Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Childhood follies and pranks can be very amusing when one recollects the same after decades of aging. It is rightly said that living with children, especially aged between  1 and 5 years can be quite exciting provided one is willing to be alert 24 hours a day to protect them from grievous injuries. The thrills and pains of rearing kids are fully comprehended by people when they grow enough to become grand parents. Some of the information I am sharing here in this Blog piece pertains to my own stupid childhood which I can recall with nostalgia.

I was supposed to be a non-serious kid during my early childhood with practically no interest in learning. My father, to me at that time was a "tyrant" though it took almost 5 decades for me to fully appreciate his noble intentions. Serious schooling was indeed a heart breaking effort and any excuse was good enough to skulk the classes. Realizing that I would not become some body in life about which parents could be proud of, father invariably threatened me with stopping the schooling and taking me to the hotel for grinding batter for idli, vada and dosa! It was in this context the idea of tuition was thought about and I had to be restrained every day in the evening for "coaching" by the tutor. Though there were good text books which I was supposed to read, lazy as I am it never occurred to me that reading is necessary at all. Every day the tutor would give a small home work and one day he asked me to read some thing about Indian history. Next day he asked me a question which I thought very simple viz who rules the world? Without battling an eye lid I answered that our Moopathi ( the servant maid) who comes every morning and sweeps the front of the house is the one who rules the world! Probably I got mixed up between ruling and sweeping prompting me to shoot the answer. Though it provoked laughter at that time, my coaching sessions became more and more rigorous as a result of the stupid answer.

Being a kid of boundless energy playing when not sleeping was the main avocation. During the early childhood during one of my tree climbing activities I fell down inflicting a deep wound on my forehead which after healing created a permanent scar. What is interesting was not getting wounded but my subsequent action in stuffing the deep wound with sand to hide from the parents and getting into the bed without telling any one. It was only later that they discovered that I had a wound with oozing blood for which necessary medical treatment was given. In one way it was a lucky incident because for almost 70 years my permanent identification mark has been this scar!

Growing in a house surrounded by schools of all colors and hues probably would inculcate among the children some interest in studying. Alas that was the last thing in my mind. Playing games like Vattu Kali, Andi Kali, Kuttiyum Koum, Chati Kutu with friends was the top priority. The big compound of S D V school in front of our home at Alleppey was a great place for playing all sorts of games with a fulfledged foot ball ground. Though there was a gate which invariably was locked most of the time our usual route is climbing over the wall and jumbing down about 5 feet to gather near the trees for spending the time in exciting local games. One of my friends used to help me in Andi Kali which uses raw unshelled cashewnuts as the main playing material and every one playing this game required a master Cashewnut ( known locally as Vakkan) of big size with which the scoring has to be done. After throwing the nuts into a small hole on the ground some 5 ft away, the player has to take aim at the particular one shown by his opponent and if it is hit all the nuts can be taken by the winner. The Master nut is some time prepared specially by replacing the kernel inside with lead to make it heavy and for hitting the nut precisely. My friend must have supplied me at least about about two dozen such master nuts for which I had to shell out heavily! Some times this game is played with tamarind fruit seed also. Vattu kali is played using glass marbles which are used to hit the opponents marble using deft fingers!

One of the amusing incidents I still remember was the visit of Pangal Seshagiri Rao to Alleppey to see my sister Vishala as a prospective bride. The old house at Thondankulangara could be accessed during rainy season only through a small channel overflowing with water and the bridegroom's party coming all the way from Madras had to wade through about 2 ft deep water before arriving at the house. After entering the house Dr Seshagiri Rao leaned on one of the wooden pillars in the main hall and it was a terrible sight to see the pillar getting loosened from its fittings ending up in his hands! It was a miracle, in spite of such a welcome, he was bowled over by the "girl" agreeing to marry her. Rest is history! This marriage gave me an opportunity to visit Madras where the wedding was organized. Being totally ignorant of Kannada language, speaking as well as writing, going to the house of Pangal Sreenivasa Rao (father of Dr Seshagiri Rao) was a nightmare but eventually picked up little bit of conversational Kannada. Is it not surprising that to day Tulu appears to be the language even Kannada speaking people want to talk and providentially picking up Tulu from us has helped our Bhava to settle comfortably in Paniyur and the Kannada I picked up from his family during my many visits helped me to settle down in Mysore! The well maintained Fiat car of our Bhava was some thing we all yearned to get in as he was the first one among our relations to own a car! To day those who do not own a car in Badettu family are very few! Pangal Vadiraja Rao, a renowned physician, Pangal Krishna Rao, a reputed veterinary surgeon, late Pangal Govinda Rao, a senior bank official and their spouses are extra ordinary people, with impeccable credentials. My frequent visits to Kombattu Vittal Rao, another remarkable personality who married my second sister Sunanda can be the subject matter of another story for another time!

