The Village Schoolteacher who Sought Time for Svādhyāya

DVG narrates an ennobling anecdote of a poor village schoolteacher who did not mind his incredible hardships but wanted time for Svādhyāya or self-study. This is our remembrance of DVG on his 136th birthday.
The Village Schoolteacher who Sought Time for Svādhyāya

THERE IS NO BEFITTING WAY TO CELEBRATE DVG’s 136th BIRTHDAY than narrating an anecdote about a sublime village schoolteacher. Few stalwarts of the modern Indian Renaissance era have left behind such an awesome goldmine of anecdotes. He had an anecdote for almost every occasion and season. These span the entire gamut of Rasas — from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the humorous to the evocative. His Jñāpakacitraśāle volumes are the real-life enactments of the Human Drama in its full sweep. In all these senses, one should not merely “read” or “study” DVG but undertake a lifelong anusandhāna of his body of work.

DVG could supply us with such a rich bounty of anecdotes because he sculpted his productive and fruitful life using the chisel of his own Kaggan dictum: ellaroḷagoṇdāgu maṅkutimma — be one with everyone. This fearless and transparent quality of opening himself up to the whole world begot him letters from people hailing from all walks of life from every corner of Karnataka. Some wrote to thank him, others sought advice, and still others, sought the sort of solace that only he could disburse. A heartfelt line that emanated from his soul or a verse from the Ramayana or Mahabharata or some other literary work was all that sufficed to soothe these troubled seekers. And the letters never stopped coming and he unfailingly replied to each letter in his own hand. These were people he would never meet. Some folks in his close circle, amazed at his prolific letter-writing, commented that people like DVG were literally men of letters. 

However, there were occasions when DVG’s fecund pen would not move. These were letters that left him wordless. 

Here is the story of one such letter he received in 1934-35. 

A PRIMARY SCHOOLTEACHER NAMED CHENNAKRISHNAYYA was once posted to a godforsaken village. After serving there for about two years, he wrote a heartfelt letter seeking DVG’s help. This is how the letter read:

“I lost my wife two years ago. It has been three months since I was transferred to this village. I have two daughters. The elder one is around nine or ten. The younger one is six or seven. My mother is alive and stays with me. She is very old and bedridden for the last seven or eight months due to paralysis. 

“I wake up early in the morning, have my bath, perform Sandhyāvandanaṁ and cook food. My children bathe my mother and dress her up in the sanctified clothes. The well in this village is located about a mile away from my house. I have to draw water from the well and bring it all the way to my house. This back-and-forth occurs two or three times each day. As a result, I invariably reach school late.  

“Also, I have to visit the well four or five times on other days because of which I feel really exhausted. But my real concern is not the hardship I am suffering here. All these would have been fine except that I have no time for Svādhyāya and serious scholarly study. 

“I am writing this letter to you only due to this concern. If I am transferred to any village that has a well near the house, I will gladly go there. After about eight or ten months, I will become eligible for pension. If you think of an idea that solves my present problem, I will consider it my great fortune.”


DVG RECOUNTS THIS EPISODE WITH GREAT EMOTION. He immediately forwarded the letter to Sri M.A. Narayana Iyengar, the Inspector of Schools at Kolar. The story ended on a happy note. Three days later, Iyengar wrote back to DVG: “Sri Chennakrishnayya has been transferred to ABC village. There is a sweet-water well right next to the school building.”

But DVG’s epilogue to the story is where we find the real gold. Here it is:

“The joy of Sri Chennakrishnayya exceeded the joy of an emperor who had accomplished a digvijaya. The chief ingredient in his joy was this: he now had enough free time to pursue his scholarly studies in Kavya, or literature…

"Literature does not flourish due to hefty salaries or perks or suits and coats. It blooms from innate Bhakti and Śraddha and by unswerving penance… 

“The scholars and litterateurs and writers of that era adhered to a high standard. In  solemnity of the choice of subject, in the decency of its exposition and in the vigour of prose style, they all kept before them a high ideal. They incessantly strove hard, and put in incredible effort to attain that ideal. They would ruthlessly discard any writing that didn’t meet that ideal, no matter who wrote it. Indeed, there was something called a standard and an ideal in that era. I hope that at least in the future, our people working in various fields anchor themselves to a great ideal which guides all their endeavours.”

DVG’s birthday is actually a Parva, a festival. The foregoing anecdote on this sacred occasion is just a small token of offering back to him what he selflessly offered to us. The sacred multiplies its own sanctity.  

||  Om Tat Sat || 

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