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h. s. krishnaswamy iyengar
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H. S. Krishnaswamy Iyengar (H. S. K.) was born on 26th of August, 1920 in the village of Haleyuru near the popular tourist locale of Chunchanakatte in K. R. Nagar taluk, Mysore district. His parents Haleyuru Srinivasa Iyengar and Alamelamma were devout & traditional in their ways. Srinivasa Iyengar was a primary school teacher by profession. H. S. K. had his initial schooling in Siddapura school at Kempegowda Koppal before moving to Dalavayi and Banumaiah high schools at Mysore. His voracious reading habit seems to have blossomed forth during these formative years under his father’s tutelage. His early favourites were Galaganatha, Masti, Kuvempu and Rajaratnam. H. S. K. is credited for laying down foundations for the ‘Kannada Sangha’ at K. R. Nagar during these years. He was able to establish a supply of Kannada newspapers to his native village which he took it upon himself to distribute daily – his first real job!
Once, when Diwan Sir Mirza Ismail visited the village of Haleyuru to preside over a function, his eyes fell on a thin young lad whose very countenance radiated a calm confidence. The Diwan curious to learn the boy’s antecedents enquired further and learnt that he was the official reporter for ‘Tayinadu’! Impressed that such an established news house had for its representation such a young chap, he spoke at length with H. S. K. The witty conversation that ensued forth impressed the Diwan so much that he invited the boy to accompany him for the rest of his rural trip in his car! These being the years of Independence struggle in the country, H. S. K. did his small bit towards the Indian Independence Movement – an involvement he assiduously avoided ever alluding to in later life.
While H. S. K.’s first desk job was as an accountant at a Silk filature distribution agency, his first real stint as a journalist was with “Tayinadu” and “The Hindu”. His second salaried tenure was on the Editorial team of ‘Mysore Commerce” magazine (a mouthpiece of ‘Bangalore Chamber of Commerce’).
After completing his Intermediate at Mysore he moved to Bangalore for further education in 1940. He completed his L. Com from Central College (under Mysore University) in 1943, where good scores in successive exams secured him free boarding and lodging at the Ramakrishna Student Home. During these formative years in Bangalore, H. S. K. had his first brush with titans like B. M. Srikantaiah, Rajaratnam and D. V. Gundappa.
He passed the Kannada Sahitya Parishat’s exam to secure him the title “Kannada Jana” – an award which he received personally from B. M. Srikantaiah’s hands. Soon after this, H. S. K. started writing for ‘Deshabandhu’, ‘Vishwa Karnataka’ and ‘Chaya’ newspapers. He completed his Bachelor’s degree in Commerce in 1948 and began his foray into the world of teaching by starting as a teacher at National High School, Bangalore. After a few years, he shifted to T. R. Shammanna’s ‘Ranganatha Institute of Commerce’, Bangalore as one of the faculty.
At this point of time, his former classmate, B. V. Banumaiah was in the throes of starting a new college at Mysore and invited H. S. K. to be a member of the faculty.
H. S. K. shifted from Bangalore to Mysore and began teaching at Banumaiah’s College in 1949. During these years, he managed to secure a Master’s degree in Economics from the Benaras Hindu University (1951). Armed with an M. A., he was able to ascend quickly into the ranks of Associate Professor and Professor before eventually becoming the Principal of the college. H. S. K. spent nearly two decades at Banumaiah’s college before a regrettable difference of opinion among colleagues and management saw him leave the job for good in 1969!
With no job in hand and precious little coming his way in terms of financial remuneration, he had a daunting period ahead of him. Fortunately, Prof. D. Javare Gowda at the behest of H. M. Nayak and Vice Chancellor Srimali invited him to University of Mysore to grace the post of Editor of Humanities division of ‘Kannada Encyclopedia” project. He did exemplary work here and was instrumental in grooming many a young talent. From 1970 – 80, he was additionally Editor in Chief of University of Mysore’s “Manavika Karnataka” magazine. For a brief period he taught on “Indian Cultural Studies” in the post-graduate and diploma studies wing in the University.
He has often remarked that through these years of highs and lows, if there was one thing that held him in good stead, then it was ‘writing’! He referred to ‘writing’ as the raison d'être of his existence and it most certainly was. This gentle soul who had contributed so much to the University for eleven long years, retired in the year 1980.
