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Barkur As I Knew in the Fifties

By  K. Shekhar Shetty

Productivity Services Manager, Emirates Airline, PO Box 686, DUBAI (UAE)


I am from a place called Kadangod, near Kokkarne.   I was a student of NHS Barkur 1956 to 1959. After that I went to do my college education in Mangalore and Industrial Engineering in Mumbai.  I worked in Air India, Mumbai for over 20 years.  Currently I am working as the Productivity Services Manager for Emirates Airline, Dubai.   Our permanent “settlement” now is in Mumbai, but I go occasionally to my native place, Kadangod.  That would give me an opportunity to pass through Barkur during my local tours there.

Some time early this year I happened surf the web site, and with that nostalgic memories of those years started flooding back.  I wrote to Kishoo to congratulate for the web site, and also mentioned how I was associated with this beautiful, enchanting place. 

My link with Barkur was established way back in 1944, barely a year after my birth.  My mother was undergoing ayurvedic  treatment for severe arthritis in the hands the Malayalee Joyees (Mr. Nambiar) at Barkur.  I was told I was part of the entourage that camped there with mother for 3 months.  I have no recollection of those days, but my mother was fully cured of the crippling disease.  I express gratitude to Barkur, and to that celebrated Malayalee Joyees!

This is simply an attempt of jotting down my random, but very sweet, thoughts about the Barkur I knew in those days between 1956 and 1959:  First, for a short period, to sit for the ESLC (elementary school leaving certificate  -  we used to call it “public examination”) examination on completion of my 8th standard in the higher secondary school, Kokkarne.  And, next, for three long years as student of National High School.

The ESLC Examination (March 1956)

NHS Barkur was the centre for the public examination for a number of schools around Barkur, up to Kokkarne in the East.  We were lodged at the High School for the full week.  Our PT Teacher was in charge of the “lodging and boarding” arrangements.  NHS is a magnificent and beautiful building.  It had a good 18 to 20 acres of horticultural gardens around it.  Grown there were a variety of fruits, flowers, and ornamental plants.  

But what attracted me most at that time was the Cycle Shop near Panchalingeshwara Temple (is that called the Car Street?).  The shop had two small bicycles, good for small children to learn cycling.  I was 13 then, and thought it was one great opportunity to learn cycling by the time I returned to my village!   We were in such a great hurry to finish the examination papers and would run the more than a kilometre of dusty road to the bicycle shop.  If I didn’t, then the other boys would go and rent the small bicycle for themselves.  The normal bicycle rental was one anna an hour, but the shop keeper had cleverly doubled the rental for the small bicycle.  We were  the learners, so we could not use the road.  We used the cool courtyard of Panchalingeshwara Temple for the purpose.  After hours of kicking the bicycle, we would walk back to National High School, tired, hungry, dusty and dirty.  We were also badly bruised all over from the innumerable times we fell from the bicycle unable to control the speed and the balance.  That is not all!  Our PT Sir, Shri Narayana Shetty, would punish us for going away without permission, for missing the lunch, and of course, for not reading and preparing for the next day’s examination, like all other good pupils did!

[As an addendum to this I may say that I learnt bicycle riding in that week of March 1956.  Also, as the results of the ESLC examination proved a month later, I also passed the ESLC in first class.   One thing I remember about the ESLC results was that as soon as we got it from our Head Master (Shri. Thimmappa Shetty) of Kokkarne school, I had proudly signed on the certificate, “S.S. Kadangod” and subscripted “E.S.L.C.”  –  as if ESLC was a big degree!  As I was going home, Doctor Bhaskar Rao, our family doctor in Kokkarne, called me in to his clinic.  After seeing my certificate and the marks, I remember how he had congratulated me, and also introduced me to some of the gentlemen sitting in his clinic by saying, “He is son of Shri. Shiroor Ramanna Shetty.  All his children are very intelligent!”  The building where the Doctor’s clinic stood and the plot around that used to be my father’s Bhandasaale and Rice Mills in the thirties and until 1947]

National High School, June 1956

When it came to selecting the High School, I opted for NHS Barkur, even though SMS High School, Brahmavar would have been more convenient.   In both the cases, I would have to stay there with somebody or in some hotels (in the absence of any student hostels in those days!).  But one advantage that Brahmavar had was that it was connected by bus from Karje (a kilometer from Kadangod), whereas Barkur was not.  Yet, I chose Barkur.  I got admitted to the 9th standard (or it used to be called IV Form) there in June 1956.  This was a big school with several hundred students from standards 6th to 11th, each class having 2 to 3 divisions.  There were many boys from distant villages like mine -  for example, children from Vandar, Mandarthi, Shiroor, and around Kokkarne.   At that time there were about two dozen children who had to live there on their own in Barkur, going home to their villages only for the week ends.  We lived at various places around the High School, bathing in the Moodukeri tank, eating in some restaurants or in some Brahmin’s house near Moodukeri.   For the lodging normally we lived in the out-houses, or in the upper storey, of a number of Brahmins’ house in and around Moodukeri.  One such place where we lived for a long period of time, and we were well looked after, was the house of Mr. O.S. Upadhyaya.  (I do not know his name, nor did O.S. stand for one.  People called him “OS” because, he would always say, “Oh, Yes!” in every sentence he spoke, and hence earned the title!).  There was no payment involved, it all came free! In those days people used to be grateful if the house was occupied by school children instead of them being empty to be inhabited by ghosts.  They gave a lot of incentive for us to stay in his out-house, even though normally they would not entertain any non-brahmins in their houses. Often they gave us food and eatables (We seemed to be hungry all the time in those days!)  In winter and monsoon when it is too cold to take bath in Moodukeri tank, we were allowed to take hot bath in their bath room.  Mr. Upadhyaya lived in great style.  He was a strict disciplinarian though.  His small family comprised his wife, daughter and two brilliant grand children.  He also used to take us boys, along with his family, to some of the functions in the temples.  Perhaps we provided some sense of security, or a status.  Having half a dozen bull-dog like boys in the compound certainly kept the miscreants, burglars, beggars, or even the ghosts away from their house!

