Shankaranarayana Rao’s name brings to mind a close associate of his, namely S.R Balakrishna Rao. Their friendship and affection for each other was so deep that many people considered them as the twins of Shivamogga.
Balakrishna Rao was a very good lawyer. He was of about the same age as Shankaranarayana Rao, I guess. The were like-minded and had similar perception of values in most matters. They were good critics of the government, its administration and were committed to upholding democracy. The yalso worked for bringing down the tax rates. Their enthusiasm was similar in all these matters.
Balakrishna Rao and Shankaranarayana Rao were like twins in many other aspects too, but there were significant differences in their characteristics as well. Balakrishanraya was a bit reserved in his speech and mannerisms. No one could take liberty with him. He was so in his public speeches too. Balakrishna Rao always wanted to have facts before him to support his statements. Moreover, he was particular that his speech always had a logical flow, with clear delineation of cause and effect. He never compromised on quality and never thought – “it is okay to have loose ends in my public lectures”. His talks were neither flowery nor had any exaggerations. He always weighed his words before he spoke and acted only after a lot of consideration
During 1913-14, when Sir M Vishweshwarayya was the Diwan of Mysore, there was a committee constituted to look into the finances of the province and also to come up with suggestions for cutting down unnecessary expenditure. Sri. Balakrishna Rao was a member of the committee. He had to stay in Bangalore for about three to four months to participate in the activities of the committee. He stayed in a house associated with the Uttaradi Mutt in Shankarapura extension of Bangalore. His house was only a few meters away from my residence. This enabled us to meet often and discuss topics of mutual interest. It was during these interactions that I got acquainted with his manner of study. He would examine the matter at hand from all different perspectives and would frame an opinion after considering all the pros and cons. This kind of thorough study is a difficult one and can easily bring boredom. Yet, it is inevitable. This method, perhaps would have pleased Sri Gopalakrishna Gokhale. A person who has a vision for the society and a heart to work for its betterment will need to weigh all the questions and options before him and pay attention to detail before setting out to sort matters. He will need to invest enough time and effort and have a lot of patience to set things in order. Sri Balakrishna Rao always kept this in mind that mere approximations or vague statements would not work – and it was his primary working rule. He never uttered a word without thinking – he never jumped to hasty conclusions. His words were hardly harsh – he always spoke with logic and with objectivity backing his words.
Balakrishna Rao subscribed to traditional beliefs. He often visited Hampi and worshipped at the Nava-vṛndāvana. He embodied positive values and always spoke in a way that was naturally in agreement with the people of his community. If only our society was filled with people like Balakrishna Rao, would I have whole-heartedly supported the idea of democratic governance.
Vasudeva Rao, a coffee planter from Chikkamagalur was a member of the People’s Representative Assembly for over twenty five year, just as his brother was. The brothers belonged to the friendly meet-ups that happened with Venkatakrishnayya. They sat next to each other in the meetings. People had equal respect for both of them and they reciprocated people’s affection.
However, when specific topics were taken up for discussion in the assembly, each one had his own approach which, at times, were poles apart. As soon as Srinivasa Rao sat down after giving his answer, Vasudeva Rao would get up from his seat next to his and would start by saying -
“Respected Sir, the previous speaker …” “The order passed by Srinivasa Rao cannot be accepted”
The assembly would laugh and so would Venkatakrishnayya. Srinivasa Rao’s face would turn a bit dull and bitter.
“He puts forward his own arguments!” he would remark! This was the kind of independent thinking that Vasudeva Rao had in public discourse.
As the Chairperson of the City Council.
The Government appointed Vasudeva Rao as the chairperson of Chikkamagalur Municipal Council. This was one of the measures being taken by Diwan Sir M. Vishweshwaraya to bring forward individuals who were working selflessly for the government.
Once Vasudeva Rao assumed power, he tried to tighten the administration. He tracked the people in power who evaded taxes and who were misused public money and property. He took appropriate action on them. Six to eight months after this, there were murmurs of discontent among people which caused Vasudeva Rao to feel displeased with his people.
This episode stands one of the best examples of how people react if their leader is responsible, selfless and ruthless.
This is the seventh essay in D V Gundappa’s magnum-opus Jnapakachitrashaale (Volume 6) – Halavaru Sarvajanikaru. Thanks to Hari Ravikumar for his edits.