H. S. K.’s long journey as a columnist had its humble beginnings in the Kannada Sahitya Parishat’s “Kannada Nudi” newspaper. Following this, he would pen hundreds of articles on plethora of topics ranging from Literature, Culture, Economics, Public discourse & Politics in Kannada periodicals & newspapers like ‘Deshabandhu’, ‘Vishwakarnataka’, ‘Prajavani’ and ‘Sudha’. In his later years, H. S. K. penned many an article for ‘Samyuktha Karnataka’, ‘Taranga’, 'Star of Mysore’ and ‘Mysuru Mithra’ newspapers as well.
Krishnaswamy Iyengar’s writings are voluminous and span nearly six decades. His weekly column ‘Varada Vyakthi’ (Person of the Week) which appeared in the Kannada weekly “Sudha” continued for several years and had enough material to be collected into three big volumes! A collection of nearly 306 articles by H. S. K. on a wide range of topics covering literature, culture, arts, spirituality, education, music, law and administration appeared under the title “Belaku Chellida Baduku”. His next work “Manyaru Samanyaru” was another collection of nearly 299 character sketches of people of national and international repute that he had written over a decade. His next compendium “Gaganachukki Barachukki” had a staggering number of character sketches (nearly 562!) compiled within it. His last collection of such sketches was titled “Minchu Gonchalu”. Across these four volumes, one is able to glimpse into H. S. K.’s staggering repertoire of topics, biographical information and socio-political trivia that easily span continents, decades and cultural boundaries with effortless ease.
If there is one singular observation that readers time and again make about H. S. K.’s writings, it is this: - They are beautifully laid out, replete with an often astonishing amount of information and yet remarkably devoid of any bias and prejudice. D. L. Narasimhachar probably described H. S. K.’s writing the best when he said thus: “H. S. Krishnaswamy Iyengar’s writings embody the use of simple language, a healthy absence of unnecessary adjectives, a beautiful structuring of sentences, content that is devoid of any ambiguity in its import, highly relatable illustrations & examples drawn from everyday life and most importantly a measured yet generous style of expression – an eclectic mix of qualities that one wishes for in every writer”.
H. S. K. tried his hand at Essay writing and found much success there as well. Some collections of his essays are “Jedana Bale”, “Modada Maye”, “Chandrakanthi” (originally written for Akashvani lectures), “Minchina Hudi” and “Gaddala” (on the hustle and bustle of city life). His foray into Novel writing was also met with considerable success. His evocative description of the travails and triumphs of an educated village boy who goes back to his village in an attempt to lead the village in its development and betterment program, materialized as his first novel “Mukti Marga”. H. S. K. beautifully captured the social and political challenges & aspirations of a princely state in the immediate years after Independence, in his second novel “Bayakeya Belè”. His third and last novel was “Kurukshetra”. His collection of short stories came out under the titles of “Aa Chitra” and “Muppina Sangathi”. More serious writing from H. S. K.’s pen came forth in the form of literary critiques. His work “Kannadadalli Vidambana Sahitya” received the ‘Kannada Sahitya Parishat Award’. H. S. K. was probably among the first to see Kuvempu’s works in the light of ‘Vishistadvaita’ – a curious and novel perspective for its time. This unique take on Kuvempu’s writings came forth in a seminal work titled “Kuvempu Sahityadalli Vishistadvaita – Darshana”. Interestingly enough, H. S. K.’s balanced views on Shankaracharya’s, Ramanujacharya’s and Madhvacharya’s ideologies found voice in his work “Deva, Jeeva, Jagathu”. His take on poetry resulted in his first collection of poems - “Davanada Kone” (1989) followed twelve years later by his second collection – “Tingalurina Teru” (2001).
The economist in him came to light when he wrote a beautiful comparative study of India’s Five Year Plans alongside post Second World War economic plans of other European and Asiatic nations. This came out under the heading of “Namma Abhivruddhi Yojanegalu”. It is probably pertinent to mention here that H. S. K. had the rare distinction of being among the chief participants in a premier meeting of “Yojana” chaired by then Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru. An eternal proponent of Kannada language and literature, H. S. K. championed the use of Kannada in administrative circles and worked out an early framework for this. This was published as “Vyavaharika Kannada”. He edited works like “Banking Nighantu”, “Dasa-sahitya Darshana”, “Gandhiji: Ondu Punardarshana”, “Avalokana” and “Akashavani”. H. S. K. did not limit his writing to Kannada. His English works include “Movers and Shakers of Mysore” [Two Volumes], “Kuvempu”, “Bendre”, “Shivarama Karanth” and “Masti”.
