I was admitted to the Lower Elementary School, Kara, which was near my home, in my sixth year. It was only about half a mile from home and was the same school where my elder sisters and brothers studied. After breakfast, I used to go to school with my elder brother. In the first standard, there was no bench and the students used to sit on wooden planks placed on the floor. The alphabets, simple arithmetic etc were taught by writing with hands on the soft sand which every students used to bring in the full coconut shells with only one opening through which the sand can be put in or taken out. Later, slates and were used.
At noon recess, we will return home, take bath, eat food and again go to school. One was not allowed to take food from outside. After going out and mingling with others, you had to take bath before entering the house. This superstitious system was meticulously followed. In the evening, after returning from school, one more bath.
Text books were not available. The teachers will write the lessons on the black board and explain. Important things you have to write in your note book. Almost all the students belonged to poor families, and many left even before completing 5th standard due to poverty as also to do some work to help their parents.
At the age of 7, I was ordained as a Brahmachari, a ritual followed by the namboodiris. This put so many restrictions in the life of the young boy. One have to get up early, take bath, perform a lot of pujas, kriya etc before taking any food. The same in evening also. Not allowed to wear dhoti. Even while going school, one was allowed only to put on a folded towel, instead of shirt. All these restrictions changed later, after many years.
Brahmachari was not allowed to climb the trees, speak with outside women etc. etc. A lot of nonsense restrictions which were difficult to observe. Three years passed like this. During this period an initial study of Veda also was necessary. Daily, two-three hours were spent for this. But how could at this young age one could learn vedas which are in Sanskrit, except repeating what the Guru teaches you.
After three years, Samavarthan ceremony will be conducted and you become Dwija, Namboodiri. All the restrictions are happily over. You can travel, meet with anybody. You can wear dhoti, trousers, shirts etc. The suffocation was over. You can have your hair cut also. But these concessions did not come easily. Even while going to school, my eldest brother had to keep kuduma ( long uncut hair). Disobeying the instructions, he one day got his hair cut. It was a big revolt at that time. Gradually hair cut was accepted and I had no difficulty in that matter.
I completed my fifth standard in due course. I was admitted in the VI standard in the Mattanur Higher Elementary School, about three miles away from home, but which was the nearest. The school authorities insisted that admission can be given only in V standard since that is the usual practice for admission. Other students were admitted like that only. But my eldest brother insisted that I will be able to manage in VI standard itself. Any way I was admitted in VI Standard.
In fact, I was worried. Two of my relations were admitted in V Standard only who have come from similar schools. The first class was English and the teacher started speaking in English. I knew the English alphabets, nothing more. Anyway, I was determined to study and not lag behind. I have to keep the prestige of my elder brother. Within six months I caught up with other students. In the half yearly examination, I was first or second. My fears were over. I was helped by two of the brightest students in the class, who were my bench mates.
While studying in the Mattanur School, the earlier restrictions on food continued. No food till you return home and take bath. Even restriction on drinking water. It was somewhat difficult, but became accustomed.
Passed the VIII Standard examination with good marks. The Elementary School Leaving Certificate (ESLC) given after passing in the VIII Standard public examination was sufficient to get training and teach in the Lower Elementary School ie. up to Vth Standard. I was admitted to the III Form in the Kuthuparamba High School, which was about 7 miles from home. There was no other High School nearby. My elder brother was studying in VI Form in the same school.
There were a large number of students from nearby area studying in Kuthuparamba High School. Walking was the only way since it was difficult to afford the bus charges, the minimum of which was 4 annas ( ¼ of the rupee). In group of 5 or ten, students, both boys and girls, can be seen walking on the road to the school and return. After taking meals in the early morning, we will walk to the school. Since no chappals were worn, the sole of the feet will be very thick, which even thorns could not pierce. After reaching back home and taking bath only, you can have food. Almost 10 to 12 hours we had to manage without any food. Study was more important than food. After one year or so, we were allowed to take water and beaten rice and banana during the lunch recess, as a special case. One of my close friends and relative, Shri K.N.Namboodiri had to walk more than one more mile to reach his home.
Even if you are late in reaching school, the teachers will not complain or punish. They understood that we were coming walking long distance. We were also not compelled to stay for sports and other programmes after school time. Teachers were considerate.
Three years were over without any important incident. Passed the Secondary School Leaving Certificate (SSLC) public examination with meritorious marks, first in the school. Received merit certificate and so many books as present. The school days were happily over. ( to be continued).