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Work is worship

And literally so in case of Gurappa, who specialises in painting gods



Gurappa continues to work at the ripe old age of 84. — Photo: K. Gopinathan

EVEN AT 84, he goes on quietly, but with undiminished enthusiasm. Gurappa, a retired employee of HAL, who does illuminated paintings of gods and goddesses, has been commissioned to work at the Venkataramana Padmavathi Temple in Pittsburgh, U.S.A. His works adorn walls of temples, monasteries, and restaurants across India, including the Durga temple, South Africa, and the Mahabodhi Society Monastery, Ladakh.

Work for Gurappa is worship. The old adage is most apt in his case. People continue to approach Gurappa, for they know nobody can do it better than him. For instance, the paintings of Venkateswara and Padmavathi at the Kote Venkataramana Temple, the picture of Anjaneya for the famous Gali Anjaneya temple are just some examples of his excellent work. Some of Gurappa's works are particularly striking. For instance, his Venkateswara Dashavatara. It is extremely innovative and is a result of the inspiration he derived from the picture of a Dashavatara painting he had seen in a magazine. He worked on it for nearly two months and the end product was appreciated by a number of devotees.

Family support

One of Gurappa's sons, M.G. Suresh, also chips in with the portraits. Gurappa works day and night, and at times, he even works all through the day. "Some paintings take weeks and some take months," says Gurappa. He is so popular that his clients come from as far as Mumbai, Chennai, and Hyderabad.

For Gurappa, who has always been enthusiastic about painting, gods are his mainstay. He recalls that he learnt the art from artists who came to the Empire Studio, a well-known studio in the city. Way back in the 1940s, he had seen M. Visvesvaraya and had even done a portrait of him. His portrait of Veene Seshanna is kept in the Seshanna Bhavana in Mysore and is placed on a lighting system of 4ft x 6ft size. The picture of T. Chowdiah (of 4ft x 6ft dimension) in Gurappa's shop is a masterpiece.

When M.S. Subbulakshmi was honoured by the Taranga magazine, a large photo measuring 6ft x 8ft of Venkateswara done by Gurappa was installed at the venue of the function, since MS was a staunch devotee of the Lord. MS is said to have taken to this exquisite piece of art. Gurappa has also done paintings of Basava, of which one is in MICO and the other at the residence of the late chief minister of Karnataka, J.H. Patel. Gurappa not just produces lovely pieces of art, but also brings good luck to his customers. Or so his customers believe. Here is an interesting story on one of his framed Lord Venkateswara paintings kept in a hotel in City Market. The story goes that business thrived to such an extent after they installed it that they began spending Rs. 200 for decorating the photo with flowers every day!

Interesting incident

Another interesting incident was in the 1990s when he had gone to the electric crematorium at Wilson Garden for the funeral of a relative. A small picture of Harishchandra in the crematorium caught Gurappa's fancy and was curious to see it from close. The attendants there stopped him from going anywhere close to it. Gurappa offered to do a larger picture for them. He successfully convinced them that he needed the small picture. Twenty days later, he came back with a 3ft x 5ft illuminated lighting system picture and the attendants were only too grateful. Much later, when Gurappa had to go to the crematorium for a relative's funeral, it was closing time. The authorities asked them to come back the following day. But when they saw Gurappa as part of the group, they were more than willing to oblige.

Gurappa has won several awards and recognitions. Nevertheless, for him, his work seems to be his only concern. His Swarnakala Arts specialises in illuminative works and can be contacted on 22235981, 36947560.

Sir M.V. comes to Gurappa

THE OWNERS of HAL had approached Sir M. Visvesvaraya for starting a factory that makes aircrafts. Visvesvaraya met William Douglas Pawley in the U.S. on behalf of them, after which the Mysore Maharaja decided to provide land for the factory. And then engineers came from the U.S. to Kumara Krupa Guest House where a meeting was arranged by the Attorney General Dr. George Sellette, who was legal advisor to Douglas.

After a deal was struck, they first needed to type out an agreement and in the whole of Bangalore, they could find only two typists. In Chikpet was the City Institute of Commerce. The principal of the institute was asked whether he would type the agreement which ran to 30 to 40 sheets. The principal suggested Gurappa, and when the entire team landed at his house, he had gone out.

The desperate men then went in search of the young man adept at typing. They did find him, and when they told Gurappa why they were looking for him, he was apprehensive. But then he was overwhelmed by the presence of Sir M. Visvesvaraya, His Highness, and 25 others! Gurappa started work and produced a document with absolutely no errors. George was thrilled and said he never expected the young boy could do it. He then gave him the main agreement paper and asked him to type it directly on the stamp paper. Gurappa typed 25 sheets.

After completing the work he was given Rs. 80. It was big money those days and an overjoyed Gurappa had celebrated by treating friends and buying things for himself.

Gurappa even got a job offer from the Americans. They wanted him to work as their typist for a salary of Rs. 25! Gurappa remembers cycling to the office in Domlur initially. Later, the American engineers, who used to stay in Basavanagudi, offered to pick and drop Gurappa. Gurappa worked with HAL till 1946.

M.V. CHANDRASHEKAR

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