Friday, 24 April 2015

Of Thanappa, Caesar and Ode to the West Wind…..

Last Saturday was supposed to be another boring weekend as I couldn’t travel home. There was nothing much to look forward to. Entertainment was conspicuous by its absence. No television, no friends, no outings, no events, nothing. Solitude was at its best. The only thing that I could pull myself to do on such days was to read, eat and sleep.
So I started out with an effort to hunt on my dusty bookshelf. Old books, papers, magazines, newspapers, scribbling pads- it was a reservoir of dumped items, longing to be decluttered. Suddenly, realization dawned upon me. I felt really bad at the pathetic state of the shelf. At that moment of enlightenment, as I gathered all my might to pull out everything down with a view to give nirvana to my moaning rack, one old book caught my attention. I just opened and flipped through the pages. And one of the chapters struck a chord with my cerebrum. That chapter was capable enough to emit enough nostalgia to drive me down the memory lane and leave all the stuff piled up on the floor to embark upon an unending wait to get stacked back again. The heap knew, the wait would be long; and a shorter one would be too much to ask for…
Thanappa- the postman, Kamakshi and Ramanujam flashed to my memory. Yes. I was holding ‘Malgudi Days’ in my hands and the title on the page read, ‘The Missing Mail’.
Flashback- April 2005- Class IX-C-English Period…
I was sitting on the first bench…Yes. Suma Madam had insisted on that on the progress card distribution day, I remember…She told me “ Don’t get stuck with the same friends and sit in back bench…Come to the front row.” That was also the time when I was increasingly labelled as being too ‘gloomy’ and that may be the reason why I chose to slide back to the last row at the beginning of the academic year itself. But Suma Madam was the only person who told my mom to buy me Tom and Jerry video CD’s instead of taking me for counselling sessions (as many suggested) to make me come out of my gloominess.
So coming back to the classroom, Suma Madam was taking the lesson ‘The Missing Mail’. As she taught, I still remember myself capturing the vivid images of various characters of the story. The streets, the image of a postman in khakhi on his bicycle, the image of Kamakshi- a bashful young girl, Ramanujam, concerned about his daughter’s wedding and his wife and the scene of Thanappa sitting on the pyol of Ramanujam’s house with a glass of buttermilk to discuss the wedding matters…
Even today I remember those intricate details of the lessons I read exactly 10 years ago…The title of the lesson written in dark orange bold letters on our ‘Interact in English’ Literature Reader…
But I can never attribute this to my memory power. If it were so, I should ideally now be able to recollect the contents so-called coaching classes I attended last year…Or for that matter, at least the complex taxation provisions and case laws that I tried to cram a few days ago.
It’s not that. It is because of something more. It is the attention and curiosity with which I sat glued to her classes.
The way she spoke, the way she used words like ‘Mind you…’, ‘Where are we…’ and disliked the way people repeatedly used the word ‘like’ in their conversations…The way she made the class so lively that I literally looked forward to the English period each day. Even today I should say that I am unconsciously influenced by her in the way I write.
Not only this lesson, I remember many of the lessons she took. I still have those imaginary pictures afresh in my mind-of autumn leaves, the brook, the two roads that diverged in a yellow wood,the streets of Malgudi, the chandeliers, the palace where Mirabai lived, and the scene where Caesar dies saying "Et tu Brute...Then fall,Caesar..."-everything encarved perfectly... Not only the lessons, but the visuals of the class come live on my mind…
How she helped us visualize ‘Like the bright hair uplifted from the head of some fierce Maenad’ in ‘Ode to the West Wind’ by giving the example of the guy whose hair goes up and stands like that at the end of the ‘Niram’ film song…
And the ‘Dhwani’ film song where netted sunlight comes through the leaves and branches of a tree, while taking the poem, ‘The Brook’ by Tennyson..
The way she used to say ‘Liberty. Freedom. Enfranchisement! Tyranny is dead’ in Julius Caesar…
How she used to find tears on my eyes when she took ‘Lucy Gray’ and asked me after class, “What happened? Remembered your Thatha?”
How she told us you are too young to understand ‘Pendulum’ by O.Henry…
And the ire on her face at the time she took ‘Lord Ullin’s Daughter’
And the divergent views she had on Mirabai…
The day she asked me to enact the role of Persome, Bishop’s sister in the play ‘Bishop’s Candlesticks’. And how the way I told “Marie, isn’t the soup boiling yet” made her laugh and say, “You are too soft for the role” and made me take up the role of Marie instead.
I remember how we performed a role play for Shakespeare’s Seven Ages on the day of inspection.
And the radio show.
And the grammar classes were we learnt passive voice and active voice with the example of ‘Tom Chases Jerry’.
How she sowed the seeds of my obsession with ‘Open page’ and editorial columns…
And the most important one, how I still draw a parallel (Or should it be an antonym?) to ‘ The Road Not Taken’…
I remember when she asked what was my ambition…I told her “I want to take PhD in English”.
But today, I ended up being a Chartered Accountant. I accept there is an unbridgeable gap between the number crunching audit profession and literature. But still, I confess that the only moments I really do live are the ones like these... Occassionally grabbed interstices from the monotonous routine. The routine of mindless race for bell curves, efficiency and deadlines, which are utterly incomprehensible for me. (May be as Madam used to say, my life became a monster.com advertisement, where a prospective Bharatanatyam dancer got the job of an air-hostess and a cricketer becomes a chef!)
I wish I could go back to those days, and slip back to those wooden benches of IX-C classroom, the time when competition meant scoring 38 in UT and success meant getting a ‘Very good’ in the answer paper and how I searched the paper to find out if she has scribbled some comments... And the elation I used to have! I still reminisce those moments when Madam used to discuss the answer papers- a moment I always looked forward to.
Those were the times when doubts were celebrated, waiting to be clarified, as regards now, when my doubts are viewed with a patronizing cynicism…(Suma Madam taught me how to pronounce ‘patronize’)…
But there is one moment that is closest to my heart. When she knew that my article got published in ‘The Hindu’ Young World in December 2008…She was very happy about it...Referring to it, she told her colleague, “She is my daughter”…

8 comments:

  1. Beautifully written, Prabha :)
    Brought back all those memories.. 9-C :) :)

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  2. Very Nice..
    The batsman is great with his footworks and the dancer with her classic steps...No place for monster.com

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  3. Really nice! Keep writing Prabha. Good job.

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  4. very well brought out Akka...it was like going on a ride back to my school days.... everything flashed one by one....muthashi maavu, our school ground, our Malayalam Class which I used to eagerly wait for, Wednesdays when we had 2 malayalam periods (4th and 5th- before and after the lunch break)our Malayalam Sir, Library and its smell which is lost forever for me now.....
    '.............The routine of mindless race for bell curves, efficiency and deadlines, which are utterly incomprehensible for me. (May be as Madam used to say,my life became a monster.com advertisement, where a prospective Bharatanatyam dancer got the job of an air-hostess and a cricketer becomes a chef!....' felt as if u wrote these lines for me....cud see my picture....

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