Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Financial Wizard - Episode No.2

Those were the days when most of the paddy fields were given on tenancy to farmers by the landlords. The landlords used to either keep only a small holding for their own cultivation or else lease out the entire holdings to tenants. These paddy farmers used to find it difficult to raise the necessary finance at the time of cultivation. My brother-in-law started financing such needy farmers. The understanding was that they would pay back the loan after the harvesting, by way of paddy only. The farmers of Malnad used to raise only one crop of paddy during the rainy season of the year. My brother-in-law owned a bullock cart that was used to collect the paddy from the farmers. He would also engage other bullock carts if found necessary.
The paddy would be stored in the house in large wooden storage spaces called panathas in Kannada. The house had large halls attached to the main building where these panathas were located. Additional temporary storage spaces would also be created by using mats made from bamboos. These were called Khanajas. Normally the price of paddy used to be low at the time of harvesting. Most of the farmers used to be in a hurry to sell the paddy to meet their other commitments after settling the dues of my brother-in-law.
My brother-in-law used to settle their accounts by offering them prices better than the prevailing market rates. He was also charging very reasonable rate of interest on the loans till the date of settlement. He would sell the paddy to the rice mills and big traders at a later date when the market was up. That way he could make money both by way of interest and by way of profit margin. Some of the farmers who had the ability to ‘hold on’ would come for settlement only after the market went up. My brother-in-law was generous enough to offer them the rates comparable to the prevailing rates at that time. This attitude of him fetched him lot of goodwill. Needless to say the money-lending business grew by leaps and bounds.
In addition to crop loans, my brother-in-law also started offering loans against gold and silver items. Such loans were short-term in nature and were being raised to meet urgent family needs. As my brother-in-law had no way of checking the genuineness of the gold and silver items pledged, he would offer the loans to only selected respectable persons. These loans attracted slightly higher rate of interest. Gradually, over a period of time, the profit generated from the lending business started contributing to the corpus earmarked for the acquisition of the lands.
At this stage, my brother-in-law started looking for landholdings (both arecanut gardens and paddy fields), which were coming up for sale. He had to ensure that the acquired lands could be cultivated by the manpower available within his family. With his younger brothers joining him, he thought his hands would be strengthened further. He went on acquiring those lands till the holdings were sufficient for the cultivation by the expanded family over a period of time. Eventually he succeeded in acquiring sufficient lands to be addressed as the head of a rich landholding family. He had made it a point to avoid taking over of lands from poor farmers by way of distressed sale. Thus unlike a traditional rural lender, who would look for grabbing the lands of the poor farmers, my brother-in-law’s name came to be established as a benevolent lender and a savior of the poor farmers. The name - Mahabalaiah of Hokkalike - became popular in the society, business and the Government circles.
My short stay at my brother-in-law’s house as a young boy was quite a unique experience for me. Two of the younger brothers of my brother-in-law were also married at that time. The family had grown quite big. There used to be lot of activity at the house. Everybody appeared to be quite busy. A number of people would visit the house daily. They included relatives, neighbors and a lot of others. Of course, the other lot was mostly the loan seekers. There were a number of male and female servants attached to the family engaged for different purposes. All in all, the atmosphere was like a typical Bengali family described in the novels of Rabindrananath Tagore and Sharatchandra Chatterji.
My brother-in-law’s mother was bed ridden due to old age. Her bed was placed in the central hall in a dark corner. During my entire stay I had no occasion to see her face. The house itself was very old and big. The electricity had not yet arrived. The lighting was through kerosene lamps only. Most parts of the inside of the house were totally in darkness. My sister’s bed room was also a darkroom. I had opportunities to enter the room a few times.
I had observed my brother-in-law taking out currency notes from a steel vault kept in the bedroom under lock and key. He would often shift the cash from this vault to another steel vault kept in the main front hall of the house. I had also observed him taking out money from there for handing over to the borrowers. I was fascinated to witness and watch handling of so much of cash by my respected brother-in-law. I thought my eldest sister was blessed to marry such a rich and popular person!
I had a few adjustment problems at the house. My sister had warned me that I may face some problems in the matter of morning breakfast. While the breakfast at our Adekhandi house was an elaborate and interesting affair, at the house of Hokkalike a formal breakfast was almost non-existent! For reasons quite unknown to me, the male members of the house were reluctant to have a formal breakfast. Naturally the women had to follow suit. They would prepare some item like Uppittu, Akki Rotti or Dosa and place the same in a vessel in a corner of the kitchen. Those who were interested had to take it from there at their convenience. Only two brothers of my brother-in-law would eat the breakfast. But their timing was uncertain. I was asked to take my breakfast along with them.
I had to play a waiting game in the morning. I would keep a close watch on the movements of the said two brothers. I was supposed to join the first among them the moment he entered the kitchen! My sister did not want to serve me alone, perhaps, as a matter of Joint-family policy!
A brand new house had been just then constructed adjacent to the old house. This house had better lighting arrangements with a number of windows and glass tiles. The house had not seen the Gruhapravesham yet. The expectations were that the house would be occupied by one of the elder brothers upon partition of the property that was supposed to take place shortly. I started imagining my beloved elder sister occupying the new house at the earliest!
My stay at Hokkalike came to a sudden end when a message was received that the Upanayanam of my elder brother had been fixed at the Horanaadu Annapoorneshwari temple. We traversed the same route on the return journey. Unfortunately the whole journey was on foot only as we found no Lories plying on the route.
---------To be Continued----------
    A V Krishnamurthy

