Sunday, July 03, 2005

Father's memoirs: Excerpts - IV

In June 1965, I joined the Mavveni government lower primary school as a teacher. With a, aa, i, and ii, in the first standard, there starts my forty year long career in teaching. The salary was sixty nine rupees a month. To reach the school, I had to take a bus and from the last stop, it was a fifteen km walk. Those days I did not wear sandals. It felt as if one was treading a narrow and solitary rough path in a dense forest. I used to come home once a week.

As soon as I finished the Teachers Training Course, I had decided to take the Malayalam Vidvan exam. (One can be a high school Malayalam teacher after passing Vidvan.) Therefore I was busy studying most of the time. In between I used to write poems and essays and used to send those to some of the literary magazines around. A few of those got published. Because of all these, my colleagues were very fond of me.

We had to write the Vidvan final exams in Calicut. One of the texts in our syllabus was Kuttikrishna Marar's Rajankanam. A friend of mine who was also writing the exam with me expressed a desire to get introduced to Marar. By that time I knew most of the literary figures of Calicut fairly well, and in particular I knew Marar. I took my friend to Marar's house. While talking about many things, we told him that Rajankanam was part of the syllabus for the next day's exam. Marar looked a bit uneasy, and he said:

    please do not read my essay on Valmiki's Rama in that collection. I have revised it thoroughly, and let me now read out the new version to you.
We were in a dilemma. Nothing can be termed more fortunate than having an opportunity to be the only audience to an eminent critic like Marar reading out his latest work. At the same time we had an exam the next morning, and our immediate interest was in the old version of his essay! In any case, Marar started reading his essay aloud. Stressing at the right place, accompanied by appropriate expressions, he 'performed' the entire article.

The essay that we had to study was a critique of Rama as depicted in Valmiki's Ramayana, whereas the revised one echoed the later sentiments of Marar, highly spiritual and deeply devotional. Years later I wrote an article contrasting the mystical tone of Marar's revised essay with the logical prowess of the original.


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