My remniscences

Sri Ramakrishnarparamahamsa

It is my long cherished desire to contribute my mite to Parthasarathy's Newsletter to which many relatives are contributing.

Being the eldest daughter, I am attached to all my brothers especially to Parthasarathy, he being the kadaikutti. Gopalan and Sampath are no more with us. Gopalan, Raghu and Parthasarathy were more intelligent than Sampath and I. Sampath secured the same total as mine in SSLC. But I think I was more hard working.

In my school days I was very naughty and only when I started my career as a teacher I realized my mistake. Let me quote one or two incidents. I studied from I class to SSLC in Lady Sivaswamy Iyer Girls Higher Secondary School which was then known as National School. Sulochana, one of my classmates was the daughter of Lakshmana Iyer, my father’s colleague. Now she is a leading doctor in Isabel Hospital. Earlier She worked in Railway Hospital, Perambur. There were two teachers - sisters called Kethaki and Sumuki. Kethaki teacher taught me Chemisty and Sumuki Teacher taught us Science. Once Kethaki teacher was going on leave and asked Sulochana to be in charge of the class. When she returned, she asked us how was Sulochana's teaching. I stood up immediately and told her,'she taught only like you teacher. Her teaching was also so-so as yours.' All students laughed and Kethaki teacher got angry. Fortunately, the Headmistress Miss Chellam knew that my father was a teacher She also knew Mr. Venkatrama Iyer (who was our neighbour and was a maths teaher). So I was saved without much punishment.

Mrs. Lakshmi Ranganathan who is 3-in-one to me - friend, Mami and sambandhi was one year junior to me in school. We are friends for nearly seventy years, We are both born in the same year - 1934. She also lived in Vedachala Gardens (also known as Pasupathi Agraharam). We lived in No.25 in that colony and her house was No.23. We purchased identical small tiffin box for our lunch from Kasi Viswanathan shop, a well known steel shop in 50s. Lakshmi’s father was a captain in the army and he used to give substantial sum of pocket money to her. My father being a teacher gave me whatever he could. The school had a strict rule about students not eating outside eatables and there were student volunteers to enforce the rule. But many days, Lakshmi and I would give dimikki to the volunteers and go to Kalathi shop (which sells rose milk even now) to share a cup of rose milk. Once we were caught red handed. Miss Chellam the Headmistress told our neighbour (Venkatrama Iyer) and that ended our pocket money. Once I got just 50% in Maths. My maths teacher told me when giving the report card,'You are living next to an excellent maths teacher's house and still getting poor marks.' I worked hard and got 80% in maths in the annual examination. When I was in SSLC, my favourite teacher was Mrs. Shantha . I liked her excellent English teaching. She only motivated me to become a teacher. We are a family of teachers. My father was a teacher. Parthasarathy was Professor in Baroda. Sampath was teaching ICWA students and now my daughter Urmila is a teacher.

I studied at Stella Maris College which was at Santhome then. My father told me that he could not afford full fees and that I could go to college only if I got scholarship or else I had to study to become a Secondary Grade Teacher. I boldly went (with my friend Lakshmi) and told my difficulties to the Principal - Mother Lilian. She appreciated my boldness and my desire to study further moved her. Though my total was not very high in SSLC, she sanctioned me half scholarship. I joined the Intermediate Course in Stella Maris College. After I paid the fees, I got the admission card from Q.M.C. for a seat in second group. I had very much wished to become a doctor. But how can I be a doctor when I was afraid of cockroaches? My father told me that he could not afford to forego the fees already paid. Moreover, Stella was at a walkable distance. So I continued in Arts in Stella. When in college, I did not know much English as I was a Tamil Medium student. One day in canteen I saw two bottles filled with nuts. I was fond of groundnuts and showed one bottle. That bottle was actually full of fish nuts. When I was given that I threw up and had to pay for the cleaning also.

After B.A., I completed B.T. I got a job in Shanthi Vijaya Girls H.S. Coonoor. I asked them boldly to give me train fare to join. Surprisingly, I got it. I joined them only because my my chittappa and chithi were in Coonoor. My father was also happy as he knew that my affectionate chithappa and chithi would ensure that I would put on weight (you may not believe it, but I was very slim in 1958). That was the beginning of my career as a teacher. My cousin Prema (known to us as Pattu) was my student. The Headmistress, Miss Chary was a family friend. Once I had a quarrel with Pattu and vowed that I would take vengeance. Inspection was announced by Headmistress who asked me to make the students repeat Tamil poems by way of songs. Pattu was a bright student and I announced that Prema would sing. She realised that I was taking revenge on her for our earlier quarrel and immediately said that she would sing only with her sister (meaning me). I asked Pattu to get out of the class. Unfortunately the headmistress came and pulled me up.

Before I joined the school in Coonoor, Pattu was also in Madras and we were learning veena as well as vocal music. One gentleman came from Hyderabad to see me. Appa gave him train fare as it was demanded by him and amma prepared bajji and sojji. I was very angry at his demand for train fare. His parents told me to sing. Though I refused at first, both of us started singing a song on Lord Nataraja- Aadum Chidambareswara. In saranam I sang thathom, thathom.The fellow started running and no reply was heard till today. Thank God.They did not know about our veena learning. Later I learnt that the fellow was a chain smoker. The saying that marriages are made in heaven was proved in my life. My husband was a P&T employee in Delhi and he saw my photo only a week before we had seen each other. Though our married life was short, we were happy My husband had no bad habits, he would not even take betel-nut.

