Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Story of Rajanna

“Some had name and fame and honour,
Learned they were and wise and strong;
 Some were nameless, poor unlettered
 Weak in all but grief and wrong.”
-William Morris

(This is the story of a poor and underprivileged Lady who had a dream of sending her son to Bombay to make him a rich man. She thought that she had achieved it. But did she really achieve it? Read the story…………………….)

Hosalli was a small village in the Malnad region of Karnataka. It had none of the present day facilities like post office, hospital, etc.The village was very traditional. The period was the early 1950s; the level of education was also very low. Only a few people could read Ramayana and Mahabharata! But it was rich in its own cultural life.

In this village was born Rajanna as the second grandson of Sahukar Subbanna. When the horoscope of Rajanna was prepared, it was found that he was having ‘Shukradeshe’ and would be a rich man one day. It was also found that he would be having a dual personality for sometime! Nobody understood what it meant even though the Astrologer tried to explain. However, it was surmised that things would be fine and there was no cause for worry.

Rajanna grew up in a joint family. Rajanna’s father Shreepathy was the Manealiya (Son-in law of the house) for the Subbanna couple. This system of Manealiya was prevalent in those days and suited the youth who did not have any hereditary property. It also suited the people like Subbanna who had only one daughter. While Shreepathy was to look after the agricultural lands of Subbanna, he and his wife Janaki had no role to play in the upbringing of the children whom they produced regularly with a gap of not more than two years! It was as if the possession of the child was handed over to the grandparents immediately on delivery! (This process came to an end only after the count reached ten!). The Subbanna couple would assume the full responsibility for the upbringing of the children. In a way that suited the ‘Manealiya’also as he was free from this major responsibility! It was as if the upbringing of children had been fully outsourced!

After completing the Primary education in the local school, Rajanna had to take up his studies at the Taluka Head Quarters in Koppa Town. He completed the Lower Secondary examination with distinction. This qualification was sufficient to fetch a School Master’s job in those days. Subbanna felt it as more than sufficient! But Rajanna had other ideas! He simply ran away from home one fine morning! The chit left behind by him revealed that he was off to a distant place to earn money and become a rich man! Subbanna remembered the horoscope and it appeared that the things would turnout as foretold by the astrologer!

Two years passed over. There was no trace of Rajanna. However, the third year brought in some happy tidings. Sheena Shetty’s (A Hotelier at Koppa) son who was working in a Bombay Hotel had written to him that he saw Rajanna in Bombay. There was a great celebration in Subbanna household on that day! The whole village gathered at his home to share the joy. But the mood was partly spoiled when somebody informed that as per the letter Rajanna was found to have removed his Juttu (Shike)! It also came to light that he was wearing a pant against the normal Mundu!

In those days both the above actions of Rajanna were taboo. They were rather unpardonable! While the act of removal of Juttu was understandable, nobody could understand the necessity of wearing a pant by Rajanna! It was left to one Chandraiah, who had visited Bombay once, to explain the necessity. He described the travel by local train in Bombay. He explained how his Mundu slipped out and he was made to exhibit his underwear during the rush hour travel! His explanation led to a hearty laugh.

All of a sudden everybody remembered the Yakshagana Prasanga called “Draupadi Vastrapaharana”which had been played by the ‘Mandarthi’ Troupe in Hosalli a few years ago. It so happened that the role of Draupady was being played by a male called Thimmappa. He was made to wear five thin sarees. The person playing the role of Dushhasana (Ramu) had been clearly told that he is supposed to pullout only four sarees and faint! Unfortunately, Ramu was weak in Mathematics and counted the numbers wrongly! He ended up exhibiting the underwear of Thimmappa! As luck would have it, there were no curtains in those days and Draupady (our Thimmappa) had to virtually run away from the stage!

The above episode had led to lot of discussions in the village meetings. In fact the level of the discussions could very well compare with the present day discussions by the panels on various TV Channels! The points raised were:
1       Did Ramu really get his Mathematics wrong or he did it only to teach a lesson to Thimmappa? It came to light subsequently that he had a fight with Thimmappa on the previous day.
2       Whether both of them joined hands to teach the Management a lesson as the Troupe was not known as a good Paymaster?
3       Whether any sabotage was involved? The rival Troupe ‘Mahammayee’ was always envious of the success of Mandarthi Troupe.
4       Whether the entire episode was stage-managed by some unknown hand to spoil the name of Mandarthi Troupe? Something comparable to the present day match fixing!

The debate went on for days to reach its natural death and ultimately nothing came out of it!

Coming back to our main story, Subbanna asked his first grandson to write a letter to Rajanna and send it to the address of Sheena Shetty’s son. It was clearly conveyed in the letter that all sins of Rajanna had been pardoned and he could come back. Luckily, there was immediate response from Rajanna. He wrote back that he would be home for a few days in the coming Navarathri Festival. He had also written that he was employed as a Manager in a Udupi Hotel on a decent salary. He would like to go back to Bombay after the brief visit.

Rajanna visited Hosalli during Navarathri Festival. He had brought lot of gift items to all the members of the family including the newly born in his absence. He was looking very smart in his new get up with hair cut, pant and bush shirt! His mother and grandparents were very much pleased. There was a maidservant in the house who had looked after Rajanna as a child. She was a widow (called Lakshmi) and had a son called Sanjiva. He was aged 15 years by then. Lakshmi always had a dream to send Sanjiva to Bombay to make money!

