Oh! To be a teenager again!
by Kumuda Purushotham
As I write this, years melt away and I am back in my teens giggling away for no apparent reason. Humming 'I am sixteen going on seventeen' I am out to conquer the world. With romance in the heart and a smile on the lips I am facing each day with a new hope.
I am dressed in a langa davani, with two plaits adorned with fragrant jasmines. Colourful bangles jingle in my hands. I am aware that a prince charming is waiting somewhere to be picked up by my parents at the appropriate time.
I am a College student doing first year degree. Incidents come rushing through the veil of time to take me back down memory lane.
I along with my classmates am sitting in the classroom adjoining the physics department waiting for our professor. Today she is late , something very unusual for a conscientious teacher like her. We have formed in to small groups and are chatting in low tones. A monkey quietly enters through the window and makes itself comfortable on the table on which a box of chalk and duster are kept for the professor's use. Much to our amusement it scrutinises the duster. Finds it uninteresting and puts it back. With chalk it is a different story altogether. It takes one by one, either breaks or drops it on the ground to the same effect finding the exercise very funny. Our gentle efforts to drive it away proves futile. Having done the job it surveys the objects kept on the first row of desks. It suddenly rushes forward, takes the nearest bag and hops back on to the table. Out comes books,writing items,and a packet of biscuits the owner of the bag had just bought at the canteen. It expertly tears the wrapping and starts eating the contents.Typically monkeylike it drops most of it on the floor making the floor a collage of chalk and biscuit pieces!
Now we are really alarmed. Whose bag's turn will it be next? Some stretch their vocal chords to the maximum but the monkey is not impressed. It glares and makes a face! Some clap in unison and it claps back! Some throw paper balls which it catches expertly and throws back! The bravest among us steps forward with a raised wooden scale and it charges at her gnawing it's teeth. The more devout among us start praying to Lord Rama to recall his messenger. May be the lord heard their pleadings. In steps Bili Kempayya, our department attender. Monkey vanishes in a jiffy never to return.
We conclude from then onwards that Monkeys are male
At this point I beg to digress a little. In a land of thity three thousand Gods each having a thousand and eight names recited by devotees every day our Physics department had two attenders both named Kempayya! One was old,dark,thin with a constant frown. The other was young, fair,well built with a pleasant disposition. For us girls one was 'Kappu Kempayya' and the other 'bili Kempayya'.I bet we never had any aparthied feelings when we christened them thus. To this day it amazes me to realise how we didn't notice the paradox in naming that way. How could 'kempu' be kappu or bili? It defies logic.Does'nt it?
Another day I am siting in in the Kannada class listening to the scholarly exposition of the famous 'Muddanna Manorameya samvada' delivered by Prof. Anantha Rangachar. Being a student of Sanskrit I am an intruder here. I do this frequently to enjoy the eloquence of the learned professor and miss the boring Sanskrit grammer class. My enjoyment here is all the more as I don't have to write an exam! Being one among fifty and odd students it is very unlikely the teacher will spot the intruder sitting in the last row.
As it is the pre lunch hour hunger pangs start bothering me. My eyes fall on the row of lunch boxes on the window sill just next to my seat. It is pure curiosity that makes me open the first box and take a peep. The aroma of Puliyogare is hypnotising. My digestive juices spill over and flow in to my mouth! My intention is just to taste a bit and leave the rest to its rightful owner. But God wills it otherwise.
I take a morsel and bring it to my mouth. But between the cup and the lip there is my neighbour's outstretched hand!The message in her eyes is clear.'Hand it over or else....'. I meekely hand over and plunge my hand again in to the box.This time it is the girl in front asking for the bribe. This blackmail goes on till just a spoonful is left in the lunch box.Now I make a ball of the left over drop it in to my mouth ignoring the outstretched palms. But the Puliyogare gets stuck in my throat as my raised eye catches professor's gaze directed at me! He starts to say something but the bell rings at the right moment. He leaves the class throwing a glance at me indicating action in the next class.
But there is no next Kannada class for me as from then on I become an ardent student of Sanskrit!