I’ve already told that the main aspects of his ingenuity were his wisdom and his conduct. One of his key principles was the prominence he gave to the capability of creating happiness. He wanted to interact with everyone in a way that would gladden them. None of his words have caused bitterness in anyone nor have they tarnished anyone’s image; in essence his policy was to ensure happiness in everyone as far as possible.
He was a benefactor to many. He was magnanimous. An amphitheatre was being built during 1937 on the eastern side of Attara office opposite to the museum at the behest of the honourable Maharaja; for the convenience of people to listen to the royal band etc... I had gone there for a walk on one of the summer days while the construction was still on. Puttanna Shetty was already there by the time. He asked me to visit him at his home the following day.
He took me inside a room of his home, sat there and told me about his intent:
“I’ve been aging. It occurred to me that I should devote whatever god has given me towards social benefit. I’ve donated a bit towards the town hall. I’ve given a part for the sake of Victoria hospital. I have plans to make donations towards student’s hostel. what’s your opinion? It must be open to all Hindu people. It must house Brahmanas for sure. Fifteen-twenty Brahmanas at least. It should also house Lingayats; It’s alright even if their strength is slightly higher. How does the plan sound?”
I was delighted. “It’s a large-hearted thought. It also demonstrates farsightedness apart from generosity. It’s very admirable.” I replied. “Good” He said and added. “The details haven’t been worked out yet; I still have to consult with a couple of more people. Let’s talk again once everything is finalized.” A month might have passed after this.
The next time when he saw me, he said “That plan doesn’t look like it’ll materialize for now. It has encountered obstructions from many fronts. Now, it’ll exclusively be for Lingayats. But I haven’t given up the thought of a cosmopolitan (involving all castes) hostel yet. It can probably be realized with passing of time.”
The Veerashaiva student hostel was established on Bull temple road within a week after this. Mirza Sahib (Sir Mirza Ismail) presided over the occasion. Distinguished lectures took place that day. Puttanna Shetty left to the heavenly abode a short while after this. He was then 82.
Both administrative dexterity and public interest were blended during Puttanna Shetty’s presidency. A lot of the council members during his tenure were businessmen and pensioners. They were all pretty calm and laid back. Yet there were also a few troublemakers.
Puttanna Shetty was able to unify and appease all the council members and get things done successfully without much impedance. I want to recall few events which happened in the council during his tenure.
R. Subba Rao
Puttanna Shetty’s patience and his respectful behaviour with everyone were the main reasons for his success. Another reason is the prudence and caution he showed in picking his associates.
The most important among his associates was Dr R. Subba Rao. R Subba Rao had earned his MBBS degree and was employed by the health department. His younger brother was none other than the chief secretary of the Mysore Government, R. Ranga Rao. Puttanna Shetty initially got Dr R. Subba Rao to work as the health officer. Subba Rao was a scholar and was a man of letters. He was genuinely interested in public hygiene and cleanliness and was a friendly man. There wasn’t a gully that he had not inspected personally.
He’d start before seven in the morning each day in his two-seater car. I was by his side (On the other seat) on many such occasions. He would drive himself. Balepet, Bylanes of Aralepet and Chickpet - He inspected all such places and took note if all the crates of trash were hauled off properly. He had made meticulous arrangements for this task to be completed all across the city before seven thirty - eight o’clock in the morning. He never sidestepped from his daily inspections. This is an illustration of his personality.
Festivities for Patients
Before joining the health department, He worked as a doctor in Bellary. He was popular; he earned quite well. He was compelled to take up the government job owing to parental pressure.
People of Bangalore benefited from his decision of taking up a job as a health officer. In addition to the improvement of city’s cleanliness, a number of initiatives related to social welfare too happened (during his tenure). It was Dr Subba Rao’s view, that the patients at The Hospital for Communicable Diseases and Leprosy on Magadi Road, should be provided with at least a bit of festive experiences during the time of Ugadi and Deepavali by presenting them some sweets, fruits and flowers in addition to donating some clothes to men and women and entertaining them with music. This thought had complete encouragement and support of Puttanna Shetty. This social venture took shape because Subba Rao was well connected in the city, a lot of people would donate money, food and clothes. Baton of continuing this event was later passed on from Dr Subba Rao to M.G. Varadachar, Mokshagundam Krishnamurthy and a group of their friends. Later, an organisation by name of Gokhale Education League continued this event for a while. Dr Subba Rao’s initiatives reveal the nature of his heart.
Dr R. Subba Rao had established a co-operative society for the benefit of lower ranked employees of municipality under which activities both for education and enjoyment were organized. This initiative began in a place adjoining the wall of old fort, at about the same place where the dental college now stands. Back then, there was a water fountain there. It had a beautiful sculpture of parvati-parameshwara amidst it. Fountainhead sprang up from Shiva’s head. About twice a year this place hosted excellent Nadaswara, gramophone music, some food and donations for the needy etc... I’ve seen this on three-four different occasions. Janitors too, were a part of this and enjoyed the event. Puttanna supported this initiative as well.
Dr Subba Rao’s biggest public service initiatives was the relief efforts that he undertook during 1917-18 when the spread of Influenza was on the rise. Sri. P. Kodanda Rao, B.K. Ramprasad, K.S. Krishna Iyer, a few of my other friends and I myself along with a lot of other people were a part of it : We split up into fifteen - twenty groups with two-three of us in each group carrying steaming hot porridge, medicines along with an ajwain tonic called ‘ Ajmal’ to be distributed to the patient’s houses. Our intent was also to inquire about any other needs they had and to plan for it.
We did this for a few months. We visited quite a few houses in hundreds of gullies. Situation was grave at places. A house in one of the gullies between Akkipet and Aralepet. A two-three-year-old kid was singing something and playing all by itself near the main door. We asked, “Is anyone sick?”. Child was unable to answer. I’m not sure if it was able to understand our question. We headed inside. A man was groaning on a bed. His arms and legs had stiffened. He probably was the child’s father. When we walked up to him, he said: “Why are you tending to me? My life is over. My wife is asleep on the other side. Please save the mother for the sake of her child.” We saw her way and she was already long gone by the time. We learnt the next day that the man didn’t make it either.
Subba Rao had seen hundreds of such cases. Influenza was brought under control within a couple of months owing to the relief efforts (lead) by such a noble soul. A couple of weeks after that, the city was back to normal.
This is the fourth part of the five-part English translation of Sixth essay in D V Gundappa’s magnum-opus Jnapakachitrashaale (Volume 6) – Halavu Saarvajanikaru. Edited by G S Raghavendra.