Bellave Venkatanaranappa – Fight against Corruption, Agriculture

Elimination of Corruption

Venkatanaranappa actively pursued several endeavors for the well-being of the people and the society. There were co-operative societies which worked with similar vision. A certain co-operative which had seen his sincerity and hardworking nature elected him as a member of its executive committee. It was an association which was started with the aim of providing basic food supplies and daily essentials to the community. The association constituted a sub-committee to look into the procurement of paddy, ragi and other food grains. The sub-committee consisted of two jahagirdars (roughly translated as 'Baron') by name Doḍḍurāya and Giḍḍurāya. It was only their pockets that were getting filled from time to time and the other members of the committee reaped no benefits. People who had observed this poked fun at the committee. Venkatanaranappa wanted to eliminate the corrupt practices of the association. It was decided that the yearly collection of grains was to be carried out by Venkatanaranappa.

Would Doḍḍurāya and Giḍḍurāya sit with their hands folded when an inspection was happening?

Venkatanaranappa took leave for three to four days and went to the provinces of Srirangapattana and Yedatore. He went to the farmers who grew rice and spoke to them about their customers. Wherever he went, he observed that the farmers were hesitant to interact and did not speak their heart. Aḍḍurāya and Baḍḍirāya, close associates of Doḍḍurāya and Giḍḍurāya had already gone there and had got contracts signed by the local farmers. Thus, Venkatanaranappa lost hopes of procuring a good share of the produce. The farmers who had cooperated in the past also gave funny excuses like – “We don’t have gunny bags,” “We don’t have gunny threads to stitch the bags together,” “We have the threads but don’t have a needle,” “Our bags are ready but we have no wagons to transport them.”

And so, a sincere worker’s hands got tied. Venkatanaranappa realised that he wouldn’t be able to work when Doḍḍurāya and Giḍḍurāya were around.

Though this was the sad state of the association, Doḍḍurāya never failed to join his hands in a salutation whenever he saw Venkatanaranappa. He praised Venakatanaranappa’s good qualities and his honest nature. The latter was always surprised and puzzled whenever he saw such 'reverential' mannerisms of Doḍḍurāya. “Strange! This chap claims to be my student, but he is corrupt from inside. What is this! ” – Venkatanaranappa often exclaimed in the company of his close associates.

(Doḍḍurāya, Giḍḍurāya, Aḍḍurāya, and Baḍḍirāya are names coined by the author, to hide the real identities of the persons. The coined names probably also suggest their physical appearance or a salient characteristic of the person. DVG, in his usual amusing style leaves an undertone of sarcasm as well!)

 

Agriculture

Venkatanaranappa’s taste was for simple living. He constantly thought about brāhmaṇa-dharma and the means to protect it from going extinct. He had a strong conviction that agriculture was the only means of sustenance for brāhmaṇas in the future. By taking to farming, the brāhmaṇas could earn their livelihood and could devote the rest of their time for pursuing traditional studies and religious pursuits. Merely having the conviction wasn’t sufficient – wasn’t it necessary to be put in practice?

He started looking for farmlands. He bought a large grove located about three to four miles on the Magadi road. The plot also had a mango Grove. It so used to happen that he would spot a lush growth of mangoes in the afternoon, and the next morning the trees would have gotten empty. He suspected theft and decided to have a lamp lit in the area. He arranged for a lamp and kerosene. He lit the lamp in the grove in the evening and went home. The next morning when he went to the grove, he was shocked to see that the lamp was gone along with the mangoes. “Clever rascals!” he thought; though worried, he appreciated their smartness too.

This brought an end to his maintenance of the grove.

He later bought an agricultural plot near the railway station in Doddaballapura for farming. Every morning he performed the āhnikas (daily rituals), cooked his food and left home at seven. He would get on to the train after the first bell and before the second. By eight thirty, he changed his clothes picked up the plough and sickle – this was his planned daily routine. He had even purchased a railway pass for this purpose. He only had two (1 + 1) bananas for his midday meal. He had a bag made of paper-cloth (The kind of bag which was used for packing answer scripts after university examinations). He carried a book in the bag and four empty sheets to do calculations. His gait was like that of a horse in a race. This lifestyle later caused him to develop severe pain in his ankle. Let us leave that for now.

One evening, I was walking along with Venkannayya towards the east in Chikkapete and we saw Venkatanaranappa coming towards us from the opposite direction. Looking at me, he exclaimed, “There you are! I was looking for you! Please help me buy some woolen cloth to get a waistcoat stitched.” I knew a wool dealer next to the Chikka-kāṣi Viśveśvara temple in Chikkapete. I helped him buy woolen cloth there and asked, “What is this for?”

He replied, “I would need a waistcoat whenever I'm working in the fields – tilling the soil or cutting the crops. Wont I need it during the rainy season and cold days? The rainy season has almost begun now!”

We headed to a tailor shop and made arrangements to get a waistcoat stitched.

