This is the second of the series – unforgettable moments in my life.This is rather a long story and I hope you will have the patience to read this.
This one , I should say, is unforgettable moments. Because, this extends to three years . Yes, I am referring to my life in Ramakrishna Home, Mylapore between 1962 and 1965 when I did my diploma in Mech Engg after 10th Std.
I am indebted to our father for getting me admitted there. Ramakrishna Mission Students Home(RK Home for short) , Mylapore is run by Ramakrishna Mission.
In 1962, It used to admit 40 students in 1st year. Out of these 40, 10 are reserved for BC as per Govt rules and the balance 30 were usually filled up with poor and bright brahmin boys. It was very difficult to get admission there. Somehow, appa got me admitted there. The students are admitted simultaneously to the RK Mission Technical Institute ( For the diploma course ) and RK Home( The hostel). In those days, it was compulsory to stay in hostel,but both boarding and lodging were totally free. And for the dip course, we had to pay a tution fees of Rs 10 per month for 10 months. And my expenses towards soap, post card, occasional coffee in the hotel, occasional bus fare etc, would work out to another Rs 4 or 5 per month. So, in about Rs 450, I finished my LME staying in a hostel at Chennai !
Now coming to the hostel life, it was really a home away from home. Such was the care taken by the hostel warden ( a Swamiji of RK Mutt), the secretary ( a retired person doing a voluntary service ) and an asst warden ( part time job done by a lecturer of the adjacent Vivekananda College – again a voluntary job) They all ensured that we led a healthy and peaceful life. But at the same time, they ensured discipline .
The daily routine ( Monday to Saturday ) would be – wake up bell ( yes, a temple bell ) at 455 am., attendance at 505 am, bath(in cold water), Sandyavandhanam , puja , studies etc., till 725 am., breakfast ( Sambar saatham and thayir saatham ) at 730 am., Tech Institute from 8 am to 12 noon, full three course lunch at 1210 pm., , Tech Institute again from 100pm to 5pm., Light snacks / Kanchi at 510 pm., play till 600pm., refreshing, sandhyavandhanam religious discourse( mostly by the Rev “Anna”)and puja till 715 pm., studies till 800 pm., dinner at 800pm., relaxation/studies till 10 pm., Lights off at 1000pm.
On Sunday, it would be different. Wake up at 630 am., garden work for about an hour, breakfast at 800 am., free time till 1200 noon when you can wash your clothes, take oil bath ( oil and Seeyakkai Podi will be given ) etc. After lunch at 1200 noon, again relaxation till 200pm. Hostel cleaning from 200 pm to 245 pm., Light snacks and Tea at 300 pm., free time to go out of the hostel from 300pm to 600 pm. Puja at 630 pm., dinner at 800 pm., lights off at 1000 pm.
On most of the Sundays, in the three hours that we were allowed to go out, I used to go to our Periamma's ( Mylapore Gopu anna's mother ) house near Mylapore Tank and to one of our cousin sister - Kunjakka's house at 105, Broadies Road ( now called RK Mutt road), near Mandaveli Bus stand. Many a times , I had been to Santhome beach with Raju, our cousin sister's son and eaten plenty of sliced Mangaai with salt and Milagai Podi. In those days, Santhome beach ( adjacent to Santhome church ) was a clean and easily approachable beach with band and AIR broadcasts in the evening.
Coming to my stay at RK Home, why it is unforgettable ? Mainly because, we did not have to worry about anything. Everything was taken care of. There was a separate room where the sick can take rest., ( a very good doctor nearby will attend to the patients free of cost and where possible, students can go to the free dispensary run by the RK mutt ( near Mylapore tank ). Those were the times when there was acute shortage of foodgrains in India and the people were even advised not to eat rice one day a week to overcome the shortage of rice atleast partially. We were not at all affected by these and there was not a single day when the meals were delayed by even a minute.
Not forgettable because, I was taught all the good things in life, self management, self reliance, service to society,discipline in life, good habits, religious matters, many slokas, and what not. Those were the golden days of my life. All the Hindu festivals were celebrated with gaiety, esp, the Navarathri used to be celebrated on nine days when very eminent persons will address the students everyday, and there will be a long discourse for nine days.
The Home Day , celebrated in Feb every year is an occasion we used to wait for eagerly because, it was during that time, we used to have our annual sports and an entertaining evening with the old students of the home. Needless to say, there will be a gala dinner for the present and old students and other guests on that day. In between, we used to get different fruits and sweets on many days, courtesy, the well wishers and old students.
We were allowed to go to our native place only for Deepavali, Half yearly and annual holidays. And naturally, we were very happy that we could be with our parents three times a year. ( Those who can’t afford to go home , can stay back in hostel)
Amidst the routine and sometimes strict moments, there was no dearth of lighter moments. Like, after the morning wake up bell and attendance, some students will fall asleep again and they will find some genuine ways to avoid the prowling eyes of the secretary and warden, who will be on the rounds just to see that all the students have really woken up and are attending to their morning duties.!
Though it was impossible to go out of the hostel on normal days due to the strict vigil, there were some students who would somehow sneakout and go to night shows of cinema and would come back to hostel at 2 am climbing the rear wall to the terrace of the hostel and making their way to their rooms. Once, two students went to a cinema “ Kaathiruntha Kangal “ and a student who obviously did not like the student who went to the cinema, informed the warden. And the warden was waiting in the terrace till the two students got there and caught them redhanded. The warden, a Bengali Swamiji, who did not know Tamil fluently, uttered to the students “ Avai illada Kaathiruntha Kangal, Ivai thanada, Kaathuruntha Kangal “ ( Connecting the cinema’s name and his waiting all thro the night ! ). The students were duly suspended for a week !!
On another occasion, two big baskets of mangoes arrived for distribution to students. The secretary ( the old retired person with a little poor sight ) called a student to count the fruits. He counted and told the secretary – 124. The secretary told that there should be 125 as per the person who gave the fruits and asked another student who counted – 123 ! A third student was called to count and he said 122. The secretary stopped there . And we, the other students who were watching the fun, could not laugh loudly there and we disbursed quietly to our rooms where we had a hearty laugh !!
When we completed our studies, in 1965, we took leave of the secretary and warden who were in tears and of course, we were all weeping. And that moment was the most unforgettable moment of my life in RK Home.
I am grateful to our father who got me admitted there, our mother who was always encouraging me to excel in whatever I did in RK Home, The Great “ Anna” for his inspiring discourses , the selfless secretary – Sri Krishna Iyer , who, at that old age, worked tirelessly for more than 17 hours a day and who took great care of all the students as if they were his own sons, the three cooks who gave us a tasty food always on time and the Technical Institute Principal and lecturers who were again a part of our family there .
Now, tell me , how can I forget those moments in RK Home, where I entered as a student and came out as a MAN.