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

ನನ್ನ ಪ್ರೀತಿಯ ತಂಗಿ ಲೀಲಾ

ಆಗಿದ್ದರೂ ನಿನ್ನ ಹೆಸರು ಲೀಲಾ
ನಾವೆಲ್ಲ ಕರೆಯುತಿದ್ದೆವು 'ವಿಶಾಲಾ'
ಗೊತ್ತಿಲ್ಲ ನಮಗದರ ಮೂಲ 
ಹಾಗಿತ್ತು ಆ ಒಂದು  ಕಾಲ !

ನಮ್ಮ ಮನೆಯದು ಅಡೇಖಂಡಿ
ಬರದು ಇಲ್ಲಿಗೆ ಯಾವ ಬಂಡಿ
ಓಣಿಯೊಂದಿದೆ ಗಂಡಾಗುಂಡಿ
ಬಂದರೆ ಆಗುವೆ ನೀ ಸುಪಾಂಡಿ!

ನನಗೆ ನೀನೊಬ್ಬಳೇ ತಂಗಿ
ಆಗಿದ್ದೆ  ನಾನೊಬ್ಬ ಏಕಾಂಗಿ
ಹಾಕಲಿದ್ದಿತು ಒಂದೇ ಅಂಗಿ!
ಹೊಡೆದಿಲ್ಲ ನಾನೇನು ಡೋಂಗಿ!

ಶೃಂಗೇರಿಯಲಿ  ನಿನ್ನ ಮದುವೆ 
ಎಷ್ಟೊಂದು ಸಡಗರದ ನಡುವೆ 
 ನೆನೆದಾಗ ಮನಕೆ ಆಹ್ಲಾದ 
ನಿನ್ನ ಪತಿಯ ಹೆಸರು ಪ್ರಹ್ಲಾದ!

ನಿನ್ನ ಮೊದಲ ಮಗಳು ವಿದ್ಯಾ
ಆಮೇಲೆ ಹುಟ್ಟಿದಳು ಸಂಧ್ಯಾ
ಮೈಸೂರಲಿ  ನೀನಿರುವೆ ಸದ್ಯ
ಬರೆದಿರುವೆ ನಿನಗಾಗಿ ಈ ಪದ್ಯ

       -ಎ. ವಿ . ಕೃಷ್ಣಮೂರ್ತಿ 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Kabir Gets the US Visa!

My grandson Kabir was on his first trip to Chennai recently to attend his US Visa interview along with his mother and father. As the Shatabdi Express moved out of Bangalore City Station Kabir was in his high spirits. He got a good company of young girls during his journey. They gathered around him putting all sorts of questions to him and offering him goodies. Kabir went on replying their questions in his own style using monosyllables. It appeared as if he was preparing himself for the Visa interview!

Kabir attended the interview at the US Visa Office in Chennai on the next day. He was allowed to jump the queue ahead of even senior citizens! He spoke to several of them in his typical style. Finally he was called inside for the interview. The following was the interview held by the US Visa Official (VO) with Kabir:

VO: So you are Kabir and you want to visit US?
Kabir: Oh! Yeah! Oh! Yeah!
VO: What is your purpose of visit?
Kabir: Blah Blah Blah…….
VO: You have the necessary funds?
Kabir: Oh! Yeah! Oh! Yeah!
VO: You are through. You will get the Visa by courier.
Kabir: Brum! Brum! Brum!
Kabir was back in Bangalore after two days. The above photograph shows him relaxing at home after successfully tackling his first interview.
A V Krishnamurthy

12th August 2013

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Financial Wizard - Episode No.1

I distinctly remember that day in the year 1954, when I was studying in my first Standard. My father had requested our school teacher Srikanta Jois to come over to our house for matching the horoscope of my eldest sister with another horoscope he had just received. Mr. Jois was well versed in this art as he had studied Sanskrit and Vedas at the Sringeri Mutt Pathashala. He visited us in the afternoon. As a boy I was curious to watch this horoscope matching exercise. 

