For Sir MV's kin, he is still a guiding light
He dreamt of an industrialised India. His pioneering projects scripted the beginnings of industrialisation in the country. His career as an engineer became synonymous with his name.
On the occasion of the 153rd birth anniversary of Sir M Visvesvaraya (born on September 15, 1860), Deccan Herald takes a peek into his life beyond his career; an affectionate person remembered fondly by his family. It would be impossible to unravel in its entirety the many layers to his enriched personality, in the span of a few paragraphs.
But, some of the letters written by him to his family and the anecdotes shared by his family members give us a glimpse of his charismatic persona.
That he was a stickler to discipline is well known. Be it his work or personal life, he planned things meticulously. In one of his notes (29.07.1918), “India After Return”, referring to his return after a foreign tour, he charts out his plan: To live in Bangalore in a clean bungalow, a small one, neatly maintained (to build one if necessary), to arrange to retain a couple of rooms in a bungalow in Bombay always for residence, to maintain a motor car in Bangalore, to give some time always for thoughts...
He appreciated punctuality, precision and brevity. In one of the letters written by him to his nephew M R Krishnamurthy, he says, “Dear Krishna,... I am glad your letter is concise and businesslike. I am sure in your studies and in all your activities you will show energy (that is, industry), ambition, discipline and character.” This nephew of his, was particularly close to Sir MV, as he looked after and stayed with him till his demise.
In another letter, he pours out his affection to ‘Krishna’, as he refers to him, apologising for a delay in replying to his (Krishnamurthy’s) letter. In yet another letter, he advises Krishna to write long letters only if it does not get in the way of his studies. He, however, directs him to write to him at least once a month (copies of the letters and notes are available with this newspaper).
Speaking to Deccan Herald, his daughter-in-law, Shakuntala Krishnamurthy, fondly recalls her stay with Sir MV. When she married Krishnamurthy, she was all of 17 years. Sir MV, was 88. She was amazed at the grand old man without a walking stick and reading without spectacles.
“He would treat me like a child and yet advise me on my responsibilities. He always appreciated everything we did.” Her cherished gift is a watch given to her by Visvesvaraya. This was gifted to her to insist on punctuality. “The breakfast time was 7.30 am. One day, I arrived late by five minutes. The next day he gave me the watch asking me not to be late. He never imposed anything on us but advised us on discipline.”
Affectionate to family
Sir MV did not have children of his own. He had three brothers and two sisters. He was close to his nephews and their children. Whenever any of the grandchildren scored first class in SSLC, he would gift them Rs 100 as a token of appreciation. Once, he got to know that one of his grandchildren, Pandrinath, had cleared SSLC in first class. He invited him for dinner.
“I had to stick to the 8 pm dinner time. Instead, I spent time at an exhibition opposite the city railway station and went to meet grandfather only by 8.45 pm. Grandpa was sitting in his library. He handed me over an envelope.” Pandrinath remembers how Sir MV insisted that he open the envelope before him. When he did, there was only Rs 25 in it. He told him that he cut three quarters of the money because he arrived three quarters of an hour late.
His family members who have heard him recount the story of his poverty in his childhood say that they marvelled at how he would narrate it in good humour. “I used to feel sorry for the hard times he underwent. But he never had any regrets.”
Sir MV was about 10 years old when he was sent to Bangalore for schooling. He stayed in a free hostel meant for the students of his community. Each day in the week, one family in the street would take the responsibility of feeding those in this hostel. Later, he started teaching a child in a family of his acquaintance and managed to raise some money for himself.
Hailing from Mokshagundam village in Andhra Pradesh, his ancestors moved to Chikkaballapur, some to Coimbatore and a few to Kolar. His great grandfather was a priest.
In appreciation of his honest work, the local leaders vested him with the authority of three villages, one of which was Muddenahalli (where Sir MV was born). Before his birth, Sir MV’s father, visited Varanasi and found a shivalingam near the river. Visvesvaraya was named after the deity. Even though, Visvesvaraya himself was not religious, his family has guarded the shivalingam till today.
“I perform puja to it every Monday,” says his grandson Satish Mokshagundam.
Such was his charisma that all those who worked with him stuck with him till the end. Some of the families he financially supported are now well settled. His memory lingers on in the furniture, books and other articles that his family has fondly preserved over the years.