DVG: The Pioneering Lodestar of Journalism

This article is part 45 of 51 in the series Life and Legacy of DVG

sudaravanesagu jīvanava sāhasadide
kudillavadake sāhasabhagadide
mudakadu sāguvudu marai sāhasadide
ceda dhīrodyamave -  makutimma  269

Accomplish the beautiful in life with a spirit of adventure
When it yields no result, do not subdue the spirit
Proceed again with the same spirit of adventure for
Courage and adventure is what makes the world beautiful – Mankutimma || 269 ||

Journalism was not a profession I consciously chose. It came to me owing to the force and inevitability of circumstances. When I look back even today, I think I would have been more than content if I had a job that would pay me 10 -15 each month. I still feel that destiny commanded me to seek my food in this profession.

This was how DVG reminisced about his fortuitous entry into journalism after spending more than half a century as a journalist, editor, columnist and writer, contributing to an impressive array of newspapers, periodicals and special interest publications.

A close study of DVG’s literary and journalistic corpus reveals that destiny had indeed willed DVG into the arms of journalism. It could not have been otherwise given his childhood, upbringing, formative education, and the cultural environment[1] he grew up in. All these factors separately and together had already instilled a high standard of inner refinement when he stood on the anvil of journalism. However, the circumstances that presaged his journalism are worth recounting on their own merits.

DVG did not distinguish himself in formal education, failing in the Matriculation examination in Kannada, Science, and Mathematics. And then, owing to dire family circumstances, he had to seek out a livelihood by 1905 at the mature age of eighteen. On December 3, 1905, DVG landed a clerical job at the shop of Haji Ismail Sait[2] at Champion Reefs[3] at the Kolar Gold Fields. The job lasted for six months. Ismail Sait’s shop wrote the following certificate[4] of conduct when DVG quit on June 6, 1906:

This is to certify that Mr. D.V. Gundappa was working in the Department (Metal and Mine Store Department) as a clerk from 3-12-1905 to 6-6-1906 during which time his conduct was good, attendance regular and work satisfactory.

If DVG’s writings are distinctive for their uncompromising fidelity to truth, courage, objectivity and bluntness, it solely owes to his fiery spirit of independence whose roots lie in a profoundly spiritual realm. DVG himself provides the contours of this realm in his Journey of the Bird[5] where he invokes the fearless, carefree attitude of Bairagis, Yogis, monks, and Fakirs.

However, as an eighteen-year-old boy looking for a livelihood, this independent spirit manifested itself as an attempt to become an entrepreneur. The School of Arts run by the Madras Government announced its patronage to fund the development of the tin industry. DVG decided to try his hand at this and wrote to his father. The proposal was immediately shot down owing to objections steeped in tradition. Years later, DVG remarked that this rejection “shattered my industrial career.”

Returning to his hometown, Mulabagal, DVG worked for some time as a substitute teacher at the school. One of Bangalore’s prominent citizens, K.P. Puttanna Chetty who visited the school was impressed by DVG and offered him a Government job. DVG stubbornly refused to work in Government service, a vow he upheld till the very end. But the demon of earning a living was a constant nightmare. Family, friends, relatives and well-wishers suggested a range of career options: life insurance agent, postman, Purohita, Patel…nothing appealed to DVG.

He was determined to become an entrepreneur and Bangalore appeared to be a fertile ground. And so, in 1907, with the meagre savings he had, DVG opened a paint-making outfit and promptly lost the money. Undeterred, he shifted his focus to soap-making. That endeavor put him in touch with a revolutionary freedom fighter from North India who coached him in the fine art of making bombs. Needless, this too, was a failure.

Unemployed and penniless, DVG began to wander on the streets of Bangalore in search of work, some work that would keep the hearth burning, the stomach full and the head held high. One of the regular haunts of his wandering was the Navaratna printing press which brought out the Suryodaya Prakashika, a Kannada paper owned and edited by B. Narasinga Rao. The paper had fallen into some difficulty and Narasinga Rao had transferred the ownership of Suryodaya Prakashika to Ananta Rao, who owned the Navaratna press. Thunder struck Ananta Rao in the form of an intimidating government communique issued by the Chief Secretary. The reason: some time ago, Suryodaya Prakashika under Narasinga Rao’s stewardship had written a critical article against Diwan V.P. Madhava Rao’s decision to barter away Bangalore and Kolar to the British in exchange for Bellary and Ananthapur.

Suryodaya Prakashika was standing on the edge.

When DVG learned of this, he immediately wrote a brief rebuttal to the Government’s missive and saved the day for the paper. It didn’t take long for the rebuttal to be noticed in eminent circles. This included illustrious scholars and teachers and other distinguished men like K. Ramachandra Rao, K.A. Krishnaswamy Iyer, and M.G. Varadachar who became acquainted with DVG, a bond[6] that would sustain till their death. The young writer, barely an adult, showed enormous promise.

Suryodaya Prakashika recruited DVG. It was his virgin foray into a journalistic career and calling of life that lasted over sixty years.

The office of Suryodaya Prakashika, DVG’s maiden Karma-Bhoomi, was modest, measuring eight feet long and four feet wide. The professional arrangement was simple: Ananta Rao would provide DVG two meals a day, coffee and snacks and a monthly salary of twenty rupees paid in cash. DVG had to contribute four leading articles each month along with smaller pieces to fit four columns.

DVG supplemented this income by writing two weekly articles for the Evening Mail published from the Bangalore Cantonment area. This fetched him eight rupees each month. Of these princely earnings, he sent seven rupees to his father every month.

However, DVG’s initial journalistic days were not limited to writing. He would visit various offices and other establishments to collect the source material, return to office and begin writing. Then he would go to the press, perform the role of the compositor, read the proofs, neatly fold the papers and wrap them, and write the addresses and stick the postage stamp.

Unfortunately, Suryodaya Prakashika was destined to be short-lived. It was shuttered by December 1907, and DVG was jobless once again. He describes his work experience at the paper as, “it was akin to boyhood exercise for me.” An exercise that stood him in good stead throughout his life because he had learned it to perfection.

To be continued

Notes


[1] For fuller details, see Chapter 1

[2] Haji Ismail Sait was one of the wealthiest merchants and businessmen in south India in the early 1900s with diverse business interests including milk powder, industrial machinery, clothing mills, horse gram, timber, distilleries, carbonic acid, soap, sugar, banking, and gold mining.

[3] Champion Reefs was the second deepest underground mine in the world, located about thirty kilometers from Kolar in the mining town of KGF (Kolar Gold Fields). It was continuously operational for about a century before shutting down in 2001.

[4] Quoted in Virakta Rashtraka: D.R. Venkataramanan, Navakarnataka, Bangalore, 2019, p 42

[5] See: Chapter 6, Hakkiya Payana

[6] DVG has written brilliant pen portraits of these men with great feeling in his classic Jnapakachitrashale volumes.

 

Author(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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