Pestered by Lakshmi, Rajanna agreed to take Sanjiva with him to Bombay. It was rather easy for him to offer a job at the Hotel where he was a Manager. Accordingly one fine morning Sanjiva left for Bombay in the company of Rajanna. The journey to Bombay started from Harihar by train which they had to change at Miraj.

The train had a halt at Kalyan near Bombay in the morning. As the train was to halt for about 15 minutes, Rajanna thought of alighting the train along with sanjiva to have a breakfast at the platform eatery. Rajanna was ordering the breakfast when suddenly he realized that Sanjiva who had alighted the train with him had disappeared! He searched everywhere on the platform but could not find Sanjiva. By that time, the train was about to start and Rajanna had no other alternative than to get into the train without sanjiva.

After reaching Bombay, Rajanna really had a nightmarish situation. Sanjiva knew only Kannada and was a total illiterate. He had never ventured out of his village in his life so far. It was naturally not possible for him to communicate with anybody in Kalyan. Rajanna came back to Kalyan Station on the weekend with his hotel owner. They made discrete enquiries with many people who worked on the Railway platform and also lodged a complaint with Kalyan Police station. But they were handicapped by the non-availability of a photograph of Sanjiva.

Rajanna did not know how to inform this unfortunate situation to Subbanna and through him to Lakshmi. He could not even think of informing Lakshmi as Sanjiva was her only son and her whole world would collapse on hearing this. Also Rajanna had the moral responsibility and could not just shirk it! He could not even imagine visiting Hosalli to explain his negligence to Subbanna and Lakshmi.

Two months elapsed and Rajanna had hope against hope that Kalyan Police may be able to locate Sanjiva. He kept on telephoning them without any positive result. Meanwhile, he had two letters from Subbanna complaining that there was no communication from him for long. He had specifically mentioned that Lakshmi was longing to hear about the success of Sanjiva’s Bombay sojourn!

All of a sudden a brilliant idea flashed in the mind of Rajanna. How about writing that Sanjiva was doing fine as a worker in his Hotel in Bombay and send some money to Lakshmi as his earnings? By doing this he could postpone the issue till he went back to Hosalli. It was also giving time for the possible location of whereabouts of Sanjiva. He sent a money order and a letter to Subbanna immediately. He requested Subbanna to handover the money to Lakshmi as the earnings of Sanjiva and inform her that he was doing fine.

Unaware of the realities of life, Rajanna by his above act had made Lakshmi a star in her small world. She had her dreams coming true! Sanjiva became an overnight hero in her visions. She started searching for a suitable bride for Sanjiva in her small community. Needless to say that the young girls were very enthusiastic about having Sanjiva the ‘Bombay Boy’ as their bridegroom! When this news reached Rajanna, his nightmares came back. But being unable to bring out the realities and face the wrath of his family and Lakshmi he continued sending the money orders and letters at regular intervals confirming the wellbeing of Sanjiva to Lakshmi.

Two years passed off. Rajanna had to visit Hosalli for attending the marriage of his elder brother. Lakshmi was very anxiously waiting for Sanjiva to arrive with him. But Rajanna told her that it was a very busy season in Bombay and hence Sanjiva could not get his leave sanctioned. Lakshmi was happy with the money sent by her son through Rajanna and also small gifts including a nice sari for her! Rajanna had become a Master in creating an illusion! But deep in his hearts he had great sorrow and suffering for the innocent Lakshmi whom he felt he was cheating. However, he could in no way tell her the truth and see her whole world come down collapsing!

Rajanna’s saga continued for three more years. As he was doing well financially he had no problem in sending the money orders regularly. One morning suddenly he had a trunk call from Koppa. He was informed by Subbanna that Lakshmi was suffering from Typhoid and chances of her survival were bleak. He asked Rajanna to visit Hosalli immediately with Sanjiva.

Rajanna took an immediate train and reached Hosalli. He had no alternative than to inform Subbanna the real fate of Sanjiva. Subbanna could not believe his ears. However he could appreciate the predicament of Rajanna. Both of them tried explaining to Lakshmi how Sanjiva could not manage to get the leave sanctioned! Now Lakshmi made one final request. She requested that she be taken to Koppa Town to have a telephonic talk with Sanjiva for the last time in her life!

After lot of deliberations, they hatched up a plan to satisfy Lakshmi. They took her to Koppa Town Post office. There they made a drama of having booked a trunk-call to Bombay. While Subbanna and Lakshmi were waiting for the call to come from Bombay, Rajanna managed to ring them up from another telephone from Koppa itself. Subbanna took the call and handed over to Lakshmi to speak to Sanjiva! The scheme seemed to have worked efficiently! Lakshmi went on speaking to Sanjiva (Rajanna, who was trying to modulate his voice) and was fully satisfied!

Back in Hosalli, Lakshmi suddenly told Subbanna that she was surprised to find her son’s voice almost similar to Rajanna! Both Subbanna and Rajanna were shocked and found themselves utterly guilty! But to their great relief Lakshmi told them that she was happy to find sanjiva speak in the language and voice of Rajanna! She felt that all these years of life in Bombay had made sanjiva pickup the language of the educated class! Two days later she passed away thinking all the while that her dreams had been fulfilled, courtesy Rajanna!

