Not just on September 5, but all through the year we reminisce those golden moments

I was 15. It was June 1953. I was walking along the Aranmanai Rama Iyer wooden bridge on the first day of my intermediate course in the “Cambridge of South India” — The Government Arts College, Kumbakonam. I was carrying my new books (English Prose, Maths, Physics, Chemistry and all) in a plastic cover with a rubber band tightly in place. Just a metre under the bridge, the Cauvery was in full flow. I was midway down the bridge when my book packet slipped, fell into the river and started floating along.

I was shocked, speechless and in tears. Sympathetic clucks were heard all around. At the college end of the bridge, a fair, stout bespectacled gentleman in shorts got into a boat, sailed along the river, fished out my book bundle and gave it back; “Very good! Books have not got wet.”

That was “L R” for all of us — Prof. L.Rajagopalan of the Maths Department, president of the Regatta Club, and good oarsman; he was committed to all activities in the college. Even the smallest effort on the part of a student would bring a broad smile on his face and a big “very good” from him. For example, he would ask, “sinQ + cosQ=?” If you say 1, you get a “very good”. Clad in trousers, half-shirt and blazer, big eyes shining behind the shell-framed spectacles, the gentle professor can never be forgotten.

It was V. Gopalaswamy Iyengar who taught us poetry and Shakespeare. ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ got glued to our memory by the way he taught us:

Water water every where

And all the boards

did shrink

Water water every where

Not any drop to drink

and

He prayeth best, who

loveth best

All things both great

and small;

For the dear God who

loveth us

He made us and loveth all

Iyengar’s punchline: He had eyes to see and ears to hear but did not have the heart to feel and mind to understand. It still rings in our ears.

RICHARD II was his favourite in the class. Single-handed, he lived the roles of Richard, Boling Broke, Northumberland and John of Gaunt. Every class was unique, delightful and dramatic. The text will have a line: “He dropped the Sword.” Iyengar, from a height, will drop the pen he had borrowed from us for marking attendance. Silence and shock will prevail for a minute. We would only be 20 minutes into the class. He will read from the text: “And so shall we meet again.” He will close the book and walk out of the class. Finito. Iyengar will invariably wear a bush coat with several buttons — each one a different colour.

Last but not least is Prof. K. V. Krishnamurthy, who taught us organic chemistry. We called him KWIKKER. With sound understanding and clear expression, he will din every equation and structure into our heads. Anyone going near the chemistry department on exam day can see him in his trousers and banian, meticulously weighing out salts and pipetting solutions early in the morning. That was commitment. We remember these teachers not just on September 5. All through the year we reminisce about those golden moments!

(The writer’s email: mgk.ooty@gmail.com)

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