“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.”
(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!
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