V Si.'s Skill at Teaching and Affection for Students
Irrespective of the weather conditions and his own state of health, V Si. never missed a class. He always said – ‘When young children are coming to school, how can I sit at home and relax?’ This kind of sincerity and commitment is a rare quality and is worth emulating.
Let me narrate a couple of incidents that reflect the kind of affection V Si. had towards his students –
V Si. had a very tender heart. A girl afflicted with polio was in the first year of her college. She travelled to the school by a cycle rickshaw, got down at the entrance of the college, crawled over eight to ten steps and had to walk a little distance to reach her classroom. V Si., who noticed this for a few days grew concerned. The cycle rickshaw could come only until the compound which was beyond the flight of stairs. V Si. did not even stop to consult anyone else. He got the compound torn down right under his supervision and enabled the cycle rickshaw to come until the classroom.
V. Satyanarayana, now a resident of Gulbarga, was a student of B.A at the Maharaja College in 1943. Once, he attended the first lecture and as he was suffering from high temperature and fever, he skipped the rest of the classes that day. At first, V Si. thought that he was missing classes out of his casual attitude and got angry with him. However, when the student did not turn up on the following day too, V Si. guessed that it must be due to some other reason. He went in search of Satyanarayana and managed to see him in his room. Looking at his physical health, he said “Come with me, let us go to my house”. He took him to his residence and made all arrangements for the betterment of his health.
When V Si. came to know that a student was in a difficult financial condition, he would pay the tuition fees or the examination fees out of his own pocket. He would, thus, ease the student’s way for learning. Such instances are innumerable. When he was not in a position to financially help the student, he would write a letter to someone else and seek their help on behalf of the student. Prof. G.S Avadhani, now a resident of Honnavara recollects the following:
Avadhani had found it difficult to pay the term fees even when the annual examination was only a few days away. V Si. asked Avadhani to visit a certain doctor by name Karki on the way to the college. As per V Si.’s instruction, the student saw Dr. Karki, who immediately handed over eighty rupees to him. Thanks to the help, Avadhani could successfully clear the examination.
Do we need a better example for the phrase ‘Sarvabhūtasthamātmānaṃ’ of the Bhagavad-gītā? I am lost for words trying to describe the amount of love and affection he had gained from people belonging to different strata of the society.
V Si. took up charge as the Principal of the new college that was set up in Honnavara. As it was a new institution, there was dearth for funds. Although they were promised grants by the government, it was not available for immediate use. V Si., nevertheless felt that it was his personal duty and responsibility to minimize the financial troubles that the staff of the college was facing. This being the case, V Si., who had never once stretched his palm out in front of anyone seeking money, had to go by himself to the governmental offices in Bangalore. When the officials came to know that V Si. was coming in person to sort the matter out, they were surprised. They stood up to welcome him and greeted him with folded hands. They got him seated and when they asked him about the purpose of his coming, V Si. expressed the troubles the new college was facing.
The officials immediately said “Sir, a person of your stature should never have come here, sir! You please go back; we will make all the necessary arrangements.
V Si. said “I did not come here for my own sake. Teachers have not received salary for three months and are in great difficulty. That is why I am here.”
Once the lady director of the Education Sector visited V Si.’s college. He invited her to his house for lunch, only as a gesture of courtesy. After having lunch, V Si. stepped out of the house for a while for some reason. By the time he returned, he saw that the lady was clearing the plantain leaves off which they had eaten and was cleaning the floor. V Si. was aghast and exclaimed –‘O dear mother! What is this!”.
“There is nothing wrong, sir”, she replied as though it was very natural.
This was the kind of respect the lady who held a high position had for a poor teacher like V Si
There were many such instances.
As there was dearth for funds in the college, the institution was not able to fill the dues they owed to the government. Therefore, the government decided that the college will not be made an examination centre. V Si. went in person to the Vice Chancellor and asked – “Should you punish the innocent kids because of our poverty?” He argued and got the college to be recognised as an examination centre.
A teacher at Honnavara had just got married. Realising that his absence from work would cause problem to the smooth functioning of the college, he reported the very next day of his wedding. Looking at him, an angry V Si. said – “What sort of a young man you are! Take leave and run away with your wife”. He forced the person to take leave and sent him away.
As V Si. was the Principal of the college, several dignitaries happened to visit the place, which was merely a remote village. His mere presence at the place meant a lot for many.
It would not be out of place to quote what V Si. said about education –
“Education and studies are not merely meant to enhance a person’s scholarship. It will need to sculpt an independent human. Education is for sculpting one’s life and is divine. What we learn in a college is like the trial experiments we do in laboratories. We have just picked up the skills and the prerequisite training. It is merely gaining of proficiency. We will need to see how it will help us in our daily life in the real world. It should help us understand what kind of behaviour will land us in what kind of out comes. Our learning, studies and education should result in the courage, stability and enthusiasm that we display in everyday life.”
Even during his days at Central College, he gave tasty treats to his students and colleagues under some pretext or the other. Once, the designated lecturer had not completed the syllabus for the M.A. students, so V Si. went early to the college and conducted special classes. He had to leave home early in the morning and breakfast wouldn’t be ready by then. He would arrange for breakfast – dosa and coffee – to be served there [at the college] and would savour it along with his students. My friend Magadi Gopalakrishnan was one such person who was privileged to be his student.
V Si., by his very personality, imbued the qualities of magnanimity and softness in his students as well. There are many who developed deep interest in literature, deriving inspiration from him. He, thus, influenced two to three generations of students and can be said to be an embodiment of our culture.
 Considering all beings as an extension of one’s own self
To be continued...
The current article is an English adaptation of the Kannada original which has appeared in the Dīvaṭikegaḻu, authored by Nadoja Dr. S R Ramaswamy. The article also integrates several other writings of S R Ramaswamy on V Sitaramaiah. Thanks to Sri Hari Ravikumar for his edits.