Scholar and writer DV Gundappa, deeply influenced by Gopal Krishna Gokhale, founded an institute dedicated to the national leader 70 years ago; This repository has rare copies of early Kannada magazines and books.
BENGALURU: In modern urban development, land is scarce and the demand for it is high, it is almost impossible to find space and plan for public institutions. As a result, in the newer areas of Bengaluru, it is hard to spot institutions and organisations which are accessible to all and have a vision of working towards a better society. But in an older area like Basavanagudi, there is no dearth of such facilities.
Established in February 1945, Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs (GIPA) is one of the earliest institutes in the city which was founded on the principles of public service.
It states its objective as “dedicated to strengthening the cultural roots of society and educating the public for democratic and responsible citizenship”.The founder of GIPA, DV Gundappa (popularly known as DVG) was a man of letters and was deeply influenced by the life of the popular leader Gopal Krishna Gokhale. The efforts to start an institution inspired by Gokhale’s teachings were underway since 1915. DVG and several other likeminded people formed a small group and started working towards providing political and social education to the public. After several starts and stops, the institute was finally established in the current form in 1945 and Gokhale’s statement “Public life must be spiritualized” was adopted as the motto of the institution. The study circle met every week and read works of literature and philosophy and lectures were organised every week on various topics ranging from politics to religious philosophy. DVG’s popularity as a writer and his relentless pursuit helped the institute grow from strength to strength.
The work of the institute was appreciated by eminent public figures such as Sir M Visvesvaraya, Sri C Rajagopalchari and Sir Mirza Ismail. The current premises of the institute on Bull Temple Road is housed in the land donated by the state government in 1956.
The institute has a library with a collection of more than 60,000 books on literature, literary criticism, drama and philosophy. The literature section houses classic works of Hemingway, Kafka, Alberto Moravia, Umberto Eco, William Faulkner, Robert Browning, TS Eliot, Proust, Balzac, James Joyce and many more. The English literature aisle has sections on American literature, Russian literature, and poetry and criticism.
The Kannada literature collection is also well-stocked and houses old editions of rare classics. The library also doubles as an archive of old publications. Several Kannada and English monthlies have been preserved here; this might be the only place where one can find the copies of the first ever Kannada science magazine Vignyana which was started in 1918. Several editions of the monthly Rangbhumi have also been preserved in pristine condition.
It is quite an experience to read the critique of music in theatre in a 1933 edition of “Rangbhumi”. There are also the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha debates collections from Parliament sessions since Independence, and glancing through them, you are introduced to the genuine dialogue and debates which were possible in Parliament once upon a time.
The librarian Krishnamurthy says, “We even have the archival copies of several English and Kannada dailies. A leading English daily recently came to us and procured archival copies of newspapers”. He cautiously points to the large collection of newspapers kept in bundles safely away from anyone’s touch. There is also a separate section on religious studies – Islam, Christianity and Hinduism consisting of Puranas, Upanishads, Quran and other such religious texts.
The charges for the library are a meagre `1,000 for a life membership. A book is lent out for a period of 15 days and membership is not required to use the facilities for reference. In addition to the library, there is a reading room which is widely used by students from nearby colleges.
The institute also boasts of a sizeable lecture hall.
In service of public education
True to its objective, till recently, political parties were invited to present their manifestos and interact with public before the general elections. In the past, several petitions and letters have been sent to Parliament and the state legislative assembly from GIPA. The institute also published a monthly newsletter which was stopped in the late 80s due to lack of funds. The endowment lectures are mainly for the benefit of the public and are open to everyone at no cost. Krishnamurthy proudly says, “We were the first to organise a talk on GST in the entire state to help public understand the implications”. A few years back the institute was granted some funds by the state government which have been used to build a memorial for DVG known as “DVG Smaraka Bhavan”. GK Gokhale believed that political and social education was essential to public participation in governance. But the question to ask is are institutions such as GIPA outside the ambit of the influence of political parties? The current list of donors and the list of lectures in the past year might tell a different story.