many facets of my reaction when I was hit by a cricket ball on that part of the body where being hit hurts men most. And it was during a cricket match that we were playing. Behind the wickets to collect the cricket ball thrown from a distance by Arvind, I was hit by the ball when it avoided my hands and hit straight at the centre. Notwithstanding my pain, inhumane people of our class on that field laughed. I suffered in pain, blamed Arvind solely for what happened, wondered what will happen (though I am perfectly alright to this day) to me and also made an impromptu announcement that I was retiring from this cruel game. This was a retirement that did not make headlines outside that cricket field solely because of the inefficacy of our media to have their ears to the ground. A school-cricketer with nearly double-digit batting average was left high and dry on the battlefield. Let alone the media, not even my classmates took my retirement news seriously. Such things happen only to courageous and determined souls was amply demonstrated by me coming out of retirement a few months later and scoring runs as prolifically as ever.

One more unforgettable funny incident in ninth standard was when I took the Vedic Maths exam. It was for hundred marks. It was so easy that almost all those who took the exam scored 99 or 100. I scored 99 because I did not answer the question which asked us to name the organization conducting the exam. Later I came to know that it was there on the question paper itself. How much more an idiot can one be!

Perhaps that was the reason why we played ‘games’ like pen-fight wherein you had to strike out of the table the opponent’s pen using your pen. Pen, as they say, is mightier than the sword. Probably this was the reason why two girls – Chandana G and Chandana P – were apparently irritated (though it was a kind of fear they did not admit) by pens, which were jolted out of the playing arena (table), and falling near them or their bench. But we did not care for such weak-hearted souls. And the game, as they say, went on.

Life too moved on. To where? Only time would tell. But in our journey through ninth standard such mathematical discoveries with world-changing potential like ‘x = half infinity’ were made; This particular discovery by me and Arjun. Being a few centuries ahead of our time, ironically, turned against us. Incomprehension on their part led and is leading ordinary mortals to believe that this discovery was flawed. As I say often, value of great souls is not realized by their contemporaries. But that doesn’t diminish their greatness. Does it?

Then one day, we started our final year in this school. It was a year we took many tests, because our school thought them to be important for us to do well in that year’s SSLC exam. And such was the single minded determination of some students to score marks in all these trivial tests that they begged, pleaded, argued, shed tears and did what all that their cause(of getting marks and more marks) didn’t deserve. To add to that, all test-papers, except exam-papers, were evaluated by students themselves, though not their own paper but of their friends’. And unimaginable and abnormal was the interest, in each of these tests, of many in my class. This single minded focus on tests and exams forgetting that there was a world outside was a kind of disease that afflicted many in our school. Ironically it also affected a boy bearing the same name as the Lord who gave us the Bhagavad Gita. Although this boy did not show symptoms of that disease then, he too was a victim of that then itself was proved by him falling in love with SI units a few years later. What romantic tragedy!

Then came the “Harish became Guru” moment. I stood on one leg on top of a tank and did tapas in a way that would have put Ravana(who also did a similar tapas, although not on a tank) to shame. Did I ? Absolutely not. This was just a story concocted by . . . ., you know whom, and popularized by two equally insane individuals. I, although, have to admit that this made me popular, for good or bad. “At a time when ‘communalism’ had reared its ugly head in the nation, ’Guru’ has arrived”, thought the ‘secularists’. How much more wrong could they have been! God save ‘secularists’.

Well, I am making this story too long. Probably such irrelevant things like secularism and all are making their appearance. I need to end it here. Otherwise God knows what will I start writing. And what a way to end, other than telling you that we all passed out of this school. And everyone lived happily ever after…., until the college began.

Nanna Kathe - IV

"Where do you find knowledge?", asked the English teacher rhetorically.
"In the dictionary", I answered, not knowing the nuances of a rhetorical question.
The teacher, R C Usha, gave out a stare at me. The stare suggested that there was something fundamentally wrong with this boy. Maybe, it was this realisation that didn't invite her wrath on me that day. That, this incident happened on the second or third hour of the first day in Vijaya High School(VHS), pretty much explains why I open this part with it.
On that first day itself we were introduced to our class teacher, B K Nirmala. "I will be your class teacher for the 3 years you will be in this school", she declared. (In hindsight, this appears to be a warning. You will know why, shortly).

