Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Tribute to Krishna Vattam

My father stopped when he saw his friend, a tall bespectacled man, walking in the opposite direction in the sparse crowd near the Dufferin Clock Tower. "This is Krishna Vattam, working with Deccan Herald" he introduced him to me.  My father was 'walking' the bicycle with me beside at that moment.  We had been to the market on one of the weekend morning trips.  This was in the early 1970s.  It was my first glimpse of Krishna Vattam, to the eye and the name to my ears.

We were getting Deccan Herald's sister in Kannada, "Prajavani", but I was not reading papers at that playful age. Years passed and we shifted over to Deccan Herald, also a popular English newspaper. I had started to browse some news or articles in addition to comic strips.  Seeing the name "Krishna Vattam" in print itself thrilled me, only because I had met the man.  In those adolescent years, I had no interest in reading the full content of his writings. But I had become aware of Vattam's reputation as a very good writer.

Some more years passed.  He was seen on the street or somewhere. I usually stopped to say hello. At other times, he would be on his blue Lambretta scooter, later replaced by a blue Chetak, which he used till his early 70s.  The warmth of the man and the affectionate smile that readily emerged from his mustached face was of a magnetic sort.  Like a password, I would introduce myself referring my father's name which he seemed to remember, among the thousands of his acquaintances. This happened many times.  The frequency led to a stage when he remembered my name, because my letters to the editor of a local paper were now appearing occasionally and as one would expect of a person of his involvement in the local affairs, would notice that column.

In the 80s, his house had become a very popular landmark, just off Jhansi Lakshmi Bai Road, adjacent to the Silk Farm on the road leading to Vidyaranyapuram.  If someone had to guide to a location in that area, "Vattam's house" was the index. Everyone seemed to know it.

After a long and very distinguished service he retired.  A few years later he joined as editor of a local eveninger, Mysore Mail which was located close to my house.  Occasionally I would go in there and say hello to him and to see the wrinkles on his face, which was wisdom personified.  They say each wrinkle had a story of its own and he was a man full of stories from his long experience.  In fact, as one would expect, he has put them down in many an article and a book.  I had not been aware he was a cancer survivor until I read an article he wrote in the local paper.  He was one Mysorean who knew the old city very well and a few times our discussions were about the heritage too. He was well versed in many subjects and his expression was crystal clear, his writing simple yet emphatically conveyed the purpose in full.

I had door crashed his house a few times whenever I went to the scooter mechanic 'Bogadi Srinivas' right opposite his house. One such turned out to be my last glimpse, last year.  He had breathed his last on July 27. The papers were filled with news and tributes. Just a month before this happened, his beloved granddaughter who lives on the other side of the planet had visited him. She had hinted me to go and meet him as he had been weak. But I was not destined to. The Krishna Vattam era had ended.

A certain G.V.Krishnan, a retired pressman had come to settle in Mysore.  It was he who brought us closer, through 'blogging'.  And it was through GVK I came to know that Lakshmi Bharadwaj, a young blogger, now already writer, was none other than Vattam's grand daughter!.  In one of my earliest mails Lakshmi wrote: "Sir, you know thatha? that's great! :-) He's really into journalism and he's the one who basically encouraged me to take to blogging, although he himself prefers to write for the papers more than to write for his blog!! :-)"  After a few years GVK left Mysore for Chennai. At a small farewell to him we gathered, including Vattam.  


We wait for GVK's arrival that evening.  He is holding Lakshmi's poem in praise of GVK which he read later.

I brought Vattam home on my scooter on the way before dropping him to his.  
No amount of tribute will do justice to a person of Vattam's stature, which was simplicity personified as well.