I would like to make a special mention of two of members of our (English-Kannada Dictionary) Committee – D C Subbarayappa and B Puttayya. These two gentlemen helped us with all sincerity in compiling the dictionary. They were never arrogant or egoistic. Their dedication and hard work were exemplary. The two men examined in detail the draft copies sent by Venkatanaranappa to their residences. After contemplating upon the propriety of the words and their meanings, they would come up with their suggestions. Whenever the committee met, they voiced their doubts and discussed without any haughtiness. If they learnt of new and interesting matter, they always made a note of it. In this manner, working with them was always pleasurable and worthwhile.
None can praise Subbarayappa enough for his handwriting. My eyes have had the occasion of seeing the handwriting of today’s students both in Kannada and English languages. Subbarayappa’s writing was as attractive to the eyes as are the sculptures of Jakanacharya (a legendary sculptor of Karnataka). His letters were like pearls strung together on a string. I found out how good Kannada writing should appear only after seeing Subbarayappa’s writing. When I was a student at AV School, there was a Kannada monthly called ‘Vidyādāyinī’ ವಿದ್ಯಾದಾಯಿನೀ. In a few of its issues, Subarayappa’s travelogues to different places were published. The content was rendered in a lucid and simple language. Having relished his writings, it was my dream to see him in flesh and blood. Many years after my school days, I chanced upon the fortune of seeing him in person. When I got to know that Subbarayappa was a classmate of B M Srikantaiah, my affection for him grew stronger.
I got acquainted with Puttayya sometime between 1906 and 1907. He was the proprietor of a Vokkaliga magazine. In the beginning, the newsletter was printed in the Standard Press, which was housed in the Bangalore Fort. I used to visit the Standard Press at least twice a week and that is how I met Puttayya. Both Subbarayappa and Puttayya were sincere and noble in their words and character. They were always punctual and kept up their word. They were not artful in their lifestyle. The courtesy and humility flowed in their blood.
There arose a dispute during the preparation of the English-Kannada Dictionary – Would there be a remuneration for the committee members or not? The government declared that compensation had to be given. A few European scholars belonging to the university opined that a remuneration had to be paid at any cost. I remember the discussion that took place in the University Council in this regard. If the task was an important one, it was to be executed with dedication and care – for that to happen the board of scholars had to be paid well. It was not fair for the government to make people work free of cost. It does not bolster the work in anyway. If the task was something worthwhile, the government will need to be prepared to pay the expenses incurred in its execution. This was the argument posed by the Europeans and there were others who supported the same.
Venkatanaranappa was severely against this proposal. As he had worked with different co-operative societies, he had realised the harm that money could do. Should we stretch out our palms for wages? – this was his argument. A few of our people were disinterested in the matter and a few others were sitting on the fence. If we aren’t given any remuneration, let us not ask for it. If we are offered some, let us not refuse it – this was their thinking.
This was my [i.e. DVG's] stance – “The government should not behave like a beggar. Making people work free of cost does not bring honour to the citizens. One should not feel that the people who receive salaries are workers of a lower kind.”
We came to a compromise in the decision. “The members appointed by the government were to be given a daily allowance and conveyance charges.” I have written this detail only out of my memory.
Venkatanaranappa started from his house at half past seven every morning. One of the prominent men in his neighbourhood observed his daily routine. One day, he asked Venkatanaranappa, “What is this, Venkatanaranappa? You leave home every day at this time. Where do you head to?”
Prof. V: “To the (Kannada Sahitya) Parishat.”
Neighbour: “What do you gain by going there?”
Prof. V: “There is nothing material that I gain from going there. I only work for my own pleasure.”
N: “You earn the salary paid by the college. Don’t you get remunerated here at all?”
V: “No, sir! This organization belongs to the nation. It does not have any money. People who work there should do out of their patriotism.”
N: “How can you say that? Does anyone work free of cost? Look at me!” (Pointing at his hand-bag) “Look at this bag! I go to the market. I bring back vegetables for two to three days. This is because I belong to the Municipal council and also because I am a bench magistrate. If it can’t even fetch you this much, what kind of a Parishat is that? You say you are devoted to the organization? What kind of devotion is that? It is dry devotion! Can’t it even fetch you some vegetables?”
The neighbour ridiculed Venkatanaranappa and laughed.
Can we say that such people don’t exist today at all? The reader may tell from his own experience.
Appointment of a Professor
The Senate of the Mysore University decided that the university would need to have a professor for Kannada. Once this was announced, several applications were received for the job. There was a rumour that a particular person was to be appointed, as per the opinion of the Vice-Chancellor H V Nanjundaiah. There was a difference in opinion regarding the credentials and potential of the candidate under question. Venkatanaranappa went through all the Kannada writings of the person and noted down the mistakes in the following manner –
1st column – The sentence written by the person
2nd column – Mistakes present in the sentence
3rd column – A sūtra from Śabdānuśāsanam or Śabdamaṇidarpaṇa that would go well with the sentence
This table was published. The list of mistakes went beyond two sheets of paper. Venkatanaranappa decided that it would be better to limit it to two pages and got it published. He distributed the pages containing the list of mistakes to the members of the senate. Nanjundaiah was enraged by this. He called for Venkatanaranappa and asked angrily, “Do you know what kind of a job you have done?”
Venkatanaranappa replied, “I have done whatever my intellect would let me do. The post of a professor is a responsible one. The scholarship of the person who occupies the position should be well tested.”
HVN: “All that is fine! But what you have done amounts to defamation!”
V: “I am ready to undergo the punishment the court of law awards me for my mistake.”
HVN: “You have put your hand in governmental matters. You may lose your job!”
V: “I’ll resign right away!”
Venkatanaranappa wrote his resignation letter immediately.
Metcalf, who was the principal of Central College back then went to talk with Nanjundaiah in person.
“What Venkatanaranappa has done is something very essential. He has performed his duty. We need to congratulate him for his job!”
With these words, he brought back Venkatanarappa’s resignation letter.
I'm not acquainted with the person who was to be appointed as the professor and was stopped by Venkatanaranappa. I have heard that he had completed his MA, was a scholar and had composed a few works. It seems like he was of a slightly comical by nature. Apparently, he had nicknamed Kittel (the composer of the first Kannada-English Dictionary) as “ಕಿತ್ತಳೆ” (orange fruit) and Christian Missionaries as ‘machinery’. His application, however, bore no fruit!
Venkatanaranappa’s efforts did not go in vain. The post of the Kannada Professor was filled by B Krishnappa. He was one of the founders of the Kannada Sahitya Parishat. He was probably its first secretary too. He was certainly a noble person. B Krishnappa was one of the first people to write about Greek literature and history in Kannada.
To be continued...
This is the seventeenth essay in D V Gundappa’s magnum-opus Jnapakachitrashaale (Volume 3) – Sahityopasakaru. Thanks to Hari Ravikumar for his thorough review and Smt. Savithri Bharadwaj for her help in preparing the translation.