Coming back to my school days, it was with great pride I took my slate after one of my examinations with the marks scored by me to father imagining that I did very well. I was shocked when I got a spanking in stead of appreciation! It turned out that my teacher wrote down my single digit marks, 5 out of 100 in bold, spreading the whole slate which I thought was very good! This trend continued till the SSLC though I never was retained in any class during my school days. My friends used to tease me saying that I got pass because I supplied the teachers with Vada from our hotel during examination time! It was only after the arrival of Seena, my cousin from Padubidri with whom I went to S D College for 4 years I got the competitive spirit in learning and I was not far behind him in studies there after. Probably my 63% marks in B.Sc as against 65% for Seena was indeed notable considering my previous track record. In a twist of fate, Seena ended up in Banarese Hindu University doing his M.Sc while I, after failing to get admission there, served as a demonstrator in S D College for one year. As luck would have it I got admission in Department of Chemical Technology, Mantunga, Bombay for B.Sc (Tech) in foods, eventually obtaining my Ph.D in the same subject. Seena probably should get some credit for what I am to day while late Jayaram Bhaya was my mentor while in Bombay.

My poori loving days are interesting indeed but cannot be described here for want of space. While I loved poori-masala, Vedavyas was a masala dosa worshipper and my father was a vada loving person their dedication to their chosen food items being almost fanatic! Hearing about my love for 'eacha mithai" (fly sweet, so called because of the flies swarming the container), my pretha fear, "cheating" the Jayalakshmi annachi, taking regularly changes from my father's shirt pocket or the hotel cash for meeting my daily "obligations", fight with mother for avoiding eating "Kanji", "Gulla Bajji", "Padippe Mudde", my near drowning in Mullakkal pond, my RSS DAYS etc are some thing on which I must write one day!

Answer to the last Quiz (B-1034)

Alleppey Venkatraya ( my father) might probably the only person belonging to second generation who traveled all over the country including Srinagar, Haridwar, Kedarnath, Badrinath, Varanasi, Budda Gaya, Konarak Temple, Kolkatta, Delhi, Bombay, Madras, Rameshwaram in 1986 accompanied by me to fulfill one of his wishes. At the age of 78 he showed better grittiness, courage and stamina than me, 32 years younger to him!

Quiz for the current issue of the Blog

Has any one heard of a name Athulya who is a fourth generation descendant of Badettu family who is a highly accomplished dancer with no one to rival her? Look for further info about her in the next issue.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Some youngsters to day seem to have very low opinion about the institution of marriage, considered sacred by out forefathers. Probably they may have their own logical reasons to view marriages as being organized during early days, which were formal, ritualistic and practicing caste rigidity, as impractical and unacceptable. It pains many old generation and old fashioned people like me to see the sacredness of marriage being progressively diluted due to many reasons, some stupid and others valid. Unfortunately our seers have not moved with time and are slow to respond to modern developments and highly interactive nature of society to day. It is no wonder that the new generation descendants are asking inconvenient questions to which we have no logical answers to provide!. Modern education has instilled a sense of self respect and empowerment to women which were denied to them for centuries. We respect and worship Goddess Durga but consider our own women folks as subservient to the interests of the dominant males! Wailing about shortage of brides does not carry us any where and this is the time for deep introspection for self correction and change our society into an equitable one with mutual accommodation and appreciation, irrespective of gender. The guiding principle in life should be that "bow before knowledge and prostrate before a person if he or she is more knowledgeable than you". I am reproducing below an incisive article which appeared recently which is very relevant to most nucleus families to day.  

