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.


Arjun Sharma said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Arjun Sharma said...

Stanley's coup was a bloodless coup-d'etat. Despite this, the week of terror during which he reigned was like to that of the Jacobins in post-Revolution France. Things like discipline, strictness, punishment reared their ugly heads. Verily, it was as though to purge the school of this scourge that LakshmiNarasimhaiah returned to power after dethroning Stanley. And all the school cheered. Despite having to listen to stories of Guru Nanak and 'ilivin.'(11)

There is one gross factual error in your otherwise wonderful story. SRK(not to be confused with the popular, curiously, Bollywood star) did not conducted a workshop for twenty thousand teachers; she conducted a workshop for two thousand teachers. That you would make this mistake shows you did not respect her as much as we did. Why, Harish, why? Did you not like her switch-overs from Kannada to physics?

He he, Adnan was telling us about the model question paper incident sometime in PUC. Very hilarious!

Apropos the issue of boundary cricket, might I mention you and I were the leading wicket-takers in the entire class?

Arjun Sharma said...

Even if we did have deadlines(for homework and suchlike), we didn't really care about them. Maybe that wrecked any belief anyone might have had in us.

Harish said...

LakshmiNarasimhaih was like Krishna Paramatma to us.
"Yada yada hi dharmasya glaanirbhavati Bharata|
Abhyuthaanam adharmasya tadaatmaanam srujaamyaham||"

With regards to comment about PTA's own SRK, I stancby what I have said. She did infact say in our class that she conducted a workshop for 20K teachers.

Yes,we were the leading(and only) wicket-takers. It's a tribute to our bowling/throwing skills. Such skills, history tells, have not been seen any in boundary-cricket-thrower(or bowler) till date.