The tragic death of Coffee Day Enterprises promoter V.G. Siddhartha came as a shocking news to all who admired him. While tributes poured in for the businessman who single-handedly took Indian coffee to the global stage, few know that Siddhartha was the man behind the rocks that stand today at Kavishaila, the final resting place of great Kannada poet Kuvempu, in Karnataka's Shivamogga.
It began when the Rashtrakavi Kuvempu Pratishthana (Trust) at Kuppali village in Malenadu, where Kuvempu was born, started planning a monument in honour of the poet. Purnachandra Tejaswi, Kuvempu's son, approached me with the request to prepare a design. I conceived a design, but its execution required mammoth-sized boulders, trucks and heavy cranes. This was beyond the budget of Pratishthana.
Tejaswi requested Siddartha for help. Siddhartha whole-heartedly agreed to sponsor the cranes, trucks and 20 massive rocks to create one of the magnificent art works that brought Kuvempu's ideas to life. The work took four months to get completed.
At each stage, Siddhartha made it a point to be in touch to see the progress of the project. He was a man with great humility and simplicity. He had a great ability to see everyone equally—be it a commoner or an important person. If not for him, the project would not have been completed.
Our first interaction dates back to years before the Kavishaila project happened, when Tejaswi informed me of Siddhartha's intention to buy some of my paintings. I took his number from Tejaswi and called a few days later. The deal went through a lot bargain because Siddhartha was quoting a price less than what I had asked for. He said that he had seen the painting market closely during his days in Mumbai. He evidently had profound knowledge about paintings and art collections.
(The author is a contemporary artist and architect, and lives in Hassan, Karnataka)