By William Pais
Sep 27: The days go by, the cliché, that the people of Dakshina Kannada are intellectuals, acquires different dimensions for the worst, as many right thinking people raise their eyebrows in silence. That the people of Tulu speaking region made names for themselves in varied fields such as industry, banking, education, cuisine and took leading roles in the world of corporate and enterprise, is slowly taking the form of jingoism of every hue. South Kanara’s sobriquet of being intellectual capital of Karnataka although befitting has been tarnished much to the dismay of right thinking people.History of west coast alludes to the fact that the Arabian Sea lined on the western frontier, opened South Kanara to trade since ages and through it to the world. But the trade had its limit of nothing more than exchanging value for value and everything almost stopped once it was done. Thereforefor far too long area around Dakshina Kannada has been development stagnant and this status quo was maintained far too long.
Come to the second half of nineteenth century. Two historic events have turned the tide of development in economic and educational landscape of South Kanara- arrival of Basel Mission in 1841 and the arrival of Jesuits in 1879. The former brought industry and technology to the shores of South Kanara and the latter brought education. The arrival of Jesuits was an answer to ardent prayers by the locals to the Vatican, then in-charge of sending missionaries to the distant lands, changed the educational scenario in South Kanara. It is common belief that education changes everything around and the history of education in South Kanara progressed too past when its national average was lagging anywhere behind fifty to seventy five years. The primary education in every nook and corner of the district introduced the power of the alphabet to the illiterate. The education being led by Jesuits soon spread to the native church, which took upon itself to establish and run schools from the support of laity and school buildings on its property were a common sight. This was done rising above the cast and creed and in sheer love for humanity. Today, district boasts of robust educational infrastructure, and is the cradle of specialistand super specialist courses in medicine, engineering and hundred other branches of learning. Many have forgotten the precursor to this was ubiquitous presence of primary schools, which taught and bought up everyone who came to the precincts of the school. All those octogenarians and nonagenarians will vouch for this fact. Dr TMA Pai the brain behind global education conglomerate ‘Manipal’ had come to St Aloysius College to pursue his education post his matriculation. Jesuit’s commitment to the betterment of humanity stunned and impressed the young Pai, who was then to proceed to his medical education in Madras. Later when he came to his Alma Mater he remarked ‘if Jesuits fathers who do not belong to this country can serve India in a most committed manner, how much do we as Indians should do it to our own people.’ Not only Dr Pai, scores of persons have decorated the post of high offices, have passed out of this college. They have vouched for its role in educating the young minds for fourteen decades and that the earning the title of intellectual capital lies in the fact that it is the St Aloysius College which became the torch bearer in the path of educating South Kanara.
The reason why I am alluding to this historical opinion is the recent naming of St Aloysius College Road or the Lighthouse hill road as Mulki Sunder Ram Shetty Road, apparently at the behest of Vijaya Bank Workers Association. The reason for this was the location of founders branch of erstwhile Vijaya Bank at the end of the road. Now that Vijaya Bank, of which Mulki Sunder Ram Shetty was one the founder the founder, ceased to exist on its own name owing to recent merger with Bank of Baroda, naming of this road behind him lacks several logical arguments. The campus, being home to institutions from primary to the postgraduate level, frequented by thousands of students, teachers, parents and other academia, and standing strong for 140 years and yet does not show any signs of decay does not take precedence over to an individual whose banking institution history does not cross behind eighty nine years, is the sorry state affairs we are subjected ourselves to. Argument here is not about contribution of one individual but more about, as a civilized society how we respond to history and thereby to our own making. Mangaluru City Corporation, which passed the resolution to the effect, did not think it to be the body of the people, which in turn had to represent the will of the people. The corporation had to show magnanimity to an institution which educated thousands including themselves, their own in past and present, was conveniently overlooked, is fact we as a civilized society need to be worried about. The part of the blame may be to the present management of the college but why the management has to be reason for such attempt at self-glorification? Or they could have decided to follow Christ by showing another cheek. In any case their silence could be justified because the decision was taken in hurried manner without consulting the concerned parties. Or shall I compare it to the way Devendra Fadnavis to oath as the chief minister of Maharashtra in the early hours of the morning only to be resigning soon in most embarrassing manner?
It would have been a saving grace for the civic body had it honored the institution by naming the road after it or in the least retained the same name as Light house Hill road to be neutral. The deliberate attempt to follow due process of consulting the concerned does not augur well for democracy. Even Mulki Sundar Ram Shetty would have disapproved such a publicity stunt. That the person is greater than the institution makes for a bad spectacle and leaves a terrible after taste. The need to rise above petty politics, to be kind to each other, to be sensitive and to be human being is above all else is the need of the hour. Any attempt to change the basic community fabric is not only detrimental but also suicidal for our civility. Dividing on the basis is of religion and caste although has been there since ages but its present form is more pronouncing and blatant is a warning sign to all those who believe in core human values. That 140 years of history is weighed against the narrow political mindset is the misfortune of our times. What has the Mangaluru City Corporation has in justification? Or has it just disgraced itself. Being elected in majority is not to change the basic fabric of the society and no elected body should even attempt to do it. This basic fabric is the collective and cumulative work of our civilization. Let it not be torn apart but bound together in a more harmonious oneness.
William Pais is the author of ‘The Land Called South Kanara’ and also director of Gallerie Orchid, Mangaluru.
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