Mahāmahopādhyāya Vidvān N. Ranganatha - Empathy and Research Papers

Feeling of Oneness

Sharma took interest in getting to know the progress in the life and career of the students who had graduated from the college with a vidvat. He made it a point to enquire about their well-being through his circle of acquaintances or by writing letters.

Yet another unique quality that we will need to recollect at this juncture is the commitment with which Sharma wrote letters. Today, the world has lost the practice of writing letters. With the usage of technology and computers, telegraphic messages are largely in vogue. Sharma, on the other hand, always wrote letters whenever he wanted to express his opinion about a certain subject or wanted to get information connected with a particular matter. Even when there was a possibility of contacting someone through phone, he preferred to write letters. A phone call was his final resort.

Any amount of appreciation and praise for the manner in which Sharma used to compose letters would be inadequate. His letters are always worth compiling.

Sharma often received letters from different places seeking clarifications pertaining to some aspect of a śāstra (and it was not limited to vyākaraṇa-śāstra alone). Sharma replied to all such letters immediately, without fail. (DVG who was held by Sharma in high esteem also followed this religiously; he replied in detail to all letters that came to him).

Sharma was always enthusiastic in heaping praises on another person. Many times, even in the instances where we might have found the writings of another person interesting and impressive, we hardly go to the extent of giving them any kind of feedback. Sharma, however, made sure that he conveyed his appreciation either through written correspondence or through a phone call. If the author was from a different place, he would procure the address of the person and write him a letter. Even after he crossed the landmark age of eighty, he did not give up this discipline.

When we bring all this to our minds, we often feel moved – the almighty is really gracious for having brought us in contact with a person of his calibre and nature.

As Sharma always felt himself to be a part of the bigger whole, these characteristic features came quite naturally to him.

Empathy

I would like to narrate an incident where Sharma subjected me to a viva-voce. I am quoting this incident to underscore the kind of care, interest, and empathy he extended to others.

Once he called me over phone saying that there was something important, he wanted to talk about. When I visited him, he said the following, “The responsibility of this institution (Gokhale Institute) is on your shoulders now. I wanted to know more about its management and thus have called you here. At the Institute, those women are working day and night – they are getting remunerated well, I hope? You have been paying them regularly from the time you appointed them, right? Have you made arrangements such that the pattern is never disturbed?” he asked.

This does not need much commentary.

No person associated with the Institute—neither donor nor member—had ever asked me such questions.

Where else can we find this kind of compassion and feeling for others?

The feeling of oneness he had with the Gokhale Institute is unforgettable. He was absolutely committed and involved in all its activities. For decades, his blessings have guided us.

~

It would be sufficient to recollect a certain incident to indicate his devotion to the Gokhale Institute. At the fag end his life, he had to shift his residence to Mysore. When his relocation was all set and he had got into the vehicle to head towards Mysore, he dropped by at the Institute. He spent a few minutes there and said, “I don’t think I will be able to have the darśana of this puṇya-kṣetra ever again. This might be the last darśana of this kṣetra for me. May God bless you all…!” His voice choked as he uttered these words. He then got into the car.

~

Everyone could see the kind of discipline he had in his day to day dealings.

For twenty-five years, he wrote a series of articles titled Sūkti-vyāpti for the monthly Utthāna. There was never a delay in his mailing of articles. Even when he was traveling, an envelope containing his article would land on my desk right at the expected moment.

Research Papers

Sharma has authored several papers on vyākaraṇa-śāstra-prakriyā – it was one of his areas of expertise.

His scholarly writings on Kannada-vyākaraṇa[1] are important contributions to the field. His thoughts on kāraka and vibhakti span over a hundred pages. His writings connected with the topics pañcamī-vibhakti and gamaka-samāsa are evidences of his mastery over the śāstra.

Perhaps there has never been such insightful writing on Kannaḍa-vyākaraṇa in the past. In his writings, he has not only touched upon the prakriyā[2] of Kannaḍa-vyākaraṇa but has also drawn our attention to the unique features of the spoken varieties of the Kannada language. There has never been such a thorough analysis of the different vibhaktis in the Kannada language. At the most, a large number of the technical works on Kannada grammar merely stated, ‘This usage is in vogue in Kannada,’ and nothing more.

 

Sharp Intellect

Though Sharma was soft and kind-hearted by nature, when he had to speak in defence of a śāstra or a value system, he never thought twice to invoke the spirit of kṣāttra, i.e., he would become aggressive. It is true that this was not his usual nature. But when the situation demanded him to be so, his adherence to truth came out in a powerful manner.

