My Ātma-guru: N Narasimha Murthy (Part 5)

Interesting puranic exposition

Giriyamma came home after a discourse on Purāṇa. Murthy asked:

Murthy: Giri, which story was the topic of the discourse today?

Giri: The story was about lord Hanumān making fun of Rāvaṇa in Laṅkā.

Murthy: What is that story?

Giri: Murthy, don’t you even know this story? Hanumān used his special powers to convert his tail into a throne that was thrice bigger than Rāvaṇa’s throne. Did he not?

Murthy: Oh yes, yes!

Giri: Rāvaṇa then asked: “what kind of a monkey are you?” Hanumān said “Do you ask me who I am? I am the person who has come to destroy you -- who are you?” Rāvaṇa answered: “I am a person with ten heads -- I have fought and won against all the Dikpālakas[1]”. For that Hanumān replied: “So you are the person with ten heads? and you are the person whom the king of Kiṣkindhā, Vālī crushed with his arms? And you are the one who was wailing in pain?” Did you see, Murthy, what a befitting reply was given by lord Hanumān to Rāvaṇa?

Simple devotion

Initially, Murthy was chuckling to himself. Eventually, he burst out laughing. Despite laughing at his grandmother, his love towards his grandmother was second to none. Murthy’s mother passed away when he was young. Giriyamma shouldered the responsibility of bringing up Murthy. Murthy had immense respect for her genuine simplicity and devotion towards Purāṇas. His intention was to demonstrate her simple devotion to me.

Such `simple devotion’ is very venerable. That is submission to the divine. Such simple devotion is the root of all great accomplishments. If some of the losses incurred by the society because of over reliance on scientific miracles has to be reversed, then a progressive mind has to be tempered with such simple devotion.

I have previously mentioned Narasimha Murthy’s love for literature; I recall a couple of incidents relating to that. 

A few of us had started an organization called “Book Club”. Balasundaram Iyer was the president of the club. MG Varadhachar, Kunhi Kannan, N Venkatanaranappa and some more of us were members at this club. The intention was that each one of us had to contribute one or two rupees per month. We used the money to buy good books. One of us had to read the book thoroughly and summarize the book in the form of an essay. The members met once a month and read that essay. This enabled the members to get acquainted with a new book. The book was then stored in the club’s library. The members were allowed to borrow any of the books in the library.

I recall the club functioning for one or two years. I am unable to tell how the club dissolved. People generally join such clubs with enthusiasm. Some people join solely as a matter of “prestige”. Some people join out of compulsion. The enthusiasm of people who join for “prestige” or due to compulsion, dwindles within a couple of months. The membership fee collection reduces. People start complaining about the lack of new books in the club. There will be criticism about the essay writer. Within a few weeks, the club dissolves.

B.C.C

Does our enthusiasm die down so easily? Definitely not! We started another club. We jokingly called it B.C.C. It could mean -- Bangalore Citizens Club or Bangalore Cracks Club. We had the latter in mind! Crack here means “crazy” . 

The schedule for this organization was as follows: One of us was nominated to give a discourse on a topic. On the day of the discourse, all the members met -- there would be discourse on the preselected topic followed by discussion. After the discussions, we had lunch/dinner. The goal was to have at least one such meeting every month.

First Meeting

There were some changes to the rules when we met for the first time. Appanna was requested to bring the food. Irish press building was chosen as the place for discourse. That was Gundo Pant’s house in Siddhikatte[2]. The discourse was arranged in a corner of a big hall where a carpet was spread out. They had also arranged for flowers and agarbattis. Nearby, the food was also arranged (its aroma was irresistible). The speaker was M G Varadhacharya. He was a great orator. As soon as he entered the hall, he took deep breaths and “savored” the aroma of the food. Someone pointed out -- food will be served only after the lecture.

V: How can you do it -- Food is an embodiment of divinity. How can one insult it? Lecture is not going to go anywhere. First, we should have the meal. This was a point of view that everyone liked.  We had a sumptuous meal. After the meal, Varadhacharya spoke for approximately fifteen minutes as a formality. At any rate, this was an opening ceremony. We thought that the next session could be conducted in a rigorous way and departed. It was around 10 PM and everyone was sleepy.

Second session

We assembled the next month for the next session. Narasimha Murthy was the speaker that day. His topic was “Grotius, Father of International Law”. The food was again arranged by Appanna. 

That day, there was a different argument. “Food is a trivial issue, whereas the lecture is a profound one. So let’s be done with the trivial thing first, then we can focus on the profound.” All the members unanimously accepted that. That day, the Sambhar consisted of onions and brinjals. Large papads, fryums made of the flesh of a banana plant. Ciroṭi, Pāyasam, Amboḍe etc were also part of the menu. After the meal, we sat down to partake Tāmbūla. It was around 10 PM. Murthy started reading the essay and by the time he finished two pages, among the fifteen members present there, five of them had already fallen asleep. Five more were even snoring. Varadacharya, Bhimrao, and myself were the only ones awake -- thanks to our “determination”. After five more minutes Varadacharya said:

V: “We shall take it as read.”

Krishna Iyer: “We will print it in the ‘Karnataka.’ We may read it afterwards.”

This is the fifth 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]Deities of the eight directions.

[2]The present day city market.

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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