Sunday, June 26, 2016

19. Science Exhibition

In Search of Swami series. Semi-autobiographical work about my school days. Sri Vidya Mandir, Salem.


As of now ‘legally’ bunking classes had become a routine for me. I was in school scoot team, Yogasana team, doing stage shows etc. All these activities helped me to skip classes; it was not that I didn’t like to be in the class, it was like exploring different facets of the schooling.

Being a hosteller, it gave me freedom, since I don’t have to ask permission from my parents before participating in an activity. So in the same like of legal bunking the class, what will you do if you get a chance to be out of the class for three days? You’ll grab it right away, yes, I double grabbed it.

This time the call was to participate in a science exhibition. The event was organized by the hostel management and only hostellers can participate. Anyone who can show a simple science experiment can participate. I and Vino were made as a pair. We digged-out our science book for an experiment and zeroed in on to a simple one. All it took was a Horlicks bottle, 2 candles and 4 match boxes.

We explained on how and why the burning candle drops dead, when the bottle is closed on it. We had to perform it whenever people visited our stall. The experiment was simple, but not many gave the exact answer. I must have explained it for over hundred times and so I started to blabber it in my sleep. Senior boys built big models like dam, lakes, irrigation projects, wind mill, rail roads. The three days was fun, the only catch was to keep standing and explaining to the visitors the same thing again and again.


After leaving the school\hostel, I haven’t met any of my friends. My mom expected that I will get more marks, but I was still an average kid according to the marks. So she thought of cost-cutting and put me back to a school in my hometown. Since, she took this decision in the summer holidays, I couldn’t bid adieu to the people and the place.

At the era when having a telephone was super luxury, I didn’t even have my friends postal address, mobiles were yet to come to India, internet was still in BASIC, COBAL and FORTRAN level- So I didn’t had a chance to establish contact with my pals. All exists in my memories.

It looks like every year; the first Sunday of May is the reunion day at the school, which I knew just a month before. Hopefully, I can make it next year.


Previous Chapter- 18. The Grinder

Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19

**Above image from the school website

Saturday, June 25, 2016

18. The Grinder

In Search of Swami series. Semi-autobiographical work about my school days. Sri Vidya Mandir, Salem.


Let’s go back to the mess hall. During my second year in the hostel, new machines started to occupy the mess hall. Earlier the batter for idly and dosai were grinded in traditional stone grinder- Ammi kallu. Now they installed a big electric grinder. They also installed a RO water purifier. Welcome to the liberalization era.

The electric grinder container was big, probably a 25-35 liter. The electric motor was open; it was kept besides the grinder container. A rubber belt will run from the motor, which will make the grinder iron wheal to rotate, which in turn will make the container to move.

All these settings amazed us. Whenever Mani and his associates prepare the batter, there will be always some eager kids around the grinder. The water purifier was silent and so we never cared for it. The grinder was attractive- in its sound and motor movements. 

As I said earlier, on how kids will improvise things around them to create some kind of gaming activity, the grinder was no exception. Someone stared to play with the grinder.

The distance between the motor and the iron wheal was almost 2 feet. The game was to keep the toe\leg on the rubber belt while the grinder is on the run. Whoever keeps the leg on the moving belt for long time is the winner.

I was never in this game. In fact my gang was never in to it.

Sometimes Mani will notice it and will shoo away the kids, but since the grinder was kept near drinking water spot, there was always some “Dennis the menace” kind kids.

An accident happened; the culprit or the victim was Prabhu. He and Ibrahim were the contestants. Prabhu was the one who earlier did a daring escape from the hostel. Now, in the game, Ibrahim was giving him a tough fight. Prabhu couldn’t grip the rubber belt and so his toe finger was caught in between the iron wheel and the belt. 

Rest of his life Prabhu was a toe-less man.

Previous Chapter- 17. Madras Eye                                       Last Chapter- 19. Science Exhibition
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Thursday, June 23, 2016

17. Madras Eye

In Search of Swami series. Semi-autobiographical work about my school days. Sri Vidya Mandir, Salem.

