By H.K. Shivananda, IAS (Retd.)
[Continued from yesterday]
Dasara – 1980
In 1979 with no elected council in Mysore City Municipal Corporation (now MCC), I was posted as the Administrator at MCC with an additional charge of Administrative Training Institute (ATI) as Director. Devaraj Urs lost power within a few months thereafter and in 1980 Gundu Rao became the CM.
His Government appointed a committee under the Chairmanship of Divisional Commissioner, Mysore, in 1980 to plan, execute and revive Dasara as a Nada Habba with full participation and support by all the departments. As an Administrator, I was a member of that committee representing MCC.
Under the chairmanship of B.R. Prabhakara, the then Divisional Commissioner, this committee did an excellent job
to revive Dasara activities followed in earlier years and laid a strong foundation for Dasara as is practised now. Narasimha Rao, son of N. Madhava Rao, Dewan of Mysore State in the forties, was Chief Secretary at that time and had worked earlier as Mysore Deputy Commissioner. With his experience of Dasara activities in earlier years, he gave broad guidance to the committee.
In place of Royal Durbar against the backdrop of illuminated Mysore Palace every evening, a music programme from top-level artistes of the country was held in Durbar Hall for the first 9 days of Dasara and the illuminated Palace became the point of attraction for the public.
In the first two years of Dasara — 1980 and1981 — on the inaugural day of the music programme at the Durbar Hall, Ustad Bismillah Khan’s Shehnai and M.S. Subbalakshmi’s concert had been arranged. The annual Dasara exhibition which had been shifted to Doddakere Maidan in 1977 was continued with enlarged and wider participation.
The mass band programme of Karnataka Police was introduced. All departments in Mysore took Dasara work as a challenge and did their best to bring back the old glory.
In subsequent years bigger committees constituted with wider non-official participation have also done a good job. On the foundation laid in 1980, they added a lot of new events, programmes and competitions to make Dasara more attractive, getting more visitors. Mysore city looked at its best like a decorated new bride during Dasara.
Two small pictures of 1980 Dasara are still green in my memory. One relates to a hoarding put up by Ashvini Ranjan, a textile merchant from Mysore, on the procession route at the beginning of Sayyaji Road near K.R. Circle. It was a big hoarding almost 6 ft X 4 ft fully blank with a picture of a caparisoned elephant in the middle carrying the Golden Howdah with no one sitting inside.
Below the picture, only three bold words were written saying “WE MISS YOU” and nothing else. The big blank hoarding reflected and conveyed effectively the mood and opinion of Mysore citizens on their missing Jayachamaraja Wadiyar on that day.
Another picture of my memory relates to a silly audit objection. After the Dasara, the committee used to meet 2-3 times in the next fortnight to finalise accounts, clear the pending bills and close the file.
At that time, an audit objection for payment of a bill raised both laughter and anger at one go. For the payment of a bill either to Bismillah Khan or M.S. Subbalakshmi — I have forgotten exactly to whom — an auditor objected that there is no comparative quotation and the bill could not be passed.
When we explained to him how silly and foolish his objection was, he said, “I know Sir. I have done my duty. You can overrule me if you want to.” A typical bureaucrat who wants to have his inbuilt defence for a possible future objection! I was reminded of a saying, “Accountant General by the virtue of his office is deprived of exercising common sense.”
Office Building let out to Star of Mysore – 1980
K.B. Ganapathy had started Star of Mysore, the evening English daily in 1978. In 1979, when I came as Administrator of the MCC it was slowly establishing itself, increasing its circulation and meeting the needs of the Engish-educated section of the society.
In 1980, some office space on the second floor of Visvesvaraya Building in K.R. Circle owned by the MCC became vacant and Ganapathy applied for that space on rent for Star of Mysore Office. I allotted it to him, exercising the powers vested with me.
After some days, a Rajya Sabha member from Coorg, who was supposed to be very close to Chief Minister Gundu Rao, spoke to me on phone and asked me why I have allotted that space to a person who is writing against the ruling party in his newspaper always and ideally it should have been given to another applicant belonging to the ruling party.
He was not happy with the answer I gave and threatened that he would raise this as a Rajya Sabha question. I told him he is free to do so if he thinks it is a national issue worth raising in the Rajya Sabha and ended my conversation.
I did not hear from him or anybody else at any time thereafter. However, I now notice Star of Mysore has expanded by leaps and bounds in the last 44 years and it is using this space for its City Office even now.
Devaraja Market fire of 1981 and Farrokh Irani
The Devaraja Market of Mysore is well-planned and the initial construction was done as early as 1886. It has expanded over a period of time and has more than 1,100 shops at present. Unfortunately, one evening in 1981 a fire broke out because of a short circuit and 150 shops were destroyed before the fire could be brought under control by midnight.
The next morning, a meeting was held with all concerned to discuss how to compensate the affected persons and reconstruct the damaged portion immediately.
Farrokh Irani, the owner of Ideal Jawa Company and a well-known citizen of Mysore, also attended the meeting. He had come to Mysore in 1951, established his factory which produced popular Yezdi motorcycles and was the Chairman of that Company from 1961 to 1985 when he passed away. His factory gave jobs to a lot of Mysoreans and he was a well-known philanthropist who helped all worthy causes of the city at that time.
The MCC, as the building owner, had the responsibility to restore the damaged portion of the Market. To avoid bureaucratic delay and put back the affected persons on normalcy early, Irani volunteered to join hands with Corporation and assist in restoration.
True to his words, he put some technical people from his factory the next day itself to assist Corporation engineers on this job. Taking the affected persons also to his confidence, he coordinated and saw the completion of this work early and enabled the shop owners to start the business.
Before I conclude, I want to narrate a small side-effect of this accident. On the evening of this fire mishap, I was to host a long overdue party for a group of my close friends at a place on Sayyaji Rao Road. I was on my way to that party when I got this frantic message on Dhanvanthri Road and I rushed to the fire accident spot and got stuck till midnight.
Naturally, the party was called off. However, my friends had no courage to ask me to host a party at any time thereafter lest I may play some other trick to avoid hosting a party and save money !
The author is a former Administrator, Mysuru City Corporation (MCC) and former Director, Administrative Training Institute (ATI), Mysuru. Presently, he lives in Bengaluru.