Politics
An annual high tea is organised by Rashtrapati Bhavan to commemorate the Quit India movement, but Shyama Rao did not receive a much-awaited invite this year.

Every year since 2015, 94-year-old Shyama Rao has looked forward to August 9. The date is commemorated as ‘Kranti Divas’ — a chance for Shyama Rao, a freedom fighter from Dakshina Kannada, to meet President Ram Nath Kovind. But for the fourth time, save 2018, Shyama Rao who had hoped to be shortlisted among the invitees to honour the Quit India movement was left disappointed.

“He gathered Rs 48,000 from whatever was left after his expenses and charity from the freedom fighters pension, hoping to use it for the Delhi journey. He is against borrowing money from us (children),” said Satish, Shyama Rao’s son. Even when there was hardly a day left for the event, Shyama Rao had hoped for a call from Rashtrapati Bhavan. “He was on his toes to leave for Delhi.”

Sporting a kurta, khadi jhola, nehru cap, umbrella, and thick spectacles, Shyama Rao meekly gives an affirmative smile to his son’s words. According to Satish, every year since 2015, the freedom fighter from Bantwal has been asked for his consent to join the high tea organised by the Rashtrapati Bhavan in commemoration of Kranti Divas, a day observed to remember Quit India movement (1942). “The local Tehsildhar’s office is very prompt in asking us to send our details, documents and consent to attend the ceremony. They are very keen on sending my father’s paperwork to higher-ups. But from then onwards, there is no intimation from Rashtrapati Bhavan confirming his invite.”

In fact on August 7th 2018, Shyama Rao received his invitation along with one aide, but the family said that they neither had the time nor money to arrange for travel and leave at such short notice. But this time, Shyama Rao made all the necessary arrangements to meet any short travel intimation or requirements. Everything was set for his travel, except the invitation, which never arrived, his son added.

An electrician by profession, Shyama Rao is fondly known as Hindi Master in Shivamogga (Hindi Meshtre in Kannada) for his active involvement in propagating and educating the locals in Hindi in the region. He claims to have been arrested by the British around 1946, during the last leg of freedom struggle at Mysuru. “We were a group of youngsters who participated in the Gandhian way of protests and demonstrations against the British. In 1942, I was forced by my family to leave Bantwal since there was a lookout warrant. Subsequently, I had to come to Shivamogga in the year 1942 and also changed my name Shyamarayachar to Shama Rao,” the 94-year old said.

However, Shayama Rao’s policy of frugal living, charity and a mindset towards serving had effected the family that had little or no income at home at times, Satish said. “Even at work, he used to repair electronic equipment mostly free of cost. While we are proud to be children of a freedom fighter, we never received the entitlements of being a freedom fighter’s children,” he added. 

Commuting between Bantwal and Shivamogga these days, Shyama Rao said that he had given consent for the trip to Delhi from both the village accountant and Taluk office. “Even people from Bengaluru had called to confirm his travel plans and health condition, but then there was no follow-up from any government body,” he said.

Speaking to The News Minute, an official from Bantwal Tehsildhar office said that even they were keen on Shyama Rao meeting the President of India. “We had sent details about the veteran to our departmental heads. Even we are disappointed that he didn’t receive any response, given his preparedness,” he said.

Speaking on his interest to travel to Rashtrapati Bhavan, the father of six children said that it is not the mere travel but the honour of meeting the President of India. “There are few people who have lived to witness 72 years of Independence. Though at a fragile age, he is fit to travel. I just want to see him fulfill his wishes, since by and large he has lived for other people and for this country,” Satish said.

Story by Story Infinity (Subs and Scribes Media Ventures LLP)