Hearing Ranganath and seeing Manjunath at Kalamandira: Some stray thoughts
Abracadabra By K. B. Ganapathy, Columns, Top Stories

Hearing Ranganath and seeing Manjunath at Kalamandira: Some stray thoughts

February 28, 2024

People who retire from government service rarely make news unless they retire from a high profile job or distinguish themselves by doing something extraordinary while in service. Otherwise, their names will appear in newspapers, if at all, when they pass away.

In recent times in Karnataka one of the government servants who has retired as a highly distinguished person is Dr. C.N. Manjunath, a Padma Shri awardee and a recipient of many professional awards, not only as a renowned Cardiac Surgeon but also as Director of State’s iconic heart hospital Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences & Research in Bengaluru, Mysuru and Hubballi, popularly known as Jayadeva Hospital. In Karnataka there are two Government Hospitals that have made the State Government proud — one is the heart hospital Jayadeva and another cancer hospital Kidwai. Let it be.

Dr. Manjunath was the Director for over 18 years and to everybody’s surprise made the hospital so famous not only for its medical care, parallel to other corporate hospitals of five star status, but also for making the name ‘Jayadeva’ a byword among the people for its low medical cost.

Dr. Manjunath retired as Director on Jan. 31, 2024, with name, fame and honour. One such honour was when he was  felicitated on Monday last at the Karnataka Kalamandira in Mysuru. It was like a civic reception that the local Corporation used to give to honour very distinguished persons. This tradition seems to have been discontinued by the City Corporations. If the tradition was continued, Dr. Manjunath would have been the most deserving person for the civic honour.

Anyway, this vacuum has been filled to full measure when a few admirers of Dr. Manjunath, led by Beedanahalli Satish Gowda, formed ‘Dr. C.N. Manjunath Felicitation Committee’ which held the function on Monday, 26th Feb. 2024 at Kalamandira in city.

It was indeed a grand, spectacular show of love, affection, appreciation, admiration and above all an expression of gratitude for the humanitarian service Dr. Manjunath rendered to the people of Karnataka as a medical doctor.

Looking at the advertisement published in the local newspapers which carried the pictures of only four persons including Dr. Manjunath, other three being Suttur Mutt Seer Sri Shivarathri Deshikendra Swamiji, Adichunchanagiri Mutt Seer Dr. Sri Nirmalanandanatha Swamiji and the maverick superstar among all Kannada TV news channels’ anchors H.R. Ranganath, I decided to be a witness to  the felicitation.

If only I had seen the printed invitation sent to the media with 15 chief guests, all politicians of all shades, I would not have ventured to go to Kalamandira. Happily, an announcement was made that these politicians would not come because of  Rajya Sabha election the following day. However, the young and dynamic Mysuru-Kodagu BJP MP Prathap Simha was the only politician who made it to the stage.

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I had expected the function to begin about half-an-hour late. But then, it began late by an hour at 7.15 pm. The only reason for my attending the function, along with a reluctant friend, was to listen to H.R. Ranganath, who I think is a person not given to bahuparak culture of Maharajas and politicians. Not given to praising someone who has done a job well as his duty and nothing more. And it is also a code of ethics for a true journalist. That being so, I was curious if he would say flattering words that are commonly uttered in all    felicitation functions.

Fortunately for me and my friend he was asked to deliver the felicitation speech immediately after the keynote address. I was not disappointed. His gait, demeanour, choice of words and delivery were well set in a matrix that sparkled with, I am not exaggerating, Solomon’s wisdom addressed to an assumed political aspirant. Like in his TV show, much of what Ranganath said was neatly nuanced in the language of Upanishads. One enjoyed the sound and sense that issued spontaneously from his lips.

Ranganath used esoteric language when he asked the doctor to be careful before removing his coat to assume another avatar at the request of his ‘well-wishers’ and cautioned him about the possibility of his ‘well-wishers’ not standing by him later at critical times.

Kalamandira with a capacity of 1,200 seats was full to the last seat (including me as a back bencher) with spectators standing on the aisles and spilling over to the lobby. Obviously, Ranganath was overly impressed seeing such a huge audience before him. And in his  own inimitable style expressed his wonder saying that he thought it might be due to the yeomen service Dr. Manjunath had rendered to the patients while in service and added some more reasons.

He said some must have come out of immense love for the doctor, some to pay their debt of gratitude for treating them as patients and some might have come because they knew the doctor personally. Some others must have come to see the doctor in flesh and blood. There could be those who had come to learn what could be the doctor’s future move in life. Ranganath said this without mentioning about the doctor’s likely entry into 2024 Lok Sabha election which has gone viral on social media. Ranganath knows how to drive on Indian roads without causing accident, nay without a scratch.

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Be that as it may, when Ranganath expressed his wonder at the huge gathering attributing reasons for attending the function, I thought of the reason why the throng are attracted to great Olympic Games. It was said some were attracted by desire of games, some by the crown of wild olive, some merely by the spectacle. So, in the race of life we are all slaves to some ruling idea: It may be glory or money or wisdom or as in my case mere curiosity ! Here it could also be to see the son-in-law of H.D. Deve Gowda !!

I left the auditorium immediately after the Kannada news TV’s wonderkid moved from the podium with the feeling that my long wait was worth its weight in gold. Next morning, I opened the local newspapers to see whatever happened after I left the auditorium.

One report gave details of Dr. Manjunath’s acceptance speech wherein he had said that during his period 75 lakh out-patients got the treatment while 8 lakh patients underwent surgeries. Reading this, I was reminded of an anecdote. This happened in Athens, Greece known for its maritime trade and shipping.

A priest of a Church, apparently seeking donation, took a rich man who visited the Church to the Hall of Fame where photographs of people who donated money to the Church was on display. Pointing at one photograph of a man, the priest told the visitor that the man in that photograph was a shipping tycoon who donated money to the Church and his ship was saved from sinking.

Likewise, the priest went around the Hall showing the visitor different photographs of people who got saved by praying to the Lord and donating to the Church. The visitor got bored and asked the priest: “Are there no pictures of those who prayed and donated but died in the shipwreck?”

Did you get me Steve?

tailpiece: My last thought. Could Dr. C.N. Manjunath be to Karnataka what Dr. B.C. Roy was to Bengal duringNehru’s time? GoK.

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