Sunny (my son) was asked to write different type of fonts in English, during his kindergarten. I felt it is too much of a burden on the child. I used to tell Arti (my better half), in private, why the school is doing so? “What are you talking” would be her answer. After some time, Sunny finished the task in hand. I was pleased, rather felt proud. My son is smarter than me. Even today I struggle with reading. Sunny reads almost twice the speed of my reading.
I was in third standard, I think. I was asked to stand up with other students as Head Master was arriving. It had never happened earlier. Probably the school was trying to teach discipline to students, for the first time. May be there was a special function/ gathering. On that day, there were lots of students in my class than a normal day. Or probably all students of the school were gathered at one place for that special event. Everyone was given a task to perform.
Initially I was asked to recite all the basic consonants of the language. I was finding it tough to remember even vowels, how could I recite the consonants? That is too much of expectation I thought. I did not even know how many are there and how much time is reasonable time to write so many letters. Is this necessary at all? Why harass me? Why do not they leave me alone?
(Now I know, though not an expert: There are 16 vowels (original and expanded), 36 consonants in Kannada language. The teachers used to ask me to write all of them in a day along with vowel derivatives. That is lot of it. That totals to 16 + 36*14=520 characters. That too in a day?)
Finally I was asked to recite a poem, which I knew.
Everyone started saying greetings. I realized; my father was HM! I accomplished the task I was asked to. Everyone was happy.
Mariappa was very happy with me.
I hardly used to read, I hated it. When I was forced to do so, I read whatever I could on a particular page and tear off the page! Task accomplished? Or was it, I need/ should not read it again? Amma (my mother) used to get angry and used to take me to task. Mariappa used to come to my rescue/ defense and take me away. Why he used to do this? Because he loved me? Or it is because he wanted to please his boss—my father? He used to take me to his house, feed me with puran poli (sweet bread) along with mango juice. I used to enjoy it—I have sweet tooth.
I was not good (rather was bad) at studies. But I used to be liked by everyone. Why? I was spoilt brat?
Saheb and Naganna were senior students of my father. They used to treat me well. They used to tell me many things, take me to various places to see, etc. I was very close to them. Saheb and Naganna were very happy with me. Saheb later on became a Tahasildar. I lost touch with him after moving out of Kadamgeri. Naganna became a teacher and was called Naganna Master. Till I left Surpur, I was in touch with him. He was helping our family. Why?
To give better education, my family shifted to Surpur. I was admitted to 4th standard in Shamsheerpura, a primary school. Many relatives were in teaching profession and most of the teachers in Surpur knew my mother or father. I had Raghu (my cousin) as my classmate. He was a smart boy, much smarter than me. He once stole 25 paise coin from me, which was to be given in school as some kind of donation. He found me in distress because of the loss. He smartly dropped the coin on the way and made me to believe that coin has been found. He consoled me by saying; I must have dropped the coin. As coin is traced, everything is alright. Why he gave back the coin is still a mystery for me. He does not remember the incident.
As I had no interest in books or studies, I conveniently found last seat in the class to doze off. Our class teacher was Leelabai. Probably she noticed me dozing and must have called me to wake up. As I did not respond, she came to me and hit me with her hand on my head little hard. Probably she got hurt. Therefore she nick-named me as kebbana-gundu (iron ball), referring to my hard head. I do not remember what happened in the class after that. Probably this became my nick name with her. She used the same name affectionately?
I was lazy child. Not bothered about anything going on around the world. I used to get engrossed in my own world. Even now, I am so. Not caring about what world thinks about me. Keep doing what I feel is right, in my own hypnotized mind. When I feel I have committed mistake, I simply admit it. No attachments, no stigma. This is one character (in me) I am proud of. Very close people (who really cared for my wellbeing) used to call me useless child, fit for nothing, etc. There used to be some concern in their feelings. They really wanted to correct me. As usual, I was not bothered. But I had realized, I am unfit and foolish child.
