Thursday, November 16, 2006

Like grandfather, like grandson. Only, the grandfather is much more interesting.

"So how will you get to office tomorrow? Get your bike repaired."
"I'll go by bus or auto."
"Will you get a bus? Won't you have to walk far?"
"No, if I get a 201, I'll get off at Mayo Hall and walk from there. Just about five minutes."
"Mayo Hall? I used to go there for a while. This building called the Shankaranarayana building."

By a coincidence, that is the exact building where I work too. Siemens AG occupies about fifteen floors in the three buildings that are housed by the Shankaranarayana building complex now. In the front building(there are three), on the mezzanine floor, there are the offices of [to be filled later since I don't remember the name right now]. But many years before, in 1981, that floor housed the Electromobile corporation. This fine, upstanding company manufactured electric scooters, mopeds and the like. Or atleast tried to. They soon ran into debt and, by the time my grandfather retired, had run into a situation of acute financial distress. They therefore did what any pragmatic organization would do:- stopped paying the rent. This resulted, presumably, in the swift eviction, and subsequent closure, of the Electromobile corporation from the Shankaranarayana towers.

My grandfather told me this tale of his tenure in that grand conglomerate and I was strangely happy that I walked the same paths as he had, if only literally. This was one of many posts he had held through his working life. Beginning with a lecturer's job in 1946, barely a week after he graduated, in Mysore("Why didn't you go work for some financial company? After all, economics was the major subject in your B.Sc. That would have made more sense, right?" "We were about ten children. My father was long retired. Who would feed everyone? We had to get a job."), he took up teaching posts all over the place. I mean, in many institutions in Bangalore, Mysore and Hassan. In between, he even served as an NCC officer for a while. In one of his teaching jobs, he travelled every day from Bangalore to Tumkur(which has me rather ashamed of grumbling about travelling from BTM Layout to MG Road).

It is arguable that anyone who has seen 80 years of life has seen a lot(even if against his/her will). However, not all these experiences would have been interesting. In most cases, life would have been rather humdrum. My grandfather has been a lucky man in that, he was born remarkably correctly. In the sense that it was the right time before Independence. Not like Salim Sinai, at the stroke of the midnight hour when the world slept and India awakened to freedom. But twenty one years before that. He was the right age during the freedom struggle to correctly formulate his views and ideas about the nation and whatever. He participated enthusiastically during the Quit India movement. As how could he not, being a mere student then? Colleges were closed and he and all his comrades picketed gleefully. And when it was freedom, he was a teacher and for a whole week, schools and colleges were closed. It must have been nostalgia back then for him, seeing those students undergo what he had been through a few years ago. Strange situation to try and explain in the correct tense.

Being a forgotten(he is sure) classmate of R K Laxman, meeting T P Kailasam while enacting one of that man's numerous plays("Ammavara ganda" -- "Madam's husband"), getting married to a woman whose family steadfastly refused to give birth to boys and, as a result, contributed, annually, a whopping ten thousand girls to the populace per boy produced, growing up in poverty and having his dreams pushed under the carpet, being a man with strict ideas of what constituted honour and ethics and what did not(when my mother entered 1st PUC, or 11th, he was in the department of pre-university education. He resigned forthwith and opted to move to the department of public instruction or something dealing with highschool or degree colleges or something. Some department not related to pre-university education in any way. This, lest someone make allegations of him tankering in my mother's examination results, should she do well. And people would actually do that, then. I have maintained that this was, perhaps, too strict a step. But then, that is what makes him a man of honour and me, hardly a man.), sweating blood and building a house in Mysore, renting out that house to a seemingly good man who then stubbornly refused to vacate when asked to, going to court over this house and fighting a good two years or so for it, settling down in a house of his own about sixty years after he was born, teaching(well) hundreds of students and setting them about their ways, fabricating one of the finest children's tales ever(this has a baby mouse as the main protagonist and me in a cameo right at the beginning. I say "I am going to my grandmother's house for the summer. What about you?" and leave. Best told in that bad dialect of Telugu spoken widely here in Bangalore. Makes the story all that more impressive and the jokes all the more funny.) -- I think this constitutes a pretty good array of experiences.

Someday, I will write a biography of him. And I will also try and relate that children's story in English without losing any of its flavour.


Sandeep said...

You are good man. You grandfather, great man.

Loving the post.

K-Man said...

It is LOVELY to hear grandparents talk. One feels that they LIVED, whilst we merely, to coin a phrase, drudge an existence. Immensely pleased with your post, My dear fellow. Pleased, rather ripping, I must say.
Do write that biography.

tharunya said...


(but I am more occupied with the fact that I'm now linked)

guru said...

Nice post.
avaru PU department bittiddu is a tale of unbelievable integrity, thought I.Great man.
Please do write the biography.

Arjun Sharma said...

[Sandeep]Aes, he is.

[Karthik]Yeah, what lives they led! And jolly good of you to say stuff, ol' chap! Cheerio!


[Harish]Houdu, swalpa integrity jasti avarige. Nodidre idella maadirtare ansalla, aadre he's been through it all.

Karthik D said...

Olle kaala kaNayya. Aavaga. Nam thaatha avaru RSS Nalli idru. Ammunitions ella itkondidru maneli Independeance time nalli. Avaru Jail inda SSLC exam ge apply maadidru. Nodi.

Anonymous said...

Hehe,illi KD heLirodu oLLe KrishRao maataaDiro tara ide.

tharunya said...

I just read it again...

not tampering? or tinkering? a little doubt :P

Arjun Sharma said...

[Karthik D]Nija, olle kaala. Nodi, nimma tata olle freedom fighter-u. Avara dedication-ge ondu award kodbodu. Jail-inda SSLC pareekshe kattodu saadharana vishaya enalla. Naaviddiddre "Ayyo, irli bido!" anta kootbidtiddvi.

[Harish]Aes, ella class manushyare.

[Tharunya]He he, yeah, meant tinkering. Sorry, don't know why I wrote 'tankering.' Funnily enough, it didn't catch my eye even when I "proof-read" it before posting.