By C.P. Belliappa
My friend Kalimada Rana Nanjappa, retired as a senior Captain in Air India. He held the coveted position of Instructor who trained junior pilots to fly the latest aircrafts including Boeing 747. Rana Nanjappa was an Indian Air Force pilot before joining Air India. He has had the distinction of having flown several VVIPs including Presidents, Vice Presidents and Prime Ministers of the country. During international flights, if he found Kodavas amongst the passengers, he would upgrade them to First Class if there were vacant seats available.
Rana is great company and has many interesting tales to tell. Recently he took me and a few friends to one of the most pristine parts of Coorg known as Kadamakolli. We had lunch at his nephew’s place, and over beer Rana regaled us with his tales. Here’s one of the anecdotes.
A retired Kodava Colonel had a schoolmate from Sullya who became a priest and used to visit a temple in Coorg once a month to perform special pooja. The priest travelled by bus and would visit the Colonel for a chat over a cup of coffee before proceeding to the temple which was close by.
One day, as usual, the priest dropped in at the Colonel’s home where he was greeted affectionately by his friend. However, on this particular day the priest was feeling a trifle down in the dumps. He told the Colonel that he didn’t feel too good and had a bad headache as well. It was a hot summer day. The priest requested the Colonel to give him something cold to drink.
The Colonel took out a bottle of Sprite from his liquor cabinet. As he was opening the bottle a mischievous smile appeared concealed under the Colonel’s handlebar moustache. There was a half-bottle of vodka in the cabinet. The Colonel poured a peg of vodka in the Sprite and added a few cubes of ice. He squeezed a lemon and dropped a slice of lemon in the drink. He fixed a similar drink for himself.
“Here Swami, this should refresh you and make you feel better,” said the Colonel as he handed the priest the drink and settled down for their chat. Soon the priest perked up as the vodka did its duty! He merrily took leave of his friend and hurried towards the temple with a spring in his steps.
The following month the priest visited the Colonel as usual. Even before the Colonel could offer him coffee, the priest narrated how well he performed the pooja the previous month. Every devotee in the temple appreciated the way he recited the mantras and invoked the blessings of the deity. The priest told the Colonel how his voice became much more melodious as he sang some of the bhajans. The priest added, “I truly felt I was close to God.”
“I’m mighty pleased to hear that my friend,” replied the Colonel.
“Colonel,” the priest said to his friend, “That cooldrink you gave me last month really refreshed me. Can you please give me the same drink?”
“Of course, Swami, of course,” responded the Colonel, with a wicked smile camouflaged under his copious moustache.
This became a regular feature and the priest’s popularity soared. Devotees thronged the temple for the priest’s special monthly poojas. The Colonel rejoiced secretly at his contribution to his friend’s success as a priest.