Post Script
Rajanna is a millionaire now and lives in Shimoga. Recently I met him in Shimoga. He is in his late seventies now. In the evening of his life now, he says that he is afraid of meeting Lakshmi in the Heaven. He is sure that Lakshmi having known the reality may never forgive him!
A V Krishnamurthy
12th May 2007

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Story of Thippa (the Cowherd)

The death of Chowda created a void in the life of the villagers. Of course his successor was already in place in the shape of Thippa, his son. But the comparison was between chalk and cheese! For Thippa, the succession was not as a matter of right but as a matter of fate! Left to himself he would have loved to continue as a vagabond without any attachments. But he had the burden of a big family left behind by Chowda. While he cared little for the legacy of Chowda, he had no other alternative than to continue his profession for the survival of his family.

Thippa continued the profession from where his father had left it literally! What I mean here is that he followed the routine of gathering the animals in the morning meticulously, but evaded the responsibility in the evening! For the villagers the return of animals in the evening was more important. But slowly they had to reconcile to the reality in the form of Thippa! For all said and done, this job of cowherd was not only hereditary; it was also the monopoly of Chowda family!

There were several other responsibilities which only the Chowda family could undertake. While the removal and burial of dead animals was as a matter of routine (which of course nobody else could undertake), the death of humans called for his onerous services! He had to gather the firewood near the river bed for conducting the funeral of the deceased. His role was more important than even the Purohit’s, as without the firewood burning the body, the soul could not reach the heavens! In fact no amount of ‘Manthra Patanam’ would help unless the body was burnt with the help of firewood bed arranged by Thippa! It was simply his monopoly! It was even said that people on their deathbed would try to ensure the presence of Thippa in the village before breathing their last! While the Purohit would take care of sending the soul to the heavens, Thippa would assume the ownership for destruction of the body thereby facilitating the emancipation of the soul!

Thippa’s community had one great advantage. The marriage of widows was not barred in their community. Kundhi (wife of Chowda) took advantage of it and married a man called Subba. While Kundhi could rehabilitate herself by this marriage, for Thippa and other children it amounted to losing both father and mother by death and otherwise!  Since Thippa was unmarried, the responsibility of house keeping fell on the young shoulders of his sister Kadru.

I have already mentioned that Thippa was a good boy and had no bad habits even though he was not interested in his occupation. He had a good personality and always wanted to dress well even though he was also the enemy of a concept called ‘washing of clothes’! As per him this concept was quite unnecessary! He used to overcome this weakness by booking the dress used by boys of his age well in advance! Following the legacy of his father, he would replace one dress by the other.

Thippa suddenly developed a fascination for cinema. In those days there were no permanent theatres in any Malnad towns other than Thirthahalli which was far away from our place. There used to be camps of touring talkies at Jayapura, Koppa and Sringeri only in winter and summer seasons as these places were not accessible in rainy season. Also the tent covering tarpaulin could not withstand the heavy rains of Malnad. Initially Thippa used to visit only Jayapura talkies. But here they exhibited mostly Tamil films to cater to the coffee and tea-estate workers. So he shifted his destination to Sringeri. We used to wonder as to how he could manage to pay for the tickets. The mystery was solved by Thippa himself for us. Thippa had discovered that the tarpaulin enclosure for the tent had a few big holes in it to facilitate him to view the cinema standing outside! In other words, the hole in tarpaulin was in fact a major loophole in the touring talkies set up! Thippa was fully benefited by this loophole!

By the time this loophole was detected and plugged, Thippa had made inroads in to the hearts of the talkies-owner. His personality and friendly behavior attracted the owner. Thippa would supply him several forest produce including the flute made of bamboo. Slowly Thippa was allowed to stand inside the tent to watch the shows. Thippa could sing film songs and imitate the big actors by his dialogue delivery. He would bring us film song books which were sold in the theatres in those days. We would by-heart all songs and sing the same as cradle songs while cradling our young brothers.

As the number of Kannada films produced was very less, the tents were forced to exhibit Tamil films even in Sringeri. Slowly Thippa developed a fascination for them. He told us that unlike the sober Kannada films, the Tamil films were very powerful in dialogue, adventure and heroics! As per him the names of Kannada films themselves indicated how sober they were. He cited the examples of ‘Jaganmohini’,’Bhaktha Markandeya’, ‘Santa Sakhu Bai’, ‘School Master’ and ‘Vidhi Vilasa’ as proof. As against this, the Tamil films had names like ‘Veera Pandya Katta Bomman’, ‘Neela Malai Thirudan’, ‘Vanji Kottai Valiban’, ‘Kappa Lottiya Tamilan, etc. For us, young boys, in those days nothing was more attractive than reading, hearing and seeing the adventurous stories. We were quite convinced by Thippa’s views considering the awe inspiring names of Tamil films!

I, for one, immediately asked Thippa to teach me singing a Tamil song. He taught me a song which ran as:
“Ponaal Pogattum Poda!
Inda Bhuvi Lilayai Vandavar Yarada!
Ponaal Pogattum Poda!”
I started singing this loudly as a lullaby while cradling my young brother. To my surprise, my brother, instead of getting lulled into a deep sleep, appeared disturbed and in fact started crying! My elder sister came running and asked me to stop singing immediately for God’s sake! She had two questions for me:
 1. What was supposed to be the meaning of the song?
 2. Why was I shouting it when I was supposed to be singing?

