It is with a tinge of sadness some of us read the news in Kannada daily Udayavani, a couple of days back, about the collapse of the ancient Badettu House and saw the photographs of a bewildered couple (Cheeya and Rema) standing among the ruins with a fore lorn look. I was informed about it by Radhu who is at Paniyur after reading the news item. Later I contacted Vedavyas who confirmed about the same as reliable news. A larger question that begs for an answer is whether this even signifies the end of the word Badettu once for all as the present owners of the property are reported to have indicated that they do not want to do any thing to restore the building into a habitable living place.
History may not pardon those who had the responsibility cast on them to protect the place in spite of knowing pretty well that this heritage building was in danger of falling apart for want of urgent repairs. Though there are well to do members in the umbrella family of Badettu Narnappaya, every body was helpless because none had the right to touch the building because of legal consequences. Only owners have the right to do any thing with the approval of the local authorities unless necessary power of attorney is given to a particular person on whom they have confidence. Now that the hallowed Badettil is no more, have we not lost our identity once for all and does any one have the right to use the name Badettu family any more? Probably no!
I am reminded of a similar case in Padubidri, that of Kande family to which my late mother belonged. After neglecting the dilapidated building, situated hardly a few meters away from Badettil, all its male descendants except one are not living at present. For a donkey number of years it was lying vacant, with no one in that family even visiting the place. One fine day it collapsed and now what remains is a mound of debris. This family lost all the land during nineteen sixties to the tillers under the Karnataka Land Reforms Act and even the compensation due was lying with the government for decades as no claimants came forward for the same! It was only recently that the last surviving second generation member and a nephew bribed through the bureaucratic system to receive a small amount, symbolizing the end of Kande family! I always wondered what happened to all the traditions, Naga bhanas, deities and other paraphernalia there which are part and parcel of every Brahmin family in Dakshina Karnraka! To day almost all the male descendants of Kande family are non-discript people with nothing to boast of! Could it be due to the curse of the family Devaru and other celestial spirits present there during the glorious yester year? I do not know and shudder even to think about it.
What will be the consequences of the collapse of Badettil? One vital difference between Kande House and Badettu house is that the former was never partitioned and all the descendants were the equal owners where as Badettil was gifted to Ananthrama Chikkappa as a part of the partitioning deal made by late Narnappaya. Of course being experienced as they are in dealing with local customs and traditions, the inheritors of Ananthrama Chikkappa can be expected to do whatever is necessary to propitiate the diving spirits associated with that heritage place. In the past when the Naga bhana was to be renovated or the Bhootha Gudi had to be rebuilt many members of Badettu family as a whole did pitch in with their donations liberally. But now that there is no place like Badettil any more the identity of all members is likely to be lost for ever!
During my last few visits to Badettil, I was impressed by the dedication with which the occupants of Badettil were observing all the traditions including pooja in the Naga bhana, the Bhoothas and the house deity. Since the old portion of the building built with mud had collapsed, it might have affected the pooja room also. It is hoped that the deities are properly taken care of by shifting them to the 'Padsale" portion which was constructed relatively recently. It is God's blessings that no grievous injury has been caused though the place is no more habitable due to serious structural damage caused by incessant rains prevailing in that place for the last few days. One can understand the dilemma of Cheeya and Rema as they can neither leave the place nor live there. I am sure they will find a suitable living place nearby. Let us wish them good luck.
Is it not surprising that except for late Govinda Rao of BTH, Kochi no person choose to prefix "Bedettu"before his name and with the demise of Badettu Govinda Rao a couple of years ago that chapter is also closed. I suppose all that remains now is a restaurant in the name of Badettu in Kochi under BTH group as a proof of existence of Badettu family! With only Lakshmi Chikki being the only linkage we have now with Badettu family name, let us all worship her as our Goddess as long as we are blessed with.