Perhaps, it was 1920-1921: The line of shops in New Taragupete in the east of Bangalore. Among the warehouses that lay on the opposite side of the western compound of the Victoria Hospital, the third or the fourth shop belonged to D. Srinivasa Rao. He was the son of Dharmapravartaka Late D. Appu Rao. The Printing Press of ‘Navakarnataka & Co.’ was housed in the same building. The English newspaper ‘The Karnataka’ that I was running back then was being printed there. I reminisce that those were the last days of that newspaper.
Every day, starting at about four in the evening, I usually wrote and did my proof-reading as I sat in the small field in front of the shop. At times, (my) friends gathered there for a gossip party. Veerakesari Seetharama Shastri was one among them. Shastri and I were well acquainted with each other. Back then, I wore chappals that bore semblance to ‘chadaavu’ (which was usually worn by the Muslims). Shastri picked up an argument pointing at my chappals – “All that your Gandhi says is right, sir! But, he says that we should bow down to these. No, I am not prepared for that.” I then asked – “They won't bend down and you too don’t seem to want to bend – when such is the case, how will the matter be settled?” Shastri replied – “Let them continue to stand and we too will stand. We’ll pay them whatever they deserve”. Our arguments usually ended in humor.
In the argument presented here, ‘we’ refers to the Hindus and ‘they’ to the Muslims. It was the period of the Khilafat movement. Mohammed Ali Jauhar and Shoukat Ali brothers were the representatives of the Muslims. Readers will understand the rest of the context, I believe.
Let me now move on to the actual matter that I wanted to narrate. On either sides of the Printing Press which I normally visited, were rows of warehouse shops – all had verandas. They were vacant. As such, they had become places of habitation for the servants who worked in the warehouse. These servants guarded their respective warehouses.
One day, my eyes happened to witness an incident that took place in the veranda behind one such warehouse. A woman stood in the veranda and a Muslim guy stood in front of her as if he was glued to her body. It seemed that there was some quarrel going on between them. Blood was oozing out from her lips. She was crying and shouting. Looking at this, I was afraid of danger to her life. I headed to the Police Station and informed about the happenings.
Krishna Rao and Subba Rao were the two sub-inspectors working there. T. Tamboochetty was the superintendent. All the three were known to me. They were good men and were my friends too. Krishna Rao sent a constable with me. He seemed to be quite old (for the job). He came to the spot. Looking at this incident, he only smiled and reproached me, saying – “Why do you bother about this, sir. Don’t worry. Nothing will happen. You move away from here. Such things are common”. Since this incident, Krishna Rao and Subba Rao often poked fun at me for being a coward. From time to time, Krishna Rao worked as an assistant in the Efficiency Audit Department under Nyapati Madhav Rao.
Now, let me relate the central point – An aged man and an old woman resided in the veranda behind the warehouse that was adjacent to the Printing Press. The man was perhaps very old and I always saw him lying down. The lady usually collected some rotten onions, spoiled potatoes and dried egg-plants which she could amass while working every morning.
In the afternoon, she removed the rotten part of the onions, spoiled portion of the potatoes and the dried segments of the egg-plants and cooked (with the relatively fresh parts). As she cooked, the aroma of the meal under preparation permeated the entire street and caught my nose too.
After she was done with her cooking, the bathing ritual took place. The couple owned two or three earthen pots. One was to cook ragi-balls, another was to boil ambali (a liquid dish prepared out of ragi) and the third was used to store drinking water. Another larger earthen pot was used by the couple to boil water for bathing purposes. The woman kindled fire with the sticks and the waste she had collected and boiled water in the big pot. She bathed her husband with hot water, gently stroking her hand on his body – a body that had become rough with boils. She would pour warm water again and again over his body so that his pain would get alleviated and his tiredness would be gone. He enjoyed his bath with a smile on his face and usually uttered in the middle – “Aha! how comfortable”. After the process of bathing was over, he either wiped his body with the dirty piece of cloth or would get his body wiped (by his wife). As all this happened in the open field, my eyes captured this regular set of events.
Bliss of Meals
Once she was done with her cooking, the lady would spread a leaf for meals and put a hot ball of ragi on it. With her finger, she would carve a cup on the ragi-ball, just like a pond with a dam around. She poured in the ambali that she had cooked in its middle. The old man would take a small portion of the ragi-ball, break it into smaller pieces, dip it in the ambali and put it between his lips. As he swallowed the bit, he smacked his lips and would laugh. Now and then, he spoke a word or two and she responded. The meal went on for an hour. It was a pleasure for me to see the happiness of the couple.
Each evening, I witnessed the process with great curiosity. It was an experience of Bliss.
ānando brahmeti vyajānāt |
ānandāddhyeva khalvimāni bhūtāni jāyante |
ānandena jātāni jīvanti |
ānandaṃ prayantyabhisaṃviśanti |
Know that ānanda is Brahma
Isn’t everything born out of ānanda?
everything that is born lives because of ānanda
they pause here while heading towards ānanda.
Love is Beauty
Love is the reason for ānanda here. Mutual love made the old man and the lady forget their poverty. If they had won money in the lottery or procured it from elsewhere, what use would that have been to them at their ripe old age. It is love that made them forget their physical age and brought youthfulness to them. What’s more interesting – love made them visualise beauty in their emaciated bodies. Love is beauty – all jewels, ornaments, decorations and wealth are only a burden in a place which lacks love. Love is wealth; love means the blossoming of heart.
This is the English translation of the thirty-fifth essay in D V Gundappa’s magnum-opus Jnapakachitrashaale (Volume 8) – Sankirna Smrutisamputa