Deep Bonding with Society
The source of inspiration for all of DVG’s life-work was the deep bonding he had forged with society. This bond was not something that was imposed on him externally; it was part of his bloodstream.
DVG wrote about Diwans and eminent people from various walks of life with the same kind of unsullied conviction that he wrote about masons, cart drivers, Avadhootas, and Shiva-Saranas. DVG transcended the mundane and external aspects of people and spotted their hearts. Even in casual conversations about general topics, DVG would fondly recall such people. Angadi (literally: shop) Thimmappayya, his barber Vasantayya, and Karupayya who served him affectionately in the last two decades of his life—DVG used to recall them repeatedly and say, “These people have made me their debtor.”
On one occasion, DVG’s anger was inflamed. He unleashed a torrent of verbal attack on Karupayya: “I will kill you!”
With great calmness, Karupayya said, “If my death occurs at your hands, what is the greater Punya for me, Master?” DVG’s eyes moistened.
For years on end, DVG recalled the memories of his childhood friends, Maada and Rama both of whom were Harijans. He would remark, “In terms of a human’s virtue, courtesy, nobility, fidelity to truth, keeping one’s word, and integrity of conduct, I have not seen anyone like Maada and Rama no matter which Jati they belong to.”
It was the period during which the new building of Gokhale Institute was being constructed: 1954-55. Every evening, he would speak with Kalayi Venkatappa for about fifteen-twenty minutes as he walked on the northern road from the Karanji Anjaneyaswamy Temple.
The complete details of the families and lives of hundreds of such people were recorded in DVG’s head akin to a computer. Their past, present, names of their parents, their native place, their siblings, parents-in-law, children, sons and daughters-in-law, their relatives—it would fill us with tremendous surprise when we noticed how DVG kept these countless details in his memory. This feat was possible only because he had a heartfelt, genuine bond with people.
It was unsurprising that DVG had an extraordinary kinship with his litterateur friends and others as well. However, DVG’s love was not restricted only to his friends. It extended to their wife, children and family. He had developed closeness with all of them. The number of letters of consolation that DVG wrote to his close friend Shivaram Karanth’s wife was greater than those he wrote to Shivaram Karanth himself.
DVG received countless letters from across the country. They were also extremely variegated. (The letters he received from acquaintances from the Madras region addressed him as ‘Goondappah.’ A highly naïve lady wrote with great enthusiasm, “I wish to do self-study with you.”)
DVG unfailingly replied to hundreds of such letters. Instead of thinking them to be a burden, he regarded it as the minimum duty he had to perform.
This is something that his close friend, K. Sampadgiri Rao said: “Gokhale, Sivaswami Aiyar, Srinivasa Sastri, Gundappa—these Liberals have contributed more towards the enrichment of the Postal Exchequer than anyone else. These are all literally men of letters.”
A significant portion of the heaps of letters that DVG received everyday were from the most ordinary people who were unknown to him. These were all in the nature of seeking solutions and answers to their family problems or for clarifying spiritual doubts. DVG wrote answers to a majority of these letters by his own hand. Indeed, a big part of DVG’s daily routine involved writing a few lines of consolation to those who were suffering or in trouble. In this manner, the number of people who obtained solace from DVG runs in thousands.
There was no day when DVG didn’t write a minimum of five or ten letters to friends, the Government or other institutions. There was no dearth of Rasa even in the letters he wrote to the Government.
In the 1960s, the Government imposed a restriction on the import of a laxative named ‘Agarol’ and related medicines. This is what the letter that DVG wrote to the central government on this occasion contained: “In an age in which there is shortage of food items like butter, ghee, rice, and wheat, the Government’s action of not making available a laxative like Agarol which lightens the body constitutes to a cruel act.”
For a long time, V.C. desired to organize a function to honour DVG. When that proposal was put forward, DVG refused to share details about even his birthday. After making several attempts, V.C. wrote a letter to DVG: “We will, on our own, announce a date and proceed with the function. You do not have any right to stop that. We will distribute sweets to everyone who attends it.”
We need to read DVG’s response to this suggestion of V.C. in his own words.
December 23, 1968
My dear Sitaramaiah,
Your Pottanam programme is excellent. But, alas, it comes 20 years late. 10 years too late. But I should not disappoint you. I therefore suggest alternative programmes.
- Bhajanam: We will all put naamams. P. Srinivasa Row will hold the Garuda-gamba. I shall cry out the chorus which you will all repeat. Beginning with Kote Venkataramana Swami temple, we go to the City Market and return.
- I shall lay myself down on a small wooden wheeled cot which you will all draw singing:
I’m blind, deaf, legless, crippled aa aa…
- Nose Tongue Touching Competition: We will all sit in a circle and try to touch the tips of our noses with the tips of our tongues. Whoever does it first will get a prize.
- We will similarly touch our left foot with the right hand behind our backs. He must do it three times. He will get the first prize.
- Each one of us will tell the smuttiest story he knows. The most smutty will get a prize, and the least smutty will pay for it.
- We will all hold a specially designed flag, with appropriate symbols on it, and go in a procession crying: DOWN WITH AGE! UP WITH YOUTH!
- A Bharata Natyam performance: My paunch and my arthritis are particularly good qualifications. I think the spectators will enjoy.
- Putting your right hand in your left armpit or your left hand in your right armpit and producing noises. I think this will also be highly entertaining.
I have suggested eight items to represent eighty.
There are other ideas simmering in my mind. I shall detail them if any of the above does not commend itself to you.
One condition: Each item must be self-sufficient. That is, the cost of the prize for the best performer should come out of the worst.
Please come over. We will discuss the programme and the date. You may bring any of the other 8 or 10 with you so that the programme may be settled finally.
The celebrations may all be duly photographed.
To be continued