The news of the death of our beloved prime Minister was a great shock to me. As children we had been brought up hearing and reading all kinds of stories about his greatness. We had at any time a photo or calendar of him at our home. Unlike the present day we were sentimentally attached to our great leaders and loved them in those days. We were aware that the PM was not keeping good health after the disastrous Chinese war. But we never knew the end was so near.
Our destination Guddethota was a village on the route to Kalasa and Horanadu. Only mini busses could traverse in this narrow road. There used to be only one Shankar Transport bus driven by a driver called Thimmappa from Koppa to Kalasa. This Thimmappa and his bus acted as a life line between these two towns. He was more known to the villagers in this route than any particular leader or VIP.
We reached the village bus stop and got down the bus. It was a typical Malnad village with all its natural beauty. We first went to the house of Subba Rao who was a Congress leader and the vice president of Koppa Taluk Board. He was the first political leader from our community in Malnad.He used to dress in only pure white Khadi and had an impressive personality. We stayed in his house overnight. The radio was on till late night. I could hear many great political leaders speaking about the departed beloved Prime Minister.
Mr. Subba Rao was already aware of my circumstances and needs. My father briefly told him about the purpose of our visit in the morning. Subba Rao did not show any reaction. He went inside the house and came back. He handed over six pieces of one rupee notes to me. That was the first contribution I received from my community for my education.
Mr. Subba Rao was more of a middle class farmer than Krishna Rao who was indeed a super rich farmer and a big shot. In fact we never expected a big contribution from Subba Rao. But Krishna Rao was one person who had repeatedly assured financial support to me. It was with this huge expectation we reached the house of Krishna Rao. It was a vast and impressive Malnad bungalow. We met the eldest son of Krishna Rao, Chandrasekharaiah, who was the Chairman of village Panchayath. We were told by him that Krishna Rao was out of station.
We were fully disappointed to hear this. My father explained to him the purpose of our visit. It was also informed to him that his father had assured help to me on his own several times in the past. But he merely said that only his father would handle such matters. It appears no financial powers had been delegated to him at home even though he was the Chairman of the village Panchayath! He advised me to talk to his father when he was on his next visit to Shimoga.
We visited another two houses in the village. One family gave me two rupees. At another house we met a talkative young man. This man spoke to us at length about the need to support poor and merited students like me. In fact he gave some sound advice to us. It was about the art of making the reluctant and miserly landlords to part with their hidden money. But as for him he was very sorry that right at that time he had no cash on hand! But he told us not to worry as he would send us the money order in due course. He took great care to note down our detailed address! Needless to say that his money order never reached us, even though we never anticipated it in the first place! We were later told by reliable sources that this man was a known lotput (bluff master)! He later married a girl from our village.
Our collection drive met with a dead end at this stage. We had to return on the next day. We had collected a grand sum of rupees eight! There was every possibility of our collection amount going red (negative) as we had to bear our transport expenses! Fortunately for us there was a marriage function at a village called Agalagandi which we wanted to attend on our way back. Mr. Chandrasekharaiah and some others also traveled in the same bus with us and he paid our return fare.
We attended the marriage and visited the famous Agalagandi house. The Agalagandi Hebbar was a legendary super rich landlord who was no more. His eldest daughter was married to the son of Belavinakodige Thimmappaiah. Through the good offices of this son Srinivasaiah we requested the help from the landlady. But this super rich landlady was more tight-fisted than a typical landlord! Our visit yielded only a breakfast at her house! We took a break and came home.
I was totally fed up at this stage and wanted to end our collection drive. But father was sure that there were at least some people who were generous. We started on our second drive! This time to have a positive beginning we went to the house of our Ganesh Bhava. He gave me rupees ten. From there we proceeded to the house of his brother-in-law Manjunath in a place called Guddekoppa. This village was in the deep interior Malnad on the borders of Shimoga and Chickmagalore districts. We traveled all the way by foot and enjoyed the beauty of nature.
