There was a new theory (regarding my tendency to fall asleep while studying). “The child is going to feel bored if he has to study all alone. If he is joined by another person, it may ward off all boredom and he will remain awake”, my father (and the rest of the family) surmised. They arranged for a companion for my studies. Varahamurthy, the son of Madhvarayacharya was the scape goat. Madhvarayacharya was the Divan of Majjigehalli Mutt. He often visited our house. He was a friend of my granduncle (paternal grandfather’s younger brother). Thus, it was supposedly good company for me. Varahamurthy was to finish his meal at his residence and visit me at seven-thirty in the evening. We were to sit close to a lamp and study our lessons. Varahamurthy was to read the lesson out loud and I was to pay attention to it and grasp it with my ears. This was the arrangement. Varahamurthy was quite an orthodox in his practises and therefore, would not eat certain kinds. He would not eat food items that fell under the category of ‘musure’ , i.e., those that were prepared by boiling with water; Uppiṭṭu, for instance. Only fried items such as araḻu-saṇḍige, cakkuli, koḍbaḻe and muccore were given to us, thanks to his orthodoxy. My paternal aunt drew great inspiration for her poetry from muccore. These snacks were placed before us on two separate plates. The poor guy Varahamurthy wanted to keep his image clean. He would continue reading and I considered it my responsibility to empty the two plates filled with snacks.
This brought an end to the second experiment.
One day, my father was enraged and threatened me that he would smear oil from the Beech tree (hoṅge) to my eyes. Fortunately, my grand-uncle stopped that from happening. “Hold on! He might lose his eye-sight!” he shouted at my father.
Despite all these incidents, my eyes never learnt their lesson. Among the various complaints that my father had about me, a few made it to the top ranks. Two among them were very important
- I lay down while studying a book
- I oversleep
Both the ‘defects’ in my character were, in fact, true. Even after I grew up to be an adult and successfully gave the illusion to the world that I was intelligent, my father did not stop testing me. I would lie down on the bed even when I had to write important articles for magazines. I usually lay on my abdomen on the bed and write with a pencil. Whenever I wished to read a book, I lay on my back on the bed, hold the book at my chest and read it. My father could not stand these practises of mine. He reprimanded me now and then and called me names – ‘ignoble’, etc.
Sleep was a gift of the Divine. Unfortunately, He snatched away the gift from me during my father’s lifetime. I started getting sleep when it was not required and could not sleep when I really needed it – either way I was unlucky. This is was Śiva’s unwise decision for me.
When I was in the Lower Secondary (L.S.) my father had a natural fear that due to my tendency to over-sleep I might score a zero in the exams and I might fail in my studies. Because of this fear of his, I was often given mouthfuls of scolding. I was also beaten by him from time to time. Seeing these ugly happenings, Kashi Rao and his wife Bhagirathamma were very worried. Kashi Rao and my father were close friends and he lived in the house in front of ours. He worked at a local Taluk Office. He did not have children back then. Bhagirathamma would shed tears whenever she saw me getting beaten up.
In the meanwhile, Kashi Rao got transferred to Bowringpete. After about a month since his moving to the town, he wrote a letter to my father and asked him to visit Bowringpete. He handed over a pillow to my father and asked him to give it to me. It was designed in such a way that when I put my head on it, it would produce a peculiar sound (which could potentially disturb my sleep). I figured that there was a spring placed amidst the cotton that the pillow is filled with, within a wooden framework.
Today, there are several such rubber dolls available in the market. It was a rare and unique thing back then. Bhagirathamma and Kashi Rao were under the impression that the pillow would help ward off my sleep and would help me focus on my studies. This would in turn stop my father from reprimanding me from time to time. Apparently, Kashi Rao had spoken about my situation to one of his friends and confided his empathy for me in him. The friend described the greatness of this kind of a pillow to Kashi Rao. When he narrated about such a pillow to his wife, Bhagirathamma insisted that they should gift me with one such object. They went to Bangalore in search of the pillow and had bought it for my sake.
Ten to fifteen days after the pillow fell into my hands, Kashi Rao visited Mulbagil and enquired about my well-being. I said –
“This is a nice pillow, uncle. It helps me sleep well.”
Kashi Rao: “Does it keep you awake?”
Me: “How can it keep me up? I don’t even hear the sound it produces”.
I have, perhaps, got used to this kind of haughtiness from a young age.
This is the second and the last part English translation of the twenty-fourth essay in D V Gundappa’s magnum-opus Jnapakachitrashaale (Volume 8) – Sankirna Smrutisamputa