The one other accommodation we lived in later was an independent building right in front of the Fort. The building where we lived was a two storied one.  About a dozen children lived there, with seniors in the upper and the junior in the lower rooms.  We had a grand view of the Fort.  One could, in those days enter the fort from only two places.  There were the notice boards of the Archaeological Survey of India, warning people against any digging!  They say there is gold treasury everywhere!  [Barkur, and that very fortress was the seat of power and wealth, capital of Tulunadu for several centuries of rule by the Alupa and other dynasties.  Barkur was also a prominent centre of trade with the outside world]   Though there was no trace of any other great structures inside, there was a place to tie the war horses.  There was a tank at the centre of the fort with steep steps.  They say this is the tank where the Alupa queen would take her bath.  Not many people would walk through the fort, perhaps fearing the ghosts.  But for us boys, this was a convenient place.  This provided a grand open air field to defecate in the morning, and go down to the tank to wash up. Though, I must say it can be scary if you are alone!    

The other advantage this place had was the restaurant of Gudde Bhat’s near by, and the Government Clinic.  There were many rooms for us all to study.  The only disadvantage was that Moodkeri was a little far off to go far bath.  So we used to draw water from the well and take bath in our building. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t narrate how we used to go to our own villages for the holidays and week ends.  We normally start off in the evening on Friday, leaving after 5 pm.  The 12 kilo-meter route to Kadangod was via Hane-Halli, Kuradi, Kadoor, Kokkarne, Sural and to Kadangod.  This would involve crossing of two flooded rivers if in monsoon  (There were no bridges in those days).  By the time I reached Kokkarne it would be night.  Up to Kokkarne we would have other boys for company, but from there until Kadangod, I would be alone walking in the dark, covering a distance of 4 kilometers and the crossing of a river and walking through the hills and forests.   On all Friday evenings my mother used to wait patiently for me at the road near our house.   Similarly, on Mondays, my mother had to get up at about 3 in the morning to prepare me and send off very early when it is still pitch dark, to be able to reach Barkur and attend class in the morning.  These are such sweet memories associated with my mother.

Special Mention

Some of the people, events and Incidents I remember of those days are: 

Our head master Shri P.N. Bhoj Rao.  He was highly respectable, extremely strict on and off campus.  He would hardly be seen in public.  He was living in a huge house behind the moodkeri temple. Since we were also living around that area we boys had to be careful not to seen by the head master or his family members.  One thing we dread was our deeds to reported to the head master.   Shri Bhoj Rao was immaculately dressed with white dhoti and well pressed cream coloured jacket.  The joke that used to make round was that (in monsoon) if the head master’s dhoti was to become wet when he comes to the school, then we get a holiday!  It was true.  We notice the head master coming in to his office in the rain.  We start talking about the holiday, and would furtively look for the peon to come with the notice.  Not only we students, but even the teachers knew that.  I remember the head master’s one sentence notice that would read like this: “The school will be closed immediately on account of the inclement weather”.

I fondly remember a number of our excellent faculty in those days.  Rajiv Shetty, Subbanna Hegde, Anatha Nayak, Sarvotham Pai, Picardo Sir, Drill Master Mahabala Shetty, Kannada Pandit Krishna Bhat are only a few.  I had met some of them for many years after I left Barkur, but the others are just in my memory.  My tribute to all of them.

Malayalee Joyees (Ayurvedic Doctor) Nambiar.  He used to go to his clinic on his bicycle, but not riding!  He lived in Kalchapra, behind Marthappaya’s shop.  He would be seated on the career and walk the bicycle.  He was having Alzheimer’s disease or something, so the bicycle was a support to him!  He was the one, some 12 years before I came to Barkur, to have treated my mother’s arthritis – and indeed my mother was totally cured then, and she lived more than another 30 years. 

Then there are these various festivals in Barkur:  The Rathotsavas associated with the number of temples. We used to have a lot of fun and enjoyment.  I also recall the number of Yakshagana Bayalatas (the full night field dramas) in those days.  We used to go to all places nearby, like Kadoor, Kuradi, Saligrama, Kota, Mandarthi or wherever!   

Barkur indeed is a cradle of culture, intelligentsia and enterprise.  Many of the people of those days have become highly successful or accomplished in their life.   There are occasions when we meet some of our former class mates or the school mates, some times accidentally, or on certain occasions like weddings, and other functions.  But at all such occasions it was like finding treasure!

For a glimpse of the life at Barkur as remembered by Barkurians, check archives

Barkur, located in Udupi Taluk, Karnataka, India. 576 210

Copyright Kishoo, Barkur 2002.