Karpura Srinivasa Rao (Part 2)

A Special Incident

A scholar used to attend all the Sahitya Parishat meetings. But, Venkatanarayanappa wouldn’t give him much attention. He would be kept isolated. Let’s say there were perhaps reasons. Let’s call him Mr. X.

When the Sahitya Parishat met in Chikkamagaluru, it looked like Mr. X pleaded with Rao. Rao said “Venkatanarayanappa, please give him a chance now at least. He wants to tell something; he will keep whining otherwise. Please show some mercy!”.

Not being able to disobey Rao, Venkatanarayanappa said Mr. X could speak for 15-20 minutes. It was a full house that evening, hundreds of women had turned up too. After a while, Mr. X was invited on the stage.

Mr. X was short, dark complexioned, neither good-looking, nor well-built. But had that obsession. He came on stage and began by saying he wasn’t an eloquent speaker, his intention was to quote a few lines from a famous prose, with that prologue, he started quoting from “Kabbigara Kāva”, the section describing the victory march of Manmatha.

While reciting those lines, Mr. X was trying to imitate Manmatha. Rolling his eyes, lifting his eyebrows, snapping his hands, dancing etc.

The audience were disgusted by the sight. Rao shouted “Venkatanarayanappa, get that bastard off the stage please”. I don’t have to narrate what happened after that.

A predicament

One more episode:

One of the years, the leaders were struggling to decide who should be made the president of the conference. One of the interested parties was one Mr. Y. This scholar Mr. Y worked hard for 4-5 years dedicatedly for that. The aforementioned Mr. X belonged to the group of Mr. Y. That’s how Mr. Y built his clique. This kind of groupism was not of the liking of Venkataramanappa, Srinivasa Rao and others. But how does one stop it? How to dismiss the candidature? There were no rules of the Parishat which would justify these actions. Amidst this, the day of reckoning came. The post that came that morning did not have the nomination letters of Mr. Y. Everyone was relieved that the problem got solved itself. That was the situation till the evening. Sometime in the night Mr. Y’s letter came. At that time, Parishat was in Shankarapuram. Those times, Venkataramanappa used to visit Parishat building in the night as a routine. Likewise, he saw the envelope. That was Mr. Y’s application. His mind was burdened. Unable to bear it, he went to Karpura Srinivasa Rao to unburden himself. Even Rao thought, what’s the way out now?

It was around 9 o'clock the next morning. Venkatanarayanappa was in the Parishat building. Nagapuram Venkatesh Iyengar and I went there. Within five minutes of us reaching there, we could hear Rao’s voice. From about half a furlong, he came shouting “Venkatanarayanappa, Venkatanarayanappa”. “Don’t worry. Don’t consider his candidature. I can attest it in writing. It is my responsibility, isn’t it?” he said. Rao was elected as the vice president of the Parishat and was responsible to carry out all the responsibilities of the president. Venkatanarayanappa was confused for a moment hearing that. He was anticipating a good explanation. Rao said:

“Look, I’ve been preparing myself from 2-3 years to write a critique on the book, Sudha. There, I have to bring forth the ideologies of Hegel. That’s why, to study Hegel’s work with utmost concentration I have rented a separate house. After taking bath, wearing the clothes[1] given by the swamin, closing all the doors, in the middle of the house, I sit alone and meditate and think - that’s the routine. During those brooding sessions I kept thinking- “Hey! How should I get this motherf***er off the contest”. Then it flashed. The due date was Monday, 15th and it means, till the sunset. Whatever happens after the sunset, doesn’t belong to that day. Hence, Mr. Y’s nomination did not come on time. Dismissed”.

Thus, the danger that came to the Parishat was averted. No rules of the Parishat were broken either. But, what a thought during meditation!


Rao was a fine orator as well. Be it any topic - Literature, Religion, Philosophy, Social reform, education - he could speak about it fluently for hours. One time, it was the birth anniversary celebrations of Vivekananda at Ramakrishna Mutt. There was a huge crowd that had gathered. Rao came at around 4 in the evening. A person who was there said “Rao must be tired; he looks like he came back from his official travel just now”

Rao: “Yes, it took so long to finish inspection in Sagar and come here”

“On top of that, today is Ekadashi[2], you may be tired because of fasting”

Rao: “It’s not being tired, it’s a benefit - 3-4 hours I can give a speech without any hindrance”

There was one more speaker coupled with the speech by the president of that day. So, Rao’s speech did not go for that long.

Among the engineers of Mysore, these had a proclivity for literature 1) Visvesvaraya 2) Rao 3) K. Krishnaiyyangar 4) C. Cadambi 5) Y. Shreenivasa Rao. All of them were interested in public welfare and other areas of knowledge concerning the society. Among these, three were great orators and public speakers - 1) Rao 2) K. Krishnaiyyangar and 3) C. Cadambi

Rao started giving his speech in the senate meeting in the university in English. “Mr. Vice-chancellor what I have to say is…” like this he started and after a couple of sentences he switched to Kannada. “Not like that, sir. What I mean to say is...now we need to listen….” After a minute or two, again he switched to English, instead of “Mr. Vice-chancellor”, he said, “Mr. Nanjundayya”, and continued.

Like this, he used to switch from Kannada to English and vice-versa, and used to pronounce Kannada words like English and vice-versa: “What I submittoo”, “thereforeoo”...likewise.

That is complete self-forgetfulness.

Two or three of us used to visit Rao’s house in the evening. The reason would be clear in an instant. Rao used to offer snacks. 15-20 Chapatis or Pooris. Along with that 2 curries, chutney; and sīkaraṇe. A silver bowl of about 1 feet diameter full of banana sīkaraṇe (when it was no season of mango or jackfruit). Then, a glass of milk. Right after we were seated comfortably, his cook used to offer us a few chapatis or pooris, chutney and sīkaraṇe. When we’d just consumed about half, we would feel heavy.

Rao was a very good swimmer. Every morning for an hour or two, he used to swim in the lake. He had a pure heart. He used to advise all to learn swimming and used to come forward to teach; very generous by nature. He used to spend all his earnings without ever thinking twice. Those who knew Sanskrit, and Vaidikas never used to approach him and return with empty hands. Rao was vivacious and steadfast. 

I feel sad to recall Rao’s last days. He was disabled because of paralysis. Venkatanaranappa’s vow was to make Rao lay the foundation stone to the Parishat building. But Rao’s physical condition was not good. Therefore Rao was brought to the site by car, which was parked on the street just outside the site; one end of a long thread was tied to his hand and the other end was tied to a trowel, after which Venkatanaranappa helped lay the foundation stone. Through the thread the inauguration was symbolically done by Rao himself. Venkatanarayanappa was satisfied by this arrangement. We all were satisfied as Venkatanarayanappa was satisfied.

This is the second part of a two-part English translation of the twelfth essay in D V Gundappa’s magnum-opus Jnapakachitrashaale (Volume 3) – Sahityopasakaru. Edited by G S Raghavendra.


[1] śeṣa-vastra

[2] 11th day of a lunar fortnight when a fast is observed.



Devanahalli Venkataramanayya Gundappa (1887-1975) was a great visionary and polymath. He was a journalist, poet, art connoisseur, philosopher, political analyst, institution builder, social commentator, social worker, and activist.



Dhruva Somayaji holds a bachelor's degree in Electronics and Instrumentation engineering and a master's degree in Business Administration majoring in Finance and Marketing. Dhruva currently works as a senior financial analyst for State Street Global Advisors, a renowned asset management company. His major interests are in history, philosophy, literature, art, politics, and religion. He blogs at http://themeindia.blogspot.in.

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