One question that bothers many of us is whether Badettu Narnappaya lived up to his real potential to become a giant among the community and this becomes all the more relevant when we compare the lives of Madhwa/Shivalli stalwarts of his contemporary time, like Seetharam Achar of Dasaprakash fame or Krishna Bhattar of Woodlands fame. The answer could be yes and no! Yes because he did build a small empire single handedly which was not nurtured by his sons to the extent possible. It could be no if the vast opportunities available in places like Madras, Hyderabad or Mumbai were not recognized by him for real growth. Probably the place he chose, Kerala could be the culprit in his under performance. It must be remembered that the royalty in Kerala (Travancore) was more fascinated (obsessed) with Tamil priests and local Nambudiris than Udipi Brahmins who were at the lowest rung in the ladder of heirarchy. Over all he was able to amass sufficient fortunes for a generation and it should have been the onus on the next generation to build up on the foundation which unfortunately did not happen. But it is a consolation that the 2nd generation members to follow him, at least did not destroy what was earned by the founder.
What really prevented the 2nd gen members to let go many opportunities for building up more assets? Probably there was a paradigm shift in the environment for business in Kerala with communists gaining ground and the labor movements becoming more and more aggressive. One has to recall how many strikes were witnessed in Kerala against capitalists (hoteliers were capitalists) blaming the latter for the exploitation of the labor class. Another factor was the limited ambition that drove the minds of the 2nd gen members which naturally inhibited their asset making instincts. Late Vasudeva, with the Sri Krishna Bhavan Hotel at the center of Quilon could not hold on to it in spite of the help from his two brothers Padmanabha and Gopalakrishna. Similarly Sri Krishna Bhavan at Alleppey remained a one-hotel wonder without any appreciable growth for almost 70 years though some efforts were made by the brothers headed by Subbraya to start a Bus Stand canteen and a hotel in Kayamkulam. Unfortunately both had to be wound up in course of time due to reasons not very clear. When this is viewed against the growth of other Madhwa/Shivalli families in Alleppey, it is just heart breaking! If Bhima family of Jewellers own half the Alleppey to day and have more than 18 jewellery shops in the South worth billions of rupees value, probably it speaks well about the visions of Bhima Bhattar and his sons. What the 2nd gen members of Badettu family could buy, in contrast, was just peanuts compared to this.
Why is that the two flag masts, Sri Krishna Bhavan hotels in Quilon and Alleppey had to be closed for ever when there were at least a dozen 3rd gen male members available to carry the torch forward? Whether one should fault the policy of the 2nd gen members in giving high education to their sons or declining entrepreneurship in the family, the fact still remains that there was not even a single 3rd gen member who could run the restaurant business even half as efficiently as their fathers. While the Quilon venture folded up very early due to crippling labor strike, the Alleppey venture was closed 6 years after the death of the last of the 2nd gen member Venkataramana in the year 2000, solely due to the incompetence, mismanagement, financial irregularities and ignoring family interests by some of the 3rd gen members who had their fingers on the levers of power. The hotel enterprise became "famous" in Alleppey for all wrong reasons, becoming a butt of ridicule in the town, forfeiting all the good name earned during 7 decades of its existence and sooner it is forgotten better it will be for all present Badettu family members.
Considering the present situation, many members of 4th Gen are atoning for the past under performance and it is really a matter of pride for all that about 10% of the descendants of late Narnappaya belonging to 4th gen and 5th gen are keeping the flag of Badettu family flying across the world engaged in high quality professional jobs. Compare this with the latter generation members of Bhima family, where almost all of them are successful business entrepreneurs achieving laurels in their own chosen field of endeavor. In other words if Badettu family members failed to click in business, this lacuna is more than compensated by their high academic and professional achievements in contemporary time. As for future the 6th gen members may even surpass the achievements of their predecessors in the coming years. Probably the old saying that education is ever lasting in life while business fortunes can be wildly with no lasting effect! Hail Narnappaya for spawning a great family with far reaching visions in educating youngsters to achieve excellence in preference to dragging them into hotel business.
Answer to the last Quiz
Mr and Mrs Radhakrishnan ( 3rd Gen member of Venkataramana branch) along with Nagin (4th Gen member of Venkataramana branch) undertook Kailash Yatra in the year 2011. His experiences have been pictorially presented in the Facebook of Vani Radhakrishnan.
Quiz for the present issue
Who is the first Badettu family member who joined Indian Air Force?