A Writer and Fighter, 84 Year-old Manorama Bhat is Cops Favorite S.O.S. ‘Amma’

Even at the age of 84 she still fights for the rights of women, especially widows. She is like a Save-Our-Souls (S.O.S) “Amma to the cops around Urwa area, providing them food during time of bandhs. Even at this ‘Young” age she still actively takes part in various awareness programmes giving talks, advices etc on issues relevant to women. She keeps herself busy doing her daily cooking, gardening, reading, interacting with family members/relatives/friends, and making new friends. For her service to the community she was presented with 2004 DK Rajyotsava Award, and also many felicitations by various organizations- and she is none other than Smt Manorama M Bhat, a writer and social worker residing at Ashoknagar-Mangaluru. And I had the privilege in interacting with this active and smiling “Amma”, who shared her stories from her good old younger days till present.

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We talked about her life, her family, and her life journey for the past over eight decades. Born on 15 July 1932 in Puttur to Kannepadi Parameshwara Shastry and Satyabhama, Manorama was one among six children (3 boys and 3 girls)- she had early schooling at St Victor’s Girls School-Puttur, and later completed her SSLC at Board High School-Puttur, under the able guidance of Headmaster, Fr Patrao, whom she even today praises him for being her mentor. She married Muliya Mahabala Bhat, a lawyer in the year 1950- and the couple were parents of two sons namely- Jayaram Bhat, settled in San Francisco-USA who owns his own software business-married to Vani, they have two sons, Rohit and Nishanth; other son, Mahesh Bhat is professional photographer based in Bengaluru, and is married to Bijayini, a professional Odissi dancer.

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Seen with her husband (Late) Muliya Mahabala Bhat

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…. with her son Jayaram Bhat and his wife Vani

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….with her grandsons Rohit and Nishanth

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……with Mahesh Bhat and Family

Studied only up to Xth standard, “Amma” had great talents in writing novels and books, a hobby that she started in the year 1957. Until now she has written four drama books, two short story collections, a auto-biography book on her brother late Ram Krishna’s life. Her latest book, “Neenu Nanu” (You and Me)- a collection of 35 poems was released this year. It is learnt that she is Dakshina Kannada’s first writer. Recipient of 2004 DK Rajyotsava award, she had also received the ‘Attimabbe Award’ in 1997. Apart from these two awards, she has been felicitated during various occasions by various organization for her contribution to the society, in the field of literature and social service.

When asked how she developed close relationship with the cops and why she takes care of them during curfew/bandhs, she replied, “After my husband’s death in 1999, one of the sub-inspector at Urwa Police Station a close friend of our family deputed cops from his department to check on me during night-time. When they visit my house, they log their names in the register book which I still have it here, and then I offer them something to eat and drink. And also during a curfew few years back, when everything was closed in Mangaluru, I offered myself to prepare breakfast/lunch/dinner for these policemen who had no place to go for their grub. Just one call to me, and their needs were fulfilled. Since most of the cops at Urwa Police station are new, I am yet to get familiar with them- but provided them with food/drinks during the one-day bandh last week-they were all happy, and I explained to them my relationship with this police station since years”.

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“One think I always hated is that these cops being called as “Pede” (Peon)- I consider then as my friends, and like my family members-they are like my brothers and sisters. We need to respect our police personnel who are daring their lives to protect us-let us be grateful to them, rather than criticize or hate. I know few of them may be bad, like there is always a bad apple among many good apples.I have always associated with the police and staff at this Station, attending their family functions, birthdays, anniversaries, escorting women in labour to hospitals, baby-sitting their tiny tots and so on- and this bond of relationship has been carried on since 1999. Urwa Police station had also helped me in getting my papers done for th visa purpose to USA to visit my son-I have been twice to California” added Amma.

