Sunday, June 26, 2005

Father's memoirs: Excerpts - II

The difficulties in the household did not affect my school life much. I was very involved in the curricular and extra curricular activities of the school. Our school faced all the disadvantages that an average government school in the Malabar area faced in those days. Very few native teachers. A majority of the teachers were from Travancore, a few from Telechery too. A lot of posts remained unfilled at any given point. Those who were already there got frequent transfers. In most of the classes, most of the subjects were taught by a combination of teachers. In my tenth class, three or four teachers shared the English syllabus. A natural corollary was that no one seemed to feel responsible to the class. Obviously, we, the students, suffered. For instance, no teacher told us about the model of the final exam paper. The Math paper had three parts: (a) arithmetic, (b) algebra, and (c) geometry. First part had questions for 50 marks, and the second and the third parts had questions worth 40 each. I found all the questions easy, and started answering from the first question itself. Time was up by the time I finished for 110 marks, and I got 90/100. One was supposed to try for 40+30+30=100. This wouldn't have happened if there was some idea about the model beforehand.

I passed with first class and first rank, but I felt bad as I lost 10 marks in the Math paper. Though I liked all the subjects, Maths was my most favourite subject.

I was sort of a mischievous student; used to take initiative in nicknaming teachers and in mimicking them. There was also a visible tinge of arrogance that I was the smartest in the school. A couple of times I had been advised about this. Once the advice was indirect and bordered on the cruel.

I was in the ninth or the tenth then. K. Balarama Panikkar's Raghurajacharitam was one of our texts. Rama is going to abandon Sita. He orders Lakshmana to throw Sita off in the forest. Sita, pregnant, misunderstands that she is being taken to the forest to get her wishes carried out. The poet says that Sita does not recognise that her husband has discarded the kalpadrubhava and has taken the asipatravrikshabhava. Here the teacher translated asipatravriksha as strychnine.

I got up and said: "asipatra is the name of a hell. Kalpadru is a tree in the heaven, and asipatravriksha refers to a tree in a hell."

He immediately understood that I was right. But he started trying to make fun of me whenever he got a chance, cooking up a chance otherwise. The next chapter contained the word pitakkal (literally "fathers").

"What does that mean? Tell me you all-knowing" -- he asked me.

Though I noticed the scorn, I answered correctly: "parents".

"What's pita then?"


"Shouldn't pitakkal mean 'fathers' in that case? How many fathers do you have?"

He knew very well that my father had died. I burst into tears. Even after this incident he used to address me 'all-knowing' contemptuously for quite some time. I too realised that correcting the teacher openly in a packed class wasn't exactly the right thing to do.


At 2:33 AM, Blogger -സു‍-|Sunil said...

Anand, Out of curiosity disturbing you with more questions.
First, what is your father's name? Who is publishing the book and when?
It seems to me that, this post is your own translation, correct? You have a good language.

At 4:59 AM, Blogger uma said...

Anand, thanks for sharing this. It's very moving. I hope the English translation is also being published.

At 9:49 AM, Blogger Sunil said...

ok.....the person who posted the first comment is some other Sunil :-))

Like Uma said....please let us know if there is going to be an English translation. It's going to be a great read...I can tell.

And even today one cannot correct a teacher in class.....however wrong the person might be. I got into trouble myself once......but it was minor. This was really, really cruel.

At 12:38 PM, Anonymous Vishnu said...

Anand, this sure is a promising read. When is it likely to come out?

Sunil (Laxman), I too had very similar experiences when I was in eleventh standard. Landed up in trouble for correcting the Maths teacher more than once. Then I realised that it is not worth the trouble. I'm not surprised at that.
But I am surprised when students correct professors at universities, some of them take it on their heart (dil pe le lete hain!). I had a prof at IIT who asked a student when he corrected, "Do you think I cannot do this? I can do anything". And what he was doing would put the entire IIT reputation to shame.

At 9:46 PM, Blogger R.Nandakumar said...

i too look forward to reading the full memoirs, in Malayalam; not that the English rendering is not excellent :) - for now, that would do just fine!

At 12:07 AM, Blogger -സു‍-|Sunil said...

Folks, I am Sunil and the name displayed here is also "SUNIL" but in malayalam unicode fonts. That is why sometimes it is not readable. You should have a malayalam unicode font installed in your computer. Want? Visit
Anand, even your english translations is reading as in malayalam in my mind, because we all have the same experience and feelings! Hope you understand the "feeling".

At 12:11 AM, Blogger -സു‍-|Sunil said...

I mean, becuase of that feelings in the mind, I forgot the english words in front of me, eventhough I was reading it in english!!! Yaar! dont know how to explain more

At 6:01 AM, Blogger Anand said...

Thanks again.

Uma & Sunil -- Thanks a lot for that thought.

Sunil, Vishnu & Nandakumar -- I should be able to tell you the details some time soon. Right now the manuscript is with us. It's funny how the whole thing started three months back. My father had just learned about typing using Malayalam fonts and he wanted to experiment. (Till then he had typed only in Sanskrit (Itrans) and English.) And that resulted in these memoirs, or at least advanced writing down these.

Sunil -- His name is N.V.P. Unithiri. He's a Sanskrit Professor.

At 7:40 AM, Blogger -സു‍-|Sunil said...

Anand, thanks for the information! I heard that Prof.Guptan Nair also publishing his book "manasaasmaraami" in July 2005. Anyway, dont need any further introduction about your father. Just write more.

At 9:21 AM, Anonymous Anand said...

I heard about Prof. Guptan Nair's book too. Amrita TV had an interview with him about it.

At 9:33 PM, Blogger രാജീവ് ചേലനാട്ട് said...


It seems that I am too late in reading your blog. Didnt know at all about this. Anyway, it is a nice reading and especially as I have read Unithiri Mash's articles and have even heard his speech 2-3 times. Got your link from Varadarajan's blog. Look forward to reading you again.



Post a Comment

<< Home