Masti, Bendre, Gokak, Panje Mangesha Rao, Shivarama Karanth, Rallapalli Anantakrishna Sharma, Adya Rangacharya, K V Iyer, Ka Vem Raghavachar, G P Rajaratnam, M V Sitaramaiah, Padukone Ramananda Rao, Tavaga Bheemasena Rao, Dr. M Shivaram, V M Inamdar – all these renowned scholars and several others had great regard and affection for V Si. Bendre, Gokak, and Masti have written poems about V Si. He had admirers even outside the state of Karnataka – Dr. V. Raghavan, the Sanskrit scholar from Madras, Gulabdas Broker of Mumbai, and such others. V Si and I visited Madras to attend the grand celebrations of Dr. V. Raghavan’s sixtieth year on 8th April 1973. Dr. V Raghavan was extremely pleased with V Si’s visit.
It was an occasion for V Si to stay at his student Dr. B G L Swamy’s house. This also provided an opportunity for him to visit his teacher Dr. S. Radhakrishnan who had just completed his term as the President of India. We went to his place located on the Eliot Street. Radhakrishnan was sitting with a transistor next to him. He welcomed us with pleasure. He recognised V Si right upon seeing him but we were not able to engage in much of a conversation. Radhakrishnan’s memory was already a bit weak by then.
“How are the Kannada littérateurs who I had known?” he asked. We told him about DVG, Masti, and others. He then asked, “How is Bendre these days?” We answered that question as well. However, after about fifteen to twenty minutes he asked the same questions once again. Once again, we answered the questions. I reminded Radhakrishnan about V Si and myself meeting him in the All India Writers Conglomeration (Akhila-bharata-lekhaka-sammelana) in Mysore. It was already a ‘distant memory’ for him.
Shivarama Karanth said, “If there is something that will leave a lasting mark on a person’s memory, it is of human good will – this is my firm belief. I have seen that quality in V Si.”
“Would we get this kind of friendship even in svarga?” is a statement by V Si.
Once, V Si decided to join the Servants of India Society. He was married by then and he was to leave on a certain Friday. He met V S Srinivasa Shastri the previous day. Shastri said, “If you knew what I know, you wouldn’t think of joining the Society.”
When Shastri asked V Si what was his motivation behind joining the Society, the latter said, “It will give me occasion to discuss political and economic problems with intellectuals and the brainy lot. I would like to have such company.”
Shastri supposedly replied as follows, “Where would you find a person better than Gundappa who is well-versed in the affairs of the country? If you think that you can find such a person elsewhere, you probably are hallucinating. I don’t think there are even a handful of people like Gundappa who possess multi-dimensional perspective into all matters.”
V Si and D.V.G
B K Narayana Rao, B A Rama Iyengar, N S Iyengar and S G Shastri – these belonged to one group. Mokshagundam Krishnamurthy, Beluru Srinivasa Iyengar, and a couple of others formed another group. DVG behaved and spoke in a manner appropriate to each one of those gatherings.
One morning, V Si spotted DVG and Mokshagundam Krishnamurthy who were heading towards Chamarajapet from Shankarapuram. It was in the year 1920, when DVG’s work Gokhale was getting printed. V Si joined them as well. Listening to the ‘profound’ conversation between DVG and Kittappa regarding the concepts of gauḍī and vaidarbhī, apparently V Si felt embarrassed [The conversation contained details that would usually be classified as 'indecent' and this embarrassed V Si, who never spoke coarse words].
After having walked a furlong, Kittappa felt guilty and apologized to V Si. “You are still young. You seem to have joined us just to lose the correct path. We talk about various things without any control over the topic. Please forget this conversation.” He then turned towards DVG and commanded him, “Listen! You should give up your task related to the press for today. Let us all head to Appanna’s Hotel!” This kind of a change of plan was not uncommon. The team went to K T Appanna’s Hotel and settled in one of its rooms.
Appanna would never let DVG pay. The placed an order for the snacks they wanted to eat. DVG said, “Appanna! Whatever you have prepared, please bring a plate of each!”
Accordingly, Appanna sent all the snacks and said to DVG, “If you would like to have something that is not here before you, I can get it prepared and served as well.”
“We have got enough variety of sweets. What have you got for a spicy dish?”
Appanna said, “What should I get prepared?”
DVG thought for a bit and said, “Well, never mind. There is no space left in my tummy. This wicked sweet-halwa is amazing! Just get two more plates of this sent to us. It would suffice for the time being. Let us see about the evening later.”
The love that DVG and V Si shared for each other was deep and cannot be captured in words.
Once, DVG was suffering from immense pain due to piles. V Si got to know from someone that smearing the powder of burnt silk threads would ease the pain and he himself performed the therapy on DVG. The latter fondly recalled this kind of selfless love displayed by V Si.
Once, the Kannada monthly Karmavīra published an article of V Si along with his photo. In the photo, V Si was sitting on a chair at a table and was looking into a book. Looking at this picture, DVG exclaimed, “When has this unlucky devil sat in peace, comfortably in a chair?”
V Si insisted that D.V.G had to be felicitated in public.
When D.V.G’s work ‘Śrīmad-bhagavadgītā-tātparya’ received the Kendra Sahitya Academy award, V Si took great interest in arranging a ceremony for its handing over. Accordingly, an event was organised at the Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs. V. K. Gokak, Ram. Sri. Mugali, and George, the Superintendent of the Academy, were present at the event. Gokak spoke in a touching manner.
V Si insisted for several years that D.V.G should document his memories of Mulbagal – those which were not yet published. He even told me countless times, “You are close to him. Please take care to see that this work happens!”
V Si’s insistence was one of the main motivations for me to pester DVG for many years on this matter. DVG seemed uninterested in the beginning. His reason was – “If I start writing down all that, matters related to myself will creep into it!” However, after a couple of articles recollecting his memories were published – in the early 1960s – DVG too felt that he should document his memories related to at least some people who he had come in contact with. In this manner, eight volumes were published. What came out, however, was only about a tenth of the material DVG had housed in his heart.
Dṛk-Dṛśya – The Seer and the Seen
It was sometime during mid-1972. As per the practice, Vyāsa-pūjā and Veda-pārāyaṇa was arranged at the Gokhale Institute. I took prasāda (usali made of green gram) with me and offered it to V Si. This too had become a routine. As soon as I went to see him, V Si said, “Come, come. I was looking forward to see you!”
That was the time when he had prepared the ‘Aralu-baralu’ compilation and was writing a detailed introduction to it. “I have given fitting replies to all those ‘brainy’ ones who criticise me; listen to this!” Saying so, he read out ‘Nanna Manasu’ poem. V Si’s brains, for some reason, were being chewed by the ideologies of ‘Romantic’ and ‘Modern’ back in the day. Jacobson, who V Si often mentioned had written a certain set of phrases and V Si started elaborating upon that. The original sentence was as follows – “The obligation of the writer is simply to bear witness as a truthfully and as disinterestedly as he can to his experience of the world we are all condemned to live in.”
We had the habit of exchanging books with each other – those that I found interesting, I would give him and those that he found worthwhile, he would pass on to me. He regularly read the Times Literary Supplement and Economist. He would extract the best of its details and narrate them to me. This was a great learning for K S Narasimhaswamy and me.
Once we happened to discuss a certain theory called Transvaluation of all Values put forth by a Western thinker. V Si started speaking about it – “The very concept of value by itself means that we are subject to certain bounds. If we intend to transgress the very boundaries, how will it even remain as a ‘value’? How can anything else be termed a ‘value’?”
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. Thanks to Sri Hari Ravikumar for his edits.