"N Gopal Rao, headmaster of the Vivekananda High School in Sullia, Karnataka, has an interesting hobby. He loves scanning the matrimonial advertisements in newspapers. Sometime ago, he got intrigued by an ad in Vijaya Karnataka. It was inserted by a Bangalore-based Brahmin photographer looking for a bride. As the ad started reappearing regularly, Rao continued to keep a tab on it. It's been two years now, but the search is still on. Across Karnataka, lower middle-class Brahmins in traditional occupations like cooking and farming arefinding it difficult to get a bride. The prospective brides, who are mostly well-educated, prefer upwardly-mobile bridegrooms with modern education, urban lifestyle and high income. The boys have now started looking beyond the borders of Karnataka, sometimes as far as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jammu and Kashmir, in search of brides".

"M.G. Sathyanarayana, director of the Kashyap Seva Kendra, a Brahmin organisation, is spearheading the campaign of finding brides from north India. He hit upon the idea in 2007, after a visit to Rohtak, Haryana, where he had met several Kashmiri Pandits. The National Capital Region is home to more than 1,00,000 displaced Kashmiri Brahmins. Though he approached the Pandit leaders with the profiles of nearly 20 Kannada bridegrooms, Sathyanarayana was asked to wait till January 2013. But, in February 2012, hundreds of Pandits returned to Kashmir, after the government promised that their assets and properties would be returned. The government also offered them financial assistance for acquiring a house, free transit accommodation, a waiver of interest on loans and 15,000 jobs. But the government is yet to deliver on these promises. The fate of Sathyanarayana's bachelors now depends on whether these Pandits decide to return to Delhi or prefer to stay on in Kashmir". 

'Since the Pandits remain undecided, Sathyanarayana travelled to Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand in September in search of prospective brides. He also placed matrimonial ads in three regional newspapers, but received only a handful of responses. He even sent a delegation to Assam to scout for eligible girls, who were orphaned by the riots. Though the inter-regional alliances can be hampered by language barriers and differences in culture and lifestyle, Sathyanarayana argues that the north Indian families are not averse to sending their daughters to Karnataka. The relatively high standards of living and the absence of dowry are big attractions. But since this is the first time that such a social experiment is being attempted, the Kashyap Seva Kendra is taking all precautions. They are collecting the birth and medical certificates and educational records of all the girls and boys. They will also be closely monitoring the couples for the first two years of their marriage".

"There are several reasons for the scarcity of the brides. The skewed sex ratio is the primary culprit. According to the 2011 census, there are only 968 girls for every 1,000 boys in Karnataka, and this ratio is even more skewed among the Brahmins. The socio-cultural and economic norms prevalent among the Karnataka Brahmins have accentuated the crisis. "The predominant feature of the Kannada Brahmins has been their migration from rural to urban areas and their ability to turn agrarian capital into non-agrarian capital and thereby establish their dominance over the knowledge economy, be it in education, bureaucracy or law," says Ramesh Bairy, professor of sociology at IIT Bombay. "The Brahmins took up new spaces that opened up in the economy. However, a section of them, like the Havyakas, whose primary investment was in plantation cropping, decided to stay back and not partake in the modernisation wave. Concomitant to this was the education of the girl child, with the establishment of good colleges, even in the interiors." 

