At the launch of the Mysore editions of Deccan Herald and Praja Vani at Hotel Metropole this evening, the Kannada thespian K.S. Ashwath narrated a story. A classic and quaint Mysore story.
Ashwath, one of the landmarks of Saraswathipuram, said he took great pride, before his cinema stardom and even after it, to do the little chores of life on his own.
Like going to Devaraja Market to bring fruits, flowers and vegetables for the family.
This daily, almost ritual, expedition was taken on foot. Some while later, he began using a tonga and usually it would be the same tonga which would take him around.
One day, the tongawallah came home to Ashwath and poured out a tale of woe: the tonga owner had dismissed the driver and he was now c/o footpath.
Sweet Mr Ashwath immediately took pity and bought he out-of-work tongawallah a tonga, complete with the horse. The only condition was that the tongawallah would take the owner on all his daily peregrinations around town for a small fee.
Everything went smoothly for a while, before the tongawallah began playing truant and even dropped out.
Ashwath was now stuck with the tonga and the horse. And the horse was losing weight and health rapidly.
Ashwath goes to a man called Byra who owned a few tongas in Kanne Gowdana Koppal and relates his problem. The man takes one look at the horse and says it is unwell, and that he would put him back him in shape in a few weeks. Ashwath agrees.
Once the horse is back on its feet, Ashwath now finds a new tonga-wallah to ferry him around, but soon this tongawallah too begins playing the same tricks and he too drops out.
Ashwath is now stuck with an unhealthy horse and a tonga with a driver. Worse, he doesn’t know where to park the damned thing each day and night.
Finally, a frustrated Ashwath is put out of his misery by a friend who suggests that he sell the tonga, horse and all. Ashwath agrees. End of story.
What this story had to do with the launch of the two papers one doesn’t know, but the story was a reallife throwback to an R.K. Narayan story from Malgudi Days (?), when Ananth Nag wins a road-roller in a prize but doesn’t quite know what to do with it, with the result it becomes an albatross around his neck.