Sunday, December 17, 2006

Destination Unknown

Today was one of those days when things just start falling into place, without you have really meant for them to.

All of a sudden, we found ourselves in Chickballapur. On the highway, we chanced upon a sign-board marked "Muddenahalli". After much debate, it was settled that Muddenahalli was definitely not the birth-place of Deve Gowda, who is most certainly a native of the same village as our ancestors - Holenarsipura. So why does Muddenahalli ring a bell? We decided to go and find out. Yet, we asked around in Chickballapur.

It turns out that Muddenahalli is the birthplace of Sir Mokshagundam Vishweshwaraiah, hailed as one of the greatest visionaries and architect of the erstwhile State of Mysore. The fact that it was just 5 kms off the highway lent itself beautifully to our scheme of events. So, not knowing what to expect, we found ourselves heading there within a matter of minutes.

The short trip is one worthy of comment. You take this country road alongside the banks of a large lake - one that is said to span the entire length of the Chickballapur town. You will see a small pumping station with a large board proclaiming the same in bold letters. You will notice the drop in air temperature and expect to see the lake filled with water. Surprise! The lake's dry. To the very last drop. Not even small puddles dotting its surface. Then you smile and just carry on, enjoying the country-ride. Its a tar-road with trees on either side and green fields all around. It reminds you of the one that takes you to Edamuri, near Srirangapatna. Only, here the flowing waters are missing.

Muddenahalli is a small village. You can't help the feeling that you're an unexpected visitor, going by the stares that the villagers fix you with. Those are not unwelcoming eyes, nor are they welcoming you. They are just interested and curious, probably wondering what brings you to their little sanctuary. Then they see you turn towards Sir M.V.'s ancestral home and their faces crinkle with that pleasant, all-knowing smile. Makes you feel that your intrusion has been condoned and your presence has won their approval.

And so you conveniently park just beside the gate of a not-so-ancient house, saying a silent thank-you that this place has not yet seen the rigors of the city. There are three buildings within the compound. One has been turned into a museum, displaying several objects and curios from Sir M.V.'s life. The second is the dwelling of his descendants - exactly who lives there, we were unable to find out. The third is a Gift Shop, which was closed, which I presume sells photographs, biographies and the kind relating to Sir M.V.

As is customary while entering any traditional Indian household, we had to take off our foot-wear before we entered the museum. The act was reminiscent of entering a temple - an abode of God. That this was once the abode of a great man justified the act and the thought in my mind.

As soon as you enter, you are presented with two boards displaying the major events in Sir M.V.'s life. But the text was in Kannada and, though it's my mother-tongue, I do not pride myself on my Kannada-reading skills. Given more time, I would have laboured through it in its entirety; but this time I was forced to move on.

Next, you enter a small room displaying several mementos that were presented to Sir M.V. during his lifetime, but predominantly those given to him on his 100th birthday. The address made in his honour on this celebration has been framed and is on display. Thankfully, this time the text was in English and I got through to half of the speech. Only on reading this did I realize that Sir M.V.'s fame was not limited to Karnataka alone, and that he is a scholar respected all over India for his vision and dedication to promoting industry within the country.

One will find several framed certificates from various universities which have conferred honorary degrees upon Sir M.V. There are several letters from eminent personalities commending Sir M.V. on his achievements and foresight, including one by Dr.S.Radhakrishnan. You will also find photographs of Sir M.V., commemorating several occasions, including his being Knighted, along with the various medals that have been awarded to him. Of these, the Bharat Ratna caught our attention. The biggest award that any Indian can ever aspire to achieve is all of an inch in size. It just goes to emphasize my ignorance that I was expecting to see a large medallion and/or a plaque instead.


That Sir M.V. was a man of great discipline is evident from the moment you step into the museum. Two pages of his personal diary have been prominently displayed - one taken from when he was 25, and the other when he was 95. Even the most critical observer, must give in to the temptation and admire the zeal of this great man - at the age of 95, he scheduled 5 hours of work/self-study and scheduled the rest of the day to interact with people and propagate his vision.

The museum is a small one, going by city standards. But it gave me all the information I wanted and I drew as much inspiration as I could from this glimpse into Sir M.V.'s private life. We then proceeded towards his Samadhi, located inside a park, adjoining the museum's compound. I wouldn't brand the park as beautiful, but it is definitely well-maintained. You take the paved walk-way that leads you to the actual samadhi which is made of granite. There is also a granite bust of Sir M.V. just beyond. The silence makes you feel contented and free of cares. There isn't much else to see, except for a children's playground which was devoid of children at that time. And so you return to your vehicles and make your way back. This time the villagers don't even bother to throw a glance your way.

It's amazing how I spent 4 years in a University dedicated to the memory of Sir M.V. knowing hardly anything about him. Yet, today, in just the span of an hour, I learnt so much and my esteem for this great gentleman has taken a marked up-turn.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Indebted

Today I bid good-bye to one of my close friends who is leaving for the U.S. I have been thinking about our association - how we first came together, my first impression of her, our continued interactions, the gradual changing of that first impression, her becoming my mentor of sorts.... and somewhere along the way we became 'friends'.