The original house of Manjunath had been destroyed in a recent fire accident. They were living on a temporary shed at the time. Manjunath was a young, ambitious and enterprising man at that time. He had married the sister of Talavane Srinivas who had helped me. His family financial position was not so good at that time. But he had planned well for the future. He had planted arecanut seedlings in vast areas. He showed me all around his upcoming gardens. He was quite optimistic that one day he would become a rich and progressive farmer. (This was exactly what happened later. Manjunath’s gardens started yielding exactly when the arecanut prices started zooming to the sky. He became a crorepathi and lives in Shimoga now.)
Coming back to my story, Manjunath gave me rupees ten. He further took me to a place called Hulkuli. Here was a rich farmer called Subba Rao. He was a well known person in our community. This gentleman was kind and gave me rupees ten. Our mission came to an end at this point and we came back. We had a gross collection of rupees thirty eight to be netted with our bus fare.
I would like to end the story of our collection drive with the last visit we made in our village itself. I have earlier made a reference to our Belavinakodige family. I have also mentioned in detail the gigantic personality of Ganeshaiah the then Yejaman of the family. This was the most prestigious and rich family of our village. In fact our village carries the name of this family. At that time Thimmappaiah was the Yejaman of this family. As was quite usual for such landlords, he was also known to be quite reluctant to part with his money. But this trait was in conflict with the family prestige. In our community so far only Talavane Srinivas and Guddethota Shankar (son Of Krishna Rao) were the two persons who had become graduates. But both of them were from super rich families. My brother and I would have been the first persons to do so from our village with our poor family status.
We had heard that Thimmappaiah had a grouse that we never approached him for help. My father thought of giving him an opportunity to help me with his contribution. My needs were at a minimum level as I had a free hostel seat and fee concession. With this background we went and met him at his house. It appears that he was quite unprepared for our visit. He had his prestige at his stake; at the same time as a typical Malnad landlord he was reluctant to part with money. I distinctly remember how miserable but eager he was to send us away. He was at a loss of words. But ultimately he got the appropriate words! He said that “he would think it over!” We left his house empty handed to his great relief!
The story of Guddethota Krishna Rao was not different. But whereas Thimmappaiah had not promised anything, he had volunteered to offer me financial support. When I met him later at Shimoga he asked me what happened to our collection drive. I told him that we had collected a grand sum of rupees eight from his village. He said he was shocked to hear that only such a petty sum could be mobilized! I also told him that his son Chandrasekhar had told us that his father would give his contribution at Shimoga personally. There was no reaction from him on this aspect. He was so much worried about others’ non-contribution that he just forgot about his own contribution! So much for his generosity and his voluntary offer! The matter ended then and there. I never approached him again.
I wish to record here that I have written this episode in detail only to highlight the typical attitude of rich landlords in those days. While Thimmappaiah had not promised anything to me Krishna Rao was vocal only in his lip sympathies devoid of any actual intentions to help. These gentlemen had quite typically not delegated any powers to their grown up sons who were more enlightened. I should particularly mention the name of B T Shankar, the son of Thimmappaiah, who was a close friend of my eldest brother. He later helped my family and particularly my brother in critical times. Even at that time one single visit to Srinivasaiah of Puradamane could have solved our problem. He was a bidugai dore (extremely generous person) and would have paid not less than rupees fifty straightaway. He had done that in the previous year. This amount was much more than what we had collected in our big collection drive! But we did not want to trouble him again.
Personally I treated this episode as a painful chapter in my life. I felt it utterly shameful to expect others to contribute for my expenses. After all it was their money and it was for them to decide what to do with it. I even wrote a type of an affidavit listing out the contributions received. I had undertaken to pay of all these amounts once I started earning. In case of my demise earlier to that I wanted my brothers to pay it off! I had preserved this document for long! In any case subsequently I never had the misfortune to beg other unwilling persons to contribute for my education. But I had the privilege to receive money from great souls who contributed on their own without any request from me. I would come to it later!
----- (To be continued) -----