To the hallowed portals of Vijaya High School, only those who secured absurdly high percentages in a seventh standard examination would get admission. (If you can't stop laughing at this admission process, I won't mind. Even I can't, as I write about it.) Atleast, those who managed this feat of getting the required percentage were put into one section, like how they put all lunatics together, in prisons. Probably this explains the fact why this school produced people like me, people who fell in love with SI units, self-proclaimed men who use words like "gala" and "nay" even in this age and time, girls afraid of pen-fights and many more.

And, in that lunatic section, there were four boys-Adnan, Arjun, Harish(yes, that is, I am) and Khalid Fiyaz-who had come from a lesser known school called PTA about which you already know. Shrewd observers of social contours would note how we four represented the spirit of secularism - a spirit which would shortly come under the grave threat of communal forces in this country. Maybe irrelevant here, maybe not.

Before going further, let me introduce to you an important character of this part of the story. This person would eventually be responsible for many events, which includes the author becoming popular as Guru, those times in the class when I got into trouble, me going into semi-retirement from class-cricket and many others. This person, as fate would have it, was sitting beside me on that first day of VHS, with the other 3 PTA whiz-kids to my right.
Somehow I assumed that this person doesn’t know Kannada and in funnily accented English, “Excuse me time”, I inquired him.
“11:30”, came the reply.
Nothing further was communicated between us until I asked the same question after some time.
This time though, all five of us laughed. Apart from getting to know that this person answered to the name of Arvind, it was in a way surprising for me to learn that he too was a Kannadiga who knew Kannada. But when you listen to his Kannada or Hindi, sometimes you will feel as if you are listening to an English accentuated Kannada or Hindi. To that extent, I was right.

Similarly I was right on many other occasions. Apart from that I was also loquacious. This got me into troubles with my class-teacher on a few occasions. This impacted my reputation, vis-à-vis the class-teacher to such an extent that I was denied a half-day leave, one day in eighth standard. Never, until then, had I written a half-day or full day leave letter in my life. Never did I write after that in my academic life. For a person brought up in bunk-class-play-cricket-go-home school like PTA, the concept of leave letters and their subsequent approval/rejection was unthinkable, unheard of. Naturally, this shocked me to such an extent that I quietly went home, had lunch (since in anticipation of half-day leave, I had not carried lunch that day) and came back. Such a dejected soul was in for even more shock when I came back to school. A profound moron by the name of Adarsh, had told B K Nirmala(BKN)-our class teacher- that I had gone home despite not being permitted to do so. As a result, I had to the necessary clarification to Smt. B K Nirmala. What tragedy my life has become in this school, I wondered. Is the school system paying me back for all the not so right things I did in PTA, pondered the philosophical mind in me.

In sharp and telling contrast to BKN, was another teacher called Shri Karunakara V Bhat(KVB) who taught Samskrita and many things that were not Samskrita. He used to tell that we should bunk classes then, otherwise there would be no fun. How many will be like this, tell me? It’s another matter that he also impressed us then, with such rubbish as a logic-chain which would prove, apparently, that “We all come to school to die one day”. Do not worry; I am not going to explain this.

What I would rather tell is about another jejune activity we indulged ourselves in, in eighth standard. It’s this game called ‘book-cricket’. If cricket is considered by some as a lazy game, then probably this game would be a dead-man’s game to them. It involved opening a page in a book (any book) randomly; whatever is the page number of the right-side page, the unit-digit of that number would be the runs scored. If that unit-digit happens to be zero, you are out. (Eight was not considered.) Me and Arjun played against Vadiraj(about him later, hopefully) and Suhas(another proficient hand at this game) one day. In what could be considered as out of the box thinking, we decided to bat second (batting is the above described process of opening pages; there was no such thing as bowling). The opposition piled page numbers upon page numbers (rather runs). Under the pressure of chasing a huge total, the book succumbed. It showed us only those pages whose page numbers were a multiple of ten. We lost.

