Kalam - 12
'Finding Joy in Finding'
2014, this 'New Year' has opened very interestingly for me. Being a Cancerian that I am, I am supposed to be, and truly to a large extent, after old things. Old books, old wine and old friends not to say of the innumerous old memories which help me dream better and while away my time when I do not have much serious work to do.
My education took place in two schools, two colleges, one university and several institutions and in all these places I had acquaintances, class mates and friends, out of whom very few are in touch with some or each other.
The first school was ‘Sri Bala Gurukul’ a school that was (I use the past tense as the school no longer exists) headed by a foreigner called Duncan Greenleys (I do earnestly hope that the spelling of his surname is correct), a kind, white gentleman with an equally white hair and a long white beard, and managed by a Tamil gentleman called Sarangapani.
My father vaguely remembers Duncan Greenleys as a person from South Africa but who liked to run a school in India. Either he was not married or had forsaken his family, as he used to live alone in a room in the first floor of the school itself. I am not certain of the time but remember that he died while I was in my 4th standard, I think. I long to find more details and write a tribute on him with more and relevant details. At this point I only know him as a very kind, ever smiling, child loving gentle soul. He used to stand at the gate of the school every morning and every evening and children used to crawl on to him like monkeys. I remember him having no less than a burden of a pack of at least six children, like monkeys, on him at any given point of time, while he was at the gates.
During the time of classes, he used to gently visit the school premises comprising of a bunch of huts for class rooms always kept very clean under the shade of Mango trees. A few classes for the seniors (4th & 5th standards) used to be in the main building which also partly housed a hostel, a vegetarian mess, Teacher’s room, Office on the ground floor.
The school offered three mediums of study I think. English, Tamil and Telugu as yours faithfully studied in Telugu Medium till he completed the 5th Standard and left the school in 1966.
The school catered, among others, to the wards of film personalities. In my own class, I had classmates Harsha Latha, daughter of the famous Telugu film actor and later producer (Amrutha Films) Balayya (his son Tulasi Ram Prasad was my junior by a year), Kesava Rao, son of A very famous and popular Telugu Film Hero and producer (Pratap Pictures I think) Late T. L. Kantha Rao (his elder son Pratap was my senior), Rajya Lakshmi, daughter of the very famous Telugu film Actor Late ‘Mukkamala” who used to be of a towering personality and his mere presence in a role of a villain (which he was very famous for) used to be applauded by the audience (his other daughters, who were like dolls were juniors way under us). Rajya Lakshmi herself was a towering personality. Then there were Ravindranath, son of the famous Late Drama and film Actor Nagabhushanam, Suresh Chand son of the famous film director Late V. Ramachandra Rao (of ‘Paapam Pasivaadu’ and who for long was an Assistant director to another famous director Aadurthi Subba Rao) and Rama Linga Raju, son of Film producer Subba Raju (Chaya Chithra banner). Then, T.D. Sekhar, brother of the famous Tamil Actress T.D. Kushala Kumari (Being Rich and famous most of them used to get their lunch hot in the afternoons, mostly delivered in cars by their chauffeurs or others in their employ. T.D. Sekhar used to get dishes of crabs for lunch quite often that he got the moniker ‘Nandu Pudi Sekhar’ (crab catching Sekhar).
The famous Telugu music director and singer Ghantasala's children were also studying with us. While Ratna Kumar was one year junior to me his sisters were juniors to him. Then there were Ravi and Shankar who were my seniors. The famous comedian Padmanabham’s children were my juniors. My own grand uncle and famous Music Director Pamarthi’s daughters (my dad's cousins) were in the school. The elder daughter was a teacher and the younger, Sarada (now holding an important position in the Central Government of India) a student.
And then there were others too. T. Venkateswar Rao (TV as we used to call him and till date refer him to) the son of an industrialist (today TV himself is an industrialist-his was the first house in Madras/Chennai to have a dish antenna since more than 30 years when none even heard of a dish antenna), G. K. Venkat Kumar whose parents had a then famous textile shop in the prime Pondy Bazaar (called Samsons Dresses) next to the then Police Station. Today, I think Rajiv Jewellers have their shop in that place. B.H. Subrahmanyam used to be so tall that he earned the moniker ‘LIC’ Building (LIC building in Madras/Chennai with 14 floors was the tallest building for a very looong time and was a landmark that it was on any tour itinerary of vacation goers coming in). V. Madhu Babu, J. Prabhakar and C. Lakshmana were my other class mates. Interestingly, apart from Rajya Lakshmi, I remember only few girls in my class – Raj Kamal, Devaki, Geetha and Kanchana (who modeled for ‘Binny’ uniform advertisements).