I told her that I sincerely thought I was only singing it. As for its meaning, I told her that I had absolutely no clue! She told me that she had nothing against Tamil as such, but the cradle songs should not be harsh. They are supposed to be sober and melodious to the tender ears of the child.

I had to revert to Thippa as I did not want to give up Tamil singing so easily! On hearing my plight, he taught me another song which ran as:
“Ninnai Kande Nanada
Yennai Kande Ninada
Ullasam Pongu Inba Deepavali
(Kanneerum Kadahsulyam Deepavali)
Uringu Mugildum Honranga Kalandum
Uravadum Neramada”

“Kanna Thil Yenne Vennu Kadenagathada
Kanna Thil Vilayada Kalaye Nivada”
..So on and so forth
This song indeed worked for me as my young brother would go to deep sleep on hearing this from me. It was another matter that I had absolutely no clue about what it meant!

Thippa tried his hand in hunting of wild animals. There used to be several hunting parties for wild animals in our village those days. Thippa used to join these parties for hunting. But as luck would have it he could not proceed beyond hunting down Kurka and Barka! (The terminology used for petty animals).

Thippa married a girl called Devi and enjoyed his family life. Considering his disinterest in his hereditary occupation and his fascination for other ventures, we used to frequently ask him where he was headed ultimately. He was very firm in his goal setting. He used to say that all he wanted to was to end up as a gatekeeper in a cinema theatre! That way he could fulfill his desire to see all kinds of cinemas free!

At a particular stage in his life Thippa abdicated his hereditary occupation in favour of his younger brother Mariya. He simply left our village without disclosing his destination. However, we came to know later that he had indeed achieved his greatest ambition in life! He had been appointed as a gatekeeper in a permanent cinema theatre in a town in the district of Hassan! While none of his boyhood friends including me could achieve our ambitions in life, it was only Thippa who could achieve it! I neither know nor have ever tried to find out what happened to him in later years. Thippa’s personality remains for ever as a beloved childhood friend of mine. I wish him all the best wherever he is today.
A V Krishnamurthy
27th December 2007

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Story of Chowda ( the Cowherd)

“Some had name and fame and honour,
Learned they were and wise and strong;
 Some were nameless, poor unlettered
 Weak in all but grief and wrong.”
-William Morris

Often, when I look back on my childhood days, one particular character keeps coming back in my memory. It is the character of Chowda, the cowherd.

Chowda was the cowherd for our entire village. It was a hereditary occupation for him. He had a permanent house near the residence of the biggest landlord of our village. We used to refer to his house as Gudi.His wife was called Kundi. His eldest son was called Thippa. Thippa was in our age-group and was a good company for us. Both Chowda and Thippa would address the elderly males as Aiah and youngsters like us as Sannaiah.

Chowda had several roles to play in our daily life; So much so that his official occupation of cattle grazing was relegated to the background on many occasions. He would be visiting each house in the morning at about 8 AM. By that time the daily feeding and milking of the cows were expected to be completed. He was to be given yele-adke (a system of giving pieces of arecanut, pan leaves and tobacco to all labourers/servants daily- practiced only in Malnad) by each household. He would gather all the cows and buffaloes from each house, herd them together and proceed to the hills, fields or nearby forest for grazing depending on the season. All the cows were given names by the households and he could recognize them by their names. Generally he would carry a flute with him. He would keep playing the same. The sound of flute in the morning would herald his arrival! This would also help us to know his location at any given time.

By evening 5 PM, Chowda would ensure that all the animals reached their sheds. He used to have some tough time during the visit of tigers to our village. This was almost an annual affair in those days. The tiger would arrive at a cave called Oranagal on the top of a small hill. Its roaring could be heard up to far off places during the nights. It would manage to catch some cow or calf during their grazing. It would drag it all the way to its cave and enjoy its meal. We could know the fate of our animals only in the evening. If any animal was found missing its fate could be presumed to have been sealed. I remember such occasions when we had to simply mourn the loss of our beloved animals. We used to weep loudly on such occasions as we could not accept the loss of animals which were so dear to us.

Chowda was mostly helpless on such occasions. Still there were occasions when he could save the animals by his intelligent moves when the tiger was about to strike. He had also the misfortune to announce the death of certain animals which were dragged away by the tiger in his very presence! He had to accept it as a professional hazard! The villagers did appreciate his predicament and never made him responsible for such loss.

Chowda had the responsibility to remove and bury the dead bodies of the animals. His cash earnings used to be very limited. People used to offer him meals, breakfast, coffee etc. He was always a very satisfied man and his necessities were very much limited. He used to wear only the secondhand dresses (used and worn out) offered by the villagers. He hated the very concept of washing the clothes! My eldest brother used to threaten him saying that he would give him a cake of washing soap and make him wash his clothes! Chowda used to simply run away on hearing this! He would rather wait to get another set of used dress to get rid of the existing dirty dress!

Chowda was liked by village women as he would bring them forest produce like soapnut, bellatte leaves (leaves of a particular plant which would be boiled in water and used to wash the women’s hair in place of soap), etc. For boys like us he would make flutes and pettlu out of tender bamboo wood. While the whole world knows the flute, the item Pettlu is known only in Malnad. It is made by cutting out a small length of tender bamboo. The pettlu bush is peculiar to Malnad and it bears Pettlu kai (small fruit like produce). These are used like bullets in the Pettlu. They are inserted in the hallow portion of the Pettlu and shot out by pushing them with force by an instrument called gaja made out of wood.