Sri Vidya Mandir School Hostel Salem

If there is one guy who was equally loved and hated by all the students it should be the doctor. Venkatesen, the doctor, will visit the hostel daily in the morning. If a student is sick or have some health issues he can inform the hall in-charge and meet the doctor at the hostel office room.

Doctor with his thick nerdy glasses will always carry a smile; he was very energetic, that even if you talk with him few words, the sickness will run away. Students visiting him will be always looking forward to his report- “Need rest” in the report then he’ll become our angel, because need rest means no school for the day. But the “Need rest” carried caveat- Injection, like all the doctors at that time, injection was mandatory. 

After faking stomach pain, the most common seasonal disease (or infection) was Madras Eye. Whenever Madras Eye season comes, doctor will have the extra work to treat those red eyes. Parthasarathi, a kid who posed a natural spike hair and one who introduced frisbee to us took pride in Madras Eye. Reason- He was from Saidapet, Madras (Chennai was still Madras then). Unluckily, Parthasarathi never got madras eye and never got “need rest” report from doctor. He used to fake red eye and was gracefully chased away by Dr. Venkatesen.

This Madras Eye had a yearly ritual. Once a student is identified, he will be put into a “solitary confinement” like setup. There will be a make shift madras eye ward at the Shradha Hall. At any point, there will be five to six inpatients (students) with bleeding red in the ward.

Like Partha, I never got Madras Eye.

Previous Chapter - 16. Running Away           Next Chapter - 18. The Grinder

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

16. Running Away

In Search of Swami series. Semi-autobiographical work about my school days. Sri Vidya Mandir, Salem.

Once in a while there were stories circulated about students running away from the hostel. This was my second year in the hostel and I had never witnessed someone running away. So the stories were legends to us. Most of the students felt the hostel as their house, but some became fed-up with the daily chores and felt to escape from the hostel, but they never did.

We never had roll calls. It was easy to slip, there were no barbed wires or any constant vigil, but since the students were closely knit, we can identify if someone goes missing. Ideally the missing student will be sleeping in the first floor study!

The distance between the hostel and school was around hundred meters only, but a public road and street separated both. So there was an ample opportunity for someone to escape.

One night, after we went to bed, suddenly warden along with some staff visited the hall. They turned on the lights and counted the boys. They made sure all were there as per the attendance register. I was in half sleep and didn’t realize what was happening. 

In the morning, news broke out. Prabhu and Vijay, who were one year senior to me, who were housed in the next hall had ran away or escaped the hostel. They were not seen since yesterday dinner. Vijay’s father was some kind of big politician. That afternoon, when we come to the hostel to have lunch, we saw so many cars parked and he was shouting at the warden.

Invariably, the escaped students didn’t go to their hometown. By now it was almost a week. Rumor spread that they might have been kidnapped like in the movies. Some said they were planning this escape for long time. Their cupboards and suitcases were examined. We became scared as we never knew what had happened to them.

We thought due to Vijay’s father influence, the police might arrest our warden. Then after seven days the escaped were found working in a hotel at Yercaud. Vijay discontinued his studies and went back to his hometown. Prabhu stayed back to lose his vital body part in coming months.

Previous Chapter - 15. Earth Day                                                   Next Chapter - 17. Madras Eye

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

15. Earth Day

In Search of Swami series. Semi-autobiographical work about my school days. Sri Vidya Mandir, Salem.

Every time any activity happens in school, the first line of students to be called in was the hostelers. Be it to control the crowd in annual day, doing drills by building human pyramids in sports day or to plant saplings around the school area, it was always hostel students at work.

