Posts Tagged ‘U R Anantha Murthy’

Why not too many Indians bag the Nobel Prize

30 October 2013

Every October, India goes through the by-now familiar drill of asking why there are not too many Indian-sounding names on the list of Nobel Prize winners. And on the odd occasion there is, asking why they weren’t nurtured by institutes and industries here, and why oh why they had to go abroad to earn their spurs.

Despite Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Amartya Sen bagging the supposedly high honour in recent times, the answers haven’t changed much. The usual cliches of Indians being copy cats, masters of learning by rote, of not being inventive or innovative enough, of debilitating quotas, backbiting, crab mentality are belted.

Delivering the foundation day lecture of the Indian institute of management, Bangalore (IIM-B), the Jnanpith award winning Kannada writer, critic and scholar, U.R. Anantha Murthy introduces a fresh new perspective.

India, he says is in this position, simple because the pool of talent isn’t large enough:

“The hunger for equality is the most spiritual aspiration of a human being. The challenge before premier educational institutes is to redefine “arhata” (merit) and “intelligence”.

“We can create excellence only through equality.

“India is not able to produce Nobel Prize winners because there are many castes and many groups in India that are yet to receive education. Education to me should respect not just the so-called cerebral area but the intelligence of the body. I’d like to see a redefinition of intelligence.

“The poet William Blake spoke of the plight of the poor chimney sweep in industrialized London; let us ask ourselves whether technological strides have resulted in ‘sarvodaya‘ (welfare of all) or if it is at the cost of the tribals and the downtrodden?”

View the full lecture here: U.R. Anantha Murthy

Also read: U.R. Anantha Murthy: our greatest living novelist?

Will Kannada literature climb Nobel peak again?

Look, who’s lobbying for the Nobel peace prize!

Chemistry Nobel, yes, but why not physics?

 

Time to save S.L. Bhyrappa from Hindutva bigots?

3 March 2013

For an “infuriatingly good” wordsmith whose 21 works fetched him the Saraswati Samman and Sahitya Akademi awards, it is an odd twist of fate that, at 81, the Kannada writer S.L. Bhyrappa finds himself reduced to a Hindutva mascot, who supports bans on conversion and cow slaughter, and thinks “Tipu Sultan is a religious fanatic rather than a national hero”.

The turning point, suggests the Booker Prize-winning writer Aravind Adiga, in an article in Outlook* magazine, was Aavarana.

“For decades, Bhyrappa had said that an artist ought not to preach. In 2007, he broke his own rule. Aavarana (The Concealing), though technically his 20th novel, is a polemic—a list of all the sins that Muslims have allegedly wreaked on Hindus and their culture for generations. U.R. Anantha Murthy criticised the novel, and Bhyrappa entered into a rancorous public debate with him (the two men have a long history of attacking each other). A bestseller in Karnataka, Aavarana earned the aging Bhyrappa a cult following of young, rabidly right-wing readers.

“He seems to enjoy his new role as spokesperson for Hindutva causes, and recently urged the government to scrap its plan to name a university after Tipu Sultan. The result is that the term Aavarana now describes what has happened to S.L. Bhyrappa himself: swallowed by his weakest novel, passed over for the Jnanpith (the traditional crown for the bhasha writer), and in danger of having a fanbase composed entirely of bigots.

“Anantha Murthy and Bhyrappa are the opposite poles of the modern Kannada novel. If one is its Flaubert—the author of a compact, exquisite body of work, left-liberal in its sympathies—the other is its Balzac—prolific, unruly, and right-wing in his politics. If India can absorb an Islamocentric poet like Iqbal, it can accommodate S.L. Bhyrappa. Anantha Murthy may be the better writer, but Bhyrappa evokes more affection in those who speak Kannada.

“More than twenty years ago, as a student in Sydney, Australia, I met one of that city’s richest doctors, a man from coastal Karnataka. When he compared the state of Australia with that of India, the doctor felt depressed; at such moments he flicked through an old copy of Parva that he had brought to Sydney. Seeing how Bhyrappa had modernized the Mahabharatha gave the doctor hope that India, too, could become a prosperous country—without losing its culture. For nearly five decades, S.L. Bhyrappa’s richly imagined and deeply felt novels have helped his readers tide over difficult moments in their lives.

