Remembering D V Gundappa

The literary genius of D. V Gundappa(1887 – 1975) is well known among Kannadigas. A cursory visit to any Kannada book shop will reveal DVG’s(as he was popularly known) works  in abundance. His scholarship extended from politics to poetics and he referenced the works of John Stuart Mill and Alexander Hamilton as easily as Kalidasa and Omar Khayyam. In total, he published more than fifty books consisting of 8,000 pages and another 1,500 pages of editorials, reports, speeches, statements and reviews.

Thanks to the great work done by the Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs, Bangalore (GIPA), an institute co-founded by DVG himself, all his editorials and articles that appeared in “Public Affairs”– the monthly journal of the GIPA started in  1949– are digitized.  (Note: You need to install Djvu pdf reader to read all the articles that are linked below).

An article titled Vox-Populi in Economics, written in February 1969, starts with a gem –“Cocksureness is an avoidable risk in every field of human life”– that rings true to this day. The article goes on to explain how cocksureness can be extremely disastrous in economics and how, thanks to socialist pressures, politicians across the world have resorted to pampering people rather than following sound economic principles. The article concludes with a plea to read the following immortal words of Prof. Alfred Marshall:

Students of social science must fear popular approval; evil is with them when all men speak well of them. If there is any set of opinions by the advocacy of which a newspaper can increase its sales, then the student, who wishes to leave the world in general and his country in particular better than it would be if he had not been born, is bound to dwell on the limitations and defects and errors, if any, in that set of opinions; and never to advocate them unconditionally even in an ad hoc discussion. It is almost impossible for a student to be a true patriot and have the reputation of being one at the same time”.

The spectrum of his works had brushes of almost everything related to public life. Examples include —  his scholarly criticism of Indira Gandhi, his nuanced view about religious conversions, about Nehru’s Failures, on linguistic states,  about party and government, the debate about provincialism vs. nationalism, on two Andhra states, the Secular State, of absolutism and tyranny, the philosophies of advaita and bhakti, on the Nationalisation of institutions, on Nehru the statesman, his moving obituary on Nehru among several others. These works are like  time-capsules of a bygone era. Several views that he expressed have stood the test of time; those that are now irrelevant do not seem outlandish as they express genuine scepticism rather than cynicism. His piece on space travel is a good illustration of this. Another noteworthy aspect about DVG was his ability to enrich prosaic topics such as citizenship by displaying the “services that poetry can  provide towards the cause of good citizenship”.

DVG the poet, the journalist, the public intellectual, the polymath is a perfect role-model for anyone who believes that civil criticism can achieve things that bile and vitriol seldom can; it is perhaps this quality of his that we must inculcate the most.

(Edit: All of his works from Public Affairs can be found here)





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