It was a Sunday morning, since the exams were around there was no TV session, so we were put to study. Me, Aravind and Vino were at the first floor study hall along with the other students, who were pretending to read. Nagaraj sir, who was in-charge of the Shradha hall, came with a volunteers call. As usual, I put up my hand. He said the school management is looking for ten boys for a stage show, which is to be held the next day morning along with the school prayer. He picked ten from the eager looking souls, who were trying to escape the study hour. I was one among them. He asked us to go to school, where we will be briefed by PT master.

Aravind said, “PT master! I thought it was some kind of drama or stage play”.

In ten minutes we were near the school stage. The stage was newly built; it was almost seven to nine feet in height from the ground level and nearly 30 feet wide. It was so big that it housed the school PT room underneath it. For my size, it was so imposing.

Unaware of the activity, we were waiting for the PT master. After sometime, Kathiresan sir came in his bike. He said tomorrow is earth day and so there is a drill program is to be conducted on the stage.

The drill was usual; it consisted of floor exercises, a pyramid formation and then a flower formation. After rehearsal, Kathiresan sir asked us to assemble near the stage at 8 AM in the morning, before the prayer. He also asked us to wear brown colored pant.

I didn’t have a brown pant and I had to barrow it from Vino, who was shorter than me. The pant was way top of my ankles and the zip was not working. I managed to patch up the unsafe place with the safety pin. The next morning, when we went to the school, we found heaps of leaves and small tree branches near the stage. We were asked to remove our shirt and asked to tie the leaves on our body, like adhivasis. The idea is we were “trees”. Super, on an earth day, someone had this idea to cut so much leaves from the tree!. Worst was yet to come.

The chief guests, who were supposed to give short speech, gave elaborate and extempore speeches for more than one hour. So the drill which was supposed to be started on 9:30 AM was held at 11:00 AM. And, we were in that leafy costume for more than three hours.


Previous Chapter- 14. Saturday Night Fever                              Next Chapter- 16. Running Away

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

14. Saturday Night Fever

In Search of Swami series. Semi-autobiographical work about my school days. Sri Vidya Mandir, Salem.

Drama Sri Vidya Mandir Salem

When we think about school or hostel, we always attribute it to studies, marks and ranks. This is a common mindset, but this school, especially the hostel life was different. This is why I changed my shutter island kind of impression into a paradise island.

At though it was a conservative management, arts were always encouraged. Once in two or three weeks, Saturday night after dinner was meant for showcasing or presenting our “dramatic” and “artistic” talents.

The preparations will begin after the evening prayer as soon as the hostel staff announces that that night is going to be a “drama” night. Yes, the main attraction will be drama, mostly a mythological story which is taken from the books of Amar Chitra Katha. The costumes were makeshift- headgear using chart paper and stick, swords with cardboard, arrows made of broom sticks, senior veshtis and towels will be worn as dresses in various ways, charcoal mixed with water as moustache and beard, vibuthi or face powder will be sprinkled on the hair to get the old getup!

I was always part of seniors- Pardeep and Senthil troupe. Dialogues were not written, we will have a story, decide on what scenes we should be played, keep improvising on dialogues while rehearsing. At the maximum, we will have one hour to set a story and rehearse. 

Some students will sing film songs from the 50 paisa film lyrics book. Some will give speech about a random topic; mostly it’ll be about a national leader. The big boys of Shradha hall will always make a grand show with dance, social comedies, dual and mono acts. There will be censors too; the hostel staff in charge of the activity will be briefed on what the play is about. Usually there won’t be any cuts.

The hard part from these exercise is to take off the makeup, especially who had donned the old person getup.

Previous Chapter - 13. The Quiz Show                                  Next Chapter- 15. Earth Day

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

13. The Quiz Show

In Search of Swami series. Semi-autobiographical work about my school days. Sri Vidya Mandir, Salem.


**Find the typo in the above picture

In comparing with school, the hostel gave equal importance to both physical and educational activities. The library was frequently visited by many. Most of the books were mythological & moral - like Amar Chitra Katha. Also, Pustak Mahal books, carefully compiled for children (below 18) covering history of India and world.

