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
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.
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
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 consideration.
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 course.
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
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.