“I strongly don’t believe in caste and creed-we are all equal in the eyes of the Almighty. Studying in a Catholic School, I have developed close relationship with Catholic community- I can even recite Lord’s prayer ‘Our Father..” very fluently. (she recited a few lines of the Lord’s prayer in Konkani). I love people of every faith and religion- and that’s how everyone should be. As one of the Commandment says, ‘Love Thy Neighbour As Thyself’, we need to love our neighbours and be good to them. And for that matter I am in very good relationship with my Catholic neighbours, John and Hilda D’Souza-who always make sure that I am okay and safe. That’s what neighbours are for! My sincere gratitude to them, and also to others neighbours far and near who keep in touch with me constantly” said Manorama Amma.

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When asked about her opinion on the present generation, she replied, ” I love the ways and lifestyle of present generation-because during my younger days there was lot of discrimination between caste and creed-schedule caste and schedule tribe communities were barred from mixing with Brahmin communities. I don’t believe in superstition, like the tradition ‘Made Snana’- I urge the government to intervene and stop the practice of ‘Made Snana’ and also caste discrimination in Udupi Shree Krishna Math. Culture reflects human dignity, it has an intimate relationship with the welfare of the community. It should be the root strength of universal brotherhood. We are living in a modern world, and we should assimilate with the modern way of life. Let’s all discard discrimination. Let us all live in peace and harmony irrespective of caste and creed”.

She further said, “My one big request to the present youth is that-respect and obey your elders, parents and grandparents. They were there for you when you were small, now that you have grown up it’s time to repay back and appreciate and offer gratitude for their love and sacrifice. My advice for the couples getting married- if you marry please stay together forever. I see too many divorces lately, some marriages don’t even last a year or few months. Me and my husband lived a happy married life, there were few ups and downs, few petty quarrels-but still we stayed together, loved each other- I miss my husband very dearly. Parents good married life should be an good example for their children. Children should follow in their parents footsteps for a better family life”.

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When asked about her secret for staying young and healthy, Amma said, “I follow strict eating habits-my diet is the secret for my health. For morning breakfast I eat simple food comprising of Idli/dosa and such-light vegetarian lunch and dinner. I am strictly vegetarian, and I want to die as a vegetarian. When we were young our parents cooked food from vegetables from our garden, milk from our own cows-so there was no sort of any adulterations in our food items. These days our vegetables are sprayed with chemicals, cows are fed with non-organic food etc- so the vegetables and milk we consume are kind of hazardous to health. I never ate any junk food, like our present youth do. I take morning walks and do light exercise to stay fit and healthy- and strictly follow on the medicine prescribed by my physician. By the grace of God, till now I didn’t had any major sickness, only minor sickness now and then. We need to educate our children/youth about the eating habits/diet and health lifestyle. Life is all good as of now!”

How about some words of wisdom for the readers of mangalorean.com, I asked, for which she replied saying, ” My sincere advice to mother-in-laws is that stop arguing or quarreling with your daughter-in-laws- they are new to your house-they need some time to adjust-have patience and get along good with your daughter-in-laws. I have been with good relationship with my daughter-in-laws, and I love them so them so much, so also do they, that I offered them all my gold ornaments after the death of my husband.My kids and daughter-in-laws support me now. We should all live in peace and harmony-let unity be our motto for a better society. I have never taken off my mangalasutra, because I still adore and love my husband even though he is dead”.

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” I also wish that every child gets education in India-no one should be deprived of education. Even though we have too many educational institutions here, they are all making money by accepting huge bribes/capitation fees from students to get admissions into college-only the rich can afford, but a poor merit student is denied of admission. This needs to be stopped. Fees should be reasonable so that everyone can afford to get seats in the college. I thank Team mangalorean for giving me an opportunity to share my views and thoughts. May God bless you all” concluded Amma.

Team Mangalorean wishes Manorama Amma good health and long life- and may God bless her for all the good deeds that she does for the community, and her dear friends-the Cops of Urwa Police Station.

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Dr Krishna Chari.

Manorama the Great . I was lucky to meet her after we left school nearly sixty years ago.I always admire her loving & caring nature & her magnanimous heart.May The All mighty bless her with a happy & healthy life .