“Now it is time for them to return the favour and rescue this great Indian writer’s legacy from the biggest threat it faces: Bhyrappa himself.”

* Disclosures apply

Read the full article: In search of a new ending

Also read: Anantha Murthy, our greatest living writer?

A 21st century Adiga‘s appeal to Kannadigas

S.L. Bhyrappa versus U.R. Anantha Murthy?

When Fernandes tried to blow up Vidhana Soudha

4 January 2013

Like him or loathe him, there is no ignoring U.R. Anantha Murthy. As an academic, as a writer and as a public intellectual, URA has towered over the political, social and linguistic landscape for more than half a century.

In post-liberalised India and in post-IT Karnataka, Meshtru (as URA is known to friends, foes, friends turned foes and foes turned friends) has tilted bravely and unceasingly at the windmills, taking up unfashionable causes that Mammon had stubbed out.

Now, the indefatigable Anantha Murthy is penning his memoirs, throwing fresh light on a long and colourful life among letters. Excerpts:

***

By U.R. ANANTHA MURTHY

We accept many beliefs without questioning them, and start propagating them. It is possible here to be a revolutionary and a part of the establishment at the same time.

When the Congress declared an Emergency, the CPI helped them along. One could simultaneously be a communist and a supporter of the ruling Congress.

Most Indian intellectuals are like that.

In those days (the 1970s), if you asked those talking revolution whether they would like to visit the US or the USSR, they would choose the first. That’s because there was no warm water in the Soviet Union. No room heaters either.

India’s biggest problem is hypocrisy. It has taken root deeper than we imagine.

When the Janata Party came to power in Karnataka in 1983, many of us found it possible to balance out our lofty principles with our proximity to authority. It is difficult to proclaim that our actions were free of selfish motives.

A good number who came looking for me, in the knowledge that I was close to Ramakrishna Hegde and J.H. Patel, no longer remain my friends. Thanks to my obliging nature, I became a vehicle for their vested interests.

I didn’t touch any money, but I am troubled that I watched corrupt acts without saying a word. A mind that hesitates to say what must be said becomes corrupt. The Janata alliance that took on Indira Gandhi was the creation of an affluent class.

***

Meeting George Fernandes

Before the Emergency was imposed, I had written a review of the novel Gati Sthiti (Progress and Reality) by Giri.

I received a huge envelope by post some days after the publication of my review. It contained another review of the book, and criticised some of my observations. I couldn’t figure out who had written it. The letter was in Kannada and English.

“Come and meet me in Bangalore at once,” it said.

I guessed it was from George Fernandes.

He had tried to organise a massive railway strike before the Emergency, and failed. The police were looking for him, but he had slipped away. All the other big leaders of the time were already in jail.

Shivarama Karanth told me: “Only those who have participated in the 1942 movement might know what to do in these difficult times. George is a follower of Jayaprakash Narayan, isn’t he? He must be active in the underground movement.”

It occurred to me that I should contact my friend Pattabhirama Reddy and Snehalata in Bangalore. They were inspired by the socialist leader Rammanohar Lohia, and had turned my novel Samksara into a film.

When I met him, Pattabhi took the envelope from me, winked, and said, “I will take you to George secretly”.

The two of us got into a car one evening. “Good not to know where you are going. Blindfold yourself. Even if the police torture you, you shouldn’t be able to tell them where you met George,” he said.

We drove for 45 minutes, and reached a decrepit church.

We walked into a dark room.

George was sitting on a cot. He was unrecognisable. He had grown his hair and beard long. I went up to him and touched him. He embraced me. George’s younger brother Lawrence came in. He looked older than George. He had a lunch box in his hand.

As we sat talking about his family and mine, worms kept dropping on us from the roof of the church. George was pulling out the palmer worms and scratching himself all through our conversation. He gave me a mission with these points:

Snehalata had to go to a rarely used lavatory in Vidhana Soudha. Making sure no one was around, she had to explode a bomb at night. I had to provide some young men to help her. The explosion had to bring down a portion of the Vidhana Soudha, but not kill anyone.

