He sat on the plane, looked around, fiddled with the seat belt, finally understood how to buckle it, sat back and relaxed, For Narayan was on his first plane journey to Russia and in 1961 it was a BIG thing.
Fatherless when just 3, life had been a struggle for survival. While his mother and elder brothers struggled to keep the home fires burning and to get the girls wedded; Being small, Narayan could not help them in any way in their endeavours, but he did what he could. He studied.
He had a burning need for knowledge, knowledge for everything and he knew that it was education which would pave a way for him and so he religiously attended school. But who would pay for his school fees, books etc.? He did. He distributed newspapers, he sold peanuts in the cinema theatres and he saw each movie as he distributed peanuts.
In those tough times, there were many who could not pay for cinema tickets, for them he would sing and tell the dialogues and those would pay a wee bit extra for his peanuts. Thus he had finished his schooling.
He wanted to have coffee before he left for school but did his mother have money to buy some coffee powder. no. So for years his mother had fooled him by crushing some coriander seeds, some jeera and boiled it in water and given him. He had thought that to be coffee till the time he reached college and had the real one and realised that it was not really that great.
Oh yes he loved good food and as a child he used to grumble about food, not realising how difficult was it to them to even have rice gruel. Till the day he had seen his mother asking for some curry from her sister-in-law. That was it; he put his foot down, no more ‘begging’ for food from anybody for his sake; he could survive on rice gruel, thank you.
His mother was priceless in his eye and he did not like her to bow down before anybody. Theree were many who insulted her or ridiculed her, she would not pay any heed to them but he would. Those people would face his wrath either through his tongue or hs hands, later on.
And so it had been like that till he matriculated. Being bright he got seats in both engineering and diploma but engineering was a bit expensive for them. His brother lifted his hands, how was he to pay after all he was married by then and to look after everybody and then to pay his fees too was not possible. So he opted for DIploma, he could afford to fend for himself in a diploma but he got the seat in Calicut. How to pay for a lodging now was the question. But then his sister stepped in, she was staying there with her husband. He could stay with them, her husband had insisted, she said.
And that’s how he had done his diploma, living with his sister, working here, there. The tenants living next door were from Mangalore, Konkani chaps as he himself, they had become good friends especially Gokul. Life had been good then.
But then again he had been at crossroads when he passed his Diploma, what to do next was the question. Gokul said that he knew someone in Canara engineering, Mangalore, the pay mas paltry and sometimes there was none but so what at least he would get experience. Narayan agreed.
Canara engineering was not great but it provided the experience that he so very needed. It was while he was in his sixth month there that he saw the ad for Bhilai Steel Plant. He remembered the words of Jawaharlal (Nehru), our dams our Steel plants are the modern temples of India, he sent in his candidature and was accepted.
His mother was apprehensive, how would he manage in an unheard of place. He assured her; he had survived so far, he would in this endeavour too.
And so he had travelled from Payyanur to Madras, from there to Nagpur and proceeded to Bhilai sitting in the wooden seats of Indian Railways.
Bhilai was a barren land then. Only the steel plant was running (not in full capacity) , houses were still being built, transport was only in the form of bicycles or cycle rickshaws, And so some of them grouped together and lived and went to the nearby mess for food..
And so a new beginning was made.
IN his annual vacation when he had been to Mangalore he had come to know that Gokul and his brother were searching for a groom for their sister but though she was pretty and very talented they just did not have the means to marry her off. He spoke to his mother, his mother had smiled, and said yes. He could marry her once she finished her matric and whats more they would take all the jewellery needed, it would be a simple wedding. She was still studying , so he would just have to wait.
The steel plant was on its way to working full steam and they needed trained personnel, so they began sending employees to Russia to train them. In this batch He had been selected.
He sat back in his seat and relaxed. Yes life till now had been good.
It is my fathers birthday tomorrow and this is the way he started his adult life. Conquering odds he paved a new life for us. From a small village boy to an unknown place and from there to Moscow.
Many may quip saying that so what, there are so many who do today, but those times were different.
I hope and pray that the years that come, he will spend his life in good health and cheers.
For more of this story, you may read the prequel- Padmavathi