(Appa, when he was just over a year old, with his mommy (your paati))
This week I would like to tell you about my growing up years until the time I went to Pre K and Kindergarten school.
I am not able to recollect most of that time, but do distinctly remember a few things that I want to share with you.
I was considered to be very cute by my family members (like every child is :-)) and was everyone’s darling. For my Pre K, I was sent to Guru Nanak School that included all grades, right from Pre K to the 12th grade. Most schools in Bombay ran that format during the time. The only positive thing about this school was its proximity to the apartment building where we lived.
I did not personally like this school very much, including some of the teachers. Now what I am going to tell you, I would strongly encourage that you never attempt to do if you are in a similar situation at any given time or place :-).
It was and is a common practice in most schools in India where if a kid doesn’t listen to the teacher or doesn’t do his/her homework, or does something in class that isn’t considered desirable by the teacher, then he or she would get a nice caning from the teacher, or be asked to stand outside the class for the whole period, or even stand up on the bench during class, ha ha!
There was this one teacher at Guru Nanak School who believed that, if the kids did not comply with her instructions, it was ok to reprimand them with a one-foot wooden measuring scale that she used to walk around in class with. She would ask the kid to stretch out his or her hand, and snap! came down the scale. It would be a stinging pain.
I was once the recipient of this. I don’t know what happened to me that day, but after getting hit by her on my hands, I somehow managed to pull the scale from her and hit her back on her hands!
Now that was a big no no, and caused a big uproar. My poor father was summoned to the principal’s office to hear the teacher’s complaint about this. Go figure, the teacher complaining about this after what she did to the kids?? :-)
Anyway, by that time, my brother Krish whom you call Kitth had got admissions at the Don Bosco High School and it was decided that I follow suit, away from Guru Nanak School. I joined there for my Kindergarten.
Don Bosco was a real nice school at that time, highly reputed. It was a private school, run by an Italian organization. The principal during that time was a fine Italian gentleman, Father Gaiety.
What I still can’t forget about Father Gaiety was his tall and rotund structure in his white priest robe, with a silver and white receding hairline, and with his face, cheeks and nose so red, which is something that even Rudolf the reindeer would envy.
Father Gaiety would walk around before school started daily welcoming the children to school, and would always surprise the kids with candy that would suddenly appear from his robe pocket. He always used to be Santa when our school celebrated Christmas, dressed up in a red suit with false beard and would hand out goodies to us. I loved Don Bosco High School.
And then after school coming back home to a big joint family sharing a 360 square feet area was even more fun, given the number of people living together. The highlight of that time was my father (thaatha)’s own daddy, your great grandfather.
Your great grandfather’s name was Krishna Iyer, but he used to be referred by one and all as Vaikkom Krishna Iyer. He was from Vaikkom, a small town in the southern part of India, in Kerala and a renowned and very highly regarded mridangam player of his time.
After his prime, he joined my father in Bombay with his wife, my adorable grandmother, and was living with us even before I was born. Due to some problems with his knees, he couldn’t walk at all and was restricted to sitting/sleeping all day in a cot (pronounced/sounds like cuttle in our mother tongue, Tamil). To make matters convenient I think all family members and the other folks in our apartment building called him cuttle appa.
With his passion for music still intact he used to hold music classes on a daily basis, teaching his elder son (my uncle) mridangam which is a percussion instrument from the earlier times in India, and his daughters (my aunts) the Veena, a beautiful sounding instrument that looked very similar to the Sitar. If one would think that the Sitar has a treble effect in its sound, I would say that the Veena had a bass effect in its sound. There were a lot of other kids in the building who used to learn Carnatic music (a form of music associated with the southern part of India), and other instruments.
But, if you did not practice hard or concentrate, or have come without any preparations to his class, then hell would fall on you. He would get very angry and scold the students, and also cane them occasionally with a small stick. People used to be terrified of him during those times, as he was a very strict person. But he was a fantastic teacher for sure, going by the talent and skill levels I saw in my older years, in my uncle and my aunts while playing their instruments.
I asked my father recently as to why he didn’t take any lessons from him. Thaatha sheepishly admitted that although he could easily recognize and understand what cuttle appa was teaching to the other students he was afraid of being scolded and hence decided not to learn music from him :-).
But cuttle appa would never ever get angry with yours truly, and whenever I would stand at the end of the cot and ask him for some money to buy biscuits or candy, he would always pull out this huge pouch of his and hand me the money to go buy biscuits.
It is really amazing that I am able to remember all of this about your great grandfather, as I was just over 3 years old when he passed away due to old age. He was in his 80s.
Tvisha, I am glad that I was able to put down all of this while my memory of these events from that time is still fresh. I hope you enjoy reading them as much when you grow up.