Every year the Pettlu Habba (festival) is celebrated by the children of Malnad. The festival date is fixed as per the Vontikoppal and Sringeri Panchangams. The supply of Pettlu used to be taken care of by Chowda and later by his son Thippa. We used to celebrate this festival with full gusto. We enjoyed the shooting of Pettlu as if we were firing a gun itself. There used to be full support and co-operation from the elders.

Chowda was a master in storytelling and gossip spreading. As he used to visit all the houses he was privy to certain inside information. He would either overhear or gather directly from the family members such private information. His whole disposition and manners used to be so endearing that the people would willingly convey such matter to him. He had a knack of soliciting and collecting such news. He would add his own spice and disclose the same to another household in a very presentable format. This would cost them only a cup of coffee and yele-adke. In those days there used to be no newspapers or radio and the news was always at a premium. People were hungry to hear any form of gossip and story. Our Chowda was the only village media available and the cheapest at that! He knew it well and enjoyed his monopoly!

At his old age Chowda found it difficult to manage. His son Thippa was a vagabond. Even though he was a good boy he neither attended the school nor was interested in his hereditary occupation. There came a stage where Chowda would simply come in the morning rounds to collect the yele-adke and coffee. He would gather the animals and let them off without any further supervision from him. In the evening most of the animals would return to the sheds on their own by force of habit. He would just check in at each house enquiring their return. If any of the animals was missing he would leave stating that he would go in search of them - which he never did.

I distinctly remember one particular day when I was returning from my school. I saw Thippa on the way and in the usual manner spoke to him jokingly. Thippa was upset. Addressing me as ‘Sannaiah,’ he told me to spare him on that day at least! He left the place in a huff.

On returning home, I was told by my mother that Chowda was no more. All of a sudden the truth dawned on me that I could never see Chowda in my life again. The one common thread that ran through the entire village was broken for ever. Chowda’s flute went silent and was to be heard no more. The only vocal media of the village was closed down permanently. Chowda went away unwept, unhonoured and unsung.

Today when I am writing down this memoir of Chowda, tears come to my eyes. Chowda’s distinctive personality appears in front of me and expresses the gratitude for recording his story and immortalizing him for the future generations. I feel a sense of satisfaction amidst the sorrowful memory. I pray for the soul of Chowda that is playing the flute in the great heavens!

A V Krishnamurthy
7th July 2008

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Saviour

Keshava could not sleep that night. He was feeling miserable. He had never thought that he would be landing in this position one day. As his elder brother was quite well-off in the city, he never thought that his family would seek the family partition. He was aware that his parents had spent considerable amount for the education of his elder brother; whereas he himself had devoted all his time and energy for the family agricultural land. In fact he had to toil hard to maintain his family all the time. In spite of that sacrifice the family income was just sufficient for its maintenance. The partition of property would call for splitting the land which was just an unviable proposition. Keshava was also not in a position to pay the cash compensation in-lieu of the property as he had no savings on account of the continuously falling arecanut prices.
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Nittur was a small village on the banks of the river Netravathi in the erstwhile South Kanara district of Karnataka. Mukund Rao was a hard working small farmer. He had a small landholding of four acres. He had arecanut plantation in two acres and the other two acres of paddy growing land had been given on tenancy.  He had two children, both boys. The first son Vamana was very good in his studies. Keshava, the second son, was an average student but was very much interested in agriculture. He joined his father in his agriculture activities after completing his SSLC examination. Even though his father wanted him to at least complete his graduation, he had no such inclination. Ultimately Mukund Rao had to give up and allow him to join him.

Vamana continued his studies in the city. As he was a brilliant student, he had no difficulty in successfully completing his education. After his graduation he completed his Chartered Accountancy. Within a short time he established a very good practice. His parents were very happy for him. In spite of his successful career both in education and profession, Vamana was quite unassuming in his nature. He had been brought up in a very good family atmosphere and it reflected in all his dealings.

His parents were in search of a good girl for their beloved son. In the meanwhile Vamana was approached by one of his clients with a proposal of their daughter. In the course of their professional dealings, the client was very much impressed with the personality and caliber of Vamana. Vamana had also become very close to the family. He had, on several occasions, seen their only daughter Smitha at their home. Smitha was a beautiful girl with lovable features. She had completed her graduation just then.

Vamana asked his client to approach his parents. They were pleased to take it as his indirect consent. Mukund Rao couple had basically no objection, even though heart of heart, they would have preferred a girl from the village background. They had some reservations for a city- bred girl. But finding the willingness of their beloved son, they gave their consent for the proposal. The marriage was held in the city and the couple was quite pleased by the way Smitha’s parents conducted it. Soon after the marriage Vamana set up his family in the city.

Vamana was very particular to have his own house in the city early. He was on the lookout for a suitable site. He was allotted a site by the City Development authority. He had to pay an amount of rupees twenty thousand to get it registered in his name. As he had spent all his savings for his marriage expenses, he had no means to pay it. He told his father about it. He came to his rescue. He had saved some money from out of his limited agricultural income. He was pleased to help his son to secure a site in the city. Keshava also had no objections for his father helping his elder brother. The entire cost of the site, rupees twenty thousand, was paid by Mukund Rao. Vamana got a bank loan sanctioned and constructed a big building to serve as both his office and residence. Even though Vamana‘s earnings shot up in due course, he never paid back his father; Neither his father asked him to pay. Keshava never interfered in his father’s financial affairs. He restricted himself to looking after the agricultural lands.

