November 6, 2017
Some incidents in life get itched in your mind forever and appear as if it has just happened the other day. I have had a number of unforgettable moments in my life. However, not all of them may be discussed publicly for reasons of privacy or security. But, here are a few that occurred during my student days in the eighties of the twentieth century that I would like to share. I have taken adequate care not to mention names of those concerned with whom I had an encounter with.
It was almost the end of my first year BCom. degree in College in 1985, when a flash strike was called by the Students’ Union against the Mangalore University with regards to the M R Scheme. While most of us were left wondering what was the issue all about, we were told to congregate near the Mangalore University Building (an Aloysian property given on lease to the University) on St Aloysius College Road right behind the Central Library.
Slogans were raised against the Modified Regulation Scheme and also against St Aloysius College Professor Chikkappa Rai deputed to the University as Controller of Examinations, while a sizeable number of policemen kept a close watch nearby. As the peaceful protest by hundreds of students was in progress in front of the main gate of the University Building, at one point it turned a bit nasty. A white ambassador car which was heading towards Jyothi Circle was besieged by the students. The police desperately tried to bring the situation under control and when it went out of hand, the sub-inspector in charge gave an instant order to his officers – Laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaathi Charge!!!!
Within no time, the men in khaki were on the prowl and I could hear the painful sound of lathis coming in contact with the bodies of students. All of us ran helter skelter in whichever direction our legs took us, virtually fleeing for our lives. Few entered the Tagore Park where the cops followed in hot pursuit and got hit… some others were chased and caught in the Ladies Club and the peaceful ambience of the Central Library was also disturbed.
I for one sprinted on the St Aloysius College Road towards Catholic Club. Being the fastest runner in the class during my days, there was no way the cops could catch me. That boast did not last for long as somewhere while I was running on the downward slope near Kasturba Medical College (KMC), a class-mate of mine Mr M who sits in the first bench in the class, whom I thought could barely walk leave alone run, overtook me in sheer speed. Goodness, I watched him even jump ‘full on’ to the Balmatta Road after crossing the Syndicate Bank in a flash and disappear.
Running that stretch of the SAC Road, I was now exhausted and could barely run anymore. But somehow, made it to my friend’s shop on the Milagres Cross Road and once there, within a few seconds noticed a police jeep with the khaki men sitting behind with their lathis, turning their heads 360 degrees, zoom by. Lucky, I missed their gaze by a whisker as I might have been in their blind spot.
Next day, I met Mr M and told him that I had seen a police jeep going in the direction he was running. His answer was simple yet stern - He has spent the next hour or so in the Milagres Church graveyard and added ‘No police or even his father would dare to enter where he was.’
Unexpected Visitor Home:
One early morning of November 1986 when I was having my daily royal bath, I had an unexpected visitor. My mum knocked on the bathroom door to convey that a lady had gate crashed to our house, looking for me. A lady so early in the morning! I was stunned, anxious and disturbed at the same time.
The next 2 minutes or so of my concluding hurried bath session looked like eternity. So many thoughts engrossed my mind. Did I eve-tease anyone that the girl’s mother has come home even before the day has begun to catch me red handed? Nope … I was a decent boy; rather I would have dissuaded someone from eve-teasing. Did I chide anyone in College? So much so, the angry mom wants to take me to task straight away. Or was it the elderly lady’s daughter to whom I had given a seat in the bus popping in to say ‘thank you.’ I was at a total loss!
I was done with by bath, got dressed and hurried to meet the visitor. Glancing at her from a distance, I was trying to recollect as she looked familiar. It took me a while and in the meantime meeting up with her, she asked me whether I was so and so and introduced herself saying that she is so and so from the Central Bank of India Extension Counter at St Aloysius College Campus. Without a pause, she continued ‘Adu yaaro ninne madyana bankige bandu, nimma accountininda vandu savira roopayi withdraw madikondu hogiddare ree (Someone had come to the bank yesterday afternoon and withdrawn a thousand rupees from your account). The echo of this sentence had a ripple effect as the clouds stopped floating, the trees stopped swaying, the birds stopped chirping, vehicles stopped moving and even the waves of the Arabian Sea went still. Uhh! I have lost a thousand rupees, for none of my fault. She was the teller who had honoured the ‘withdrawal slip,’ making this shattering statement. As she stood apologetic and nervous looking straight into my eyes, I calmly let her know that it was indeed I who withdrew the funds at lunch time yesterday. At this, the lady’s face sparkled with radiance. It was a sight to see!
I made it a point to visit the Bank that afternoon and met the manager, to clear the air and apologise. The manager narrated looking at my legible handwriting he was more or less certain that it may not be a fraudster at work and had conveyed his view to the teller. But the lady in question was very pessimistic and had concluded that a person other than the account holder had withdrawn the funds and was guilty that she would be held liable. During an era where there was lack of direct connectivity, coming home was the quickest option as a thousand rupees (quite a substantial amount those days) were at stake.
Newspaper Delivery Boy:
In 1989, the English Tabloid ‘The Canara Times’ was making waves with their controversial writings and critical news. My good friend Kshama Suvarna was the Executive Editor of the Daily that had a good printing and layout. Whenever we met, we used to talk about our mutual interest and she used to share her experience of working in the print media. I expressed my desire to start a ‘small column’ in the Tabloid. Knowing my capacity, she encouraged me saying that it was a good idea as I could also earn a few bucks in the process and advised me to meet the Editor directly in the Newspaper’s office in Kodialbail to express my interest and that, she too would be putting in a word.
