Padma Awards: Dr. S.L. Bhyrappa recounts meeting PM Modi
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Padma Awards: Dr. S.L. Bhyrappa recounts meeting PM Modi

April 10, 2023

By Prof. G.L. Shekar

With folded hands Prime Minister Narendra Modi walks a few steps extra towards Padma Bhushan awardee and respectfully says, Namasthe Bhyrappajji…Aap kaise hain…

“I am S.L. Bhyrappa from Karnataka, a Kannada novelist” (replies with namasthe gesture, and ‘self-imposed protocol’!).

“Sir, who doesn’t know you”, Modi quickly responds holding Dr. Bhyrappa’s hands.

The brief conversation between them goes on:

“Which book are you writing now?”

With hesitancy Dr. Bhyrappa replies, “not any new book really.”

“Please don’t stop writing novels Sir. Your readers across India want your books and intellects.”

Dr. Bhyrappa gives a smile.

“How is your health these days?” Perhaps Prime Minister knows that Dr. Bhyrappa is a disciplined nonagenarian.

“What medicines you take? Do you go for walk regularly in the morning,” he further asks!

The sweet and courteous words of Modi have overwhelmed Dr. Bhyrappa. The impeccable culture of Narendra Modi was clearly visible. There was no pomp or arrogance of a                   Prime Minister!

After the awards ceremony on Apr. 5, 2023, Modi was exchanging pleasantries with every Padma awardee. If you go by his gestures, he was at ease even with some persons who had accompanied the awardees. He used to pat the youngsters with a smiling face. He did not forget to greet every awardee at the Rashtrapati Bhavan Hall, where a group picture was clicked after the award ceremony.

After high tea at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Minister of Home Affairs and Minister for Cooperation Amit Shah hosted dinner to the awardees and their members at the impressive Nalanda Banquet Hall, Sushma Swaraj Bhawan, a few kilometres from Rashtrapati Bhavan. Even here, a host of Central Ministers did not lose sight of showing their culture and courtesy. Though separate area was marked for awardees, their family members were seated close-by. Interestingly, one Central or State Minister was seated with every awardees’  table to interact and elicit their view about issues related to nation-building. Incidentally, ‘in-charge’ of Dr. Bhyrappa’s table was a Congress Minister from Rajasthan government!

Modi interacting with family members of awardees.

As the interaction was going on with awardees, Ministers including Amit Shah, Piyush Goyal and Anurag Thakur were going from table to table of the invitees and awardees’ family members and greeting them. Such was the decorum shown by Modi and his Ministers. As Dr. Bhyrappa exclaimed, the treatment was outstanding and the Ministers were down to earth.

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There has been a welcome change in the manner Padma Awards have been conferred by the Modi government. Although the Padma Awards were instituted long ago, it had developed a reputation that persons who were connected to the power circles in the national capital would only be awarded. For instance, journalists who hobnobbed with Ministers and even dubious middlemen were the receivers of these awards before 2014. It was more of an elitist affair!

The deserving unsung heroes are being recognised now. Be it Sivananda, 125-year-old living embodiment of yoga, dhyan and seva from Kashi or Amai Mahalinga Naik, tribal organic farmer from Mangaluru or Manjamma Jogati, transgender folk dancer of Jogamma heritage or Tulasi Gowda, Halakki tribal woman from Honnali village famous as encyclopaedia of forests. Gone are the days, when people of such background were not been even allowed entry into Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Rasheed Ahmed Quadri expressing his thought!

Bidri craft artist Rasheed Ahmed Quadri told Prime Minister Modi after getting Padma Shri on April 5, “Modiji, you have proved me wrong.” He never thought that the BJP would award a Muslim.

As Modi said, “Small steps bring big changes…case in point being how we reformed the process of Padma Awards and recognised those working silently.” He has often stated that keeping politics aside, awards should recognise those who contributed to the greater cause of India. The influence of his vision is evident in the fact that many political leaders from Opposition parties have been honoured with Padma awards. The nomination process is open to the public. Even self-nomination can be made.

It may be recalled that President Droupadi Murmu conferred Padma awards at the Civil Investiture Ceremony in Darbar Hall of the Rashtrapati Bhavan in two rounds — first on March 22 and the second on April 5. The President had approved the conferment of 106 Padma awards, including three duo cases (in a duo case, the award is counted as one), on the eve of this year’s Republic Day. Of the 106 awardees, six were Padma Vibhushan, nine were Padma Bhushan and 91 were Padma Shri. Notably, 19 of the awardees are women,  including Sudha Murty.

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[As told by Dr. Bhyrappa and his son Uday Shankar, who accompanied him, to the author]

Selfie of Dr. Bhyrappa’s son Uday Shankar with Amit Shah.

“Unspeakable pride”

Author and philanthropist Sudha Murty was conferred Padma Bhushan for her social work. Her daughter, Akshata Murty, who is married to UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, was one of the attendees of the ceremony. Later, she took to Instagram to share her “unspeakable pride” as her mother received the award for her extraordinary journey. UK PM Rishi Sunak reacted to the same and said it was a “proud day.”

“Yesterday I watched with unspeakable pride as my mother received the Padma Bhushan award from the President of India in recognition of her contributions in social work,” wrote Ms. Murty.

“Her example has put volunteering, learning and listening at the heart of how I hope to live in @10downingstreet,” she said.

The First Lady of the United Kingdom further said that the ceremony was a “moving experience.” “My mother doesn’t live for recognition. The values my parents have instilled in my brother and me — hard work, humility, selflessness — mean she is always on to the next thing. But it was such a moving experience to see her have a moment of recognition yesterday,” she concluded.

Reacting to the same, her husband and UK PM Rishi Sunak commented on the post, “A proud day,” alongside two clapping emojis.

Sudha Murty’s husband and Infosys Founder N.R. Narayana Murthy, son Rohan Murty and her sister Dr. Sunanda Kulkarni were also present at the ceremony.

Kodava pride

Devanira K. Appaiah, a teacher, received the prestigious President’s Award for teaching from the then President Dr. S. Radhakrishnan  in 1962. He may have been the first Kodava to wear a kupiya-chale (traditional Kodava men’s attire) for the ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan. Appaiah is the father of Raghu and Sanju from Ammathi, Kodagu. (Pic. courtesy: WhatsApp)

ONE COMMENT ON THIS POST To “Padma Awards: Dr. S.L. Bhyrappa recounts meeting PM Modi”

  1. Indian says:

    Congratulations to all the awardees. The simple gesture of moving the first lady of UK to the front row touched my heart.


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