Friend recalls Farmers’ leader K.S. Puttannaiah’s last day and early days

“I saw him sweating on the stage and advised him to go to hospital immediately”

Mandya: His health had deteriorated on Sunday afternoon itself. I had advised him to go to the hospital for a check-up. But I was shocked to hear about his death the same evening, said Kyathanahalli Mahadevu with tears rolling down his cheeks about his childhood friend Puttannaiah, the farmers’ leader who passed away on Feb.18.

“MLA K.S. Puttannaiah had participated in the cattle fair at Bebi Betta. Suddenly he had problems with his breathing and started sweating. As I was sitting in front of the dais, I observed that he was feeling uncomfortable. I went near him and asked him if anything was wrong. He replied that he had taken a tablet as he had a wheezing problem. I asked him to go immediately to a doctor for treatment,” said Mahadevu.

“Later, I went to his house in the evening at five. He was exercising. I told him, that his health was not alright, that he should not exercise and he should first go to the hospital. He told me, ‘Ok, Mada, don’t bother too much.’ He had participated in several programmes that day. When I heard the news of his death at 11 in the night, I was stunned. For a minute I could not believe it. If only he had taken care of his health, my friend would not have left me,” said an emotional Mahadevu.

Master of all arts: Puttannaiah was two years younger to me. From the age of 12 we were friends. We would address one another in singular. After he became an MLA, I started addressing him respectfully. But our friendship continued and he would always treat his friends the same way he treated them before he grew to be a leader of eminence.

He was a master of all arts. Be it drama, wrestling, kabbadi, he excelled in all of them. In the plays staged in the village he used to don the role of Hiranyakashipu, Hiranyaksha and Ravana with great élan. He was also involved in various cultural activities, recalled Mahadevu.

Puttannaiah became a household name: Puttannaiah was very fond of sports. In his growing up years he used to go and work in the fields. Without his knowledge he became physically strong. Buoyed by his strength, he joined a Garadi (where a wrestler is trained) and grew muscles. Every evening after working in the field we were playing football in Kyathanahalli sports grounds. Later, we would play volleyball. Seeing his physique, we told him that he was fit for playing kabbadi.

Hence, he concentrated on kabbadi and there was no match for him in this game. He became a household name in the surrounding villages too because of his skill in playing kabbadi, said Mahadevu.

“When we were both studying SSLC, I was not able to pay the school fees. Puttannaiah himself paid my fees. But he failed in the SSLC exam and ran away from home to Chennai. He had also asked me to join him in the escapade. However, I did not go. He came back from Chennai, passed his SSLC and left for Mysuru to join College. During this period, we had drifted apart. However, when he came back to the village, we renewed our friendship and it grew stronger,” Mahadevu reminisced.

Influenced by Dr. Ambedkar’s ideals: Puttannaiah was greatly influenced by Baba Saheb Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s ideals, by the time he finished his studies and returned home. When a Dalit passed away, he would visit his home and offer financial assistance. He had great concern for them and the farmers. If anyone came and asked him for help, he would immediately respond, said Mahadevu.

Scientific thinking: He was always thinking along scientific lines. He believed in God but did not accept the atrocities committed in God’s names. ‘You build temples and then prevent people from entering it. Why do you do this?’ was what he would frequently question people. If he saw injustice, he would flare up, recounted Mahadevu.

Joining Raitha Sangha: Puttannaih in the initial years led a carefree life. However, after he joined Raitha Sangha, his attitude towards life changed and he learnt the art of public speaking. He would make everyone laugh by cracking jokes. His mantra was, ‘Laughter is the best medicine,’ said Mahadevu.

After he became an MLA, he fought for the causes of the farmers and responded to people’s problems, said Mahadevu, lauding his friend’s achievements and qualities.

You will outlive me!

Farmer leader Puttannaiah’s close friend Kyathanahalli Mahadevu going down the memory lane, recalled, “I am elder to my friend Puttannaiah. Recently, he came to me and said, ‘Hey Mada, you are keeping good health. I think I will depart this world earlier than you.’ I had told him then, ‘Society needs leaders like you. Do not speak like that.’ However, it was not to be and his words turned out to be true. I feel a great sense of loss. Those days no higher caste person would go to the Dalit colonies. But Puttannaiah would go there and help them.”

—Kyathanahalli Mahadevu


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