Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Gift

My father built our house, in what was then an extension of Mysore, in 1967. Our family often went to the construction site in the evenings to see how the house was coming up. On the way, we would pass another newly constructed house and became friends with the family that lived there. The family was that of one Sri K R Shankar a much loved high school teacher, soon we realised. His daughter was my classmate in middle school too. Soon, we were referring to him as Shankarmaama and by extension, Mrs Shankar, Shankarmaami. The two families have been friends ever since. 

The year was 1969. I was to take the SSLC (Secondary School Leaving Certificate) exam during the summer of the coming year. I was not a disciplined student. I would not exercise the rigour needed to learn Physics and Mathematics to do well in the exams.

My father must have been a worried man.

One day Shankarmaama proposed that I and the children of a few of his other friends go to his house every Saturday and  Sunday afternoons and he would make all of us work on the two subjects. Thus started the twice a week visit to his house around two in the afternoon every weekend. He taught us the subjects and made us work on umpteen number of problems. He would also give us numerous problems to work on during the rest of the week.

Every day we went to his house for the work out sessions, a table with six chairs around it would be neatly in place. Once we took our seats, Shankarmaama would come dressed in a brilliant white dhoti and a white shirt and the sessions would begin. We knew that he had cut his customary weekend afternoon nap short for our sake. Soon Shankarmaami would come with six cups of hot Horlicks. She thought that it would help us keep the post lunch drowsiness at bay. It did.
Thanks to this imposed rigour I did much better than I would otherwise have done in the final exams. Once the results were out and the marks cards were received, Shankarmaama was very happy that we had all done well.

Soon after, we were all invited to their house to celebrate our success. We had a very pleasant evening with nice things to eat and strong coffee and then came another surprise. He gave each of us a gift!

This is a fine one. A man foregoes his twice weekly naps, sat for hours with us and taught us - the same thing he had done the rest of the week at school - supplied us with Horlicks, rejoiced at our success and gave us a gift too – expecting nothing in return!

I have always wondered how my life would have turned out but for him and his family. Who knows? I wish I could say that the rigour was instilled in me and remained with me the rest of my life. But alas, it did not.

How does one thank a couple like that?

This is the gift he gave me that day - a carved sandalwood pen stand.