Story part – 2

My father was a Govt servant, working in a civilian unit of Defence, in an ordinance factory. He was more of a factory floor person preparing materials. But a government job was a big thing then, as it ensured some money every month whatever the situation. He was working in Trichy, Tamil Nadu. And he stayed there in the company quarters. A quarter was more like a flat of today – high rises being rare, they had four flats in a building. The name, perhaps came from there, I guess. And we stayed in Kerala, with my mother, thanks to our education, etc. He would come home a couple of times a year, stay for a week or so each time. Earlier he was in West Bengal, and the visit was just once a year, since the train travel was more than 2 full-days, one way. There was no Gulf-craze then; and most men in search of jobs were in Bombay, or other big cities, or in some factories.

Growing up in a sleepy little village, with hardly any contact with the big world outside, meant very little dreams for most of us. Remember, there was no TV there! Even a radio was found only in a few households. There was only one person in the entire village and its neighbourhood, who had a phone, who was rich enough to get telephone posts for about 10 kms at his expense. You could see, for many years, the overhead line – just one pair going on and on from post to post. In short, we hardly met any “big” people, to inspire us. That village was our world, mostly.

Even reading opportunities were limited. Only a few households subscribed to newspaper. More common were the general weeklies, carrying novels, crime novels, and some general stuffs. Usually no dirty stuff. At home, we get some of them, sometimes through local friends, borrowed or purchased. With nothing else, I used to read most of that, and hence was familiar with the novel writers of that time, and their variety. Study books were what the school gave at the beginning of the year. That in essence was the primary reading world. In a way, all that helped focus better on studies! Today, you sit to read with the TV on, and imagine the level of attention one can get.

One major relief here was my fathers’ work place. When he came to Trichy, we used to go there during the vacation time for a while. There was a good Malayalee society there, with a good library. It opens only twice a week. And you can take only 2 books at max. I would normally be there on both days every week, having finished reading the ones issued the previous slot. I read a lot of stuff – almost all in Malayalam though – including classic books, translation of freedom at midnight, etc.

One danger of such a life, is that you tend to get carried away with whatever anyone tells you. I remember someone, a few years elder to me, telling stories of Mahabharata, as only 5 people (the pandavas) on one side, and a big army of Kaurava’s on the other side. Many years later only I realised that the Pandava army was not just five people, though less in size than the other. There were many such stories which later on got corrected, as I started reading such books.

Natural path for a boy, if he is good at school, is to do pre-degree (what is now called +2), and then do a degree. Pre-degree, as the name says, was in the college, not in schools as is the case now. Then keep searching for jobs in whatever way possible, including moving to cities like Madras, Bombay, etc. If you have some relatives working there, that can become a stepping stone. Others, would drop out. Do some small business, or survive with some odd jobs, and the like. I was good at studies. There also there are some stories; I wont digress for now.

So may be a college education, resulting in a largely useless (from employment perspective) BSc or BA is the usual path. But being a graduate had some weight, as we had very few graduates there at that time. I don’t remember anyone with an engineering or medical degree in our vicinity. So such options rarely came to mind, perhaps due to the expenses involved and the studies required. Indeed, what an inspiring world!

And so there was no need or opportunity to make dreams. As we get closer to hurdles like SSLC, and depending on what happens there, some option of the sort above would be pursued. And so life went on, with its usual ups and downs.

And then it happened….

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