Ramanna’s discipline, affection (Part 1)

Ramanna is my Cikka-tāta (grandfather’s younger brother). Sheikhdar Gundappa’s second son. I had briefly introduced him in my earlier writings. He initially worked as a government employee probably in the excise department and seemed to have saved some of the money he earned during that period. By the time I was born, he was not formally employed. He was self-reliant. A bit of money lending along with a stamp vendor job. As for the basic financial support, he had his father’s ancestral property, and his elder brother Sheshanna’s assistance in case there was a need for extra money -- With just this financial arrangement, he took care of the family responsibilities.

I have earlier mentioned that he was a widower and that he had also refused his father’s wishes regarding his remarriage. He considered his elder brother and younger brother’s family as his own family.

Ramanna’s Responsibilities

I plan to write about my maternal family separately. My mother’s eldest brother Venkataramanayya was perceived to be intelligent and was admired for his expertise in accounting. He passed away even before the age of twenty. I remember being told that it was due to cholera disease. He was married. His father, my maternal grandfather Naranappa too passed away the very next day - due to the grief of losing his son. On the very next day of this crisis, as soon as Ramanna heard the news from a servant from Byrakur region, he immediately went to Byrakur, oversaw all the rites that had to be performed and he brought my grandmother Sakamma, her second son, her four or five year old daughter (my mother) to stay at the house in Mulbagal.

Prior to this, there was another incident. Ramanna’s younger brother Sheenanna’s two daughters, and his son were also staying in the same house in Mulbagal. Sheenanna’s wife had passed away too. He had appointed Venkatamma, a maḍi heṅgasu[1] from Devarayasamudra, to take care of the household work and help in bringing up his two daughters. Since Venkatamma and members of the household did not get along well, they were looking for an alternative arrangement. At the same time, Sakamma and her kids came to live in the same house.

Another story. My father lost his mother within a month of his birth. Then his mother’s elder sister Janakamma took him to her place, adopted him and raised him. Six-seven years passed by; Ramanna was worried. He frequently brought this up with his brothers - “How many more days do we allow our child to stay with others? What will other people think about us? Once he grows old, will he be able to adjust? Isn’t it our responsibility to take care of our child? We need to get the child here as soon as possible.” After many days of such arguments, Sheshagiriappa agreed to his younger brother’s request. Accordingly, my father moved to Mulbagal when he was a small child.

These were the Ramanna’s share of family responsibilities.

The three divinities

Ramanna did not have a family of his own. Yet, he carried out his responsibilities with such devotion and dedication, that no family man could have matched it. Three things that were divine to him: (1) His elder and younger brother’s kids (2) Śrīmad-ānjaneya-svāmī and Śrī Someśvara-svāmī temple (3) Gośāle[2]. He just lived for these three things in the world.

I have heard some people calling him avaricious. His own younger brother Sheenanna himself had used the term avaricious in his regard. I cannot say he is avaricious. But I can agree, he was a thrifty person. By careful spending, the money he saved was for the family, not for his own expenditure. He did not have any personal expenses.

Routine

A detailed account of his daily routine might help in understanding his nature. He got up daily even before sunrise, washed his face, put on Vibhūti and chanted a set of Stotras. I have heard them myself. I am familiar with a few verses of the Stotras. While still chanting, he carried a huge vessel of water to the cowshed. There was a huge bin for storing grass. The first task was to pick up all the grass fallen around the bin and put it back in. Then bow and touch the feet of the cattle as a mark of respect. Then wash and clean all the buffaloes and cows. Caring of buffaloes was bit of a hassle. Apply turmeric and Kumkum to them, especially to the cattle, and herd them to the fields. Sometimes I too was blessed with the opportunity of herding the cattle to the fields.

After coming back home from the fields, he sat at his treasury box in the hallway. Then from 8 to around 10-11am, he used to sell the stamp-paper. Money lending accountings of the town, home and farmland property sales, village news - all these things were handled during this.  Within 10-11am he took bath and prayed until 12pm. Brahma-yajña[3] was part of his daily routine. He knew many Mantras and Stotras by-heart. When performing the Maṅgalārati [4] to the deity, everyone in the household - my grandmother, my father, my mother, my aunts, their husbands, - everyone were supposed to assemble in a line in the pooja room, had to chant Mantras, take Tīrtha-prasāda[5], all these took place systematically. Nobody felt the need to violate this tradition. It was the specialty of those times. Following the tradition came very naturally to them.

This was followed by lunch. Some guests, and one or two people from other places were usually present daily. He never had the habit of sleeping after lunch. None of my grandfathers had the habit of taking a nap during the day. My father too did not have the habit. Even I did not have the habit for many years. Ramanna did some household work until 2-3pm; de-seeding the tamarind, cutting open the Hoṅgekāyi[6], cleaning the paddy granary, supervise the storehouse - all these small jobs, after this he used to come to the hallway and sit at the treasury box - facing the west. He made me lean over the opposite wall, put a carpet, placed a reading desk on it, and made me to read - Kr̥ṣṇa-Rāja-Vāṇī-Vilāsa-Bhārata, and other books of his liking.

This is the first part of the six-part English translation of Fourth essay in D V Gundappa’s magnum-opus Jnapakachitrashaale (Volume 8) – Sankirna smriti samputa. Edited by G S Raghavendra.

Footnotes

[1] A widow, who followed the customs prescribed for widows in those days like tonsuring her head, wearing only white clothes, partaking one meal per day etc. These practices were later abolished.

[2] Cow shelters.

[3] A part of daily rituals, that contains pooja to Devas, Ṛśis, Pitṛs

[4] Part of the pooja performed almost at the end, with lighting of the camphor.

[5] Water and food, that is offered to God, thus sanctified and then distributed among the devotees.

[6] Seed of Avenue tree from which oil is extracted. 

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.

 

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