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Miles of smiles

Miles of smiles

My mother’s smile made the treks in the oppressive heat seem easier

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Last Updated : 09 June 2024, 23:46 IST
Last Updated : 09 June 2024, 23:46 IST
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During the late 1970s and early 1980s, resources were limited, and people were accustomed to living hand-to-mouth. I was a PUC student at H S Kotambari Science College in Hubli, about 6 km from my house in Old Hubli. A monthly bus pass cost Rs 10, which was out of reach as my father was a private employee. So, I walked 12 km daily to and from college, completing my PUC education solely on foot. The most heartening part was returning home to my mother's welcoming smile.

My mother, well aware of our family's financial constraints, appreciated my efforts to conserve resources by walking to college every day. 

After PU, I enrolled in engineering at a college in Dharwad. The monthly pass cost a mere Rs 10, granting access until the end of the academic year, up to March 31. As April rolled in, signalling the start of examinations, the bus fare from Hubli to Dharwad was Re 1. However, even this seemingly insignificant amount weighed heavily when considering the journey for every exam: 11 subjects, including practicals. Back then, subject names and dates weren't printed on hall tickets as they are now. Instead, we relied on
notices posted on the college notice board. After every paper, we'd scan the board for the next day's subject, making a mental note of it. 

After the exam on a Saturday morning in the scorching summer, I made my way to the notice board to note down the details for Monday. I boarded the Hubli bus, tendering a rupee as fare. Then suddenly a dilemma clouded my thoughts: which subject was it on Monday? Uncertainty loomed over me, making me anxious. The only way to be sure was to go back to the notice board. Reluctant to request an additional rupee for bus fare from my parents, I decided to cycle all the way to college in the scorching sun. Pedalling my bicycle, I covered 23 km to Dharwad in the oppressive heat.

Upon my return, I was met by my mother's warm embrace, melting away my fatigue. She was unaware of the lengths I had gone to confirm my academic fate. But the glow of her welcoming smile dissipated the weariness of my journey, and I was filled with a sense of contentment.

Over the last four decades, life has undergone profound transformations. We have seen economic prosperity, and we rarely walk. Even for a shop just a stone's throw away, our children opt for vehicles. Yet, amidst it all, there's a pang in my heart as I reminisce about the simple joys of those poverty-stricken days. As I step into my home, the absence of my mother's radiant smile leaves an ache in my soul, even now.

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