Reminiscences of two Anathalaya beneficiaries 179th birth anniversary of Thathaiah
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Reminiscences of two Anathalaya beneficiaries 179th birth anniversary of Thathaiah

September 23, 2023

The 179th birth anniversary of M. Venkatakrishnaiah, fondly known as ‘Thathaiah’, will be celebrated at Anathalaya premises on Narayana Shastri Road in the city on Sept. 24 at 4.30 pm.

On the occasion, Thathaiah Award will be presented to Dr. Bhashyam Swamy, Sanskrit scholar and Educationist while Beneficiary Achiever Thathaiah Shri Award will be presented to Dr. H.G. Udayshankar, Orthopaedic Surgeon and an ex-inmate of the Anathalaya. Ajith Hanumakkanavar, Senior Journalist, will deliver the keynote address. C.V. Gopinath, Anathalaya President, will preside.

Dr. S.L. Bhyrappa, Padma Bhushan and Saraswathi Samman Awardee writer and a student of Anathalaya, Mysuru, who received free meals four days in a week during the beginning of 1950s and C.V. Gopinath, former Additional Secretary to the Government of India, as an inmate-student of Anathalaya in the beginning of 1960s, share their experiences in this article. Read on…

 By C.V. Gopinath, Former Additional Secretary to Government of India

While sharing a cup of tea at his residence recently, writer Dr. S.L. Bhyrappa recounted his college days at the Anathalaya and the experiences he had with receiving free meals. He particularly recalled an incident involving the former manager, Venkatachalaiah, who lived near Lakshmi Talkies and would walk to the Anathalaya hostel with the assistance of his granddaughter. Venkatachalaiah was known for his honesty and kindness.

One day, a hostel resident sneaked out to watch a movie and was caught in the act. In response, the manager instructed the Student Warden not to provide dinner for the errant student. The Warden dutifully followed this order.

However, later that evening, Venkatachalaiah, along with his granddaughter, returned home, had their dinner. As he prepared for bed, he suddenly remembered his directive to the Warden about withholding food from the misbehaving student. A sense of guilt overcame him as he considered how a financially challenged student could go without food for the night.

In a compassionate act, Venkatachalaiah woke up his granddaughter and, in the middle of the night, walked back to the Anathalaya. There, he summoned the Warden and the student in question, had the kitchen door opened, and personally provided food to the hungry young man.

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This encounter led to a heartfelt exchange between the two beneficiaries, a moment where pleasure and the challenges of life intersected in a meaningful dialogue.

Dr. S.L. Bhyrappa fondly recalls the evening dinner gatherings at Anathalaya during the 1950s. During this time, Anathalaya hosted a diverse group of students pursuing PG courses in both Science and Arts. While the mornings were a hurried affair as students rushed to their colleges, the dinner was a different story. Dinners at Anathalaya were marked by lively discussions among students, who often formed various discussion groups. These discussions covered a wide range of topics. Some would passionately debate economic theories while others delved into the intricacies of Einstein’s Relativity Theory, including the famous equation E=mc^2.

Among the students, especially the younger ones, you could often find wide-eyed curiosity, and their plates of rice would sit untouched as they engaged in intellectual debates. It was only when the maid came in to remind them to finish their meals so she could clean the dishes and go home that they would reluctantly put down their jaws and finished their meals.

These Anathalaya students were perpetually thirsty for knowledge. Anathalaya served as a nurturing ground for this thirst, sowing the seeds of intellectual development. The results of this education can be seen in the accomplishments of many great personalities who emerged from Anathalaya, including IAS and IPS officers, medical doctors, engineers, thinkers, scientists and more. Thathaiah Anathalaya’s role in fostering a quest for knowledge played a crucial part in shaping these individuals into the accomplished professionals they became.

C.V. Gopinath fondly reminisces about his debating days at Anathalaya in the early 1960s, as he was known for being an excellent debater. In various contests, he would consistently secure either first or second place. He was even known as the ‘bare-foot debater’ because he did not wear any footwear during his debates.

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During those years, inter-college and inter-hostel debates were often judged by distinguished individuals such as Dr. Gopalakrishna Adiga, Prof. K. Krishna Iyengar, Prof. G.H. Nayak, Dr. U.R. Ananthamurthy, Dr. H.S. Krishna Swamy, and others.

One memorable incident occurred during an inter-college debate held at the National Institute of Engineering. A formidable debater M.G. Narasimha Swamy, from BMS Law College in Bangalore, participated. Swamy held a post-graduate degree in English and was in the final year of his L.L.M. He possessed an exceptional command of language and a deep understanding of the subject. In contrast, C.V. Gopinath was just a 16-year-old first-year B.Sc. student.

Thathaiah Anathalaya on Narayana Shastri Road.

Interestingly, Gopinath was scheduled to speak immediately after Swamy’s presentation. Swamy’s eloquent speech left the audience impressed, and they began leaving the auditorium to congratulate him. By the time Gopinath’s turn arrived, the hall was nearly empty.

However, Gopinath had a booming voice, and the topic of the debate was ‘adult franchising for electing leaders in a democracy,’ with Swamy advocating for the subject. Gopinath was tasked with opposing it, and he had prepared diligently. Yet, in a spur-of-the-moment decision, he deviated from his well-rehearsed speech.

Gopinath argued that in a democracy, it was crucial to educate the electorate, as merely allowing adults to vote could result in leaders being chosen along caste lines. Within 30 seconds of his impromptu speech, he managed to captivate the audience and bring them back into the hall. He later received a standing ovation. Gopinath came first while Narasimha Swamy came second.

Thathaiah Anathalaya played a pivotal role in shaping Gopinath’s personality. The institution laid foundations for such significant achievements and nurtured the qualities that eventually led him to qualify for the UPSC and become a successful individual.

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