I was born on 28th Oct 1934 at Gudegeri in Dharwad district of Karnataka. I was the third child to Venkatesh and Padmavati.That is your great grand father and mother. Ours was a quite traditional and conservative family. Our last name ‘Koulagi’ denotes from where our family originated. Koulagi is a small village in Bijapur district . Our ancestors might have moved from this village to Dharwad long back . Hence we do not have any connection with Koulagi village. It is just a part of our name. Certainly Koulagi has given me and you all an identity. I have kept that as part of my name from last 81 years and Sameepa from last 3 years ! My father that is your great grand father was a post master in post independence Indian government. His job was a transferable job. Thus the family used to move from one place to another once in few years. Even though I was born in Gudgeri I do not remember much of that village. But I remember to a certain extent my child hood at Bailahongal in Gadag District. We were in Bailahongal during my primary and middle school. Then my father was transferred to Belgum . I think it was 1942 when we moved to Belgum. Belgum was active in freedom moment and during this period Mahatma Gandhi had given call for quit India for British. As an young boy I used to see the protest march of freedom fighters every day. The People in khadi clad wearing Gandhi cap, holding tri color flag in their hand and shouting slogans passing in front of my house is still fresh in my mind. It was an everyday scene in Belgum at that time. Our house and my father’s office was in the same building. The office was in the front and the house was at the back. I used spend lot of time in my father’s office. There were many interesting activities in the post office for an young lad like me. I used to play with the post men in the office. I curiously watched the way they were stamping the envelopes and how they sealed the post bags using wax. I used take some old paper and the punching machine in the office and played with them for hours. Father also used to send telegraph. You people do not know what is telegraph now! That was the fastest communication of our times. I also learnt Morse code and played with it. Telegraph is a different story all together. I shall tell you about that on some other day. Telephone had not come at that time. The mobile phone and the internet that you people are using now were really out of our dream. I had not thought that such gadgets would come in my life time.
After passing Intermediate exams during the holidays I went to Mumbai to spend some time with my brother. Some how I felt like staying back in Mumbai and learnt typing. You guys have not seen the type writer also! The time changed so fast! Then I joined a lawyer’s office as a typist. He was a parsi by religion. After few months he introduced me to Naturopath in Mumbai and asked me to join him. I readily accepted to work with him. His name was Dr. Dinsha K Mehta. He was a very a popular naturopathy doctor. Mahatama Gandhi when he did long fasting as part of the freedom moment he used to do it under the supervision of Dr.Mehta. Many magazines used to come to Dr.Mehta’s clinic. Such as ‘young India’. I used to read it regularly. That is where I first time I saw the Times of India news paper. Dr.Mehta was a strict and highly disciplined man. He was happy with my work. One day in 1954 Jayaprakash Narayan came to our clinic and stayed in the center for few days for rest. I was asked to assist him by Dr.Mehta. JP was very happy with my style of work and one day he asked me whether I am interested in joining him as his assistant and go to Bihar with him. I took a day to give my decision and came to my brother consulted him and went back to JP to join him. Do you know how old was at that time ? I was just 20 ! I went with JP to Bihar . I used to do all sorts of work in his Ashram. From typing letter to cleaning . I travelled with him through out the country. During the travel and meeting I had an opportunity to interact many big leaders.
Serving the underprivileged
In 1959 I felt like coming back to Karnataka and start working independently on my own. I came to this place with some friends I was fascinated by the calmness, landscape, temples, ponds of this village and decided to stay back here. By then I had come across your grand mother. We decided to marry and stay in this village. We got married in 1960. At the same time we started Janapada Seva Trust with the help of likeminded friends. We the founders of the Trust were all influenced by Mahatma Gandhi. We started working with local villagers, polio was a big disease at that time . Thus we started a home for the disabled children 1963 . We gave food, shelter and education. They were all from rural poor families. Once a child came it used to stay for more than 10 years. We used to have around 30 children in the home all the time. Your grand mother used to cook for all of them. We had very little financial support. We have spent many days without money . Your grand mother collected greens from the backyard and cooked for all of us when we didn’t have money to buy grocery. I used to do teaching, helping children in their daily work. Karunagruha worked like an ashram. We helped more than 200 disabled children to stand on their leg. Most of them are well settled now . Many of them are married . Some of them now have grand children! You know many of them. We also worked with local young people. Since I knew typing we started a type writing institute. Started a 2 years programme to train rural girls for SSLC exams. Around 20 girls used to stay with us during this programme . We conducted 6 batches of such programme. Your father was born in 1961 your uncle in 1967. They were also brought up in the ashram with other children. Along with Trust’s work I also worked for Sarvodaya Mandal to spread the Gandhian thoughts.
Continuing the legacy
In 1985 your father joined us after completing his education. He was influenced by Masanobu Fukuoka the father of natural farming . He translated his book ‘The Ons straw Revolution’ into kannada. Even now it is a very popular book. It has seen 8 editions. He started Hosa Jeevana Daari and started woking for environment and sustainable living. Your uncle Sughosh also joind us around 1994 he was fond of education and started with rural children. He conducted many camps for children. Your mother Geetha and aunt Sharmila have also actively involved in our work. It is glad to see all this. As you know I bring out a monthly magazine by name ‘ Janapada Vichara’ in which we publish articles related to Gandhian thoughts, development and other social issues. All these years we simply worked with peoples support. We have always believed that the society supports any cause which it thinks is useful and relevant for it. It has come true in the case of Janapada Seva Trust. All the support has come voluntarily for the work. It is not a short period .It is time tested. It is more than 5 decades now ! In 2014 Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation honored me with the prestigious award for the constructive work. Now you my grand children have also developed concern for the society and have cultivated good values. I am very happy about it. Even though we are very much disturbed by the violence taking place in the world we both myself and your grand mother have not lost hope about the future. We are optimistic . We have great hope about your generation. Let god bless you.