Experiences make the person…

I've seen a lot more reaction to my previous post than I ever expected. In purely monetary terms, without accounting for depreciation, I must have lost about 1.5 lakh rupees worth of equipment. Many of you have wondered about (and appreciated) how I was able to take things as I did. I believe there are two aspects about my reaction to the situation: maintaining composure during the situation and taking the material loss.

I'm not worried much about the material loss, for a good reason reason : I am no stranger to adversity, and have seen prosperity in some measure as well. We were well off when I was a kid. My father used to run a government-funded research project. He had a home-office, and two computers (286 machines, I think. Very expensive in those days). I use to play games on the computers, and started programming in BASIC when I was barely in class 5! Unfortunately, by high school, both my parents were no longer around to support me. For four years, I was an 'inmate' of Bapuji Balaniketana, an orphanage in a village called 'Alike', in Dakshina Kannada district (Alike is well known for its schools run by the Satya Sai Baba Trust, and has a reputation for churning out top-10 ranked CET students). Being in an orphanage has its ups and downs. The good things: you learn to be self reliant and pick up some skills. I have done manual labour, book binding, all sorts of chores. We learnt other skills too, for instance, creating umbrellas from close to scratch. Necessity is the mother of invention. And 80 kids managing a whole year on a budget of 4 low quality footballs is necessity. To keep the show running, I 'invented' a method to flawlessly stitch a football; that's something I'm still proud of. After my Pre-University education, I did Engineering at B.D.T College of Engineering in Davangere. Again, with a lot of help from my sponsors: Dr Nagaraj Rao sponsored half my mess bill, the other half was borne by a gentleman fondly called 'Paddu' (he used to run a tea shop and perhaps a hotel), as also an annual grant from the Sri Krishna Hostel committee, plus fees by my uncle Seetharama (lives in Sunticoppa, Coorg Dist). Towards the end of Engineering, I landed a well-paying campus recruitment job in ProcSys, effectively improving my finances. From all these, I must have learnt that one's financial position can change quite fast. Loss of equipment isn't that much of a setback.

Exposure to adversity leads to development of skills related to crisis management, and that helps people cope with difficult situations. You will be surprised to know that the previous incident wasn't the first time I had very less money, and with a need to travel some distance. The first such incident happened when I was in class 10.

For kids staying away from home, going back home on vacation is one of the bigger joys. During the 10th standard deepavali vacations, I set off to Sunticoppa, near Madikeri. I had about enough money for the bus tickets and a lunch, perhaps 50 rupees. When I reached my uncle's house, it was locked. My uncle's whole family had gone off on a tour. I had perhaps nine or ten rupees in my pocket. One of my cousin brothers stays in madikeri, so that was the logical place to go next. Four rupees, 25 paise spent on the bus ticket. Bad luck: no one here too. Now, what to do? The sun had already set by this time.

The only logical place where I could go next, I realized, could be my aunt's house. This is in Kerala, but very near to the Kerala-Karnataka border. The distance from Madikeri to this place is perhaps 90 kilometers, and would need me to change buses.

I hopped onto an express bus bound to Puttur. Ticket cost : 21 rupees. What's in my pocket ? 4.75. What's the way out ? I take a ticket to the next bus stop, a place called Madenad, perhaps 8 kms from Madikeri. Four and a half rupees gone, twenty-five paise remaining. The bus passes Madenad, but I sit on. The bus conductor, I felt, did suspect me of something. The guilty are always doubtful, and that's my state too. The bus is close to Sullia, when the conductor asked me where I was going. I was able to summon some confidence before saying, "Puttur".I was naturally worried about getting caught travelling ticketless. Those days, KSRTC used to run ads in the newspapers, warning the junta about the perils of travelling ticket-less. One such ad showed a one rupee coin and a five hundred rupee note, while asking the reader, "which one do you choose?". I could almost see the ad in front of my eyes as I sat worrying in the bus.

At 9:30 PM, I got down at Puttur. I still needed to catch a KSRTC bus to Manjeshwar in Kerala. And unfortunately, that bus was due only in the morning. So I ended up spending the night in the bus stand, sleeping on one of the benches. I had twenty-five paise in my pocket, and a bag with clothes. Not much to lose, eh? No wonder, I slept with abandon. Around midnight, I woke up to find a police constable looking over me. His first question, "eno, maneyinda odi hogtidiya?" (are you running away from home?). I wasted no time telling them that I studied in Alike, was going home and got stuck, and finally offered phone numbers for verification. Luckily, he let me sleep.

Morning 5:45. In came the bus. I took the last seat near the door. The bus was running half-full. I told the conductor that somebody in front will buy my ticket. Kept suspicion away by helping out with opening and closing the door. That saw me through all the way. I got down from the bus crying out with joy, and ran down to my aunt's house, with exactly twenty five paise in my pocket! The story was circulated for many a day. The most interesting remark was from a sweet shop owner, "ee maani elli hodaru baduki bakku" (that's in havyaka kannada, and a verbatim translation would be: this kid will survive any place).

I did it in 10th, as I kid, and so I could do it recently too. The distance from Gujarat to come back home was surely larger, but so was the support I had. Experiences make the person, don't they ?

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  1. Shree,

    This is an amazing post. I can’t help but being in awe of you and your childhood.
    Your previous post and this one are a pure joy to read and admire your resilience.

    Thank you for sharing this inspiring post.


  2. A heartwarming post.
    They say “Adversity causes some men to break; others to break records.”
    Hats off to you.
    (P.S. – When you write a book, this & the previous one have to feature in it.)

