P.M. VIJENDRA RAO writes: By a sheer coincidence, I have met all the three men over the naming of circles after whom you have expressed misgivings (see CAMPAIGN: Why you must speak up for RKN).
As a Mysorean, you should have known better.
T.N. Narasimha Murthy was the first of the troika that I met. That was in Bangalore. In the Vidhana Soudha, to be accurate. As Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council, he held Press meets with customary regularity.
TNN was a champion of the press–his press conference never beginning without the gentlemen of the media being extended Mysore-style hospitality—uppittu, kesari bhatu, kapi, etc.
His acute participation in the deliberations of the legislature tired him so much that he would hardly have anything to tell the Press. But, he was not one to distance the Press on account of that.
Such intense and regular interactions with the Press had earned him quite a few friends in the fourth estate. He went out of his way to familiarize himself with the many that he didn’t really know.
When he would see a reporter entering the hall, he would immediately lean on to the nearest reporter and ask him for the identity of the newcomer. He never embarrassed the newcomer by asking for his identity. His amiability made him address the newcomer as if he had known him since his birth.
You don’t expect a man in public to remember the legion faces and names that he gets to see or hear, do you? This professional hazard at times landed the latecoming reporter in a puzzle. TNN once inquired with customary warmth about the father of a certain scribe.
Without showing slightest keenness to match his conviviality, the scribe lost his cool for being asked about his father who was no more. TNN lost not a second to put the reporter at ease and offer his heart-felt condolences.
Perhaps a similar event had upset TNN on another day when he met us for the customary tete-a-tete. His anger gushed out involuntarily as he spoke about a certain political opponent.
TNN hurled at his target an extreme epithet that one uses while targeting another’s mother. The sensitive man that he was readily understood that he shouldn’t have said it. He said it was actually a profanity another politician had used against the politician in question.
The plebians that journalists are, they simply laughed away to glory, revelling in the very sound of the unmentionable word, indecently leaving the host to gape at them.
The next man that I met was the man after whom, you say, a circle has been named in Yadavagiri.
I am sorry about your ignorance: You don’t know who lives next door to you. It is only ignorance that can embolden you to ask who on earth is he. However, no need to kick yourself for not being informed.
I did not know about him, either. (But, I at least had an excuse, because, unlike me, you are an appata Mysorean).
One afternoon, I got a call.
The caller thundered: “Who are you?”
Sheer reportorial impudence made me echo his question.
The question bounced back at me. (It was almost like the echoing in the Gumbaz).
Finally, he identified himself. In typical Bond style: “I am A. Ramanna, MLC Ramanna.” (For a moment I mistook it for his initials).
“Please tell me what can I do for you.”
Then, he said something in chaste Kannada and with such fluency that I thought he was actually reading it out. His statement was in condemnation of a rival political party which had violated the code of electoral conduct.
“You may go ahead,” I said.
“It’s a nice statement. I liked it.”
“I want it to appear in your paper tomorrow.”
“It won’t appear.”
“What are you talking?”
“It won’t appear.”
“You say you are a legislator. I am sure you have stationery provided by the government. You write whatever you have told me on your letterhead and send it across. I will decide on it.”
“Nobody has spoken to me before like this in the whole of Mysore.”
“So it’s a first of sorts? Anyway, here onwards you will get to hear it often.”
Then he slammed the receiver.
It was only later, on inquiry, that I came to know that the person at the other end was a freedom fighter. No wonder, he thundered the way the Mahatma thundered at the British. I should have educated myself before being impolite to the man.
The third of the triumverate that you have mentioned whom I met was Vedantha Hemmige.
It was dead of night and the Dalit champion Ram Vilas Pawan was visiting Mysore. A couple of us reporters were waiting inside the residence of Hemmige. The socialist that the one-time MLA from Mysore was, had sought to seek parity with his leader that we were all awaiting.
I experienced a culture shock while inside his house. I cursed my lower middle class background for not providing me any cushion against such shocks.
And, Vedantha–o, what a name–can give you a lesson on how to respect one’s elders. If his tradition-bound parents gave him the name Vedantha, he upheld that tradition by naming his abode Indraprastha. I don’t think it could have been more appropriate.
Another occasion, I met him at a press conference that Vilas (I don’t know if Vedantha had got attracted to the middle of the three parts of the name and made friends with the Dalit leader) addressed.
The angry, bearded leader was talking about upper caste tyranny.
That’s when I once again showed my haughtiness in reporting to the leader that the person sharing dais with him had just attended a Brahmins’ congregation.
The din that the reporters created downed Vedantha’s retort. His statement went grossly unreported. But, if we are honest to ourselves as journalists, we must admit that we don’t always report everything of even what we hear. The socialist had been wronged.
I cannot completely educate you unless I share with you that it was Vedantha that inspired me to set up the e-effigy facility on my portal. I don’t remember–selective memory is a scribe’s speciality–what the protest was over, but Vedantha, even at his advanced age, was leading a team of protestors in the city to set an effigy afire.
An accident and Vedantha received burns. It was reminiscent of the agitation that the Mahatma initiated to destroy foreign goods.
I think, you owe an unqualified apology to Churumuri readers for the blasphemy of questioning the worth of our worthies.
I know, as a resident of V.V. Mohalla, you had developed a deep regard for R.K. Narayan who lived in your neighbourhood. That does not however mean you must talk ill of those about whom you lack knowledge.
It is the duty of every journalist to be correctly and sufficiently informed about his surroundings. Sorry that I had to write to you so elaborately on the issue. But I am convinced that it was warranted.