Saturday, October 27, 2007


In our days we did not have as much worldly knowledge as the modern day kids have. I think every present day kid of eight years is exposed to much ‘sex’ than what an adolescent was exposed in our days, thanks to the media. In a way it is good to know proper things in a proper way.

I still remember how not only I but all guys of my age in those days never had any chance to know about ‘the secrets of sex’. There was no chance to see or to read or to hear anything about sex. It was all hush-hush thing among close friends. So it was mostly like the characters in the story of an elephant and four blind men. One blind leading another blind led only to more confusion. Especially puberty of girls was a great enigma for us. Talking about that brought goose pimples and we were thrilled to share our information with others. I got most of the gossip about sex from my rural friends, especially during my summer visits to my native village. Each one had his own theory about sex, puberty, menstruation, masturbation etc. We were totally a confused lot. This confusion made sex more and more a mystery and we had no chance to know about it. This made sex more enigmatic and mysterious and we always talked about these matters only with our very close friends. So naturally since we had our references from fellows of our own age, it was mostly like one blind leading another blind from one dark spot to another dark spot! We were very stupid. Hot discussion on the nature of genitals of the opposite sex happened often. There were times when we were not sure how a baby would come into this world. To make matters worse comparing a cow and a woman especially in the matter of their anatomy and mode of delivery was common. This state of affairs even continued to very late period of our adolescence. Such was our ignorance in those days!

I had a cousin. His father and my father were first cousins, and they had the very same name and worked in the same school. To avoid confusion people used to call my periyappa as senior so-and-so (periya ..) and my appa was known as junior so-and-so (chinna ..). Like our fathers we also had the same first name. He was just two years senior to me. But he played the role my ‘friend-philosopher-guide’. He was the one who was unraveling the mysteries of sex to me. His house was on my way to school and church, the two places around which my early life was revolving. So I used to go to his house on my way to school or church and then we would go together. He came out with so many newer things about anything and everything. I very submissively accepted all his ‘doctrines’. Never questioned them. Except the one time when he was explaining the ‘dirtiest thing’.

Whenever he came out with anything he used to always show an air of superiority which was quite right since I was too wet behind my ears for my age and what all he said were ‘scriptures’ to me. I never dared to question his statements. But one day on our way back from school he started giving me extraordinary information on sex. He told me with the same and usual air of superiority what a married man and wife would do in private to get a child. My God! It sounded so obscene and dirty that I thought there could not be an iota of truth in what he said. I said I did not believe what he said just then. He majestically told me that was the truth and nothing but truth. I kept silent for some time mulling over on what he said. I was simply flabbergasted by this unbelievable and dirty thing. For a few moments we were walking in silence.

Then I asked my cousin: “Then … er.. how about my father and mother?”

“Well, it has to be so”, he shot the answer without a moment of hesitation. He was very cool answering my question.

Few more moments of silence. I was still trying to digest what he had said. But I could not. A flash came and I asked him: “In that case, how about your father and mother?”

This time he took some moments. Hesitated a bit. But came out with an affirmative answer. But this time it was not as authoritative as it was for the previous question.

Still I could not believe it. Our own parents. This much dirty. Oh! No, I thought. I did not believe it and wanted to prove him utterly wrong.

My next question was very much pointed and poignant too. I asked him: “If it is so, is it the same way between Mother Mary and St. Joseph?”

He was thrown off balance by this question. Clean bowled. He was dumbfounded now. I was happy that I could at last nail him down to his utter lies. How could such a dirty act be true? Could any decent human being, leave alone the divine persons, do such nasty things?

I was waiting with batted breath for his answer. This time he did not have the guts to say yes.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007



In our school the 'A' section of all the classes was meant for the 'creamy' layer, or for the so-called brighter students. I don’t know whether other schools also followed this. I was admitted in I Standard in A section. That would have been of course by virtue of my appa's influence. I think that streak continued till I finished my VI form in the high school. For those of this generation, in our days the schooling years were only 11 years - five in elementary and 6 in high school. In the former each level was called ‘Standard’ and the high school levels were called 'Forms'. So the school finishing class would be VI Form.

My V Standard teacher was Mr. Lucas, a very tall, lanky man with a smiling face. But his knuckles were very strong and every one of us dreaded his knuckles. He either used his knuckles or a thin striking – rod, a bamboo cane. His theory was thinner the cane pain it creates is greater. I got reprimanded only once with two strikes of that cane for a peculiar / funny situation. (I don’t think that incident can be narrated in a foreign language, since it is related to my mother tongue, Tamil. I have elaborated this incident in my Tamil blog. Now is the 'dual' I had with one of my classmates. It was more like the two eternal cowboys with their guns drawn taking steps before they try to outshoot the other in their mortal combat!

