Friday, March 16, 2007


Many decades ago, in a small village in Karnataka, there was a boy, the son of the Shanbhog (Village accountant). A very bright and intelligent fellow, he always topped his class at school. When he finished middle school, his father decided to send him to the nearest big town, Davangere, for high school, since there was no high school in the village. The boy stayed at a hostel and attended the high school at Davangere.

Gradually, the boy fell into bad company at the hostel, and started smoking, gambling, and bunking classes. Before he knew it, the exams were upon him and he failed in a couple of subjects. He returned to his village for the holidays, and it took all his persuasive skills and promises to let his father send him back to school. His previous excellent reputation at school might have played a part too, and anyway, his father sent him back to school with a warning.

The boy went back to school, determined to avoid all the boys he hung out with the previous term, but as time went by, he was drawn to them again, and he was back to his bad habits. This time, when the exams loomed large, the boy got scared, and unable to face his parents, he packed a small bag and ran away. To cut a long and painful story short, the police found the runaway boy after two weeks in a distant town, and sent him back home to the village. His homecoming was joyously celebrated, but the matter of sending him back to school was dropped. The boy also had no guts to speak about it, so he resigned himself to a life of a Shanbhog.

Shortly, the Shanbhog's friend came visiting, and was quite pained to see a boy he considered brilliant, taken out of school. He talked to the Shanbhog, and told him that he would take the boy to chitradurga, where he lived, and the boy could stay at his house and study at the high school in Chitradurga. The Shanbhog was difficult to persuade, but he relented at the end, on the condition that the money for all the fees and other expenses of the boy should go directly from the Shanbhog's hands to the friend's, and the boy should at no time be allowed to have even a paisa on his person. This was agreed to, and the friend took the boy away with him to his house, and made arrangements for him to stay in a room in their outhouse, where other boys like him were staying and studying at the local high school.

The arrangement was fine, the boy ate breakfast and dinner at the friend's house, and attended school, but for lunch, the boy was in a dilemma. Being of a shy disposition, he couldn't bring himself to come back home during lunch break and go up to the main house to ask the lady of the house for lunch. The lady, perhaps, assumed that the boy, being the son of a Shanbhog, would definitely have money with him, and would be eating his lunch somewhere outside. Too embarrassed to explain this situation to either his father or the father's friend, the boy went through many months without lunch.

Soon, a couple of boys at school - brothers - befriended this boy, and their friendship grew. The brothers naturally noticed that their new friend did not eat lunch at all, and instead, filled his stomach with water from the tap. They went home and told their mother about this. Their mother felt sorry for the boy, and told her sons to bring him home with them for lunch henceforth.

The next day, the brothers told the boy about their mother's invitation, but the boy was too shy to accompany them to their house. He refused to go. So the brothers went back home for lunch without the boy. Their mother was furious. "Why didn't you bring your friend with you? What kind of boys are you? How can you think of eating when your friend is sitting there, hungry? This is because you don't know what hunger is. You won't get any lunch today. Hereafter, if you want lunch, you should bring your friend with you". The brothers went back, hungry and crestfallen, and told the boy what they had had to undergo because of him.

The boy couldn't believe his ears. Was this lady for real?

The next day, he had no choice but to accompany the brothers to their home for lunch. Their mother welcomed him with affection, and he became a regular at their house. Soon, he virtually started living in their house, and he was always treated by the family as another son of the house. [Even now, seventy odd years later, the boy considers the lady as his second mother, and remembers her fondly.]

I don't think I need to add that the boy now applied himself to his work diligently, and when he passed the tenth standard board exams, he was just among a handful of boys in the entire district to pass with a first class.

The boy, in case you haven't already guessed, is my grandfather.

This is the gist of one of my favourite episodes in my grandfather (Prof J.R.Lakshmana Rao)'s memoirs, "Nenapina Alegalu" - Waves of Memories.

I like this story for a number of reasons.

1) That such a confused(?) young boy turned out into a fine, well-respected Chemistry professor, chief-editor of the University's Kannada-English dictionary, authored about 25 science books, many of which won him Sahitya Akademi Awards among various other awards, was awarded a National Award for Science Writing, etc. -- This story shows that no child is incorrigible. Belief in a child, guidance in the right path, and love can make any child bloom.

2) Can such people have really walked the earth?
A man, who, out of his confidence in a friend's son's abilities, offers to take up the entire responsibility of his studies, in spite of the boy's notoriety as the "boy who had run away from home".
A lady with so much love that she could make her own sons go hungry for a boy she hadn't even met - And later, treats him no different from her own sons.

