By P.T. Bopanna
Kodavas, a microscopic minority community hailing from Kodagu (Coorg) in Karnataka, were once known for their leadership qualities. This Kodava trait of being natural leaders was very much in evidence in the Defence services and Kodagu came to be known as the ‘Land of the Generals’.
However, in the last few decades, the community has not produced many truly outstanding men and women, except in the arena of sports.
There could be many reasons for the setback. Though Kodavas are one of the most highly educated communities in India, they have not been able to break the glass ceiling in their chosen areas because of the lack of killer instinct.
As a chronicler of Kodagu, I felt one of the reasons for their inability to play leadership roles, was the absence of enough ‘role models’ in the community. There was a time when many from Kodagu used to crack the IAS, but in the recent years, one hardly comes across such achievements.
Probably, because of the reservation policy of the government, it has become difficult for Kodavas to get representation in the all-India services.
With a view to reignite the famed leadership qualities in the community,
I decided to promote ‘role models’ by starting ‘Coorg Person of the Year.’
The concept first took shape in 2005 and Dr Kavery Nambisan,
a novelist and medical practitioner, was selected as the first Coorg Person of the Year. The selection was made based on the basis of a poll I conducted through my news portal www.coorgtourisminfo.com. There has been no looking back since then. Every year, I conduct a poll to select the Coorg Person for that year. The final choice is made by me after going through the feedback I receive from the members of my Facebook groups and pages, numbering more than 25,000.
I did not want to confine the competition to the Kodava community, as I feel people from all communities hailing from Kodagu should be involved in the exercise. For instance, one of the joint winners of the title in 2018 was industrialist Ashok Kumar Shetty, who donated part of his land to the government for building a road which was damaged by the floods and landslides of 2018. This, despite the fact that he himself had lost a big chunk of his land to the landslide.
In 2013, Dr S.V. Narasimhan, a bird-watcher and environmentalist, who is also a medical practitioner from Virajpet town, was the choice for Coorg Person. He was featured under two categories in the 2013 edition of the Limca Book of Records.
Dr Narasimhan, the author of the book “Feathered Jewels of Coorg”, pioneered the concept of spreading wildlife conservation messages through his unique hand-painted cards.
Age is no bar while selecting the Coorg Person. For instance, the winner of 2020, Dr Sanjana Kattera, a corona warrior, is in her twenties.
I do admit that sometimes the most deserving people have failed to win the Coorg Person title because the selection is made on the basis of the contribution of a person in that particular calendar year. One of the persons who richly deserved the title, but failed to make it was the late Pandanda M. Kuttappa, who conceptualised the Kodava ‘family hockey’ festival.
Source: ‘Coorg Role Models’ authored by P.T. Bopanna (in picture). Rolling Stone Publications (2021). The paperback book is available on both Amazon and Flipkart.