Once an Aloysian, Always an Aloysian! Remembering My Collegemate V G Siddhartha ( Founder of Cafe Coffee Day) at St Aloysius College, Mangaluru during 1980’s
Mangaluru: The blow was hard, the shock was severe when I heard the news in our website about the tragic death of V G Siddhartha, the czar of Cafe Coffee Day enterprise and many other businesses. Many did not know that death would come to him in such a way, but it was His will and wish that he decided to end his life, which has left nearly 50,000 of his employees in sadness, and also many of his admirers, relatives, friends and well-wishers. Being his Collegemate during the eighties when we were students of St Aloysius College, Mangaluru, has brought back memories on V G Siddhartha, even though we were not too close, but often met during college events and association meetings.
V G Siddhartha was senior to me when he did his BA at St Aloysius College, while I did my B Sc at the same institution- and the only time we met was during college associations interaction or during certain events. While I was twice the editor of Students Life Wall Magazine during my I and II Yr B Sc and Secretary of College Life Association in my final B Sc, and those are the years that I used to see face to face with Siddhartha. And I very well remember that day, while I was posting the news/articles on the Students’ Life Wall Magazine board, it was Siddhartha who came to me and said that he would like to take me to Chikamagaluru, where I could capture some good photos of nature, coffee plantation, greenery etc- and without any hesitation I agreed- and one fine weekend me along with bunch of other students joined Siddhartha in an open JEEP, and took a trip to Chikkamagaluru, and I captured a bunch of photos on my camera, which would take only black and white photos, and that camera belonged to Fr Denzil Lobo SJ, the former Rector of St Aloysius Institutions- and also that he was in-charge of Photography Club. It was on 18 June 1975 that Siddhartha joined St Aloysius PUC, and then completed BA in History, Political Science and Economics from SAC in 1980
St Aloysius College BA 1980 Batch- Siddhartha is seen seated at the far left end in front row (Photo Courtesy: Ravishankar Rao)
During the St Aloysius Institution Centenary celebration in 1980, is the time that Siddhartha and I were much closer due to the various projects and arrangements that had to be done, and he was part of the Centenary Student Committee, and I represented from the B Sc department- but other than that we never got associated, since he had his own classmates, one of them being Balraj Shetty, but unfortunately at the moment he is visiting the USA. And hailing from a well to do family, he rode to college on his motorbike, and hanged out with selected friends of his choice, also from the Kudla rich families- so we students from middle-class families used to admire their lifestyle.
Yet another classmate of Siddhartha happens to be H Kumar who was seen at the Nethravathi bridge anxiously watching the search operations yesterday-day and night. And there are many of his classmates, Team Mangalorean tried to contact, but unfortunately was not able to- but luckily found one of my collegemate and great friend, who also happened to be the classmate of Siddhartha in BA at St Aloysius, and that was Ravishanker Rao- Associate Professor in the Postgraduate. Department of English Studies at Mangalore University and this is what he had to say-
“Siddhartha was my classmate, who always upright and soft-spoken, and positive in his thoughts. He was a dreamer and sometimes he had a faraway look in his eyes. But I lost touch with him after college. He’s been a dreamer and an achiever, where he did so much to make India proud. He was never in our Whatsapp group, or we could perhaps have shared some of his woes-God willed it otherwise. Siddhartha has now gone into the rainbow, beyond sorrow and pain… Goodbye, dear Siddhartha! Be happy now”.
Seen with Congress Senior Leader Janardhan Poojari at Kudroli Temple, Mangaluru
Also speaking to Team Mangalorean, Dr A M Narahari, the present Registrar of St Aloysius College, Mangaluru said, “Having shared some time with Siddhartha when both of us were in St Aloysius College hostel, I found him very quiet and studious. It was indeed nice of him to remember his stay here at the college hostel and also his BA education at the college when he gave his speech during the St Aloysius College day in 2017 when he was invited as the chief guest. He did give 30 minutes of motivational and inspirational speech to the students, where he said even though he bunked a few classes, he never missed ‘Value Education Classes (while Christians had Theology classes, non-Christians had Value education Classes). And being a alumnus of this college he had donated a good sum of amount when the college swimming pool was being constructed. Looking at his caliber and personality, he was indeed a gentleman with a good heart”.
