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.
When Nanjundaiah was in Shimoga, a teacher got transferred from there. He was a great scholar, highly civilised, and a tutor par excellence. He was loved and respected by all. The people of that town had organised a program to felicitate him and they invited Nanjundaiah also. He happily attended the event. The next day, one of his friends, who was also a judge there, asked Nanjundaiah, “I heard you had gone there?”
Nanjundaiah: “Yes. Why didn’t you come?”
I had heard the name of Sri. H V Nanjundaiah when I was still a student. I was told in my hometown about this legend – he had passed his M.A. (Master of Arts) and M.L. (Master of Law) by seeking alms and studying under street lights. I later learnt that it was just a story. It’s true that Nanjundaiah was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth but the remaining details of the story were the result of wishful imagination of some noble soul to preach to people like me.
Earlier in this series, I had written about my maternal grandmother Sakamma. Naranappa was her husband.
I’m unaware of how he was transferred to the Mulubagilu region or where he was employed prior to arriving here. He was appointed as the Sheikhdar of the Baikur Hobli, Mulubagilu Taluk. It appears that in those days, the elders of my family didn’t know he hailed from my own community.