Nanna Kathe - III

As I told you earlier, we used to get out of the classrooms and head straight to the field to play cricket whenever a teacher was absent. This we were not supposed to do according to school rules. But then rules are to be broken. So we didn’t care on most occasions. But after we were caught a couple of times by our PT master, we tried to get the permission from him and then go. Even if he didn’t we would go without being observed by him. It was just a formality. But to succeed even in this formality, MEshwars head, was believed to be a lucky omen. Before that let me tell something more about MEshwar and his head.

MEshwar, joined PTA in fifth standard. (He almost instantly became famous amongst the whole of fifth standard (which consisted of 100 people spread across 3 sections) for his, “We have a ball factory” statement.) In the same year, he offered the hair that adorned his head, to Lord Venkateshwara of Tirupati, probably as a mark of gratitude for helping him to choose such a wonderful school. Consequently, his head, instead of being hirsute, was more like a thin layer of carpet rolled out on his head. From the last bench, “MEshwar tale nodu,olle MG Road tara ide”, came out the side-talk as the teacher was explaining the intricacies of Biology. The resultant laughter, made the teacher to know about what happened. It was more fun when the teacher was told what happened, loudly and clearly, by the person who said it. Such a head, which shared its appearance with MG road, was considered lucky as far as getting permission for games was considered. So, before going to ask permission, it was customary to touch his head in order to bestow upon ourselves whatever fortune his carpet like head was able to bless us with.

Well cricket and our passion for it, created more comedy. One day, thinking that Mrs Jayashree Kadambi, the English teacher, was absent, the boys of seventh standard C section, headed straight to the field in the first hour of a Saturday morning. Jayashree, apparently not absent, came to the class to find only the girls there. The boys, sincerely playing cricket, were summoned back to class. Jayashree was furious at them. “Do you think I am mad”, she thundered? “Yes”, came the reply from the erring boys. But, fortunately for them, it was not well audible for the teacher. Such audacity, you might think. But that was the stuff PTA’s precocious kids were made of.

Well, they were not just precocious, but perverted too. How else can you explain the fact that in seventh standard, a few students used the dictionary daily to search for profane words? And we had also strengthened the existing vocabulary by adding more meanings to every word. “Ball”, “mender”, “gap” and many such seemingly innocuous words, had other meanings, most of which had sexual connotations.

To such perverted kids that we were, Radhakrishna, the music teacher, would ask us to “Close your eyes and pray the almighty” in the weekly music classes we had. What an irony!

As I write this, more and more little stories come to my mind. I fear writing them all would be at the cost of the already plummeting interest level of the reader in this narrative. So, I decide here, to conclude this part of this continuing story (hopefully). Before that, as always, there is the eternal one final word. That year, we took public examinations for the first time, a first for both the examiner and the student at seventh standard level. Through such meticulous guidance from our teachers and parents like having the hall ticket pasted on our writing pads, we managed to overcome in this exam, as they say, in flying colours. What a happy way, for some of us who joined a different high school, to end our stay in PTA school. Goodbye PTA. Welcome Vijaya High School.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Nanna Kathe - II

[NOTE: I am splitting what I had written in three parts to five parts to make each post look normal in length. ]

The political drama that was being played out at our school, reached its climax at the beginning of our middle-school. In the first week of June that year, Lakshminarasimhaiah was, apparently (I say apparently because we did not and do not know what exactly happened that day) arrested one afternoon, and the Principal’s room seized. Stanley became the de-facto Principal.