Also speaking to Team Mangalorean-Prof Rolphie Mascarenhas, Retired Professor of Political Science and Dean of Faculty of Arts, St Aloysius College, Mangaluru said, “When I heard the heartbreaking news of the disappearance of Siddhartha Hedge I felt not only sorry for him but was quite sad about the incident in Mangaluru. Siddhartha was my student in B A about 40 years ago during the centenary year of St Aloysius College. He was staying in St Aloysius College Hostel. In my interaction with him, I learnt that he was hailing from a well to do family of Chikkamagaluru. He was riding a motorbike and coming to college, one among those few students who owned two-wheelers then. During my tenure as NSS officer during the centenary year, Siddhartha joined as an NSS volunteer. Here I had an opportunity to observe him closely and get to know more about him”.
Siddhartha’s Wedding Invitation and Marriage
“He was both good at studies and an extremely active NSS volunteer. Though he was not exposed to any hard labour at home, I was surprised to see his commitment to service with his involvement in all activities of NSS including physical labour. Other volunteers used to show me his blistered hands due to the handling of implements for digging the college ground and leveling it during the centenary celebrations. He stayed back with a few other volunteers and worked throughout the night during the celebrations. He was an active member of many other college activities too. He was very humble, well-disciplined, hard-working, enterprising and courteous in all his dealings not only with the Staff members but also with his classmates and hostel mates. It is difficult for me to accept that finally after scaling the heights of achievements in life that he should resort to a tragic end. May his soul rest in peace”, added Prof Mascarenhas.
Minister U T Khader and Crowd gathered at Govt Wenlock Hospital Mortuary
This message was posted on Aloysians Batch of 1965-75 by D’Souza, where he says, “Siddhartha was a very humble, soft-spoken and decent man. Was rich even before venturing into building the 6th largest Coffee chain business in the world. Such people need the support of the system which should not be bestowed only upon a selected few. He was humble – was known to accompany his friends to the elevator after a meeting with them. He was focused – shied away from interviews and spent time ‘doing’ rather than ’showing’. He was a family man – He had two sons and regularly attended family functions. Some are blaming the business environment, some the tax authorities and others have their own theories. However, what cannot be ignored is that this seemingly massively successful man had a storm stirring behind his calm demeanour. If you are a person, please be a good one. Even after VG Siddhartha is gone, people are coming together to talk, not about his business or wealth or success, but about how good of a person he was and how he made them feel. R.I.P Coffee King of India. You made us all proud”.
Ryan D’Souza in Mumbai, the son of late Konkani Singer Jerome D’souza speaking over the phone said, “This is indeed devastating news to learn about the tragic death of Siddhartha, whom I knew during my school days at Mountain View School in Chikkamagaluru. Since my dad used to own a business in Chikkamagaluru, I did my schooling there, and I had spent lots of time with Siddhartha, who was quite humble and simple. He mixed with everyone at school, and we shared fun and frolic during our childhood days. His early death is a big loss to the coffee dynasty he built- death shouldn’t have come in such a way for a business tycoon like him. May his soul rest in peace”.
Seen in the above photo is DIG S S Dasila -the Commander pf Coast Guard Karnataka based at Panambur, expressing his condolences- “My deepest prayers for you *#CCD* and you will deeply be missed by *#GenNext*. May God wrap you in arms as warmth of _#Coffee of *#CCD* has been around us+!!_ RIP”
In conclusion, to say about Siddhartha, he had a special way that warmed the hearts of everyone who knew him, and the qualities that made him the wonderful person he was, have left everyone with many beautiful memories. No doubt he did touch hearts of many, including thousands of his employees through his politeness, graciousness and friendliness. It is learnt that he respected everyone with dignity and pride, and was very courteous, friendly and kind to all. He never acted proud of his Post/Founder status of CCD, instead led a very simple designation. Even though Siddhartha has departed, his love is still with many whom he associated with.
Finally, to my collegemate, even though we were not closely associated with, here’s my message-“Siddhartha, your memory is our keepsake with which we’ll never part. God has with you in his keeping, but we’ll always have you in our hearts and in our memories. I pray for your happy repose and May You Rest in Peace! “.
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- MP Shobha and Nalin meet Home and Defense Ministers, seek Helicopter support to Trace Siddhartha
- Founder Of ‘Cafe Coffee Day’ Siddhartha Goes Missing In Mangaluru