"Notably, the scarcity of brides is more common among four sub-castes of the Karnataka Brahmins, who trace their origins to north India: Shivalli, Havyaka, Karhade and Chitpavan. The Havyakas, for example, claim that they were brought to Karnataka around the end of the 3rd century AD from Uttar Pradesh by the efforts of the Brahmin king Mayooravarma. "If a Brahmin couple has a son and a daughter, they will make the son a priest, and educate the daughter. Because of this, girls are better educated and they demand a bridegroom with equal education," says Jitendra Bhat, a journalist from Mangalore, who has been searching for a bride for quite sometime now. Venkataramacharya, a Brahmin who has been running a marriage bureau in Udupi for three decades, says he started noticing a paucity of brides from the mid-80s. The cooks and priests might earn up to Rs. 60,000 a month, but the girls consider it demeaning to be married to them. They are also unwilling to settle in villages or stay with joint families. "Earlier, the preference was for sons, but now, Brahmin families are praying for daughters," says Venkataramacharya. "If I could do it again, I would still become a cook. But I wish Brahmin families would educate their daughters about our culture and traditions so that they would not be ashamed to be married to us," said 38-year-old Gopal Bhat from Borkatte, who now rests his hopes with the Kashyap Seva Kendra, after 
ads and brokers failed to find him a bride". 

"Some exasperated boys now seem to be amenable to the idea of seeking brides from other castes. Their only condition is that the girl should be a vegetarian. Says 37-year-old N.R. Anand, a Smartha Brahmin from Mysore, "For me, caste was never a priority while searching for a bride. But it is important for the older generation. Today, heads of mutts and priests themselves are advocating inter-caste marriage because of which there is a shift in the rigid principles of our fathers and grandfathers." Anand started searching for a bride seven years ago. He is now looking for an alliance from the Gowda community. He is encouraged by the fact that there was a precedent of inter-caste marriage in his family.  While some mutts have openly endorsed inter-caste marriages, others staunchly refuse to do so. "Brahmins have a unique culture and tradition which will be diluted by inter-caste marriages," says Shri Visvesha Theertha Swami of the Pejawar Mutt. Others like Shri Laxmivara Theertha Swami of the Shirur Mutt have adopted a milder stance: "The times are changing and we have to change with them. Maintaining purity of castes might not be feasible in the future." In his famous book The Annihilation of Caste, B.R. Ambedkar advocated inter-caste marriages for eradicating caste system from India. Today, the Karnataka Brahmins are following his advice. May be 'not by choice', but by the 'lack of it'."

Is it not an irony of history ( or mythology?) that Shivalli Brahmans who were supposed to have been brought from Ahichatra area ( now in Bareilly district of Uttar Pradesh) by the great Kadamba King Mayura Sharma, a Brahman himself, to purify his kingdom through brahminic rituals and worshiping practices, are now trying to reach out to the North for sustaining their Kula through marriage alliances? Whether the Ashtamuta Swamijis condescend or not there appears to be no going back on this new trend because of practical compulsions. A moot question that will remain unanswered is whether there will ever be a union of old traditions and new developments in the society which only can prevent conflict of minds which other wise can accentuate with each passing generation! Unless the Ashtamuts make a conscious effort for such a reconciliation and recalibration it is a question of time before Shivalli Brahmans become an extinct species in this planet!   

I am not sure as to how many parents in Badettu family umbrella are facing problems in finding peace and tranquility through marrying of their sons and daughters against the background of the above article. Many parents feel that their responsibility on earth is over once they make enormous sacrifice to educate and settle their sons and daughters comfortably in life and then recede to the background without being a drag on their off springs. But unlike our forefathers to day.s children have their own mind, aspirations and ideals which may be totally different from that of the parents. Best course to day is to work hard till children are well educated and self supporting before conceding them their right to do what they want. Providing advice, guidance and help can only be attempted, if they are sought. The old type perception that children are investment for future of the parents is no more valid under to day's environment and perpetuating such hopes would end up in disappointment, strained relations and frustration which can be easily avoided.

History has shown us one thing, that is the relatively stable family life most of our earlier generation people had and divorces were an unheard thing, probably due to many reasons but that is a fact. Whether one marries as per the established system of horoscope matching or by mutual family appreciation, enormous efforts have been made by the newly wedded couples to understand, adjust, forgive, forget, share the grief and happiness together and make the marriage a success. According to my limited understanding, family to family bonding is the true foundation stone for a successful marriage. I cannot imagine a life without my parents or my wife's parents to whom I invariably turned to when in distress and if I am playing the same role our parents did 5 decades ago, it is because of what I learned from them during my early periods of married life. Given an opportunity again I will do the same thing by actively seeking and listening to the elders about what they advice. 


