Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Story of a Malnad Boy - 57

The doctor who had the best practice in Sringeri and all the near by villages was Dr. Ramachandra Rao.  His shop and the house were located in the middle of the Bharathi Street. He had LAMS as his qualification and was actually a very big landlord. His charges were very reasonable. He would visit any interior village on his motor cycle at any time in day or night in case of emergencies. His kaiguna (quality of hand), which means in Kannada the quality of treatment and medicine prescribed, was very good. The patients used to recover very fast under his treatment. His very personality meant a sort of assurance to them. His words gave a high level of comfort to the family members. There used to be several cases of non-payment of his charges by the villagers. He had a system of sending reminders by post cards. As the cards would be seen by many villagers before they were ultimately delivered to the debtors, the chances of recovery were better! I remember to have seen some such cards addressed to my father. They used to be worded very politely!

Dr.Rao was staying in a RCC building owned by the richest man in our community. He was Subba Rao of Kavilkodige. He owned such buildings in Koppa and Shimoga also. He had vast agricultural lands in several villages of Koppa and Sringeri taluks. These were given to tenants for cultivation. The collection of areca and paddy every year from these tenants, spread across two taluks, itself was quite a big job. Subba Rao was a very simple man. He had a major share holding in local Sharada Bank which was later merged with Karnataka Bank. The first duty of any bank manager in Koppa, Sringeri and Shimoga was to call on Subba Rao to solicit/retain his family deposits. They were usually not disappointed!

Kavilkodige is located in the Koppa Sringeri road between Hariharapura and Sringeri. Subba Rao was a good host and several dignitaries and littérateurs used to visit his house. Dr. Shivarama Karanth was one among them. He was a pioneer in generation of hydel power. Even before Sringeri town was provided with electricity, he had the same at his residence. He was able to generate the same from a mini water falls near his house. He also had a small mill for husking paddy to produce rice.

There used to be several stories about his wealth. The fact was nobody was able to assess it correctly. The silliest one, we heard as young boys, was that he was keeping Rs99000/= in each bank to avoid income tax! In fact we had once thought of a simple idea of calculating his wealth basing on this story. It was to multiply the number of bank branches in the three places (Koppa, Sringeri& Shimoga) with Rs. 99000/=! But we were stuck in one place. We could not get the correct number of bank branches in Shimoga!

Another story about his immense wealth was that he was hoarding wealth in the form of gold bricks at his home! The gold bricks were supposed to have been hidden in the walls and floor of his ancestral house! This story got so authentic after some time that it attracted the attention of even the Central Excise authorities! There used to be frequent raids on his house by this authority. They used to dig up the walls and floors of the house hoping to find out the golden bricks! In fact one such raid is said to have taken place even as I was studying in Sringeri College! But we were told that all these raiders could never lay their hands on the gold bricks. They remained as elusive to them as a mirage in the Arabian Desert!

We were told that Subba Rao used to be quite amused about these raids. It seems he used to tell these raiders that he was very much honoured to invite such raids! But the problem as per him was that he himself was unaware of the location of these golden bricks! He even hoped that one day these raiders may be able to find some hidden treasure at his house in the course of their excavation! But sadly for him it became just a matter of patching up the walls and floor after these raiders left the place! Of course he used to extend them the usual Malnad courtesies during their stay by way of delicious food and a visit to Sringeri Mutt!

The other doctor H. Manjappa Gowda was a young doctor at that time and also had a good practice. He was again from a rich agriculturist family. His wife was the only daughter of another super rich landlord and politician Halappa Gowda. That particular year itself the doctor constructed his beautiful RCC bungalow in the town. At that time it was the best bungalow in town.

Another doctor who was very famous but had died by the time I came to Sringeri was Dr. Hegde. He was said to be having a very big practice and was highly popular. He belonged to the South Kanara Bunt’s community. He owned a medical shop in the centre of the town in the name of his son Prema. As far as I remember it was the only medical shop in town and as such was a landmark. His sons were close friends of my elder brother (AVL). The family was highly sophisticated and had a class of its own. One of the sons Taranath Shetty was my classmate.  He is having a very good practice as a dentist in Bangalore at present.