  3. Dear Shreekumar

    It is by accident I read your story.I am really impressed wiyh your style.
    After a long time I read something very well written in fine balance; intensity an detachment. But here, I must say, in your writing you have authenticity of K Shivaramakaranth and inquisitiveness of Poorna chandra Tejaswi.
    Please take writing seriously.
    I wish you all the best.


  4. wow!! dude you are one tough guy

  5. Shree,

    Even I didnt knew about this story of yours.
    I dont know what to say, I guess I agree with the sweet shop owner :).
    Keep rocking Shree.


  6. I am a simple admirer of Shree you are not anybody but you are man apart…..

  7. It just makes me look up to you whenever I need inspiration..

  8. I wish I too get into such circumstances often. It will be fun.

    Wasn’t hitchhiking an option for you then? (Whenever dad gives me less money or I need to save some pocket money, I always save on travel by hitchhiking inside the city 😉 The people are so good and I promise myself each time that when I grow up and buy a bike for myself, I will surely give someone a ride for free)

    And also the KSRTC Bus conductors are real thugs. In Bangalore, I have seen that if a ticket costs Rs. 5/-, the Conductor asks you only for three bucks and he does not give you a ticket. That way, the three bucks go into his pocket and this way, KSRTC does not profit. The Youth generally give in to this, as they have to pay lesser.

  9. I second Nanjundappa.

  10. Hats off !.
    Nothing but admiration for you.

  11. Very inspiring post, admire your grit and courage coming through the tough times and openly sharing it as well!

  12. Thanks, all.

    @Vinay: Sure, these and more need to be part of any non-tech book I’d write 🙂

    @Nanjundappa, Mallik: Must say I haven’t read the works of these great authors. I have had the honour of visiting K P Tejaswi’s house, and I liked some of his photos. I’ve been taking writing somewhat more seriously for a while now, and I think the results are showing up 🙂 Earlier, I was used to say, “well, here are the facts. Now interpret them anyway you want”. Now, I am more like, “well, here’s how my experience was”. I sprinkle alternate viewpoint as much as possible also.

    @Prashanth: Hitchhiking was not a familiar option. I was a 10th standard kid who had hardly traveled anywhere. Speaking of BMTC: When I pay money on a bus, I typically demand a ticket; that’s the only way to make these guys fall in line. Doesn’t work all the time, unfortunately.

    @Jayadeep: Writing it was a little difficult, as you have probably guessed 🙂

    @Harsha: Yeah, sure I agree with your usage of “Even” !

  13. Addabidde buddhi…

  14. Hi Shree,

    Recalling the short time knowing you during Engineering, had heard your childhood story and to be frank have quoted your story to a few of my friends too 🙂

    You do have great ability to keep calm, simple and taking things as they come.

    You rock mate !!!


  15. @Pradeep : 🙂

    @Kishore : Aha! I didn’t think I had told this story to anyone. Now, this is where you get “even” with Harsha !

  16. Shree,

    I remember you nerrating few events in your life during hostel days which are emotionally touching.

    However on the lighter side, 10th standard to near about 10 years of professional experience. There has to be come change! Happy that you did not choose to take a ticketless train journey to Bangalore….LOL

  17. I enjoyed reading all this. I am sure you will continue to find new challenges and ways to cross them. Good luck !

  18. Dear Shree…

    Definitely you have come a long way in your writing – from just a logging of your adventures to narrating a good story – try adding humor to it..


  19. your resilience is inspiring, and so are your journeys!

  20. Hi shree,
    This is an inspiring one. Thou shalt never give up..
    The story represents the resilience to not to give up against all olds. Please do keep this virgin feeling in tact and protect it with all the materialistic romances of times. Also it proves the fact the good deeds come back in the shape of bus conductor, police man, tea shop…..
    Cheers to darwin theory ” survival of fittest ”
    N Joy Life King Size…

  21. @Badri, Esha, Bhuvan, Vinod: Thanks!

    @Esha: Yes, changed my style on purpose 🙂 I didn’t know you had started blogging ! And yes, I’ll try to add some humour.

    @Vinod: +1 for “materialistic romances of times” 🙂

  22. Shree,
    I’ve been a silent reader of your blog for a while, but this made me speak. It was wonderful to hear your story. I studied in Alike for 2 years, our hostel being close to Bapuji Balniketan. Its quite amzing to know from where you come from and how you did you engineering. Surely it made me pause for a while and think again, about many things.

  23. @Manoj: Good to hear from another alumni ! I count myself somewhat more fortunate than the other inmates of BBN. Perhaps you’d know Ashoka(he is the deputy warden now); we were classmates. Ah, the old memories!

  24. hmm.. touching.. reminds me of a proverb “aaLaagaballane arasagaballanu”

  25. Hi Shree,
    Got to your site via Nitin (who was your junior at engg. college).
    There are some times in everybody’s life when you feel that you are really down on luck and that the universe is conspiring against you. I will tell myself to read this post at that time. To remind myself that it is easy but useless to cry over a bad situation and but more useful to think about how to handle it. And be humble about it after.

  26. @Guru, Ajay: Thanks !

  27. Shree,

    This is my 2nd comment to ur post in the last 20 minutes of surfing your blog!
    Ur experiences, ur writing, ur hobbies and ur attitude towards life says ur a very interesting person to know!
    Kudos to you..

  28. Shree,
    You never cease to amaze me.
    Very inspiring. Thanks for sharing

  29. Hi Shree
    It is Nanjundappa again.
    I am really impressed with your writing and experiences you have written about.
    I am interested to meet you and share your biking experiences.
    Call me or mail me , we can meet at your place and time of convenience.

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