Keshava’s marriage was held with a girl from a nearby village after some years. The marriage expenses were met by his father only. Even though Vamana could have contributed, he never showed any inclination. However he used to attend all family functions and festivals at home with his wife and children. The family members maintained cordial relations all the time.

-------------0------------ o----------------o-------------o----------o-------
Much water has flown down the River Netravathi since then. More than twenty five years have passed. The Mukund Rao couple had passed away in a span of one year on account of old age. The family had lost the two acres of paddy-growing land to the tenants under the tenancy act.  Keshava’ only son had also joined him in his agricultural profession. The family income was just sufficient to meet their daily needs. The fall in arecanut prices had resulted in reduced incomes for the cultivators. After the death of parents Vamana had stopped visiting his parental home. Keshava was aware that his brother had become a big shot in the city. He had a highly successful business practice. He never bothered to enquire the financial state of his brother. The two families slowly lost touch completely.

One morning Keshava received a telephone call from Bangalore. He was informed that Vamana had died suddenly of heart attack. Keshava was shocked to hear it. He left for Bangalore immediately and reached Bangalore in the night. He could not see the face of his brother as the family had already conducted the last rites. He met his sister-in-law and expressed his condolences. However he found her aloof and even her son and daughter were indifferent to him. He left Bangalore with great unhappiness. It appeared to him that the two families had moved completely apart.

There was no communication between the families for nearly a year. But Keshava was shocked to receive a court summons one fine morning. It had come from the Civil Magistrate Court of Mangalore. Keshava and his son, with their limited knowledge of English, made out that Smitha, his sister-in-law, had filed a suit in the court against him seeking family partition. It was stated in the summons that Vamana’s family was entitled to fifty percent share of the property under the Hindu Law. Keshava had been asked to appear before the court.
-------------0------------ o----------------o-------------o----------o-------
As he got up in the morning Keshava remembered his close friend and classmate Sudhir. He was not in touch with him for quite some time. He had heard that Sudhir was practicing as an advocate in the Mangalore Court. He had also heard that Sudhir was not money-minded and was very sympathetic to his clients in his approach. He decided to go and meet him straight-away.

Sudhir was very happy to meet his old friend after a very long time. Both of them recollected their good old student days, when they had no earthly responsibilities to carry. The position was quite different now. Getting back to the official matter, Keshava told Sudhir all about his case involving his sister-in-law. He explained to Sudhir how he was not in a position to part with half of his lands as demanded by his sister-in-law. Sudhir heard him in detail patiently and also went through the court summons. He told Keshava that on the face of it, he had no way to avoid the partition, as his sister-in-law had a rightful share as the legal heir of her husband as per the Hindu Law. He also told Keshava, the fact that she was well off, had nothing to do with the matter as her husband’s assets were swayarjitha (self-earned). He asked Keshava to call on him again with all the property documents in his possession and took his signature on the Vakalath form to enable him to represent him in the court. He also advised him not to worry too much on the matter and he would help him in the best way possible.

That night Keshava could not sleep well. He went on thinking as to what would happen if ultimately he was made to part with half of his land or pay equivalent cash compensation. He was particularly worried about his son who had to survive on the income of half the land or alternatively carry a loan on his head.

In the morning he searched for land records at home. He could find out an old trunk where his father had kept all the records. Among the records he could also find a bank passbook in his father’s name. He had so far never bothered to find out whether his father had kept some money in the bank. He kept all the documents including the pass book in a folder and carried the same to his friend’s office on the next day.

Sudhir went through all the records leisurely. When he opened the bank passbook a small voucher slipped out from the book. He scrutinized it carefully. It was the counterfoil of a bank draft challan issued by the bank. He could find out that the same was nearly thirty years old. The draft had been purchased on Bangalore in favour of Bangalore Development Authority. Sudhir’s eyes lit up on seeing the same. He immediately went through the entries in the pass book; he could find a withdrawal of rupees twenty thousand (draft amount) on the same day.

He asked Keshava whether he knew anything about this draft. Keshava clearly remembered that it was sent to Vamana by his father for registering the site in his name. He also told Sudhir that the site was situated in a prominent commercial locality and his brother had constructed his office and residence on it. Sudhir also got it clarified from him that the full cost of the site at that time was rupees twenty thousand only. He told Keshava not to worry any more and to come back on the day of court hearing.
-------------0------------ o----------------o-------------o----------o-------
Ten days later, on the day of hearing at the Civil Judge Court, Mangalore:

The Scene

(The Judge arrives and the court comes to the order. The clerk calls the case - Smt.Smitha & family against Sri Keshava & family. Smitha is present with her lawyer, Mr. Bhat. Keshava has already been briefed by Sudhir. The judge asks Mr. Bhat to proceed with the case. He calls Smitha to the witness box. The proceedings start :)

Bhat: please take the oath. You have filed this case against Keshava for family partition. Have you gone through the plaint in full? Do you say that whatever stated therein is true to the best of your knowledge?

Smitha: Yes. I have gone through the plaint and the contents are true to the best of my knowledge.

