The story of VTCL would be incomplete without my mentioning about Marikala. His name was ‘Kala’ and he was a 14 year old when I first came to Brahmagiri. He was the brother of Mada who had joined our team as cook. Mada kept asking me to take Kala also into our household. But since he was too young to be employed and too old to be in our school, I did not know what to do with him. Kala would not take no for an answer. He simply decided to make our place his home and would not understand why I was making such a fuss about his age and kept insisting that he continue his education. He decided that he would make himself useful by assisting his brother. He would fetch water and help out in the kitchen and share our frugal meal. Once our school started, he became a self-declared elder brother and guardian of the first batch of 28 children. Every morning, he would set out and herd all the children in. He felt that he was personally responsible for their education and did not mind chiding their parents if they did not take the school seriously. I used to fondly call him ‘Mari’ because of his small build, and thus he became ‘Marikala’!
He also became very attached to me and took on my care also under his wings. As far was he was concerned, I enjoyed the same privileges as the children in our school. There were days when Lalitha would not turn up and he would double up as the teacher. On some days he was also the cook. He taught songs and dance to the children and played with them. Gradually, he became inseparable from our daily lives. In a sense, he was indispensable too.
Whenever I travelled and returned late, he would stay awake and make sure that I had dinner. He was determined to see that I was well taken care of and all my small needs were attended to. In a strange way, we had adopted each other!
I forced him into joining the sports school at Kodagu. After 2 years there, he returned absolutely determined not to get schooled again. He spent a year or so at Mysore as a housekeeper. But nothing worked and I was left with no alternative but to take him back under our wings. He was overjoyed and he went back to his obsession with VTCL. But things had changed over the years and VTCL was a real school with real teachers and nearly 300 students. The needs of the school were something that he could not cater to and he was feeling left out. I felt that the only place that he could fit in was the kitchen or the school garden. After working there for a few years, he started getting restless. This was the time that we were planning on building the Saragur hospital and I felt that it would be easy to get him employed if he developed some vocational skill.
We sent him to RUDSETI where he trained as an electrician. He then did an apprenticeship for a year at H.D.Kote with Krishna, our electrical contractor. After making sure that he could manage things well, we took him on board as the electrician for the Saragur hospital. Marikala is now a family man and is married to Bharathi, one of our students. We also got him 2.5 acres of land at Basavanagiri. He is one of the many tribals whose life has become entwined with that of SVYM and mine.