Mr. Jois collected both the horoscopes from my father. He took out his spectacles from the pocket of his trademark Gandhi shirt. He went through both the documents and made some arithmetical calculations. His face which looked serious initially started brightening up slowly. Finally there was a broad smile on his face. He announced to the joy of my parents that the horoscopes matched perfectly! So that was it. It was time for my eldest sister to depart from our home.

The marriage of my eldest sister Gowramma with Mahabalaiah of Hokkalike was held shortly thereafter at the Shri GopalaKrishna Temple in Agumbe, the Cherrapunji of South India. (The town was made world famous later by Shankar Nag as Malgudi in his TV serial Malgudi Days). Quite for some days, we found it difficult to accept that our beloved elder sister was no more a part of our home. We missed her too much. But we were equally happy to have her back on some occasions. All of us would gather around her to hear her experiences at her new home. She would narrate her interesting experiences in her big joint Hindu family. While my father or eldest brother would go to her place to bring her, my brother-in-law would personally visit us to take her back after some time.

On one such occasion it became my privilege to accompany my sister on her return journey with my brother-in-law. I was totally free at that time as our teacher Srikanta Jois had been transferred and there was no replacement for him for quite a long time. But the journey on foot was not easy. We first walked all the way for six miles to reach a place called Narve. Luckily, on the way from there to Hariharapura, we were picked up by a lorry, the owner of which was known to my brother-in-law.  But from there we had to walk another three miles to reach Hokkalike after crossing the River Tunga.
My brother-in-law was the eldest male member of the family. His father Puttu Rao was a worried man when his wife gave birth to three daughters successively. He was very much upset on the arrival of the third daughter. He took his wife with him to the pilgrim town of Gokarna. The couple prayed to the Gokarneswara (Mahabala) fervently asking him to bestow a son to them the next time.

Indeed the prayer to Gokarneswara yielded the desired result. The couple was pleased to name the boy as Mahabala as he was gifted to them by the Gokarneswara. The couple had three more daughters and four sons who followed Mahabala. But the first son was very much special for them as he had arrived after a long wait.

It appears my brother-in-law had completed his primary education only. (Hokkalike had a Primary School that dated back to the beginning of the 20th century). He was not exposed to English language as the subject was included only from the fifth Standard. But he was good in arithmetic, had an excellent handwriting and a superior memory. He was well organised in his daily life, very systematic and meticulous in maintaining accounts. He developed a financial expertise in his young age by sheer hard work and through his own enterprising nature. As the first son of his father, he slowly took over the management of the family affairs.

Puttu Rao had only a small holding of arecanut gardens and paddy fields. The income was sufficient for the family initially. But as the strength of the family grew, so was the need for additional income. The expenditure on the marriage of elder daughters increased the financial burden on the family.

The concept of giving higher education to the children by sending them away from home was not prevalent in those days. Finding a job other than engaging in agriculture was unfashionable. Hence there was a need for having sufficient landholdings to meet the needs of the family comfortably. The family partition among the male members of the family was a routine affair in this part of Malnad once all the male members attained majority or were duly married.

It was under these circumstances that my brother-in-law took charge of the management of the family. He had a clear cut target right from the beginning. It was to acquire sufficient landholdings for the family. The ultimate aim was simple. By the time the need for family partition arose, there should be sufficient landholding for division among the male members. It was essential to ensure that each family was financially viable upon partition. The minimum landholding expected for such viability was – two acres each of arecanut plantation and paddy field.

In order to acquire additional lands it was necessary to build a corpus out of the surpluses generated from the annual income from lands. But with all the prudence in controlling the family expenditure to increase the surplus funds, my brother-in-law could build only a small corpus. He then thought of a new venture to generate additional funds. It was through money-lending. It was a risky venture. But being a shrewd person he dared to enter the field in his own way.
-------To be continued------
      A V Krishnamurthy