Life Guide by a Ripe Life
“Some are born great, some achieve greatness and greatness is thrust upon some!” is a popular saying in English language. Maganur Basappa, an iconic figure from Davangere, adorned with titles like ‘ArooDa dAsOhi, dAna cintAmaNi’ (Atypical benefactor, Philanthropist Jewel) really did not start out like that from his birth. Born poor, he climbed high in life. Adapting a disciplined regimen in life, he thought and worked for the betterment of the society until his last breath. A silhouette with his pancha (dhoti) raised up to his knee, a khadi-wrap around his upper body, holding the basket in his left hand, a walking stick on his right hand – he could be seen trodding the lawns of the boarding school of our Anubhava Mantapa at early dawn. For children who saw him like that, the appearance created a picture image of Gandhi thatha walking towards them! Basappa could be seen standing and watching the young kids in their white uniforms doing their morning exercises and he would call them as the “white birds of Anubhava Mantapa”
“AmrAshca siktAh pitarAshcha thruptAh,” is a proverb in Sanskrit. “Offering libation standing under a mango tree would serve the dual purpose of watering the tree and satisfying our parental lineage in the heavens,” is what it means. This proverb is usually cited to illustrate accomplishment of dual duties with a single action. Maganur Basappa had this kind of dual purpose in walking to Anubhava Mantap every morning. First, it was exercise with a morning walk and second, to fetch some flowers for his deity worship. Along with this, he had a third purpose which was to keep an eye on the ongoing construction activities at the Anubhava Mantapa. The walking stick that he was using served as a measuring stick as well for him.
The orchestrated tuk-tuk... sound coming out of his stick as he walked the corridors of the second floor of Anubhava Mantapa was a signal of his approach and, in a way, exemplified a disciplinary attunement of his lifestyle. He would recite the vachanas as he walked, and explain their essence to those who happened to walk alongside him. If there were any complex lines in those vachanas he would say to them “let us see if Guruji is here and clarify this,” and would fetch and sit with me for a discussion. At that ripe age of 95, his thirst for knowledge would prompt my mind to recall a wisdom sentence “ajarAmaravat prAjnO vidyAm arTham ca cintayEt” (one should earn knowledge and money not thinking about their age or death). His sight brought back memories of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Parisians affectionately call this attractive skyscraper which was built about the end of the 19th century, one of the wonders of the world, as “Old Lady of the City.” I felt like calling this ripe man, Maganur Basappa, who had lived at Davangere for a good part of the last century as “Old man of the City.” Hovering near the century milestone, his incessant quest for life with a thirst for service to humanity would make the young bend their heads down with shame.
Basappa would never get upset or angry at anyone who accused him while serving the public. He would often say, “Be prepared to bear the brunt of the blame from the public if you intend to serve in the society.” There are many who wear the facade of society servers. For them, their own needs come first and societal needs later. For Basappa, it was Society first and Self later. My late elder Guruji used to say “ Gurus like us are many to find, but a disciple like Basappa is a rarity.”
Basappa used to say, “Charity is like a Well.” The water from the well is not exhausted like the water from a street tap. The more you draw from the well, the more it gains. Basappa believed that the more you donate, more you will amass. His explanation of the famous saying “what is given away is yours and what is hidden is for others,” by Sarvajna was transformed into “You are not going to be born in the same house in which you stashed your wealth. You will be born elsewhere. So do not stash it in your house, spread it out and when you are born again, it is there for you to use.” It was not just a word of mouth. Maganur Basappa donated his wealth away and in society, he was called ‘ArooDa dAsOhi, dAna cintAmaNi’ (Atypical benefactor, Philanthropist Jewel). He taught others to be charitable as well.
“The man at the top is always lonely,” proclaims a famous saying in English. The individuals at the top find it hard to share their sadness or happiness with others. If they attempt that, invariably, their actions would be misinterpreted and misused by miscreant people for their own selfish needs. It is hard to trust people in public life, harder not to trust them either. One should have a fair assessment of whom to trust, how much to trust, when and where to trust. Personally, I trusted him without any reservations. It has been sixteen years since this invaluable anchor person with whom I shared my frustrations, elations, hardships and accusations from the society and lighten my mind has passed away!
Basappa has penned his biography yielding to my desire for him to do so. It is on the empty pages from the partially filled home work notebooks of his grandchildren. Having bid farewell to school after his 7th standard and climbing up the life’s ladder with self help and divine faith, Basappa was not a writer by any means. Even so, the real experiences of his personal life have come together quite naturally with lucidity supporting a poetic expression in Kannada, “kuritOdadeyum kAvyaprayOga pariNatamatigaL I nADavargaL.” Remarkably, he has ended his biography with the following words:
“One should not misuse the funds from any public or social organizations. Even a splinter of wood nor a speck of rock should reach their house. Not a single penny should be be used for their use. I believe that God will not forsake those who adhere to these good habits. This has been my experience. If everyone follows this dictum our country, India, could be turned into heaven. I pray God to let this country prosper with birth of such citizens.”
The social awareness, and love for the nation apparent in the words above reminds me of a vachana from Basavanna, “I swear on you and your holy parentage that I will desire neither a tiny speck of jewelry nor a loose thread of cloth.” In this period of time, each day, where we witness a gradual movement from truth to untruth, from lightness to darkness, how many good souls that adhere to the novel expectations of the late Maganur Basappa, can we find? I wonder!
Dr Annapur Shivakumar
Chicago, IL, USA