In his own words, he’s ‘not one bit old’. Prof G Venkatasubbaiah, legendary lexicographer who compiled the largest monolingual dictionary in the world, shares some life secrets on the day he turned a centenarian.
It is a breakfast the spectacularly agile Prof G Venkatsubbaiah, the great Kannada lexicographer, will remember all his life. Neighbours and early morning walkers, sprang a pleasant surprise on his 100th birthday on Thursday, arranging a breakfast felicitation at 6.30 am, the precise time when he takes a walk in the park adjacent to his house in Jayanagar 7th Block.
He savoured hot idlis, vada and kesari bath prepared by Adigas. As soon as he walked into the mantap inside the park, people fell at his feet, one after the other, in reverence, gifting him flowers, shawls, and even a Mysore turban.
“You wish something that’s not possible— that I live another 100 years. I would love to for all the affection you shower on me. Today’s affection will live in my heart till my last breath. May life be kind to all of you,” said the moved centenarian. Talk managed to snatch some time with him at the park, as GV (as he’s fondly known) sipped coffee:
How is it possible to be so fit at 100?
I don't know if it is in my genes. My mother lived till she was 107. I don’t know of any other way to explain it because I do all the normal things that people do every day.
What is a typical day in your life?
Every day is a day of activity. I get up at 4.30 am, go for a walk in the park at 6.30 am, scan the newspapers and have breakfast at 9.30 am. Then till 2 noon, it is me and my table. I read and write. Between 2 and 4 pm, I rest. Between 4 and 6 pm, I see guests and visitors. I mostly interact with people about politics, writing and life. By 9.30 pm I get ready to sleep.
What’s your diet?
I like rice in most forms. Otherwise I eat other dishes everybody eats. Nothing in excess. Every month I go to a different restaurant with my family. Most of my friends are 20 to 25 years younger, people in their 70s and 80s. I know many people in the 90s, but they are not keeping too well. I may be 100, but I think and live young. I speak to 50-year-olds at their level, and to eight-year-olds, too. I am not one bit old.
Would you like to return to the Bangalore of, say, the 1950s?
Things always change. Bangalore is now like an American city and perhaps the fastest growing in the country. What I would have loved is a green 10-mile ring around Bangalore to keep it pristine like it was in my early days. I wonder from where water and electricity will come for a Bangalore that is only growing bigger.
What about Bangalore’s multi-lingual outlook?
Bangalore is a truly multi-lingual city. I am not worried that this will affect Kannada.People learn Kannada and Kannadigas learn other languages. Kannada is truly alive. A new crop of writers is at work.
Shashi Deshpande, novelist I love his spirit of life most of all. Not once in the last 15 years of my walks with him have I heard him say a negative thing about anyone or anything. Every word he utters is positive, encouraging
and energising. He is one of the most unusual human beings I've known in my life.