After Krishna Rao retired from the Government of Mysore, at the time of announcement of the first Five-year Plan of the Indian Government, he wrote me a private letter and expressed his disagreement. “I have learnt from experience how wasteful expenditure takes place and how money gets drained when it dawns on the officers of different departments that more money is available for spending. How officers rush to spend the money available to their departments during the last two months of the government (financial) year, has to be watched – special supervision is needed during those two months. If more and more money is available, more and more wastage will take place and a variety of afflictions will hamper the administration.” This was the summary of his letter.
Sense of Generosity
Though Krishna Rao’s external appearance was conservative, he had liberal feelings inside. I am reminded of one instance. A bill on the Workmen’s Compensation Act was before the Legislative Council. In factories, due to any wrongful act of the management, if a worker gets injured or dies, the injured person or his heir(s) should get some form of financial compensation – this was the gist of the bill. This bill came up for discussion in the select committee. Krishna Rao was the President of the committee. It is only right that the injured worker or the deceased worker’s wife and children are provided financial compensation. But if he has a mistress or a concubine, and if that mistress has children, will they be eligible for a portion of the compensation or not? – this question came up during the discussion. Navaratna Rama Rao and I had misgivings about what the President’s opinion would be. Understanding our intention, Krishna Rao himself clearly stated: “The compensation amount will be owed to all those who had the person’s love and affection.”
Like his elder brother [Prof. M Hiriyanna], Krishna Rao too used to donate anonymously to those in need. He helped many people. He had vowed that none of these donations would come to light.
Circa 1923, Prof. Bellave Venkatanaranappa, T S Venkannayya, and I went to seek contribution for a public cause. Within ten minutes of our visit, he wrote a cheque and said, “I’m aware of everything. Good work. Keep this for now. If you need more, please ask me.”
An eloquent elaboration can be made about his manner of speaking. Whether it was English or Kannada, his voice was deep. Without giving way to mistakes or extremes, it was tempered with caution. His words were filled with gravitas; they were virile and certain. He would leave no room for any doubts.
Krishna Rao was a true scholar and a well-read person. He had made a critical study of tens of treatises. As a college student, he had studied with great reverence, the articles of Thomas Carlyle, a famous English author. Carlyle was a spiritual enquirer. He would not touch frivolous topics. He did not write for fun. He critically examined serious life questions from a serious viewpoint.
Once I was searching around for a book of lectures delivered by a German historian named Heinrich von Treitschke and for Arthur Berridale Keith’s three-volume book Responsible Government. My friend M Venkatanaranappa mentioned that both works may be available at the Controller’s Library. I asked what is the connection between Treitschke, Keith, and financial accounts. He said, “M N Krishna Rao himself is the connection.”
Within a month after he retired, I met M N Krishna Rao in a friend’s house. The friend casually spoke in appreciation of a few speeches made by Krishna Rao in some places when he was the Dewan. “Those speeches were related to literature and such topics. Even then, due to their profound thoughts and elocution appropriate to the context, they were endearing to all.”
Hearing his friend say this, a smiling Krishna Rao said, “You see, this only shows that it is enough if a political person has skimmed the surface here and there, that he need not know anything in-depth. He knows everything, understands nothing. He has to say things that everyone already knows. He cannot get into any profound topic. If he keeps saying things that everyone agrees upon, he will become famous.”
Discipline and Integrity
In matters of ācāra and vyavahāra, Krishna Rao followed rules and regulations. I’ve seen him at many tea parties. He never touched any food when away from home.
When the Legislative Assembly was in session, Mirza saheb routinely invited some people for afternoon refreshments. There were fruits too. In a friendly manner Mathan tried to persuade Krishna Rao by saying, “Why don’t you take this?” Krishna Rao simply said, “How does one take something that is not wanted?”
Krishna Rao was spiritual. On the day he retired, newspapers went to him and requested for a ‘message.’ Krishna Rao said, “You keep on chanting Rāma, Kṛṣṇa, Govinda. This is the message I have received.”
In reality he spent his last days studying the Upaniṣads. Though his body was weak and he was afflicted by disease, mentally he was at peace.
One day, in the middle of a conversation, quoting a sentence from the Śāṅkara-bhāṣya, he said, “The practice of śama [serenity of mind] and dama [control of sense organs] are the means (or tools) to mokṣa [liberation] for a sādhaka [seeker] but are the very traits of a siddha [perfected being].”
He used to often quote passages from the Kaṭhopaniṣad.
Krishna Rao experienced pain in his personal life. He had seen in his life situations that would agitate human hearts. And so, he had clarity about the value of worldly things. Renunciation and worldly compassion had grown together in him.
His was a principled and chaste life.
 ‘Controller’ was a term used for Deputy Commissioner or the Revenue Collector; so this is possibly a reference to his official library.
Rituals, pertaining to family and religion.
Transactions, material dealings, pertaining to society.
The famous commentary on the Brahma-sūtras of Bādarāyaṇa by Śaṅkarācārya.
One of the primary Upaniṣads.