Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Do you have a coat, Ramappa?

After the previous deliberation on "Coach, Teacher and Mentor", the mind naturally thinks of the mentors of the past and their successful proteges.  To be an outstanding mentor is not a easy achievement.  One of the challenges for the mentor is that the mentee's actions and behavior reflect on his own personality.  By promoting the cause of an unworthy mentee, the mentor damages his own reputation and standing.  We all know of some outstanding pairs of mentor-mentee in our generation, and in diverse fields.  This is the episode of remembering one such highly respected pair.  It is all the more authentic as I had the privilege of hearing the same from a grateful mentee himself.

"Karnataka Lekhakara Sangha" is a forum of poets and writers, dedicated to literary activities and encouraging budding writers.  It is active in Bangalore and Karnataka for the past five decades.  It conducts various programs from time to time and arranges seminars and conventions to commemorate different events of cultural and literary importance.  Prof A R Krishnashastry (ARK) is a well-known name in Kannada Literature. He is one of the prominent personalities who ushered in the "Navodaya" movement, which is considered as a watershed in the history of Kannada language and its growth.  He was born in the year 1890 and Karnataka Lekhakara Sangha decided to celebrate his birth centenary in 1990. The celebration started with a function at Ambale, his birth place.  The grand finale was planned in Bangalore after 12 months.  In the intervening 11 months, eleven functions were conducted in different centers of Karnataka.  Mysore was chosen as the venue of one such functions as Prof ARK taught at Mysore University for a considerable period of time.  As an office-bearer of the Sangha and being stationed in Mysore at that time, I was given the responsibility of organizing the function at Mysore.

Prof K Venkataramappa was a student of ARK and worked along with him in the Mysore University later on.  He was 84 years old at that time and lived in a house near Geetha Road in Mysore.  I went to his house to invite him to be the lead speaker at the function.  He was very happy to accept our invitation despite his advanced age.  Thinking of his age, I mentioned to him that the venue of the function was near his house.  "He was my Teacher and Mentor.  I am very glad to know that his birth centenary is being celebrated by your Sangha.  Where the function will be held does not matter.  I would come even if it was in a far away place.  I will not miss an opportunity to remember him and pay my tributes during his birth centenary.  I will certainly be there", he said.  As promised he arrived at the venue and delivered one of the finest talks in Kannada that I have ever heard.  I remember his speech, though it was 25 years ago...........

Venkataramappa had just finished his MA examinations and results were expected in a week.  He received a message that he should meet Prof ARK.  Venkataramappa went and met him in his chambers.  "Your results are expected next week.  You would have certainly done well in the examinations.  I know what the result will be.  What do you plan for the future?"

"I will look for job, Sir"

"A lecturer's vacancy is coming up here.  File an application in the office tomorrow and meet me after submission"

"But the results have not yet come"

"Does not matter.  Make a mention of it in the application.  Results will be out by the time they process the applications"

Venkataramappa filed the application and met the Guru to inform him about compliance.

"Good. Do you have a coat, Ramappa?  You need one for the interview"

Ramappa hesitated.  ARK took out an envelope from his coat pocket.

"Take this envelope and go to my tailor Durgoji Rao's shop in the evening.  He will stitch a coat for you in three days"

Ramappa had to do as he was instructed.  That was the extent of reverence he had for his Guru. Results were out in a few days and Venkataramappa had passed with distinction.  He attended the interview and was selected for the lecturer's job.  ARK's student Venkataramappa was now his colleague.

A few months later.......

Venkataramappa was sitting and relaxing in the staff room having just returned from a class.  He got a message that he should meet Prof ARK in his chambers.  He went immediately and stood before him.  A distinguished gentleman was sitting before ARK.  Venkataramappa would not sit before the Guru unless he was asked to.

"Sit down, Ramappa.  Meet the Secretary of Madikeri's Kannada Sangha.  He wants a good speaker for their main function this year.  The function is slated for next Monday"

"Are you going, Sir?"

"Not me.  I want you to be the lead speaker this time.  Please accept their invitation"

Ramappa hesitated.  "I am also coming with you.  I will preside over the function, but you will be the main speaker".  Venkataramappa agreed.

Mentor and Mentee started by the morning bus from Mysore to Madikeri on Monday morning.  ARK was sitting near the window and Venkataramappa was next to him. After an hour's journey, the bus stopped in Hunsur bus stand.

"Ramappa, there is some dirty smell coming from this side"

"Dirty smell?  I am only getting the smell of sambar"

"Is it so?  Can you read what is written on that board?"

"Bus Stand Hotel, Sir"

"That is the place from which the sambar smell is coming.  Don't you like Idli-sambar?"

"I like it very much, Sir"

"Then get down and hurry up.  Unless you get down, I cannot.  Let us eat and get back before the driver starts the bus"

They had their idli-sambar.  Venkataramappa's speech at the function was highly appreciated by the gathering.  The Mentor was full of praise for the Mentee in the Presidential speech.  Prof. K Venkataramappa never looked back.  He authored many books and mentored another generation of students.

Prof A R Krishnashastry was a Mentor for many others.  Kuvempu (K V Puttappa), T N Srikantaiah, G P Rajarathnam, M V Seetharamaiah and Dr K Krishna Murthy are big names in Kannada Literature, even today. 


  1. Sure this is inspiring article which many people will not be aware


  3. Very inspiring article. What a great soul was Prof ARK. Thanks for sharing this extraordinary Mentor-Mentee relationship.

  4. Good article, inspiration and motivation cycles, continues from one generation to another generation,it is difficult to find such selfless people....

  5. Great. Worth reading by us the teachers/mentors!
    Vasanth K Hegde

  6. Thanks for bringing out this article on such inspiring personalities.

  7. So Nice - reading it gives joy & happiness - great

  8. You repertoire, knowledge and memory are always a delight for the reader. The Shishya's reverence for the Guru is something our youngsters today would do well to emulate.

  9. A great example for guru shishya reverence which now is almost extinct. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Vasu,

    You have done a very good job by sending 'Ramappa's Coat'.

    Prof. Venkataramappa was our favourite teacher. Myself and Venkataraumu used to go to hear his speeches.

    Once he showed us the same coat and told us the same story. He was wearing that coat. There was a hole in the arm of the coat. He showed us the hole and told that he was not discarding it though it was old as it was given to him by his mentor.

    At that moment tears rolled down from our eyes.


  11. Very happy to read about my grand father Prof.K.Venkataramappa. I am blessed to be in the same profession and working as an Assistant Professor in Mathematics.Sridhar

  12. Very happy to read about my grand father Prof.K.Venkataramappa. I am blessed to be in the same profession and working as an Assistant Professor in Mathematics.Sridhar