Friday, March 8, 2013


Naming ceremony (namakarana) is an important phase of one's life and along with "seemantha" the soon-to-become mother undergoes in her husband's home form the twin events for a new family. Is it not interesting that practically every religion has the naming ceremony in one form or the other and it is often said that the "given" name becomes the standard identity for any person through out life. Naming also differentiates humans from animals though these days even domestic animals/pets are given a variety of names to which surprisingly they respond also. It is another matter that in many western countries the hospital where the child is delivered insists on an instant name for creating the necessary documents immediately after the new child is born. Legal necessity for registering new births with local bodies also calls for a name to be assigned to the child. Probably this could be one of the reasons why we see lot of new types and varieties of names are nowadays given to children, some of them difficult to even pronounce and remember.

According to the system we follow among Madhwa community, a new born child is given three names on the eleventh day or any other auspicious day decided by elders and each name given has a significance. One of the three names should be synonymous with the star when the child was born, second one synonymous with the Kuladevaru and the third one a common name by which the child is to be called through out his/her life. I doubt whether many of us remember our other two names given to us during the christening time. At least I am not aware of the same! Only recently this aspect aroused my curiosity when my last two grandchildren were to be named. Mitra and Kushi, Smita's children were christened as per Kodagu traditional practices and their names were later told to me as Mitra Poonacha Chimmanda and Kushi Kamini Chimmanda. Here the first name is the commonly called one while the second one may be as per the advice of the elders, the third being their family name. Look at to day's practices! There is no nakshathra, no kuladevaru attached to your name! 

Have you ever heard of a person by name Padubidri V Rao belonging to our family? He is none other than our present "Karanavar" of Badettu family Dr P Vedavyasa Rao! Similarly I was known to many as Venkatrao H Potty and my father must be wondering whether I was trying to usurp his name and glory! Take the case of Vittala and shockingly he is Narayanappa Vittala! Sreenivasa, son of Ananthrama chikkappa has no initial at all! BTH Govinda Rao is officially called Badettu Govinda Rao and he was so proud of Badettu family name that there is even a restaurant in Sarovar Hotel in Ernakulam by that name! Our life time name identity happens at a most critical juncture during our life time when some one escorts us, crying all over, to the much dreaded school which signifies that our "grachara" is about to start and spending happy times at home eating, playing and enjoying is about to be over! Once the admission process starts those who take us to the school invariably have no clue regarding who we are except that we are the children of such and such father and blurts out information which may or may not be accurate. 

I wonder how many among us have read the famous book by Maneka Gandhi providing hundreds of names with their meaning? I am sure many of us must have taken appealing names from her book while considering the naming of our children. A stark difference between our old system of naming and the present one is that most names given to us were those of Gods or Goddesses either singly or in combinations for which there is no shortage in Hindu religion. Other names like Kamala, Jalaja, Vanaja, Raja, Guru, Mallika, Champaka, Gulabi, Geetha, Maya, Vasanthi, Tulasi, Ganga, Yamuna, Kaveri, Sheila, Sundari etc, most of them associated with nature, are also given. Can it be that this system allows the parents to utter the names of God frequently every day without actually praying as per the custom, a painless process of earning punya!  

Have you ever thought about the "pet" names used by our family to call us? This is a very interesting area of inquisitive thinking. There are umpteen number of such names in Badettur family also. Nanu is the pet name of Narnappaya and he is better recognized by his contemporary fellow Padubidrians. Then we have names like Ginda, Gopa, Padda, Apri, Chachu, Bangaru, Nandi, Easha, Gidha, Vicha, Subba, Kicha, Seena, Cheeya, Chetha, Appukutta, Chachi and a few others commonly used. In my own family I use Gubi, Anji, Nichu, Bhavu, Palli, Appu and Ammu!  is it not terribly complicated to remember who is who? That is the essence of life! 

