A son’s tribute to Somanna

A son’s tribute to Somanna

Prasanna S Harihar recalls interesting anecdotes from the life of H G Somasekhara Rao, the well-known actor who passed away on November 3

My father H G Somasekhara Rao, pappa as I called him, encouraged me to write. Here is my attempt to write about his celebration of life.

He introduced me to his friends with a witty line, “My first sin!” He treated me as a friend and when I sensed a good mood, I would take the liberty to say, “Yo Somanna, bloody fellow, how are you?” and he would unwrap his day’s experiences.

Pappa had many accomplishments, and his journey culminated in a Karnataka Rajyotsava award in 2015 for his contribution to theatre.

He had always nursed a burning desire to visit Stratford-upon-Avon and see a Shakespearean play.  In 1998, enroute to Houston, Texas, where I stayed with my family, he and my mother planned a stopover in the UK.

At the theatre, it took Herculean effort to silence the Shakespeare in Somanna, who annoyed the audience by delivering the Bard’s lines.

Some among the audience later spoke to him and appreciated his intense involvement in theatre.

Pappa’s interest in America faded on the second day of his visit; he declared it was the dreariest place on earth. 

In the first week, on a visit to an Indian street lined with shops, he went missing, only to be discovered with a ticketing agent, discussing his trip back to India.

We laughed it off over lunch and goaded him to change his perspective. He later enjoyed his travels around the USA and lauded the cleanliness and the upkeep.

Pappa had always had a strong belief in horoscopes and palmistry. At a shopping mall, he took interest in learning about Chinese zodiac signs. He laughed when he heard my wife’s sign was a dog, and filled with pride when mine turned out to be a dragon.

His euphoria fizzled out when it turned out he was also a dog-sign person. Over lunch, we teased him, and he and my wife, sharing the same sign, addressed each other with a “bow-bow.” 

Pappa was the default guide-and-philosopher in family circles. He never sought favours, nor did he throw his weight around to get work done.

He let both his sons grow up with self-belief. A highly spiritual and God-fearing man, his morning began with the recitation of shlokas. He had a deep interest in Vedanta philosophy. 

He read thousands of books and made copious notes.

He thoroughly studied the package inserts that come with modern medicine. Till the last second, his memory remained sharp and his brain active.

Pappa published quite a few books.  He took interest in shaping his granddaughters’ passion for writing when he published ‘Exploration.’  He brought out ‘Suryasmarane’ in memory of his immediate older brother. 

His ‘Matru Smruti’ is in memory of his mother whom he adored, and sister-in-law whom he respected.

More recently, he was working on a collection on his oldest brother, a physicist. These are invaluable gifts he has bequeathed to us.

He lived like a lion, unfettered by societal boundaries. His zeal and zest for life was infectious.

His ability to connect with people and narrate life stories, assimilated over 86 years, was unparalleled.  

He excelled in academics, theatre, literature, cinema and television, with a constant yearning for perfection.

He must now have announced his arrival in the next world in his own style!

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