Teacher Has Come
The swirling waters of
Cauvery knew no bounds of limit. People worship her with respect as she is
the only source of rescue even during acute summer. The much adorned
aganda Cauvery becomes scanty when monsoon fails. Visitors to this calm
village Kodumudi, make it a ritual to visit the trinity shrine Makudeswara
Temple on the banks of the river rejuvenated by the sage Agasthya.
The temple town suffocates on Aadipperukku when the head count sets a new
record every year. Sitting on the shoulders of my father, I had a tough
time kicking my legs and wading through the crowd to safeguard my anklets.
For the booming voice of my paati (grandma) reverberated, ‘kolusu
bathiranda tholachiyo thatha velasuvar’ (Beware of anklets, if lost,
grandpa will charge you).
All relatives from near and around gave full attendance while other lady
members were busy in kitchen cooking to feed a group of forty. The heaps
of firewood at the backyard disappear to ashes within no time.
The rectangular type house
of five thousand square feet was moderately enough to accommodate as many
guests. Some relatives were too busy discussing the family feuds. Everyday
was filled with fun when marriages and other functions took place in the
spacious house. The roof was laid with mangalore tiles with provision for
skylight. Wooden cantilevers added strength and were sturdy enough to
suspend the giant swing with heavy chains.
Kolusu and kadukkan were done away with the passing of early childhood as
I was certified as a grownup boy. When postman Perumal knocked the door,
our house went in to raptures. Since mail was a rare feature, even a
postcard was received with equal importance as MO.
Pitchu vadhiyar, the village school teacher
was a humble man from a modest family. With parents, five sisters, wife
and children, he somehow managed to keep the cards in his hands. A short
and lean figure, Pitchu had only a pair of slippers, a cloth bag and an
old umbrella as his paraphernalia. He was much to the core that he never
absented himself for personal reasons and was more courteous to take me to
school enroute. This was signaled through my grandpa’s words ‘vadhiyar
vandachuda’(teacher has come).
My mama-thatha(grandma’s brother) was a devout congressman who was
religious and educated up to intermediate. His love for the motherland
figured more than his classical music. He would feel elated when
K.B.Sundarambal (KBS) sang a splendid piece to evoke the spirit of
As a lad of ten, I remember ‘Gandhiji’ seated on a lorry, waving to the
crowds at the grounds of Sankara Vidhyasala from atop. I knew not what he
spoke but he had charisma to attract masses. The glamour he wore was the
‘pokkai vai sirippu’. Sure Gandhiji would have missed the hot tasty crispy
pakodas and vadas prepared by Kuppanna.
Many a time at home for evening snacks, delicacies were supplied in
pottalam by Kuppanna Iyer, a Nala in his style, whose basket went empty in
no time. Thus childhood rolled on and I was admitted into fifth form (X
Std). As the eldest sibling in our family, my grand parents were very
proud of my growth.
The trousers I wore were so magnanimously stitched to accommodate two. I
remember wearing them for four years because the tailor was instructed so
by my thatha, ‘valarra paiyan…dharalama theiy’ (he is a growing boy, let
it be spacious). Other then kaki, white and green, I never knew that many
colours existed in pants and shirts.
I had never dreamt of a hair style except ‘summer crop’. The bristles
replicated the touch of a porcupine on my head whenever a strong wind blew
over. With a big ‘jolna’ bag precariously hanging from the shoulder, it
had at the bottom few books and loosely stitched crumpled sheets. My
teacher was so patient enough to care for those papers with material
From then onwards, Pitchu vadhiyar played a significant role in
my life. Rain or shine, he was the first to sign the muster roll.
At times he skipped his breakfast and came for duty. He was unique
in all aspects. An unassuming duty conscious teacher, he was my
class in-charge, English teacher and head master too. My Pitchu
vadhiyar was paid a monthly salary of rupees 20. His agility needed
no proof and being a swimmer and swift walker, he visited the next
village for an extra monthly income of Rupees Two per tuition. He
tried his best to make both ends meet but in vain.
My batch that existed as coeducation had totally twenty boys and four
girls of the same age. The next year I passed out and the entire family
was in jubilant mood. To pep up the spirit, we drove to the talkies next
village in a cart to watch the hit of MKT. M.K.Thiagaraja Baghavathar, was
a singer-hero unsurpassed for over a decade.