In a certain discussion related to the fundamental concepts related to the alaṅkāra-śāstra, the scholar Ranganatha Sharma gave up his usual soft and sweet nature and took to intense argument filled with logic. Even while the discussion was going on, it did not give him much pleasure. Back then, he often told me, “What kind of karma is this! I end up wasting my time pointing out flaws in someone else’s writings!”

But such a situation was an exception and it finally ended on a happy note. It led to a better relationship and harmony between the people involved. Nevertheless, the occasion also helped us witness the sharpness of Sharma’s intellectual prowess.

Sharma’s true nature lay in majesty and controlled speech. He displayed a lot of aucitya [3]even in vākyārtha-sabhās[4] and was magnanimous too. In a certain scholastic debate, a scholar found it difficult to reply to a particular argument. After the meeting was over, Sharma told his friends in private, “This was the possible solution to the argument that was going on there.” One of the friends asked him, “Wouldn’t it have given them clarity and led to a better conclusion if you had voiced this line of thought back there?” Sharma, the paṇḍita, replied, “The matter is related to another śāstra. It is not right on my part to speak about a śāstra that is not mine.”

 

Maturity

One of the features of people who possess profound scholarship is that they think straight into the topic and argue without any excesses or shortcomings. Sharma considered this kind of straightforwardness as an important quality. This is a virtue that needs to be appreciated from the point of view of good character and discipline. However, it is also possible that others might not find this adequate or convincing. At times, one could even feel that his stance was not relevant to the current times. A scholar will need to keep these aspects in mind while presenting his thought – he must be sure not to compromise on his philosophy and must present the matter in a manner in which it is pleasing and acceptable to the audience. This certainly is quite a delicate thing. Sharma had realised and internalised this aspect. Therefore, he put forth his ideas in a soft and gentle manner such that the audience could comfortably grasp his thought.

There were also a few stray instances where he ended up having a difference of opinion with other scholars. During such instances, Sharma did not think twice to put forth his honest opinion. Sharma, however, had a dictum that he had imposed on himself – even when the situation demanded an intense reaction from him, he would always keep in mind the stature and the background of the other person before replying. This characteristic trait of his is evidence of his maturity. It also shows how he had risen above dry scholarship and always had a holistic vision. He did not like excessive tarka – analytical argument. Speaking on paśu-vadha (animal sacrifice) and other practices of the past, he had once said, “Though the śāstra prescribes it to be performed, it is not right to do something that does not go well with people’s ways and manners today.” He often said this with firmness and conviction.

Sharma’s writings, which span thousands of pages, reveal his uncompromising adherence to the śāstras. His style of writing is simple and lucid and this enabled even the laymen to easily grasp his intent. On the other hand, his research articles such as those related to some of the most complex and debatable aspects of alaṅkāra-śāstra and Kannada-vyākaraṇa are so nuanced that they require even a scholar of the subject to invest some time to understand. They must read the essays multiple times and contemplate upon them to comprehend his arguments. His writings on ethics and values can be read by common readers who are interested in literature.

To be continued...

The current article is an English adaptation of the Kannada original which has appeared in the Dīptaśṛṅgagalu, authored by Nadoja Dr. S R Ramaswamy. Thanks to Sri Hari Ravikumar for his edits. Full form of the article is a part of 'A Tapestry of Pen Portraits' published by Prekshaa Pratishtana in December 2020.


[1] Grammar of the Kannada language.

[2] Conceptual methodology

[3] Appropriateness/ propriety

[4] Assemblies of scholarly debates related to a stream of śāstra.

 

Author(s)

About:

Nadoja Dr. S R Ramaswamy is a renowned journalist, writer, art critic, environmentalist, and social activist. He has authored over fifty books and thousands of articles. He was a close associate of stalwarts like D. V. Gundappa, Rallapalli Anantakrishna Sharma, V Sitaramaiah, and others. He is currently the honorary Editor-in-Chief of Utthana and served as the Honorary Secretary of the Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs for many years.

Translator(s)

About:

Arjun is a writer, translator, engineer, and enjoys composing poems. He is well-versed in Sanskrit, Kannada, English, Greek, and German languages. His research interests lie in comparative aesthetics of classical Greek and Sanskrit literature. He has deep interest in the theatre arts and music. Arjun has (co-) translated the works of AR Krishna Shastri, DV Gundappa, Dr. SL Bhyrappa, Dr. SR Ramaswamy and Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh

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