With a stick in his hand and a face that resembled a military commander, Stanley was quite a nightmare for the students. He was quite the opposite of what the school stood for. The fear, brought in the students, a sort of silence in his presence, be it in the morning assembly or inside the classroom. The happy going students that we were till then, were not at all amused by this development. Even the teachers, who backed the thrown out Principal showed, in their faces, a deep disappointment. Stanley was too commanding for everyone’s comfort. But then our disappointments were not to last long. Within a week, Lakshminarasimhiah was back. Stanley disappeared. To this day, I do not know how it happened. With this, the political theatre that the school had become witnessed the final act of this drama (at least until we left the school). And the rejuvenated Principal now started reading to us, newspaper clips about Guru Nanak and other holy saints during the morning assembly. Probably this proves that, you need God, not just during crisis, but also after that.

This school continued in its uncharacteristic and unique ways. But this time it had got more to do with students and teachers rather than Principal and politics. And when I say teachers, the first name that comes to my mind is that of Shanta Ramakrishna.

Shanta Ramkrishna was a teacher who was in her retirement year when she took Kannada and Hindi classes for us in seventh standard. By her seniority and her ability to talk out anyone, she was the head among the teachers, though unofficially. She is one of those teachers you never forget, not because of her teaching, but because of the innumerable hilarious moments she provided during the period of one year she taught us.

Although she officially taught Kannada and Hindi, she would ‘switch over’ to gives us some gyaan about History, Physics, Chemistry, Maths or any subject you wanted. That what she spoke, was most of the times rubbish, is not important here. It provided us entertainment.

“Prithviraj Chouhan. He had blue eyes. Six footer” she would say, in a tone of admiration, in one of the famed “switches” she made to history. Her lectures were filled with many such irrelevant anecdotes and it included Shivaji, Sambaji, Aurangzeb and many more.

Bragging, was an art she had perfected. “I conducted a workshop. Twenty thousand teachers attended”, she would say with an air of accomplishment. This information about workshops was only to make us more eager to buy the “Model Question Paper” book she had authored to help us in taking the seventh standard public examination. What concern! Unsuspecting kids like us fell into that trap and bought whatever she wrote. A wise one among us, Adnan, refused to buy this book. This angered her so much that she dedicated one session to unequivocally condemn this action of Adnan that, according to her, had smugness, arrogance, sheer disrespect to the teacher and many such qualities written all over it.

While we were sort of deceived by Shantaji, we were clever in many unneeded things. “One day I was in Delhi with Mr. Ramakrishna”, started Shanta Ramakrishna, to narrate one of her life’s stories. A witty student Singam Mayur, stood up to ask, “Was it the PT sir, Ma’am”?(The PT master also had the same name as the husband of our Shantaji). Such a loaded question from a 13 year old was too much to handle for Shantaji. “Bevakoof. My husband, I say. Nimma mental level-a ishtu”, she retorted in retribution. Needless to say, the whole class had a hearty laugh that they sort of suppressed in the fear of being punished.

Shantaji, enroute to her retirement, went on a 47 day leave. Probably she chose 47 because it was 50 years after India became independent in 1947. Needless to say that we utilized this free time efficiently to complete the cricket matches we played over days and weeks.

Well, talking about cricket, how can I forget our classmate M Eshwar(also called MEshwar because he wrote his name in that fashion without leaving a space after the initial) whom we considered as the backbone of cricket in our class. One day, in a science class, the teacher asked, “What you would get when you, mix acid and base”. “Copper”, pat came the reply from MEshwar. Laughter followed. Despite his bad knowledge of Science and many other subjects, he was an important person for us as far as cricket was concerned. He used to bring a cricket bat and ball everyday without fail.

And we played cricket. Played it in forms that were both known and unknown until then. Regular limited overs cricket, slower and more testing unlimited overs cricket (this was truly unlimited because we played it over days and weeks, in the free time, till it completed), French cricket and the boundary cricket – the home grown and most interesting form of cricket. In boundary cricket, coconut trees that lined the school compound in back-field (as the name suggests this was a playing field in the backyard of the school) were the wickets. Adjacent compound was something to which if you hit you would get out. Similar, but imaginary, boundary lay on the other side. The length of the pitch was the distance between two coconut trees there, about ten feet.

