It is very hard for me to write about V.S.Srinivasa Sastri or to get anything written about him. It is a challenging task to decide where to start and where to end. What’s all the more difficult is for me to control my own emotions. I had always considered him as my younger father (Uncle). He too, similarly, had great affection for me. It is impossible not to get swept by his showering of love and affection. However, this might also hinder an essential quality called objectivity which every pen portrait should posses. I might have the urge to say a word more about him (which might border on exaggeration). But, if I refrain myself from saying much, it will only do him injustice. Thus, it is difficult to bring a balance to what I can say but bringing him to my mind again and again gives me great joy. I consider it my duty to remember him often (and write about him too). I also see it as my offering of gratitude to ink my thoughts about him. I have tried to note down the details that occur to me at the point of time I am writing them down. I shall use words that come to me by themselves while documenting my thoughts.
My esteemed friend Sri. P. Kodandaraya has written a detailed biography of Srinivasa Sastri in English. It is a joy to read the work. One can find details such as his birthdate in the said work.
It was around 1899, probably. An English monthly called the ‘Educational Review’ was published from Madras. It was printed by a book seller by name Srinivasa Varadachari. It was a huge organization. The store functioned for about thirty years, met with a fire accident and vanished from people’s sight (and mind). I don’t know if it currently continues to exist.
The editor of the magazine was a person by name Thomas Denham. He was the president of Pacchaiappa College back then. Denham was an expert at History, Political Science and Economics. He later rose up to be the President of the Maharaja College at Mysore and took measures for the setting up the Mysore University. Once the university was established, he served as its registrar for some time too. He was a noble man. H.V Nanjundayya had great regard for Denham.
Though Denham was the titular editor of ‘Educational Review’, it was K.B. Ramanatha Iyer, an English Professor at Pacchaiappa College who did the majority of the work for the magazine.
I will need to dedicate some space to tell a few interesting aspects about Ramanatha Iyer. His proficiency in English was so great that Lord Curzon, who had tremendous appreciation for his skill at the language appointed him as a member of the Education Commission that he had formed. (Lord Curzon was known to be a great scholar and a gentleman in those days). Ramanatha Iyer was a person of great values, objective in his thoughts, noble and elegant in his mannerism.
Govinda Raghavayyar was elected as the President of the annual congress of the Liberal Party. The Madras edition of the Hindu had ridiculed it back then. They ridiculed them - ‘The Liberals are Dwarfs’. Prof. Ramanatha Iyer replied to it as follows – “Your words are nice to hear. We are all dwarfs back here. How can we invite a giant of a person like you to our meeting? Govinda Raghavayyar is a pigmy, just as you say; we, his followers are pigmies too...”
Books were often submitted to the magazine ‘Educational Review’ for getting reviewed. Among the books submitted in this manner, there was a series of books on Grammar published by the Macmillan Company that was to be reviewed. There were about three or four books among those that could be read by students belonging to the primary, middle or high school. The author of the series of books was a person by name J.C. Nesfield. The editors of the magazine handed over the responsibility of reviewing this series to V.S. Srinivasa Sastri. The reviews written by him became very famous among the articles published by the Educational Review.
Back then, the Educational Department of the Mysore State Government sent copies of the ‘Educational Review’ to every college coming under its jurisdiction. For K.V. Ramaswami, an English lecturer at our college, the day of the month on which the ‘Educational Review’ arrived was a day of merriment. He seated his students around him and read out loud the articles that had appeared in the Educational Review. He sometimes made his students read the articles out loud. Reading a text out loud to the class was a compulsory part of the syllabus back then. It helped students in mending their pronunciation and clearing their voice boxes.
The Review Articles
When the reviews written by V.S. Srinivasa Sastri on the English Grammar Book series started appearing in the ‘Educational Review’, our teacher Ramaswami Iyer was thrilled and eagerly looked forward to every issue. He put aside all his tasks at hand and read out the reviews to us. The reviews concerned themselves with the usages of some words in English, their forms and variations and the instances in which they needed to be employed.
- Will and shall
- Would and should
- May and might
- Must and ought
Along with these, there was a discussion on some proper nouns too.
Srinivasa Sastri had pointed out some errors that had occurred in Nesfield’s writings. He had supported his argument by quoting several examples and by giving references to several works. There was a series of counter attacks on his reviews. The discussions went on for months. The scholars who participated in the debate included Prof. Ramanatha Iyer, Pudukote Kameshwara Iyer, his brother Shankara Kameshwara Iyer, K. Natarajan of the ‘Social Reform’ magazine and about two or three other South Indians. Those who took opposition to everything this team of scholars said included G.H. Walton (the author of the work titled ‘Synthesis’), Shepherd (he too was famous for a work on grammar), McMardy, a few other Europeans and Anglo-Indians.
In this series of arguments, the Iyers delineated the grammatical rules. The foreigners tried to give them replies and withdrew with broken teeth. This was very comical for us in our childhood. We were proud that our men put the English men to shame using the rules of grammar of their own language.
The discussion went on for seven to eight months and the MacMillan company decided to make amends in its books.
There is another interesting incident connected with Srinivasa Sastri’s life. It stands as a testimony to the fact that I had lost myself to his scholarship several years before I met him in flesh and blood.
It was probably back in 1910-11 that I first met Srinivasa Shastri, if my memory doesn't betray me.
My First Acquaintance
Srinivasa Sastri had seen me before we first met. It was before the Dussera in October 1908 – Srinivasa Ayyangar of ‘Mysore Standard’ and I were at the Railway Station in Bangalore to catch a train to Madras. Srinivasa Sastri was visiting Bangalore during that time. The very night, he had come to the railway station to catch the same train as we were taking, back to Madras. Seeing that, Srinivasayyangar went to Srinivasa Shastri, greeted him, brought him to the place where I was standing and introduced me to him. This was a meeting that lasted only a few seconds. Srinivasayyangar then helped Srinivasa Sastri get into his compartment. He then told me – “Srinivasa Sastri is a great man. He had come to Bangalore for some job related to Gokhale’s ‘Servants of India Society’. You will need to gain greater acquaintance with him at some point in time. I told him about you in brief. He then asked me – ‘What is this, sir? Have you examined everything about the boy? There are many who come to people like you and me these days under the pretext of national service. They will pretend to be having a friendly conversation with us, collect information and discreetly inform the police”
That was Sastri’s reaction, apparently and such was the state of the country in those days.
To be continued...
This is the first part of the English translation of Second essay in D V Gundappa’s magnum-opus Jnapakachitrashaale (Volume 6) – Halavaru Saarvajanikaru.