Saturday, December 31, 2011

You are fined two COINs today

All items prepared for the day's feast are arranged in the prescribed order.  Head cook has checked the order list given to him with the items prepared for a second time and nodded his approval.  He has specifically checked the five special sweet items and signaled his clearance.  Plantain leaves are spread in the dining hall neatly in designated order.  Drinking water pots are kept with each leaf.  Neatly dressed assistants are ready for starting serving with the first signal.  Line Supervisors have taken position at the assigned spots.  Everyone is waiting for the Diwan to arrive.

The Diwan arrives in the dining hall with the guests and all guests take their respective places in the lines kept ready for serving food.  There is nobody to designate the seats and direct the guests there.  But the guests move swiftly and take their seats as if the seats were already shown to them before.  The head supervisor signals and the assistants start the service immediately and swiftly.  The pace of serving is neither too slow nor too fast, but just right.  The feast begins and the line supervisors are busy signalling the assistants to serve the items and special items among the guests.  No word is spoken but all directions are by signals so that the guests are free to carry on their talk without interruption of the other noises.  Words are exchanged between the guests in low tones and never becoming noisy.  Diwan is enjoying the food, but is also watching the quality of service and efficiency of the serving staff and supervisors.  The guests enjoy the sumptuous food which is up to the usual excellent standards.  The last item of curd rice is served and the guests get up after finishing the dinner and move towards the big vessels of water kept outside the dining hall for washing their hands.

The guests are now busy chewing the tender betel leaves with special betel nut pieces mixed with scented chunnam (lime).  everyone is appreciating the quality of food and service of the day.  Guests meet the Diwan one by one, express thanks for the invitation and leave the place.  By this time the cooks, supervisors and assistants have also had their food and wait for the call.  The Diwan comes and sits in his special chair which is kept ready now.  As soon as he sits, an assistant brings a silver plate with coins in them. Each coin is of one Anna, sixteen coins making a rupee.  The head cook, other cooks and assistants come to the Diwan one after the other and salute him.  Diwan looks at each of them, picks up the coins and hands over to them.  The number of coins handed over is matching his own assessment of the day's work by them.  Line supervisors are called in an order and similarly rewarded.   After the supervisor of Line 3, supervisor of line 5 is called and supervisor of line 4 is skipped.  In the end supervisor of line 4 is called and the Diwan tells him,  "You are fined two coins today".  The supervisor salutes and moves away.  Line supervisors had the duty of watching the guests and ensuring that any item liked by the guest, assessed based on the consumption and expression on their face while eating, is served to them again before they ask for them.  Supervisor of line 4 failed today in his duties and is punished for dereliction of duty.  This is only a warning and if he performs well next time he will be rewarded like others. If he fails again, he may be taken off duty forever.

A few years back I went to the corporate headquarters of a well known group in Bangalore.  I had to wait for a few minutes before the scheduled meeting.  A quarterly magazine of the company was lying on the table and I chanced to go through it.  One piece of writing in the magazine interested me and later on I did some more reading on the person mentioned in that article.  Several pieces of interesting information came out of these sources.  I have described the above scene as I have imagined from one such information.  T Ananda Rao, the Diwan in reference was fond of entertaining his guests with sumptuous food and used to arrange frequent feasts.  He had a system of rewarding and punishing the efficiency and inefficiency of his cooks and supervisors.

Exactly a hundred years ago, Tanjore  Ananda Rao was  the Diwan of Mysore (April 1909 to November 1912), during the period of His Highness Krishna Raja Wodeyar IV.  He came from a family of Diwans.  He was the eldest son of Tanjore Madhava Rao, who was the Diwan of Travancore, Indore and Baroda.  Madhava Rao's maternal uncle, T Venkata Rao was also a Diwan of Travancore state.

Both Venkata Rao and Madhava Rao were excellent administrators and are credited with initiating several welfare measures and administrative reforms.  T Madhava Rao's tenure as Diwan of Travancore is especially remembered for the excellent financial management he exhibited in nursing the financially sick state to sound financial base.  His financial skills in the area of Public finance and Taxation received appreciation from European Financial Experts and he was even called "Turgot of India", in comparison with the 18th century Financial Wizard of France and pioneer of Economic Liberalisation.

T Ananda Rao was himself a man of distinguished public service and worked in many capacities, including as Deputy Commissioner of Hassan and Mysore before becoming Diwan of Mysore state.  A dam at Shivanasamudra was constructed during his period, to start power generation.

There are two landmarks in Bangalore reminding us of these able administrators.  There is a choultry in the name of  "Rai Raya Rai Venkataraya Choultry" in Pampa Mahakavi Road, Chamarajpet named after Diwan T Venkata Rao.  Ananda Rao circle near Bangalore Railway Station, named after Diwan T Ananda Rao has now disappeared and has become "Ananda Rao Flyover".  The name may even be changed after one of the present day dynastic rulers as has happened with many other landmarks in the country during last few decades.

To my knowledge, there is no landmark in Bangalore named after Diwan T Madhava Rao.  There is a "Madhava Rao" circle in Basavanagudi, near M N Krishna Rao park, which is confused with Diwan Madhava Rao's name.  Madhava Rao circle is actually named after Prof. B S Madhava Rao who was a Professor of Mathematics and Principal of Bangalore's famous Central College.  There is a  Diwan Madhava Rao road near Krishna Rao Park, which is also actually named after V P Madhava Rao, who was Diwan of Mysore between 1906-09, immediately before T Ananda Rao and not his father T Madhava Rao.    Unfortunately, Bangalore's changing shape and uncontrolled traffic is swallowing many such landmarks.

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