Mirza’s Friendly Nature (Part 2)

The Position of Dewan

Mirza became the Dewan in 1926. Many people had anticipated that appointment. Although I had not anticipated it, it came as no surprise to me. I wrote him a congratulatory letter. At the start of the letter I wrote, “Dear and Respected Sir.” Since he was now in a higher position, I had my reservations and doubts about maintaining the same leniencies as before.

After a few weeks when I had to visit Mysore, I went to meet Mirza. He took me to his chambers. Placing in front of me the letter I wrote to him, and showing me the words ‘Respected’ and ‘Sir’ that were circled in red ink, he said, “I have now a bone to pick with you. What a thing to do with a brahmin!” ‘To pick a bone’ is an idiom in English that means ‘to quarrel.’ How to discuss the topic of a bone with a brāhmaṇa!

This is an example of his humour.

He said, “My mind felt uneasy on you changing my position suddenly. These ‘Respected,’ ‘Sir,’ and so on are not to be used with me. What is stopping you from addressing me directly by my name as you used to?”

Conflict

Our friendship continued for forty to forty-five years. But, in this story of friendship, there was no dearth of bitter and sour passages. There was a misunderstanding between us when the Hindu-Muslim riots took place in Bangalore [c. 1928]. For some months, it was as though our friendship had ended. A few times he sent for me through our common friends. The Late Navaratna Rama Rao was also one among them. When Mirza had returned from Bombay, Navaratna Rama Rao told me – “He has brought toys for the children, can’t you go and get them at least?” but my mind had rebelled for some reason.

When it was like this, the Right Honourable V S Srinivasa Sastri came to Bangalore. He learnt of the riots as well as the misunderstanding between Mirza and me. But he did not bring up this topic with me.

By then, it was Sastri’s sixtieth birth anniversary [c. 1929]. To celebrate that, Sastri’s relatives and close friends had arrived from Madras, Mayavaram, and other places. Mirza Ismail had informed that he would arrive by evening on the day of the celebrations. He came to Sastri’s place by around five. He was having an animated conversation with some of his friends in the front portion of the house. At that time I was inside the house in a gathering with some other friends.

Sastri called me by name from wherever he was sitting and said loudly, “Hey mister! Come here. Someone is here to see you!” I went there after he called me twice or thrice. It had been months since Mirza and I had seen each other. Even after seeing each other there, both of us were reticent.

That night, in honour of Sastri, a dinner party had been arranged at Century Club. Everyone asked Sastri to deliver a speech. Sastri spoke a few words about friendship. I felt like those words were directed straight at me. He said, “In this world, friendship is a big thing. In human relationships, because of some reason, friendships get hurt. Politics is like a sword; it cuts whatever comes into its contact. Bosom friends lose their friendship either due to misunderstandings, anger, rashness, obstinacy, or some other reason. The political scenario in our country is in a shambles. Nothing is clear. Our half-baked opinions will create misunderstandings. If differences in opinions arise between friends, they should be kept aside to save the friendship. Those who run the government should honour many people. They should not lose anyone. Patience and fortitude are necessary for those who run the government and their friends alike.”

He spoke on these lines.

While returning from the Club he asked me, “What say my man? Did you feel my words to be inappropriate?”

Thus ended the bitterness that had arisen between Mirza and me.

Difference of Opinion

We faced such scenarios later as well. In the matter of a ‘Responsible Government’ we were poles apart. After a few months of coming to power, he sent me a message through a close friend – ‘He is tiring himself by his craze for a Responsible Government. What’s gotten into his head! As long as I’m here, it won’t happen. It will not suit our country. Let this fellow leave his craze of democracy and pursue literature and social causes to his heart’s content. Will I not lend him my support?”

But will a craze leave so easily? I stood firmly on my path. He felt extremely disappointed. One day he called me to his office. It was around four in the evening. As soon as I entered his chambers he asked me to be seated and said, “You read this bundle of letters. I’ll sign a few important letters and return within ten minutes. We’ll talk later.”

I read the file. It was pertaining to the affairs of an important municipal corporation. After signing some important letters and once the clerk left, Mirza turned towards me and said, “Do you still feel we need democracy?”

I said, “What is there to question it?”

“Even after seeing this file, do you feel democracy suits our people?”

“If one person is rotten or if one organization has decayed, can we say that the concept of democracy is itself bad?”

Thus continued our argument.

To be concluded.

This is the English translation of the fifteenth episode of Volume 4 (Dewans of Mysore) of the series 'Art Gallery of Memories'.

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:

Shreehari has a master's degree (M.Tech) and works as an embedded software engineer in the automotive industry in Bengaluru. His interests are composing metrical verses in Kannada, literature, playing the flute, carnatic music, travelling, and sports adventure.

Prekshaa Publications

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