My Ātma-guru: N Narasimha Murthy (Part 2)

Guidance

Most of the major works that I can claim to have read in the areas of political science and economics were suggested by Murthy. He lent his personal copy of the book “Edmund Burke: A Historical Study” by the scholar John Marle and asked me to read it. He also told me that he would test my understanding in that. Similarly, he made me read the works of [William Ewart] Gladstone, [Richard] Cobden, and [William] Pitt (both father and son). For economics, he taught me the works of [Alfred] Marshall, [William Staley] Jevons, [Edwin Robert Anderson] Seligman, [John Stuart] Mill. Additionally, he also taught the works of [John] Austin, James Bryce.

Murthy had a deep understanding in analysis of literature and philosophy. MG Varadhacharya, Murthy, and I used to analyse the works of great english poets. Murthy showed me the beauty of Cardinal Neumann’s style. Similarly, Murthy also kindled my interest in the works of [Sigmund] Freud, [James] Hutton, [Henry Cuthbert?] Bazett.

Drama Troupe

In those days there was an organization by the name amateur drama troupe. Murthy was enthusiastic about that organization. Murthy was extremely excited whenever MG Varadacharya, Suryaprakasham, Raghavacharya, K Bhimarao, or V Venkatacharya wore the drama costumes. They used to enact english plays: majority of them were Shakespeare’s plays. Suryaprakasham grew a beard. He looked a bit scary with spectacles; Murthy joked that Suryaprakasham is by nature fit to play the Ghost’s part (Ghost) in Hamlet.

Murthy - Suryaprakasham

I recall a funny incident whenever Suryaprakasham’s name comes to my mind.

After working at the secretariat for some time, Murthy worked as the administrative officer[1] at the cantonment court. In those days, Thirumal Iyengar was the Cantonment district judge. The court building was being repaired. During the construction, amidst all the urgency of bringing down the walls, moving the bricks etc. workers shouted at each other. This caused a lot of disturbance for activities inside the court. Judge Thirumal Iyengar wanted to stop the disturbance and indicated this to Murthy. Murthy called the workers and literally begged with folded hands, “Please, I request you to stop…. “ .

Workers used to tell “No sir, it is almost complete” and continued their business as usual. After half an hour, Suryaprakasham who was arguing in the court came to Murthy’s office and complained about the noise. 

“Sir, I have told them repeatedly -- yet they do not listen” Suryaprakasham replied: “I will tell them” and he went to the construction site and in telugu he told

“Sons of bitches” and as he was mimicking kicking them, the workers ran away from the site.

“Did you see that Murthy, that is the way to tell them”

Murthy and Suryaprakasham used to recall this story many times and shared a good laugh.

Rejection of Promotion

Ramayya Punja was serving as the cantonment district judge. He had a lot of respect and affection for Murthy. Efforts were underway to promote Murthy to a Munsiff or Sub Judge post whenever there was a vacancy in Bellary or some other place. Ramayya Punja exclaimed “What a lunatic! He does not want to get promoted!” and he forced Murthy again. Following was Murthy’s response:

Will I be able to find a Varadacharya, Bhima Rao, or Gundappa in Bellary or Madikeri? My Happiness lies in their friendship and the conversations I share with them. Will I be able to get this happiness from a promotion?

When [Sir Stuart] Fraser was the Resident of Mysore, Murthy was working at the Resident Judicial Office. To arrive at a judgement for pending cases, Murthy’s job was to provide relevant documents for and against the petitions. These documents were very helpful to arrive at a final judgement. Fraser observed this and was appreciative of Murthy’s expertise in law. He also became aware of Murthy's knowledge of English literature and biographies. When Fraser retired from work and he was leaving Bangalore, as a token of appreciation he gifted some books to Murthy. Among the books that were gifted, I recall that there were philosopher Mill’s invaluable books on economics and other invaluable books. Some of these books were eventually gifted to our GIPA library.

Interest in Music

One evening, Narasimha Murthy and I came near Ahmed buildings, located east of Chickpete. We had coffee in Appanna’s hindu restaurant. Within 20 yards from where we were, on the opposite side of the road, we saw a house decorated with pandals, buntings, and a gathering of crowds. Murthy went there and enquired someone:

“What is happening here”

“Marriage sir”

“Will there be music?”

“Yes sir, it will be there”

“Who is performing”

“Taayappa is singing sir”

“Can we also come?”

“Definitely, you are most welcome, we are very happy to have you”

At the same time, one of our acquaintances from Chamarajpet also came to that place. Murthy told them:

“Please inform my house and his house, both of them are located opposite to each other, that we will be late.”

We left our bicycles in Appana’s hotel, we roamed around for sometime and went to the marriage hall at 8 PM. People were still making their way in. We asked someone in the hall: “at what time the performance is scheduled to start”? He said: “Sir, we are businessmen. How can we come here before we close our business for the day?”

Taayappa’s Singing

It was 9 PM by the time Taayappa came and started the concert. We went out again and satisfied our hunger. That night’s performance was unforgettable. Around 12, when Taayappa sang “tera tīyaga rādā” in “Gauḻīpantu” raga, we forgot the world around us. We were completely immersed in the raga. We were completely absorbed by the emotions invoked by the raga. That is the real experience of raga. Even if such an experience lasts only for ten minutes, it lives on forever. We describe our worldly experience as fleeting, and as though they are worthless. But, those who listened to ten minutes of that gauḻīpantu raga, to them the experience will last a 100 years. In that Kṛti, Tyāgarāja pleads and prays: “Oh god, blinded by ego and jealousy, I am unable to see the truth. Can you not remove those curtains?” This is the beauty of great art forms.

This is the second part of the translation of the second essay in D V Gundappa’s magnum-opus Jnapakachitrashaale (Volume 7) – Hrudaya Sampannaru. Edited by Raghavendra G S.

Footnotes

[1]Sheristadar (ಶಿರಸ್ತೇದಾರ್).

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:

Vishwas Rao is a researcher at Argonne National Laboratory. He has a PhD in Computational Sciences and is currently based out of Chicago, IL. He has an abiding interest in Kannada and Sanskrit literature.

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