V. DWARAKNATH REDDY
A BRIEF BACKGROUND OF THE AUTHOR
Dwaraknath Reddy lives the life of an earnest seeker at Sri Ramanasramam, Tiruvannamalai, India, which is the sanctified shrine of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi. He came across the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, the great sage of the 20th century, and was flooded with an inner conviction that Ramana was the epitome of all scriptures, and proof of their promise of attainable perfection, the abidance in the Absolute.
“The Perfect One, whoever He is, is not known by outward signs. He is ever natural, and sees naturalness alone everywhere. To those that have misunderstood themselves to be cripples, He will reveal the potent power of their own limbs. He tempts us with crutches only to make us walk on our legs. He rids us of our self-imposed defeatism.
He is compassion personified. His love generates love, fosters a sense of identity. That is why many feel an enraptured impulse to follow in his footprints.
There comes the enigma of the guru.” His smile says, “Like a bird on its wings, I leave no footprints,” Then He disappears. He blesses us with direction, momentum, purpose. The last steps have to be our own.
Dwaraknath Reddy was born in 1924 in a rural agricultural family, and spent his early years living in Pulicherla village, in Chittoor Distict of Andhra Pradesh, India.
A 1948 batch post graduate in chemical engineering from Louisiana State University (LSU) in USA, he co-founded with his father a confectionary industry called Nutrine in Chittoor. Investing a modest capital he enabled the growth of the company into becoming the largest in the country. Prosperity, prestige and success became the outer façade of success. The inner urge to seek and resolve his rightful place in creation remained the focus of his life.
He was barely thirty fiveyears of age when a tragic event raised haunting questions about creation and creator, about order or chance decreeing birth and death, and about ultimate meanings and methods in all our lives.
“I know too well the face of death” he says. “He has been a frequent visitor to this family. He came calling for those I said were too young, and he came to clasp those I said were not too old. I have remained the survivor, but the first visitation that shattered my youthful complacency was reminder enough – my turn will come. There was no despair, only an awakening. The law of life includes death. Law means justice, equal and consistent, always and for all. I should never again be caught confused and victimized, frightened and helpless. I must be consciously aware of the laws that govern creation and I must harmonize with them.”
With no traditional training or exposure to philosophy till then, he listened , studied, contemplated, and alertly remained concerned. Openness and earnestness were his only assets, but they were enough to gain step after step an unraveling of the answers with objective clarity and linked logic.
However objective knowledge is a science learned not a science lived. One learns physics, biology, economics, history, and the knowledge serves utilitarian purposes. But knowledge of oneself, the deeper significance of “know thyself” has to be subjective. It is not to serve a need but to place one beyond need. What could be more challenging or rewarding. He remains a seeker.
DWARAKNATH REDDY – THE PHILANTHROPIST
“Staying alone (near Sri Ramanasramam) and without any involvement, I have arrived at an age of ninety five. Growth of the business had enhanced the value of my “residual wealth”, a quarter of the whole left as mine after my nephews and son had equal shares, and I had done my duty towards members of the family. All of them were reasonably prosperous. I saw no merit, no righteousness, in bequeathing my share again to sons and daughters and grand children as a matter of course; instead, I sought to give it the status of virtuous tradition. It belonged to Bharath, my country, in which millions lived in poverty. An uncaring society negligently denied them support to live with dignity. Willing hands could find no work, willing minds had no access to education, healthy bodies turned feeble through starvation and insanitation, and the sick had nowhere to turn.”
– Dwaraknath Reddy
“My father is my inspiration by being who He is:
He does not have to teach;
He is the teaching himself”
– Anita Reddy
My earliest memories of my father are of a man who worked hard. And I always felt that was the reason why I had never seen him rueful or defeated ever, for in the face of adversities and challenges he seemed to derive happiness from sheer hard work. Also having lost his siblings and father while he was still in his mid-thirty’s, he shouldered the responsibility of taking care of all his nieces and nephews too. That meant that I happily grew up in a larger joint family environment, and shouldering responsibilities beyond the immediate family needs became the call of duty and love for me in my early teens.
I was born with the proverbial silver spoon in my mouth. Yet, the most outstanding characteristic of my father that influenced me was his simplicity and humility. He, motivated by his father Mr.B.V.Reddy, went up for higher studies, and came back from the USA to settle down in Chittoor to a disciplined and well regimented routine that would see him for hours on the factory floor, or moving around in narrow alleyways selling hard boiled candy manufactured in the unit the family established, called Nutrine Confectionery. From those simple beginnings grew the number one brand in the confectionery industry in India.
Until I was 6 years old our family lived in the floor above the factory. I would dangle my legs through a strategically located window overlooking the factory from where would waft the delicious smell of toffees, and I could see the workers stirring the candy pans. Our best friends were obviously the families of the labour that worked at our factory. I was so fortunate for this as my later years got moulded by the wonderful relationships my father had nurtured between us, the owners, and they the workers. To me there was never a difference and to my father the word equality was natural in his life.
GROWING UP YEARS
HELPING US TOWARDS A BETTER TOMORROW
My father made every moment special for us in our growing years. He made sure that a road journey from our small hometown Chittoor to the bigger cities like Bangalore and Chennai, would remain etched in our memory. Even way back in those days it was like experiencing a living Discovery Channel for us. We would explore the regions, the rocks, the hills, and walk along the streams drinking fresh natural water from the springs. A healthy curiosity was instilled in us to explore more and respect our environment. We would stop to talk to women working and singing in the paddy fields and my father would make us listen intently to their life’s stories.
