Pondering about his work in the press reminds me of a sad incident. Around 1902 or 1903 he lost his son. His daughter and son-in-law Dakshinamurthy too expired (may be due to plague). During one of these troubled times before the body would be taken to the crematorium Venkarakrishnaiah said to someone “Oh dear! today’s article isn’t ready yet? Go get paper and pen.” thus he made sure it was ready. This was his commitment to work.
Venkatakrishnaiah had some acquaintance with the British Resident. Once he went to see a Resident, Sir Donald Robertson. The resident welcomed him with affection, made him sit on the sofa, and started a conversation. After three to four minutes, he asked, “Mr. Venkatakrishnaiah, I want to tell you something personal. Please pardon me.”
“What is it? let it be ordered.”
“Appears that you are going through some pain.”
“Nothing as such.”
“No, looking at the way you are seated I feel so. Therefore, you need to permit me.”
That official called his jawan “Look at Venkatakrishnaiah’s feet”. That jawan observed that Venkatakrishnaiah’s left shoe was on the right foot and right shoe on the left, tightly laced. He smiled; untied the lace. He helped him wear the left shoe on the left foot, the right shoe on the right foot and tied the lace properly. Venkatakrishnaiah smiled and said, “I did not notice this”. The sweeper had misaligned the shoes and Venkatakrishnaiah had worn them as is.
I have heard about the teaching methodology of Venkatakrishnaiah from many of his students. Especially, English and History. He would not only introduce things which were pertinent to the topic, but he would take them through a tour across the globe on the pretext of a topic in the syllabus. He used to remember a few names without fail daily. [Thomas] Arnold (19th century educator), [William Ewart] Gladstone, Telemachus, [Abraham] Lincoln, George Washington, Booker T. Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and other great men used to be quoted often during the teaching. Students’ keenness would be renewed at every instance. The flow of language, depth of the subject, more than anything the way the speaker used to forget himself while teaching inspired the students. He did not teach for the sake of exams. His goal was to make students virtuous. Patriotism manifested in him.
Venkatakrishnaiah used to punish his students as well. A student who has committed a mistake would be treated with a stick. Once the student’s eyes were filled with tears, the master’s eyes would be filled with tears, and he would embrace the student tightly. He used to take the student to his cabin and give him dry grapes and sugar crystals. I have seen glass jars filled with dates, almonds, etc in the cupboard of his room. Those were for the students, especially students who were punished. Students would conspire by making a fellow student agree to take the blame and getting him punished. Then distribute the dry fruits he would get later. Among the students who planned such activities was a friend of mine.
In his last days, he would have his afternoon meal in the house of Advocate Chandrasekharaiah. He used to fast in the evenings. If milk or water is needed, students would get it. [The Right Honourable] V S Srinivasa Sastri had great respect towards Venkatakrishnaiah. Whenever he went to Mysore, he would inform Venkatakrishnaiah and visit him. Once Shastry went to him, Venkatakrishnaiah offered a plate full of fruits, dates, and other delicacies. Shastry informed, “I cannot eat such because of various ailments” Venkatakrishnaiah replied with tearful eyes: “I am unable to get the happiness of offering a meal to esteemed people like you, if you take nothing it would cause great trouble to my mind.” I was present to witness this conversation.
In 1926-27, Prajapaksha was powerful in Mysore. An incident happened. Prajapratinidhi-Sabha used to meet in Jaganmohana Bungalow. On the dais, Dewan and his colleagues would be seated. Towards the left, facing west, in the front row’s five-six chairs, Venkatakrishnaiah, Srinivasa Rao, Vasudeva Rao, and other senior members would be seated. This was a practice for many years. Some leaders of Prajapaksha talked among themselves that “What is great about Venkatakrishnaiah? Why should he sit in the front row? Why should we not sit?”. They came at eleven for the assembly which is supposed to start by twelve and sat. Abbas Khan Saheb, Paramashiviah, H. C. Dasappa, and others were in those seats. By 12 noon, Dewan Mirza Saheb entered the auditorium and observed the people sitting in the front row. He did not say anything. Eight to ten minutes prior, Venkatakrishnaiah and his friends had come. As the front rows were occupied, he said, “Let it be, we will occupy the empty seats. What difference would it make?”, they sat in the chairs in one of the corners. Proceedings started. Some matter came for discussion. Leaders seated at the front row debated on that. After these debates ended, before the conclusion, Mirza Saheb turned towards Venkatakrishnaiah and asked:
M: “Mr. Venkatakrishnaiah, have you nothing to say?”
V: “Many members have spoken. Perhaps they have discussed it enough.”
M: “I am anxious to know your views. The government cannot ignore the views of a veteran like you.”
Hearing that majority of the assembly clapped. There were murmurs that the dewan was partial and disrespected the assembly. It made no difference to the conduct or inner peace of Venkatakrishnaiah.
In the latter days, there were misunderstandings between Mirza Saheb and Venkatakrishnaiah. I did not agree with what Mirza Saheb did then. Even now I feel that his conduct was not dignified or magnanimous.
I went to see Venkatakrishnaiah at Krishnaraja Hospital during his last days. He was as usual calm and composed. People who were taking care of him were his students. Since many years, Venkatakrishnaiah had already made up his mind:
एकाकी निस्पृहः शांतः पाणिपात्रो दिगंबरः |
कदा शंभो भविष्यामि कर्मनिर्मूलनक्षमः ||
When will I be able to (through jnana) destroy karma (like) Shiva (who is alone) alone, free from desires, calm, bowl in hand, covered only by the directions?
This is the final part of the translation of the fifth essay in D V Gundappa’s magnum-opus Jnapakachitrashaale (Volume 6) – Halavu Sarvajanikaru. Edited by Raghavendra G S.