It was around this time that freedom struggle was at its peak. KBS and
others were arrested for propagating patriotic songs. Sundarambal was
famous for the exuberant royal fee she received for acting in ‘Nandanar’
and so were her songs. At Kodumudi, she owned a theatre that was fondly
called as sundari kottayi.
After a few years, India got independence and the whole village
wore a festive look. With the only band radio at Periasamy Iyer
hotel, the news was heard throughout. I was shrewd enough by then
to identify the voice of leaders. My parents were planning to send
me to Bombay for employment and that I stay with my aunt in Matunga.
Before leaving Kodumudi, the Periasamy Hotel radio broadcast the
news of Gandhiji’s death with grief. Nehru’s address to the nation
remained in memory and the dimple cheeks of Gandhiji flashed again.
I was deeply engrossed in the memories when my train moved out of
the Madras Central station.
My parents boasted, ‘pullaiyandan bombaila government uthyogathula
irukkan’(our son is employed in Bombay in government service). My service
involved transfers to Calcutta, Nainital, and Arvi. In twenty-five years,
my family had also grown.
During the vacation, when I visited my hometown, I noticed an old man
sitting on the chair of the railway platform. With a worn out bag and
faded umbrella, the little figure stood up and made a brisk walk towards
me. Lo! My Pitchu vadhiyar. Lying down on the cot stretched out on the
front yard thinnai, I recalled old memories. Many wickets fell on the
relatives’ side; the old house also exposed its weakness to the fury of
nature. Grandparents, KBS, Kuppanna Iyer, Radio Periasamy and postman
Perumal have all gone into history. Aged parents who lived in this house
also spent their evening years in peace.
I remember Dr.Arumugam, a simple man and experienced doctor of this
village with healing touch. His simple tools and dressing of wound were
highly commendable. The purple syrup mixture in a bottle was the much
expected medicine. The consulting fee he collected was a rupee or few
annas. Raji, the old village midwife was anytime available on call to
attend to labour pains till she was too old to make a visit.
My last leg of posting was Madras. It was a joy that I was able to visit
my native whenever I liked so. After a long innings of service, I retired
as a pensioner and planned to settle down with wife at Kodumudi. The
ancestral house needed renovation and some basic amenities to be upgraded.
Having completed all my duties as a householder, I preferred the solace on
the banks of the Cauvery.
Some houses have been pulled down to pave way for new buildings and KBS
theatre has become an entertainment house that screened new films. The
railway station has a modern look and many trains pass through now. VLR
stall has taken the role of Kuppanna and big lodges have sprouted near the
bus stand for the welfare of pilgrims. With the presence of hire purchase
shops, cable TV has become a necessity. With hardly a decade to millennium
2000, many computer centers have spread across. The evolution goes on its
After rewinding my childhood memories on the steps of the ghat, little did
I realize it was dusk and the dazzling lights of TNPL (Tamilnadu Newsprint
Ltd) spotted my sight in the dark. Before could I leave the place, a mild
voice requested help to be accosted to the main road. The fragile
structure with partial blindness dropped his belongings, a crumpled bag
and distorted umbrella. Oh, my school teacher!
I was in tears to look at his pathetic situation. Is this the effect of
old age in penury? This is a lesson new to me. Unable to withstand this
scene, I came home along with my master. Though everything has changed and
I too have grown old, my mind is relatively younger by few decades. My
soul searches for a recharge kit and it is none other than my memorable
childhood days. Same house, same teacher and the same obedient student to
my master. What an ideal mood to simulate the bygone era! My grandpa’s
words, ‘vadhiyar vandachuda’ echoed in every cell of my body with joy.
--- Copyright ©2007 Selvaraj Chandrasekar
Also Read :
Kodumudi and the Cauvery
Contributing Story Teller A freelance
copy/content/creative writer in English & Tamil, for the past 3 years
writes for Thozil vaniga Mudaleedu, Travel & Shopp - Chennai /Bangalore
edition, Nikitha Ad agency. Currently working as Manager -HR with a
epublishing BPO in Chennai.