To write about self is perhaps a self congratulatory thing to do, but, it is not.
Unless you tell, who will come to know and who will share your passion or anguish about things?
If you think you are not the routine kind of guy and yours has been a different kind of life, it is all the more important that you tell the world the reason why you feel that way.
Whenever I keep talking to children or some other people about the past, I feel I should share those things with the world. In fact, I strongly believe that every person worth the salt will have some things to tell this world. Only problem is that all are not equally adept at doing so. I have written about many such people and the things that they did in as many places. I recollect the biography of Sri Tirumala Ramachandra and G.Krishna. They never wrote anything exactly about themselves. They wrote about the people they met, places they have been to and the incidents that moved them. Will that really make it an autobiography? Still through their mind we will be able to peep into their past which is the past of the places and people also. That way anyone who can put the pen to the paper should talk about the experiences that stay there in the top floor that is the brain.
Life in the village was so different now. The village is no longer the same thing that we experienced. Let there be changes in the infrastructure. Why should the identities and lives change? Technology and advancement makes all the difference. I remember there used to be only couple of bicycles in the entire village. Now almost every fellow has a motorbike. There are a couple of cars in the village. I am OK with all such things. People have forgotten the past! That is my complaint!
There were a few people who were kind of bridges between the generations. When I enquire about them, I find to my horror, they are all dead!
I was writing a middle column in a Telugu daily for some time, I have written so much about the village there that I feel I am repeating myself here. There are certain things that I have to tell the world.
There was this man Satani Keshavulu. There are not many people like him. He was nothing short of a genius. He could do whatever was needed. He was a poet. He wrote street plays on mythological themes like a master. He taught the poems with music to the village folk. The team and the Bayalata is almost a legend in our village. Pray who will make the dresses for the drama? Keshavulu of course! Who then will provide all the ornaments including the crowns and other such royal paraphernalia? Can you believe, he used to make such pieces that cinema people would have swooned at their quality, and the low cost! He made some bathing powder and sold. He made a papier-mâché mask for the Ganesha that would put all the well known artists of the trade to shame. Where did he learn all these things? Geniuses do not learn anything anywhere!
That brings me to the drama I played at the school. I was and even today, am not very good at physical work. I never played any games and sports. Whatever I tried in that direction ended only in disasters. Mental work is always my forte. Be it talking, an exhibition of talent of the mental kind was always welcome.
K.Lingaiah sir, which is how we addressed him, was a teacher and dealing with only the primary classes like father always was. He was to direct that drama of Sati Savitri. Many people may remember the song sequence in one of the Telugu movies where NTR plays Yama. Much before that I did so in this drama. Sir provided the silk sari for the Dhoti. Keshavulu lent me the crown. Even today I remember the songs in their old classical tunes very different from those used in the film later. The drama was a great hit with the students. In normal course children make fun of the actors later in the classes in the name of the characters they portrayed. I remember it never happened with me. We were the best students of the school and best students are never made fun of. All this happened in Mahabub Nagar School.
Yenugonda School was having only classes up to fifth. Then we walk to Mahabubnagar to join the school there. Parents never thought it necessary to escort us. I clearly recall the day when we walked in the premises of Basic Practicing School in New Town. It was the nearest school from the village and all the children of the village naturally go there for high schooling. We were not even in the veranda when the burly man whom we later knew as Ramachandraiah sir, came like a demon. He said “Are you lot from Yenugonda? There is no room for you here. You are all useless!” My heart sank. I was imagining the new school and the new atmosphere all through the summer holidays. Where do we go then? I really do not remember how, but, we were given admission in that school. Later I became almost the star student of the school. When I wanted to shift to another school, the Head Master called my father, who by that time was working in the same school and asked him to retain me there only. Father was a person who would respect the individuality of even children.
Recently I ran in to this Head Master. I did not recognize him. The gentleman who was with him introduced me in usual superlatives. Immediately the great man said “Our Gopalam!” I was dumb stuck. A student is expected to remember his teachers. Though he never taught me anything I was at least to recollect him. He was great. He not only recalled but said something about my being an exceptional boy.
