During the same period, (July 1971), our friend M.K. Anantaswami had brought along Robert Slater, a professor of English Literature from some university in America. He was curious to know DVG’s thoughts about Western literature.
“Litterateurs of the past had adopted timeless philosophies and the great problems of life as their themes. In recent poets and litterateurs, these timeless philosophies have become secondary and portrayal of the outward forms of life and the writer’s personal and mental imprint have become dominant,” said DVG. He also spoke in detail about Greek playwrights and Shakespeare.
Slater asked, “When we consider tragedies, between the Greek dramas and Shakespeare, which do you think is of a higher standard?” DVG said:
“Shakespeare from one perspective, and Greek playwrights from another. Euripides, Aeschylus, and Sophocles have movingly portrayed the fate of a person tormented by the vagaries of destiny. Shakespeare has variety. Therefore, when we view them from the perspective of depth, Greek plays are of a higher standard; when we consider range and expansiveness, Shakespeare’s dramas are of a higher standard.”
When he was asked whether Goethe was popular in India, DVG replied:
“Although Goethe is familiar to our scholarly circles, the Indian tradition and outlook does not have much sympathy for some elements of his thought. We may even agree with several of his pronouncements. However, we have differences with him in a chief area. We do not agree with his postulation of the Eternal Principle of Evil in his Faust drama. We recognize an Eternal Principle of Good. The stand that Evil is eternal is alien to our tradition. Evil is but a passing phase. When we travel in a forest, we encounter the shadow of trees and branches. Sin is akin to that shadow. After crossing the forest, all that remains is just the illumination of the sun. For this reason, Goethe’s propositions are not liked that much by Indians. We encounter the same difficulty even in the Christian conception of Satan.”
On one occasion in 1970, Prof G. Venkatasubbayya had brought with him K.R. Kriplani and K.R. Srinivasa Iyengar from the Central Sahitya Akademi. Sri Iyengar narrated the attempts to translate Shakespeare’s works into Telugu. Sri Venkatasubbayya informed him that DVG had translated Shakespeare’s Macbeth into Kannada three decades ago.
“Why did you select only Macbeth?” asked both Kriplani and Iyengar out of curiosity.
DVG described the backdrop. When DVG’s father was bedridden with illness, he had to be by his side at all times. However, it was not in DVG’s nature to sit still. That was how the Kannada translation of Macbeth originated. DVG said: “The highest use of literature is a certain grace and serenity.”
Kriplani: “But where do we see either grace or serenity in Macbeth?”
DVG: “Don’t we see it in the last line of the play?”
Malcolm says the following at the end of Macbeth:
and what needful else
That calls upon us, by the grace of Grace,
We will perform in measure, time and place:
So, thanks to all at once and to each one.
On 29 February 1968, the Kannada Sahitya Parishad organized a gathering in DVG’s home to felicitate him for receiving (rather, for agreeing to accept) the Central Sahitya Akademi Award. Folks like Prof G. Venkatasubbayya, Prof G.S. Shivarudrappa and others were present. However, instead of feeling happy, DVG shed tears recalling his friends such as B.M. Srikantaiah, T.S. Venkannayya, M.R. Srinivasa Murthy, A.R. Krishna Sastri and others who had dedicated their entire lives to the service of Kannada. He wept saying that his life had been greatly impoverished after losing such friends. When the topic of the award came up, DVG recalled a poem of Basavappa Sastri:
arasar kuḍuvā kārta - |
svarakaṃkaṇamirke sarasarāsvādisi kā - ||
vyarasava sūsuva sukhabhā - |
svarāśru kaṇ kaṇame kavige kaṃkaṇamaltE ||
The kind of friendship that DVG developed with Panje Mangesharaya, Mudaveedu Krishna Rao, Masti Venkatesha Iyengar, V.C. V.K. Gokak, Shivarama Karanth and others is truly deserving of a poetic metaphor. It was a friendship that was both deep and lasted a lifetime.
DVG had been elected as the president of the Kannada Literature Conference of 1932 held at Madikeri. After the conference was over, DVG, Masti and others returned to Bangalore together. As DVG was stepping into his home, Masti said:
“You stay outside for a bit.”
M: “We must perform an Arati to you.”
DVG: “Che che! What is this?”
But Masti didn’t relent. He called the womenfolk who were inside and said, “Perform Arati, and ward off evil eyes afterwards. The eyes of thousands of people have fallen on him.” It was a command. Duly followed.
“The whole thing looked thoroughly ridiculous,” said DVG recalling the incident forty years later. On 19 June 1972, the Bangalore public honoured Masti Venkatesha Iyengar and offered him a felicitation volume entitled Srinivasa. Although his body was ill-disposed for it, DVG joyfully attended the function owing to his deep friendship with Masti.
En route while returning from the function, Masti instructed the car driver to turn towards some random road. After the car turned accordingly, DVG asked:
“Isn’t this route circuitous?”
Masti said: “If we had gone in that other road, it would have meant reverse circumambulation.”
When DVG narrated this incident to me the next morning, he recalled the aforementioned episode of Madikeri.
Masti was younger to DVG by three years. DVG would jokingly say, “You must do Namaskar to me.” However, Masti was always eager to do him Namaskar even without being explicitly asked in this fashion. For all of us, it was a great festival to merely witness the honeyed friendship of these two elders.
In one of the functions held at the Gokhale Institute, V.K. Gokak had to be garlanded. DVG was sitting below in the audience while Gokak was on the dais. Gokak was about to step down to get himself garlanded. DVG said: “You please stay there, I’ll come up,” and then continued: “Even if I come there, you will still have to bend down!”
Gokak was indeed a “tall” personality!
To be continued