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Three Essays and a Story

 

T. BHEEMACHARYA
(JANUARY 17, 1905 - April 29, 1985)

 

My father was born in Tumminkatte, in the then Dharwar district of North Karnataka. Today it is in Haveri district. That is where the 'T' comes in his name though he never expanded to its full form in writing his name. For a long time I thought, due to my limited knowledge of Kannada, that it was Tunginkatte, the banks of the river Tungabhadra. In school, none of us children expanded it either. Later when the state became more intrusive in our private lives and insisted on knowing its full form, I made it Tungabhadra, whereas my brother made it Tumkur!

In 1913, as a child he was adopted by a rich childless family of Honnali, and we always treated Honnali as our home village/town. He himself did not like to stay there and went to a gurukula, where children were trained to become pontiffs of the religion. Here they conversed in Sanskrit, using Kannada only to talk to women and servants in the tradition of plays by Kalidasa. He also appeared in the matriculation examination of the then Bombay Presidency and won Shankar Sheth scholarship in Sanskrit and promptly left the gurukula, whereas his cousin stayed back and became a pontiff of the Uttardai matha. My mother believes that he left the gurukula because he wanted to eat onion pakoras, which he could not get in the gurukula!

At Dharwar he became part of the group 'Geleyer gumpu' which had people like D. R. Bendre (who became a famous poet), R. R. Diwakar (who later became a Governor) and V. K. Gokak (who became a famous academician). After intermediate he went to Mysore to study for the degree of Sahitya Vidvan in Sanskrit. Among his classmates was S. Radhakrishnan, who later became the President of India. My father got involved in agitation against the British, was shot in the leg and had an arrest warrant against him. The then prime minister of the Mysore State, Mirza Ismail, came to the hostel in the evening and asked him to quit the state immediately before he was forced to execute the arrest warrant. My father reached Indore in 1922.

He seemed to have had some musical talent and so he became a disciple of the court musician, Devidas Petiwale. In those days Bhatkhande had just published his critical volumes on the north Indian classical music in Sanskrit under the name of Chatur Pandit. My father built an excellent library of the music literature that had just began coming out for his blind guru, read them and 'taught' him all that was happening in the world of music. I have seen a copy of book in Devnagari and Indian notation by Maharshi Devendranath Thakhur (grand father of Rabindrnath Tagore) published in 1860s! He also learnt playing the Been, the North Indian Veena from Babu Khan, the last exponent of the instrument. Babukhan would come, give a lesson for may be up to 15 minutes, tell my father that he (my father) was quick in learning, collect his fee of one rupee and would go and buy his bottle! Those were the days! He also learnt Tabla from Zehangir Khan who lived very close to our house.

He also became a tutor to the children of the Bhandarkar family, teaching the daughter Sanskrit and the son music. Later he became the vice principal for both the music college and the Sanskrit college in Indore. He passed B. A. and B. T. (Bachelor in Teaching) from Agra University and became a teacher in the Sanyogitaganj High School, Indore.

He wore Khadi but did not use a Khadi cap, and dressed like Moti Lal Nehru. He kept in touch with the the politics of the country, read writings of Gandhi, Nehru, Bernard Shaw and Bertrand Russell. But his heart was not in politics, but in music and Sanskrit literature. In music he became a follower of Dilip Kumar Roy who approached God through music.

After independence, he was persuaded to take a government job and he worked for the department of industries, in charge of village industries. In summer I sometimes went with him on tours and became familiar with hand loom and silk industry and managed to shake hands with Nehru at Mandu where he (Nehru) was giving school dresses to the tribal children.

He used to eat late at night and I used to serve him. I managed to do every exercise in Wren and Martin grammar book with him and learnt a lot of things on various subjects. On Sundays I also went on morning walks with him, a habit he kept almost till the end. He was active till the last day of his life. He fell in the bathroom while having a bath, lost his consciousness and died within a few hours without waking up. I had met him a few months earlier and we had discussed about preparing for death and he had said that sudden death (aksmat mrityu) is the best death. His last wish thus was fulfilled.
 

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