In 1965 I left Sri Bala Gurukul to join Kesari High School which was not only the haven for the wards of the film personalities but also a fertile ground for future film personalities. Majority of the entire school’s staff and students alike were one way or the other connected with films.
Here, our entourage of students flocking from Sri Bala Gurukul, were joined by more like Venkataramaiah and Sarojini, nephew and niece of the most adored and famous multi-lingual and multi faceted film actor Late S. V. Ranga Rao. Then there is Varalakshmi Devi daughter of the famous producer of movies like ‘Jarigina Katha’ on the banner of ‘Naagaavali Vijetha’ and later ‘Ramalayam’ on the banner of ‘Raama Vijetha’ (of the Producer duo Prabhakar and Babu Rao). We had a senior called Vidyullatha who acted in a one film but a well known film called ‘Sri Sri Sri Maryaada Raamanna’. Later heroines like ‘Jyothi’ and ‘Archana’ who became very famous heroines in Tamil films as also in Telugu films were my juniors in the school.
We had a Teacher who used to write stories and dialogues for movies and one teacher who went on to become a Talented Actor, Producer and eventually to become a Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha or the upper House). Then there is T. N. Srinivas who was our teacher’s son and with whom I always had to compete in English, studies, elocution, oratorical and essay competitions. If he was first I was one among the next two and vice versa. While leaving the school I lost to him in English by one mark and he went on to becoming the school first. Today he is a doctor and is settled in Australia.
Leaving the High School, I went to Pre-University to Dhanraj Baid Jain college (D.B. Jain College-I was the first batch with my roll number as 197 if I have not forgotten) for one year - between 1972-73. I had many classmates there (in fact 100 exactly) but I was rather close to Sudheendran coming from Perambur, Durai Mohan from Aspirin Garden and Ramachandran from Saligramam. Today I am in touch only with Ramachandran.
Then I did my under-graduation in commerce (B. Com) in Agurchand Manmull Jain College (A.M. Jain College) and had several class mates but now am connected only to Narsimhan in Delhi.
And the story goes on.
In the dusk of my life and when lack of adequate work affords more time, I keep thinking and try to remember as many names of my class mates as possible, list them out and try to find one after another to see where they are, what they are and how they are.
It is an interesting pastime and helps (I fervently hope) keep Alzheimer’s away?
But the interesting thing is despite all the new tools like Google, Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter there are many who still manage to hide away. And then there will be some who simply abscond and these people add more mystery to ponder about and to life in itself.
It takes scrounging the internet, trying to contacts of contacts of contact with a hope to contact ‘the missing person’ and in the process, I have now become something like Simon Wiesenthal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Wiesenthal) -ferreting out people/contacts-of course for different purposes altogether though J
So, coming to 2014, this year has opened quite well for me in that that I could trace out K. V. Narahari Babu, Re-traced Madhu Babu, Varalakshmi Devi, T. Kesava Rao and as a bonus, could trace out Gourishankar (Internal auditor-Apple Credit Corporation) with whom I lost touch in 1977 all in about 2 weeks. I could trace out that Rajya Lakshmi has become a Judge in Andhra Pradesh and am trying to contact.
Yet, I need to still find so many and so much that I had lost and lost touch with.
I need to trace V. Someswara Rao, whom we used to call a ‘Scientist’ seeing his interest in science. I need to trace P. Jaya Kumar, who liked to be equated to ‘Clint Eastwood’ though no resemblance whatsoever. And within just a decade’s time I had lost contact with my mentor Mohan G. Gurjale.
How I wish 2014 would continue to be kind and resourceful so that I can add more ‘heads’ to my count.
While working with Godrej Soaps Limited in Chennai, I had a colleague called Parameswaran whose table always used to be filled in with a variety of knick-knacks and anytime he needed something a search used to be mounted. Interestingly, he also used to have on his table, the legend “Those proud of keeping an orderly desk never know the thrill of finding something they thought they had irretrievably lost’
Now I am sure that this quote of Helen Exley is so true to the ‘table of my life’ which has been anything but orderly as it now appears in hindsight and every time I find some person / contact, only I know how good ‘finding joy in finding’ is.
What do you think? You tell me! :-)
Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Thanks (English), Dhonyabaad (Bangla), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic), Shukriya (Urdu), Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Lhai Lhai (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai) and Asante (Kiswahili).
Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy