C. P. Belliappa's Column

When General Thimayya was stumped by a movie star

The General, and the Movie Star
(By: C.P. Belliappa)

After he retired as the Chief of Army Staff in 1961, General KS Thimayya settled down in Bangalore for a while. He was gregarious, a ladies’ man, and used to be the centre of attention in any gathering. One evening he was at the Bangalore Club along with a few ladies. They were sitting in the Mysore Room, a very well appointed lounge where it is mandatory to be dressed formally. Gentlemen have to wear at least a full-sleeved collared shirt. And a neck-tie is a must.

A while later General Thimayya noticed a very handsome gentleman sitting all by himself a few tables away reading the newspaper and sipping coffee. He was wearing a long-sleeved polo-necked sweater. General told the ladies “Let’s have some fun with this guy. He is inappropriately dressed.” He got up and walked towards the gentleman. When he saw the General walking towards him and approached his table, the gentleman stood up and said, “General, what a pleasure meeting you,” and extended his hand. General Thimayya was taken aback that he was recognized by the stranger. He shook hands with him and then told him in mock seriousness that in the Mysore Room one must wear a tie, and that the gentleman was not appropriately dressed.

As all the ladies watched in amusement, the gentleman smiled and pulled down his polo-necked sweater to show the General that he was indeed wearing a tie and a collared shirt! General was stumped. The gentleman introduced himself, “I am popularly known as Dilip Kumar, and I am an actor. I have been a great admirer of yours General.” They all had a good laugh. General Thimayya and Dilip Kumar remained good friends after this incident.

I have met General Thimayya, a close relative, on a couple of occasions with my parents. I particularly remember my father once taking me to the General’s official residence at New Delhi sometime in 1960 while I was still a school boy. He had a magnetic personality and had the ability to put anyone at ease with humourous banter.