Our objective was to hassle the government, and not to inflict violence on anyone. The government was convinced it could get away with anything, and people wouldn’t protest. If such subversive incidents took place every now and then, the frightened citizens would feel reassured something was afoot to dislodge the government. It was our duty to protect the people’s will to resist. We had to find a bridge there, and a government building here, and bring them down with dynamite.

If none of this was possible, my friends and I had to undermine the government in the manner of those who had resisted Nazism in Hitler’s Germany. We had to drop burning cigarette stubs into post boxes. That would force the government, as it had in Germany, to post a constable at every post box.

We returned after this conversation. I blindfolded myself even on the way back.

A constable always stood guard at the toilet, making it impossible to place a bomb at the Vidhana Soudha. I returned to Mysore, and with friends like Devanoor Mahadeva, tried to drop cigarette stubs into the post boxes. The stubs burnt themselves out without causing any damage.

George showed the same courage as Subhas Chandra Bose, and is a big hero of our times. We believed he was fit to become prime minister. But what happened to him later is unpalatable.

He never became corrupt for money, but he went to Gujarat after the violence, and came away as if nothing had happened. I could never understand this. Perhaps the desire to remain in power had corrupted his revolutionary mind.

The central minister who refused police escort has now lost his memory, and lies in bed.

***

Esther and home tuitions

My wife was a little girl with two plaits when I saw her as a student in Hassan. She came over to my house for tuitions. When she sang a film song at some event, it brought tears to my eyes. She sings well even today.

I had given her class an assignment: ‘Describe someone you like or dislike.’ She had written about me, and made fun of my style of teaching and gestures. The girl with plaits who could write this way about her lecturer had ignited my curiosity and interest.

The first door of my romantic world opened when I realised she could speak about me with such abandon. I didn’t want a girl who’d adore me; I wanted a companion. I fell in love with the girl who came to me on the pretext of taking tuitions. She was then just 16 or 17. I developed no physical intimacy with her. She was at an age when she didn’t know enough about the world’s ways, or about rights and wrongs. She interacted with me in all innocence. When she invited me over to her house, I felt I was entering another world.

Esther was one among many students who came for tuitions. While the others paid me a fee, Esther gave me her guileless love.

In those days, I liked keeping fish. A student had brought me some fish, which I had placed in a glass bowl. I was often lost in watching their movements. This would make Esther livid. “What are you doing there? Can’t you come here and do some lessons?” she would snap. She was outspoken even in those days.

My sister wasn’t married yet. I knew it would be difficult to find her a bride if I married out of caste. I had to wait a long time even after I had decided to marry Esther.

I went to Mysore after teaching for some years in Hassan. My mother was with me then. When she came to know about my relationship with Esther, she was disturbed. She would suddenly lose consciousness and slump to the ground. She would also complain about some pain.

When we took her to a doctor, he diagnosed it as a mental illness. She was tormented during this period. As a little boy, when she went to the hills for her ablutions in the morning, I would scream, “Amma, are you dead or what?” and keep crying till she called back.

Her agony on my account was something I could not take. I was distressed.

***

Death of my mother

My mother died in September 1995. A month before her death, I had taken a break from my work, and shifted to my brother’s house in Shimoga, where she was bed-ridden. Initially, she was conscious, but towards the end, she lay unconscious most of the time.

I used to sit by her side, talking, while she was still conscious. Anil was her favourite son. Being a doctor, he had fitted her with pipes and tubes, and struggled round the clock to keep her alive.

One day, I told him, “Let’s not keep her alive this way. Take away those things.”

I had gathered the courage to tell him that, and Anil needed the confidence. He did as suggested. I sat by my mother, held her hand, uttered a prayer, and said, “Everything is all right. You may go.”

Since she knew about Esther, I guessed she was apprehensive I wouldn’t conduct her last rites, and said, “I will take the initiative and perform all your rites.”

