AS A TEACHER
After passing the SSLC examination, I wanted to continue studies in college. My teachers also were in good support and prepared to help. But it was not what actually happened.
While I was in the V Form, I had joined a special course of ‘Training for Teachers’ with many other students. It was a diversified course for two years to be continued by one year in the regular Training School. Those who joined the course need not pay school fees and in addition was given special stipend for the two years. I had the option to join the training class after SSLC or return the stipend etc. and join college. A job was most important for the family at that time and a teacher’s job was the best. Hence there was no second thought and I joined the Teachers Training School. While others had to complete two years course, those who took the diversified course could complete by one year course. My elder brother has taken the same course and after training was working as a teacher.
I joined the Teachers Training School, Cannanore (present Kannur) in 1955. There was a separate class for those students who had come from Kuthuparamba High School after completing the special course. Along with other trainees, we rented a house nearby and stayed there. Every week I could go home, since it was a matter of about one and half hours by bus.
Since we were staying nearby, we could participate in extra-curricular activities, which we could not while in High School due to the long distance from home. There were excellent speakers and writers among the trainees, some of whom have come after working as untrained teachers earlier. Poet Vanidas Elayavoor and T.P.Sukumaran were two of the noted writers. I also participated in these discussions in a small way. Serious political discussions took place in the meetings.
An interesting episode comes to mind. There was competition of writing poem in connection with the Annual Day Celebrations. Since he was already a well-known poet, Vanidas Elayavoor did not participate. Shri T.P.Sukumaran (who later became a Professor and a well-known writer) got the first price for an excellent poem of about 10 lines. To my surprise, I got the second prize. Within the limited time I had scribbled about 40 lines of poem, the standard of which even I was doubtful. However, I was happy to get the prize.
In March 1956, the Public Examination was over and within two months, the results were published. All of us had passed. One year stay at Cannanore was over. A few of us were studying in the same class from standard VI to the training class. S/Shri M.Govindan, T.Kunhanandan and myself were not only in the same class since VI Standard but were in the same bench till the completion of the training. It was also interesting that one of us always got the first position in the examination. Now we were getting separated, trying to get a job in some school. It was a sad parting. Within some years, Kunhanandan had a tragic death and left us all forever.
There was acute shortage of teachers and that was why the diversified course in the High School had started. But by the time our training was over, there were five or six batches already trained and the vacancies were all filled. To get posting had become difficult. There were more trained teachers than the vacancies. A bleak future awaited us.
My elder brother V.A.P.Namboodiri had already joined Manathana Peravoor U.P.School, near the eastern high ranges. Since my cousin brother, A.P.Namboodiri was working as a clerk in the Assistant Educational Office at Mattanur, he could know the leave vacancies and helped me getting job in these leave vacancies, mostly maternity leave vacancies. Thus I workerd for a few months in the Pazhassi L.P.School, Kunnoth L.P.School and Manathana Peravoor U.P.School, where my brother worked. When my brother got selected in the Government Harijan Welfare School and left, I was posted in his vacancy. It was a great relief.
Peravoor was a small town on the way to the famous Kottiyoor Shiva temple, in the midst of forests. Whether from Tellicherry or Cannanore, you have to touch Peravoor to go to Kottiyoor. The school was in the centre of the town. I stayed in the upper story room of a hotel, from which I used to take food. After getting salary, the monthly food bill will be paid. In the morning, I will walk about two mile to the river, take bath and return. That was a good exercise.
The condition of the teachers in the private aided schools was very much pitiful. No regular salary. Sometimes, a meager amount will be paid by the School Manager once in a year. But by the time I joined, the situation has improved. The Education Bill passed during the Com.E.M.S.Namboodiripad Ministry in 1957 has ensured regular payment of salary and security of job. The pay was Rs. 40 and allowance Rs. 21. After meeting my expenses, the balance used to be given to mother. An amount of Rs. 10 used to be put in the Post Office SB Account, which came to my help later.
First I was put as class teacher in First Standard and later to higher classes. All subjects used to be taken by the class teacher. There used to be 50 to 60 students in the class. The residents were mainly families migrated from South Kerala, places like Kottayam, Palai etc. The forests and high ranges were cultivated by these hardworking people, despite facing many hardships and diseases like malaria. They can manage both ends meet, only if all the members put in hard work. As usual with migrants, it was not unusual to have eight to ten children in the same family. Hence, there was no dearth of children in the schools.
