Making a difference

Last Updated : 13 May 2013, 16:38 IST

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Bangalore’s B K Mariappa’s hostel is celebrating its centenary year. The hostel, which was started by Mariappa, a young businessman from Nagarthpet, has grown from strength to strength. By way of giving back to society, the old boys of the hostel plan to start an old-age home too.          

Call it providence or foresight. Nearly 100 years ago, it led to the birth of an institution that has fed and nurtured hundreds of students and helped them carve a niche for themselves in society. Many would not have been what they are now, but for the support and free boarding and lodging at B K Mariappa’s hostel, located on the third main road in Bangalore’s Chamarajpet.

It was on March 4, 1914, when B K Mariappa, just 35 years old and a rich businessman residing in Nagarthpet in Bangalore, decided to write a will. He formalised what he was doing at home — feeding poor students to help them complete their education. He decided to donate property — a princely sum of Rs 1.4 lakh at that time. The same will was executed four days later. On March 12, he died though he had no visible signs of any health problem.

Thus began the story of Mariappa’s hostel. The will was clear cut and was definitely way ahead of its time when community hostels were few and far between. According to the will, 45 students were to be offered free boarding and lodging — one-third from his community (Nagartha-Lingayat), one-third from the Brahmin community and the remaining from other communities.

A centenary is a milestone for any institution. It is more important and meaningful when it is a charitable trust that is functioning smoothly, without any controversies. The trust had a solid foundation, laid by H Ramaiah, who was one of the uncles of statesman-engineer Sir M Visvesvaraya. Mariappa had vested the powers of executing his will to his trusted lieutenant Ramaiah. “There were some initial problems, which were soon overcome. The 1.25-acre plot was bought by paying a whopping Rs 76,000 back then. The hostel started functioning in 1921,” Managing Trustee N Puttarudra said.

The hostel can be proud of its list of alumni, which includes Bangalore University former vice chancellor H Narasimaiah, Central Water Commission former chairman Y G Krishnamurthy, Rajasthan Public Service Commission former chairman Adavieppa, T R Ramanna, who worked with Unesco, and many others. “Many of our students, mostly doctors and engineers, have been working abroad,” 87-year-old Puttarudra, a former student of the hostel and retired superintending engineer from KEB, said. It has also produced one IAS officer. Late H Narasimaiah, noted educationist, had, on many occasions, pointed out that his life could have gone topsy-turvy but for Mariappa’s hostel. Interestingly, whether due to goodwill or the image of the hostel, scores of people who have not availed any benefit from the institution, have also generously contributed to its growth.

Landmarks along the way

The first major milestone in the history of the hostel was the formation of the Old Boys’ Association in 1946 to mark the silver jubilee of the commencement of the hostel. The association has been playing an active role in mobilising more resources for the functioning of the hostel and better facilities for students.

In the 1990s, trustees discussed the idea of starting a girls’ hostel as there was a growing need for it. Though they aimed to make a start at the time of the hostel’s platinum jubilee, they couldn’t quite meet their objective by then. This didn’t deter them, though. They pursued the idea and started the hostel in a small way in a rented building with just nine girls, near the main hostel.

What followed was a dream-come-true for the trustees. One of the founder directors of Infosys, K Dinesh, an old student of the hostel, who had participated in the platinum jubilee celebrations, donated Rs 25,000 for the girls’ hostel. Some time later, he offered a plot for the hostel, but that was turned out because of logistic reasons. An undeterred Dinesh funded the construction of a modern hostel in Chamarajpet, about a km away from the boys’ hostel.

“The entire expenditure running into over Rs one crore was borne by Dinesh, whose father had also studied in the hostel,” Puttarudra said. Now, it houses 45 students with some of the finest facilities.

Time to give back

To mark the centenary, the trustees, who are old students of the hostel, wanted to give back to society and make a difference. They decided to start a free old-age home, to help senior citizens who did not have the support an care of their families or children. One of the old boys has donated half an acre of land near Jala village on the way to the international airport. “We will be shortly calling for tenders for the building, estimated to cost Rs 1.5 crore. We have funds to start the building and it should take off shortly,” Puttarudra said.

Initially, the old-age home will have facilities for 20 people and there’s provision for expansion.
The hostels get students from all parts of Karnataka and even from neighbouring Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Selection is based on merit and economic  criteria. They are provided with food and special meals during festivals. They have a reasonably good library as well.
“We encourage a lot of activities like debates and lecture programmes. Students are encouraged to take up ‘shramadan’ and they buy fresh vegetables for the hostel from the market,” he added.

Former Chief Justice of India M N Venkatachaliah, while flagging off the centenary celebrations, said the services of the hostel should continue for many more years. And rightly so, for, the hostel is bound to transform the lives of hundreds of students in the years to come.

Published 13 May 2013, 16:38 IST

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