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The turbulent years

I had by then joined the St.Joseph’s College and studied Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics. As my second language was Malayalam in the high school and as there was no course in that subject offered in the College I opted for Sanskrit which was closer to Malayalam than Hindi or Tamil. I attended special coaching in Sanskrit. The years 1947-49 when I was in the Intermediate class was a churning period for Mysore politics. Immediately after the rest of the country attained independence in 1947, Mysore State had the option of joining the mainstream but the Maharaja of Mysore under the advice of the then Dewan, Sir Arcot Ramaswamy Mudaliar refused to do so. The State Congress started an agitation for the merger of Mysore State with the rest of India. The student community not to be left alone was in the thick of the struggle and I was pitch forked into a daily routine of strikes, satyagraha, picketing and processions denouncing the rule of the Maharaja headed by the Dewan and agitating for the merger of the State with the neighboring Madras Presidency. On one such occasion I was in a procession unfortunately in the front carrying a flag and shouting slogans. The police mistaking me for a leader put me in custody for one day in the Mayo Hall which served as a makeshift prison. The struggle ultimately culminated in forcing the State government to hand over power to the people and the abdication of the Dewan. Sri K.C.Reddy. the then State Congress President, was chosen the Chief Minister in the first people’s government in the State. Not surprisingly during all these activities I was forced to neglect my studies which suffered on account of these activities. On most of the days I would be found attending rallies and meetings where prominent local politicians spoke. Though I managed to pass the first year I failed in the second and final year. My father was furious and from distant Lahore (Pakistan) he used to send me missiles of the verbal kind regularly along with a lot of advice. Some of his letters often running into several pages were written so well that I preserved them for many and many years. I then decided to try again in the supplementary exams and father was gracious enough to let me have the privilege of studying in a prestigious coaching college, Minerva Tutorial College in Madras, whose Principal was a close personal friend hailing from their same village in Palghat. I spent over six months in Madras living in the college hostel and wrote the supplementary exam there.

My stint at Madras was very educative apart from the refresher courses in the subjects that I could not pass. I spent the evening hours exploring the city and familiarized myself with the different landmarks that dotted the city. I spent time in the Connemara Public Library on many occasions. I saw many cultural shows like the dance performances of the Travancore sisters, Lalitha, Padmini and Ragini. I also attended the felicitation function at the Museum Theatre for Mahakavi Vallothol Narayana Menon when he was made Poet Laurate of Kerala. During the function I quietly went up the stage and secured the Autograph of the famous poet. I bought a number of low priced books for my collection from the footpath booksellers.

I returned to Bangalore and when the results came I was a shattered man failing to clear one subject –Chemistry. It was a big blow to my ego as my cousin, my uncle’s son, younger to me had passed and went on to acquire a degree. We were playmates in the same household and had shared a lot of fun together. I had given up all ideas to try again and decided that enough was enough. For a while I toyed with the idea of studying for a diploma course in medicine as was done by a neighborhood friend of mine who went on to become a Doctor while I languished for want of encouragement and support. The following two years were wasted but I was happy that I was benefited thereby in that I cultivated my reading habits spending a large part of my time in the public library during this period. I had also developed this habit of collecting and preserving various newspapers that featured news and articles of importance and interest many of which I still have in my possession. I have the newspapers carrying the news of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, Indian Independence Day and Republic Day. I went on adding to the collection. Today I have a card board box full of the precious collection of newspapers and magazines some of which date back to 1945. I preserved many magazines too which had articles that interested me. I had a separate room in the out house in the Quarters where we lived. I had all my books and other collections stored up here. All the things so assiduously collected with such care, thought and love, all meant to last for ever. I foolishly thought that I would stay there for ever. What did it mean to have these when you have to move from place to place? Yet I did collect, accumulate and keep them with care for many, many years, some of which survive even today. This was the place where I spent a lot of time reading and writing. While the rest of the members of the family lived in the main house I confined myself to this room to indulge in my literary pursuits, so to say. I also started writing my diary on a day to day basis. The room was under my lock and key.

During the day I used to set out to the Public Library located in the Cubbon Park after breakfast and spend a lot of time reading. Two incidents during my visits to the Library come to my mind. Whenever I have some money in my pocket which was rare I used to visit a cute little restaurant located amidst the picturesque settings of the gardens and have a cup of coffee to relieve the tedium of reading non stop. I used to watch a portly young politician attired in pure khadi also there enjoying a cup of coffee. I picked up a conversation with him after a little hesitation one day and learnt he was one of the young brigades of Congressmen. A couple of months later I was pleasantly surprised to learn from the newspapers that this young politician was a member of Parliament and was chosen by none other than Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister, to serve in his Cabinet as a Minister. His name was Mr.M.V.Krishnappa. On another occasion one day I was immersed in reading in the Library at about 2 o’clock in the afternoon when I heard crackling noices coming from a distance in the still air of the library as well as the surrounding areas which were deserted during that part of the day. After some time I came out of the building to check out what the noise was. I found out that in a part of the Park some structures being constructed for holding an exhibition had caught fire and the area had been engulfed by a raging fire. Many of the beautiful trees had been destroyed in the fire which was soon put out. The fire not only destroyed a large number of trees in the park but spoiled the stillness and beauty of the park and rendered it ugly. It took many years for the area to come back to its original shape. I wrote a strong letter in the newspaper criticizing the authorities for permitting the conduct of an exhibition inside the park which fortunately did not see any fatalities.

In those days I had a fascination to meet politicians and other well known people and try and talk to them and collect their auto graphs. I had met most of the top leaders of the day and obtained their autographs. These besides many others include former Presidents Dr.Rajendra Prasad and Dr.S.Radhakrishnan, Central Government Ministers and freedom struggle stalwarts Moulana Abul Kalam Azad, Sri Jagjivan Ram, Dr.Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Dr.Ashok Mehta, Mr.Sheikh Abdulla, Congress President Mr.Pattabhi Sitaramayya,the first and second Lok Sabha Speakers Mr.G.V.Mavlankar and Mr.Ananthasayanam Iyengar, Founder of Bharathiya Vidya Bhavan Dr.K.M.Munshi, Congress President Acharya Kripalani and his wife Sucheta Kripalani and many leaders from America such as Mrs.Eleanor Roosevelt, widow of the great American President Mr.F.D.Roosewelt, Mr.Chester Bowles, American Ambassodor to India, Nobel Peace Prize winner and U.N. Under Secretary General Dr.Ralph Bunche and famous Indian sports stars like legendary cricketers Mushtaq Ali and Col.C.K.Naidu, Tennis maestro R.Krishnan and the hockey wizard Capt.Dhyan Chand etc. I had also collected the autographs of nearly hundred top sports stars, too many to recount here. In my younger years I had an ambition to become a top politician. But having been thwarted in my ambition by circumstances beyond my control I found solace in the reflected glory. Many of the great leaders used to stay in the Residency (now Raj Bhavan) as State Guests and I managed to meet them there. Although there were restrictions for entry to the Residency I had won the confidence of a few officials attached to the Residency and I gained easy entry and met the guests at leisure. Many years later I was on a visit to Bombay and made it a point to meet the Indian Cricketers who were staying in the Hotel Taj to play a Test against England. After meeting many cricketers like G.R.Viswanath, S.M.H.Kirmani, Madan Lal and Srikanth I was in the lift returning when the English cricketer Geoff Boycott entered the lift. I wished him good luck in the Test to commence the next day. He smiled and responded with the remark –You don’t mean it, do you?

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