Students will reach in time to the schools. Parents used to meet the teachers and enquire about their children, how their studies are going etc. Some of them will even tell to punish their children, if they are not studying well. But there was no need for any punishments; the students studied well. It is a well-known fact that these migrant families gave valuable contribution to the spread of education in the hilly areas. Many new schools were founded, especially by the Christian Church.
After attending school, in the evening I used to walk watching the beautiful sceneries around the area. Spent sometime in the Ayurveda Vydyasala owned by Shri Prabhakaran as also in the dispensary of Dr. Bhaskaran, chatting with friends. Shri A.C.Shanmukhadas, who later became a leading politician and Minister in the Kerala government used to be present. He was studying Ayurveda medicine at that time. Our friendship continued till his death. After dinner, used to read books. Almost all week ends used to go home. Life was simple and routine.
It was the practice to hold official meetings of all the teachers in the area on the second Saturday every month, presided by the Asst. Educational Officer. The teachers who could not attend had to apply leave. Since one leave will be lost if not attended, all the teachers used to attend, especially since the AEO will be present. The AEO will address, the government circulars will be read, a model class will be taken by a teacher and discussion on the class will take place. For conducting these meetings and keeping records etc., a teacher will be selected as the secretary of the official Teachers Association. My elder brother was the earlier Secretary of the Association. After he left on appointment in government service, I was selected for the post. It was convenient for me, since the meetings used to take place in our school as also to meet the AEO at Mattanur, on the way home.
The orders of the state government that all teachers should take Life Insurance policies for a minimum amount of Rs.1,000 were issued during this period. It was discussed and was decided that for the convenience of all, one teacher can take the LIC agency and help all the teachers to take the policy. I was selected for the job and took an LIC agency. It was not an easy task. Filling up the application forms, collecting the premium, paying it to LIC had to be done. Of course, Commission was received from LIC, which was satisfactory.
During this period, the beloved leader of the Freedom movement and the first Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru visited Tellicherry( present Thalassery) to address a hugely attended meeting. I went to Tellicherry to hear him and if possible to get an autograph from him. I had a box camera with me and I posed as a photographer and got allowed to reach near him and take his photo. Utilising the opportunity I requested for an autograph and got it. I was so happy to meet him and get the autograph. It was almost as a dream come true.
I had some pen friends in USA, Britain and Germany. The German boy had sent me the box camera as present, with which I took the photo of Nehruji. The US friend sent me a very big and heavy stamp album with a bundle of used stamps. I could not afford to give such costly presents. I sent them some books, instead.
During my teacher days, I got connected with the Bhoodan movement started by Vinobaji. It was a movement started to pressurize the big landlords to donate land to the landless. The leaders of the movement went and pressurized to donate land, which will be distributed to the landless. A camp was organized at Thodannur in Kozhikode district during 25-04-1958 to 15-05-1958, which I also attended. S/Shri K.Kelappan, Ikkanda Variar and T.V.Anandan were the organizers. The routine was strict. Early morning, after bath etc. breakfast will be served. No tea or coffee; instead Jappi will be given, which is a combination of drink with pepper, ginger etc. Before taking breakfast, prayers of Hindu, Muslim and Christian will be recited by all – ‘Sarvamatha Prarthana’.
After breakfast, we move to the land got donated. The main tasks were to dig well, construct road, break the rocks to enable construction of roads, cleaning the water tanks etc; it was service to the people. Part of Sarvodaya task. In the after noon, classes will be conducted by the leaders. Shri Jaya Prakash Narayan was the leader of the Sarvodaya Movement.
One day, after the work in the village, we went and took bath in a nearby tank. But the owners of the tank, high caste Hindus, objected to our taking bath, since there were so called ‘low caste’ people also. We told the incident to Shri Kelappaji, who met the Nairs who owned the tank and got permission to take bath. There was no trouble later.
One thing I realized was that most of the land donated by the landlords were unusable land. Donating land which is not cultivatable etc. There was also a line of thinking that the Bhoodan movement was started to weaken the strengthening struggle of the landless for getting land.
Later, I did not have much connection, both with the Bhoodan and Sarvodaya movement.