It is beyond comprehension. And it never fails to touch my heart.


anoop said...

Such people will and remain to exist on the face of earth only in India! Also, one of the prime reasons why I never want to spend my life anywhere else...

Sachin said...

Shruthi, this post really read like a very sweet, feel good story so you can't imagine my surprise when I found out that it was your grandfather all along!!! Very very touching.....

Another point, you mentioned the "Shanbhog" or accountant of the village. Just curious about this because my last name is "Shanbhag" and I have heard that we have descended from the accountant community and that we are supposed to be good with numbers! Am a GSB Konkani myself so I wonder are you somehow related to this community too?

Prashanth M said...

When I started reading this post, by reading first two lines, I thought its your father's story.

Then come 2nd & 3rd para - it gave a hint of Ta.Raa.Su.'s story.

Next para, I felt like a shorter version of SL Bhairappa's story...

There are not many great people like your grandfather and the lady who transformed his life. hats off to her.

And I got to meet your grandpa.
BTW has he published his bio? If yes where can I get a copy?

Thanks for sharing, made my day :)

Kusum Rohra said...

Excellent story.

Anoop: Though I agree that such people existed and will continue to exist, I don't understand why or what makes you beleive they are only in India?

Supremus said...

Beautiful post. There was almost a Bhyrappa quality to it :-). I had guessed it was somebody you knew, couldn't piece it to your grandpa.

That reminds me, have you read vamshavriksha by Bhryappa or not? If not, run to the library and get it immediately hehehe :D


Sudipta Chatterjee said...

Ahh... really wonderful!

Shastri said...

thanks for a nice post. As Schin said, the nicest part was to know that it was your Grandfather's story.
While reading I had a strong feeling of having read this somewhere. I am sure I have not read so I guess in my mind I confused this with the story of S.L.Bhairappa.
I have read other books by your grandfather during my high-school days (one that comes to mind immediately is 'vijnaanigaLoMdige rasanimishagaLu').
In fact I must be thankful to him for being responsible for evoking a scientific temper in me, along with his contemporary science writers in Kannada like Adyanadka Krishna Bhat, Shivaram Karanth, Nagesh Hegde, T.R.Anantharamu, Tejasvi etc.
If I am right, he also wrote several articles for 'Balavijnana' my favourite science monthly as a child.

The main aspect of the post about how faith and guidance can make anyone successful is very heart-warming too.


PS: Before Viky raises serious issues on your grandfather's current age, you better change that 'seventy decades' to 'seven decades' ;)

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post - I just ADORE 'VijnaanigaLondige RasanimiShagaLu' - always made me smile. Never knew you are born in such a family !

Shruthi said...

Anoop, you never know - I am sure there are people like this everywhere....

Sachin, glad you liked the story! As for Shanbhog/Shanbhag, I just think that my grandfather was in that profession, in some cases, the profession name sticks to the family, in some cases they don't - I think in our case, it did not. And no, I am not connected even remotely to the GSB Konkani community :)

Prashanth, really? Where have you met him?
Yes, his memoirs is called "Nenapina AlegaLu", published by Navakarnataka Publications. You can get it at any Navakarnataka book store, or any large bookstore that stores Kannada books.

Kusum, thank you!

Suyog, nope, haven't read Vamshavriksha... it is in my to-read list :)

Sudipta, thank you! :)

Shastri, my grandfather will be very glad to read all this :) Yes, he did write regularly for Balavijnana - in fact, he was one of the people responsible for bringing that magazine into being.
And thanks so much for the correction :))

Ano, :)

Anon, glad you like that book :) Please leave your name!

Viky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Viky said...

Hmm!!! The water that flows here comes from illustrious origins...

Some day, your kid will write, my mother had the guts to answer back drunk eve-teasers in front of a bar :D

Good to know!!!

Aditya said...

Great story. The strength and capacity for kindness of the human spirit is inspiring.

HP said...

Beautiful Post and Lovely Story!!
Thanks for sharing.


Bit Hawk said...

Very nice and touching stories!

veena shivanna said...

cooool prof.. This is so inspiring, I always thought such successful people will have a very neat childhood like always scoring good marks! It sounded like a film story!..
Show all this to both ajji taata, they would feel so good. I remember having gone to their residence to bring the applicaiton for krishna jayanthi music competition. Need to read his book, we Mysoreans can relate it better.

Usha said...

lovely. Read it again and again. Where have these folkgone today _ where did we lose these values - society caring for individuals.We may be materially richer in this generation but spirtually poorer. Very well written shruthi.