When I was in the village I was the best student in the school. That was no wonder because the village was small and there were not many educated people there. My father though a school teacher himself was a learned man. I remember my struggle to go to school. All children usually refuse to go to school. Father was working in the village school only. I always wanted to follow him. I was not allowed to do that since I was a kid. One day somehow I reached the school stealthily. I was not able to go invisible. Even before the prayer father located me and asked me to go home. I never budged. Then he called the only peon Santayya a village man and asked him to lift me literally and leave at home. He tried to do it sincerely. He put me on his shoulder and started to walk home. I remember I raised hell and bit his ear. That man even after I grew up used to recollect and tell me that I was an unusual boy. Later I had the pleasure of joining that school.
Father continued working there even after I joined school. He even taught the class I was studying in. one day he gave a dictation. We were all standing and writing on the slates. I wrote the word that was told and then tried to see what the boy before me was writing. Father thought I was trying to copy and slapped me on the head. Without a word I left the slate there and walked home. Father after seeing the slate realized what has happened. There was another incidence I can never forget. Father asked us to write alphabet, not exactly because it was Telugu. He said we have to fill the slate with A and AA the starting letters of Telugu letters. There is no word in usage at least at that level for Varnamala that is the sequence of letters. Since the beginning letters are short and long Akaram, they are referred by the two sounds. I played the trick. All the boys and girls were sincerely writing to fill the slate. I have in two strokes filled it. How did I do that? That is the joke. I wrote a big A on one side and a long AA on the reverse side of eth slate. I was right in my own way. Father asked us to fill the slate. He never said you have to write all the letters. He only uttered the two letters. When father saw it, the joke became an instant hit. The whole school came to know it. Even teachers enjoyed it.
There was this incident with the Governor. The name of the Governor was Bhimsen Sachar. He was visiting the district head quarters and wanted to visit a school also. Since our school was three kilometers from the town and was right next to the road that he takes, the Governor was made to halt at our school. We were asked to come well prepared. I really do not know what exactly that preparation was. Same bathing and may be an extra dash of oil on the head. Clean clothes of course were always there. We were made to stand in two rows on either side of the walk way before the school. As is the rule all the taller children were in the beginning of the rows and shorter ones like me on the school side. The car came. It majestically halted there. An old man with a paunch alighted. He was in typical political attire, I remember even today. He came to the children after the pleasantries with the teachers. I remember my relative; a girl was at the beginning. Governor asked her “Who am I?” She said “Governor!” He said, “Right! But what is my name?” She could not tell. Interestingly he was speaking in Hindi. We never knew English those days. Hindi was of course heard here and there. We were yet to begin learning Hindi. Still, I somehow understood what he was asking about and shouted “ I will tell!” Governor walked to me and stood before me. I announced his name loudly. He appreciated me and lifted me into his hands. Best of it was when he made a gesture the servants brought a tin of toffees. Governor took a fistful of them and put them in my pockets. Beauty of it is all the other children were also given toffees, but, by the servants. I can never forget the happiness of that day.
There is a mat weaving centre very ext to the school. Rosaiah the trainer of that centre made a mat with Governors name in it. That was presented to him and Governor was very happy about it.
My village was the centre for the four or five villages around. Annually there would be games and sports competitions between all these schools. I am not much of a sportsman at all. I am always, even today, a mental guy. For people like us there was this recitation and storytelling competition. I knew hundreds of verses like Sumati and Vemana by heart. I was used to reading the monthly magazines like Chandamama and Balamitra very regularly. Now, I realize that my expression was equally strong even when I was kid. I used to win the prizes hands down.
When I shifted to the school in the town, initially I was a little worried that there would be better competition here. To my surprise I came out as the most vocal guy in the town. I even participated in dramas there. I have already mentioned about the drama where I was Yama Dharma Raja. There were few more plays like that. I was a popular man around.
There was this Ugadi Kavi Sammelan. Uncle was invited to recite his poem there. I have also written a poem and wanted to read it there. I remember I made Govardhan, youngest son of uncle, to read it. They have accepted the proposal and along all the elders, gave a gift to Govardhan also. I was thinking that the appreciation was mine and the gift to the dear brother who was my conduit of expression. Interestingly he promptly gave me the gift which was a silk shawl kind of thing. That is how they honor the poets even today.