As for as businessmen were considered, the first name which comes to my memory is that of Dubari Dasappa Setty & Sons. The owner Dasappa Setty used to quote such high prices to the items sold in his shop, that the word Dubari (one who quotes exorbitant rates) stuck to his name and shop. For quite a long time he could manage to run his business in this fashion. He even thought this name as a brand and was quite happy to carry it! But not for long. By the time I joined the College the business had fallen to the lowest levels. The brand value had simply disappeared in thin air! His sons had to carry the legacy as a burden!

The shop of Biscuit-Bhat was another shop with a brand. It was run by two young brothers. They used to manufacture bread and biscuit in their home. They were having a very good business. They used to sell books also. The brothers were very handsome and very fluent in their talk. Unlike the Dubari family who lacked finesse in quoting exorbitant rates these brothers could charge high prices by their own polished mannerisms! It could be called ‘meeti choori’ (sweet knife) technique! We students were once caught in their business acumen! I would come to it later.

T K Srinivasa Setty & Sons was a famous old generation book shop. Its name was known even in distant villages since many years. But somehow the family had lost its business and was almost on the verge of closing their business at that time. The eldest son was a great singer of Bhajans. But he could not manage the business as his mind was more into Adhyatma (philosophy).

M Srinivasa Setty & Sons had a very good kirana business. A daughter from their family was later married to the Commerce lecturer. Similarly Baje Rama Rao was a big kirana dealer and their daughter got married to Chemistry lecturer Shanbhag. Annaiah Pandit had a big textile shop. His youngest son Vivekananda was my classmate. Padmaraja Shetty & Sons were well known gold and silver merchants. They belonged to Jain community of South Kanara.

 My classmate Lalithamba’s father Shivaiah had a big kirana shop in partnership with a person called Thandavamurthy. This Thandavamurthy was known for his WWF personality. He had made an investment which was as good as his personality! He had dug up a major portion of the hill on which our College and other buildings stood. There he had constructed a lengthy and unwieldy structure. To put it mildly, it was a civil engineering disaster! Nobody knew what type of utility this strange structure could have! We used to call it as Thandavamurthy Kudure Laya (Horse Stable)! It was an eyesore for us students as we had to see it daily twice on our way and return from the College. Only after we visited the Mutt later in the evening this eyesore could go out of our vision!

The best hotel in Sringeri was undoubtedly Mallika Mandira. It was located very close to Katte Bagilu. The hotel really had made its name as a brand. The quality and taste of items was of very high standard. We always thought it a privilege to eat in this hotel. The other hotels were nowhere near its standard.

Another landmark in the town was the house of Kodur Sham Bhat. Sham Bhat was known as a great Scholar and Sanskrit Vidhwan. But the landmark was mainly on account of his two elderly sons, Srikanta Bhat and Nanjunda Bhat. They were twin brothers; but were so unlike that the pair could be compared to chalk and cheese! This was the same Nanjunda Bhat whom I referred to in an earlier chapter as a talkative man. At that time he had not still moved to our village.

These two brothers could be found sitting in the front veranda of their house for most part of the day. They always had two intentions in their minds. To collect as much news (rumours) as possible and hide their wealth at all cost by appearing to be very ordinary! But in fact they were not so ordinary! They had substantial wealth and had purchased properties including the one in my own village. In Sringeri town itself a big building, in which earlier a famous hotel Amba Bhavan was situated, belonged to them. They wanted to invest in property and hide their wealth at the same time! It was a losing battle for them.

They were interested in talking to us college students to hear about the lecturers and other affairs of our college. Actually both their daughters were my classmates. The daughter of Srikant Bhat by name Kamalamba was a dark beauty and was good in her studies. On the other hand the daughter of Nanjunda Bhat, Vimalamba, was a fair complexioned girl and was an average student.

As already mentioned by me earlier, Nanjunda Bhat was always interested in delivering speeches. I had on one occasion seen him giving a speech in our village school function. He just went on and on and the organisers had to use all their skills to ensure the end of his speech!  His one great ambition at that time was to deliver a speech in our JCBM College! Somehow the college authorities had denied him that opportunity.

But not for long! He got an opportunity on a particular occasion and grabbed it with both hands! We students became the sitting ducks! We only knew the beginning of the speech and the end appeared to be nowhere in sight! Ultimately it got stuck in a place like a needle on an old gramophone record! The compere was forced to announce the vote of thanks to end his misery! We all heaved a sigh of relief!

----- (To be continued)

1 comment:

Narain said...

The landmarks of Sringeri described by you have become iconic. I am tempted to visit some of them during my next visit to Sringeri.