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Siddhartha lived by his honour code, and died by it

August 01, 2019 12:40 IST

'The Hegdes lived a life of simplicity, stayed in the background always, never in the media or on Page 3. Business of that scale did not seem to have any impact on their social lives or public visibility, by their own choice.

'In short, a nice, private, sweet little family.

'And today we have invasive TV footage and visuals convert their lives into a soap opera style drama.'

M D Riti pays tribute to Bangalore's homegrown business giant.

My first clear memory of Siddhartha Hegde, as we knew him, was not at his wedding. Though I must probably have attended that, I don’t really remember.

Malavika, S M Krishna’s older daughter, was my junior in school, her gentle, soft, beautiful mother was my mother’s friend.

 

I remember meeting cute, petite Malavika at the gate of the well-known convent school we both used to attend, and carrying her school bag in for her, as I was a tall, well-built seventh grader. So I could well have attended the wedding.

But the first time I really noticed Siddhartha was when I was on the campaign trail of his father-in-law, the chief minister-elect, in Mandya. As Krishna, who lived in Bangalore although he had a palatial ancestral home in Mandya, was driven in his huge white car to Mandya from Bangalore, with me trailing behind in a cab, Siddhartha was driving on ahead, alerting ground staff ahead to welcome Krishna.

This memory stands out only because it symbolises the essence of the simplicity of Siddhartha. A tall, slim, gentle, good-looking man, always dressed simply in middle class trousers and shirt. Never ever spoke to any of us journalists, preferred to stay in the background.

And then, gradually, he began to be noticed by us in the media because of his phenomenal idea, the Café Coffee Day chain, and then the boutique Serai hotels, even now the most sought after, well run and luxurious chain of resorts in Karnataka.

The connect with Siddhartha became strangely two-fold, like two parallel streams running one beside the other.

I discovered Malavika outside yet another school gate, this time the one that both our children went to, both toddlers in nursery school. We found it very convenient to combine my car-sick daughter with her impish son, although the children always went in her car not mine, though we were supposed to alternate.

So, I was at the odd birthday party or home event of Siddhartha by evening and sometimes in his office by day time, looking at the interesting businesses he had started or had invested in.

What I remember most about him is the sheer simplicity of the man. And how he valued his middle class values and upbringing in Mangalore.

He felt his priest-run strict school and his ordinary college were the best education he could ever have had.

The Hegdes lived a life of simplicity, stayed in the background always, never in the media or on Page 3. Business of that scale did not seem to have any impact on their social lives or public visibility, by their own choice.

In short, a nice, private, sweet little family.

And today we have invasive TV footage and visuals convert their lives into a soap opera style drama.

I cannot begin to absorb what Siddhartha did, or even begin to understand why he did it.

I can only surmise that his own honour codes, which seemed to be quite strict, and his pride in his quiet achievement and passion for business, made life suddenly unbearable.

And he chose to go home to the river beside where he grew up at the end.

We Bangaloreans are struggling to come to terms with the unexpected loss of one of our homegrown business giants, a man who showed our city that money could be made and international businesses established in fields other than IT.

M D Riti
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