Monday, January 21, 2013

Can you help this Boy?

We come across many people occupying positions of authority, during our life time.  Some evoke contempt and are remembered only for the arrogance they exhibit while dealing with the general public.  There are some others who are remembered for their humility and the distinctions they earned for the seats they occupied.  Powers conferred on many holding public positions is wasted, misused and abused.  But the society is also fortunate to have at least some who use their powers judiciously and their actions benefit vast sections of the community.

Forty years ago, a child could be admitted to a primary school at the age of four, unlike 5 years and 10 months now.  There were also exceptional cases of "double promotions", meaning that a student could jump two classes in one year.  There were some cases when a student could pass SSLC or 10th Standard when the child was not even 14 years old as against the norm of 16 years.  This is the true story of one such boy.

The boy was intelligent and sharp. He was put in school early and passed his SSLC with excellent marks.  The problems were with his age and height.  At fourteen years of age, he was four feet tall and thinly built.  With the Marks Card in his hand he went to a leading college in Bangalore for admission to Pre-University course as a prelude to a Graduate degree.  He was given admission in the initial round, but when the issue of age cropped up, the official handling admissions in the college directed the boy to the Principal.  The principal gave a patient hearing to the boy but could not admit him due to reason of age.  The request was politely declined and he was advised to seek admission next year.  The young boy was not the one to give up easily.  "Please tell me who can help me to get admission to the college.  I will meet that person", said the boy more out of confidence than out of defiance.  The principal was impressed by the energy exuded by the boy.  "Vice Chancellor is the only person who may be able to help you" said the Principal.  That lead was sufficient for the young boy.

Once he went home, the boy's father advised him to wait for one year and learn typewriting and short hand during the period.  The advice was in line with the practice in those days.  But the boy had his own different plans. 

Vice-Chancellor of Bangalore University used to function from Central College premises in those days, the late 60s.  The boy resided with his parents in Jayanagar.  Next morning he took a bus to Mysore Bank circle and went to the Vice-Chancellor's office around noon to meet him.  Vice Chancellor's assistant told the boy that the VC was away on some work and is expected only around 4 PM.  The boy wanted to wait but he was advised to return later in the evening.  The boy was not the one to give up.  He decided to wait till VC returned to his office, whatever time it may be.

The Vice-chancellor returned around 5PM in the evening.  He saw the boy near his office and asked his assistant why he was waiting.  The assistant briefly mentioned about the case.  Putting his arm on the shoulders of the boy, the VC took the boy with him to his chambers.  The boy was ready with his marks card and eager to put forth his case.  VC asked him to wait and made him to sit on the chair opposite to him.  The boy could get into the tall chair with some effort and sat down, his marks sheets in his lap.  VC smiled at the boy and gently asked him, "Would you like to have some coffee?".  The boy had not eaten anything since the time he left the house in the morning.  He answered in the affirmative.  VC took out a thermos flask from the basket, poured hot coffee into two cups and handed over one to the boy.  While enjoying his own cup of hot coffee he stared at the young boy.  After relaxing for a few minutes, he asked the boy to tell his story.  The boy narrated his case, showed his marks card and insisted that he be admitted to Pre-University course.

VC sent for the Registrar of the University.  Registrar arrived and the boy repeated his case to the Registrar.  VC asked the registrar, "Can you help this boy?".  The Registrar thought for a moment and replied; "There is one provision under which we may consider the case.  If the boy can satisfy us that the rigors of the course do not burden his mind and he will be able to stand up to the requirements of the course, he could be admitted as a special case".  "How to test that?", was the next question by the VC.  "May be we can conduct a test and then decide after that", said the registrar.  "If we conduct a test like that, why not we include all such other cases and finish it in one go?" asked the VC.  Registrar agreed.  The VC took the boy with him in his car and dropped him in front of his house before proceeding to his residence in Elephant Rock Road near south End Circle.  A test for 206 students was conducted next week, covering all such underage students who had passed SSLC.  120 students cleared the test, including our hero, but only 30 could get through the interview that followed.  These 30 were permitted to be admitted to the Pre-University course!

Prof. Vinayaka Krishna Gokak, popularly known as V K Gokak was the Vice-chancellor. A noted poet and winner of Bharatiya Jnanapeeth award for his epic work "Bharata Sindhu Rashmi", Gokak was an Oxford scholar and taught English in various places like Sangli, Dharwad and Bangalore.  It is said that he took up writing in Kannada at the behest of Shri D R Bendre, noted kannada poet and Jnanapeetha award winner himself. V K Gokak later on became the first Vice-Chancellor of Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Puttaparthy.

Shri Tribhuvan Prakash Issar, popularly known as T P Issar was the registrar.  A highly respected IAS officer, he rose to the post of Chief Secretary of the Karnataka Government later on.  Being a painter himself he studied the architecture of many buildings in Bangalore.  He was the Chairman of Bangalore Arts Commission during 1976-1988.  His books, "The City Beautiful" about Bangalore and "The Royal City" about Mysore give an insight into his scholarly as well as artistic mind.  His book, "Blossoms of Bangalore", is about the flowering trees of Bangalore.  The "Flowering trees" whose near total destruction is nearly achieved by the next generation.

As for the boy himself, after a bright academic career, he served as a senior executive of a premier public sector bank with distinction.  He continues to train a new generation of bankers after his retirement.