89-yr-old freedom fighter from Karnataka signs up for PhD

A retired teacher and social worker, Sharanabasavaraj Bisarahalli has 15 self-authored books, a degree in law and two Masters degrees under his belt.
89-yr-old freedom fighter from Karnataka signs up for PhD
89-yr-old freedom fighter from Karnataka signs up for PhD
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At 89, this freedom fighter, social worker and a retired school teacher now aspires to complete his PhD programme in Kannada Sahitya. A father of six children, Sharanabasavaraj Bisarahalli is probably the oldest candidate appearing for the entrance exam for PhD.

Even after self-authoring 15 books on an array of subjects and armed with a degree in law and Masters degree from Karnatak University in Dharwad and Hampi Kannada University (Kannada University), Sharanabasavaraj’s insatiable quest for knowledge seems to be getting the better of him. "With all humility, I have considered that the entire purpose of my life is to be a student and earn knowledge. And, irrespective of one’s age, the learning must never stop," the octogenarian says.

Born to a financially weak family in 1929, Sharanabasavaraj's says his inspiration to pursue education was his mother Rachamma, who encouraged him to study despite opposition from his father.

After completing his intermediary studies, he married Laithadevi, and around the same time, also joined a government primary school in his native Koppal as a teacher. "Subsequently, while teaching, I had a lot of time on hand, which I used to complete my degree. I also ensured that all my children were educated," he says.

Sharanabasavaraj’s eldest son Shivanand recently retired as a Panchayat Development Officer (PDO), his second son Kalyan Kumar retired as a lecturer, Sangmesh is based out of Dubai and the last son Virupaksh runs a business. His dauhgters Sumangala and Akkamahadevi both pursued a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree but only Sumangala managed to complete it. Both have now settled abroad with their respective families.

A freedom fighter, who is a senior figure in the Karnataka-Hyderabad region during the Liberation movement of Hyderabad, Sharanabasavaraj also took three children from the Scheduled Caste community under his wing. "All three are successfully employed, with one placed as Superintendent of PWD, second as an Assistant Sub-Inspector in Karnataka police and the third in the Department of Telecommunication."

In 1991, following his retirement, Basavaraja decided to pursue his degree in law, although he could never practice in the court of law. “Being a freedom fighter, who fought for India at a young age, studying law helped me understand the laws of the country in a systematic manner,” he says.

Although Sharanabasavaraj completed his Masters in Kannada from Karnataka University, his ambitions to complete his PhD programme remained unfulfilled then, as he was unable to obtain the mandatory 55%. Eventually, he enrolled for the same course, once again, at Kannada University in Hampi and secured 66%.

Shivanand, the eldest son, says, "My father is a self-disciplined person. He starts his day at 3 am with prayers and rituals, followed by reading the newspaper and then interacting with family and friends over meals. For the remaining part of the day, he is always immersed in reading until his mandatory bedtime.”

Shivanand adds that being the recipient of both Freedom-Fighters pension and teacher’s pension, his father always donated the amount for social causes. "He always gave his pension amount for social causes or to individuals in need. It gave us, his children, a sense of pride when people in the community told us of the help our father had extended to them in their times of need, which until then was unknown to us,” he says.

On being asked why he was unable to study at an early age, Sharanabasavaraj says, “Because I had personal commitments and a PhD requires dedicated focus.”

He adds, "In fact, my wife has been a great support to me. Although I have encouraged her to pursue academic interests, she wants to dedicate herself to taking care of the family.”

If I am able to crack the entrance test for PhD, Sharanabasavaraj says he hopes to find a guide who will help him pursue his studies in 'Vachana Sahitya’, a form of rhythmic writing in Kannada.

Story by www.storyinfinity.com (Subs and Scribes Media Ventures LLP).

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