The foundational pillar of DVG’s fearless attitude was his characteristic transparency and abstinence from seeking anything. At no point in his life did he use his extraordinary political and social influence for personal benefit.
Till Sir M Visvesvaraya became Diwan, the Mysore Government had instituted a convention whereby on the Dusshera of each year or on the Maharaja’s birthday, it would invite editors and reporters for a grand feast and offer some cash. Once in 1913-14, DVG had been to Mysore for some conference related to the Representative Assembly. When he returned to Bangalore, a cheque for ₹ 250 from the Diwan’s office was waiting for him. He met the Diwan to enquire the matter. Sir M Visvesvaraya told him that this was an age-old practice.
DVG: “Perhaps this system was necessary in the earlier periods to gain the favour of the papers. I don’t need this.”
MV: “It costs money for you to visit Mysore for the conference. You can surely accept this money to cover your travel and accommodation costs at least?”
DVG: “Like the food and clothing costs of a journalist, the money he spends as part of doing his journalistic work should also be part of his daily expenditure. He must not expect the government’s assistance in this.”
MV: “You’ve been given a really paltry amount. Journalists and editors of English papers accept thousand or two thousand rupees without any fuss?”
DVG: “Their Dharma is theirs. My Dharma is mine. You must forgive me, please.”
Sir M Visvesvaraya smiled and told his secretary, “we must not force him in any matter.”
A few days later, DVG wrote an open letter to the Government jointly with Thomas from the Associated Press and expressed his displeasure at this system of largesse.
DVG was among the first people who toiled hard to popularize the Mysore Bank in the initial days of its founding. As a recompense of sorts for this help, Sir M Visvesvaraya put in efforts to get a few of its shares allotted to DVG. But would DVG agree?
Recalling this and several such instances, Sir M Visvesvaraya would rebuke DVG, “You are a fool” on numerous occasions.
The impact of DVG’s idealism in practice did not fail to affect his health as well as his family. He had experienced intense shortage of money and had undergone poverty. However, he believed and practiced the tenet that it was his duty to keep his troubles a secret and share only happiness with others. Even when he was afflicted with unbearable troubles, he somehow tided over them without giving as much as a hint to even those in his closest circle.
Instead of keeping your fears and troubles within yourself,
Why do you spread them across Mother Earth? – Mankutimma (719)
Those were the days during which DVG underwent extreme fatigue. He would spend the entire day involving himself in various matters and return home late at night. Even after half the night had elapsed, he would half-lie down on the bed and write something. This sort of taxing work made his mother extremely anxious. She would frequently tell him: “What is this son? What will happen to your health if you keep working like this day and night? Listen to me – bring some rice, grains, firewood and give me fifty rupees each month. I’ll take care of the entire family. Don’t neglect your health.”
Several instances make it clear that DVG’s wife was an ideal partner in his lifelong Tapas or penance. I recall a domestic incident in this regard.
Perhaps it was the period during which DVG was running the Indian Review of Reviews monthly. Some festival in the home of one of his relatives. Everyone in DVG’s family was invited. DVG’s wife sent their children while she stayed back home. When DVG noticed that his wife was still at home even when it was time for the Arati, he asked:
“Won’t you go there for taking the auspicious Kumkum and Haldi? Isn’t it late already?”
She: “I won’t go.”
She: “I have sent the kids.”
DVG: “So? Those people are dear to us. Plus they’ve invited all of us. Even you can spend some happy moments with them.”
She: “Who’ll look after the home if everyone goes?”
DVG: “I’ll stay back home. You go.”
She: “I won’t go.”
DVG repeatedly asked her the reason for refusing to go there. She kept putting forward some or the other random excuse. Finally, when he firmly insisted on knowing the real reason, she said:
“Please don’t force me. I really cannot tell you the reason.”
DVG: “Why do you speak like this? Why aren’t you telling me the real reason? Am I an outsider?”
When her husband and master insisted in fashion, her face paled. She choked. With great difficulty, she narrated the real situation:
“I had made up my mind not to tell you this. But you’re forcing me to open my mouth. So it is impossible for me not to reveal the truth now. This is the only sari I have with me. Even this has torn in a couple of places. It shows a lack of respect to the host on our part when we visit their home wearing faded and torn clothes. When I show my face in public wearing such clothes, won’t people mock you? Just as how it is my duty to visit the homes of relatives, it is equally my duty to conduct myself in a manner that does not impair your respect in society. Right? I’m not asking you to buy me a new sari. I will conduct myself in a way that I deem is fitting in this situation. My only plea is that you don’t create obstacles in this regard.”
The following is a verse that DVG wrote in the 1940s in his classic, Mankutimmana Kagga:
You didn’t come to this world without noise |
Your whole life is suffering and strife ||
To forsake noise, is your Last Day the only way?
Obtain death as if it is sleep – Mankutimma || (929)
The matchless patriot of Italy, Giuseppe Mazzini who was responsible for the unification of the country says in an essay that he wrote towards the end of his life: “Only literature affords the mind the joy and elevation not found anywhere else. However, in my case, this has been akin to a dream in this birth. My entire life has been spent trying to make people understand the nationalist feeling and in educating them about their own duties and rights. The delight of poetry that my soul aspires, I hope I will obtain in my next birth.”
Recalling these words of Mazzini in 1920, DVG said that even his plight had become similar. It appears that the feeling within DVG was that he was more a journalist than a litterateur. Had he stayed away from the vagaries of politics, his literary creations would have increased more than tenfold. However, DVG believed from the bottom of his heart that it was his primary duty to mingle with all sections of the society and incessantly examine the policies and stands taken by the Government towards improving their lives. Therefore, his conviction was firm and deep-rooted in journalism.
To be continued