[Reader-list] speaking of a friend who left the room

Ananya Vajpeyi anya at bgl.vsnl.net.in
Sat Jul 24 04:07:59 IST 2004

I write to Sarai list readers for the first time, to share with this 
virtual community the sad news of the passing of Dr. Murari Ballal, of 
Ambalpady, Udupi.

Dr. Ballal was an economist, a philosopher and a man of letters, and 
also a cultural and environmental activist. Anyone with the slightest 
interest in Karnataka over the last 25 years would know of this unique 
figure, even though he lived in a region endowed with more than its 
share of public intellectuals. Dr. Ballal was deeply involved in the 
educational activities of Manipal's various institutions of higher 
learning, in the legacy of Jiddu Krishnamurthy, in the initiatives of 
the many 'matha-s' of Udupi, in the political struggles of the people 
of coastal Karnataka, in the literary, musical and artistic aspects of 
Kannadiga high culture, and in ecological and popular science movements 
across the country.

At Dr. Ballal's invitation, people travelled from all parts of India to 
his house. Even though I came to know Murari only a few years ago, 
since then he hosted U R Ananthamurthy and the late D R Nagaraj, Ashis 
Nandy and Shiv Visvanathan from CSDS, Medha Patkar and Vandana Shiva, 
Samdhong Rimpoche and Sunil Sahasrabudhe, among other men and women of 
ideas and action. Murari could draw anyone he chose into the 
conversation that he spent his life conducting. To keep the dialogue 
going -- that was his special gift.

I feel moved to bring word of Murari's passing to those on this list 
who may not already have known him, because it strikes me that Sarai 
too is an attempt to weave many voices into a conversation. Only some 
readers may have visited Ambalpady, or attended one of the many many 
gatherings that Dr. Ballal choreographed over the years. But his 
beautiful southern Karnataka home, as well as his local cultural 
organization in Udupi-- "Friends of Ratha Beedhi (= Car Street, which 
encircles the Krishna temple)" -- were emblems, nay, embodiments, of 
the elusive ideal of a civilizational dialogue. In as much as Sarai, 
too, seeks to create such a space, I felt that there would be a 
valuable example for us all in the life and work of Murari Ballal.

Dr. Ballal died earlier this month after a road accident left him in a 
week-long coma. His death was untimely and his loss cannot in any way 
be made up, not only for his family and friends, but for Karnataka as a 
whole. Perhaps the best that we can hope to do is to keep on talking to 
one another.

Ananya Vajpeyi.

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