H. S. K. married Champalakshmi in July 1945. They had two children – Parthasarathy and Geetha. Champalakshmi in H. S. K.’s own words deserves a great deal of praise and gratitude, for it was her ‘patience’ and unending ‘love and dedication’ which saw the family through times both difficult and happy. It was she who comforted and offered succour to H. S. K. when he came home after resigning from his vocation of twenty years at Banumaiah’s College – a time when the family literally had no other means of income! Fifty four years of married life made Champalakshmi H. S. K.’s most endearing and trusted companion. Sadly, she passed away on 4 November, 1999.
Following his retirement from the University, H. S. K. enjoyed his retirement years with long walks by the picturesque Kukkerhalli lake near his house. His writing kept him busy during these years and he played host more than once to guests like former Prime Minister H. D. Devegowda (among others) at his humble abode in Saraswathipuram. It is indeed a matter of some considerable pain, that this gentle giant of letters had to struggle to make ends meet in his final years as he had no pension coming his way! A sad result, we learn, of the vagaries of our unforgiving system.
H. S. K. received the ‘Karnataka Sahitya Akademi Award’ in (1981), ‘Karnataka Patrika Akademi Award’ (1996), ‘Rajyotsava Award’ (1997), ‘Viswamanava Award’ (1999), ‘H. K. Veeranna Gowda award’ (1996), ‘Ha Ma Na Award’ (1999), ‘Rotary Model Award’ (2000), Gadag’s ‘Kala Chethana Cultural Academy’s – ‘Ankanasrhi Award’ (2000), several felicitations from religious mutts like Siddaganga mutt (Tumkur) and Chitradurga mutt, felicitation volumes – ‘Ayda Barahagalu’ (60th birthday) & ‘Samadarśi’ (75th birthday) and an Honorary Doctorate (D. Litt) from the University of Mysore in 2004.
It is probably pertinent here to narrate an anecdotal experience often recanted in the journalistic circles with regard to H. S. K. - a young chap who had just then cleared his I. A. S. exams came rushing into the chambers of ‘Sudha’ magazine one day and exclaimed that he was the first person to have cleared the exam having written it in Kannada! A tall claim indeed, but not an unexpected one. But what was to follow this made it a memorable incident. He added that for his exam preparation, he seldom ever visited a library or a book store – instead all he apparently did was diligently read H. S. K.’s weekly columns which covered just about everything under the sun! Such was H. S. K.’s reach.
For the phenomenal output that he churned out through four decades, accolades came late to Krishnaswamy Iyengar. To him, writing was its own ultimate reward. He once famously described his manner of writing in the words of Somerset Maugham as embodying a “Style-less style”! Popularly known as the ‘Walking Encyclopedia’, Pu. Ti. Narasimhachar once famously quipped: “Who has not heard of H. S. K.?”
To list the topics he touched on would be an Herculean effort in itself. Economics, Kannada Lexicography, Short Stories, Novels, Essays, Reviews, Spiritualism, Linguistics, Educational Studies, Biographies, Arts, Music, Culture and Translations (to name a few!). His columns featured personalities like Tennis star John McEnroe, anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela, economist & Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, historians like Dr S. Srikanta Sastri, thespians like Dr Rajkumar, Theologians like Shankara – Ramanuja and Madhavacharya, Sanskritists like Mathooru Krishnamurthy, Politicians and statesmen like Jayprakash Narayan & Indira Gandhi, writers like Kuvempu, Bendre & Ta. Ra. Su. and artists like Raja Ravi Varma & Picasso among others. This short list is not even the tip of the phenomenal ice-berg that constitutes H. S. K.’s life-long output. Yet, through these thousand plus character sketches, the one redeeming quality that sets H. S. K. apart has to be that his writing on an individual or an idea or an entity was almost always factual, devoid of inherent bias and never tinged with any particular ideology or view point. Herein lies his greatness and in my opinion his everlasting message to readers and writers of our generation – that it is entirely plausible and no doubt possible to be objective, factual and yet complimentary without necessarily having to find oneself all too often on one side of a fence. The gentleness and affable sentiment, that this man espoused so effortlessly through his wonderful smile and sense of bearing is something surely we must emulate, for it can quite easily be the panacea for today’s general state of unease and unrest in our world.
H. S. Krishnaswamy Iyengar passed away at the age of 88 years on 29 August, 2008 due to ill health. This giant of a writer was denied a pension for all of his retirement years and had to struggle to make ends meet!
1.“Dr H. S. K. – Baduku Baraha” by G. K. Ravindra Kumar
2.“H. S. K.” (85th birthday Celebration Volume) – Ed. by Dr. M. G. R. Urs
3.“Belaku Chellida Baduku” by H. S. K.
4.C. V. of H. S. K. in H. S. K.’s own handwriting.
5.Logistical help graciously extended by H. S. K.’s son Parthasarathy.