“Not all the armies of all the empires of earth
can crush the spirit of one true man.
And that one man will prevail”
----Terence Mac Swiney
The fact that my brother-in-law was engaged in the money lending activity did not make him lose his focus on his basic vocation of agriculture. While the cultivation of paddy was restricted to only a part of the year (there was no concept of summer crop), the arecanut cultivation is a 365 days in a year occupation. Besides, in the Malnad region the banana cultivation is part and parcel of the arecanut cultivation. Banana is planted in the midst of arecanut plants and the regular yield forms part of the income from the plantation.
Unlike in our village, the growing of pan leaves by planting them near the arecanut trees was not in practice in Hokkalike. In our place, the income from pan leaves formed a significant portion of income from the plantation. During his visits to our house, my brother-in-law observed the pan leaf cultivation in our gardens. He took it as a challenge and carried the seedlings from our place. By the time I was in Hokkalike, he had managed to grow a good number of plants. They were yielding leaves enough to even supply them to shops.
I had mentioned earlier that the paddy stock would be sold by my brother-in-law when the market rates were on the higher side. The same was true in the case of arecanut also. The city of Shimoga had a very well developed and organised market for arecanut grown in the Malnad region. The arecanut mandies in Shimoga would allow the farmers to hold on to their stock for years just for a nominal rent. There used to be some cash rich farmers who would hold the stock for years in anticipation of increase in prices. Actually the quality of arecanut from Malnad used to be such that it would improve in proportion to its age! My brother-in-law would visit Shimoga only when he found the rates attractive.
Post nationalization of banks in 1969, the banks started opening their branches in many of the rural places. Initially these branches used to focus only on the deposits. My brother-in-law became the first target of new bank branches in the vicinity. During 1970, Canara Bank opened its branch in Basavani, where I had completed by Middle School education. Actually Basavani is located in Thirthahalli taluk, which comes under Shimoga district. However, Hokkalike though located two miles from Basavani, falls under Koppa taluk and Chikmagalur district. But that did not prevent the Manager of Canara Bank from approaching my brother-in-law. Soon he became an important client of the bank.
Even though my brother-in-law belonged to the old school of thought, he had fairly good idea about the need for investing in life insurance policies. He did invest in insurance. In fact when the Unit Trust came out with some scheme for insurance linked policies, he was the first to invest. He had even invested in a long term scheme for the benefit of his granddaughter. The product was to mature by the time the girl reached the marriageable age.
My brother-in-law had also taken care to invest in sites in Hokkalike. However, he somehow did not invest in sites in nearby towns like Koppa or Thirthahalli. In fact, the building in which Canara Bank branch was housed in Basavani had been offered to him. The Land-Lord was particular that he only should buy the property. But somehow my brother-in-law was not interested.
My brother-in-law learnt a very bad lesson in the matter of helping the weaker section of the society. He used to give small loans to such persons by taking on pledge vessels, utensils, etc. The security was only to enforce repayment obligations. He would charge only nominal simple rate of interest. During the emergency period, the Government of Karnataka brought some restrictions on rural money lending. Instigated by some political leaders, the borrowers arrived at the house of my brother-in-law and demanded the securities back. My brother-in-law handed over all the securities. He had to just write off the entire dues.
By the time my brother-in-law reached his old age, he had ensured that his three sons and only daughter were well settled. He had seen to it that the families of his children were financially independent and self-sufficient. Even though he could have taken full rest from the routine agriculture work at his old age, he continued to get totally involved. During paddy planting season of the year 1998, he was monitoring the planting activity in his fields one day. He was suddenly hit by a paralytic stroke while standing in the fields. He could not recover fully from the attack and breathed his last soon. An eventful career of a benevolent rural financial expert had come to an end. May his soul rest in peace!
A V Krishnamurthy