K V Ramaswami Iyer (Part 3)

English Reader

In doing so, Iyer would also explain the classification of nouns in English, the usage of tenses, structure of singular and plural forms, and also additionally mention their Kannada equivalents. Among the concepts in English, the toughest is the usage of prepositions. This is a special feature of the English language. The root word ‘get’ associates itself with different prepositions to form idioms like ‘get in,’ ‘get on,’ and ‘get up.’ This is a special characteristic of the language. Ramaswami Iyer would not only quote examples for these prepositions but he would also involve students and ask them to illustrate a few.

The New Oriental Reader published by the Macmillan Company was a common textbook used in those days. And along with that, grammar. The Christian Literature Society of Madras had published a series of grammar books. The first one—called ‘primer’—was a children’s volume. The second one—called ‘manual’—was a ready reckoner for the middle school. The third—called ‘advanced’—was for high school students. It is my opinion that a grammar book as good as that never come out afterwards. It was a book written by scholars of English and was intended to suit the needs of Indian students. Ramaswami Iyer taught us from those books. 

I tried very hard to secure a copy of these books. As in Kannada, likewise in English – hundreds of such valuable books have been washed away in the flood of scholarship.

Teaching in the class constituted only a third of Ramaswami Iyer’s teaching. Another element was conversation practice and its correction. He would typically talk to students in English and expected them to reply in English. He corrected our mistakes. He would show us examples of good usage of English. In our time, a major portion of this conversation practice was included in the curriculum as the ‘conversation lessons.’ 

Additional Study

The third element of Ramaswami Iyer’s exemplary teaching was the additional study – i.e., study of supplementary literature as per the recommendations made by the Department [of Education]. Ramaswami Iyer followed this systematically. Typically, four or five students gathered every evening at his house at about seven. One of us had to read aloud a piece of literature for about an hour while the others listened.  When things seemed difficult, the teacher—who would be right there—stepped in to ease the situation. I remember three or four of the works among the ones that we studied in this manner –

1. Evenings at Home[1]

2. Robinson Crusoe[2]

3. Swiss Family Robinson[3]

4. Sandford and Merton[4]

I really liked Evenings at Home.  A family relaxes around a campfire, warming themselves on a leisurely evening. One of them comes up with a story that he can think of. Those stories are interesting because of their exceptional storyline. Amidst the fascinating plots, a moral or tenet was hidden. One of the stories was ‘Eyes and No Eyes.’ We walk on the streets with our eyes wide open and yet we fail to make many important observations – these were the kinds of stories it contained. 

What’s wrong with our country? Why don’t we preserve such works by keeping them in circulation? 

An Intimate Friend

Ramaswami Iyer’s influence wasn’t limited to books; it wasn’t confined to the classroom. He was like a companion to his students. During the vacations, he would make a group of three or four of us and take us hiking up the hills. After reaching the summit and descending from the hind part of the hill, he would take us to the water canal and the grassy fields around it. It was a delightful experience for us. He drew our attention towards the plants and trees. He showed us the spectacle of germination and the charm of water. He would open our minds to the beauty of nature. Indeed, beauty lies in nature. But the statement that our eyes stay open to them isn’t so true. Someone must force open our eyelids and turn our focus towards beauty. Ramaswami Iyer was a person who did this. Trees bearing pagaḍè flowers or pāṭala flowers would be spotted on the hills or in some other place. Ramaswami Iyer was passionate about Śrī-rāma-navami festivities and about Śrī-rāma-mūrti in general. He would be delighted if students collected pāṭala flowers or pagaḍè flowers and presented it to him in the form of a garland. He proudly dedicated it to a framed painting of Śrī Rāma, claiming it to be a ‘service by the students.’ While roaming around the fields near our town and during times when we climbed to the hill-tops, he introduced us to several English words. He is the one who instilled the practice of speaking in English. He also taught us etiquette in talk and in behavior. This was his remarkable virtue. 

* * *

Ramaswami Iyer often had to face miseries in his personal life. He remarried after his first wife passed away. She too passed away within a year. His elder brother and other relatives pressured him to marry yet again. He did not agree. It was during this time that he turned towards the Upaniṣads. But Chandrashekhara Shastry, along with my father and my great uncle, compelled him into another marriage. It was from this marriage that he had children. 

