Around 1914-1915, when Visvesvaraya was the Diwan, Hariyanna, who was a trader in the wholesale market (Mandi), was appointed by the government to the Legislative Council.
In those days, I wasn't well acquainted with Mandi Hariyanna. I had heard that he was a big businessman and a very respectable person. I had also gone to him a few times seeking donations for some public cause. Then it was imprinted in me that he was a great man.
Once, when I had an opportunity of speaking with Diwan Visvesvaraya, the subject of Mandi Hariyanna's appointment as a member of the Legislative Council came up. Visvesvaraya said:
"We must have businessmen and merchants like Mr. Hariyanna in the Council. Mr. Hariyanna and I were class-fellows in the same school.” At this, the issue was satisfactorily closed.
Hariyanna was not a talkative man. He was a man of few words - just what was pertinent - not a letter more.
I mentioned that I had been to him a few times seeking donations. His clerk was probably named Hariyappa. As soon as he saw me Hariyanna would say:
“Please come. Take a seat” and then turn towards his clerk and say in a soft voice which was natural to him:
“Hariyappa! Sir has come. Did you see?” To which he would reply:
“Yes. For the dharmic cause of Deepavali.” To which Hariyanna would say:
“Do the needful as usual”. The clerk would look into his ledger and say:
“Last year fifteen rupees had been given”. As per that, it would happen then too. I would get the donation money within five minutes of my going there.
During the first world war, many wholesale shops were born in New Taragpet. Some of those traders had told me:
“Sir, our livelihood has been provided for by Hariyanna”. It means that Hariyanna had funded and helped them in establishing their businesses.
Commitment to Swadharma
Once, I was a bit foolhardy while speaking with him.
I: “This is wartime. Very conducive for business!”
Ha: “I am satisfied with what God has given. I shall not breach the principles set by my elders. Within that, whatever profits I make are good enough. Let others trade and earn in their own way. For each his own. I cannot tread new paths.”
Hariyanna was born rich. His father was a famous wholesale (Mandi) trader. He was known for his philanthropy. The Harihareshwara temple, on the hillock to the west of Basavanagudi (Bull temple), was built by him. Hariyanna would conduct the Shivaratri pooja there with a lot of devotion and faith. There was also a charitable organization that his ancestors had built, in the central street of Vishweshwarapura.
Hariyanna had a pleasing personality. He was tall and fair. His face was serious and soft. His dress was respectable without grandeur - a fine coat and a shawl over it; a small (walking) stick in his hand. This was his normal daywear.
Like Visvesvaraya, Mirza Sahib also had genuine trust and respect in Hariyanna. I clearly remember Mirza Sahib once taking pity on a man saying, “I am being lenient with this man because of Mandi Hariyanna”.
Hariyanna’s home and shop were in the same building. It stretched from Mamulpet to Old Taragpet. At times, in the morning, Hariyanna would come towards the Irish Press to talk to K.S. Krishna Iyer. Then, he’d also spend a few minutes with me. In those days, my ‘Karnataka’ magazine was getting published. Hariyanna would properly read it. He would concisely suggest his views on the reviews in there. He spoke good English. The little he spoke was pure.
I don’t think there was anyone after Hariyanna who had as much fame and recognition in the Bangalore market. Those days, we (meaning a few friends) had kept in touch with the businessmen in the market for reasons of public cause. If we approached any small shopkeeper and said:
“Hey! Can you close the shop for the day? The patriot Tilak has passed away. We need to express our sorrow.” or
“Can you do some charity for the hospital on Magadi Road?”, they would all say:
“What would Sir say? We’ll do as he says”
‘Sir’ here means Mandi Hariyanna. He wouldn’t say anything rashly, wouldn’t do anything rash. He would listen to the right people, think by himself and then talk - so believed everyone, completely.
Business Ethics (Dharma of Trade)
More than anything else, he was honest. Even business and trade have rules and ethics. There are boundaries and limits for profiteering. The philosopher John Ruskin has repeatedly stressed that an honest businessman is the foremost benefactor of society. “There is no society without trade. No town without shops.” Thus, the trader is one of the main enablers of societal life. To really benefit society, he must be principled. Mandi Hariyanna was an ideal for such rightful and ethical tradesmanship.
I had mentioned that Hariyanna was a man of few words. However, he was not averse to talk. If anyone was talking humorously, he would listen laughing. If knowledgeable people were talking on a serious topic, he would listen intently.
He was always pleased to listen to Sajjan Rao, whose speech was witty and elegant. To those who came to him, Sajjan Rao would treat well, question a bit, mildly nudge with his comments. In all these, there was a certain wit and charm, that Hariyanna would grasp and enjoy.
Both these wealthy persons would then come to the shop of their friend of similar status, Venkatamunayya Shetty. This would be in the evening around 6 - 7 PM. At times a few others also joined this meeting - such as Adeppa, Chinnaswamy Shetty, etc. This meeting would last around 30 minutes to an hour. The discussion would mostly be centered around the happenings of the market.
I will narrate an incident that I am well-aware of, for its moral value. A businessman friend of Hariyanna and Sajjan Rao fell into difficult times - due to somebody’s lapse. That man was rich and a big businessman. He overly trusted his relatives and employees. By the negligence and indiscretion of one such loved and trusted person, big losses were being incurred. One day, the businessman came to know that the extent of such losses was quite huge. What could he do? He shared his problems with his friends in confidence. Hariyanna and Sajjan Rao shared about this problematic situation with two other friends, one of whom was B.K. Garudachar. By the joint application of these four minds, the distress was resolved. These four provided the big assistance that was needed, to their friend and ensured that his good name was not spoilt.
The above instance is from pre-independence. I’d be very glad if someone could assure me that such friendship continues to exist in these post-independence days.
This is the English translation of the Fourth essay in D V Gundappa’s magnum-opus Jnapakachitrashaale (Volume 7) – Hrudaya Sampannaru. Edited by G S Raghavendra.