My Ātma-guru: N Narasimha Murthy (Part 7)

Moral Values

In those days, four or five of us met up every evening at the Century club in Sheshadri memorial club. We chatted, had discussions, and had light refreshments -- this was our routine. One evening three or four friends joined us. That evening, at 6:30 PM there was a discourse arranged at the YMCA assembly hall. The discourse was given by a famous European woman from Madras. We planned to reach the assembly hall in time for the lecture from the club. After refreshments a couple of friends decided to part ways. Murthy asked them:

“Will you not come to the lecture?”

One of those two friends asked “which lecture”?

Murthy: “Don’t you know that? Mrs. XYZ is giving the lecture”

“Sir, please carry on -- we have some other work”.

“You should all come and cooperate -- it is such a good topic, isn’t it?”

One of them spoke mischievously: “I am willing to cooperate with her anytime.”

Murthy’s face turned red. He turned away. He stopped talking to the two of them. After they left, he said, “One should not engage in a conversation with such people”.

This was his nature, he did not tolerate even a hint of vulgarity.

Commentary on Literature

Once I was enamored by poet Swinburne’s bombastic style and vocabulary. During those days of my infatuation, I probably read all Swinburne’s works, letters. I discussed his works with Murthy with great excitement. Murthy poked fun at me and said “Yes -- juvenile minds will get enamored by him”. This angered me and I responded rudely. “Yes, yes -- all this is due to being emotional about Swinburne.” Around 20-25 years passed. I read an essay about Swinburne, written by the famous commentator Edmund Gosse. In that essay, his opinion reflected Murthy’s about Swinburne. I mentioned this essay to Murthy and expressed my admiration for his critical analysis of literature. He then asked me, “What is your personal opinion/experience.” I replied, “I have grown nearly a fourth of a century since then. My tastes are different now. Swinburne’s work is more about flowery language than showing the true human emotions. In many places, what I see is bombastic words, rhyming phrases, ostentatious use of figures of speech -- but I do not see a solid core. If we want to improve our english vocabulary and want to experience the different ways to use these words, then Swinburne is the poet. I do not deny that there is beauty in it. But that beauty is not sufficient for me now.”

After listening to this, Murthy said “I had guessed long ago that this will be your eventual opinion”.

My Salutations

Narasimha Murthy was a great person who enlightened my life. There were no primary sources in English Literature, History, Economics, Political Science, Law, Science, Philosophy, that he had not studied. He never studied anything without internalising it. Despite being an expert, he never claimed to be one in those topics. For any topic -- he always said we have to examine all the points -- for and against, pros and cons, weigh the arguments and counter arguments. When I asked about his conclusion on the topic: he said “it is like your conscience -- it is not supposed to be disclosed to others. Your conclusion is your own”.

This way Narasimha Murthy guided, corrected, and refined my knowledge and understanding to the best of my capabilities.

Courteousness, Magnanimity, and Honesty -- he has always been an ideal and a guide for me when it comes to these three qualities.

punaśca bhūyo’pi namo namaste.

I repeatedly pay my obeisance to him.

This is the final 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.

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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