Quizzing had a small following in the hostel. Even though, we didn’t have any official quiz team, some seniors organized quiz shows on weekends. I had a separate notebook, were I wrote down the question and answers. There was no internet, so we had to write or make our questions from the library. This was my own quiz book. Some of my friends had a similar kind of quiz notebooks.

Seniors, Pradeep, Senthil and Ramesh were very enthusiastic quizzers. Students from Ramakrishna hall were the usual participants, because Vivekananda halls kids were young and Shradha hall were big boys (10th and 12th class). There were two or three groups, who conducted quiz during Sunday afternoons. Sometimes a rival group will conduct a quiz show and the other groups will participate in it, just like cricket match.

Once, a quiz show was hosted by Saravanan group. The other three participating teams were 1- Ramachandran group, 2-Pradeep (me and Ramesh), 3- Kishore group. Being the host, Saravanan group didn’t participate. All three groups had three members.

The questions were very tough, it was micro detailing preparation by Saravanan group, but surprise was the Kishore group was able to answer most of the questions. We came second and Ram group was pathetic. 

By rule of thumb, we know who got how much IQ (saraku) and definitely Kishore and his team were not up to that mark. We doubted that the quiz was rigged and started to investigate. The process was simple, ask the same questions to Kishore and his team, in a casual way, with a doubtful answer (mostly wrong answer) and observe their body language. If they stick to our doubtful answer and try to move out or avoid the situation in a hasty way, then the quiz was rigged as they don’t want to expose themselves.

It worked. We and Ramachandran team did this CBI work for two-three days.

For example, while washing clothes, Pradeep will ask Kishore,

Pradeep- "Was Krishna Mohan the Home Minister when India-China war took place?"

Kishore- "Yes, it was Krishna Mohan" (He’ll answer without seeing Pradeep)

(Actually, Krishna Menon was the Defence minister)

We did put some four to five questions in different occasions and all were positives. we did nothing further, as the exams approached; we started to concentrate on studies and put the revenge quiz show after the holidays.

After holidays, we forgot this entire incident!


Previous Chapter- 12. Four Pillars                                           Next Chapter- 14. Saturday Night Fever

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Monday, June 13, 2016

12. Four Pillars

In Search of Swami series. Semi-autobiographical work about my school days. Sri Vidya Mandir, Salem.

In Search of Swami Sri Vidya Mandir School Salem

I guess a kid is innovative than an adult, at least in the games they play. 

While cricket and seven stones were playing a battle in outdoor category, an indoor game, yet it had some running and jumping activity was being conceived by few students. This four pillar game was played on the first floor of the hostel.

The first and only floor of the hostel had a long hall. Earlier, 3rd, 4th and 5th school classes were held there, now the classes were shifted to the new school building, so all the partitions was removed. Some places had the perfectly square area with pillars in its borders. 

There were five players in the game. Four will choose and stick to each pillar and one will be a rider. The four has to interchange the places in random order and in this process if the rider touches anyone he is “out”.

One Sunday afternoon, me, Aravind, Selva and Vino were playing four pillars. The pillars had the dwarf wall and we had to jump on them or jump from them while interchanging the places. Usually no one will notice it, but on that day we got over enthusiasm and started running\jumping hard. 

The students in ground floor got super annoyed; we were playing on top of the Shradha hall, which was the big boy’s hall. Radhakrishnan, our senior was the hall in charge. He locked the exits of the first floor and informed to the warden, the master blaster. We were never aware of this and after playing when we tried to go down, but the gates were locked. We shouted and after sometime warden opened the gate. He gave us a free tour of the first floor with his cane.

From that day Radhakrishnan was christened as “Kakka” Radhakrishnan.

Enough of games and sport, let us see something food for thought in the next chapter.


