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BLOG - ER Ramachandran

Friday, April 25, 2008

The cutting remark that changed course of his life

A true story which appeared recently in Mysore mail and churumuri blog is about my friend Subbanna.


When Subbanna (name changed) came out of Victoria Terminus in Bombay, he was amazed at the tall match-box like buildings. How people managed to live in such heights, he wondered. His friend Anantha from his hometown Udipi received him at the Railway Station.
Anantha worked as a cook in the mess run by Mysore Association, Matunga. Conceived and set up as a home away from home for people from Mysore State, this place was a meeting place mainly for bachelors who gathered regularly for the indoor sports facilities there.
Subbanna got a job as a cleaner in the mess. His job was to wash plates and cups and generally keep the place tidy.
Since my brother and I needed somebody to look after our bachelor digs, Subbanna started working for us. Gradually, he became, sort of Jeeves for us.
One day, when I entered the dining hall, there was some commotion. Subbanna had started serving the diners, when Bhattaru - the chief cook, grabbed the vessel from him saying, ‘Ninna Kelasa Enjalu Ele Ethhuvudu. Mareebeda!’ (‘Don’t forget, you are here only to wash plates!’)
A hurt and visibly shaken, Subbanna dashed out. It turned out, since one of the regular servers was absent, Subbanna had taken a vessel on his own and started serving. Others chided Bhattru for raising an unnecessary ruckus.
A week later, one of the members at the cards table flourished a visiting card and told the workers; ‘instead of wasting time in the daytime, go and find out what they have for you. They want to hire some people’.
Subbanna, Anantha and Venkatesha went to the Nariman Point address given in the card. A skyscraper was coming up and the supervisor of an elevator company wanted to hire temporary hands to lift heavy machinery. After two days, Anantha and Venkatesha dropped out. Though a weakling, Subbanna persisted. He befriended the installation mechanic who showed him how the parts are assembled, wired and finally put to test.
After washing the plates he would run to Ram Mandira in Matunga, where his electrician friend from Udipi would explain the drawing and how lifts worked. The friend would use a chalk to draw the circuit diagram on the granite floor of the temple and explain the intricacies.
Subbanna‘s life became a daily mantra of: ‘Lifts- understand the mechanism and circuitry - wash plates - study line drawing on the Rama Mandira floor’.
Once, he showed me a book in which he had neatly drawn the various parts of a lift and the diagrams with short notes in Kannada and English along the margin! Gradually he became good in his work.
Soon after, I was transferred to Delhi. I heard from my friend that Subbanna was selected by Otis Company for their operations in Doha, Qatar. He was part of their installation team. I gradually lost touch with him…..
When I came back to Bombay after five years, he landed at our house one morning laden with gifts. Since I used to listen to old Hindi songs in Vividh Bharathi, he brought me some twenty cassettes of Saigal, Pankaj Mullick and Jagmohan and a musical photo album. He was now the supervisor of Otis Installation team in Doha.
In the evening he went to the Mysore Association with gifts to all his colleagues.
To Bhattru, the chief cook, he gave the best gift of all, a silk shirt and a dhothi.
He called me aside and asked if we can have coffee together outside. We went to the nearby Mysore café.
I could see he was happy and confident. He reminisced about the sheikhs in Doha who had installed lift- cages made of gold to transport eats from their kitchen to bedroom!
Then I asked him for the first time what happened when he fought with Bhattru.
Subbanna said slowly, ‘To be told I was fit for only cleaning plates (‘Enjalu Ele Etthuvava’) in front of all my colleagues was very humiliating. I never thought somebody would demean me because I washed plates. The hurt inside wouldn’t go no matter what I did. I never ate in the mess from that evening. I continued to work for I needed to send money home. The pain all over my body carrying the elevator parts, to some extent, helped me forget the inner pain and I could get some sleep. Thank god! Had I cried, Bhattru might have allowed me to serve and life would have gone on. In the state of humiliation and anger that enveloped me I stumbled upon the Otis opportunity. The work in Otis was the balm I needed’.
Subbanna returned to Bombay when the Kuwait war broke out. He set up his own company which takes Annual Maintenance Contracts (AMC) for maintenance of lifts of high raise buildings. Subbanna and Shantha have a daughter who is a B.Com and doing her C.A. Their son is studying in PUC.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

The caged bird breaks away......

