Friday, December 9, 2011

D'Cruze's Mustache

It was raining heavily and the compartment was already overcrowded as the train stopped at a small station.   A middle aged man entered the compartment with great difficulty and looked around for some place to stand or sit, if possible.  There was no place to start with and nobody wanted someone with wet and dripping clothes sit nearby on the chilly day.  

An elderly person sitting in a corner looked at the man who had just entered the cabin.  He called out to him and asked the persons sitting opposite to him in a tough voice to squeeze themselves and give some room for this gentleman.  For an unknown reason they complied, may be because they were traveling with him or in deference to the authority in his voice.   The fresh arrival managed to somehow place his luggage in the available place and sat in the little space made for him by the others.   He wiped the beads of rainwater on his face and looked up at the kindly soul who had enabled him to sit and relax, to the extent possible in the given circumstances.   They stared at each other for some moments.   The train had started on its further journey now and it was difficult to talk to each other in the noise.   The journey continued for sometime.

The rain gradually stopped and many people got down in the next major station.  There were fewer people in the compartment now and there was some scope for starting a conversation.

"Where are you going now?", the elderly person asked.
"I am going to Hubli"
"How is your practice?"

"This man is asking about my practice.  He knows I am a Doctor.  But I am not able to place him.  Who is he?  Was he one of my teachers in school or college?  Or was he a patient somewhere?  I have been practicing for over twenty five years now.  I do not remember faces of many patients.  Should I ask him his name?  No, no. he may be offended, for he may know me quite well and I might have forgotten him.  Let me go along replying his queries.  That way I may get a lead.",  the Doctor assured himself.

"Practice is good.  But you know there is a lot of competition in a city"
"You are a good Doctor.  Your patients will always like you. You will have a good practice wherever you go.  I know that"

"This man knows me quite well.  He knows about  my earlier practice also.  Voice also now appears familiar.  Why I am unable to recognise him?"   Doctor was puzzled.

 "When did you move from Arakalagud?"
"Ten years ago"

"This man knows me from Arakalagud days.  Was he my patient there?" , Doctor tried hard to recollect.

"You have not still recognised me, Doctor.  You have forgotten your regular patient!"
"I am sorry, It is a long time and I am unable to recollect the name.  The face and voice are quite familiar"
"It may be a good idea to think of me with a big mustache"

The doctor suddenly realised who he was.  "Oh, You are Anthony D'cruze.  What happened to your big mustache?  It is never conceivable to imagine you without your mustache!",  exclaimed the Doctor.

"I knew you would not recognise me with out a mustache for you have always seen me with that big mustache.  It is a long story.  You know I used to get attacks of Bronchitis and I visited you for treatment every time I had an attack.  Your treatment was good enough to keep that under control.  But the attacks were coming regularly and were severe in winter months.   You know I moved to Bangalore and sometime later I had a severe attack and hospitalised.  I was confined to bed for a month and then discharged.   My mustache had become white and I was dyeing it regularly to keep it black.   When in hospital I could not dye it.   I did not dye it for a month after being discharged.   When I dyed it again after two months, the bronchitis attack returned.  When I stopped dyeing, the attacks stayed away.   Then I realised that there was some connection between the dye and the attacks.  I was probably allergic to the dye.  I stopped dyeing the mustache and the attacks ceased.   The white mustache was not to my liking and I was always used to see my mirror image with the big and beautiful black mustache.  As long as the mustache stayed, there was a temptation to dye it and the chance of the attacks returning.  I got rid of the mustache itself as a permanent solution and now I am healthy and happy!".

This is the essence of a small story by the same name "D'Cruze's  Mustache" by the famous Kannada writer A N Krishna Rao, (Arakalagudu Narasingarao Krishna Rao, popularly known as Aa Na Kru).  I read the story some forty five years ago when I was in high school.   Some minor details may have changed since it is a long time,  but the major picture is the same.   Aa Na Kru was a master storyteller and well known for his novels.   Nagna Sathya, Shani Santana and Sanjegattalu were his three novels on the sensitive subject of flesh trade.   Nata Sarvabhowma and Sandhyaraga were his more famous novels.   A N Krishna Rao was one of the front line fighters for unification of Karnataka and a path-finder for a new wave of literary writings called "Pragatisheela" literature.  Kannada Literature world honoured him by making him President of the 42ndrd Kannada Sahitya Sammelana held at Manipal  in 1960. 

"Sandhya Raaga" was made in to a movie also with Dr Raj Kumar and Bharati in the lead.  It was a hugely sucessful and popular  musical with Bhimsen Joshi and Dr M Balamurali Krishna providing singing support.   The film made in 1966 won many awards. A link from You Tube is given alongside to give an insight into the musical film.

Aa na Kru lived in Visveswarapuram area in Bangalore for many years and the road connecting National college with Sajjan Rao Circle (Sri Bhagawan  Mahaveer Jain college is located on this road) is named after him (Aa na Krishna Rao Raste).


  1. Thanks for bringing memories of Aa Na Kru, a legend of Kannada Sahitya back.

  2. Excellent recollection. I think that it is by mistake that you became a banker. Should have pursued with literature, writer or poet. Not too late. Good luck.

  3. It is very good. I recollected the story. Thanks.

  4. For one not exposed to Kannada literature, that was a wealth of info on AA Na Kru. The story itself was relatable to one's own hairy possession. I had heard of Sandhya Raga when it made news in the '60s but did not know anything of its contents. I will now visit UT for the songs.

  5. I am sending you this feedback because I know that the 'cry of all amature writers is that no body cares to read their writings or only very few are prepared to openly acknowledge that a good piece of writing is a good one', I want to be part of the latter group.

    Nicely written. I appreciate your keen interest in 'writing'. I also share your love towards Kannada Literature..... I am delighted to read about Aa.Na.Kru who is even distantly related to me (a fellow Hoysala Karnataka). You may be remembering one Mr.K.A.Krishna Swamy, Advocate from Hassan. He was the nephew of Aa.Na.Kru.

    By reading your story I am reminded that this is the Silver Jubilee Year of my 'dyeing career' which is worth celebrating. It has not caused me any health issues so far and I am continuing to dye even now. But my wife now-a-days keeps me advising.....that I should quit dying as I am sufficiently aged now. But I really donot know when to quit? Any advice in this regard.....?

    1. On such important matters as "Dyeing Career", one should not place much weight on the advise of wife alone and give due consideration of all other women as well. If the advise from this section is that your "Dyeing career" should go to "Golden Jubilee", please carry on without any hesitation.

      The color used may, of course, change according to the season like orange, green, blue etc!