Friday, June 24, 2005

Father's memoirs: Excerpts - I

Seventh form exams got over. No one had any doubt that I would pass and I would be the first in my class. What next? To join the eighth standard one should go to to the Madayi high school. My brother was in that school, in the tenth class. Mother could not even think of sending both of us to the school as she couldn't afford the fee. We decided to stop my studies.

"Not at all happy about this, but do we have another option?" -- mom cried aloud, hugging me tight. Even earlier mother had this hunch that I wouldn't be able to continue my studies. Whenever a bit depressed, she used to get a palmist to examine my hands or call Appu gurukkal, a local astrologer, to check my horoscope in detail. Once gurukkal remarked: "not to speak of his higher studies", and laughed away as was his wont. This remark must have struck my mom deeply.

In any case, when it was pretty clear that I wouldn't be continuing my studies, I went to the small textile factory near my school, looking for a job. But I wasn't tall enough and my feet wouldn't touch the pedal of the loom. I was asked to do some knitting instead. I used to earn just enough for a day's food. As far as we were concerned, that itself was a great thing.

A month went by. One of those days, a highlighted item in the news paper caught my eye. "Eighth standard fee abolished".

The Government of Kerala has decided to do away with the tuition fee in the eighth standard as part of fulfilling the constitutional promise of free, universal, and compulsory school education. The fee in the ninth and tenth standards will be taken away in the next two years. A new touch of green on those charred dreams of studying further? I took permission from the company manager, ran home, and told everything to my brother.

Brother was immensely happy. We went to Narayanettan, a relative on my father's side, and told him the news. "May you be able to study further and further. May all be well with you", he blessed me with both hands on my head. He wasn't doing well at all, and was sad that he couldn't help us in any way.

That day my mother was in her husband's house. We went there. Mom and everybody else there were happy to hear about this development. On their suggestions, I went and met Kunhiramanmaster, principal of my previous school. Indescribable is the happiness that I saw on his face then. He was genuinely sad that the best student of his school wouldn't be able to study further, and was relieved to see the new rule. He advised me to join the Madayi high school and gave me the admission fee of ten rupees. We did as he said, and I joined the eighth. If the Namboodiripad - Joseph Mundassery ministry did not come up with that bill, thousands of students like me would not have got high school education.


At 8:30 AM, Anonymous Anirudh said...

Nice post, Anand. In fact, a lovely post.

At 8:44 AM, Blogger uma said...

Anand, this is so worth the long wait! I was wondering where you had disappeared... have a good vacation and post more of these memoirs. they are fascinating.

At 8:45 AM, Blogger uma said...

and what namboodiripad/kerala did for education is remarkable.

At 12:41 PM, Blogger Sunil said...

Good to see you back......was wondering what had happened to you.

And, as always, you're back with a really nice post.

What happened in Kerala was remarkable, and really changed the dynamics of that state..

At 12:58 AM, Anonymous Abi said...

Beautiful stuff, Anand. I really liked the slice of history that appeared at the end.

At 5:24 AM, Blogger -സു‍-|Sunil said...

Nice post. Please tell me about forthcoming book. Als can you please explain the below sentence:

"That day my mother was in her husband's house."

Step father?

At 8:45 AM, Blogger Anand said...

Thanks all for the nice words.

The book is in Malayalam, and is tentatively titled Natannu Vanna Vazhikal. A fairly wide spectrum is covered from an autobiographical angle. The topics of the book include the history of literary movements in Kerala, ancient Indian philosophy, Sanskrit technical literature, and manuscriptology, among other things.

Step-father, yes.

At 12:39 AM, Blogger Ms. World said...

What an amazing story? I got misty-eyed. I strongly empathize with your father's desire for education and being held back by financial issues.


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