There was no dearth of humorous instances during the Sunday study circle. Besides, it was not in DVG’s nature to waste a single opportunity that afforded a humorous element in it.
On one occasion, DVG said in a circumstantial fashion: “If a person is given a name, it has to be appropriate. Look at me for example. It was entirely fitting that I was named Gundappa [in Kananda, Gunda/Gundu literally means ‘round.’].” He pointed to the slim Sri G.N. Joshi, a friend who was present at the gathering and said, “Will it be appropriate if he was named Gundappa?”
G.N. Joshi instantly stood up, folded his hands and said:
“You must forgive me. My full name is Gundappa Narayana Joshi.”
DVG: “Inappropriate! Inappropriate!”
One Sunday morning, the moment he arrived, DVG laughingly narrated an incident that had occurred en route, in this fashion: “As I left home and walked adjacent to the Mallikarjuna Temple and when I was close to Acharya Pathashala, a youth of about twenty-five years seated on a cycle said, ‘Where is East from here?’ He appeared educated. I couldn’t understand his question immediately. Was he talking about yeast that is used in making bread and other food? When I asked him to repeat the question, I understood it – this great man was asking about the easterly direction. I pointed to the sun and said, “See sir, how bright the sun is shining. That is the eastern direction.””
However, the story didn’t end at that.
A permanent member of our study circle Sri A. Lakshmisagar said:
“Oh! – you’re narrating this as if it’s something special sir! Come with me to our Bar Association sir. I’ll you at least ten such people there.”
DVG’s labours in journalism and literature began roughly around 1908. His adventure named the Bharati newspaper and the biography of Diwan Rangacharlu were published just a few years later. Before this, a Benami open letter, a critique of Diwan V.P. Madhava Rao’s administration which he had authored saw a record ten thousand copies, which were distributed in the Madras Session of the Congress. DVG’s age hadn’t crossed even twenty at this time. When he started the Karnataka biweekly, DVG had attained a stately age of twenty-four. From then on, he incessantly authored newspaper columns, wrote and published countless appeals and open letters. He began various papers, and founded institutions. After Karnataka, he started Indian Review of Reviews, then Karnataka Janajivana Mattu Arthasadhaka Patrike, then from time to time, Tracts for the Times (an introductory booklet), and from the 1940 decade onwards, the monthly titled Public Affairs.
It was DVG’s habit to call himself a journalist primarily. The major portion of the fruits of his intellectual labour found expression through the numerous papers and magazines he ran for decades, and to a lesser extent through full-length literary works. He constantly published his socio-political commentaries and analyses in prestigious papers like The Hindu.
The biweekly English paper, Karnataka, which he founded and ran successfully from 1912-20 brought him widespread acclaim and popularity. His name became familiar and much-discussed beyond Karnataka and even in the scholarly circles of England. Each issue of that paper was filled with extraordinary topical wealth. Even today, after scores of decades, these issues are packed with articles that are fit for serious study.
The featured story of the 29 November 1915 issue of Karnataka was titled, Rammohan Roy, Vivekananda and Indian Nationalism.
In 1915, Karnataka published several unpublished letters of Diwan Rangacharlu.
The occasion was the publication of Annie Beasant’s book, How India Wrought for Freedom. In this backdrop, DVG published a series of articles in the 1917 issues of Karnataka expounding on the various facets of the Indian freedom struggle in South India in the beginning of the 19th Century. This predated Annie Beasant’s account which begins in 1884. DVG unearthed and documented the efforts and struggles of eminent patriots like Gajulu Lakshminarasu Chetty, Madras Native Association, C. Purushottam Mudaliar and others who had been buried under the sands of time. The series of efforts of these people foreshadowed the establishment of the Indian National Congress Party by three or four decades. DVG has observed in numerous places about the unavailability of the required source material for these essays even in places like the Imperial Parliament. In this manner, we can make a guess about the kind of troubles that he undertook in writing these historical essays.
In 1918, he published a series of articles documenting the path trodden by the Mysore Princely State since 1800 based on extremely rare primary sources. These articles also analysed the administrative specialties of the regime of Commissioners.
On the occasion of Sir M. Vishvesvarya’s retirement as Diwan, DVG published an in-depth analytical survey of the administrative tenure of all the Mysore Diwans till then. These essays exhibit DVG’s deep knowledge of the subject, his broad-minded vision and his sense of history.
In the April 20, 1921 issue of Karnataka, DVG cited Rabindranath Tagore’s essay, Swadeshi Samaj.
When London Times published a perverted article condemning Indian nationalism, DVG wrote a series of articles rebutting it. This has been quoted at length elsewhere in the present article.
As recent as 1969-70, DVG wrote detailed essays in publications like Sudha and Prajavani explaining the meaning of concepts like Freedom and Democracy. When I joked about this saying, “For sixty years, you wrote about politics and now you’re beginning from the scratch!” He laughed, “What can I do? I am a propagandist!”
DVG gained enormous popularity from journalism. Along with it, he also gained tens of thousands of rupees worth of debt.
DVG’s negligence of financial matters landed him in trouble on several occasions. At one time, DVG had to feel the need to consult Nittur Srinivasa Rao’s lawyerly skills to get out of the clutch of a printing house. On two or three occasions, he had to resort to legal help to receive the money he was owed for his writing.
“I have the satisfaction of not having the occasion to seek help from anyone. I printed my first book, Rangacharlu at my own expense – by writing a document and taking a loan therefrom. I later repaid the loan.”
G.A. Natesan from Madras gave numerous suggestions to DVG about making Indian Review of Reviews a profitable venture: run this advertisement on this page, publish that other article here, publish two more pages worth of advertisement, and so on. After listening to this exchange between the two, Right Honourable V.S. Srinivasa Sastri said to Natesan: “Natesan, why do you waste words on this fellow? He firmly believes that success in business is a sin!”
Once, DVG wrote a detailed note containing suggestions on making Srinivasa Sastri’s paper, Servant of India profitable. Sastri’s reply to this:
“Our business is to write. If fools don’t read, the greater fools they!”
DVG never felt angry thinking that his efforts were in vain. He suffered difficulties and penury with a smile.
Once when we were arranging books in the Gokhale Institute library, a book caught his attention. Its title: “Recovery and Remanufacture of Waste Paper.” DVG exclaimed:
“Aha! What an apt description of my profession!”
DVG was always ready to make himself the subject of a joke. He was not unaware of the fact that mere writing wouldn’t solve problems. He would say, “If one stands on the Himalayas and reads aloud the editorials of Public Affairs and chant the ‘yosman dweshti’ mantra in high pitch, will the enemies run away in fear?”
To be continued