I used to have lot of questions in my mind but no answers and snub from elders for asking questions.
In fifth standard, teacher Hanumakka praised my instinct of getting phonetics right in English language in one of the combined classes. I realized I have some intelligence or shall I say some quality the society desires from a child—for the first time?
In one of the first classes in eighth standard, teacher Deshpande asked me to read one Kannada language paragraph.
I stood up, facing the students in the class along with teacher, I cleared my throat and read the paragraph (by then I had learnt the reading properly) in my style and explained the contents. Once it was done, Deshpande appreciated whole effort and used to call me to read on many occasions!
I used to love mathematics. I was considered as mathematician of the class. However, my results in the exam were abysmal. I barely used to pass. For that matter, I just used to pass in all the subjects. I had no understanding of any subject except liking for mathematics. Probably I was graced as I was son of a noble, clear hearted and helpful teacher (and his friends).
Kitti (my elder sister) once explained me concept of LCM of mathematics—before which I had no idea of it. I became unbeatable in solving LCM problems. Probably I was faster than the teacher. Any problem on mathematics friends used to come to me. I used to learn with them and tell them how they should approach. Friends used to respect me for my abilities but ….? After that, back to normal lazy, playful, brat child.
Choti (one of the five friends with whom, I used to play. Later one, he had a big role to play in my life—shall try my best to write separately) had become a newly discovered friend. What he liked in me at that time, I never understood. I loved that child, a friend. I longed to spend time with him, discuss with him. I used to go to his house and demand to come with me in the evening. He used to introduce many new thoughts. He used to feed seeds of new concepts in my mind. One of them was concept of Why. Answers are available to be discovered. Only we need to search them seriously. To get that seriousness, we should have the question first. WHY?
My uncle—whom I respect even now—used to come during holidays and spend most of his day time with us (with his elder sister). However, he used to make us slog with physical work (to improve the house, garden, etc) like nothing else is there in the world.
Thread holding my half-pant broke away and I had to stop the work I was doing. He commented, you are fit for nothing. Such a comment from him (admired) propelled me to think hard. Why? I am considered smart. Appreciated by teachers, friends, and sisters….Why does my uncle think, I am useless? Simply because I am not good at studies, I cannot do any work as I am dumb? Why am not good at studies? Why?.....Why?
I had no answers. However, I was determined to prove my uncle wrong.
Kitti and her friend Manjula were studying for their tenth standard together during night. I joined them and started studying. I was finding it difficult—as I had not understood anything I had read earlier. But I was determined. It had entered my mind; I have to prove to this world, specifically to the uncle, I am not dumb. Studied for long hours to understand and studied till I understood……..
Probably result of all of this, I did pass out in first class in first board exam I had faced (10th standard). I was one of the two students to pass in first class for the whole of the centre at that time. This was first proof to my friends and relatives, especially my uncle. Later on I consistently scored distinction (>70%) marks in mathematics and did my engineering from a premier institution (IISc), went on to head many projects in India and abroad. Currently I am on break from work for last few months.
After seeing that Amir Khan movie, I suspect I am suffering from dyslexia. There are many successful adults who find it difficult read. This is no more a disability. We need to recognize the disability and take corrective measures. First thing is admit it. If I had known this earlier….? It is difficult to imagine. There are many ifs.
If I had not had a friend like Choti?
If the uncle had not questioned my abilities?
Kitti did not explain me LCM?
Hanumakka teacher had not recognized my talent?
If Deshpande did not appreciate my attitude?
There are many people who have boosted my ago, recognized my abilities to do something, instigated me by calling me dumb….. It is impossible to name them all. Our mind is conditioned to remember unpleasant things for long time. Rarely do we remember positive feedback we get.
Even now, I am a loner. People respect me for that? Even now, my mind tries to think of problem solving in mathematical way. For everything, I try to put a formula. Probably, many people do--may be in a different way. Even now, I am proud of thinking about a problem clearly by putting enough number of whys. Basic training never is lost.. Is it?