She left us a couple of days later. I couldn’t sit on the floor, so I broke convention and sat on a stool. I performed her rites with my brothers, trying all the while to understand the mantras.

My mother treated everyone with affection, but had never given up her ritual sense of purity. She was not a modern shy about her Brahmin caste, or rather, her sub-caste.

When she heard the Pejawar swamiji had visited a Dalit colony, she was bewildered. I congratulated him as I felt he was capable of influencing my mother.

Oblivious of the depth of such beliefs, my fellow-writers ridiculed me. Such intellectuals have no desire to change the thinking of people like my mother. My mother wouldn’t give up her caste, but believed taking vows and praying to Muslim holy men would cure children of certain ailments.

***

The house that started a row

I didn’t have a house of my own. I applied for one in Mysore. Poet Krishna Alanahalli took me to someone he knew and said, “Give our teacher a site.”

He did. The site was like a lane. “I don’t want it,” I said.

Krishna took me back to the official and said, “Not this one, give him another.” I got another site. Krishna liked me a lot, and said I should keep the first one, too. Afraid I would give in to temptation, I wrote a letter returning the earlier site. Krishna laughed at my foolishness.

By then, I had decided to move from Mysore to Bangalore. Award-winners are entitled to sites, and I got one during chief minister Veerappa Moily‘s time. It was a good plot, opposite a park.

Since we were about to come away from Mysore, I thought it would be better if we could get a house instead. When I mentioned this to my friend J.H. Patel, then chief minister, he said he would allot me a house in a colony originally meant for NRIs who could pay in dollars. I live in this house now.

Once the house was sanctioned, I returned my site.

Several people, under P. Lankesh‘s leadership, pounced on me, ignoring the fact that I had returned the site. A story first appeared in Lankesh Patrike. My utterly emotional and dear friend G.K. Govinda Rao demonstrated against me.

I wrote to Patel, requesting him to take back the house and give me the site again.

He tore up my letter and said, “Everything is legal, whatever people might say. If you don’t want this house, there’s another in my name. Shall I get it registered in your name?” I declined. Many articles appeared in the papers.

After some time, my detractors began to see the truth. Lankesh called up my house one day and asked Esther, “May I visit you?” She said, “Ask him,” and handed me the phone. I called him over. He arrived with a friend.

Esther went out of the house the moment he stepped in. I got some tea made for him. “Saw the new house?” I said. He replied, without any embarrassment, “Never mind, Ananthamurthy. All that’s over now.” He didn’t say another word about it.

We try to show our integrity through our prejudices. I don’t like this practice, among Kannada writers, of flaunting their integrity. We must hide our integrity, like we hide our love.

My friend B.S. Achar was struck by cancer. Lankesh wrote about it in his paper and announced he was giving him some money. Achar was disgusted. He returned the money. It didn’t occur to Lankesh, whose aim was publicity, to reflect if it was all right to write in his paper about his own acts of charity.

***

The modernist debate

Our discussions at Coffee House with Gopalakrishna Adiga inspired many of my writings. We lived in a world of our own, amidst the shared coffee and cigarettes. We were busy ushering in modernism in literature when a juke box, which we thought of as a symbol of modernism, arrived at Coffee House.

Attracted by its loud music, young people thronged the cafe. Modernity had snatched away the comfortable cane chairs that encouraged discussions about modernism.

We went to the parks, looking for space under the trees. Without coffee, our discussions lost their charm. We didn’t have money for beer at the pubs. And in any case, Adiga wouldn’t drink even though he was a modernist!

Translated by S.R. Ramakrishna

Excerpted from Suragi, U.R. Ananthamurthy’s autobiography, due for release soon

***

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: The U.R. Anantha Murthy interview

The mahaan elastic buddhijeevi of the year?

CHURUMURI POLL: Smooth, smart, stupid?

URA: A people’s manifesto for the 2008 elections

Is Anantha Murthy‘s Samskara a little too sexy?

URA: ‘India is the loser if Hindus become communal’

If the Mahatma could rethink his xenophobia…

8 October 2012

Ramachandra Guha in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

R.K. Narayan did not write in Kannada, but his works sensitively portray the people, culture and landscapes of the state of Karnataka. His 1938 book, Mysore, remains a classic of travel-writing; still valuable for anyone who seeks to know about, or visit, the shrines, towns, and water-falls of the southern part of the state.

