by Praveen Kulkarni & Rajendra Belgaumkar
Adapted from an article published in the December issue of Paulite Link Magazine
Anuradha Kittur, known to all as Anutai, was born as Anusuya Nagesh Gunaji. Born in a very well to do family of the then Chief Officer of Belgaum Municipality, Mr. N. M. Gunaji, Tr. Kittur was one of the five children to her parents and had a fun filled childhood. She and her siblings grew up in fine upbringing, with a touch of religiousness, with recitation of verses from the Bhagvad Gita and other religious texts. Her range of hobbies included music, cycling, swimming, hockey, badminton, table tennis and hututu.
Her schooling happened in Chintamanrao High School in the Shahapur suburb of Belgaum, after which she joint Lingraj College for her B.A. Degree. Her already gleaming eyes brighten up when she recollects her encounters with her male counterparts, during her college years.
When I asked her how and when she met Dr. Kittur, her future husband, she narrated the incident when she first met Dr. Kittur. They met at the Thread Ceremony of a relative, where she was frying wadas. With a twinkle in her eyes, she also lets out a secret, that Mr. Yeshwant Kittur had his bakery in camp, but later became a doctor because Tr. Kittur “did not wont a husband who worked in a bakery.” In an era when love marriages were unheard of, Tr. Kittur married Dr. Yeshwant on Sept. 8, 1940 and although Anusuya N. Gunaji became Anuradha Yeshwant Kittur, she remained Anu to her elders and Anutai to her youngsters.
The freedom she got from her in-laws, especially from her father-in-law was no different from what she got at home. Marriage did not stop her from pursuing her academics and social goals. She completed her B.A. Degree in 1941.
The teacher’s job in St. Paul’s High School came by accident. Anutai Kittur was in her husband’s clinic, busy cleaning the floor, when Fr. George Rego,S. J., the then principal of St. Paul’s walked in for a check-up. On enquiry, Anutai told him she was the Dr. Kittur’s wife and had a B.A. Degree, he said “What are you doing here? Would you like to be a teacher ?” So, she joined St. Paul’s and started off as a class teacher for Std. VII and taught Marathi and Sanskrit. She there after secured her M.A. and B.Ed Degrees. As a teacher, she was full of compassion for the boys. Boys used to be sent to the principal for any wrong doing. The then principal was known for the liberal pasting he meted out to young boys. After she got to witness one of the sessions, she stopped sending boys to the principal to save them from the special treatment.
At school, she was entrusted with the extra responsibility of the Ladies Auxiliary Committee, a group of like minded, dynamic and get-going women, who forwarded the spirit of “Service.” These ladies started a canteen that served wholesome food stuff. They also helped out deprived children, with there need of books, pens, uniform, shoes etc. As early as the 1950’s they began providing mid day meals for the less fortunate ones. Tr. Kittur was later appointed the Secretary of the Committee. In a lighter vein, she even notes that she served the school for 32years and drew pension for 39 years. Even now she spends all her earnings for social causes. It was Tr. Kittur who setup the first ‘Working Womens Hostel’ in Belgaum and was also actively involved with many institutions such as the Theosophical Society of India, various Womens groups and Mahila Vidyalaya.
Having lived a life full to the brim, she has also had her share of hard times. She recollected the sorrow of having lost her two sons Dr. Anil and Dr. Ramesh within six months of each other. Tr. Kittur has taken joys and sorrows, success and otherwise with great aplomb. It is probably her nature of taking everything in her stride, that has still kept her as strong as the Rock of Gibraltar.
She must be the second lady after the Queen of Kurndwad to drive a car in Belgaum then. Many of her times could recollect how she drove the car with one hand on the steering and one hand on the window.
Even at the ripe old age of 98, she feels there is so much more to be done in the society. The only thing that holds her back is her immobility, due to the stiffness in her legs.
She is still an inspiration not only to the young and the not so young, but to the people that know her and the lives of the people that she has touched. Armed with qualities like dedication, fearlessness, determination and loads of optimism, she is an indestructible humble, loving and a simple soul. Confidently battling her way up and fighting for women’s rights had given her a persona and an image that shook many a great men during her time.
The values instilled by her, have made many fearless, dedicated, hard working, high achievers in whatever tasks they undertake. Her charisma, courage, and intelligence her creative, affectionate and sociable personalities make her legendary not just confined to the Kittur family nor locally in Belgaum, but Globally.