Yesterday was Vijaya Dashami and therefore Vidyarambham, or initiation into knowledge. I am penning just a few thoughts on Vidyarambham, now that it’s the season for this de rigeur ritual. In Kerala it’s a big and ceremonious thing. I remember my Vidyarambham thusly. My elder sister was put in charge of my education and she was told by my mother to teach me to write. I started with Malayalam letters, writing on rice grains spread out on the floor of our house in Kerala. Every time my sister would ask me to write, my left finger would shoot out. She would say, “not left, right hand finger, this one.” But then, being left handed, my left hand finger would shoot out. She would shout again, and then, very unlike the disciplinarian she was (still is), she would give up. She found me incorrigible and would scold me and beat me. I remember crying when the stick would descend on me. In Kerala left-handed people are considered inauspicious and my mother and sisters - being superstitious - assumed I would not come to any good in life.
But then I discovered language through reading of the New Testament gifted to me in Sunday School. I loved the songs taught in the said School. I would have it written in a small notebook and would sing them when no one was watching. This habit continues even today. Thus a small spark was lit; which became an obsession later in life. At age eight, I learnt English from Joseph-saar, who, it was said, was my father’s classmate in the English-medium school in Kozhencherry. (My father had a privileged upbringing thanks to the affluence of my grandfather.) He was a teacher I admired. He made English very simple and learning it a pleasure. Soon I had all the lessons under my command and I got good marks, too. That’s when my father noticed my proficiency in English and brought me to Bombay to continue my education. That’s how I came to Bombay for the first time, at around age nine.
And then, as they say, life intervened.