Ramanna’s discipline, affection (Part 6)

Turban

I shall tell you the story of the turban. A distinguished muslim lived near the Avani Mutt near Mulbagal. Apparently he was a goldsmith. One day, he roamed from one road to another with a carriage full of turbans with new type of borders, shawls, and dhotis, and when he came in front of our house, he gave one turban to Ramanna too and asked him to use it. Ramanna asked him the price for it. He said, “You don’t have to pay. It’s free”. Ramanna said, “I don’t want anything for free, I shall pay you. This will look good on our kid.” and it seems like he paid him five or six rupees. Later he got it laundered[1] ; He wrapped it around his head, made it ready, and took it out and placed it on my head. It looked like a huge sac. “This is like the basket of Jagaderaaya”, I said. After that he tried several times to make me wear it. I did not. I think I might have cried and created some ruckus. He got upset and asked, “So, you don’t want it, is it?”. When I said no, he started to use it for himself - once a month, just for an hour.

He used to wear a type of silver anklet on his left leg. When asked about it, he said, “My legs used to ache continuously. Then, a person gave me this anklet and said ‘wear this’. He was a conjurer. It seems like he has fused some of his magic in this. My leg has never ached, once I started wearing this.”

Emergency funds

There is another trait that I need to tell. He had a thick uḍudāra[2] around his waist : It almost looked like Anantana dāra[3]. Two silver boxes were tied to the uḍudāra. Each box was around two and a half to three inches in length and was bent, resembling a banana. Inside that banana-like box was an empty pipe. The pipe was visible when the lid at one end of the box was opened. Each pipe was filled with 5-6 rupees worth of two aṇṇa silver coins. When I asked what it was, he said “This is money for emergency”. I understood the meaning of this after sometime.

If anyone died in our village, Ramanna would visit their place. If that family did not have the adequate resources for funeral related expenses, Ramanna would somehow find it and helped them by giving 5-6 rupees out of the boxes in his uḍudāra. In those days, 5-6 rupees was sufficient for a funeral. After finishing the cremation, he would come to Someśvara temple, take bath in the Puṣkaraṇi[4], change his sacred thread, perform Pūja to the deity, and came home with Prasāda. Many a times, it would be 5:00 pm or 6:00 pm in the evening by the time he came home. Then he used to say this;

 

अनाथ-प्रेत-संस्कारात्-कोटि-यज्ञ-फलं लभेत् || शिव शिव महादेव ||

 

Performing the final rites of an orphaned soul, is equivalent to the blessings you get from performing a crore Yajñas Śiva Śiva Mahādēva .

Now, such boxes are out of fashion. I see from my experience that now-a-days such help in times of crisis have also decreased.

Kastūri[5]

Another charitable work that Ramanna followed was that he distributed kastūri. In those days, for women post delivery, were given to consume a little-very little-kastūri. It was a preventive cure for most sickness that might be caused due to low immunity post delivery. Kastūri is one which keeps the body warm; very expensive, out of reach for the poor. Hence, Ramanna considered this to be a very charitable work. People from our village and surrounding places came to Ramanna to get the kastūri when they had any women in their family go into labor. Ramanna used to spread a tiny bit on a betel leaf, folded it and gave it to them free of cost.

My grandmother Sākamma felt eternally indebted to Ramanna; because he helped her in time of crisis. Ramanna was also grateful to her - as she got her daughter married to our house and helped it to prosper.

Plague disease

When Sākamma and Ramanna passed away, I was not present in the village. I was in Mysore - reason being my studies. One day I was going to the bathroom from my room in the hostel - carrying clean clothes ; at the same time the postman who came to distribute letters, gave me an envelope. It contained a letter written by my father - bearing the news of Sākamma and Ramanna death. I was thunderstruck. There were tears in my eyes. At the same time, a senior student N. Subbarao came, stood next to me and asked, “Why son? Why are you crying?” and took the letter,  read it and understood the situation. He came with me to the bathroom, after the bath, he made me sit for lunch right next to him, made me sleep with him in his room, next day or three days later he made arrangements for his friend Appaji Rao to accompany me to Bowringpete or Kolar and then help me take a cart from there to Mulbagal. That great man Subbarao, with God's blessings, is happily living with his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, caring and blessing them. He is over 90 years old. He had been promoted upto superintending engineer and was well-known for his honesty. A selfless and a genuine person.

Later I got to know the situation. Mulbagal was haunted by the plague disease. It was the first attack or second. First Sākamma passed away. Within the next two days of this incident, Ramanna sent my father, mother and the kids to Yeldur, around sixteen to eighteen miles from our place. He decided to stay back alone at home to guard it. After three-four days, he was struck by plague and he passed away.

Theft

My father received this news only three to four days later. When my father reached Mulbagal, he saw that many of their belongings were stolen. This was the gravest disaster that my family had to face. There used to be many papers signed by people who had taken loans in Ramanna’s box. There were also gold and silver ornaments that were pledged. Usually there would also be two hundred to three hundred rupees cash in his box. Everything was stolen. Lease papers signed by farmers were also gone. Our wealth was reduced to zero. What else is there left to tell?

Floods

The next year - probably there was floods in that region, such that, around sixty big lakes in surrounding areas upto the Vaaniyambaadi region, overflowed, affecting the nearby farmlands. One of the bigger farmlands that belonged to my family was near Chalumakunte village. More than two-thirds of the lands adjacent to the lake belonged to us. Apart from the fact that the lake overflowed and water spilled over to our fields and destroyed all the crops, there was also sand filled in the fields. My father struggled a bit to get it repaired. The rule was such that if farmers paid half the amount, the government was supposed to pay the rest. My father was not in a position to pay the farmer’s share. The other farmers were also reluctant to pay their share. Meanwhile, year after year we used to get a notice for paying the pending taxes. My father got very upset and he wrote a letter to the government - “Take these lands under your possession and auction it, and use that money to clear the balance amount.”

I now understand the reason behind Sākamma and Ramanna being against me moving to a new unknown place. What’s the use of understanding now? Everything happened according to God’s wishes.

This is the final 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] Washed and ironed.

[2] A thread worn around the waist.

[3] Thread worn during the Ananta-caturdaśī vrata.

[4] Sacred pond in the temple premises.

[5] Musk, a fragrant substance.

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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