The Malgudi of his novels was almost certainly based on the town of Nanjangud, on the banks of the river Kabini, some 15 miles from Mysore. The name, Malgudi, was made up from the names of two venerable Bangalore localities, Malleswaram and Basavangudi.

The restaurant-owners, printers, shopkeepers, teachers, housewives and students who people Narayan’s stories are as authentic Kannadigas as one can get. Which is why the television serial, Malgudi Days, was such a hit in Kannada and among Kannadigas. And it continues to be watched, 30 years after it was first made, available in DVDs that can be downloaded from the internet.

I hope the Kannada writers [who claimed Narayan was, so to say, a ‘foreigner’, have the good grace to withdraw their protest after this necessary intervention by Girish Karnad and U.R. Anantha Murthy. To admit that one was wrong, or mistaken, is in the best traditions of writing and scholarship. Besides, there is the example of Gandhi; if he could rethink his impulsive xenophobia, so can the rest of us.

Read the full column: Good Kannadigas and bad Kannadigas

Also read: Four reasons why R.K. Narayan deserves a memorial

What Kannada racists can learn from a Raja-rishi

How can Bhyrappa & Co be the same as Yedi & Co?

One law for man, another for our Godmen?

10 June 2012

B.S.NAGARAJ writes from Bangalore: Watching the sensational developments in Swami Nithyananda‘s “ashram” over the last couple of days and his “escape” to an undisclosed location, you wouldn’t be wrong in concluding that there is a republic within the republic of India.

And that republic is less than an hour away from Bangalore in a town called Bidadi.

Here the laws of India don’t apply. Just like the Vatican. You and me have to seek an appointment to get inside. Government officials have to wait at the gates before they are escorted in through the various layers of security by Nithyananda’s minions.

Yesterday when a scuffle broke out between Nithyananda’s thugs who call themselves brahmacharis and brahmacharins and a few Kannada activists who went there for a press conference posing as journalists, the police were forced to register a case.

Nithyananda was named accused no.1.

The police go there reluctantly looking for him. A couple of hours later, the DC and SP emerge from inside to say they don’t know where NIthyananda is but add they have advised his associates that it is better for him to return to the ashram only “after the storm dies down.”

So, did they facilitate his escape?

More than 60 hours later, there is still no word on Nithyananda’s whereabouts. But a minister, as well as the DC and SP, are said to have called on him at a resort nearby where he has taken refuge, even while they continuing to say with a straight face that that they are not aware where the self-proclaimed God-incarnate is.

Meanwhile, one news channel carries on with its relentless coverage of the horror that is Nithyananda. Claiming to be victims of his sexual exploitation, people recount the gory details of the abuse to which they were subjected to by Nithyananda and his gang on Suvarna television.

Parents of victimised young men and women weep.

There is a welter of support and sympathy for the victims from viewers, many phoning in from the US, Singapore, Poland, Dubai, etc. Angry protesters burn his effigies across the state, demanding that he be externed to Tamil Nadu, his home state.

The government is unmoved. Chief Minister Sadananda Gowda is busy signing MoUs with investors in Bangalore. Home Minister R.Ashok and Law Minister Suresh Kumar make some feeble noises about taking action.

Little else.

On the other hand, the government moves in quickly to quell any potential violence during a planned protest march in Bidadi on Sunday by taking custody of many activists this evening.

Curiously, most newspapers and television channels are pretending as if what’s happening in Bidadi isn’t news-worthy. Reportage of Nithyananda-related events, if at all, is cursory. Opposition political parties are no better either in their response.

Other religious heads, save a few, don’t appear to be bothered. One mutt head has the gall to say that Nithyananda, whose devotees list include actors Malavika Avinash and Juhi Chawla, is the target of a conspiracy.

Ditto for pro-Hindutva outfits.

Not a murmur from our rent-a-quote intellectuals either. No Ananthamurthy, no Bhyrappa, no Girish Karnad, no Devanooru, no Rajkumar fans’ association.

