Friday, June 12, 2015

Swamy and touching letters of Mylar Rao

In the olden days, we had the 'joint family system' and I hear that in my great grandfather's time there were as many as 20-25 members living under one roof, including a few relatives from other towns being invited to pursue their school/college studies.  

Pet names are kept to some members in the family.  Some have shortened full names and some give no hint to their real names. One such was "Swamy", Prof. K.S.Nanjundaiah. He was a close relative of my great grandfather Mylar Rao.  He was called by everyone including his children as 'Chikkappa' [uncle].  Swamy means 'God'.

Konanur Mylar Rao [1868-1936] - click to see about him.

[Click on all pictures for an enlarged view]

Swamy was born in 1913 or 14 and lived for 95 or 96 years.  His house is/was at Bangalore's Shankarapuram.  He was a very kind, noble, soft spoken, humble, simple, intelligent, wise, with pleasing manners, twinkling eyes, a ready smile and one who loved humour. Swamy had a long and distinguished teaching career with the Govt. College in Mandya, specializing in Economics. His parents were K.N.Srikantaiah and Gowramma.  Srikantaiah was called by all as 'Ayya'.   

Mylar Rao and Srikantaiah [Ayya] with their wives. 
The connect: Gowramma's mother's elder brother [maternal uncle] was Mylar Rao's father Krishna Rao.  Swamy's mother Gowramma had lost her parents during her childhood and so they were taken care by Mylar Rao, who was settling down in life and a large family to take care of himself.  In spite of that, he also took the responsibility to educate Gowramma and also her two sisters. In addition to it, he later performed the marriages of all of them by himself.   

Mylar Rao was renown as a very strict government officer who was upright and highly disciplined. Yet, he had qualities like compassion, benevolence and nobility which he showed in as critical a time as with Srikantaiah's. That was just one example.  This had made the families very affectionate and strengthened the relationship greatly.  I gather this information from Swamy's wife Seethamma through her nephew.

The affection was sustained by my grandfather Subba Rao who was very fond of Swamy and Shivu, his younger brother.  It was the same with all of Ayya's three daughters also.

Swamy and Subba Rao

Even from my very young age, I could feel the warmth between the families. I have also seen Ayya in his old age when he used to stay with us during his Mysore visits.  My memory of his removing his false dentures at bedtime is as strong as the affection that still lingers, esp. through Swamy's two sons!

Swamy had retired when I started to visit Bangalore, every now and then for cricket. I never failed to pay a visit to him [and his brother 'Shivu' who was living in the adjacent portion].  Sometimes I even stayed overnight. [I stayed there for a cricket match - see story here - CLICK].  Swamy was very happy to see this relationship being continued and he would always very fondly reminisce his student days from the late 1920s and 30s.  That was when he lived with Mylar Rao's family on Mylar Rao's generous invitation to stay and study.  He would say: "What a noble soul Mylar Rao was."  One could make out that these words were uttered straight from the heart.  The days he spent with Mylar Rao's family appeared to have had a very deep impression in his mind throughout his life.  In fact, he was born in Mylar Rao's house, from where this post also comes from!

Swamy knew my penchant to preserve old documents, photos and things.  He brought from his room a few letters that seemed to have been sentimentally preserved by him, all his life.  His eyes had moistened and was filled with emotion as he told me the gist of its contents and handed them over.  He was 92 at this time and his memory was still very sharp, as ever, but he was becoming physically weaker.  He had progressively weakened in memory and body on my two subsequent visits.  

The FOUR letters were written by Mylar Rao to Srikantaiah [Ayya].  Here is the first one, an invitation to send his wife Gowramma for delivery - the child who was to be born was our Swamy!  Letter dated 3.9.1913. 
Quote from page 3 and 4. "Your wife seems to be five or six months advanced in pregnancy.  I shall be very glad if you will send her for accouchement [period of childbirth].  Pathu's confinement will have been over by that time."  In this house, many childbirths have taken place, even of distant relatives, thanks to the joint family system and the unquestionable "large-heartedness" of Mylar Rao.  He was so humane and respected by all, for he himself had risen through very difficult times, with his elder brother.  The 'confinement room' was very busy and there was no shortage of ladies to attend!

In the second letter dated 21.9.1913, he writes when to send her.

Quote from page 1: "I shall write to you after the delivery of Pathamma and then you may send Gowramma.  It is not likely that Pathu's delivery will be long delayed.  It is expected before Dasara."

It appears from this letter of 1926 that young Swamy was having some health problems.

Quote, Line 12: "I have come to look on your boy as one of my own sons and it will give me some peace of mind, if you will be writing to me now and again as to how he and all the rest of you are doing.  The last letter we had was from your wife and it told us that he had another attack when playing with his brother.  Dr.B.Nanjappa will be coming to Tumkur in a few days.  You will do well, I think, to consult him and put the boy under his treatment for some time. 
"The boy took only a few things from here as he expected to come back and I do not know if he has sufficient clothing even. His headmaster told me that if he loses this term, he will lose this year.  This does not matter.  Let him take complete rest and recover and he may join the school next year."

Letter of 1935, gives suggestions to Swamy's future.  Swamy completes his B.A from Maharaja's College, staying here. 

Quote: Page 1: Now that Swamy has passed the examination, what is the course he is to take next?  It seems to me that he may continue his studies here for another year and pass the M.A. examination and then think about a professional course.  My object in making this suggestion is that he may specialize himself in his optional subjects and complete for the F.C.S or other similar examination.  He is still young and can well afford to spend another year in the Arts course.  I need hardly say that he can stay with me as before and that everyone in the house welcome him."
" I have not been able to know Sivu's result as his number is not known to any of us here." [Sivu was Swamy's brother].

Those letters show why Swamy held them so dear and held our family in such high esteem. It reminds me of a certain quote made by my granduncle Krishnaswamy [Subba Rao's brother] when I was discussing with him in his Bombay house in 1986.  He had said about his father Mylar Rao and the family "Service to others is in the family."  No wonder our house was the 'boarding and lodging' to many relatives, both close and distant, without discrimination. 

My grandfather Subba Rao's account book mention 'Swamy', 1926.  Guess how old was Swamy now?  There are many entries like this, giving one rupee to him.  There is one entry 'Swamy Rly. Ticket  One rupee'.

Swamy was the son of my grandfather's grandfather's sister's grandson!  Never mind the confusion! 

Maharaja's College's University Union, 1930.  Swamy is standing back row, centre [white cap].  To his left is C.B.Jaya Rao, who was his dear friend.  KM Subba Rao is seated third from right. 
Click on picture to read names.

Picture from about 1930. Maharaja's College, Mysore where Swamy did his B.A.
Swamy is standing middle row, extreme left, with white cap.  My grandfather KM Subba Rao is seated third from right.  A.N.Murthy Rao is also seated right, next to the Prof. V.L.D'Souza[garland on] and my great grandfather K Mylar Rao is to his left. To his left is Prof. J.C.Rollo, Principal - all noted personalities.  I know not what the occasion was. 

This was at Swamy's grandson's wedding in 2007 or so. He is seated in the centre as his close relative Chintamani speaks to him, as his wife Seethamma smiles for the photo. I got this photo specially taken and got from Swamy's son.

The last I met him was about a year before his death.  On this visit, I found his once sharp memory had waned so much that it required to mention Mylar Rao's name to ring a bell in his mind to identify me.  It did, but it was very difficult.  Natural ageing had got the better of him. 

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