My Ātma-guru: N Narasimha Murthy (Part 6)

Fruits of Scholarship

After a few weeks, that discourse was published in the magazine [Karnataka] . A person who was close to Murthy read that work and said: “Murthy the article that you wrote -- what do you call it -- Grotius -- It is atrocious? How do we understand it?”

This is the fruit of scholarship.

We started three or four more such study groups. Murthy’s enthusiasm would join us in making fun of these groups. Murthy was among the persons to convince me to enter public life and teach me the ethics of public life. Apart from Murthy, Vajapeyam Venkatasubbaiah was also my teacher in this regard.

Murthy frequently asked me about the committees I was part of, groups I was a member of, and what part of public life I was interested in. He would insist that I should be on time for the meetings. He ordained me to carefully read all the documents pertaining to the meetings beforehand. He taught me about the etiquette of discussion. He would discuss the meeting issues and subtly talk about the pros and cons for a topic and leave the final decision to me. He repeatedly said “with any issue, there is definitely an ethical point of view, there is an opportunity to be magnanimous. One should never sway from ethics and truth under any circumstances” and he suggested appropriate reference books and magazines. This way he would make me examine both the supporting and opposing points of view related to a topic. I matured as a result of his influence.

Until Murthy went to Mysore University Library as an officer, there was not a single day when we did not meet at least once.

Public affairs

I do not remember the number of issues related to public affairs that Murthy and I undertook together. MG Varadacharya and KS Krishna Iyer were probably part of all those efforts. There was a small room that was attached to Krishna Iyer’s Irish press. It was outward facing and people could enter from the street. There, we started an institution named “Popular Education League”. There was a lecture hall; our discourses were held once in a week or two. Varadacharya’s elegant lectures were our go-to discourses. He was ever smiling, and made us laugh with his discourses. This activity ran for about six months.

‘Ramakrishna Service League’ was another similar effort. This was due to the overenthusiastic devotion towards Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. Bhajans were also part of our programs. Anantha Padmanabha Iyer, who was one of the members of this league, was very encouraging of this effort: “Yes, we need to undertake all these efforts. We have to preach great ideals to enthuse our people” --- we left no stone unturned”

Murthy was the backbone for all these efforts.

Finally, Murthy’s sense of humor was quite intense. He was well aware of the feasibility of our efforts. Despite this awareness, he was always enthusiastic so as to not dent our spirits.

Purandara-dāsa[1] for eternity

To speak of his magnanimity, it was as though his hands were porous, nothing stayed in it, money would always burn holes in his pocket. Thrift was unknown to him. Although his salary was high for those times, he was always short of money. He repeatedly said: “Without corporate societies and banks, where should people like me get loans, and how would I save myself from humiliation?” He used to wear old-fashioned clothes. His trousers and coats had wrinkles all over the place. I cannot begin to describe his coats. He himself laughed at them.

A doubt

One day, while Murthy was heading to the bathroom with a jug of water in his hand -- he asked me the following doubt:

“According to dvaita, What are the differences between Leibnitz’s and Pascal’s opinions? Both appear the same to me?”

Me: “Does this question have to be resolved immediately or can it wait until you return from the bathroom?”

Until I told this he did not fully realize the situation. As soon as he heard my words, he dropped the jug and laughed uncontrollably.

This would happen many times.

He never fully resolved any question. Usually he answered, “Much might be said in support of either sides.” in the same vein as the essayist Adison’s heroes say. Then when one of us asked, “What would be your decision if you were the judge in this circumstance”? “Thank god, that I have not been put through such an ordeal or a moral dilemma”, he would say. He was not willing to take the responsibility of arriving at a conclusion.


From time to time, Murthy had this urge to live alone.

viviktasevī laghvāśī

[Living alone and reducing the food intake]

he wanted to lead such a life. For this purpose, he was interested in cooking all by himself.

One day when Srinivasa Shastry had come to Mysore, both of us went to Murthy’s home. Shastry had deep respect and affection towards Murthy. We entered his house and did not find him in the hall. We entered his room thinking that he is probably studying in his room -- what did we see? Murthy was sitting near the stove, cooking something in the vessel and was chopping potatoes. He was taken aback by our “sudden appearance” and stood up to greet us. But amidst all the commotion, the vessel on the stove fell down; the hot water spilled. I asked: “Murthy, what is this misery? Why this obsession of cooking your own meals? Can you really manage this? What if you get sick because of consuming half-cooked food?

In the meantime, Murthy’s wife, Narasamma heard my voice and came to the room. “Look at this fellow, he doesn’t listen to me. Apparently he wants to follow some rules and regulations. Looks like he does not want the food that I cook under the same rules and regulations. If this is the case, why should I be alive?” She complained with such harsh words out of frustration.

Murthy was a very sensitive person. He immediately apologized.

Now I feel the need to write about Smt. Narasamma. She was from a well-to-do family. Her father was Government Advocate-general Narayana Rao. He was very famous. The name of her house: “Bhadrāśayā”. She was a down-to-earth person despite being born and brought up in a rich family. She was very particular about Ācāras (following all the traditions and customs). She devoted her life to maḍi, ācāra and bhagavat-sevā (service to god). It is a virtuous deed to remember such a devoted, loyal woman.

This is the sixth 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.


[1]Nitya Purandara-dāsa in kannada, To mean someone who has given everything away and has nothing left, and would continue to do so. Based on Purandara-dāsa giving away everything when he renounced and took dīkṣā



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.



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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