The leading lights of the IT industry who have an opinion about everything in the IT capital may think it is none of their business, though many of the sex swami’s victims are sterling techies.

A few weeks back, the Sadananda Gowda government took control of the 15th century Sosale Vyasaraja Mutt in Mysore on the charge that the pontiff was misusing mutt property for personal benefit.

No tears need be shed for Sosale but if the government is sitting ostrich-like over far serious charges against Nithyananda, there is surely room for suspecting its motives.

Victims have told the channel that the swami used to brainwash them into believing that he was God, and that having sex with him would enlighten them. Apart from sexual battery and physical violence, they have charged the “Paramahamsa” of keeping them in the ashram against their wishes, making them part with their money, and much else.

Also read: Just vonne one question I want to ask Ranjitha

Everybody loves his own Jnanpith winner

28 September 2011

The heat and dust over the selection of the poet, playwright and writer Chandrasekhar Kambar for the Jnanpith Award has subsided, but the self-inflicted sense of injury about S.L. Bhyrappa being ignored for the honour won’t go away so easily, now that the debate has been framed in ideology with motives being attributed to the jury.

Left versus right, secular versus communal, and so on.

Tough, says the wellknown theatreperson Prakash Belawadi in reaction to two pieces published on churumuri.

Bhyrappa, he contends, is less deserving of the privately awarded honour than U.R. Anantha Murthy, Girish Karnad or Kambar. And those who don’t like how the Jnanpith is being awarded can well get together for an Award that they can hand out to their ilk.

***

By PRAKASH BELAWADI

In the opening lines of Woody Allen‘s Annie Hall, the principal character Alvy Singer (Allen himself) says: “There’s an old joke – um… two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of ‘em says, ‘Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.’

The other one says, ‘Yeah, I know; and such small portions.'”

I think that sort of applies to the attitude of disgruntled Kannadigas about the Jnanpith Award. They want it for their favourite guy because it is such a good award to get, but when denied, they denigrate it as a lobby-picked sour grape.

Let’s take the piece which opens with the grand insult: ‘There are mole hills and snake pits and then there are “literary circles”.’ This observer declares that writers are “peevishly insecure,” “loudly backslapping their peers in public and quietly backstabbing them in private.”

This follows beneath a Girish Karnad letter to the editor, so one presumes that this is a snide address to Karnad. There’s something about “incestuous” too, which is positioned against “true intellectualism”, whatever that is.

There is a self reference to “ordinary mortal” – though ironically, I fear – and a claim to “observe the small minds, the giant egos, the juvenile jealousies, and the awfully sour grapes on display.”

Who has the smaller mind and the bigger ego, I wonder.

And then there is the post by the Editor who says a series of contradictory things:

He quotes a Patil Puttappa comment on Chandrasekhar Kambar and calls it an “extreme remark” and follows it up in the very next sentence with “I totally agree with Puttappa”.

Does he mean both “extreme” and “remark” when he says “totally”?

Then comes this bashful confession, “I may not be a Kannada professor or even one who has delved deep into the wonderful world of Kannada literature,” followed by a swanking: “But then I am no nincompoop either as I regularly read reviews and comments on importantl Kannada books and even read some of the books.”

And armed with the confidence of regular reading of “important Kannada books,” he declares: “Howsoever proper Kambar’s selection might be, he could not have taken precedence over S.L. Bhyrappa.”

Says who? The Jnanpith Selection Board may well ask. He then thunders on,”…In fact, out of the seven Jnanpith awardees so in Kannada, all were giants except the last two – U.R. Anantha Murthy and Girish Karnad.”

I too, like the Editor have “even read some of the books” and I disagree. But that’s not so relevant, because I am not on the selection board of the Jnanpith and not likely to be ever, given my ignorance and insignificance.

For the record, the Jnanpith Award is instituted by the Bharatiya Jnanpith Trust founded by the Jain family that publishes The Times of India.

