When we talk of Amma, where do we begin- so much to say; to treasure ; to imbibe; a lifetime may not be enough!!🙏🙏 If there was a NOBEL to be given away in our extended family, she would be the undisputed recipient. Don’t take my word; just poll across: Dodderi, Ramohalli, Closepet, Nagasandra, Lakshmansandra or for that matter, Matunga to Malur, Ottapalam to Karur!!🤗 Had she been alive, she would have cast her magic on the Javalis as well!!
To say she was multi faceted personality would be an understatement. She was traditional and modern at the same time; blended with the old and the young seamlessly; her interests varied from politics to sports to movies to the stock market- you name it she was game for it ; Why she even played shuttle with us in Hotel Oceanic courts!! For starters, she could name the women PM of Israel, associate Morarji Desai with gold control act, knew who Harshad Mehta was and made friends with the likes of Vasundhara Devi and Sandhya( mother’s to Vijayantimala and Jayalalithaa respectively)👌👌 She was very secular and never hesitated visiting homes of a Khaleel or a Amy Darshan.
No educational background, but took to managing the finances of the hotel like a fish taking to water. She could put the MBA’s to shame-her forte, Finance and Human Resources. It is said that if you take good care of your employees, they would take care of your customers. Amma put this into practice. The waiters/servers of Hotel India- the Srinivas’s and the Ramachandra’s trusted her to manage their savings and when they finally left( on the hotel being closed), she gifted each one of them a huge silver plate with their savings.
No task was too small or difficult for her- she was comfortable getting her hands dirty- buying vegetables for Hotel India in Kotalwal chavadi( wholesale market) or dashing off to Bangalore to collect funds to pay off a financier and save the hotel from being closed the next day- all par for the course!! How well she juggled her household duties with that of the hotel is still a wonder to us and an object lesson in time management for the younger generation.
She was a hard bargainer when it came to shopping and her mental maths was astonishing. She would talk of Carats and Belgian cutting and could hold her own with a diamond merchant. She could reel of names of ‘ English vegetables’, be it Broccoli or a Celery and in the next breath , switch over from making Bisi bele bath to Veg. Kurma; such was her versatility.
Lack of knowledge in English was never an hindrance, on the contrary, she was confident and never diffident. She even travelled all by herself from UK to USA and faced the immigration @ NY singlehandedly –that too in an age when there were very few co-passengers of Indian origin who could have provided her some comfort.
She was the nightingale in the family. While in the 40’s it was Rajanna, Krishnaswamy and her brother Gopalalakrishna, in the 50’s it was Tippu, who came under her wings and care while they completed their education. When Rajanna lost his eldest daughter, Indu in a tragic car accident, she brought all of his family to come and stay with us for over a month and provided succour and emotional support. When she heard that her grandson, Sanjay all of 10 months was sick, she rushed back to Madras and drove from the station to the Railway hospital. She stayed on in the hospital for 3 months till he fully recovered. .Such was her tenacity and will power.
Tippu once said: whoever has not been touched by ‘ Akka’ or been influenced by her are sinners!! She was the embodiment of goodness, doing good and never speaking ill of others. She would often say, it’s not in your hands what others say but how you respond is in your hands. We didn’t have to go to Dr Deepak Chopra to hear these profound words of wisdom. Her favourite saying’ Vedas may lie but not a proverb 🤔. The underlying message being – don’t be dogmatic, be pragmatic 👌👌. When it came to rituals, she knew what was important and what can be dispensed with. She was not obsessed with visiting temples; for her, god did not reside in some holy land but in you! She declined an offer to visit Badri and Kedarnath in a military chopper, courtesy Union Deputy defence minister!!
I like to think her loving, caring and gentle nature came from her father, Srinivasanna, and her modern liberal outlook from her maverick father in law, Narayan Rao!! Today we are reaping her goodness and graciousness.
What she meant to the large legion of her admirers: ‘The akka’ to her siblings and the Closepet clan, final arbiter in family matters, mentor to my aunty Susheela, solace and guide to Rama Rajanna, favourite Ajji to her grandchildren, dodamma, chikamma, Madras Athai, amma to her children and daughters in law and yes simply reverential to all the in-laws and their families. ‘Dairy Krishna’ ( Srikrishna) used to address her as ‘ mother’, such was her aura. She cared for Shobha’s chikappa, Badri, like she would do for her children and he reciprocated in good measure; being at her bedside till her last breath.
The enormity of her greatness and achievements hits you, when you realise, a 3rd std drop out from a remote village in Karnataka, attending school in the 1920’s , with a younger sibling in her arms, only to be told by her teacher: ‘ from tomorrow come with a cradle’!!😜 On the contrary, our achievements with well bred education from leading international universities , and worldly wisdom from the likes of Swami Sivananda to Sadguru, pales in comparison.
In many ways she was ahead of her times and stood head and shoulder above anyone else . A towering personality and an inspiration for future generations. As Shankar said, she is ‘’ one off, they don’t mint it again”. Former ace cricketer, Bishen Bedi commenting on Legendary, Sobers said:’ God must have created him in his spare time’ ; I believe so of amma!!.🙏🙏 A true Bharat Ratna in our family.
May Amma’s benevolence be our guiding spirit always.