D.V.G: The Incessant Experimenter of Language, Working Style and Food

This article is part 20 of 24 in the series DVG Profile by S.R. Ramaswamy

On one occasion, DVG had fixed the year for some incident. Later, I had consulted the primary source for the said incident and slightly altered the year.

As I was reading out the material during the second round of editing the work, I mentioned the (revised) year. DVG immediately changed it. I mentioned the name of the primary source and said, “that work gives this year.” Instantly, DVG said, “How’s that even possible? I have seen it with my own eyes and I’m sitting right here, my boy!” Then he added some more details regarding the incident that had occurred more than fifty years ago.

After this, we consulted some more primary sources. These works indeed affirmed the year that DVG mentioned! The book that I had seen earlier had a printing error.

I have already mentioned about how DVG’s method of contemplation was highly systematic. This was provenly demonstrated in innumerable situations. Once, DVG made me write some suggestions addressed to Sri G. Narayana about a matter concerning the Kannada Sahitya Parishad. A few months after this, the matter came up for detailed deliberation. However, G. Narayana found that the aforementioned document was missing from his files. So he approached DVG with embarrassment and confided the matter with him. DVG said: “That’s okay. Let’s do it afresh,” and dictated a revised list of suggestions.

A few more months later, G. Narayana found the original document that DVG had sent him. When he compared it with the revised list, he found that not even a single word was different!

***

 A gentleman who was aged over sixty once visited DVG. It was a meeting after a long time. The moment he entered, DVG launched into an enquiry, “Come, Kamalu…are you doing fine? Your three kids? Where are they now?” The gentleman was taken aback. DVG was addressing him in the feminine; besides, he was asking him about some random people.

“Please forgive me. Perhaps you haven’t recognized me. I am…”

DVG cut him off at that and said, “My man…back then, weren’t you the one who played the Kamalu role in the <XYZ> play?”

The visitor remembered now. The play in question had been performed more than forty years ago. “It’s my mistake, you must forgive me,” he said with folded hands.

***

Experimentation

Throughout his life, DVG was engaged in various experiments regarding the usage of language in writing. At different stages, he would affix himself to a specific writing style. On some days, he would say, “People should get used to excellent phraseology.” Accordingly, he would lace his writing with Sanskrit usage and long samAsas (compound words). On other days, he would say, “Writing should be in common, spoken language.” Then he would use purely Desi (roughly, “native,” or “common dialect”) language.

Like writing style, a new axiom regarding the system of work would be propounded anew from season to season. On one occasion, he would say, “It’s okay if there’s a delay of a couple of days. But the work must be thorough.” On another, he would say, “Time is the essence of things. It is vanity to claim that we will do everything perfectly. We must do whatever occurs to us at the moment and chuck it afterwards. We need to keep moving, that’s all.”

All such episodes would invariably culminate in laughter. “Hasn’t Cardinal Newman said, ‘To live is to change; to be perfect is to change often?’” DVG would quote this often.

In the duration when an article or a book began and finished, the method of safeguarding the material related to it would change scores of times. At times, he would place it in a file; at others, he would bind it with a thread. Or he would place it in an iron trunk. Or he would wrap it with a cloth. Amid the commotion of these procedures, it was not rare for the required papers to get lost or disappear altogether.

When the Bhagavad Gita discourses were being transcribed into the written form, DVG had taken special effort to write some metrical verses to mark their completion. When I told him that I’d take them out, he said, “You’re still boys. You’ll lose them. I’ll safeguard them myself. They are very important.” They were so safe that even after the printing was nearing completion, they could not be found even after searching the entire house for several days. “There seems to be some divine play in this. Leave it. My child, write down bits of the verses you remember. We’ll write something else.” Several lines were still in my memory. In this fashion, we rewrote and included them in the work.

He would constantly hit upon newer and newer procedures to overcome such episodes. Both he and all of us knew that these would not last beyond a few days. Observing how we tried to suppress our laughter, he also laughed and said, “This is its nature! Am I Brahma to accomplish everything perfectly in a single shot? That God has himself committed so many blunders….?”

***

Once in some speech, he quoted a line by way of example: “nīcāḥ kalahamicchaṃti saṃdhimicchaṃti sādhavaḥ,” and then said, “I have quoted this verse so often that I have forgotten the other half!”

Everybody knew that this penchant for mirth was a chief feature of DVG’s nature. Indeed, his working style itself would evoke laughter both from him and those close to him.

DVG would liberally make edits and corrections at every stage of a writing work that was going to print. Only after he changed some word or sentence would he feel satisfied that he had discharged his duty. It was also not rare that a sentence would return to its original form after undergoing several corrections.

***        

Incessant experimentation was born from DVG’s very nature.

Because he felt that it would be cool to his eyes, DVG would immerse his spectacles in water all night.

In an attempt to brush his teeth thoroughly, blood flowed from his jaws. Following somebody’s advice, he once attempted to take bath using carbonic acid, burnt his body and had to take treatment for about four days.

DVG’s experimental zeal was annexed to the kitchen as well.

DVG would repeatedly complain that potato was not tasty and that it reeked of the smell of mud. On one occasion, his sister-in-law, Smt Sharadamma took special effort to procure potato from some place and praised its quality, claiming that it didn’t emit a bad odour. DVG sampled its taste and delivered his verdict: “What you say is true Sharadamma. There is no mud-odour in the potato. Today, I sense ash odour.”

To be continued

Author(s)

About:

Dr. S R Ramaswamy is a renowned journalist, writer, art critic, environmentalist, and social activist. He has authored over fifty books and thousands of articles. He was a close associate of greats like D. V. Gundappa and Rallapalli Anantakrishna Sharma. He is currently the honorary Editor-in-Chief of Utthana and the Honorary Secretary of the Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs.

Translator(s)

About:

Sandeep Balakrishna is a writer, author, translator, and socio-political-cultural analyst. He is the author of "Tipu Sultan: The Tyrant of Mysore" and "The Madurai Sultanate: A Concise History." He translated Dr. S L Bhyrappa's magnum opus "Avarana" into English.

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