Kolar Lodging

Upon completing my first year of high school (Fourth Form) at Mysore, I moved to Kolar for the second year (Fifth Form). After initial hardships in matters of boarding and lodging, I was able to set up boarding arrangement at one Venkataramayya’s residence, which was made possible by Ramadasappa’s munificence.

Ramadasappa and Venkataramayya were friends. While they were not related to one another, they belonged to the same community (Baḍaganāḍu) and adhered to a similar lifestyle and culture. Venkataramayya was employed as Head Clerk at the Subdivision Office. He spent fifteen to twenty days a month on ‘circuits’ (field trips). It pained him to forsake the daily pūjā at home during his official travel to other towns. He expressed this lament to Ramadasappa. This resulted in my boarding arrangement; when Venkataramayya was out of town, I was to perform the daily pūjā at his home. I also had to tutor his three children every day. I was offered two daily meals at his house while I continued to pursue my education. My lodging was in a room at Vedamurti Manikundalam Subbarayasastri’s residence within the fort, which was nearby.

Daily Routine

During this time, my daily routine was as follows. By sunrise, I went to Venkataramayya’s home, picked up the day’s sanctified garments, which generally consisted of one or two wearable dhotis and one or two small dhotis. Along with these, I took with me a metal pot, a metal vessel, and a long rope and approached the well that lay within the premises of the house. I had to draw water from the well and store it – this was the hard part, owing to the depth of the well. Then I washed the clothes, wrung them dry, and took them to the house with the cleaned vessels. I bathed and performed the daily pūjā. This was my routine and was followed by lessons to the children – the eldest was a girl of seven or eight, the other two were her brothers. I made them read, write, recite the multiplication tables, and taught them the names of the saṃsvatsaras – prabhava, vibhava, and so forth. This was the teaching curriculum. After that was the partaking of meals. If Venkataramayya happened to be in town, he would perform the daily pūjā himself. When I went to his house early in the morning, I heard him recite devara-nāmas[1] by his bedside. He was a pure man in thought, speech, and conduct who adhered to a principled life; he was noble and prompt and short-tempered on occasion. Barring this he was a divine human.

His wife Gauramma was Goddess Gaurī personified. Her practices—religious and secular—and discipline were commendable. She would wait until the pūjā was over, then she would offer her salutations, receive the ārati and tīrtha. She made her children follow similar practices. And her cooking was akin to ambrosia.

By the time I returned from school, if Vedamurti Manikundalam Subbarayasastri was available, I would learn something from him for about half an hour, else a little later. After that, I was my apparent self-study.

Subbarayashastri was a Vedic scholar. With an unwavering strong voice, clear enunciation of the syllables, and perfect adherence to pitch, hearing his Vedic recitation was a feast to the ears and the mind. Discussions with him were equally pleasing.

Towards the end of that academic year, I became unwell. I came back home and recuperated. The following year, while I pursued my Matriculation (10th Standard), I stayed in a hostel.

M Ramaraya 

While studying at Kolar, I stayed at the High School Hostel. Kolar did not have a Sessions Court in those days. Sessions Judges from Bangalore came to Kolar two or three times a year to hear cases. When the Sessions Court hearing was held at Kolar, the Public Prosecutor M Ramaraya would arrive from Bangalore to argue cases on behalf of the government. During his visits, he stayed at the hostel.

Ramaraya was quite old by then. He was a short man with a flawless complexion. His bald head looked like a copper pot. He was endowed with white moustache and he was an active man. Neither his mind nor his body showed any signs of fatigue.

He would visit my hostel-room every day after the court proceedings. I was appointed a prefect then. For that reason, he had chosen my room. After having settled in my room and exchanged greetings, he would ask, “What are you reading? General literature?” If my answer was delayed, he would suggest some books and say, “Read these books, I will ask you questions later.”

In general, on most days, he would make me read some excellent books. I still remember a couple of books from those readings – stories of Maria Edgeworth, The Vicar of Wakefield [by Oliver Goldsmith], Golden Deeds,[2] and Westward Ho! [by Charles Kingsley]. I have forgotten most of the authors and titles. But I still remember how I was obliged to read in the presence of Ramaraya and the way in which he interrupted me to explain the meaning and to correct my pronunciation. During my after-school years, I experienced the positive impact of this interaction. His affection towards students was genuine and goal-oriented.