Previous Chapter - 11. Seven Stones              Next Chapter - 13. The Quiz Show

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Sunday, June 12, 2016

2016-ன் இரண்டாவது புத்தக கண்காட்சி

என்ன புக்கு வாங்கலாம்

கொளுத்தும் மதிய வெயிலில் வருத்தத்துடன் வண்டியை பார்கிங்கில் விட்டு விட்டு அப்படியே கால்லார நடக்கையில் தோன்றியது இந்த யோசனை,

என்ன புக்கு வாங்கலாம்

சரி, எதையோ வாங்கலாம்” என்று எனக்கு நானே சொல்லிக்கொண்டு நடக்கயில மேடையில் இருந்து ஒரு குரல். எங்கேயோ கேட்ட குரல்!

சன் டிவியில் நியூஸ் வாசிக்கும் ஜெய்ஸ்ரீ சுந்தரோ அல்லது சுபஸ்ரீ சுந்தரோ நிகழ்ச்சியை தொகுத்து வழங்கிக்கொண்டிருந்தார். மணிமேகலை பிரசுரம் சார்பில் 39 புத்தகங்களை சப்ஜாடாக வெளியிட்டுக்கொண்டிருந்தனர். மேடையில் 39 எழுத்தாளர்கள், 4-5 chief guests என்று 50 பேர் மேடையில் இருந்தனர். பார்ப்பதற்க்கு எதோ அரசியல் கட்சி (அதிமுக தவிர) மேடைப்போல் இருந்தது.

எல்லா வருடங்கள் போலவே, இந்த வருடமும் மெயின் அரங்கத்தில் வரிசையாக கடைகள் (700), வெளியில் புட் கோர்ட் (பஜ்ஜி சிறந்ததா – பனி பூரி சிறந்ததா என்று தீர்ப்பளிப்பார்கள்), அப்புறம் மேடை- நூல் வெளியிடு, retired judges, TV புகழ் அரசியல் நடுநிலையாளர்கள், சினிமாவில் புரட்சி செய்தவர்கள் என்று யாராவது பேசுவார்கள்.

காலச்சுவடு, நீயு ஹொரைசான் (கிழக்கு) போன்ற பெரிய பதிப்பகங்கள் 4-5 stallகளில் தங்கள் வெளியீடுகளை நிரப்பியிருந்தார்கள். ஆனந்த விகடன் “தடம்” இதழுக்கு மட்டும் ஒரு special stall வைத்திருந்தார்கள்.

”சிங்கப்பூர் இலக்கியம்” என்று ஒரு stall இருந்தது. புத்தகம் படிக்க வசதியாக இருக்கைகள் இருந்தது (அதுல கால் வலி உள்ள பெரியவர்கள் அமர்ந்திருந்தனர்!). Air Cooler கூட இருந்தது, ஆனால் coolingதான் இல்ல!

இதையேல்லாம் படிச்சிட்டு நான் எதோ புத்தகப்புழு,,, புத்தக எலி என்று நினைக்கவேண்டாம். சுஜாதாவை தவிர வேறு யாருடைய எழுத்து நடையயும் அவ்வளவாக தெரிந்துவைக்காத ஒரு சராசரி புத்தக வாசிப்பாளன்.

கண்காட்சிக்கு வந்த நோக்கம் “After The Floods” என்ற புத்தகத்தை வாங்குவது. சென்ற வருடம் சென்னையில் எற்பட்ட வெள்ளம் மற்றும் அதன் பின் எழுந்த ”மனிதம்” பற்றிய ஒரு தொகுப்பு நூல். The Chennai Bloggers Clubபை சார்ந்தவர்கள் எழுதிய புத்தகம்.

வாங்கியாச்சி. வேற எதை வாங்க? ”புத்தக கண்காட்சியில் புத்தகத்தை எப்படி தேர்வு செய்வது”னு யாராவது ஒரு புத்தகம் எழுதினா தேவலை!