The very next morning at around quarter to 7.00, I turned up at the Newspaper Office as it was on the way to my College where my classes would start at 7.00. I was pursuing my professional Law degree in SDM Law College then. The Newspaper Office was a Bungalow on the quiet roadside. A dozen open steps led to the first floor where a young boy was bending, busy assembling the newspapers on a trolley for delivery. He being the only one around enquired whether I could meet his Boss. As he was pointing towards a room, a hefty man with a white out-shirt and black trousers appeared from nowhere.
Sensibly concluding he is the Editor, I tried to introduce myself and the reason why I was there. He appeared like a log of wood as he pretended not to hear anything or was not interested to hear anything at all. Cutting me short, his question to me was blunt as to when I would start as a ‘delivery boy’ right away. Obviously, that position was advertised which I was not aware and he assumed I had come over there for the same. Being always a well-dressed male, the point was I was more presentable than him with my shirt tucked-in and had my shoes on, while he was in sandals. I tried to further reason, he was just not concerned and I had no option except to quickly get down from the steps and leave.
It was a bitter experience and a bit embarrassing. I landed up so early in the morning that I was dubbed a ‘Newspaper Delivery Boy’ that was entirely my fault. My stars were not aligned as my friend too was on leave on that day and I did not even give her a chance to put in a word.
'Round and Round Coming':
In high school I made a few ‘pen pals’ or ‘pen friends’ who are in touch even to this day except for the fact that they are no longer pen pals for as we grew, with technology taking over, other modes of keeping in touch came to the fore. In a way, I am lucky to be born in a generation where writing was an art by itself.
I was an AICUF (All India Catholic University Federation) member in the second year degree in College. In the year 1986, with the introduction of the first official World Youth Day by Pope John Paul II in Rome, there were mini World Youth Meetings around the globe, one of which was in Madras (Chennai) and I was proud to be part of the team that made it there. It was a feast of the youth who had congregated in thousands in the sprawling 100 acre campus of Loyola College in Nungambakkam.
In the four-five days we were in Madras, I had the chance to squeeze the time to meet one of my pen pals of seven years Michelle who was based here. She lived in Egmore, a decent suburb and we boys ventured out in search of her residence to meet her. Taking a metro train from where we were put at, we reached the area only to be confused with the street numbers that were all over the place instead of being marked in chronological order.
Our search took us to the front of a house with the name Dr Alexander on the door, preceded with a couple of initials. Being a learned person, we thought he was the right individual to guide us. We knocked on the door, greeted him and handed him a small sheet of paper that had the address written, which he appeared to look at intensely, took the trouble to come onto the road and pointing to a roundabout at least half a km away, sort of circling his hands ordered ‘round and round coming’ almost indicating the opposite side to where we were standing.
Further perplexed and confused, already having spent so much time searching for the location, I almost decided it is futile to carry on. Thanks to some good thinking by my friends, Sunil Norohna and Bryan Rodrigues who did some quick calculation and decided that we need to have a second opinion by asking the house opposite. To our utter disbelief, that was the house! Over lunch, we narrated the ‘Roundabout Story’ and the family was not surprised with Michelle’s mother advising us that her parents and his parents have had some personal enmity years ago and hence he derives some sadistic pleasure by harassing a third party whenever he gets a chance.
I was associated with All India Radio for over 10 years from the year 1981 and was a regular participant in their English Yuvavani Programmes that was broadcast on Sundays at 8.15 pm. during those heydays of radio when the advent of television to our city was a few years away.
When one of my sisters got into St Agnes College, she had a class-mate from Vitla who I learn used to make a lot of noise about her dad who was supposed to be a Big Officer in Akashvani, Mangalore. Whenever I was in All India Radio, I for one would casually enquire about ‘the said person’ with the intention of meeting him and saying ‘Hello’ but no one seemed to have a clue.
On one of the programmes, I was in the Recording Studio as a moderator to interview the SSLC rank students. One amongst the rank holders was from my sister’s class whom I knew well. She had the same story to tell about the mystery Big Officer and thus after the recording, we went on a mission to find him.
We enquired with our English Yuvavani Director Yusuf Sheikh, a renowned Konkani writer from Goa, who went through the staff records and could not find anyone with that name on the rolls. He advised us to enquire in the Canteen for they were the contracted staff. There too, we drew a blank.
We finally gave up and were heading home. Before entering the Main Building and exiting, it is mandatory that we show our Contract papers to the guard, sign the logbook with our time going in and put an entry while going out. This
‘Guard Post’ was a little away from the Main Building adjacent to the main gate. After we finished with the formalities, almost near the gate to exit, it flashed on me as to why don’t we enquire with this ‘khaki clad man’ as he would have a fair idea as everyone have to enter and exit under his watchful eye.
Lo and behold - hold your breath! We finally managed to find the ‘Big Officer’ we were looking for!!!
The ‘lathi charge’ had fear running down our spine
The ‘lady at home’ indicated that all was not fine
The ‘newspaper delivery boy’ did not ring a bell
The ‘roundabout theory’ simply did not jell
The ‘Officer at Akashvani’ where trust took a dent
These are my listed Life’s Unforgettable Events!
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