Festival of Holi

It was around the time of the festival of Holi[3]. A group of us students went to Ramaraya in a festive mood, seeking donations. He vehemently refused to give us any money. We assumed that this old man was miserly. Eight or ten days later, the Sessions Court came to an end. A day before Ramaraya left Kolar, he treated all the students to a grand meal with cīroṭi (a sweet dish), during which he said, “I don’t like students entering the realm of the Deity of Love. Let others celebrate it. You should all study well, eat well, exercise well. This will bring fortune to our nation!”

Cheer

After I moved to Bangalore, I would meet Ramaraya at least once in two days. He still kept an active routine. From seven to eleven in the morning, he would go walking, with a cloth bag in his hand. He first went to the market, bought vegetables of his liking, dropped them off at home and continued his walking. Whenever I spoke to him, he would greet me with a smile and recall episodes from our past interactions. His speech, however, was always limited to just the right amount that felt natural.

Even to this day, I feel happy thinking about him, the reason being that he was a personification of happiness. In his later years, although he did not have a lot of wealth, he did not carry bitterness towards life. He found happiness with simple things, like fresh vegetables and healthy food. He received whatever came to him as a sweet prasāda of the Supreme, keeping himself cheerful and making others happy too.

~

Around the time of my stay in Kolar, there were two citizens who were well known in the district. One was Bethamangala Kadirappa and the other was Sunnakallu Abdulla Saheb.

Kadirappa

Bethamangala was a well-known place. The Gaṇapati, who was the presiding deity of the fort was known to be very powerful.

O Siddhi-Vināyaka of Betamaṅgaḷa
Adored with fruit offerings, ghee-lamps, and ārati
Take mercy, come fast and protect, O Betamaṅgaḷa.
Come and protect, O Gaṇanāyaka!
O Gaṇanāyaka, come protect us all!
Ripe bananas, coconut, soaked lentil
Juicy sugarcane, that delights you, O Sāmī
Come and enjoy them all, O Gaṇanāyaka
O Gaṇanāyaka, come protect us all!

In this Bethamangala, Kadirappa was a paṭela (local chieftain). I am not aware of the exact Taluk that he managed. He was known to be a braveheart. Once he had gotten into trouble with Deputy Commissioner C Madayya. This tussle lasted for a long time. Throughout this episode, the terrific rebuttals and enquiries of Kadirappa addressed to the government kept the citizens interested. Whenever a question arose from the Deputy Commissioner’s office, Kadirappa produced a strong counter-enquiry.

Commissioner Madayya said, “You are suspended!”

Kadirappa retorted, “You are suspended from this world!”

Such altercations kept the people amused.

I have heard that Kadirappa belonged to the jāti of goldsmiths. I have heard some people refer to him as Kadarigāḍu. Apparently, Kadirappa would himself say, “This Kadarigāḍu, that Mādagāḍu!”[4] Such a practice was not unknown in our citizen leaders then.

A Hearing

Sunnakallu Abdulla Saheb hailed from the Srinivasapura region. It was alleged that he was responsible for four or five murders. The police dreaded Abdulla. One of these murder cases was heard in the Kolar Sessions Court. Justice N Subbarama Iyer was the presiding judge at the hearing. The public prosecutor was the aforementioned M Ramaraya. There was great commotion in the town on the day of the judgment. Citizens had gathered around the court. The judge appeared at eleven on the dot and handed a guilty verdict with death punishment to the convicted. Immediately after pronouncing the verdict, the judge rode on a horse carriage to Bowringpete. The citizens cheered this dramatic gesture of the Sessions Court.

This is the English translation of the twenty-second essay in D V Gundappa’s magnum opus Jnapakachitrashaale (Volume 8) – Sankeerna Smruthisamputa. Edited by Raghavendra G S and Hari Ravikumar.

 

Footnotes

[1] Devotional verses that extol the feats of various deities.

[2] Possibly ‘A Book of Golden Deeds of All Times and All Lands’ (1864) by Charlotte Mary Yonge.

[3] The festival of Holi is also called Kāmana-habba, for it celebrates love. It is a festival celebrated in spring, typically by young men and women invoking the deity of love, Manmatha.

[4] Colloquial—and sometimes derogatory—appellations of members of specific jātis.

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:

Kiran is someone who enjoys experiencing various aspects of life. While technology is his livelihood, he takes a keen interest in aspects of nature, Indian iconography, Carnatic music, cultural and historical heritage of India, reading, writing, travel.

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