Dewan Rungacharlu (Part 3)


[A few incidents which highlight Rungacharlu’s nature and character can be seen in an article published in the Deccan Herald dated 7th December 1961. The writer of this article, Sri A S R Chari, was Rungacharlu’s grandson. He worked as a Judge in the Mysore High Court for a brief period before his retirement.]

He [Rungacharlu] was my grandfather on the mother’s side. I am the oldest living member in the family (90). I have no personal knowledge of the incidents narrated, but I can vouch for their authenticity, since I heard them from close relations and friends.

So far as I know, they have not been mentioned in any of his biographies. In those days three brilliant students of Mr. Powell whose statue adorns the Presidency College even to this day, had passed the Public Service Examination instituted by the government. All three of them, viz., Sir Muthuswami Iyer, Sir V. Bashyam Iyengar and Ranagacharlu joined the Government service much coveted like Sub-Registrars etc.

The former two resigned their jobs and took to Law, but Mr. Charlu continued his service rising to the grade of a Deputy Collector. He had a prodigious memory and it is said that on one occasion when working under Mr. Noble Taylor who was planning the railways, he was able to master in one night an intricate problem and place it before his astonished boss the next day. Mr. Charlu served most of his time in the Telugu districts of the Madras Presidency so much so that he was more at home with Telugu than Tamil, his mother-tongue. He used to talk and think in Telugu, though his knowledge of the English language and literature was unmatched.

After the abdication of Sri Krishnaraj Wodeyar, Mysore State came under the British rule and was administered by a Chief Commissioner originally under the Madras Government but later directly under the Governor-General. At the time of Sri Krishnaraj Wodeyar’s death the Palace affairs were in a chaotic state. There were large debts to be paid and larger claims true and false against the ruler. The Chief Commissioner wanted a Hindu officer of ability and integrity to settle the affairs of the Palace, and he indented upon Madras for the loan of such an officer.

The Madras Government selected Mr. Charlu and sent him on deputation to Mysore. It was a Herculean task to settle the Palace affairs but Mr. Charlu did this with his usual ability, fair-mindedness and humane outlook. The claims of creditors were sifted and paid off in a fair and just manner. The Palace properties were classified and catalogued, a large number of useless servants were pensioned off, a budget of revenue and expenditure prepared and suitable arrangements for the maintenance and education of the young Prince, Sri Chamaraj Wodeyar, made.

Mr. Charlu earned the high commendation of the British Government, which continued to administer the State until 1880. Mr. Charlu became the Revenue Secretary and during that period there occurred an event of some importance. To its credit it must be said that the British Administration that took over from the Native Governments functioned very efficiently for a number of years, but latterly it had deteriorated considerably. Most of the higher officers were British, including the Superintendents of the three divisions into which the State had been divided—viz., Nandidroog, Ashtagram and Nagar. There was a large amount of corruption in the services and efficiency was at a low ebb.

Mr. Charlu thought of bring to the notice of the Governer-General, the Secretary of State and even Parliament this sad state of affairs and he compiled a booklet “Fifty Years of British Administration in Mysore” using the pseudonym of ‘Mysorean’ as the author. He could not get a printer or publisher in India bold enough to bring out the booklet. So he had to send the manuscript to London to get it printed. The book created a great sensation in official circles. It is said that orders for promotion of Mr. Charlu had been passed, and the ink was not yet dry when this bomb exploded and the order was promptly cancelled. The publication of the booklet trouncing the British Administration did not stand in the way of Mr. Charlu later on becoming the Dewan.

Mr. Charlu was a notable enemy of corruption in public service. During his three years’ tenure* as Dewan, corruption was completely eradicated. Many stories are told about his ways of putting down corruption. One such is worth recital. There was a Munsiff notoriously corrupt and Mr. Charlu got to know of this. The Munsiff too on his part learnt that the Dewan had been apprised of his corrupt practices; and with a view to forestall any disciplinary action, he sought an interview with the Dewan.

The interviews granted by the Dewan were quite formal and unconventional. The Dewan sat in one room and the visitors in the adjoining one. Conversations carried on in the Dewans room could easily be heard by the visitors. Knowing that the Munsiff was waiting in the adjoining room waiting for an interview Mr. Charlu started conversation with an imaginary person in a loud voice easily heard by the Munsiff something like this: “Corrupt officials think they can hoodwink me and that I am not aware of their doings. Let them disillusion themselves. I know everything, the amount of bribes taken and the parties who gave the bribes. The corrupt officials cannot escape” etc.

Not a word of this was lost on the Munsiff who sat quaking in his shoes in the adjacent room. He felt discretion was the better part of valour and quietly slipped away without meeting the Dewan and promptly sent in his resignation.

Mr. Charlu was very careless about his dress, one may call it uncouth. On one occasion he was sitting in the verandah where his brother-in-law Sir Bashyam Iyengar, already a leader of the Bar, was meeting his clients among whom were Rajas and big zamindars. Sir V. B. in contrast to Mr. Charlu was a low speaker, partly due to the time taken by him to weigh every word before he spoke. In his usual slow manner he was giving his advice to his client, a big zamindar. Mr. Charlu who watched this for some time lost patience and shouted at Sir V. B. saying “Verri Mundakoduka [this was his favourite abuse which means—mad son of a widow], why don’t you say quickly what you want to say instead of fumbling over it?”

The zamindar was horrified to see this uncouth figure chastising the leader of the Bar until it was explained to him who he was and that that was his mannerism.

There are many anecdotes of Mr. Charlu, space forbids my quoting them. I have selected only three of them because they have not hitherto seen the light of the day.         

This text is reproduced from the concluding portion of the second chapter of D V Gundappa’s Jnapakachitrashaale – Vol. 4 – Mysurina Diwanaru.

*This appears to be an oversight; Rungacharlu served as Dewan for less than two years – from March 1881 to early 1883.




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