Let me start with Max Mueller Bhavan, Madras, India (a branch of Goethe Institut, Munich, Germany).
It was June 1969. I was awaiting the results of my final year engineering exams. Results came. I failed in 2 out of 9 subjects. All my hopes of getting a first class lay shattered, in spite of the fact that my general marks were far above the threshold for first class. Everything came to naught just because of this failing in two subjects.
My father gave me moral support. He comforted me and said that not getting first class was not the end of the world. My next exams were scheduled for November that year. He suggested that I do something else to distract me from my blues. It was in this manner that I enrolled in German language course being conducted by Max Mueller Bhavan, Madras, a branch of the Goethe Institut Munich. Little did both of us have an inkling of things to follow.
Right from day 1 of the course I took to German like a duck takes to water. The medium of instruction was German. Our professor Herr Sharma made us all feel at home with his wonderful lectures. As far as I was concerned, the moment he taught us a point in German grammar, it appeared to me to be the most obvious thing in the world. Especially the verb having second place in a normal sentence and the last place in a subordinate clause looked so beautiful and poetic.
The course I attended was a normal one with classes of 1 hour each, 3 days a week. We had to pay monthly fees amounting to Rs. 12 (in those days 1 US dollar was equivalent to Rs. 7.50). Exams were conducted at the end of each semester. My first semester exam took place in November 1969. I came first with the grade "sehr gut". Here there was a pleasant surprise. Persons getting "sehr gut" need not pay fees for the first month of the next semester. And they can retain this exemption from paying fees as long as they continued getting this grade in every monthly test. The moment they failed to get Sehr gut once, they had to start paying fees and this was irreversible till the semester-end.. I did not pay a single rupee afterwards. Therefore I learnt German for just Rs.48/ (four months' fees in the first semester)!
In order to avoid problems due to possible missing of classes, I took up the habit of doing the lessons in advance. Before the first semester was over, I had finished the entire book by doing all the grammar exercises of all the 27 lessons in writing. This book covered portions meant for the Grundstufe-I & II requiring four semesters. Classes became a delight and I started speaking German with my professor. He suggested that I start taking books from the library. A new life opened before me. I cleared my engineering exams in November 1969 and concentrated more on German, if such a thing was possible. April 1970 saw me writing the exam for G-I. In July that year I joined the rapid course offering 5 classes a week leading to G-II exam in November 1970 itself.
Here another incredible thing happened. With the encouragement of my professors, I purchased the book for the Mittelstufe and started doing the exercises on my own. In September 1970 I took special permission to attend classes for M-I simultaneously. Fortunately the timings of G-II and M-I classes did not clash. I was taken as a "Gasthörer" in M-I.
G-II exams were conducted in November 1970, M-I exams in December 1970. I came first in both exams. In January 1971, I got a posting as electrical engineer in the Central Public Works Department of the Government of India. Posting was in Bombay. I took tearful leave of Max Mueller Bhavan, Madras and went to Bombay. After settlig down I went to the MMB at Bombay but no MII classes were offered at that time. Around April 1971, I wrote to Max Mueller Bhavan in Poona, a city near Bomay. This MMB offered courses full time and exams were conducted every 2 months. I asked for permission to write the M-II exams in August 1971. It was granted and I passed M-II exams as well. I had to satisfy myself with second rank only. With their encouragement I took the exam for Kleinessprachdiplom in November 1971 and passed that as well.
In retrospect, I see that my failing in the final year of engineering was not at all a catastrophe. It gave a big twist in my life, whose effect is felt even today. More about that later. For the present let me say one thing. Life is so beautiful!
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