Hassan: memories and lanes

Yesterday evening, I drove to the government school, a mere two minutes from Hotel Hassan Ashhok. There are no new structures except for a small building on a hidden side in front. The buildings have aged like dada who was its headmaster forty years ago, and they are wizened like him. The playground is larger than I'd sized it in my memory. The covered stage at the head of the playground still stands—I once stood in a corner of that stage and waited for dada while he stood at its center and towered over his school-assembly. I was six-years old.

Today morning before breakfast I strolled in the streets opposite the hotel: Shankar Mutt Road and its bylanes. A few lanes are quiet in their deep parts and have neat houses in a dull ambience; a few houses are huge, opulent. Tuitions and nursing-homes are the visible business in this part of town. Old men sipped coffee by the road, bought from tiny roadside shops. From a cart small tender idlis sent their steam into the street and an old man protested that they had only chutney for idlis today. A large bike sped dangerously fast over the whole length of narrow Shankar Mutt Road and later two young men on smaller bikes raced each other, laughing, looking like they might fall. Sunday morning. Young women constantly purred by on candy-colored scooters.

I strolled aimlessly and after a while found myself at the edge of the playground of dada's school, the stage old and alone in the distant corner. Many people had gathered for cricket, and they played with tennis balls on pitches equipped with a single stump at the bowler's end. Three or four matches were on simultaneously; a hit from one match often sent the ball to the field of another match. They played seriously. When taking strike batsmen warmed-up like their stars, holding the bat sideways by its edges and bringing it down from high and stretching to the ground. One player wore the blues of the national team. Some looked athletic; most were fleshy men whose parts rolled and shook when they ran about, but they were good on the field and didn't miss catches and they stopped the runs. They turned the ball quite sharp and hit it hard and high. Competing teams were friendly: a batsman removed his cap, and finding no one to give it to, tossed it to the keeper who caught it and wore it without a thought. When they shouted names—Rajanna, Somanna, Shivanna, Nanjanna—they said anna with such affection, I came away thinking that they of Hassan are such a friendly lot. Some don't agree in Bangalore, they caution that they are quick to quarrel in Hassan. They also allege that they don't so much worship work there. I pray the latter is not true; our first factory in Hassan is two months from completion.

This weekend, dada's school mattered more to me than mine.

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anna: elder brother—from a man not a brother, respect, affection; from a woman not a sister, respect, sometimes platonic love