I met Professor G. Venkatasubbaiah for the first time in 2009. The Brigade Millennium Residents’ Federation team was looking for an eminent personality to grace the 2009 Karnataka Rajyotsava celebrations at our residential enclave. One of the names that came up was that of GV, as he was called.
My father-in-law, Dr Y Nagarajan used to meet him regularly during morning walks in the Jayanagar area and was well acquainted with him. So together, we went to GV’s house and spent about half an hour with him. He was amazingly sprightly for his age (over 96 at that time), and much more mobile than his wife, whom we also met.
Age was clearly just a number. He was busier than any normal working person. His diary had almost every day marked off for some function or the other. Unfortunately, he had already made a commitment on the day of our function, so he could not make it. I did, however, get his autograph! Those were not the days of smart phones and I do regret not having carried a camera with me.
Born on 23rd August 1913, Venkatasubbaiah grew up in an intellectually stimulating atmosphere. His father Ganjam Thimmanniah was a Kannada and Sanskrit scholar, and instilled in him an enduring love for the ancient Kannada language. Apart from being a teacher and writer, he is best known as the most prolific Kannada lexicographer, involved in the compilation of the eight-volume Kannada-Kannada Nighantu (dictionary) of 9,000 pages that took 54 years to finish.
When I met him, on hearing my name, he was quick to recall having taught my father and uncles at Bangalore High School (BHS) many many decades earlier. Indeed, my dad and his brothers studied at BHS and GV used to teach them English in those days.
In March 2013, at the age of almost 100, he was the Chief Guest at the 2012 Namma Bengaluru Awards function. The lake trust with which I am associated, PNLIT, was one of the winners. I missed out as I was in Mumbai, but it was good to be able to watch the live streaming of the event, and the honour and pride of our team as they received the award from him.
As we mourn the loss of a national treasure, we are a much richer society through his work and all he leaves behind. 107 years of a glorious life. You will be fondly remembered Professor Venkatasubbaiah.