A Gentleman

What’s there to write further about a schoolteacher? Ramaswami Iyer was disciplined in matters of finance. He was uncompromising in matters of school admissions, promotions, and in the dignity of teaching. There were occasions when a few people were upset due to these attributes of his. But he was never bothered about this anger of others.

Ramaswami Iyer was a devotee of the Supreme. He would be at the Someśvara Temple during the dīpārādhanā without fail. During that time, Chandrashekhara Shastry would recite the mantra-puṣpa and he was eager to listen to that Vedic recitation. At times, he would also attend the harikathās by Accappa-dāsa. In addition to being gentlemanly, he was also a friendly person. A tall portrait of him speaking Tamil-studded Kannada descends upon the porch of my memory every now and then.

This is the third part of a three-part English translation of the sixteenth essay in D V Gundappa’s magnum opus Jnapakachitrashaale (Volume 8) – Sankeerna Smruthisamputa. Edited by Hari Ravikumar.

[1] Evenings at Home (1792–96) is a collection of six volumes of children’s stories written by John Aikin and his sister Anna Laetitia Barbauld.

[2] A 1719 novel by Daniel Defoe.

[3] The Swiss Family Robinson (German: Der Schweizerische Robinson) is a novel by Johann David Wyss, first published in 1812.

[4] The History of Sandford and Merton (1783–89) was a best-selling children’s book written by Thomas Day.



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.


Kiran Prasad

Kiran is a mechanical engineer by qualification who's habituated to the routine of learning and unlearning. He has an abiding interest in Indian culture, art, and literature.

Prekshaa Publications

The Mahābhārata is the greatest epic in the world both in magnitude and profundity. A veritable cultural compendium of Bhārata-varṣa, it is a product of the creative genius of Maharṣi Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa. The epic captures the experiential wisdom of our civilization and all subsequent literary, artistic, and philosophical creations are indebted to it. To read the Mahābhārata is to...

Shiva Rama Krishna

சிவன். ராமன். கிருஷ்ணன்.
இந்திய பாரம்பரியத்தின் முப்பெரும் கதாநாயகர்கள்.
உயர் இந்தியாவில் தலைமுறைகள் பல கடந்தும் கடவுளர்களாக போற்றப்பட்டு வழிகாட்டிகளாக விளங்குபவர்கள்.
மனித ஒற்றுமை நூற்றாண்டுகால பரிணாம வளர்ச்சியின் பரிமாணம்.
தனிநபர்களாகவும், குடும்ப உறுப்பினர்களாகவும், சமுதாய பிரஜைகளாகவும் நாம் அனைவரும் பரிமளிக்கிறோம்.
சிவன் தனிமனித அடையாளமாக அமைகிறான்....

ऋतुभिः सह कवयः सदैव सम्बद्धाः। विशिष्य संस्कृतकवयः। यथा हि ऋतवः प्रतिसंवत्सरं प्रतिनवतामावहन्ति मानवेषु तथैव ऋतुवर्णनान्यपि काव्यरसिकेषु कामपि विच्छित्तिमातन्वते। ऋतुकल्याणं हि सत्यमिदमेव हृदि कृत्वा प्रवृत्तम्। नगरजीवनस्य यान्त्रिकतां मान्त्रिकतां च ध्वनदिदं चम्पूकाव्यं गद्यपद्यमिश्रितमिति सुव्यक्तमेव। ऐदम्पूर्वतया प्रायः पुरीपरिसरप्रसृतानाम् ऋतूनां विलासोऽत्र प्रपञ्चितः। बेङ्गलूरुनामके...

The Art and Science of Avadhānam in Sanskrit is a definitive work on Sāhityāvadhānam, a form of Indian classical art based on multitasking, lateral thinking, and extempore versification. Dotted throughout with tasteful examples, it expounds in great detail on the theory and practice of this unique performing art. It is as much a handbook of performance as it is an anthology of well-turned...

This anthology is a revised edition of the author's 1978 classic. This series of essays, containing his original research in various fields, throws light on the socio-cultural landscape of Tamil Nadu spanning several centuries. These compelling episodes will appeal to scholars and laymen alike.
“When superstitious mediaevalists mislead the country about its judicial past, we have to...

The cultural history of a nation, unlike the customary mainstream history, has a larger time-frame and encompasses the timeless ethos of a society undergirding the course of events and vicissitudes. A major key to the understanding of a society’s unique character is an appreciation of the far-reaching contributions by outstanding personalities of certain periods – especially in the realms of...

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective...


इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।


अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...


ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...


“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...