Ramadasappa (Part 2)

After I entered high-school, I lived in the college hostel in Mysore. Belavadi Dasappa was the hostel warden. He was Ramadasappa’s friend. As per Ramadasappa’s request, Belavadi Dasappa always showed interest in my well-being. The routine was to go to his house every sunday. Dasappa had mandated me to read some English papers and magazines. For example, “Little Folks”, “Chums”, “Wide world magazine”, “Boy’s one paper”. These magazines specially targeted high school students. On Sundays when I was at Dasappa’s house, after serving me coffee and light snacks, he would ask:

Him (Dasappa) : Which magazine did you read?

Me (DVG) : I read Little Folks.

Him:  Which parts were interesting?

Me: A short story

Him: Narrate it briefly in English (or) Narrate it to me in Kannada

This was Dasappa’s teaching style. The answer has to come from the student. He has to independently arrive at the answer. Thorough understanding of whatever you know, however little it may be, was the teaching style of those days.

Madras Mail

After a few weeks, Ramadasapapa taught me a different method for learning. He used to get “Madras Mail” everyday. His close friend Elanduru Jahagir Narasingrao Poornaiah had a paid subscription to Madras Mail. He used to send it to Ramadasappa after he finished reading. Ramadasappa’s eyesight was rather weak. He had thick glasses. Reading Madras Mail in the night using candle light required considerable effort. While returning from work, he used to pass in front of our house. He used to let us know of his arrival from work. I used to follow him to his house. He used to offer me light snacks such as “Avalakki”, “Huri-hiṭṭu”. After the snacks, he handed over the “Madras Mail” to me and my job was to read it for him, aided by the light from a kerosene lamp.

In those days, Madras mail was pretty famous in southern India. Their english was deeply intellectual, majestic, and proper. The style of their english was beautiful. Among the editors of that paper, I knew Beaucham and [Thomas Earle] Welby. Welby was regarded as the foremost among writers and literary critics. Thanks to Ramadasappa, I had the good fortune of reading such a good english paper everyday. If I made any mistakes or if I fumbled, Ramadasappa used to correct me. He also asked me to explain the meaning of uncommon words/phrases/sentences. If I did not know, he would explain the meaning and along with it, he would direct me to double check with the dictionary. He had “Starmans Dictionary”. I recall the following incident. I came across the word “Skedaddle” which means “run away”. Such were the benefits of being mentored by Ramadasappa. Because of his help, before joining “Fourth Form”, I was able to read Julius Caesar -- A play by Shakespeare. Not that I was an expert, but I had understood the play broadly.

Ramadasappa and Ramaswamy Iyer had mutual affection and respect for each other. From time to time they had their differences. However, they resolved their differences and even forgot about them.

I had mentioned before that when I joined an English medium school in 1900, they enrolled me into 2nd standard. After the exam, I was granted a double promotion to 4th standard. Under the standard system, from higher classes, that is from 5th standard we had to enroll for the lower secondary exams. School conducted an internal exam to select students to enroll them for these lower secondary examinations. Ramaswamy Iyer had indicated that I could also write this internal selection exam. Headmaster accepted it. I wrote those selection exams. Probably there were three question papers. One of them was grammar, the second paper was about reading comprehension, and the third one was about sentence construction. By god’s grace, I did well in all these papers.

A hurdle

After passing the selection test, I could be enrolled in the lower secondary exam right? However, there was a hurdle. According to lower secondary exam rules, one of them was that the student should have studied in 5th standard. Teachers had a discussion about how to overcome this hurdle. Headmaster wrote a letter to the district inspector requesting an exemption from this rule.

At that time, K Rangappa was the inspector. He became friends with my grandfather in Kolar; Previously, he had been a guest at our home a couple of times having partaken of lunch/dinner. Hence, my father assumed that it would not be difficult to convince him and went to meet the inspector in Kolar. He emphatically refused to agree to the request. To state his words “The sun that rises in the east, even if it rises in the west, it is not possible to grant your request”.

My father returned disappointed to our town and conveyed the news.

Now, an incident.

A person named Sarvottama Rao was the taluk head clerk and he lived in our town. In his house, someone was all prepared to go on a pilgrimage to Kashi. One day, I revealed my thoughts - “I cannot attend the exam anyway. It is useless despite being capable. Hence, what can I accomplish by being here? Instead, I will go to Kashi with Sarvottama Rao’s folks.” This came as a thunderbolt to my grandmother. I was partly disappointed and partly joking, when I said this. She was scared thinking it was a serious thought and she pleaded to my grandfather. “If the kid feels like going to Kashi, why should we be here ?”

Unable to tolerate this taunt, my grandfather directed my father to meet Bhabha Saheb.

Meeting with Bhabha Sahib

My father came to Bengaluru, enquired about the location of Bhabha Sahib's bungalow and reached there. It was around 8 AM - 9 AM. He was waiting near the gate. In about 15 minutes after reaching there, Bhabha came out in his dogcart along with his daughter. He himself drove the cart. He saw some person greeting him; he stopped his cart and greeted the person back.

“Who are you?”

My father introduced himself as a school teacher, felicitated him with a lemon[1], garlanded him and told about the reason for his visit. He also conveyed the district inspectors' verdict. Sahib smiled a bit and asked in Kannada:

“Do you have the boy’s answer sheets ?”

My father handed over my answer sheets to Saheb. Bhaba Sahib went through a few pages of those three answer sheets, using his pencil wrote something on one of the papers, and told my father:

“This boy can be admitted to the exam. Take this to the office and show it to the manager at 11 AM. He will write a letter. Show that letter to the inspector and then give it to your headmaster”.

Zenith

So the saga concluded. Inspector Rangappa was happy too. Our headmaster and Ramaswamy Iyer’s happiness could not be expressed in words. My grandmother used all the ghee in the house to light the lamps in the Pūjā room. Thanks to her devotion, I was able to reach the zenith of english education.

It can be said that the great story of my education truly concludes here.

From thereon, I have already narrated the story of me going to the high school in Rasool Khan’s profile. Thanks to encouragement and pressure from Mara Shetty and Rasool Khan, My father and grandfather agreed to send me to Mysuru.

This is the second part of the two-part English translation of the Eighteenth essay in D V Gundappa’s magnum-opus Jnapakachitrashaale (Volume 8) – Sankirna smriti samputa. Edited by G S Raghavendra. The translator likes to thank Shatavadhani Dr. R. Ganesh for his valuable inputs.

Footnotes

[1] It is/was a custom to give some fruit whenever one is desirous of success, lemon being available throughout the year and also handy to carry, makes it a good choice, symbolically speaking. Also lemon is associated with Lakṣmī, the deity of fortune and auspiciousness.

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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