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 The last time I saw Sir M V

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Chalukya

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PostSubject: The last time I saw Sir M V    Tue Jun 05, 2012 3:47 pm

The last time I saw Sir M V


By M Bhaktavatsala

D V Gundappa, the famous litterateur, once recalled the occasion when he had to fall out with the then Dewan Sir Mirza Ismail when the Dewan ordered the shifting of a Ganesha idol into safe custody consequent to a communal disturbance. When DVG, along with others like Nittoor Srinivasa Rao, approached the Maharajah, they were politely asked to meet the Dewan himself who is sure to resolve the issue. On being approached, the Dewan heard them and proceeded to have an enquiry committee headed by Sir M Visvesvaraya. The enquiry committee found the Dewan at fault for interfering with what should have been handled by the appropriate authority below him.

Sir M V lived up the road to the Dewan and on his morning walks passed his house. On a morning the Dewan was standing outside and wished Sir M V. Sir M V stopped and in the course of the conversation pointed his stick at his portrait hanging in the Dewan’s parlour and said it should perhaps come down with the recent event in mind. Sir Mirza, pointing to his father’s portrait alongside, replied: “Sir, It will come down the day my father’s portrait comes down”.

On the day Sir M V turned 100, Sir Mirza was gone and so had many of his contemporaries. It was a day of celebration of the centenary of the greatest living Indian. It was a lovely bright Bangalore morning. I drove around town. There was a festive atmosphere everywhere. There were arches of green and the smell of jasmine everywhere. No Government could have organised that kind of celebration. There were of course official functions, but the main event was to be in the evening at the Lalbagh Glass House.


On that day the crowd was different somehow. The people who blocked my gate were quite simply not the sort who would have come out to gawk at mere dignitaries. They were people who came for love, plain and simple.

So I had also quietly joined those blocking my entrance. The old man, small, diminutive, wearing the turban that always seemed too big for his frail frame sat slumped in the back seat with folded hands as he passed. There was no cavalcade. The papers said later that he was a little late for the grand welcome and celebration at the Lalbagh. The very first words he uttered there were words of apology — for the delay of a few minutes.

Later in the night, there were crackers in the sky as I drove past his house on Raj Bhavan Road. On an impulse I stopped and walked through the open gate. It was brightly lit like a marriage house. It had the air of an aftermath of a celebration. Flowers and garlands lay strewn all around. But amazingly there was no bustle. People were obviously free to come and go as they wished.

He was an exhibition item. Fully clothed as usual, turban, suit, tie, starched collar and polished shoes.

No incense sticks. No lamps and bells. No poojari. Only loads of flowers. There he lay. A hundred-year-old man subjected to the killing thing called Indian adulation.

I heard him speak to each of the admirers, as I sat on the sill. The format was repetitive to the point of death. The admirer would religiously leave his footwear, garland the head on the pillow and then proceed to bow down at the feet holding the shoes. This bothered the old man no end. He made as if to get up and gestured with his hand. “Bedappa, beda dayavittu beda.” (No, no, please no), which had the exact opposite effect of renewing the fervour of the admirer who bowed again with the words “Nimage madade yarige madabeku Swami? Neevu Devaru.” (If not you, to whom should we bow? You are God).

Visvesvaraya went soon after. He may have lived a few years longer if on that day he had not been made a piece of public property so blatantly. The Indian ken for affectionate celebration is like that – smothering that which should be cherished with infinite care.
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