The Editor now moves into weird zone: “It is now perceived that though the Jnanpith selection panel for some years in the beginning was free from political, caste, religious or any kind of bias or prejudice that influenced its selection, in later years it is seen as being subtly influenced by so-called secularists with leftist leanings.”

The Times of India is Leftist? And what about Kambar? If the ‘secularists’ are “backstabbing,” why would they choose Kambar? Make up your mind, dude.

Who are the “secularists”, for instance, that will “subtly influence” the following, all members of the present selection board? Dr Sitakant Mahapatra (Chairman), Dr. K. Satchidanandan, Gurdial Singh, Keshubhai Desai, Manager Pandey, Dr. Gopi Chand Narang, Dinesh Misra (Ex-officio) and Ravindra Kalia (Ex-officio).

Sitakant Mahapatra is a retired IAS officer, Oriya poet and critic (Jnanpith Award, 1993); Satchidanandan is a highly respected poet, playwright and critic in Malayalam; Gurdial Singh is a Punjabi novelist, the son of a carpenter and blacksmith who went on to win the Jnanpith Award in 1999; Keshubhai Desai is a medical doctor by profession and a highly acclaimed Gujarati writer, Manager Pandey is an eminent writer (who, alongside Satchidanandan, will perhaps fit the “leftist” label) and Gopi Chand Narang is an Urdu scholar and writer who was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2004.

Does the Editor seriously believe he knows better or, as he imputes, is more honest and independent than the above, all victims of “that venomous spider’s web?”

And if indeed the Jnanpith selection panel is yet to be “liberated from these shackles,” how is the award also the “the ultimate stamp of recognition?” Incidentally again, among the trustees of Bharatiya Jnanpith, the only non-Jain members are Sitakant Mahapatra and former bureaucrat T.N. Chaturvedi, who is now with the BJP.

He asks us, “could any reader of Kannada literature deny that S.L. Bhyrappa is less deserving or not at all deserving?”

Eh! Come again. OK, let’s allow that the slip is in subbing and not Freudian, but I, for one – though not a serious “reader of Kannada literature” – will offer that Bhyrappa is indeed less deserving than Anantha Murthy, Karnad and Kambar. (But nobody cares, dude).

And, finally, his disclaimer that he has “absolutely no intention to diminish the literary capabilities of either Chandrashekar Kambar, U.R. Anantha Murthy or Girish Karnad” seems ridiculous.

There are, I am inclined to wish and believe, many deserving writers in Kannada who must be recognized by awards of prestige, such as the Jnanpith, But the rules of the award stipulate that any language that gets the award must be out of the reckoning for the next three years.

I wonder what the mysterious ‘Lobby’ will do in the sit-out period.

Meanwhile, like the old women of Catskill mentioned in Woody Allen’s crack, disgruntled Kannadigas should stop looking for awards from places that offer lobby takeaways. Besides, it is a private award that is widely respected in India and nobody cares what you think, really.

Why should they?

What you could do, however, is get together in a group that is close to Bhyrappa and far from the “secularists” and hand out your own award.

I mean, you know best, don’t you?

Also read: Does Kambar deserve Jnanpith ahead of Bhyrappa?

Kambar and Karnad, Bhyrappa and Puttappa & Co

Does Kambar deserve Jnanpith before Bhyrappa?

21 September 2011

The selection of the poet, playwright and novelist Dr Chandrasekhar Kambar for the Jnanpith Award threatens to go the way of the previous two winners from Kannada, U.R. Anantha Murthy and Girish Karnad, who although deserving in their own ways were seen to have upstaged more deserving candidates.

While URA’s and Karnad’s choice was discussed sotto voce, in this media-saturated age, in the BJP’s “Gateway to the South”, Kambar’s choice ahead of S.L. Bhyrappa (in picture), has attained the loud edge of ideology with the growing feeling that Bhyrappa is being sidelined for his right-wing views.

K.B. Ganapathy, the founder-editor of India’s most successful evening newspaper, Star of Mysore, joins the debate and asks if the Jnanpith Award selection panel, like the Nobel Prize panel, might one day rue its choice, privileging ideology over literature.

