My Ātma-guru: N Narasimha Murthy (Part 4)

Abode of Snacks

Meeting with friends was among Murthy’s favorite pastimes. He was not the one to chitchat. Others needed to chitchat. He listened to them and laughed. Whenever the friends met up different kinds of snacks, coffee etc were arranged. He never was a person to consume large quantities of any of the snacks. He used to name several tasty snacks enthusiastically. However, he never ate more than a pinch of them. When he was working in Cantonment court, during the time of deepavali, Marvadis, Multanis, Gujaratis etc used to give him a variety of snacks. Our stomachs became the ultimate destination for all those snacks.

An example of his magnanimity

One evening, four or five of us had got together for light refreshments. On top of a carpet, several snacks such as laddu, jalebi, ghevar, soan papdi, chivda, bondas, bhajjis were packed in newspapers. We consumed all of them in abundance and we started feeling thirsty. Murthy asked:

M: “Acharya”, can I get some water?

Acharya got him water and by that time, all the papers in front of us were emptied and Murthy said:

Acharya, can you throw these papers to a dustbin?

Acharya happily took those papers to throw it into a dustbin. Murthy started repenting his actions. He told me -- “I should not have done that”.

Me: What did you do?

Murthy: I asked Acharya to clean the remains! I should have done it myself.

Me: Forget it, Murthy. It is not a big issue.

Murthy: It is incorrect and it is not Acharya’s “duty”. I asked him to do so by mistake. I didn't do it deliberately. Now I have to seek atonement for my actions.

He thus apologized to Acharya. Acharya was laughing at Murthy’s actions and responded -- is it not common for all of us to do this?

Murthy was not satisfied. After three days, when Acharya arrived, he took Acharya in a carriage cart to a tailor shop and got a coat stitched.

Acharya was proud of the fact that he was working for such a great person. He recalled this incident several times.

Folk Culture

Murthy was very curious to learn about the lives of common people. If we study the history and culture of folklore, we will get a good understanding about the natures of our people. He used to repeatedly state that -- “any attempts to uplift them without first hand knowledge of their pains and hardships is similar to holding a lamp to a hurricane.” An incident related to his enthusiasm towards folk literature comes to my mind.

There was[sic] a Dharmaraya temple in Kalasipalyam. The devotees of that temple were mainly “Tigaḻas[1]. During a Karaga[2] event of that temple, Tigaḻas had organized a drama and invited Murthy and a couple of other friends. The drama was supposed to begin at 8 PM. The drama was supposed to happen in an open field. I was not too eager to go. Murthy wanted to go there as a matter of duty consciousness. When I refused to come, he made fun, criticized, ridiculed, and forced me to join him. Finally I went with him too. Tens of thousands of people had gathered there. We were seated on a “stone platform”. Around 10 PM, the drama started. That too in crass tamil. There was a chariot near the entrance through which we entered. By 12 Midnight, we were tired. We decided to return home and when we came near the chariot, the person who was playing Srikrishna’s part was seated. His complexion was dark and to go with it even his moustache was jet black. He had a club in his hand. As soon as he saw us leaving, he stood up and asked, “Swamy -- you are leaving without seeing my acting?” Murthy, scared of his thunderous tone, said “Let us stay here for some more time”. We came back to our respective seats. Murthy laughingly recalled this experience every now and then.

Periya-purāṇaṃ

We were invited by Mudaliyars or Pillai community for a discourse on “Periya-purāṇaṃ” (or may be Tiruvaimozhi) in cantonment. Murthy and I left in a carriage cart. It was drizzling that evening. It took us time to find the right street. It took us more time to find the right house. We reached the place around 9 PM. When we reached, only ten to twelve people were present. Some person was giving a discourse by referring to the text. About half an hour after we reached there, they distributed kaḍale-kālu guggari[3] and I uttered that this is the fruit for our efforts that day. We did not even eat the snacks offered to us. We were troubled by maḍi[4]. Murthy responded to me:

“What do you mean -- did we not get to know about this community? How else can we understand them?

I was living in a house that was close to the house facing Narasimhamurthy’s house in Chamarajpet. During those days, I used to go to his house almost everyday. Whenever I was at his place and grandmother Giriyamma was absent, I would eat the dry coconut, jaggery, sugar or other snacks that were available in the kitchen or their storehouse. One day when I was “looting” their storehouse, Giriyamma returned from a purāṇa discourse. Murthy jokingly complained against me:

“Giri, this person goes and touches all the vessels in the kitchen and storehouse when you are not in the house”

She said: let him go -- what is wrong? He is just a boy. Moreover, what will he get -- dry coconut, jaggery, and flattened rice. There are no Musure[5] items. Murthy said: “You prohibit me from going there?”

Giri: “You do not follow any rituals. See him -- he wears the vibhūti, chants mantras and follows all the rituals.”

Both of us burst out laughing.

This is the fourth 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. We thank Shatavadhani Dr. R. Ganesh for his help.

Footnotes

[1]A caste/group of people found in South Karnataka, mainly in and around Bangalore, and Tamil Nadu. They claim their origins as Vahnikula Kṣatriyas. Their main deities are Dharmarāja and Draupadī.

[2]A festival dedicated to Draupadī celebrated on the day of Caitra Pūrṇimā, the first full-moon day of the lunar calendar year.

[3]Bengal gram boiled,seasoned with grated coconut..

[4]No exact equivalent in English, something like purity.

[5]No exact equivalent in English, something with water and salt as ingredients being boiled or cooked, deemed as less “pure” compared to food not satisfying these constraints.

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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