Whenever Mr. Lucas wanted some lessons to be read to the whole class he always asked me to read the lessons. That was a sort of privilege I enjoyed for long. I don’t know whether I read it properly or was due to my appa's influence. None had any grudge for this, at least that was what we all thought till it was challenged one day. Raja was one of my classmates, considerably a bigger boy in our class. One day when our teacher asked me to read a lesson and when I was about to start Raja stood up and to all our shock and astonishment asked face to face our teacher why always it should be me. I think Mr.Lucas was taken aback and he was speechless for some time. Then he said that he did so since he thought I was good in that. But Raja did not lose his rebellious mood. He challenged that he could read better than me given a chance.

Mr. Lucas was speechless for some time. Then he said that he would set a 'dual' between me and him and gave the details of the modus operandi of how it should go. He suggested that both of us would stand on both the sides of his chair. Simultaneously he would pat our backs. For the first pat I would start reading from a lesson. Then after few sentences - another pat. Now I would stop and Raja would start from where I left. And it should go on like that. To make it more democratic my teacher said that there would be four 'judges'. They will be seated in the front bench with a score sheet. They would count mistakes, stammering etc. during our reading for each of us. Whoever had lesser score would be considered victorious.

Raja came out with another challenge. He wanted a bet for this dual. It was fixed that the bet money would be one anna . (That is 1/16 of a rupee then.) That was real "big" money in those days for a guy in elementary school. I who was so far listening as a silent observer more as an outsider came to the world of reality only then. I said I did not have the required money for the bet. There were immediate sponsors for me. I remember the names of them: Kathiresan and Vetrivel. They paid the money to our teacher. Raja paid his bet.

I remember how the whole class was in an expectant mood. I could clearly visualise even now what had happened more than a half century back. Our class alone had the luxury of being in a separate room, next to our Headmaster's Office while all other sections of V Class were in a common hall. Benches with back rest for all was a specialty for our class. The excuse given to other classes for this special treatment was that if and when school inspectors from the education department gave surprise visits, they could easily watch our V Class - A Section and so this special privilege for our class.

The dual started.

After certain time Mr. Lucas stopped the dual. The judges were asked to make a total of the minus points they had given us for our shortcomings during the 'dual'. I won the dual - that too, with a very 'handsome' margin. Raja immediately came to my side of our teacher's table and shook my hands. I did not know all those etiquettes. Our teacher gave one anna to me, the prize money and my sponsors got their money back.

In retrospect, what look great to me now are the rebellious spirit of Raja and the very fair mind of my teacher. I used to always wonder how could a boy aged just ten or eleven doing his fifth standard could be that much rebellious and dare to question the authority of the teacher. The second thing was the way our teacher settled the issue and also his conscience. How could he take a question on his authority with such magnanimity? He was so fair that he made some of our own class mates as judges. Both Raja and Mr. Lucas should have been great souls and I realized and experienced that at least with regard to Raja since he and I had maintained a life-long relationship. Till his death two years back, we occasionally met. If there were other friends during our meetings, Raja with all gusto would start narrating the whole episode. He never became tired of this since it looked as if he was waiting for a chance to narrate our old story to new friends. It was only he who remembered the names of my sponsors and told me after many years.

Sunday, October 07, 2007



I dont know how some of the very early happenings in our lives remain permanently etched in our minds. I already mentioned that I dont rememeber even a wee bit of things that happened when amma was around. Memories of childhood start only after amma's death. The life in Kasiapuram , and appa's wedding are all quite vivid. Immediately after appa's wedding with my new amma I came to Madurai. Then started the schooling. Appa was working in St. Mary's High School, a renowned school in the whole city in those days. I was admitted in St.Mary's Elementary School in the same campus.

