Two Muslim Brethren

My father was down with an illness. He was not in a condition to speak. His body and hand movements were also limited. When this was the situation, one morning at around nine, three to four Muslim men visited our house and told me, “We have come to see our teacher.”

I said, “He is extremely tired and he is unable to even speak.”

“We will not engage him in talk. We will just see him with our eyes, perform salām, and then we will return. Please inform him that Qasim and Haidar Sabi from Mulabagal have come to see him.”

I went inside the room and even as I said “Haidar from Mulabagal–” my father became cheerful and said, “Ask him to come in.”

The Muslim gentlemen went inside the room and stood for a moment; then they bowed down, touched the ground, and performed salām. My father spoke in a low voice with a smile on his face: “When did you come? How are you doing?”

“Doing well sir, with your blessings!”

Saying so the gentlemen offered the flowers and fruits they had bought. My father kept smiling and slightly raised his right knee. He placed his finger three to four inches below the knee and moved his fingers as if he was asking “How is it?” Then Qasim Saheb slightly lifted the right side of his trousers and showed to my father the portion that was around three to four fingers in length below the right knee. Both of them laughed. Another person said, “There was enlightenment because of that!” Nearly two minutes after that, all of them performed salām and came outside. When they were in the living room, I asked: “Sir, what was that sign?”

Backstory

“Sir, one day Teacher asked a question during class. I was still very childish at that time and I was not at all smart in studies. He suddenly asked me a question. He was sharpening a pencil using a knife he held in his hand. I said, ‘Yeḷtīni Sār!’ ‘Yeḷtīni Sār!’ Teacher said, ‘Are you asking me to eat (tinni) faeces (helu), you whoreson!’[1] and threw the knife at me. It struck this spot resulting in a wound and the scar has remained even now.

Saying so, he showed me the scar. He spoke again: “Sir, since he reacted like that, my mischief came to an end. What a good man! Later he showered me with so much affection! It is because he looked after me and drove good sense into my head that I’ve reached at least this level.”

Saying so, they performed salām and departed. It appears all those were students of my father. They also narrated one or two funny episodes like the one above.

Kasthi Haidar Saheb

Near Mulabagal there were two villages – Kasthi and Padakashti. Kasthi village was well-known because of two great persons – Haji Madar Saheb and Haidar Saheb. Haidar Saheb was Madar Saheb’s younger brother. He was a prominent person, known for his sense of justice and his astuteness in worldly matters. Whatever may be the dispute arising in the village, all parties would accept the verdict passed by Kasthi Haidar Saheb.

Haidar Saheb spoke good Kannada and Telugu. The proportions of his body frame were perfect. Not too tall, nor short; not even stout. He possessed a striking physique and an off-white complexion. He was well-dressed from head to foot, always with clean clothes. He wore white trousers, a trendy coat of those times, and a pocket clock. He wore a grand turban that comprised of a thin zari border. It was a pure white turban without a single stain. It was tied in the old Mysore style. His speech was dignified. He spoke unhurriedly, softly, and respectfully with everyone. He was a favourite with all the villagers.

Haidar Saheb was a friend of my grandfather. Haidar Saheb used to visit our home whenever my grandfather came to the village. Once in a while, during some festival, sweet dishes like Obbaṭṭu and Kāyikaḍabu that were prepared at home were offered separately to Haidar Saheb. He would eat the sweets, then pick up the leaf plate himself, and throw it outside. He then used to clean with water the spot where he had eaten. Thus, he was observing the customs and practices of the Hindu people. Never was he dissatisfied, complaining that people kept a distance from him or treated him differently. Again, during such festive days when there would be a program at home, narration of a Purāṇa or a Kāvya-vācana[2], just like other people, he too would listen with curiosity and would be delighted. 

This is an episode fresh in my memory. On some Gaṇēśa festival day, at around four in the afternoon, Haidar Saheb asked my father to recite the ‘Story of Hariścandra.’ Around fifteen to twenty people had gathered during that hour. My father recited the story of Hariścandra that was composed in the Campū genre (a combination of prose and verse). My grandfather and his younger brother had made me sit near them. My father was reciting the story, constantly changing the rāgas. No sooner the episode of Rohitāśva begun than my tears were uncontrollable. It appears that I was sobbing with heavy breaths in between. My grandfather and his brother both tried to console me. Then Kasthi Haidar Saheb spoke in this way: “When I myself have tears in my eyes, it’s no big deal that the child is crying!”

