Monday, June 12, 2017

My friend Venkataramana

Early to mid seventies scenario, old locality of Chamarajapuram.   After school in the evening, all the children would be on the street, playing various games on or across it.   Opposite our house was Capt. Srikantaiah's.  With him was a teen aged boy who answered to the name of Venkatesh.  His actual name was Venkataramana.  He had been summoned from his town of Sringeri to help in various chores for the elderly Captain, his wife [with chronic back problem] and her old parents [who were 'founders' of what was the "Liver House"].  They also had engaged an elderly lady, Sarojamma to do the cooking.  Venkatesh was from a humble family, probably known to the Capt.  It is likely that his parents had removed him from school unable to meet expenses for his schooling.  Both Venkatesh and Sarojamma were 'part of that family' and both resided with them.

Wearing a white dhoti is typical for boys from Sringeri, a very orthodox temple town.  Venkatesh wore it too.  He would fold the dhoti at the knee and tuck it at the waist to facilitate running when a ball came towards him and sometimes when the ball came the dhoti would loosen at the waist and unfold at the wrong time.  It was a funny sight to see him attend to the priority of tying it up at the same time he had to run to the ball!  All other local boys wore knickers.  The boys teased him for it without hurting him.

The Captain was the son-in-law of one Dr. Rama Shastry who had his own formula to treat young children for 'liver issues' and hence "Liver House" was a landmark for the street for several years which even the tongawallas and autorickshaws knew.  They are our distant relatives too.  The doors were open in those days and we were free to enter other houses for any trivial thing almost at any time.  Very homely and social atmosphere prevailed in the neighbourhood, a typical Mysore thing of those days.

When I was free I went looking for Venkatesh asking him if he too was free for play.  If not, I would just be there watching him do his work or if there was nothing, we just chit-chatted.  He was also being helped by the Captain's family to study school books.  He later passed his 10th in private examinations.

There came a time that ended his stay, may be 2-3 years with the Captain. He was to go back to his parents.  By this time, our friendship had developed, as he was my age, or so I had believed.  Before he left, I had given my address so that we could exchange postcards.

A few years passed and one fine day, there came his postcard, from Bangalore, updating his progress.   About the same time, I had our club's league match there and I had written back about this.  The day after the match I went in search of his new place, which was close to the Race Course.

I reached the location, a big house, which was of a 'big lawyer'.  The Race Course area is considered a porsche locality.  Venkatesh had been allotted a small outhouse to live.  His expression of pure joy when he saw me stand in front of his door really defies words!  I still recall this vividly.  I was also very happy to know he was being helped by the kind lawyer to make a career.  He had been brought there for possible help from Venkatesh's family friend, one Iyer who visited Sringeri [also his parents].  He revealed this on my request recently.  He said he was also attending typing classes at that time.  Thereafter we kept exchanging letters once in a while.

His typewriting skills had found him a job in the state govt. and still continues to work there.  I had visited his rented house once from where he had also taken me to the small plot which he bought from his earnings.  When the invitation for his house warming ceremony came a couple of  years later, it was honoured.  He is an example of  how people can rise from humble beginnings to reach a stage where one can live life in a very contented manner, through simplicity, hard work and honesty. It heartens to note he is doing comfortably in life being able to give good education to his two children, now grown up and I learn that Venkatesh is one year older than me!  It is so heartening to see him live a contented, busy and good life.  His generous attitude, simplicity, honesty, hard working nature, sociability and friendliness would have helped in what he is today.

Last year Venkatesh visited Mysore for some wedding and called that he cannot come home for want of time. I went across to where he was to meet  him for two minutes.  Photo at the top taken during that little occasion.

From postcard to cell phone,
our contact
is in tact.

"A man's friendships are one of the best measures of his worth." ~ Charles Darwin