DASANADODDI VILLAGE, MALAVALLI (MANDYA): He is now the talk of the nation and people have started demanding that he be conferred with the prestigious Padma Shri award. But all humble Kaamegowda, the ‘Lake Man’, wants is just a free bus pass, so that he can visit temples in neighbouring districts.Kaamegowda came under national glare after Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about him in his Mann Ki Baat and Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekawat made a video call on Sunday.
PM Modi praised Gowda’s selfless work to construct 16 ponds at his native in Dasanadoddi, a remote village in Malavalli taluk of Mandya district. In the last over four decades, Gowda has constructed 16 smaller ponds at Kundinibetta, a hillock at his village, helping fellow shepherds and animals. At 84 years, every day he leaves home in the morning with his food packet and returns only in the evening. It’s about a 30-minute walk from his house. Ever since Kaamegowda got national attention, people from different walks of life are visiting him --- political party leaders to NGOs to media.
‘Why destroy Bengaluru’s lakes?’
Kaamegowda told TNIE that he could only think of lakes. “If an animal needs water, it will not go on strike or come to your doorstep. When God has given you two hands, make use of them,’’ he said.Gowda was the recipient of the prestigious Rajyotsava Awardin 2018, when H D Kumaraswamy-led coalition was in the saddle. “During the award ceremony, I had asked for a bus pass which the CM assured. Nothing has been done,’’ he said.
Asked why he needs a bus pass, he said, “Whenever I feel like seeing Maadappa (Lord Shiva in Male Mahadeshwara temple which is 100 km from his village) or Hanumanthappa (Lord Hanuman temple in Channapatna which is 50 km ) or Mandya, I can go without any hurdle.”While the fear of Covid-19 is making many senior citizens stay at home, it did not stop Gowda from stepping out or working. “Just by constructing ponds, our work is not over. We need to maintain them. Lockdown is not for us, who will come to this hill? I walk to my ponds which are located at different levels on the hill. When I feel tired, I sleep under the shade of a tree. And I continue to work till evening,’’ he said.
Gowda then changed his talk to Bengaluru. “In Bengaluru, flooding is common during rainy season. Why should people or government close lakes, cut trees to construct buildings? This is what they have to endure if they destroy nature. It is not just the story of Bengaluru, it is happening in villages too,’’ he said. Asked about the demand for the Padma Shri award for him, he said, “I never heard of it till Thimmakka (Saalu Marada Thimmakka) got it. It is given in Delhi and a big award,’’ he said.If he gets Padma award, what will he do? “I can construct two more lakes,’’ he said. “I have 16 ponds now, want to reach 20. Till my last breath, I can only think of lakes.”