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Early years in bangalore

After completing high school I joined the St.Joseph’s College in Bangalore in 1947. It was a period in the country’s history when India after years of struggle was at the threshold of attaining freedom. Personally I spent a sizeable amount of my time in the independence movement participating in meetings, listening to speeches by eminent leaders and reading about what is going on in the rest of the country. I was totally involved in politics to the detriment of my studies which resulted in my poor performance in the exams. I barely managed to complete the two year pre degree course and eventually dropped out. These were the years of turmoil in my life and not surprisingly I lost my track not knowing how to shape my life. I also lost the benefit of my father’s advice and guidance in those adolescent years. In the aftermath of independence the Bank my father was working in lost a large number of staff in its Lahore and other branches in Pakistan due to killings, migration and other reasons. A desperate call by the Bank Management for volunteers to work in the Pakistan branches saw my father on the train to Lahore on the 25th January, 1948 along with several volunteers from South India. It so happened that my father and his friends were at the Birla House on the fateful evening of 30th January, 1948 when they broke journey at Delhi on way to Lahore. They were witness to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. At home here in Bangalore I was a shattered man when the news of the assassination came over the All India Radio. I was glued to the radio listening to the news and for much of the next day when the funeral took place. Members of my family say that my eyes for most part of the time were moist with tears.

Those were hard times for me. I was torn between what I wanted to do with my life and what is dictated by the situation I was in. Here was me - a young man not yet over the teens but already in the midst of doubts and dreams. I was not against a regular college education and was willing to work hard to get through the exams and acquire a proper base for pursuing other careers but it looked like that my capacity to do so have suffered much by the turmoil in the family life. My mother’s death came most unexpectedly at a time when I needed a congenial home life and lots of encouragement. I had to leave Calicut where I grew up among loving relatives and friends. I had to start all over again in an alien atmosphere to continue my studies. When I joined St.Joseph’s College in Bangalore I was very confident of my ability to do well as I was a good student all along except for that slight aberration in the SSLC where for the first time in my life I had failed and had to appear for a second time to pass the final examination. By the time I appeared for the public examination I had lost my mother (1946) and it was decided that some of us would have to shift to Bangalore after I wrote the public exam along with my sister and two kid brothers. I wrote the exam which was conducted in the Teachers’ Training School in Calicut in March 1947. I thought I had done reasonably well in all the subjects especially English which even at that time was my favourite subject. At about this time I had developed a strong liking for the spoken and written English. This was sparked by an essay I wrote in my English paper about an imaginary train journey I undertook during my vacation. The narrative style of my writing gave me a clue what writing is going to mean to me in later years. It appeared to me that it opened a way of life which was not separate from my identity. I think that writing is there in the way I think. Even when I think,I think in terms of narrative, something that I can put down to prose. To my misfortune it so happened that there was a leak of the question paper on one subject and the whole exam was cancelled and rescheduled for a later date. I came back to Calicut from Bangalore for preparing for the re-exam which I wrote at the Malabar Christian College, Calicut. The results came out after I returned to Bangalore and I had passed the Public Exam. At this point of time it was found necessary that I should undergo the ceremony of wearing a sacred thread in order to enable me to perform my mother’s first shraddha. So on an auspicious day before the shraddha there was a ceremony to formally make me a Brahmin by enabling me to wear the sacred thread. I performed the first shraddha of my mother in 1947 and continued to perform it ever since. Some time in August that year around the Independence Day I had to perform the first avani avittam when every Brahmin would have to change his sacred thread to a new one in an elaborate ceremony which included a homam. When the homam started small pieces of the branches of a sacred tree had to be fed into the fire and unless they are reasonably dry they would not burn well. The twigs that were brought that day were not dry at all and instead of burning well emitted a lot of smoke which enveloped the entire house. My father and my aunt who were asthmatic inhaled a lot of the smoke and were very ill by the time the ceremony got over in the afternoon. Both of them were hospitalized for the next 15 days. During their stay in the hospital some of us used to visit them. Bangalore was reeling under a communal flare up between Hindus and Muslims at the time of the Independence Day and hundreds of victims were being rushed to the same hospital. We were witness to a lot of blood letting of people who were the victims of the riots and subsequent police firing. It was a gory sight never to be forgotten. It appeared as though the massacres of both Muslims and Hindus that was going on in the Northern states like Punjab, Delhi and Bengal in the aftermath of Partition was having reverberations in the South also though not at such a large scale. The riots were soon controlled and peace reigned in Bangalore soon therafter.

My father and Chithi were soon discharged from the hospital and they returned home. Chithi though appeared to have recovered from the Asthma for the time being was never completely free from it and suffered greatly from it in later years. However my father was relatively better and six months was fit to make that trip to Pakistan in January, 1948 on deputation to the Lahore branch of the Bank. The change of climate appeared to have done wonders to him. He got rid of the Asthma problem completely which never bothered him for the rest of his life. It may be noted here that a few years later I contracted that disease from which I suffered for long till late into the 70s. I was finally rid of this affliction after I was transferred to Bijapur which had a dry climate.

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