Therein lay an awakening.
A stirring. A feeling.
We knew we were learning from those who formed the backbone of our Nation’s economy even as they sowed the paddy that we would eat one day. We learnt to respect them.
Even a simple game of tennis that my father played with us every evening became a tool for teaching us values. Each time he served a ball to his opponent and said “love all” he would turn around and tell us, “the game of life is like that too-love all and serve”.
Everything else I watched him do I was fascinated. He had a passion for Black and white photography. With his hard earned first earnings, working on the factory floor of a candy company in Chicago, USA, he bought himself a Leica camera, soon to be replaced by a Rolleiflex that even I began to handle by the age of twelve. His prized possession was the Hasselblad camera, a hard earned tool in his hand that brought him great joy when he could use it to make pictures of the greatest quality capturing essentially the flavor of India through a lens. Amongst some of the most memorable moments for me were the times I stood by him in the dark room as a young girl eager to learn the magic of printing the photos. I often assisted him with the process of development that sparked in me a thrill, anticipating the end result-a beautiful black and white picture that becomes “firm and grounded” in a tray full of the hypo solution.
Reflecting on these experiences gave me the courage and wisdom to accept life for me in later years as I stood in a slum and looked at a black canvas staring at me upon which I could put the strokes of white that denoted peace and harmony, while i persevered with the same determination to find answers for problems, be it black, white or grey.
When we visited home during holidays from Rishi Valley, the boarding school where I and my siblings completed our primary education, we were always accompanied by bus full of friends, who were on their way to their home, passing by our small town of Chittoor.
Our family home was set in a mango garden and all children, including us, enjoyed playing amidst the trees, climbing and plucking fresh raw mangos that I loved, and my father always encouraged us to share this special opportunity with our friends.
Ours was an open home. And my father made life exciting by adding small touches to any visitor coming home. All those who visited us at Chitoor, while journeying to their own homes for vacations would be welcomed by buckets of rose milk and chocolates specially prepared for them in Nutrine factory. What a combination to take home-raw mangoes, chocolates and milkshakes, all home- made!!
This simple gesture is still remembered by many of them, who have grown older now and are from who different walks of life. They carry with them the flavor of affection with which they were received by my parents. I learnt that so often a simple gesture can make you your best friend, and teach you to give of yourself.
THE TURNING POINT
When I was 15 years old, and I had finished my ISC exams at Rishi Valley in November 1969, I was home for a six month break before I left for college in Chennai (erstwhile Madras). A few instances experienced in those months moulded my deep desire to work with the poor for the rest of my life and these were all possible because of the little nudge given by my father to send me into real life situations and see, understand, evaluate and deal with issues directly even at the tender age of just fifteen. Of some of those that I specially recollect a visit to a village called Iruvaram near Chittoor where there was an outbreak of an epidemic and many children were losing their lives.
I went along with a team selected by the district collector, went house to house and saw for myself for the first time the agony of the poor who could ill afford the minimum hygiene and health care for mere survival. It left a deep mark on a young girl about to launch a new life in a city college. Another instance that left an indelible mark on me was my father asking me to look after little Vijayalaksmi, who was 12 years old, was from Vijayawada, a small town in Andhra Pradesh, and who was afflicted by polio that had totally crippled her lower limbs.
She had to crawl on the ground to get from place to place. She was a child with courage and grit. Having heard of a doctor who could help her in the orthopaedics unit of Andhra Mahila Sabha in Chennai she had sent my father an appeal letter seeking monetary help for her problem. In those days our family had enough to live by comfortably but to give just as generously to charity needed some financial planning. And I saw my father put his accounts together putting Vijayalakshmi’s request on the top of the list. I was also prompted to take care of Vijayalaksmi in the hospital, and encouraged to serve her which was also my own desire. The ultimate experience of seeing a young child fight her challenges so stoically left me full of courage in the years to come. I owe it to my father to have made us understand that there is no greater blessing while living than being able to give of oneself to another in need. He did it all the time and it was not hard to emulate him as a role model.
In later years, even as we lost my mother in 1981 to an overdose of anaesthesia given by the callous doctors of Philomena Hospital in Bangalore, I knew life would change its course for us. My father had by then lost his two siblings at a youthful age of 37 and 41, his mother to cancer and his father to a sudden heart attack. Every single day over those years of bereavements I saw my father poised, strong, and responsible and always fighting defeat with a courage that only his dedication as a sadhak to the teachings of his Guru Sri.Ramana Maharshi could have taught.
The last three and a half decades have seen him lead a life of quietude and sharing. So it was that as I received my father’s first cheque in the “presence” of Ramana Bhagavan , at His shrine, I knew that the hand that gave only sought to “offer” (an arpanam) all that was his for the solace of others. The responsibility of ensuring the correct flow of support to the poor was entrusted to me as DRRT (Dwaraknath Ramanarpanam Trust) began its journey of service.
Anita Reddy, daughter of Dwaraknath Reddy and Managing Trustee of DRRT and the other Trusts Mr. Dwaraknath established.