The uncrowned visionary
VEENA BHARATHI traces the path of Nittoor’s life.
The 19-year-old lad wanted to pursue his higher studies and research in science at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, soon after his graduation from Central College, Bangalore. But his father was worried about his persistent abdominal pain and advised him that a higher study at Tata Institute would not be possible for his son due to his delicate health and hence asked him to pursue a law degree from Chennai.
The loss of a scholar in the field of Science was a gain to the legal profession!
That lad, Nittoor Srinivasa Rau, completed his law degree from Madras Law College in 1927 and throughout his life, the reputed former Chief Justice of Karnataka stood for Nyaya or justice, Satya or truth and Reverence or respect for life. The uncrowned low-profile visionary of the century passed away on August 12.
Nittoor was born on August 24, in 1903 in Bangalore at his mother Seethamma’s native place. His father Nittoor Shamanna was a school teacher and later on head master in Chitradurga. Srinivasa Rau’s grandfather was from ‘Nittoor’ near Gubbi district. Srinivasa Rau’s maternal uncle Dewan M N Krishna Rau became his father-in-law as well after Srinivasa Rau married Padmavathamma.
Srinivasa Rau’s was educated in Hosadurga, Challakere and Shimoga in the initial years and he did his BSc from Central College, Bangalore.
He started practising law in Bangalore in 1927 and before that he was a Science and English teacher at the National High School, Bangalore.
From the mid-nineteen twenties, Srinivasa Rau was tremendously influenced by Gandhiji’s principles and ideologies and along with his wife Padmavathamma started translating the the autobiographical serial of Gandhiji which had started appearing in Gujarati and in Hindi languages in the publication ‘Navajeevana.’
“At that time, a leading advocate Tumkur Ranga Iyengar was publishing English and Kannada papers titled Mysore Chronicle and Vishwa Karnataka.
The translation of Gandhiji’s autobiography carried out by my parents under the pen name Ibbaru Kannadigaru was serialised in Vishwa Karnataka.
The same was also printed from Hubli in ‘Lokamata’ Kannada weekly which was being brought out by Shri Puranik,” says N S Subbanna, the younger son of Srinivasa Rau.
That was the time when Srinivasa Rau acutely felt the lack of any publishing house for Kannada books and started his own publishing house and also a book house named ‘Satya Shodhana Prakatana Mandira’ and ‘Satyashodhana Pustaka Mandira' respectively.
“Incidentally, Gandhiji had visited Bangalore in 1927 and my father personally took Gandhiji’s permission to translate his autobiography in Kannada. My father also tried to promote the ideals and social reforms of Mahatma Gandhi by becoming the President of the Karnataka Gandhi Smaaraka Nidhi and Gandhi Peace Foundation,” Mr Subbanna says.
Srinivasa Rau used to interact with people like T S Venkannayya, Da Ra Bendre, Shivarama Karanth and many other literary stalwarts.
“In fact my father was the oldest surviving member of the Kannada Sahitya Parishat, since he became a member of the parishat in 1922 itself! He was extremely influenced by Dr D V Gundappa and continued to work for the welfare of ‘The Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs’ (founded by DVG in 1940s) till the end.
After the demise of DVG in 1975, my father became the honorary secretary of the Gokhale Institute and was working to keep the institute alive.”
Srinivasa Rau also published the children’s encyclopedia written by Shivarama Karanth under the title Bala Prapancha.
He participated in the freedom struggle in 1930, 1932 and in 1942. According to his own confession (recorded by H K Ranganath in several audio cassettes as part of ‘audio-autobiography’ which was later written as Nittooru Srinivasa Rayaru - Noorara Nenapu by M H Krishnaiah.)
“Though the police were aware of my activities during freedom struggle, I was not arrested probably because of the respect the Government had for my maternal uncle! Only once in Bagalkot, I was arrested for about three hours,” he is known to have said.
In 1945, as part of Professor Venkannayya Memorial event, Nittoor Srinivasa Rau who was the president for the ‘Vasantha Sahityotsava’ wing of KSP was instrumental in gathering many litterateurs like G P Rajaratnam, Ksheerasaagara, M R Sreenivasa Murthy under the presidentship of DVG.
This programme held at Challakere was named by Belagere Chandrashekara Shastri as ‘Nittoor’s cultural circus’! and a poem was penned down by Shastri praising Rau’s efforts!
In 1953, Rau was appointed as Advocate General of Old Mysore (Karnataka), in 1955 as Justice of High Court and in 1961 as the Chief Justice.
In 1963, he was the acting Governor and the same year he retired, when he was Chief Justice of Karnataka (New Mysore). In 1964 Rau was appointed as the first Central Vigilance Commissioner of India, by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and he retired from that post in 1968.
In 1953, Srinivasa Rau started the Bar Association for advocates. When he was the acting governor in 1963, he gave the Independence Day speech in Kannada. His pride for the mother tongue was praised by Kuvempu who wrote a poem published in ‘Prajavani,’ congratulating the ‘acting governor’!
Nittoor was a strong man even till the very end. His daughter-in-law Rohini says “Just five days before he died, he had attended a function at the Gokhale Institute. Later when he came home, I observed his blood stained dhoti.
His right leg was swollen, he had hurt his leg, yet his pain tolerance was maximum. On 12th of August at six in the morning he listened to the radio news as was his habit, but he had not eaten the banana and water that was kept for him.
When I asked him whether he was feeling uncomfortable, he called out for my husband Subbanna. I immediately phoned his grand niece Dr Lalitha (Retired professor at Kidwai Oncology Institute) and she was with us when my father-in-law’s end came.”
The legal luminary, legendary Srinivasa Rau’s life is itself a message to several generations, for Nittoor Srinivasa Rau believed in Gandhi’s saying “you must not lose faith in humanity, humanity is an ocean, if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”