Qualities such as objectivity, courtesy and calmness that had elevated Gopala Krishna Gokhale to the status of an eminent personality stood out in a marked fashion even in DVG’s personality.
It was not rare for differences of opinion to arise among Sir M. Visvesvaraya, Mirza Ismail and DVG in the matters of politics and administration. However this never caused any rupture in their friendship. DVG had cultivated this magnanimity right from his early years.
Around 1915, Sri P. Kodandaraya who was working as a Biology lecturer at Central College (he later joined the Servants of India Society) wrote an essay in which he analyzed Sri Krishna as a human being. DVG, who was one hundred percent a traditionalist, deeply believed that Sri Krishna was indeed an Avatar of Mahavishnu. Despite this, he published Kodandaraya’s essay in full in his Karnataka paper.
No matter how many differences of opinion, it was a natural trait for people of that generation to preserve friendships in an infallible fashion. Because that trait is now very rare, it needs to be mentioned as a special quality.
Once DVG said this about N.S. Subba Rao: “I did not endorse many aspects of his behaviour. But what affection he had for me! Once in a meeting of the Working Committee of the University, both of us fought bitterly over the issue of appointments. Three or four days after that, I was struck with typhoid and had to be admitted to the hospital. Subba Rao visited me and wept. When I reminded him of our fight, he said –
‘Let that incident go die somewhere. We’ve fought before, we’ll fight in future. You come back alive. Then we’ll have plenty of opportunities to fight.’”
DVG’s mind had ripened with numerous such experiences.
In 1970, a literary critic (he is also a famous writer) wrote a rather trenchant piece regarding some programme related to DVG. I was naturally upset. I also felt that I should write a rebuttal to it.
When I met him the following morning as usual, DVG asked:
“You feel that you must write a rebuttal to it, right?”
“Don’t do that. We need to ignore such things.”
One can say that because spirituality flowed in DVG’s blood, he was able to face and withstand several ups and downs in his life with courage.
The sorrow of DVG’s wife Smt Bhagirathamma’s death at a young age tormented him till the end of his life. DVG was married when he was just 17 (when he was studying in the Fifth Form). The circumstance under which his wife permanently departed from him (9 March 1924) is also extraordinary. It was just fifteen days since she had delivered a baby. She was drying her hair in front of the stove after finishing her oil bath and became the victim of a fire accident. She was the chief pillar of support and stability in DVG’s life, which went on in a haphazard manner without regular income. This tragic separation from this noble lady, this epitome of sacrifice, made life unbearable for DVG. He never recovered from it. In a letter written to console DVG, “Right Honourable” V.S. Srinivasa Sastri said, “Some griefs never lose their edge.” This sorrow troubled DVG forever. One day—as recent as 1974—when his mind was filled with extreme grief, he told me by way of conversation: “I didn’t aspire for fame. God gave it to me generously. All I wanted was friendship. That was what he snatched away from me.”
View of Life
Complete harmony and inseparability with society, incessant study-contemplation-inquiry, vast experience of life – these and similar aspects were inextricably woven within DVG. Which is why the body of his literary work became sturdy and radiant. “The intellect is the Brahmagiri[i]; poetry is Kaveri.”
It can be said that DVG’s stand regarding the positives and negatives about “modernity” was shaped during his early and formative years. As the years rolled by, his stand only solidified. The following words, which appear as though he had written them in his advanced years, were written as early as 1911:
God save us from servile and apish imitation of the westerners. God help us to assimilate the practical and rationalistic spirit of the West and to avoid the extreme individualism, the extreme socialism and the other ugly offspring of its rank materialism.
On one occasion, DVG had himself used the Latin proverb, “Ex pede Herculem.” What it means is this: look at the feet of Hercules and from it, make an estimate of the other parts of his body. Following the same logic, the few episodes recalled hitherto should suffice to suggest the spread and grandeur of DVG’s personality.
One is reminded of the poet Thomas Campion’s lines while dwelling upon the mental environment and the sport of DVG’s talent:
Thus, scorning all the cares
That fate or fortune brings,
His book the heavens he makes,
His wisdom heavenly things;
Good thoughts his surest friends,
His wealth a well-spent age,
The earth his sober inn
And quiet pilgrimage.
[i] Brahmagiri is a lush and thickly forested mountain in Coorg