I vividly remember the opening ceremony of the abalāśrama. It must have been in 1909 or 1910. That day of celebration started with the traditional nāgasvaram. The weather was pleasant with sunshine; it was neither too warm nor too cold. Many important people of the city were present. The most prominent amongst them were – Retired Sub-Judge S.
Now, a tragic episode. Sri Venkatanarana Bhatta’s wife (I think her name is Smt Venkamma. I can’t clearly recollect it now) hit upon a plan that seems bizarre. There’s a road that passes to the southern side of my house. Next to it is the Kopparam Vaishya function hall, a massive stone building. She encamped in one of the rooms there. With a large metal pot in her hand, she began going to a few houses, begging for food. The inmates of the houses would ask:
Sri Venkatanarana Bhatta hailing from Mulbagal was a relative and a disciple of Sri Venkatarama Bhatta. His speech was affected with mild stammering but that didn’t come in the way of his Pourohitya.
Sri. Hebbani Sheshacharya belonged to an era when thirty-five ounces (roughly a kilogram) of rice was available for just a rupee and six tender coconuts could be bought for a single paisa. He was highly learned in Sanskrit literature and Dvaita philosophy. He was already old when I first saw him. Even at that age, his personality was a sight to behold. And he spoke affectionately as well. That is the reason his memory is vivid in my mind.
One of the Kannada literary giants of the twentieth century, K V Puttappa (Kuvempu) once classified literature as Sakaala (timely) and Trikala (timeless) literature. Given the innate nature of the medium, journalistic (news reports, opinion pieces, editorials, magazine essays) literature belongs to the former category. Yet, in the hands of masters, even this category of literature takes on a quality of timelessness.
Chip off the old block – Bhashyam Ramacharya
Bhashyam Venkatachaarya was the elder of the two grandsons of Bhashyam Tirumalachaarya. He worked as a sub-registrar. Bhashyam Ramacharya was the younger one. He was the person in charge of my peculiar ‘university.’
Among what I consider my universities, one of the places was a south-facing corner-house ahead of the Sri Narasimhaswamy Temple in Balepet. It may be called the birthplace of the Kannada newspaper. If Mysore were to be the United States, some wealthy person would have purchased the house, created a library or museum with an art collection, and, with the permission of the government, opened it for public use, thereby preserving for posterity the name of the great Bhashyam Tirumalacharya. This was the house of that servant of Kannada.
Once, a Department of Health employee visited Dr. Gundanna’s clinic and explained his brother’s illness. Gundanna patiently heard his description and then turned towards the elder brother; staring at him through his spectacles he asked: “What’s wrong with you?”
He said, “I never get hungry!”
“What’s your diet?”
Dr. Gundanna said, “Isn’t it good if you can sustain this way, with no food? You can then steer all your salary to your bank account. ”
It’s impossible that anyone who has seen Dr. Gundanna will ever forget him. So magnificent was the mark left on the mind by his personality. For a period of twenty-five to thirty years, his name was uttered with fondness and reverence in customary conversations in hundreds of households every day. Remembering him wasn’t limited to occasions when people grew sick, but during all instances of human interest when one usually thinks of a close friend.