O how crazy we were about this particular form of the game that we played before the school-day started! How passionate we were about it! The issue of who would bat first or bowl first would have been settled through consent or quarrel the previous day itself. Almost every run and every wicket and every ball generated passionate appeals and arguments. Passersby would have definitely seen, not just budding cricketers, but also children who had a promising future in the courts of the land. Those were beautiful days. Those days, we were not burdened by projects, deadlines and appraisals.

Nanna Kathe - I

[For the benefit of those readers, whose reading of this blog I am not aware of (there might even be no such readers), I am posting the chronicles of my school and college life that I had written and mailed to most visible readers of this blog a few days ago. ]

When the mind becomes encumbered by the mundane office-life, the memories of a much pleasurable school and college life gives you a lot of joy. And when you have studied in schools like Parents Teachers Association(PTA), Vijaya High School and colleges like NCJ(die, if you don't know the expansion of NCJ) and BIT, those memories can also be very very funny.

Majority of my schooling happened at this school abbreviated as PTA. It started along with my schooling career. This school, almost reflecting the fractious nature of politics that was starting to become evident in the country at that time, was formed in 1988 by a breakaway group of another school called East-West School. For the first few years, it was like any other school. When I came to third standard, it started exhibiting its uniqueness.

That this school was, and still is, housed in a nondescript building rented out by the Karnataka Hindi Prachara Samithi (which carries out the altruistic task of spreading Hindi in Kannada land), is one of the many things that were(and still are) not normal in this school. And one of the limitations of this building was(and still is), it cannot accommodate too many students at a time. So in a move that had innovation written all over it, the school started working in two shifts, with the primary school working for four hours from eight in the morning followed by the rest of the school from twelve to five. That year, 1992-93, when the then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao started facing the troubles of a coalition government that he led and barely managed to survive a confidence vote, our Principal Lakshminarasimhiah too started feeling the heat of a rebel group within the breakaway group that managed the school. The motive of both groups, as was in the case of Narasimha Rao saga, was to retain or capture power. There started murmurs of the Principal being sacked or the school being closed. 'O what will happen to our kid's education' wondered many parents. My parents too started thinking of changing the school although I resisted it, but they were not succesful. I completed yet another year of Primary education, third standard, successfully.

Fourth Standard. The kind of political intrigue that shrouded the school atmosphere, probably, aroused in a few of us, the interest for political news. This impacted, mainly, the game of 'Twenty Questions' that we played in the van on our way back home. Me and one other politically inclined kid called Praveen in one team, pitted against Arjun and one guy called Ramakanth, both of whom knew about everything except politics and Ranji cricket players. So when they were asked to guess the name of a local MLA or a Ranji player with weirdest possible name, we would always emerge the unstoppable winners. That, they then would retort with a literary person of a bygone era or a medieval scientist to defeat us, is an altogether different matter. Sad way for kids to grow up, is what you might think. But, it was surely fun, atleast at that time.

Narasimha Rao, after having survived the confidence vote, now was the target of bribery allegations. He was alleged to have given bribes to win over MPs. As ever, our school was a mirror to such developments on the national scene. Stories of embezzlement of school funds by the Principal came to be heard more often than ever. One Mr. Stanley, who was considered as the Vice-Principal (some even said he was the Principal-in-waiting) was more wily than his bald head would suggest. He was behind these stories, argued the Principal loyalists. The turf-war between Stanley and Lakshminarasimhiah was getting intense every moment.

In the midst of such supremely unacademic events, we the children of PTA, completed our primary education in a way very different from kids in other schools did. We spent more time on the field playing cricket than inside classrooms. We knew nothing about homework and such other schoolish stuff. We had mastered the art of bunking classes at such an young age. One day, it was a drawing class, we headed straight to the field to play cricket. We met the teacher on the way and told that we would not be attending the class. It hardly surprised us when she obliged. And I skipped a few monthly tests too since I could not be in station during that time because of family trips.

[What will happen to the Principal? Will Stanley succeed? What will happen to students? All that and more in the next part.]