One day, at about three in the afternoon, Bindu Rao visited my house. I asked him, “When did you arrive?”
He said, “I left Chitradurga this morning and came here at around eleven, freshened up and had lunch at my younger brother’s place, then I came to see you. I’m now ninety-two years old. I felt like sharing that with you!”
Me: “How did you come here? In a vehicle?”
BR: (pointing towards his legs) “What’s the need for a vehicle when I have these?”
We talked about a few personal matters for some time. When he took leave, I asked him, “Where are you headed to now?”
BR: “I’ve to meet a few old friends in Chamarajpet.”
Me: “Oh it’s so hot outside; shall I arrange for a vehicle?”
BR: “What’s the need for a vehicle to Chamarajpet? It’s quite close by.”
That was the last time I saw him. Anyone who saw the radiance on his face and the fitness of his body that day would have never thought that his demise would be so near.
The General Stores Group
My acquaintance with Bindu Rao pre-dates his acquaintance with me. Back then, I would see him from a distance and immensely admire him in my mind.
It was probably 1910-11. An alley on the western side of Ahmed Buildings in Chickpet, Bangalore. The first store just beside the alley belonged to Shop Sitaramaiah. This store sold items like glass articles, soap, salon supplies, stitching thread, knitting thread, varieties of needles, photo frames etc.. Stores like these were called ‘Chițakina Angaḑi’ (ಚಿಟಕಿನ ಅಂಗಡಿ). There were already about eight to ten such shops in Chickpet itself by then.
A group of friends would meet together at Sitaramaiah’s store every day from five thirty to six thirty in the evenings. Everyone who assembled there was employed with different government offices. A few among them are to be reminisced: i. B Venkatakrishnappa, ii. R Venkataramaiah, iii. Inspector Chowdaiah, iv. S N Hanumantha Rao, v. S N Srinivasa Rao, vi. H Nagesh Rao, vii. Shyamaiayangarya, and viii. S G Bindu Rao.
They were all connoisseurs of music and literature. Amongst them, I had close interactions with Venkatakrishnappa. It’s worth writing about him too.
Venkatakrishnappa served as an assistant commissioner in the excise department. We initially gained acquaintance at Maharaja’s College Hostel in Mysore. He was in his senior BA classes. I was in my fourth form (an equivalent of ninth standard). A person by name Madhvacharya who hailed from a place near Madanapalle, was his roommate. Their room was right next to mine. This is how we got acquainted.
Venkatakrishnappa and Madhvacharya were both short in build. Madhvacharya was stout too. He was more affectionate towards me since I too spoke Telugu.
During those days, there existed a student body in our hostel. I was its secretary. Occasionally, discourses from scholars were being organized. Appaji Rao, who was in his senior year FA class had given a lecture once. The day’s session was presided over by Warden B Dasappa. Topic of discourse was Xenophon’s Memorabilia (In memory of his preceptor, Socrates). I presented the vote of thanks after completion of this discourse. Even while the audience were still in the hall, Madhvacharya ran up to me and lifted me up with both his hands. Venkatakrishnappa was also present during this incident.
This is how Venkatakrishnappa’s affection towards me began.
Venkatakrishnappa (at the time of this narration) held a responsible position either at the Secretariat or the Revenue Commissioner’s Office in Bangalore. He made himself free amidst his schedule to practice music and study literature. He was a Saṅketi. Saṅketis proclaim that knowledge of music is their kula-vidyā, handed over to them by their ancestors. Venkatakrishnappa was well-versed in music. In addition to a couple of music collections, he had also authored and published a book called ‘Hārmoniyaṃ svayambodhinī.’
Love for Humour
He has also worked in the field of Kannada literature. He has translated Sir Walter Scott’s Black Dwarf to Kannada as Śyāma-kubja.
Venkatakrishnappa and I met at least three to four times a week in Chickpet. One evening, we were walking towards Sitaramaiah’s shop. Along the way, to our left was Rao Bahadur B K Garudacharya’s City Mart store. It was a routine for a few government officials, lawyers, and pensioners to meet there during evenings for some chit-chat. Someone from the gathering there shouted out my name loudly that day and asked, “Hey! Why hasn’t it come yet?” (ಏನಪ್ಪೋ! ಇನ್ನೂ ಬರಲಿಲ್ಲ?) lifting their hands up in the air and waving them. I couldn’t understand the meaning of that. Venkatakrishnappa immediately paused walking, lifting his arms, waving them in response, said, “Rupee hasn’t come yet, rupee hasn’t come” (ರೂಪಾಯಿ ಬರಲಿಲ್ಲಪ್ಪೋ, ರೂಪಾಯಿ ಬರಲಿಲ್ಲ). I naively asked what it was about. Venkatakrishnappa explained: “Diwan Ananda Rao has sent out copies of your Raṅgācārlu to a few people in his circle. Looking at that, this man is mistaken that you’re handing out free copies to everyone. This is why I said he’ll get the book only if he shells out a rupee.”
He told this and turned to me, “Fool, don’t fall for all these and hand out free copies. You definitely should never do that.” He took a pledge from me.
Venkatakrishnappa was indeed a sāttvika, a person of humour and a benevolent man.
The aforementioned R Venkataramaiah was a relative of Venkatakrishnappa. Venkatakrishnappa was a vocalist; Venkataramaiah was a violinist. Venkataramaiah was with the Co-operative Department. He was a well-built man and dressed fashionably.
Inspector Chowdaiah was well versed in ghața-vādya. He too was a good connoisseur.
Hanumantha and Srinivasa – The two brothers served as Amaldars and then rose to the ranks of assistant commissioners. They were interested in poetry and Purāṇas.
Nagesh Rao and others were connoisseurs of good poetry too.
To be continued…
This is the first part of a three-part English translation of the twentieth essay in D V Gundappa’s magnum-opus Jnapakachitrashaale (Volume 2) – Kalopasakaru. Reviewd by Paresh Nadig and edited by G S Raghavendra.
 Possibly a reference to a horse-drawn cart or a bullock cart.
 Possibly the word ‘shop’ here is used as an adjective to identify Sri Sitaramaiah; he must have been commonly referred to as ‘Shop Sitaramaiah’ because he owned a store.
 A reference to DVG’s biography of Diwan Rungacharlu (written in 1911 possibly, published some time later).