One day, after about two to three months, I asked him:

Me: How is your work progressing and how is the produce?

V: The crops have grown tall. They reach my chest.

Me: It is all a product of your hard work! You must have worn the waist coat?

V: I have employed two men to work on my fields. The crop is ripe to get harvested. However, the owners of the neighbouring farms let their cattle out. The cows graze on our fields!

Me: What can we do about that?

V: Well, we will need to build a wall!

Accordingly, he raised mud-walls with the help of his men. The wall came up to his chest.

Two months passed.

Me: How is the produce?

V: It is all ruined

Me: What! How is that, sir? You had told me that the crops were abundant and ready for harvest.

V: Yes, that is true! They grew too much – the crops were as tall as me. The crops grew no ears and they all got dried up.

Me: What could be the reason?

V: It was all because of the wall that I built. Men from the neighbouring fields poked fun at me amongst themselves. Rascals! They never told me that if I built a wall, crops wouldn’t grow well. All my efforts finally ended up in growing grass.

(The wall had prevented pollination from happening)

He laughed after saying this. There is a famous folk song in Telugu which goes:

యాలేస్త్వీ   నరసప్ప
చేరుకు తోట -
బంకనాలేస్త్వి నరసప్ప
చేరుకు తోట –

"O Narasappa! What is this? Why did you cultivate sugarcane in your farm?"

(The Telugu folk song talks about a certain person by name Narasappa who grew tasty sugarcane on his farm. Everyone who passed by the farm pulled out a stalk to feast on it. The farm ended up becoming a delight for the others and a huge loss of time, money and effort for Narasappa)

 

The Association of Volunteers

Venkatanaranappa was always worried about the dhārmic downfall of the society. When  he had not other urgent task at hand, he would lament – “Dharma is vanishing from our society. Brahmnism is going corrupt. Students have given up values!” He raised his concerns in the company of several friends. He never got a satisfactory consolation for his agony. He finally made a couple of decisions

  1. The brāhmaṇas will need to take to agriculture in large numbers. It is a fact that the profession has too many difficulties. Still, they will need to make up their minds and become self-reliant. Depending on the others to feed them will certainly cause the death of brahminism. Self-reliance is the only means of survival. Thus, the brāhmaṇas will need to grow their own food and spend their free time in their study and propagation of the Vedas, śāstras and other sciences.
  2. Students belonging to the brāhmaṇa community will need to be self-dependent for their studies. We will need to establish a Self-Help Club for the purpose. The proprietors of the club should provide free hostel for students. They will also need to make utensils and other daily essentials available. Students will have to get together to cook their food. One student needs to take charge of cooking every day and this should happen in turns. They will need to wash their clothes and keep their residences tidy. They will need to share the monthly expenses incurred on food.

Five  students belonging to the Brahmin community were brought together and a Self-Help Club was started. Venkatanaranappa made his house on the Nagasandra street available for students. He gave his property free of cost. The Student House worked well for a few months and was later closed down. Venkatanaranappa blamed the disinterestedness and lack of enthusiasm in the students for its closure.  Probably, the students found it to be a drudgery to tidy the house, clean the utensils and do petty tasks of the household. They perhaps had no patience for any of these. They quit the place one after the other.

This kind of attitude is common to all living beings. Yet, the brāhmaṇas are said to belong to the lineage of sages and tapasvis. They recite the names of maharṣis as a part of their pravara (a list of the ancestral sages who were preeminent in the person's lineage). However, just as tapas is not desired by people of other communities these days, the brāhmaṇas too have done away with it. They too have turned out to be as materialistic as the rest of the world!

***

I had a similar experience of my own. I saw that one of the women asylums had a window which was infested with wood-worms.  I spoke to one of the residents of the asylum and asked:

Me: What is this? You have let woodworms eat up your windows”
Her: The sweeper has not been around for two to three days.

Me: Why don’t you pick a broomstick and clean it yourself? Would you not have done so if it was your own house?

Her: She never obeys our words!

An orphaned woman who is being cared for, free of cost in the asylum does not put any effort in sparing a thought for keeping her residence clean. Venkatanaranappa tried his hand at bettering this kind of society!

To be continued...

This is the seventeenth essay in D V Gundappa’s magnum-opus Jnapakachitrashaale (Volume 3) – Sahityopasakaru. Thanks to Hari Ravikumar for his thorough review.

Author(s)

About:

Devanahalli Venkataramanayya Gundappa (1887-1975) was a great visionary and polymath. He was a journalist, poet, art connoisseur, philosopher, political analyst, institution builder, social commentator, social worker, and activist.

Translator(s)

About:

Arjun is a poet, translator, engineer, and musician. He is a polyglot, well-versed in Sanskrit, Kannada, Hindi, English, Greek, and German. He currently serves as Assistant Professor at Amrita Darshanam - International Centre for Spiritual Studies at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Bangalore. His research interests lie in comparative aesthetics of classical Greek and Sanskrit literature.