In the history of the revival of Kannada literature, a few Europeans are among those who ought to be remembered with reverence. Antique jewels of (Kannada) literature were initially brought to light by these venerable Europeans. A few distinguished names among them are Reeve, Garrett, Kittel, Rice, Ziegler. Some of them came as here as Christian missionaries. A few others came as employees of the Government’s Education Department.
Shankaranarayana Rao’s name brings to mind a close associate of his, namely S.R Balakrishna Rao. Their friendship and affection for each other was so deep that many people considered them as the twins of Shivamogga.
Let’s now return to the marriage hall. It was a festival of five or six days. Whether he went to the marriage hall or to the temple, Sri Chappalli Visweshwara Sastri mixed with great ease and was patient with everybody. He was soft-spoken. A majority of the numerous Vidwans who met him were Madhva Brahmanas. It appears that several episodes related to our Sastras were brought up for discussion. But I couldn’t spot the Tiger’s Mouth even once. I was astonished: where was the famed Tiger’s Mouth? Where was the lion?
K Shankaranarayana Rao, an epitome of positive values, is one of my favourite people. I first met him when he was an advocate in Shivamogga. He was not only an excellent lawyer, but was also well known in social circles. In those days, Shivamogga was one of the administrative centres of the Mysore Presidency. All diplomats went there because it was one of the major headquarters after Mysore and Bangalore. People of Shivamogga had a Nagara-sabhā and carried out their political discussions under that banner.
Sometime in 1898-99, my Sanskrit Guru, Sri Kashi Raghavendracharya addressed about four or five of his disciples thus:
Although legal practice was the means for his livelihood as well as his wealth and success, his inner interests solely lay in literature. During the time we stayed in houses that faced each other—on Chamarajpet Fourth Street—he and I, along one or two other friends, would spend time late in the night, often past midnight, appreciating poets and their work. During those discussions, suddenly he would remember something and then say, “It’s already late for me. There’s a lot of work tomorrow in court. I have to prepare a statement in an important case.” And he would leave in a hurry.
Once, the great scholar, writer and speaker Romesh Chunder Dutt visited Bangalore. Several people who were enthusiastic about listening to his lecture sent a deputation with this request. Dutt had to decline due to his failing health. The unrelenting deputation told him that they would find another speaker and requested him to preside over the lecture. Dutt agreed to this proposal. The assembly started. The speaker of the day was a renowned scholar of history. He filled up his lecture with a great deal of content, presenting it with great effort and enthusiasm.
I mentioned earlier that as per the recommendation of my friends, M G Varadacharya was the third of the three people in Bangalore who were best suited to estimate the worth of English poetry.
Around thirty-four years have elapsed since Varadacharya left us all (c. 1918-19). Even so, every time I remember his name, my throat is choked, my breath becomes heavy, and eyes become moist. He was such was an intensely emotional character.
Thoughts on Politics
Shivaswami Iyer sided with the Moderates in politics. This party was known as the ‘Liberals’. He did not like the extremists and did not appreciate the path taken by Tilak and others. He subscribed to the views of Gokhale, Dadabai Navaroji, Ranade and others. In his view, the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi were very impractical and insane. He never missed an opportunity to say that Gandhi’s path would only dig grave for India.