25 September, 2013


We have not yet seen the end of the monsoon here. Even though it has been raining everyday, there is some sunshine between showers. After a break of nearly four months, it is time for me to get back to gardening.

Every year, after the heavy rains, the garden looks haggard and unkempt because of the lack of attention. With every passing year, it has been getting more and more difficult to find someone to pull out the weeds and do the other menial tasks. This year, as I was mulling over some  probable candidates, I thought of N.

Though he looks to be about 15, N is 18 years old. I know that because about 2-3 years ago, I saw his date of birth on his marks card. Class 10 results were out and N was refusing to go to school to check his results. Someone told his dad that these days, one could check them online and he came to me with the register number, requesting me to check N's 'pass-fail'.

Of course, I wasn't expecting great marks, but I didn't think N would be this bad! It was one of the toughest moments of my life.... to look at N's dad's face and tell him that his son had scored 61 out of 625 in Class 10. Well.... after that N refused to have anything to do with studies. He started working as an odd-job man, thus adding Rs.250/ day to his family's income.

 N  came here on a day when I couldn't afford to hover around as he was working. After giving him very detailed instructions, I could only hope that he would follow them correctly.

 One of the customs in this town is to provide mid-morning and evening tea to people who work for you. As I gave him his tea, I checked out on how N was progressing. To my relief, he was doing quite well.  Suddenly, I realised the logic behind one of the govt.'s educational policies that I don't quite agree with.....................................

In Karnataka, all students in all govt. schools are promoted from Class 1 until they reach Class 10, irrespective of their performances in examinations. The freebies (uniforms, books, meals, and, a bicycle during the mid-term of Class 9) along with the absence of  the pressure to pass guarantees that almost every child goes to school  till he/ she turns 14 - the legal age for children to start  working.
Since the intention/ end result of all these incentives seems to be the eradication of child labour, I guess, I will have to accept the 'pass everyone'  policy. If only there was some other way to stop child labour.....

Since N lives nearby, he cycled down to his duties here. I got my first close look at the 'free cycle'.

Initially, bicycles were given only to girls from BPL families. Soon after, all the boys & girls studying in govt. schools were included in the scheme. This basic model from 'Atlas Cycles' has been the favoured model thro' the years.

The present govt. is continuing this scheme, with some changes. Boys will be given blue-coloured bicycles and girls, brown. Schools will soon stock air-pumps and some bicycle spare parts. And, of course, some crores have already been set aside.

Now, if you do some arithmetic, you will realise that there is a large difference between the estimated cost and the actual cost involved. More arithmetic including other states with such schemes will make you wonder if our economy will ever look up....  As it is, the govt. is cheating the tax-payer by churning out large numbers of knowledge-challenged children from its schools year after year. Do they have to over-charge us for the bicycles? I can only imagine the irregularities involved with the costs of uniforms, books, etc....

 Anyway...... I was quite happy with N's work. He had followed my instructions perfectly. Unfortunately, this feeling of contentment was not mutual. Nothing to do with me or the job, of course! Apparently, some of N's ex-classmates - on their way to college- saw him at work (Wonder what happened to their bicycles!). The boys jeered and the girls giggled, upsetting him thoroughly.

N has now decided not to take up such 'demeaning jobs'. He has already petitioned his dad for an auto-rickshaw. You don't have to pass Class 10 to get a license to drive an auto-rickshaw. So, all I can do until next year is hope that the boy changes his mind/ attitude.....

05 September, 2013

Views from Kundadri

One summer afternoon, we were returning home via the Tirthahalli- Agumbe road. Suddenly, we saw a signpost that said 'Kundadri - 7 kms'. Wonder how we had missed it during our previous journeys on this road!  Kundadri was one of the local places on our 'must-see-sometime' list. And, we decided to check it out this time.

Kundadri is a small mountain belonging to the Western Ghats range. Until a few years ago, trekking was the only way to reach the top. In order to make the Basadi (Jain temple) at the top  accessible to all, a businessman from Mumbai spent a few crores to build a narrow, motorable road. One still has to cover the last few metres  on foot.

See the 'Welcome' arch somewhere near the centre of this pic? That is how the diversion from the main road looks like from the top!

Since the sun was shining down brightly upon us, we decided to bide some time at the empty, shady parking zone. The others divided the newspaper and I reclined the seat to have a comfortable cat-nap.
I must have been in this blissful state of semi-sleep for about ten minutes when we were joined by about eight young men on 4-5 mo-bikes. After noting the local registration number on our vehicle, they gave us a once-over and made their way to the top. Obviously, they were regulars here...

Suddenly, another vehicle came up. As the occupants- 2 boys & 2 girls - got off the car, two laggards from the earlier group stopped to investigate. To me, they looked like  students from not-so-far Manipal. In fact, if betting was in fashion, I would put all my money behind my guess!!

Laggard 1: Lo! Ningyaavdo? (Hey! Which one will you have?)

Laggard 2 : Ibroo chennaagilla, maaraaya... (Both aren't good enough, man...)

The scoundrels, both of whom wouldn't have made it to the qualifying round of any beauty contest, carried on in this fashion for a couple of minutes. When their jibes drew absolutely no reactions, they went away - to join their friends.
Just wondering.... what would have happened if there was an altercation? We would have been forced to intervene? How does one handle unruly behaviour like this one??

Even though we were not involved, this incident had dispirited us. We needed a change of scene and we decided to go to the peak. The Manipal-set followed us and stayed a few metres behind us - probably, they felt safer....

After climbing about 70-80 steps, we were there! At the entrance, there is this beautiful pond - named 'Malathi'. You know, the water must have been quite warm... wonder how the fish manage!
 There is a parapet around this pond. But, I'm sure, some people will jump over the parapet - to get a good pic/ to partake this water as holy water,...
Let me tell you a folklore about this pond. Take it with a BIG pinch of salt, okay?
If you throw a lemon into this pond, it is supposed to re-surface at some other water body in the plains - many miles away (Sorry for forgetting the name of this second water-body)!

Right next to this pond, there is a small temple. No frills and fancies - only a cool, dark room with an idol of a Digambara monk. The lone priest, who treks everyday from the foothills, tells us that about 250-300 years ago, a wandering monk- Kundakacharya- decided to spend his last days here. The locals built this temple in his memory and named the hill after him. The talkative priest tells us a little about the management and the activities associated with the temple.

 After the customary aarati by the priest, we spent some time, drinking in the lingering fragrance of flowers & incense. The priest told us that we could take pics if we wanted to. One of the Manipal boys took a lot of pics and we decided to explore the surroundings....

From the other side of the temple, you can have a panoramic view of the landscape. It would be dangerous to get too close to the steep edge.
Once again I think of  people who will take the risks to get good pics - unmindful of the fact that a mishap could spoil the trip for everybody...

 A ramshackle building blocks the approach and the view from behind the temple.
In front of the temple, the mountain descends as a not-so-steep, rocky slope with patches of green puddles here and there....

After lounging about for a few minutes, we decided to leave. The Manipal group had left much before us. The bikers had vanished. There must be some niche out there that can be used as a hang-out.

You know, this visit to Kundadri was an eye-opener of sorts. Quite alarmingly, we realised the total lack of security in places like this. According to newspaper reports, these days Malnad's popular nooks and peaks have been encroached by vandalisers.  If the concerned govt. departments have failed to provide security, well... we should look after ourselves.

To all you people going to such places - Take care...

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