Yesh said...

Have been a regular visitor to your blog, truly this post is very touching and inspiring.
Now i know how and where you get the strength of writing, it's all in your genes :).

praneshachar said...

marvellous you are doing a good job by writing this in your blog as many will not be reading the book.
I have heard about this from my friends at BEL udogigala vignana vedike.
I will buy this book as it seems to be treasure of so man things
secondly I wish to meet the great people both your tata and ajji
hope I will
inthha hiriyar aashirvada namma mele sada irali

Dear All
wish you a very happy prosperous UGADI


praneshachar said...


Prashanth M said...

oops, thats a type... wanted to say - I want to meet him... :P

Anonymous said...

Your write up was, as always, interesting and inspiring :-). Hats off to your Thaata.
The kid in me says, I should go around telling everyone that I am related to Prof J.R.Lakshmana Rao, though my GGF (a Shanbog turned Teacher) chose not to use the 'Sur'name
- Shunti

shark said...

That really was an inspiring story!

This story shows that no child is incorrigible. Belief in a child, guidance in the right path, and love can make any child bloom

This line said it all :)

chitra said...


so sweet. Luckily your grandfather got a second chance. Not many boys do!!

Even if the parents are willing, not many private schools also give a chance to such boys.

Wil show this piece to Akash, my son.

Dhanya said...

Hi Shruthi,
A wonderful post. I came to know of your blog just a couple of days back and is now addicted to it :)

M O H A N said...

May the tribe of people like the lady increase. Very rare to find such people but they are still there hidden from all the glittering mica.

Different are gods ways, your grandfather had to go without food for quite many days despite being the son of a village shanbag!


Sandesh said...

hmm! good read!

Mysorean said...

Excellent post!

I am tempted to say, "Those were the times..." But I won't be so cynical about the present. There are good samaritans now too!

I knew Shastri would come up with this kind of a comment. He used to read all kinds of books and that used to leave me so amazed. Whatever little reading I do today must be attributed to Shastri!

LOL @ Viky's comment!

Srik said...

Gr8 post. Really motivating incident.

Yes, There were people, I have seen many such myself, like the lady and Father's friend. But I have seen them all in the rural area. These still exist.

I was in virtual tears while reading that paragraph where the mother sends her children hungry for not empathising with their friend who went without food!!

Shruthi said...

Viky, Ohhohoo... not that great a scene! :D

Aditya, HP, Bit Hawk, Sandesh, thanks!

Veena, you never know, right, what lies behind every person? :) Btw, very little of his book is set in Mysore ;) -- meaning to say.. anyone and everyone can relate to it!

Usha, thank you! Exactly, Usha, that's what I was telling my grandfather - we think we live in luxury - but we don't have any idea what human relationships really are.

Yesh, thank you! I still have a very long way to go, though :)

Praneshachar, thank you. And wish you the same.

Prashanth, aah! :)

Shunti, ha ha :)

Shark, glad you liked it!

Chitra, exactly. He was lucky to get a second chance. Hope Akash liked it!

Dhanya, I am flattered ;) Thanks!

Mohan, so true!

Mysorean, yes, I also believe there are people like that even today, but where are they? :O

Srik, I weep each time I read that story in my thatha's book!

Vijay said...

This post made my day...

Kripa said...

desipundit brought me here. this post took me back down memory lane...and the years with my grandfather , who was a good friend of yours .lovely.

Shruthi said...

Vijay, glad to hear that! :)

Kripa, that's lovely, but who are you? Grandfather's friend's granddaughter ---- The only Kripa I can think of is the great-granddaughter of the very same great lady I speak of in this post, and the granddaughter of one of the brothers.
Are you the same Kripa? T mama's granddaughter? J's sister? You have left no contact info.. and I see that I can't access your blog either.
Please do let me know!!

Vidya said...

Came here through Viky’s blog.
Good piece of narration of a true incident. Even I keep wondering such people exist when my Tatha narrates such stories to us.
BTW, my Tatha is a classmate and a good friend of Prof. J R Lakshmana Rao. Tatha makes sure that he visits him whenever he is in Mysore. Even now they are in touch through letters.


Naveen said...

Hi Shruthi,

I stumbled across your blog by chance. Read few blog articles and and now I am hooked! Your blog is bookmarked.

Liked your narration style and this blog takes me back home to Davangere where I was born and bought-up.

Good to read an article that I can connect to.

Mythili said...

Truly amazing story! I am touched too.


Veena said...

Shruthi no wonder ur writing ability is so good......hats off to ur grandfather who gave u this immense gift of writing

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