By: Savie Karnel
Aravind Adiga, the Man Booker Prize winner, has surprised his teachers.
Nostalgic : Adiga in the 10th standard with Leo Fernandes and classmates.
They never thought he would become a writer. They thought that he would either become a doctor, like his father, or an engineer.
Adiga had secured first rank in Karnataka state in the 10th board (SSLC) exams in 1990. "He was the first in our school's history to get the first rank. I thought he would become a doctor like his neurologist father, but I was surprised that he took up journalism. He had taken up science in his I PUC, before he discontinued and migrated to Australia," said Leo Fernandes, who taught him maths and science in high school and was also his class teacher in the 10th standard at St Aloysius School, Mangalore.
In March 2006, when Adiga visited Fernandes, the teacher asked him why he had taken up journalism. "He said that he had seen his father's life as a doctor, and to become a good doctor, one needed to sacrifice a lot and he was not ready for it," he said.
Fernandes perhaps saw something special in Adiga at that time itself and he wanted to take a photograph with him. "That year, I had three special students in my class who were not only good in studies, but also in conduct. Aravind was one among them. I took the three to Ayodhya Hotel, which had opened newly and had a cup of coffee with them. Then we went to Mahaveer studio and I took a picture with my three students. Among the other two, one became a doctor and practises in Mangalore and the other became an engineer and is in the US," he said.
When Adiga visited Mangalore in 2005, he went around the school campus and met his teachers. He wrote an article in Time magazine in July that year, which had a mention of Fernandes too. "He chatted with me on life in general and about the development that was happening in Mangalore. He had visited his home town after 15 years and things had changed a lot and there was a lot of development," he said.
Adiga never wore a watch in school, and when he met Fernandes later he still did not wear a watch. "He told me that when he was in school, his father felt that it was an extravagance. Now, he had misplaced his watch in Bangalore. I told him that students during his time were hard working, now students had computer and bikes, but were lazy," he said.
Adiga's biology teacher G K Bhat too did not expect him to become a writer. "He was very active in the science club and participated in quizzes and debates. I always thought he would become a doctor or an engineer. This is a surprise, and he has made us proud," he said.
Bhat recalls that Adiga was a boy with a strong mind. "His mother passed away in February, which was just a month before his SSLC exams. Despite that, he got the first rank in the state. He was close to his mother since he was the younger of two sons, but he remained dedicated to his studies. This shows how strong he is," he said.
Bhat also said he was inquisitive and a perfectionist. "He used to ask many questions. Though he topped his class from 5th to 10th standard, he wanted to know where he had lost marks, and how he could better it," he said.
Adiga's English teacher Ruby Lobo remembers him as a boy with excellent vocabulary and originality. "He wrote essays that were different from the rest of his classmates. They had a touch of originality. His vocabulary too was much ahead of those of his age. Seeing this I thought that he was reading books other than his text books," she said.
Adiga used to travel in the same school bus in which Lobo travelled. "Whenever he got a seat beside me, he asked questions. I remember once, he asked me what the difference between a dictionary and lexicography was," she said.
His Kannada teacher Shambu Shetty remembers him as a quiet and obedient boy. "He was not much into sports, but was dedicated towards studies and was respectable towards teachers," he said.