Among Christians, names are repeated over generations by affixing Roman numbers after the name. Also in vogue was affixing the word junior to the names of the ancestors. We also have a system of using same names by which our ancestors were known. Take for example the name Vasudeva the second generation patriarch in Badettu family. As far as we know the name of the father of Narnappaya was also Vasudeva. Similarly Venkatramana, the name of another second generation patriarch was a repetition of the name of Narnappaya's grand father! Coming to third generation, we have a Narayana in Kollam, last son of Vasudeva which is repetition of that of our great Ajja. Thinking about it those of us who regularly follow the sharda practice every year in memory of our mothers and fathers may not be realizing that this system provides us with a mechanism to remember all our ancestors at least once in an year. Is this not remarkable? It is another matter that many of us do not have correct information about all the relatives who passed away before us in whose name we have to do tharpana. Our family with over 700 members will find it increasingly difficult to name our ancestors if a conscious effort is not made collectively to perpetuate their names through accurate documentation. Who will come forward to do this, is a million dollar question! 

Coming to the practice of using our fathers' name following our given name is truly an anachronism of history because according to me the mother also deserves a mention for the trauma of conceiving and giving birth. Probably I would have preferred to be known as Hariharan Kaveri Venktraya rather rather than Venkatrao Hariharan Potty! There is a Malayalam picture by the title Baba Kalyani in which Mohanlal says that he is proud of using the name of his mother Kalyani because of his appreciation of her sacrifice. Another tradition that defies logic is why after marriage the newly wedded bride has to change her name at all. Is it not ridiculous that some mother-in-laws even rename the newly brought bride forcing her to forget her own family given name by which she was identified before marriage for the rest of her life! Why can not she retain her original name? Probably I may be ostracized for my provoking thought by many conservatives but is it not logical? This argument is all the more relevance in to day's world where both husband and wife are earning members of the family sharing their happiness and grief on equal terms. From practical point of view also one set of names through out life make it easy for retaining the identification ans satisfying all legal requirements.

Other day some one asked me why any body should have a name at all? A truly significant question because more than the name what one needs is the AADHAR number or Election Commission Card or the Ration Card to be recognized by most of the government agencies which do not do business with unless you have the necessary photo identity! Even to day in the defense forces and police community one is known and called by number! Many people do not like the names given by their parents and change them through public announcements and legal proceedings. Don't we know that Yeddyurappa and Jayalalitha who mutilated their original names by changing the spelling slightly on the advice of their astrologers! In spite of all said and done, human beings will never change the existing naming practices come what may, simply because the name recognition is still a social necessity, though it has lost much of its relevance long ago!  

Answer to the last Quiz

The one and the only popularly known LN, aka L N Potty aka Lakshminrayanan Potty ( Vasudeva Doddappa's first son-in-law) is the person I had in mind. He must be in his mid eighties  now and it is quite some time since I ave seen him, an unpardonable lapse on my part. He was a popular teacher and many of our third generation members were taught by him in Kollam. Besides he is a muli talented person with fluency in many languages, an accomplished musician, a small time politician operating only in Kollam town area, an editor, poet and has many other accomplishments to his credit. Let us all wish him good health and a few more years of useful life.

Quiz for the current issue

Who among the second generation members of Badettu family had traveled from Kashmir to Kanyakumari?  


Monday, March 4, 2013


Venkatraya ( my father) was the third son of Badettu Narnappaya and he was indeed an enigmatic character whose mind no one, even his own wife, was able to read during his life time. He was supposed to have completed the intermediate course of olden days and worked for some time with a coir manufacturing English firm, called Darahsmail in Alleppey. During the later years of Narnappaya in Kerala, he was drawn into hotel business and assumed an important management role in running the grand old hotel Sri Krishna Bhavan along with two of his brothers Subbraya and Ananthrama. As described earlier he was some what dominant, probably being a permanent resident staying at Alleppey year round with relatively fluent in English and Malayalam so necessary to conduct business in Kerala at that time. He looked after the accounts, taxation matters, local purchases, labor management and public relations. His more than 65 years of life in Alleppey did make him some one with a tall stature and senior personality commanding respect from Madhwa community in the area, political classes and business leaders. Being a man of few words, many of his friends and well wishers admired him because of his "weakness" for helping all and sundry whether deserving or not.