Bhat: The plaintiff has asked for the family partition. The details of the family property are furnished in the plaint. As per the Hindu law she is entitled for half of the share in the family property. The court may please order accordingly. That is all my Lord.

Judge: Sudhir, you may call the defendant.

Sudhir: Yes my Lord. (Calls Keshava to the witness box)

Sudhir: Keshava, have you gone through the plaint? Do you have anything to say in the matter?

Keshava: Yes. I have gone through the plaint and agree with what is stated therein. I have only one thing to say.

Sudhir: What is it?

Keshava: The family property is not fully covered in the schedule. I request that the entire property of the family may be added to ensure that the partition is just and complete.

Sudhir (looking at the Judge and Mr. Bhat): I think the defendant is justified in seeking for the full property to be partitioned. Does the plaintiff have any objection in the matter?

Judge (laughs): Keshava appears to be a thorough gentleman. He is offering more than what is prayed for in the plaint! Mr. Bhat, any objections?

(Bhat Smilingly consults Smitha, who is also amused and conveys her consent to him):

Bhat: My client has absolutely no objections, my Lord!

Sudhir: This point may be noted my Lord. Can you tell me Keshava, in brief, what are those properties which have been left out and which you want to be included now?

Keshava: I am talking about only one property, presently in the possession of the plaintiff and which belongs to the family!

 (The amusement goes away from the face of Smitha and Bhat! They look at each other with concern. The Judge is amused now!)

Sudhir: Can you tell me what is that property and how does it belong to the family?

Keshava: I am referring to the building in Bangalore which houses my brother’s family and the office where he was practicing.

Bhat (intervening): Objection, my Lord! The defendant is unnecessarily claiming the property which is owned by his brother and built out of his own earnings.

Judge: Objection sustained. Sudhir, you may proceed.

Sudhir: Keshava, How do you claim that the property belongs to the joint family?

Keshava: The site on which the building was constructed was purchased out of joint family income.

Sudhir: Do you have any proof for your claim?

Keshava: Yes. Here it is.
(Hands over a voucher and a pass book. Sudhir goes through them and presents the same to the Judge)

Sudhir: Ok Keshava, You can go now. (Looking at the judge) May I proceed now?

Judge: please proceed.

Sudhir: Sir, the site in Bangalore was purchased out of the money sent by the Head of the family from out of the family income. The voucher and the bank pass book entry clearly prove this fact. It represents the entire cost of the site and even the draft particulars are furnished in the sale deed executed by the Authority in plaintiff’s husband’s favour. I understand that the present market value of the 50’x60’ site is around rupees two crores.  The honourable court is aware that any property purchased out of the joint family income also belongs to the family (HUF) only, as per Hindu Law. Under the circumstances the defendant is in order in claiming it as family property and seeking for its inclusion in the assets to be partitioned. The honourable court may kindly give its order accordingly. That is all I want to say, Sir.

Judge: Mr. Bhat, what do you want to say in the matter?

Bhat (still trying to recover from the shock): I seek some time for my client to look into the matter.

Judge: The case stands adjourned.

-------------0------------ o----------------o-------------o----------o-------

It is nearly a month since the court hearing. Sudhir got a communication from Bhat stating that his client wants to withdraw her plaint and close the issue. He told Keshava to discuss with his wife and son whether they are agreeable to forego their rightful claim on the Bangalore property. Keshava found that both of them were happy to just have the agriculture land and were least interested in any other property. Sudhir informed Bhat accordingly with the condition that Smitha should confirm on behalf of her family that she does not have anymore claim on the family assets. A compromise petition was filed in the court and the case was dismissed.

 A V Krishnamurthy
13th September 2008


Plaintiff: Person, who has filed the case

Defendant: Person against whom the case has been filed

Plaint:  A written statement of the case filed

Friday, June 21, 2013

Kabir & His Mummy!

(My grandson Kabir completed six months on 8th June. He visited us on the occasion with his father and mother. At this stage of life the whole world of the child revolves around its beloved mother. Whenever it is with somebody else, its only effort is to get back to its mother as early as possible. The child keeps smiling. But its response to all other diversions is ultimately aimed in one direction - to be at the safe bosoms of its dear mother!  Our Kabir is no exception to the rule! His typical response and expressions to my actions as I carried him around the house proved it)

Kabir & His Mummy!

I am your Grandfather
I mean your dad’s father
I love you granddad
But where is my Mummy?

She is your grandmother
I mean your dad’s mother
I love my grandma
But where is my Mummy?

This is your uncle
His name is Kiran
I love you uncle
But where is my Mummy?

This is your aunty
Her name is Swathy
I love you aunty
But where is my Mummy?

This is our house garden
See the plants and flowers
They are quite beautiful
But where is my Mummy?

This is our pet dog
His name is Milo
Milo looks very smart
But where is my Mummy?

This is our pet cat
His name is Beera
Beera is so cute
But where is my Mummy?

That is your mother
Her name is Swathi
Oh! My dear mother
I found you at last!