Saying so, he lifted me up, went outside, showed the sights of the street for some time, and then took me inside.

A Dispute

Here is another incident. It is of a different category.

One of the doctors in the hospital of that village got a transfer. Perhaps his name was Venkatacharya. He was well-known for his wonderful diagnostic skills and his benevolence. This man was tall and handsome, with a body colour resembling pure gold. He was also good-natured. It was on his table that for the first time I saw a book on the Chicago Lectures of Swami Vivekananda. I borrowed the book from him and read it. I had neither the money to buy the book nor did I understand it when I read it. Therefore, I copied the lecture from beginning till end in my exercise notebook and kept it with me. Dr. Venkatacharya’s nephew Srinivasa Iyengar was of my age and a close friend of mine. Let that be.

Dr. Venkatacharya had a large household. Since he was the breadwinner of the family, he had to borrow small amounts of money now and then. In his hospital, there was a Christian lady named Rajamma who worked as a midwife. She claimed that she must get back five hundred rupees from the doctor and thus lodged a formal complaint. She stated that she was in possession of documents to prove that the money had been lent – this was during the time Dr. Venkatacharya got transferred. A few villagers suggested that the matter can be settled in the panchayat.

Verdict

With that, the dispute was taken up for enquiry in the panchayat. Kasthi Haidar Saheb was the panchayat chief. Saheb asked Rajamma, “Where is your letter, Mother?”

Rajamma handed over a piece of paper to them. Saheb looked at it, handed it over to another panchayat member Srinivasa Rao who sat beside him, and said “See this.” It was not a stamp paper; it was written on a plain piece of paper. Rao gave it to Muniyappa who sat beside him. The three of them asked, “What’s this Mother – there are no witnesses for this! How do you know that the person who has signed here is the doctor himself? This paper doesn’t contain any legal or administrative language. The signature is in English. Who knows whose signature it is!”

Rajamma said, “How can there be witnesses to this? This was an internal dealing.”

The three of them spoke for a while amongst themselves.

“An internal matter should be settled internally. It should not be brought outside.” Saying so, Saheb tore the paper into pieces. 

She said “Oh no! What have you done?”

Saheb said, “You lack wisdom, Mother. Accusing a government servant in this manner, you shouldn’t jeopardize his employment. Did you give him the money? How much did you give him? How did you acquire so much wealth?”

She got utterly confused and said nothing.

“Good. You came here desiring something. Take this money. This is free for you!” Saying so, he handed over a packet full of money. It contained twenty-five or thirty rupees it appears.

Worldly Wisdom

With that, the dispute came to an end. She confessed. Other people didn’t know what the real context was. Few of them assumed that the doctor signed that letter in a moment of infatuation. A few others thought: “It is a counterfeit letter. It is the doing of some relative of that woman.” Kasthi Haidar Saheb had firmly decided in his mind that “if the doctor needed a loan of five hundred rupees, it is unlikely that he would ask her. It is also unlikely that she would have so much money. It is completely fraudulent.”

This is the path of those who have realized human nature.

This is the fourteenth essay in D V Gundappa’s magnum-opus Jnapakachitrashaale (Volume 7) – Hrudaya Sampannaru. Edited by Hari Ravikumar. Thanks to Kashyak Naik for his help.

 

Footnotes

[1] “I will say” in Kannada is “Heḷtīni” (and ‘Sār’ is just an Indianized version of ‘Sir’). ‘Yeḷtīni’ is simply a vulgar form of ‘Heḷtīni.’ Now, ‘helu’ means ‘shit’ or ‘feaces’ in Kannada; its vulgar form is ‘elu.’ The exclamation ‘Yeḷtīni Sār’—“I will say (the answer), sir!”—sounded like ‘Hel(u)-tinni Sār,’ which means “Eat shit, sir!”

[2] Recitation of classical poetry, typically set to classical rāgas. An explanation of the recited verse follows the rendition.

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:

Gurudatta Kudli holds a bachelor's degree in Telecommunication Engineering and currently working as a Project Manager in an IT company at Bengaluru. He enjoys reading books, social volunteering and compose metrical verses in Kannada. His major interests are literature, carnatic music, Vedanta, Indian culture and art.

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