I very clearly remember the very first day of my schooling. Appa took me in his bicycle. In the campus, the elementary school was a rectangular block at the back of the church. But there was a single block standing alone in between the main school buildings and the church. Probably it is as old as the curch itself. It was standing alone there. It was a high raised building with just one large class room and an adjacent small room. I dont know why that building alone was so constructed, so high above the ground level. There should have been at least 10-15 very wide steps leading to the class room. Appa took me by hand and led me into the class room. The teahcer was in all smiles and he showed a lot of respect to appa. Mu first class teacher's name was Mr. Manickam, a fair, young gentleman. He asked me where do I want to sit in the class room? Appa's influence helped me opt a seat of my preference! I chose the bench in the very first row - not that I wanted to be there as a good studious student as a front-bencher! In stead that was the only bench in the class with backrest! All other benches did not have a backrest. Anyway, that front bech with backrest was full. But still one of the poor poor guys in that bench - in all probabilities, whose father was not known to the teacher - was asked to go to one of the back rows and I was offered my preferred seat. That's how my first day of schooling started.

Not much is in memory about the rest of the next 5 years in that school, except two incidents. When I was doing my III standard in Madurai there was a big show of some Indian and foreign muscle men. Names of Tarasingh, who later became a famous cine star, and King Khong are just the names of two Indian muscle men I remember. There were some foreigners with names hard to pronounce. So they had some nick names, names that would attract the local wrestling fans. I remember only one such name, Red Scorpion. He visited our church one day and I remember most of us from our class with our teacher thronged around him as soon as he came out of the church. His visit made us talk about the wrestling matches and the different styles and prowess they had in wrestling. Somebody showed me one of the famous ‘monkey-hold’ of these wrestlers and also the way to wriggle out of it. I had a friend. I vaguely remember that his name was Sivakumar. He used to be shorter than me, though I myself was one of the ‘shorties’ in my classes. I gave a demo as to how to hold that monkey-hold. Poor guy, he did not know the defense for that. So he was totally under my control when I held him so. He was surprised. Then I asked to him to hold me like that. He did. But now I used the trick which was taught to me and overthrew him over my head. Fellow fell flat on the ground and started weeping. I thought the matter was over with that.

But the very next day his mother, a teacher herself, came to our class and met me. She made me feel sad for what I did to her son. I was worried that she may take the matter to my teacher and then to my app a . But she left me with that little reprimand. But Sivakumar who was so far close to me never talked to me after that.

One more incident is also one another unforgettable incident. And since it needs little more importance I plan to save that for the next chapter!

Saturday, October 06, 2007



Two great changes happened in my life due to these hours of freedom. One was the old desire rejuvenating and getting deep rooted into a new habit. I mean the old and unflinching desire for smoking. These hours of freedom and the gang that was formed during this time was handy. I started where I left unmindful of the promise I made in my native place years ago. If it was inside a well or a thoppu in those early years that I tried my hand in smoking, this time we had ‘royal connections’. The Thirumalai Naik Palace was very near to our school. In those days it used to be busy since the court was functioning there and people used to throng the whole place. The terrace of the Palace also was free for visitors. Only many years later the courts were moved to a different place and the palace was taken by the archaeology department. Till that time this became a nice hideout for fellows like me to have our first lessons in smoking. The terrace of the Palace was so expansive we had no fear of being caught by anyone known to us or to our parents. As days went by we became more and more 'courageous' that we changed our venue to more and more open places. It was thus I got hooked to cigarette smoking and that continued till 11 p.m. of January 6th, 1990 which started in the early sixties.

The other change that happened also became a habit of lifetime. In those days, I would not be allowed to go for any movies other than the sporadic ones with the family. Now there was ample chance to go for movies without parental knowledge. I still remember the very first movie that I went like that. It was Norman Wisdom’s On The Beat. He was a famous British comedian of those days whom our famous and successful comedian Nagesh could have had as a role model. I mustered courage as well as gathered money for the ticket and one day sneaked out to the film. It was so funny that I burst into laughter when I was having my supper with appa. I was doing my first year B.Sc. then. Appa asked what the matter was. I managed to tell him some cock and bull story. The movie was so good that I became a regular visitor to Regal Theatre, an exclusive theatre for English movies in those days. I became, in short, an English movie buff. The timing of these English movies was also so conducive that one could go to the movies without raising any doubt for the people at home. Unlike the Tamil movies, these English movies would start quite late and would end very soon. So I could start very late from home and reach the theatre in time cycling at the fastest pace and also come back even at 8.30. Tamil movies would end only by 9.30. Only precaution that I had to very carefully do every time was to discard the counterfoil of the ticket without leaving any telltale evidences to my watchful appa. With such preplanning and meticulous operation this habit also grew and became a lifetime passion. Now I realize that of the two changes I acquired due to and during my hours of freedom, at least one habit did some good to me.