Friday, October 28, 2011
What happened to Punniyamurthy sirs hands? Thoughts by R Venkat
I could hear the howling of that boy even from my first floor classroom. For a second I felt maybe aliens from a new planet in the galaxy had invaded the school, maybe an earthquake, maybe a terrorist attack, maybe a bomb blast or might be a communal riot. But just to put all those wild thoughts to rest, I was told that it was Punniyamurthy sir who was raining blows and kicks on a student of class seven and the reason for that onslaught was, the boy had asked permission to go to the rest room.
We all knew that Punniyamurthy sir was not the regular kind of guy to move around. There was a legend in the school that he lost his mental balance as he could not succeed MGR in the Tamil filmdom as a matinee idol!! I am not sure about the authenticity of that story but I was sure there was something far from normal in his approach. On the day of Pongal, the farmer’s festival all the school teachers would come in traditional Tamil attire, but I remember Punniyamurthy sir coming dressed up in a Bermuda shorts with a Raymond’s blazer on his bare chest. He was all by himself and few knew about his family and personal background. The school management for some strange reasons could not initiate any actions against him, though there were many complaints of students getting beaten up for no reasons. Might be they were the outcome of Punniyamurthy sirs mood swings.
Time moved very fast and over the years I had forgotten about all these in the past and got engaged with professional life. But a very strange incident happened recently in Calcutta four months ago. It was just another weekend and I was in the Lake Market area in south Calcutta, busy shopping after a heart filling evening snack at Komala Vilas. I suddenly bumped on this gentleman on the pavement who was standing in a corner with his both hands looking motionless; there was a kind of anxiety mixed with fear in the eyes of that gentleman. Suddenly I realized it was Punniyamurthy sir, age and time had definitely cast their signs on him, but I was more curious to know what he was doing in the pavement of south Calcutta leaving his native village in remote Tamilnadu.
I gathered some courage and went close to him and asked, “Sir do you remember me, I was a student in your school long ago, my name is Venkat”.For a second he looked at me sharply and then in a very composed tone asked me , “Ke Khaben??” in bengali meaning “What would you like to eat??”I suddenly realized that it was an eatery on the pavement selling south Indian dishes. I didn’t know how to react, but then decided to ask him directly, what was there in my mind. “Sir, if I am not wrong are you Mr Punniyamurthy, who used to teach math’s at that village school in remote Tamilnadu.”
The reply was , “Yes you are right, I used to teach there long ago, but you know many things happened later, I was thrown out of my job, as one of the students expired because of the head injury he sustained owing to me hitting him on his head with the wooden stool. I lost all my savings and property in the legal tussle that ensued after the incident. Finally I landed up here one day and managed to get this job in the pavement to meet my ends. My job here is to keep the accounts for everyday’s sale, after all I was a math’s teacher, you know”.
I didn’t know what to say, but then I wanted to ask him, why his hands were looking motionless. As though he read my thoughts he said, “You see I had a paralytic attack in the past, wherein I lost the ability to move my both hands”.
Strangely I could hear the howling of a boy who was getting beaten up by a middle aged gentleman across the road….
Posted by Venkataramanan Ramasethu