(A true story , this appeared recently in the Eveninger Mysore Mail and Blog Churumuri.Would like to share with Mysore Blog park Readers....)


Little Champa (Name Changed) was still sleepy when her mother Shashi woke her up at 4.30 in the morning. ‘Get up. We have a train to catch’. Shahsi quickly realised her two year old daughter couldn’t have heard any thing as she was born with congenital hard of hearing. As the Thanjavur Express left Bangalore for Mysore, Shashi fed Champa milk and made her sleep. They were on the way to their teacher for her lessons. At Srirangapatna, she woke Champa and asked her to repeat what the teacher had taught the previous day,. ‘Aaaaaaaaaaaaaa’, ‘Eeeeeeeee’, ‘Ooooooooo.’ Since the receiver of hearing aid had come off from the child’s ears, she didn’t respond. After Sridhar, her father put it back in her ears, she started repeating… ‘Aaaaaaa’ ‘Eeeeee’ ‘Ooooo’. The home work was done on train.

When Champa didn’t respond to any sound soon after her birth, Sridhar and Shruthi’s worst fears turned true. Their daughter was born deaf and dumb. Repeated visits to temples did not help. Finally somebody suggested a teacher, who was teaching hearing impaired children from the age of 18 months. With a hearing aid and two receivers, Champa learnt to listen to everyday sound which is normally taken for granted. The vowel sounds on the train was the first reproduction of sounds for Champa.

Since the teacher moved over to Mysore from Bangalore, they were taking Champa daily to Mysore and come back by the evening train. To and Fro visits to Mysore 5 days in a week became hectic for them and little Champa too. The family decided to move to Mysore close to the teacher’s house. Shruthi’s mother came to stay with her. Sridhar would come on Saturday to take them to Bangalore.

Babbling to simple words; recognition of objects; picking an object after listening, Matching the object with the sketch after naming the object. Champa was put on a drill by the teacher. Every syllable, word had to be vocalized.

Much, much later the alphabets in Kannada were started. Kannada alphabets for Champa whose parents spoke Tamil! And counting - One, Two, and Three… up to Hundred, each had to be pronounced loudly and then only written. Champa graduated from counting on fingers to writing on slate and finally on paper with pencil.

‘Stay Ahead’ was the Mantra of the teacher. We have to make her stay ahead of others. ‘Acceptance and recognition for physically challenged will only come from sheer merit. Especially when they score over in competition with normal people’ was the teacher’s philosophy.

Time flew as little Champa learnt basic Maths, sentences in Kannada and could talk haltingly. Still, fluent speech was a problem.

When Sridhar and Shruthi visited various schools for admission in Bangalore, one look at the child wearing hearing aid with cord dangling from her ears was enough for rejection.

Finally one school agreed to give her an opportunity. ‘Only six months’ told the Head Mistress, ‘ If we find her lagging behind we will terminate any time’.

School with new clothes, shining bag, Tiffin carrier and water bottle instead of bringing joy was hell for Champa. Bullies at that age, ripped off her hearing aid, put mud on it and threw it away. The child couldn’t learn much from her unhelpful teacher. Their class teacher often openly told ‘I will recommend you to a deaf and Dumb school.’

Sridha and shruthi were at their wits end. Have their efforts failed? Has it all come to nothing?

Then the school had the first semester exams in Kannada and Maths.

The class teacher returned the corrected papers to all students. Champa did not get anything. Instead she was asked to bring her parents next day to meet the Head Mistress.

With palpitating hearts, fearing the worst, they ran to school.

The Head Mistress asked them to wait as she finished her other chores. Then she took them to Champa’s class. It was Parents-teachers’ meeting that day.

The head Mistress lifted Champa on her shoulders and announced that Champa had stood first in the class, in both Maths and Kannada.

She proudly announced that this was the first time they had decided to admit a hearing challenged child and she had stood first in the class. The school will continue with this policy every year. The parents assembled, gave a standing ovation to Champa and her parents. Quite a few children came and stood around champa, clapping.

There was an unfinished task to be completed. Later, the parents, controlling the tears talked to Champa’s teacher in Mysore over phone. Their combined efforts and faith had made the impossible, possible.

Photograph of Bird , from Flickr -Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Firefox