Out of his 11 children, 6 were males and 5 were females ( one deceased early in life), all of them are comfortably settled in Alleppey, Mysore, Mangalore, Bangalore and Madras. It is a tribute to his vision that he made most of his children at least college graduates giving them opportunities to choose their life line without being influenced by him or the established hotel business. Being a strict patriarch, his children could never understand his mind and the reservoir of affection he had for each one of them during his life time. As a youngster and being the first son in the family, I could never understand his relationship with his wife (my mother) or with his brothers and during my stay in Alleppey from 1941 to 1961, I must have seen him talking to his father or brothers, not more than a couple of times! A man of few words with a soft mind and hard exteriors, he had a voracious appetite for work and probably he was the main pillar upon which the edifice of Alleppey Sri Krishna Bhavan was built and sustained.

How he came to marry Kaveri of Kande family is not clear though this family was once prosperous in Padubidri with a doctor, lawyer and an air force personnel being some of the members. One and the only female member in that family, Kaveri was brought to Badettu family as the third daughter in law by Narnappaya and it is another matter that almost all members of this once renowned family have disappeared into history unsung! Probably one may attribute this to past curses about which I know nothing. Two of my uncles served in Alleppey but did not prosper and to day their successor families are leading pedestrian lives in Madras, Alleppey and Ernakulam. Whether Venkatraya could have been more accommodating to uplift them is some thing I cannot judge at this point of time. But it could be too much to have expected during those days "escort like service" from early generation members like Venkatraya because they themselves were products of hard working and self established doyens. Of course, by to day's standards parents like Venkatraya would be an anachronism because of the extra ordinary care taken by modern day parents to play up to the whims and fancies of their kids, leaving nothing to chance! How many parents can get a sound sleep when examinations are announced for their kids? Practically none because they wish to escort their kids to achieve incredible success and not to be left behind in this crazy world where competition is the name of the game!   

According to the words of some observers he was a "schemy" person, apparently being unsympathetic to his brothers and manipulated to edge them out from business by paying small compensation during nineteen seventies for bringing in his own family members into the business. Of all the innuendos hurled at him, harshest was that he did not buy the hotel property till his brothers were with him though it was offered several times by the original owners but managed to acquire the property all of a sudden after he became the sole owner of the hotel. This conveniently obscures the fact the there was a gap of more than 10 years between the exit of his brothers from business for family reasons and acquisition of the property. As some one involved in efforts to buy the property I can swear by God that left to him self the property would never have been purchased but for the generous help of BTH Govinda Rao, Narayana Bhattar of Bhima & Brother and liberal loans from Nedungadi Bank! The property had to be bought because it was sold to some one in Dubai by its owner, taking advance and promising to vacate the tenants (us) in 6 months' time. It was because of the benevolence of BTH Govinda Rao who came to know about the proposed sale to the Dubai businessman and who pressurized Venkatraya to try to buy the same! It was provident, luck, God's grace and ancestors' blessing that he was able to acquire the property with great reluctance. Judgement about any machination on the part of Venkatraya will have to be left to history. As for his children like me there is neither rancor nor remorse about what transpired four decades ago.

The relatively uninterested stake Venkatraya had in amassing wealth is reflected by his poor judgement on property purchase as well as lack of motivation in looking after what he acquired during his life time. The Thondankulangara property which was a lease from the nearby temple was in the name of Venkatraya and Subbraya and the title came relatively late in his life. After Subbraya wanted to leave Alleppey once for all, he was paid compensation for his share though I do not know how much was paid. At least I know that both Subbraya and Ananthrama had no rancor or ill will against their brother on this score. With earnings from the hotel Subbraya and Ananthrama had also acquired a property in Pazhaveedu area in Alleppey which was sold to Padmanabha Bhattar of Bhima & Brother in haste before migrating back to Mangalore. Even the Thondankulangara property was not looked after properly till his wife took interest in fencing, fertilizing, coconut harvesting etc and to day if the neighbors had usurped almost 10% of the land through devious means, there is none to be blamed except Venkatraya! Blaming such a person for selfishness may be scandalous at the least!

