Polepalli Chinnaswamy Shetty

I have heard that Chinnaswamy Shetty is the son-in-law of a wealthy landlord of Polepalli[1]. I may have gotten to know him around 1910-11. I was in need of some loan. I brought it up with my close friend, Dr K. Shesha Iyer.

Shesha Iyer came from a place close to my native called Devarayasamudra[2]. He was a Sanskrit scholar. He was an Ayurveda[3] practitioner too. He had joined the Theosophical society and worked with Annie Besant, Sir S. Subramanya Iyer and others. He was a parama-sāttvika[4]. Around that time, he was running a commercial enterprise called Indian Swadeshi Store.  There was a huge bookstore run by Gaṇappa, third or fourth store north of Tuppada Anjaneyaswamy lane, off Avenue road. I have bought many books from that store in the past. Shesha Iyer was a Swadeshi Vratastha[5].

Kūṣmāṇḍa-lēhya[6]

In his swadeshi store, Shesha Iyer along with his friend Dr. Rama Rao, prepared the lēhya and halwa[7] and stored it in bottles. One day, our friend Advocate A.R. Nageshwara Iyer made his way to the store. He used to frequently visit the store. That day, Nageshwara Iyer pointed at one of the bottles and asked Shesha Iyer what was it.

Shesha Iyer: “That is kūṣmāṇḍa-lēhya

Nageshwara Iyer: “What is that for?”

Shesha Iyer: “It is to strengthen the body. It is good to consume in small quantities everyday”

 

Immediately, Nageshwara Iyer placed one bottle in his vehicle and proceeded towards the court. This happened in the morning around 10-11am.

He came back to the swadeshi store around 2pm.

“You gave me that bottle right, give me one more of it.”

Upon taking another bottle, Nageshwara Iyer came back at 5pm and asked for one more bottle again. Shesha Iyer was present at the same time. He asked,

“You already took these bottles, right? what did you do with them?”

“What would I do? I ate it. It was good. I emptied the second one too. Now if you give one more, it will be good for the night.”

Shesha Iyer grew anxious.

“I will not give this bottle to you. By God’s grace, it will be good fortune if you spend the rest of the night without any untoward incident. Just because the lēhya is tasty, does anyone eat the entire bottle? You should eat just a tiny portion at a time. Tiny portion, two or three times a day is sufficient”

Nageshwara Iyer was laughing. Even we were amused when we learnt about the incident. Since the topic of Shesha Iyer’s medical practice came up, this incident came to my mind.

Chinnaswamy Shetty’s helping nature

Shesha Iyer set up a meeting and introduced me to Chinnaswamy Shetty. I received the necessary help. By God’s grace, I was also able to repay the loan over the course of time. 

In over four-five years’ time, when I was a member of the municipal council, Chinnaswamy Shetty was also a co-member, that’s when I learnt about his good nature, alertness, and wisdom.

He was well-known for his helpful nature from a long time. Specifically, he was known to have helped the student community. He whole-heartedly helped college students, and youngsters who were attempting to set up businesses in law and other professions. It is true that he gave money as loan. But it is also true that, he ensured that the borrowers were not burdened, by handing out discounts and exemptions.

During those times, this was of utmost help to those students. By then, institutions like Mysore Bank and others did not exist. I have known youngsters who earned B.A, B.L and other educational degrees and prospered with the support and confidence bestowed by Chinnaswamy Shetty. Among them were my close friends. They used to recollect Chinnaswamy Shetty’s name with utmost gratitude, regularly.

When Chinnaswamy Shetty was constructing a house in Basavanagudi, one day, we had a small argument. I said:

“Vaiśya’s[8] splurging on house, on fanfare, and on materialistic pleasures has been increasing of late.”

Chi: “Who is getting hurt by it, Sir? Are they not supposed to be happy”?

Me: “I didn't say that they are not entitled to happiness. My opinion is that they should not splurge money into something that does not give any rewards”

Chi: “Are others allowed to do it? Aren’t brahmins doing it?”

Me: “According to me, no one should do it. It is everyone’s duty to limit the spending for pleasures. But it is a very important duty of a Vaiśya. Vaiśyas are supposed to be the caretakers of the society, they need to be like trustees. It is their duty to enhance the wealth of the society, foster it, and utilize it for the betterment of the society. Vaiśyas are the ones who should save. For whom should they save? They should save for the people in the society. If the very people who are supposed to save, start wasting, what will happen to the society?”

Chi: “I agree to what you say, Sir. Isn’t it your opinion that I have been unnecessary spending in building the house? To build this house, I have invested a part of money into a profitable business. By this business, I am able to raise some profits from time to time. I only spend the profit. You said that, money should be spent in helping with the needs of common people, right? That is what I am doing now. Carpenters, masons, construction workers - aren’t they being benefited from this? Is it not helping the people?” 

This is how our argument turned up. At last, our opinions are not mutually conflicting, they are the same -- we convinced ourselves.

Essence of Vaiśya-dharma

One day on the way to Lalbagh through his house, and there was a housewarming ceremony of my respectable friend Dr K. Shrinivasa Acharya. Even I had been there. I was returning, carrying the gaṅdha[9], flowers, fruits, and tāmbūla[10], as I reached the streetlight (having five bulbs) near the national college, I saw Chinnaswamy Shetty was walking from the opposite side. We stood there, after greeting each other. In the excitement of conversation, I dropped a piece of areca nut from the tāmbūla onto the ground. I just ignored it. Chinnaswamy Shetty saw my face, himself picked up the piece of areca nut, first blew it to remove the dust, later cleaned it up by brushing through his fingers, and then once again cleaned it up using the rear end of his dhoti that he was wearing and placed it in my hands, and said (in Telugu):

“Manaku vaddakuṇṭe evvarikainā pyāda sādala cēta vēste nōṭilō vēsukoṇṭāru svāmi.”

(“If we don’t want it, then if given to the needy people, they may consume it, sir”)

This is the essence of vaiśya-dharma. Grandeur in richness and grandeur also in the respect shown towards the money.

This is the English translation of the Third essay in D V Gundappa’s magnum-opus Jnapakachitrashaale (Volume 7) – Hrudaya Sampannaru. Edited by G S Raghavendra.

Footnotes 

[1] Polepalli is a small village in Andhra Pradesh.

[2] A small place between Bangalore and Kolar.

[3] Ayurveda means “science of life”, which is one of the oldest systems of medicine mostly practised in India.

[4] A person who is an absolute gentleman, a person who is genuine, virtuous and without any ill-intentions.

[5] observance of vow to use only swadeshi products

[6] A pumpkin based ayurvedic medicine that is eaten by licking

[7] Halwa and lēhya are types of medicines (usually ayurvedic), which are consumed by licking it.

[8] Vaiśya is the business community.

[9] Fragrance filled water or (sandalwood) paste. It is used as a part of any auspicious celebration.

[10] Collection of betel leaves, areca nut and lime. It is together consumed after a heavy meal, as a part of the auspicious occasion and also distributed to the invited guests.

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:

Varuni KS has a masters degree in Electrical Engineering and is currently based out of Chicago, IL. She is trained in South Indian classical (Carnatic) music and has an abiding interest in Kannada literature.