--A V Krishnamurthy
11th June 2013

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Hidden Treasure – (Part-2)

It took quite some time for me to get back my father in a mood to continue the story. But I was not the one to give up so easily on such an interesting topic. In fact my brothers and my mother used to make fun of me for trying to get the story from our elusive father. They were even afraid that he may revert to the never-ending story of Ganapathi Kalaiah! But I had my agenda! I was quite aware that our father was not in a position to bequeath much property, divisible among his six sons! So I had my plans to become the sole owner of his intellectual properties! I pursued the matter vigorously. One fine day I got him online again!
o------o-----o-----o--- -----o------o-------o-----o------o------o-------o------o------
Devaraiah grew up as a young man. Being the only son of his parents, he had adequate resources at his command. He was an enterprising person and with the blessings of Lord Chandramouleswara, he soon became a very rich man. But somehow he was not interested in getting married. He remained a bachelor much to the disappointment of his parents.
Devaraiah’s wealth grew very fast. Most of the wealth was in the form of cash and gold. Soon he reached a stage where he found the storage of his liquid wealth a major risky proposition! Keeping the money in a bank as deposit was unheard of in those days. In any case there were no bank branches in the vicinity. So Devaraiah had to resort to the age-old tradition of storing the money in pots hidden inside the mother earth. That is exactly when the trouble started for him.
Devaraiah converted all his wealth into gold and silver coins to enable him to store them in a copper vessel. After closing the mouth of the vessel with a plate, he dug up the earth behind his house and inserted the vessel there and closed the trench with loose soil. He conducted the entire operation during the late night so that nobody else noticed the same. He felt relieved that he had found a proper place to hide his wealth.
But the relief was only short-lived. He soon started getting dreams in the night that somebody was digging up his hidden treasure! There was another problem also. Like all the rich men of those days, Devaraiah was also very particular about the physical verification of his wealth at frequent intervals. That made him dig up his treasure frequently to find out whether all the pieces were intact. That had to be done only in the late night. This added to his misery and tensions. He knew that he was exposing his treasure to risk by his frequent digging actions.
One day Devaraiah overheard some people discussing about the hidden treasures. They were discussing how thieves were able to locate the hidden treasures of rich men by watching their actions. They were also mentioning that the rich men were able to dupe them by hiding some empty pots in certain locations near their houses!  The plan was to create some ‘dummy treasures’ to deceive the ‘genuine’ thieves!  Devaraiah was quite impressed with this ‘risk management technology’ (RMT)!
The very next day Devaraiah purchased a good number of copper vessels. He filled all of them with pebbles and sealed their mouths. He dug up a number of trenches at different places near his house and buried all the vessels in them. He conducted the whole operation during late nights so that nobody noticed his actions. He felt fully relieved thinking that no thief could lay hands on his ‘original treasure’. He also felt grateful to the inventor of this risk management tool called the ‘dummy technique’!
Things appeared to be quite rosy to Devaraiah for some time. Having sorted out the problem of storage of his wealth, he became a very confident man. The changes in him were quite noticeable. He even thought of finding a suitable life-partner. But that was only till he felt the urge of making a physical verification of his wealth again.
One particular night Devaraiah could not stop his urge to make a physical verification of his original treasure. Ultimately he got up and started digging up the place where he thought he had hidden his real wealth. He took out the vessel and removed the lid to count the silver and gold coins. But Lo! To his utter shock and dismay he found only pebbles there! He simply could not believe his eyes! Something appeared to have gone wrong somewhere definitely.
Devaraiah tried to re-gather his wits by thinking coolly over the matter. He was quite sure that he had not gone wrong in identifying the place where he had hidden his original wealth. But there was every possibility that he might have dug up one of the ‘dummy treasures’ created by himself! He started digging up the other trenches. But to his shock, each one of them was found to be a ‘dummy’ with nothing but pebbles inside! Devaraiah’s lifetime savings had simply disappeared in the mother earth!
Devaraiah went mad within a short time. People could often see him digging up trenches endlessly near his house. His incoherent talk about the loss of the hidden treasure became the talk of the village. Each person in the village gave his own version of Devarayyana Gantu! The elusive hunt for the hidden original treasure came to an end only on the death of Devaraiah.
My father ended the story here. He had heard the story in his childhood days from his elders. But he said he was sure of one thing. That the original treasure was lying somewhere near the house and Devaraiah had been shortchanged by his own ‘dummy technique’!
o------o-----o-----o--- -----o------o-------o-----o------o------o-------o------o------o--
My father passed away in the year 1980. Our neighbouring house, where Devaraiah had lived once upon a time, had been occupied by different families at different times. Ultimately the house came into the possession of the family of my father’s niece. None of the earlier families had undertaken any major repairs to the house. The original house had remained intact.
More than ten years after the death of my father, the family of his niece decided to build a new house after dismantling the original house. Accordingly the whole house was dismantled on one particular day. The dismantling team was also made to excavate the entire plot where the house was situated.
All of a sudden a kind of sensational news started spreading across our entire village. It was said that the family had found a hidden treasure during the dismantling exercise. A sealed pot with unknown contents had been found and handed over to the family by the dismantling team. The news spread fast and the contents of the pot were estimated by each individual according to his own imagination. It appeared that the legendary Devarayyana Gantu had ultimately seen the light of the day!
The news reached the police department at the taluk headquarters within no time. A team headed by a police Sub-Inspector arrived at the village soon after. The team raided the house and arrested the family members and took them away to the station. The family members were released after sometime. The police case was closed a few days thereafter. Nobody ever came to know whether the Devarayyana Gantu had ultimately been traced.
----- Concluded -----
A V Krishnamurthy
17th April 2011