my two sisters in law - Chooda and Mythili lived with me. Chooda is no more. Mythili is well-settled in life. When we were in Delhi Mr. Narasimhan was my husband’s friend and he lived in the opposite flat at East Patel Nagar. My father had given me a big, heavy brass vessel for my marriage. At that time we had water scarcity at Delhi. So we had filled the vessel with water. Two thieves came climbing up the stairs to the first floor where we were living. The thieves had emptied the Anjana petti and taken the silver tumblers. One of them poured out the water from the brass vessel and gave it to the other thief when Chooda came to the kitchen to drink water. She started shouting - Chor, chor. She had a strong voice and her shouting was heard by Mr. Narasimhan. As he came rushing, the thieves dropped the anjanapetti from the first step of the stair case and started running with the silver tumblers. Mr.Narasimhan was hit by the Anjana petti and used to complain for a long time after the incident. Chooda continued to shout and Mythili also joined. My husband and I were unaware of all these commotion. And the silver tumblers vanished for ever.

Later we moved to Karol Bagh where we had a north Indian co-tenant. Her small son used to come and play in our flat. Once he soiled the ural thinking it was a toilet seat. On another occasion, he fell down and started crying. His mother shouted to me in Hindi,'kya hua?' I didn't know much Hindi and instead of saying,'bacha gir gaya', I said.'bacha mar gaya.' The lady never forgave me and later I was pulled up by my husband also.

Radha was 6 months and Urmila was 2 years when their father died. I owe everything to my parents and brothers for bringing them up. After my husband's death, I came to Madras and joined Sarada Vidyalaya and retired after 31 years of service. In Sarada Vidyalaya my correspondent. Gowri sister was my spiritual guru and I was also fond of Sister Subbalakshmi, the headmistress. My brothers used to make fun of my devotion to them. I used to ask for knife to cut sathukudi and prepare juice for them. When they attended the marriage of my brother Parthasarathy, he asked me whether sathkudi and knife are ready.

I had many nice experiences in the train from younger days. When I was travelling from Coonoor to Madras one pregnant lady Kamakshi by name came in at Coimbatore station with a small boy to go to her mother’s house at Madras for delivery. My athai who visited her brother came with me and one girl who was doing mid wife course also traveled with us. This lady went to the toilet and did not return for a long time. I went and found her struggling to deliver a baby. I woke up the midwife student and with great difficulty we attended her delivery. I used two new sarees. Athai then woke up and refused to give kooja and tumbler as she was very orthodox. Railway doctor came and they got down at Katpadi where they had close relatives. She thanked me and the nurse a lot.

When Parthasarathy was in Kota, Radha and I were to catch G.T. to go to Bina where he was to receive us. But when we went to station (with tamarind rice, curd rice etc.), we found out that the train was cancelled and the ticket would be valid for the next day. Though we reached Bina after 24 hours, we were happy that Parthasarathy was there. Another journey I remember was when Radha, Urmila and Vasumathi (Laksnmi's daughter) and myself went to Chittaranjan. Parthasarathy had told me that we had to get down at Chittaranjan which was the next halt after Asansol. Unfortunately, the train stopped at a small station called Rupnarainpur. I insisted we must get down and Urmila showed me the name of the station. They used to make fun of me for wanting to get down in Rupnarainpur.

Similarly when we went to Bombay by Mail, Parthasarathy had told us clearly that the whole train would get empty at Dadar, but we should get down only at VT. At 4.15 AM, almost everybody got down at Dadar. But I was not asking Radha to get down as I had been forewarned.

Another memorable journey was when Amritha's brother, Raghu, who was travelling to Ramagundam and I were exchanging jokes and conversing animatedly. He forgot to get down at Ramagundam and then jumped from the train as the train started to move.

There was also an occasion when I purchased half tickets for Urmila and Radha, both of whom were above 12 at that time. When the TTE questioned them, they told the truth and I had to pay the fine.

When Urmila delivered the first child, Mami, myself and my amma and Ranga Mama went. She was admitted in Military Hospital at Khadki. One day I went alone and Urmila was taken to the maternity ward. I was terribly upset, started walking to and fro in the verandah.One nurse who was rushing mistakenly thought that I was having labour pain.

My success as a teacher goes only to my parents and brothers. My father helped me to prepare essays, which earned me a good name in Sarada Vidyalaya as one of the successful teachers of that noble institution. Even at the age of 12 Parthasarathy used to help me in the spellings for English class and to frame sentences. But for Raghu and Kalyani I would not have passed my M.Ed. When Appa and Amma with my children had been to Baroda to Parthasarathy and Amritha’s place, I went to Raghu's house in Ambattur where I studied for M.Ed. (in the terrace). Kalyani used to serve many cups of coffee as stimuli for my study. Inspection is an ordeal. Parthasarathy once helped me by preparing a crossword puzzle (which is his favourite) and the Inspectress said in the Assembly that it is a novel idea which she had not seen and it should be followed by al teachers.

We siblings rarely quarrelled. Sampath was very fond of me and his wife wanted me to help her daughter’s delivery at Calcutta. We also visited Sampath when he was in Nagpur. We have visited all the places where Parthasarathy was posted - Sholapur, Hyderabad, Chittarajanjan, Kota, Baroda, Mumbai etc. All four of us went to Amritha‘s house at Sholapur just 4 months after their marriage. Amritha is a very god cook and I still remember the custard she made in Sholapur. We visited Gopalan in Nagpur as wel as Bangalore. He was my income-tax consultant till his sudden death. I've already mentioned how Raghu helped me clear the M.Ed exams. I have been lucky to be blessed with good relations. My daughters are nice and take good care of me. All my grandchildren are affectionate. I wish everyone the very best from the depth of my heart.

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