Bellave Venkatanaranappa - An Epitome of Gentleness and Sincerity

Career as a Teacher

 

John Cook, who was impressed with Venkatanaranappa’s dedication to studies and his ethical outlook, appointed him as a lecturer soon after he procured his BA degree. The following is an incident that took place when he worked as a lecturer.

B V Rama Iyengar was a student of Venkatanaranappa and he later happened to be the Chief Forest Officer. One day, during one of his lectures, Venkatanaranapa spotted Rama Iyengar chatting with his classmates under his breath and stealthily exchanging gestures with them. He called out Rama Iyengar by name and asked him to solve the problem he had written on the blackboard. Rama Iyengar had paid no attention to the lesson that day and he stood confused. Venkatanaranappa was enraged. He picked up the cloth that was used to dust the board and pushed it into Rama Iyengar’s face. The student, who had a charming face with a slightly fair-complexion, was covered with chalk-dust. His eyes turned red and started watering too. Venkatanaranappa was taken aback as the situation turned adverse – something that he had not foreseen. He stopped the class immediately and rushed to the market. He quickly bought bananas, sugar cubes, grapes, and dates and went to Rama Iyengar’s house.

Venkatapati Iyengar, Rama Iyengar’s father, was one of the founding members of the Council of Education in Mysore. He was well known for his good nature, humility, and empathy for people in need. People of the city lit lamps in Venkatapati Iyengar’s name and offered a few morsels of rice to the deity as a sign of their gratitude to him. He lived in Venkatarama Shetty’s house in Alasur with his large family. There were many people who lived under his care.

Venkatanaranappa resided in the same locality back then. Venkatanaranappa and Venkatapati Iyengar were good friends and lived in the same neighbourhood.

On the day this incident took place, Venkatapati Iyengar was seated in the open veranda of his house as Venkatanaranappa hurried towards his house. The teacher wanted to console the student before the news caught the father’s ears. He was trying to discreetly enter the house through one of the side doors. Venkatapati Iyengar, who noticed this from where he was seated, called out for him: “Venkatanaranappa! Come, come. He deserved a few more thrashings, the idiot. You’ve brought snacks to pacify him – all for his mischief!” He took the bananas and sugar cubes from Venkatanaranappa’s hands and started eating them. He praised Venkatanaranappa’s method of teaching and making the students work hard.

Venkatanaranappa was a natural teacher and a kind-hearted human being. He had never beaten up any student but had only pretended to do so under different occasions.

 

Gentleness

Venkatanaranappa had appointed an attendant by name Venkata for assistance in his laboratory. He also helped in the activities of the [Kannada Sahitya] Parishad. He was often fondly addressed as ‘Clever Rascal’ by Venkatanaranappa, who also pretended to hit him with the book(s) he carried. Venkata would laugh and Venkatanaranappa often exclaimed: “You are a rascal! Just wait and watch, I will beat you up!” This would only add to his laughter. Venkatanaranappa was harsh only in his speech but never in his action.

One evening, there was a fire accident in the house of one of his friends. His friend’s wife was pregnant. Her clothes had caught fire as she was giving herself some heat by burning firewood. The family members and their doctor thought of taking her to a hospital. Venkatanaranappa was the first one to visit them and help them in their difficult times. Their five-year-old son was crying because he thought that his mother was in great danger. Venkatanaranappa’s eyes were also wet but he wiped off his tears before he went to the little boy.

“Why are you crying, boy? What is the reason?” he asked with an angry voice. Even so, why was Venkatanaranappa shedding tears when he asked this question to the young boy?

Vajrādapi kaṭhorāṇi, Mṛdūni kusumādapi” – Harder than the diamond, softer than a flower. (Such is the nature of great men)

 

MA Degree

John Cook insisted that Venkatanaranappa should appear for the MA (Master of Arts) examination and procure the degree. Venkatanaranappa requested for leave for a couple of months and went to Madras for a detailed study. Unfortunately, he fell sick there. The MA examinations were weighing on his mind and he didn’t know what to do. This news fell on the ears of Subbayya who lived in Halasurupete and through him, Mahāmahopādhyāya Sivashankara Shastri came to learn of this. He was good at mantra-śāstra (‘incantations/ spells’ which are believed to have some required effect on the individual). He sent some enchanted vibhūti (sacred ash) and kunkuma (vermilion) to Venkatanaranappa, which filled him with confidence and courage. He finally passed the MA exam.