One of the important attributes of Venkatraya and his wife Kaveri which is not well known to members of fourth and subsequent generations of members of Badettu family is their extra ordinary kindness to children other than their own! While during nineteen fifties the three Rams, Sethu, Jay and Raghu dominated the Alleppey household, it was the trio of Vedavyas, Vittal and Seena who provided the backbone to the house during sixties. In fact Vedavyasa and Vittala knew Venkatraya better than what they knew about their own parents! Similarly these two cousins knew what Venkatraya had up in his mind than his own children! Can any one believe Venkatraya writing his will with the help of Vittala in 1987 while every one else had no idea about it till after the death of the former?! If Vedavyasa, Vittala and Seena had become somebody in life, probably a small portion of the credit must be due to Venkatraya and Kaveri! This is not to belittle the extraordinarily endowed personality of these cousins and their achievements in life which were hard earned. Is it not a reflection of the love and affection of Vedavyasa and Vittala towards the Venkatraya family that both of them chose eventually to settle down in Alleppey itself and made their families, living happily there to day? 

I have faint recollection about some of the friends of my father who included the Kodayannachi, Electricity Kini, Bhima's Padmanabha Bhattar and Narayana Bhatter, Aital of durga hotel, Narasimhanna of Narasimhampuram hotel, Soppanna household, Punchiri Avarachan , the Auditor L Rangamani, Vasu Pillai of a local small eatery, the Thadi Iyer who accompanied him regularly to Sabarimala every year and a few others. Invariably he would be spending his evenings with them sitting on a bench in the big gate area behind the main Cash Desk. I can never forget his twice weekly purchase trips in the early mornings on Wednesdays and Saturdays to Kallu Palam water front vegetable market to buy the needs of the hotel. I also cannot forget the communist stalwarts like late R Sugathan, T V Thomas, K R Gowri etc who had regards for Venktraya being a kind cash cow for them, giving money when they come and request. The former Chief Minister of Kerala V S Achuthanandan might not be remembering Venkatraya or his children like us though we can never forget when he was a peon in the first floor office of the communist party during nineteen fifties and sixties, shuttling between the cash desk where the lone phone in the entire area was located, ferrying messages to and fro!.

I wonder whether any of my contemporaries remember the veritable Ambalappuzha Sami who was the alter ego of Venkatraya. It was this kind soul who sacrificed a major part of his life for the welfare of Venkatraya family. He was housed in Thondankulangara property and was like the proverbial "Emeritus Manager" or a jack of all trades doing hundreds of odd jobs for which Venkatraya had no time being pre-occupied with hotel management. I can never forget him in my life because he was like a foster parent for most of us. In fact the "Potty" suffix became a part of my name because he was the one who took me to the school for admission and when the authorities there asked him about my cast he blurted out as "Potty" which put us on par with local priest community known by that name. It is another matter that this surname haunted me through out my life, especially during my more than two dozen international travels and working aboard for a number of years because every child is familiar with the word Potty, being the permanent fixture in the toilet! Interestingly where ever I had worked, there was only one Potty, that was me, giving a sort of instant recognition!

Venkatraya's awesome presence among hoteliers can be gauged by the fact that he was the President of Hoteliers Association for some time providing guidance and assistance through his knowledge of labor laws and other government regulations. It is a tribute to his stature as an elder statesman in Badettu family that his most ardent "fan" was BTH Govinda Rao who was his own cousin and did not fail to prostrate before him where ever and when ever they used to meet. It was his abiding faith in God, trust and faith in people around him and liberal bend of mind that benefited his descendants so abundantly.        

Answer to the Quiz in Blog 1030

Ranga, second son of Anantrama is at present a senior executive associated with BTH chain of hotels in Ernakulam. He joined them at an early age and was a confidant of late Govinda Rao. He has considerable experience in many aspects of hoteliering. 

Quiz for the current issue

One of the third generation son-in-laws in Badettu family is a versatile person with talents in poetry, writing, film production, politics, teaching, music and social service. He is a living legend well respected by the Society. Can you name him?