The forgotten legend
Lensman Sridhar Naidu joined the Information department in 1948 and was witness to many political and social developments during his career spanning...
Lensman Sridhar Naidu joined the Information department in 1948 and was witness to many political and social developments during his career spanning 40 years. One of his news making photographs include former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi tucking into roasted corn (makka) at Fateh Maidan Club Do we get to watch a prime minister settling down leisurely for a hearty meal ? Never, I am sure. VVVIPs like the President and the Prime Minister have to take care of what, when and how they eat. They cannot be seen tackling the stuff like aam aadmi, tearing down parathas or gulping bhel puris. Long before he became Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee visited Adilabad. I was around. Noticing my hesitation to join for lunch, he joked 'Bin bhojan kaisa rahoge? Aap jaante hain ke hamara party bhojan sangh ke naam se bhi mashoor hai'. Like Vajpayee, Indira Gandhi was also known to be a great connoisseur of food. On one of her trips to Hyderabad in the late Sixties, she stopped at Fateh Maidan Club for lunch. A close associate dropped hints to the hosts that madam relished roasted corn spiced with chilli and salt (makka butta masala or kaalchina mokka jonna kande). Madam surveyed the dinner table and zeroed in directly on her favourite delicacy. She heartily dug into a couple of them. An awestruck witness confessed that he was reminded of the Vivaha bhojanambu scene in Maya Bazaar. Could anyone dare take close shots of Madam Prime Minister doing full justice to the mouth-watering item? Yes. D Sridhar Naidu for one did. Because, as photographer of the Information department, he was no stranger to Indira Gandhi or her illustrious father Jawaharlal or other national leaders. He developed good rapport not only with these leaders but successive chief ministers from Burgula Ramakrishna Rao to NT Rama Rao. Newspapers lapped up Naidu's photographs with the same relish that the prime minister bestowed on makka. Had it been in the US or the west, it would have fetched the lensman Pulitzer prize or plum assignment. Sridhar Naidu , who took to photography at the age of 15, joined the Information department in 1948 and was witness to many political and social developments during his career spanning 40 years. He covered Hyderabad Liberation Movement and forged close contacts with Swami Ramananda Tirtha, Pandit Narendra Dev, Burgula Ramakrishna Rao, PV Narasimha Rao and other stalwarts. Naidu was recognised as a freedom fighter and sanctioned pension and land. Jawaharlal Nehru , who toured communal riot-torn Bidar and Osmanabad in the early 50s, was horrified by what he had seen. As he sat all alone, pensive and reflective, Sridhar captured the agony on the Prime Minister's face in the fading evening light. Another image of history in black and white. Naidu has fond memories of Vinoba Bhave's Bhoodan Yatra in the Fifties. 'I used to draw water from the village well for him every day. I loved doing it', Naidu recalled, his eyes glowing with pride. His portfolio includes foundation laying for Nagarjunasagar and Srisailam projects by Nehru. At Naidu's request, Nehru posed for photographs with local journalists at Kacheguda railway station in July 1963. That turned out to be his last visit. Sridhar Naidu had a good equation with N. Sanjiva Reddy also. As President, Reddy hosted dinner to the US President, Jimmy Carter, at the Rashtrapathi Bhavan. Shutterbugs were not allowed. The First Lady of India asked him to 'come in'. Going back to the moment, Naidu says "A dozen photographers gave me their cameras. In the confusion I took pictures for them, but forgot to use my own." An ardent fan of Tiger Pataudi, Naidu offered to donate his eye for the cricketing legend who had lost it in a road accident. Tiger was moved by the gesture which prompted a leading English newspaper to recommend 'Sportsman of the Year' award to Naidu . In the evening of his life, Naidu's dream of owning the land sanctioned over 50 years ago, but not handed over yet, remains unfulfilled. Tired of running from pillar to post, he gave up. Last year, Government selected him for lifetime award of Rs one lakh. It issued orders and released funds. What then is the hitch? The Information department is keen that the awards be presented by the Chief Minister at a function. But for the busy CM garu, it is not a priority item. None dare breach the protocol and have another VIP present the awards. 'Why can't they give it while I am still alive?', he wonders. Let us hope Kiran Kumar garu will spare time to fulfill Naidu's dream. (The writer is former Chief of Bureau, The Hindu, Hyderabad) Email: [email protected],
25 Jan 2020 11:32 AM GMT