 

My Acquaintance with Venkatanaranappa

I got acquainted with Venkatanaranappa towards the end of 1912. Back then, I had plans of starting an English bi-weekly called Karṇāṭaka and was close to actually starting it. Some of my friends suggested that I take the guidance of Venkatanaranappa in this matter. When I visited his house, he got me seated and pulled out about two or three booklets from his cupboard. He placed them in front of me and asked, “You wrote these, didn’t you?” I was embarrassed when he said that. He said, “Why haven’t you mentioned your full name here?”

I replied, “This is no great writing. It’s quite juvenile. I thought of this plan so that no one discovers my foolishness!”

He said, “Well, my dear – you eat onions and want to mask its smell?”

We laughed out loud. He continued. “You’ve done a good job and you don’t have to be apologetic about it. You really must be proud of your work!”

I explained to him the reason for my visit. He did not accept my proposal at all.

“You are not rich. You will lose the two pennies that you might acquire as a loan or through someone else’s donation. Those who are supporting you today will not even cast a glance at you later on. You say you’re doing this for the country. Who needs a country now? It seems like anyone who thinks about the nation will need to join asylum. If you will listen to me, pray, give up such thoughts!”

My enthusiasm was curbed by his words. Nevertheless, I did not completely give up my passion. I started the magazine in March-April 1913. In about two years, Venkatanaranappa’s words were put to the test. It was probably during Yugādi of 1914-15. Venkatanaranappa came to my house the night before Yugādi, conveyed his best wishes for a new year, forced a packet into my hands and hurried away from my house without giving me a chance to respond. The packet contained a cheque. He had given it as his lifetime contribution and subscription to the magazine. It was about two hundred or two-hundred-and-fifty rupees. I don’t remember the exact amount.

 

Sincerity

One of the aspects that has made Venaktanaranappa highly revered in the minds of people is his sincerity. He displayed sincerity in every aspect of his life. This nature, at times, made him a laughing stock.

It was during the First World War, in about 1914-15. To raise funds for the war, the British Government had come up with a scheme called “War Loan Bond”. They had prepared loan sheets and had requested the Mysore State to help them in distribution of the bond papers among the people. There were gatherings at several places in the city to discuss this issue. One of the main meetings related to the topic took place in Bangalore and was chaired by Sir M Vishweshwarayya.  The meeting appointed different people to go around different parts of the city to distribute the bond papers and to get customers who would co-operate with us. Venkatanaranappa was allotted Basavanagudi and was made the head of the wing. There were about two or three others in the wing and I was one among them. Venkatanaranappa was of the opinion that we were to first approach renowned people in the locality and if they bought the bond papers, it would convince the other people too.. He insisted this again and again but I displayed some lackadaisical attitude towards the matter. “Who will buy the papers looking at our faces, sir? Whoever is desirous of money will buy the bond papers on their own accord for the want of earning interest. They will not need any convincing by us and we don’t need to put any efforts there. Do you think we should go to the doors of the poor and insist that they buy the papers?” – I argued.

Venkatanaranappa said – “If this was your opinion, why did you agree to be a part of the committee? You will need to act once you have agreed to be a part of it!” His words chocked my voice-box. I still was unsure but headed out with him one afternoon. After visiting a couple of houses, Venkatanaranappa’s enthusiasm too got killed. We went further ahead and landed in the house of Sri. K.L. Datta, CSI. He lived in a house towards the South-East corner of the Krishna Rao park. Datta was a prominent Bengali, was rich and belonged to one of the top rungs in the financial ministry of the Indian Government. He had come to reside in Bangalore upon the request of Sir. M. Vishweshwarayya who had sought his guidance and support for managing finances of the Mysore province. He worked alongside with Sir. M.N. Krishna Rao.

Sri Datta welcomed us with a smiling face. There was hope rekindled in Venkatanaranappa’s heart. He thought that he might fetch a good amount here.

Datta laughed out loud as soon as we told him the reason for our visit.  He asked – “Why are you taking so much trouble? The war will happen anyway. The British won’t stop the war just because they don’t get those meagre pennies from you. There is ‘a great Indian’, here in your city who is struggling to help the country in some way. Let the pennies earned by your people remain in the treasury of the Mysore State. It will be of use for the Mysore state. Don’t you feel like helping Vishweshwarayya who is working so hard for the betterment of the Mysore State”

Venkatanaranappa was lost for words when he heard this argument, which was certainly justified. The person who was saying this was not against the British at all. Venkatanaranappa was actually convinced with his argument. He conveyed his heartfelt appreciation to Datta and left. There was no bitterness on his face.

To be continued ...

This is the seventeeth 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.