Yesterday evening, I drove to the government school, a mere two minutes from Hotel Hassan Ashhok. There are no new structures in the school compound 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 somewhat. The playground was larger than my recollection of it. The covered stage at the head of the playground still stands. I once stood in the corner of that stage and watched dada while he spoke from its front, towering over his school-assembly. I was six-years-old.
Today, before breakfast, I strolled in the streets opposite the hotel, taking the Shankar Mutt Road and the bylanes abutting it. The lanes are quiet as you go deep in them; they have neat houses in a dull ambience; some few houses are large and opulent. Private tuitions and nursing-homes are the visible businesses in this part of town. I walked by old men sipping coffee by the road, bought from tiny streetside stalls. From a cart among them, steam from small tender idlis floated into the street and dissipated. An old man was protesting: "Only chutney with idli?". A bike sped dangerously. Two smaller bikes raced each other, their riders laughing. Young women constantly purred by on candy-coloured scooters.
I strolled aimlessly and after a while found myself at the edge of the playground of dada's school, and gazed at the stage in the distant corner. Many people had gathered for cricket, and they played with tennis balls on pitches that sported a single stump at the bowler's end. Three or four matches were on simultaneously — quite often, a hit from one game sent the ball into the field of another. They were playing seriously. When taking strike batsmen warmed-up like the big-time stars, holding the bat high by its edges and bringing it down and taking it all the way to the ground. One player wore the blues of the national team. Some looked athletic, but most were fleshy men whose parts rolled and shook as they ran about. Still, they were agile enough and didn't miss catches, and they showed no lack of energy in stopping the runs. The bowlers turned the ball sharp; the batsmen hit hard and high. The competing teams were friendly: a batsman removed his cap and finding no one to give it to, tossed it to the wicket-keeper who caught it and put it on without a thought. When they shouted names—Rajanna, Somanna, Shivanna, Nanjanna—they said the "anna" with much affection. I came away thinking that folks in Hassan are such a friendly lot. In Bangalore, they caution that in Hassan they are quick to quarrel. They also allege that they don't so much care about work there. I pray that they are wrong, our first factory in Hassan is two months from completion.