/* START Google Analytics Code*/ /* END of Google Analytics Code */ A home called "Parvathi": In Memoriam 2011: Sri Kunigal Puttu Rao - II

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

In Memoriam 2011: Sri Kunigal Puttu Rao - II

Sri K. Puttu Rao lived a mere 65 years.

‘Mere’ did we say?

(Even, the great GNB himself passed away into immortality at a young 55, when the world wanted him to rule undisputed for another half a century? So, how do you reconcile ‘mere’ with sixty five years? )

Precisely. This is why we have this helpless notion that life sometimes looks like a travesty (maybe even as a ‘Maya’, if you like). Even though sixty five is not a small age (this writer has experienced that roll-over within his own lifetime), we are forced into using the word ‘mere’ in a relative setting; as applied to a man having exhibited a powerful vitality and passion while living, only to be found plucked into sudden nothingness where you would think the health and passion he displayed would propel him towards twice the longevity!


It used to be whispered, once upon a time, in the inner circles (that exists no more), that Kunigal Puttu Rao, in his day, was a ‘very shrewd’ lawyer who earned even the respect of ‘their Lordships’. He was the consummate and committed defense lawyer whose ‘client’ could do no wrong! He was known to have taken on cases of even supposed 'undesirables' ( a subjective view held by some members of a society on anyone outside their norms ), affording them the necessary protection under the law as owed to one’s citizenry. "You are not guilty until proven!" was an ideal he bought unto his heart and profession. He would be prone to bringing friends and clients home for a celebration after winning their cases, and it would be especially hard on the part of the matriarch of the family who had her own daily 'Niyama' to attend to, but whose services would be requested at all odd hours for food and other things on the arrival of an ‘a-thithi’ ( ah, you got it right! – that welcoming, feeding and honoring of a guest, who arrives with no prior appointment! – what an added refinement to an already great civilization! ).

Did Puttu Rao not ever smile?
Perhaps not, unless you found him in the distinguished company of a
Sir C.P. Ramaswami Iyer or an Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar!
Could it be music? Could it be law?


What was a very deep mystery about “Parvathi”, the house that he built, was about how it ever ran! It was such a large and burgeoning household, which depended solely on just one income. Granted, K. Puttu Rao sometimes expressed the grit of a lion and his spouse, the erstwhile Parvathi (amma) no less in resilience than that of a tigress, the combined effect would yield, dominantly in no time, a large household of seven "ligers" with never ending demands associated with one's growing up; the phenomenal expenses of long term educational fees, the economics of food and clothing and transport, costs of private tutoring towards traditional language and arts, the impact of costly ceremonies to be performed as befitting each member of a traditional household, and the huge expenses that came to be associated with religious ceremonies. These would be held every other day, as determined by a crazy almanac, and culminating in invitations to a prolific number of guests, priests and entertainers.

Added to all of this was a certain ‘strange’ notion cultivated by distant family members, that the house was the equivalent of a free ‘board and lodge’ house (a veritable 'chatram'). Members would show up from distant villages, first with a customary ‘note’ from some well known family head, claiming some filial connection with an accompanying request for some ‘temporary’ shelter, till a certain justified event could be completed. These initial short stays however always happened to get recycled, to the point where after a while, the person would be found to have happily ensconced themselves 'as a member' with now a stronger case than ever. There were also other 'member(s)' established under a natural duress, such as a widowed lady unable to support herself or a lady having been abandoned by a husband, or an orphan girl, whom the family came by in compassion, who had to be included as family till such time as she could be given away in marriage, or into another pasture of safe custody.


Earlier, on many an occasion, we spoke of Sri. K. Puttu Rao's abiding passion for music and in his being at home to several stalwarts of Carnatic Music ( click ). We now add to that ever growing list, memories of some other stars in the CM firmament who graced "Parvathi" during his lifetime:

Immortal G.N.Balasubramaniam (GNB) in the house !
(click on photo to magnify)

Immortal Duo!
Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar and Palghat Mani Iyer
in the House !
(click on photo to magnify)

Immortals Manakkal Rangarajan and T. Chowdiah in the House !
(click on photo to magnify)


Puttu Rao was known to be a strict disciplinarian, especially with his sons and his staff. Somewhere, however, over the years, people realized that while there might be that quick temper and a bark to the man, there was also the outer shell with a whole lot given to a softer side. This would be noticed, particularly during certain events and in its calculated moments. While pictures in the house, sometimes revealed an Oldsmobile, a Dodge Kingfisher or a Chevy Impala over the years, it would not be uncommon to find Mr. K. Puttu Rao trudging many a time on foot to and fro from Court.

At times, one would find him in a ‘tonga’, too, doing a back and forth from Mysore's great Devaraja market, with its myriad stalls of fruits or its beautiful stalls of sweet smelling Jasmine flowers. From here, he would invariably pick up beautiful hair adorning for his large retinue of daughters-in-law with whom he was ever conscious of doing the right thing in making them integrate seamlessly into his own family. He would even be seen, as the 'tonga' waited, at the cloth emporiums of Mysore’s main thoroughfare on Sayaji Rao Road, where he would indulge in some of his fancies; where he would pick up select pieces of cloth hoping for the benefit of a customized tailoring of immaculate shirts and coats that he wore with aplomb on himself. He would also be seen ordering rich blouse material (the 'Khanas') for all the Gods and the women folk of his own family. The whole thing would prove to be nothing more than a fanciful charade into an evening's outing; he would concoct an elaborate 'scheme' of seeming to tuck away all his treasures into some hidden compartments from preening eyes, only to realize, once again, the inevitable! It would all vanish, in no time, without nary a sign of the actual culprit (or culprits) ever being found from within that large contingent of humans that dwelt in that house.

M.L.Vasanthakumari was always regarded as 'family' !
Seen with Puttu Rao's pride - the daughters-in-law !
(Is there a young Sudha Raghunathan, too,somewhere there?)

Puttu Rao's zest for life, as we have indicated before, was not confined to just music and musicians alone, or on being God fearing to one's daily propitiation's. He was fiercely loyal and prone to take on various challenges of a social order, in order to do good. He worked with Mysore's several institutions and committees; with Mysore's City Cooperative Bank, Mysore Cooperative Society and many of its charitable Housing projects. He loved to battle in order to save institutions. Notable amongst these was the institution (pictures below) of which he was once both its Secretary and its President. He saved it from many a lender's hand, providing some deft legal maneuvering, but ironically died the very next day, after the courts had moved in his favor!

Bidarama Krishnappa Rama Mandiram in it's 'heydey' !

Its once pristine interiors - Courtesy: The Hindu

As we leave you with the memory of a man in whose lifetime, there was a great 'cause celebre' for the heritage of Carnatic Music, we remind you of the concerts in his honor that commence on Aug 31, 2011 in Mysore.

As with the tradition of our blog, we would also like to leave you with some music. What better than a video presentation of Padma Bhushan and Sangeeta Kalanidhi T.V.Sankaranarayanan (who will be casting his magic on the last day of the memorial concert), performing as he did twenty five years before! in "Parvathi", the house that K. Puttu Rao built and where he bequeathed his last!

Vidwan T.V. Shankaranarayanan is shown accompanied by Vidwans G.J.R. Krishnan (violin), M.A.K Murthy (Ghatam) and incidentally Vellore Ramabhadran who accompanied him first in his (TVS's) memorable debut on February 2, 1968!