Rashmi Kant Nagar
I vaguely recall that it was month of July, 1982. V S Behla, who was Director, Engineering at that time and I were heading home after office. As we had moved just a few steps out of the main office building, a white premier car suddenly stoped in front of us and the person driving the car called out, ‘Behla Saab’.
We stopped and Behla moved closer to the caller. I had not seen this person before and as they started to converse, I moved a few steps away near the tail end of the car. I could however hear the conversation- it was about the progress of construction of ETDC in IRMA campus.
After about five minutes, Behla joined me and as we started walking towards home, I asked him, “Is he a new civil contractor for ETDC”?
With a surprised look Behla asked me, “You don’t know him”?
“No, we have never met. Who is he”? I replied.
“He is Mr. Haldipur, Director of IRMA. I thought you have met him so I didn’t introduce you”, said Behla.
“He was LG of Pondicherry before taking up Directorship of IRMA”, Behla added.
When Mr. Haldipur called Behla, he did give me a smile. I returned the smile and moved away as I didn’t want him to get am impression that I am eves dropping.
A couple of months later, one afternoon I received a call. The caller asked me, “Mr. Nagar, I want to see you. Can you spare 10 minutes for me”. The caller was Mr. Haldipur.
Till this time, I had not formally met him and remembering that incident, I responded, “Sure, sir. I will come over to your office right away”.
“No, Mr. Nagar, I have sought your time so I must come to your office. I will be there in ten minutes”. And exactly after ten minutes, he was with me in my office.
I, at first felt a bit uncomfortable receiving a person of his stature in my office. I knew that he had given up the position of the Lieutenant Governor of Pondicherry to take over as the director of IRMA. But his gentle demeanour soon put me to ease. I just couldn’t believe that the person of his stature had no air of the high offices he held in the immediate past.
He wanted to know if I will agree to his proposal to make the funds allocated under Operation Flood for IRMA as corpus rather than annual reimbursement. After we had gone through the details, he asked me if I would co-sign the proposal as it would eliminate many unnecessary steps. I agreed to it provided Dr. Kurien permits me to do so.
As we walked towards Dr. Kurien’s office, I noticed that he was an extremely soft spoken and humble man. In fact humility defined his personality.
Between that day and June 1986, when I was transferred to Bangalore, I had quite a few meetings with him. I was at times upset on pace of studies that IRMA faculty was carrying out for NDDB, but he always remained calm, never losing his poise. And each time he took the initiative to call me back. I was floored. Unbelievably humble were his ways.
His only son, Vivek also worked briefly with me in planning. Sometimes I used to drop Vivek home but I never went inside the Director’s bungalow. Hence my relationship with him remained strictly official.
Mr. Haldipur completed his term with IRMA just around the same time and decided to relocate in Bangalore where he owned a modest two room apartment in a multi-storey building in Malleshwaram. His was a ground floor apartment-101.
After shifting to Bangalore, one day he called me after checking with my PA, if I was available for a few minutes. He needed some information about some work he had to get done in his apartment and wanted to know if someone from our engineering can help him find a reliable person to do the job. I offered to send down an engineer to his place but he very firmly and politely declined. “Nagar, this is my personal accommodation. It is not proper on my part to expect an NDDB engineer to come over during office time for my personal work”. He, however hesitatingly accepted when I told him that his residence will be visited after office hours as it would help us identify the right person to attend to the problems.
I was new to Bangalore and except a distant uncle of my wife knew no one outside my office circle. Haldipurs too were in more or less similar situation. They had only his nephews- Shankar Nag (producer of the famous tv series Malgudi Days) and Anant Nag (young man in red shirt in Manthan) to fall back on in any emergency.
Since both of us didn’t have any social circle, we got to meet each other at least once in 6-8 weeks. I always went to his place with my family and it was during these visits that a lot more humbler side of him and Mrs. Haldipur came to our view. Funnily, every time they were at my place, he would want to carry the empty dishes to the sink, which of course we never allowed him to do.
It was understandable during our first ice breaker visit when they didn’t allow my wife to help. Mr. Haldipur himself brought the tea and snacks for us, while Krishnaji worked in the Kitchen. When my wife got up to carry the empty cups to Kitchen, Mr. Haldipur said, ‘Anu, you are our guest. I will clean up. This is my job’. He carried the trey of empty cups and cleaned them himself. When I asked him if they had a domestic help, he replied, “only part time. Between two of us, why do we need a full time maid”.
And when we were leaving, he not only came all the way to see us off where my car was parked, but he opened the car door for my wife. It was an impromptu act, no show, just his natural humble way to show respect to a lady.
At first I dismissed it as one off incident. But it happened every time we went to see them. We always requested him to see us off from his apartment door, but he always responded with a smile saying, ‘this gives me some exercise’ and never forgot to open the car door for my wife. He never left the spot till my car went out of sight.
We had a wonderful time with them. Each meeting with him was a lesson in humility. He was one man I know who always remained untouched by the power of high positions he held.
Our last meeting with him was in May 1995. We went to Bangalore after attending my spiritual mission’s meet in Chennai. They were alone but had the same high spirit. Couple of years later they moved to Anand Ashram, Kasaragod, Kerala. They saw no reason to continue in Bangalore and were contemplating moving there after the loss of their only child-Vivek. When Mr. Haldipur passed away, I received a very emotional reply to my message of condolence from Mrs Haldipur. She addresses me as, ‘Respected Nagar bhai saheb’.
Their humble ways continue to teach and inspire me even today.