எத பண்ணாலும் plan பண்ணி பண்ணணும்

வருடம் முழுவதும் நாளிதழ்கள், வார/மாத இதழ்களில் வரும் புத்தக விமர்சனங்களைப் படிக்கும் போது, அதில் நமக்கு பிடித்த புத்தகங்களை தனியாக ஒரு லிஸ்டில் எழுதி வெச்சா நல்லது. இல்லாட்டி எத வாங்குவதுன்னு விழிக்கணும்.

கடைசி நாள் - 13th June, Monday.

Books I bought in this fair
  • After The Floods – An Anthology on the Chennai Floods
  • இந்திய விடுதலை போரில் பெண் போராளிகள் – கமலா தாஸ்குப்தா
  • சாதி, வர்க்கம், மரபணு – ராஜன்
  • Brahmans & Cricket – S Anand
போன வருடம் கிறுக்கியது - உருளைகிழங்கும் வேக வைத்த cauliflower-ம்

Friday, June 10, 2016

11. Seven Stones


11th Chapter in the In Search of Swami series. Semi-autobiographical work about my school days. Sri Vidya Mandir, Salem.

Even governments and big corporations try hard to replicate the craziness involved in cricket to some other sport. But, for us, it took a bunch of frustrated kids to brainstorm on something ethnically and culturally!

Those kids who could not get placed in any cricket team must have been felt unhappy. They will neither go to the library nor will go to play indoor games. Hanging around in the bar area, they started to play a new game- Seven Stones. It is called as Lagori in north-side and Ezu Kallu in Tamil. Those who don’t know the game, please click on the below link,

At first no one took it seriously, after all cricket is our national sport!, but later it got the attention, just because of the ability to hit someone with the ball. Any kind of academic revenge was sorted out with the hit.

Gradually, the students playing seven stones out grew cricket. The usual rush into the games room to pick the beloved cricket bats was gone. The cricket gear were orphaned. Suddenly, the stones became scarce, some even took the stones from their native. Personal stones!

The game was good, lots of running than cricket, but there was a risk of getting hit in the unforeseen places. You understood, what I meant, those embarrassing moment. Few got hits.

Later the hostel staff got the grip into this matter and they banned this sport. In spite of the ban, those who played the seven stones, were taken to the mess storeroom for a nice treatment, remember this was Shutter Island (This was how I felt earlier) and the storeroom was the lighthouse!


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**Above image by the blogger

Thursday, June 9, 2016

10. Minus Cricket


Evening 4:30 PM to 6:00 PM was play time. In school physical training (PT) period we used to play all sort of games, except cricket. Because our PT masters felt cricket is not a team sport, but occasionally they asked us to play baseball, never knew baseball was a better team sport than cricket. Basketball, kho-kho, kabaddi were the other sports we played during school PT hour, but in hostel, it was only cricket.

As soon as we were done with the evening tea, there will be a rush towards the hostel games room to get hold of good cricket bats. There were only six to eight cricket bats and there will be ten different teams competing for it. SG, which had a thin blade and light weight, was much sort after. BDM was heavy, even big boys didn’t like it. There were half bats too, like the mangoose, it was not manufactured mangoose, but man-made mangoose, we broke it!

Indoor games like chess and carom were also available, but at that age who will like to play indoor games! At any given point of time five to six matches will be played simultaneously in the ground. Mostly, I used to stick with any team, at least we were considered as ball boys by the seniors. 

Sometimes, we used to play minus cricket. As the wickets fall the score will be reduced. For example, when the score is 20/0 and if a wicket falls, then the score will be 18/1. Also, the score will be reduced when there is a maiden over. In some instances, the score will go less than zero, like -4.. -3. The 2nd innings is not like chasing the score and winning, but to play the full quota of the overs.

Those who couldn’t fit into any team will leave to hostel for indoor games or library. Some will loiter in the bar (Long bar and horizontal bar) area. They’ll be hanging on the bar like higher mammals.

After few months, just before my 5th standard annual exams, someone introduced a game, which will be a serious competition to cricket and in fact the hostel management had to hunt down students who played it while play time. 

What was it?

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**Above art work, by the blogger