It is time for me to write about the financial status of our family in those days. I know unless I write in detail about this aspect of our life, the reader may not be in a position to appreciate the story in full.
In spite of our best efforts, we have not been able to collect the details about our family tree. We heard from certain sources that our grandfather was a rich man. But he was cheated by his relatives and lost his entire wealth. As per my father, he lost his father when he was quite young. He was brought up by his maternal uncle. Two of his elder sisters had been married off to rich families; but both of them and their husbands died when their children were quite young. In fact one of the children was brought up by my father only. He is no more now. He had always tried to payback my father and our family - you may believe this - in cash and kind as well! And we were quite pleased to accept! That was the type of situation our family was placed in those days! My father also had a younger sister by name Lakshmi, but she became an outcaste as a victim of circumstances. She lived in our village with her family, but we were not even aware that she was our father’s sister till we grew up. My father never recognized her as his sister!
It appears that my father became a vagabond by the time he became a teenager. He was (un) fortunate not to have any inherited property! This, coupled with the fact that his elder sisters had been married off and younger became an outcaste, encouraged him to lead a carefree life! He always disliked any type of encumbrances including holding of property and cash! His life was always ‘liability based’ as against the normal ‘asset based’ way of life followed by all human beings! You may not believe this, but the contents of the paragraphs below will prove it!
My father was always interested in living his life for others! He was a very loyal worker for whomever he was working. He was very fortunate to work for a big landlord of our village by name Shingappaiah. Readers must be able to recall this gentleman’s name in the episode dealing with the trapping of a tiger and sending the same to Mysore Zoo. My father as a bachelor stayed in his house and worked for him. He was a very benevolent person and always had the welfare of my father in his mind considering his loyalty and hardworking nature. He identified my mother as a suitable bride for him. My mother was the only child of her rich parents who lived in a joint family. Both my grandfather and grandmother were well educated (in those day standards) and had brought up my mother equally well.
Shingappaiah thought that my father will inherit the property of his in-laws and live a happy married life. The marriage took place with Shingappaiah as the Godfather of my father. But alas! My father had no house to take his wife home! In fact he never thought about it before marriage! He also had no regular source of income to maintain his family. As his in-laws were living in a joint family, he could not live with them as ‘Manealiya’! In any case his temperament would not have made him accept such a position. Who else but his Godfather had to come to his rescue! Indeed he did it and how nicely he did it!
Shingappaiah had a vast holding of arecanut plantations. As he could not afford to cultivate the entire holdings, he had given a major portion it to tenants for cultivation. There was one such plot of 5 acres with a beautiful house in our village itself in a place called ‘Sampige Kolalu’ (flute made of Sampige flowers). Shingappaiah got it vacated and asked my father to stay there with his family and to cultivate the holdings as a tenant. It was such a grand and genuine offer that my father accepted it with all humility. It appeared for the time being that the ‘Gruhasthashrama’ of my father had a very good beginning.
By that time the son of my father’s maternal uncle had a big family. But suddenly they found themselves nowhere to go. The maternal uncle was no more. This family was quite aware of the gullible nature of my father and his total aversion to hold assets and responsibility. They found that one small house was lying vacant nearby in a place called Adekhandi with hardly a half acre plot of arecanut plantation to cultivate. They explained to my father how difficult it was for him to live in a big house at Sampige Kolalu with only his wife and to cultivate 5 acres of arecanut garden! The small house and half acre of arecanut plantation at Adekhandi would be ideal and compact! They were suggesting this as only a favor to my father in his best interest! They also voluntarily offered to accept Sampige Kolalu property to help him out!
My father was quite pleased with the sacrificial and kind nature of the said family! He was so mush convinced of the whole affair that he immediately shifted to Adekhandi! My mother had absolutely no role to play! Even her parents and Shingappaiah, the Godfather, were kept in the dark! The whole transaction took place like an endorsement on a negotiable instrument! The original owner of both the properties in question, Shingappaiah himself, was kept uninformed! In fact the news came as post facto information for him to approve.
When Shingappaiah heard this he was dumbfounded. He could not fathom the unworldly nature of my great father! However he approved the whole transaction as a fait accompli. He continued his benevolence towards my father. Unfortunately the Shingappaiah couple had no issues. He adopted the son of his own brother-in-law (his wife’s brother). But by curse of fate, this boy died at a young age. Ultimately Shingappaiah brought up the other two brothers of his adopted son and willed his whole property in their names.
At his old age Shingappaiah was attacked by cancer. In those days there was absolutely no medicine for cancer. The treatments called radiotherapy and chemotherapy were unknown. In fact our villagers used to call the disease ‘cancel’ quite appropriately even though it was only on account of their ignorance! Being a rich man Shingappaiah was taken to
hospital for treatment. My father accompanied him and took full care of him
almost as a male nurse. Shingappaiah fully appreciated the efforts and
dedication of him. So much so that ultimately when he came back from Vellore to spend his
final days at home, he called an assembly of village elders. In their presence
he made an open offer to my father. It amounted to issuing a blank cheque. My
father was asked to name any property of Shingappaiah which he would be glad to
transfer to him under a ‘danapathra’ (gift deed).
--To be continued--