***

By K.B. GANAPATHY

Mahatma Gandhi was the strongest symbol of peace and non-violence in the 20th century. He was acknowledged then and even now as the greatest apostle of peace in a world split asunder by war and violence.

Such a man should have been the natural choice for the Nobel Peace Prize. But he never got it.

What happened? Why?

This disturbing thought crossed my mind as I read a news headline in The New Indian Express this morning that screamed “Kambar Doesn’t Deserve Jnanpith, says Papu.”

The report said that the veteran journalist Patil Puttappa, a former Rajya Sabha member and a sort of political catalyst acting like an oracle from his native Hubli, had taken serious exception over the selection of the folk writer Dr Chandrashekar Kambar for the prestigious award which is considered to be the Indian equivalent of the Nobel Prize for literature.

Puttappa is reported to have even made the extreme remark of calling Kambar as “someone with no ability”, and that he was pained over Kambar’s selection as there were several other more eminent litterateurs in Kannada than Kambar.

I totally agree with Puttappa, though I may not be a Kannada professor or even one who has delved deep into the wonderful world of Kannada literature. But then I am no nincompoop either as I regularly read reviews and comments on important Kannada books and even read some of the books.

Patil Puttappa has also openly said that when the renowned Kannada writer S.L. Bhyrappa should have been given this honour, it had been given instead to Kambar.

I agree with a caveat.

Howsoever proper Kambar’s selection might be, he could not have taken precedence over S.L. Bhyrappa.

In fact, out of the seven Jnanpith awardees so far in Kannada, all were giants except the last two — U.R. Anantha Murthy and Girish Karnad. And it is significant to note that of all the winners of Jnanpith award in Kannada, it was these two awards that drew flak from some quarters. But then in these days of sycophancy, winner is soon turned into a God and worshipped!

It is now perceived that though the Jnanpith selection panel for some years in the beginning was free from political, caste, religious or any kind of bias or prejudice that influenced its selection, in later years it is seen as being subtly influenced by so-called secularists with leftist leanings.

And it is here that our S.L. Bhyrappa got stuck — in that venomous spider’s web.

I am sure once the Jnanpith selection panel is liberated from these shackles, S.L. Bhyrappa too will be honoured with this prestigious literary award.

It is for this reason I mentioned in the beginning about Mahatma Gandhi not getting the Nobel Prize for peace even though he was nominated in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947 and finally a few days before he was assassinated in 1948.

Nominated. Never awarded.

Strange. A paradox.

If Dalai Lama could be awarded Nobel Prize for peace, was Mahatma Gandhi less deserving? On the same line of thinking, if Kambar, U.R. Anantha Murthy and Girish Karnad could be found deserving, could any reader of Kannada literature deny that S.L. Bhyrappa is less deserving or not at all deserving?

The lobby of the secularists, here in Bangalore and there in Delhi, apparently has worked overtime to deprive a deserving candidate, S.L. Bhyrappa, a rightful place in the world of Kannada literature adorned with the ultimate stamp of recognition — a Jnanpith award.

It is indeed sad.

It is believed that S.L. Bhyrappa is branded as one with rightist orientation or as being a pro-Hindu in his writings. If this is so, one can also brand U.R. Anantha Murthy, Girish Karnad and Kambar as those with leftist orientation and as being anti-Hindu.

Does it mean that being a rightist and pro-Hindu is a disqualification to deserve a Jananpith award while being a leftist and anti-Hindu is a qualification to deserve it?

No literature of creative kind should be evaluated on the basis of its ideology. It happens only in a totalitarian or a communist country. It should be evaluated on its pure literary quality — style, technic, use of language, rhetoric and above all, artistic merit.

Ulysses of James Joyce is considered literature for the same reason.

Further more, even if one takes into account the volume of works turned out by the last three winners of Jnanpith award, it is not comparable to other earlier winners and of S.L. Bhyrappa.

Having said this, I should hasten to add that I have absolutely no intention to diminish the literary capabilities of either Chandrashekar Kambar, U.R. Anantha Murthy or Girish Karnad. The last mentioned two are indeed intellectuals in their own right while Kambar has earned a niche for himself as a folk writer par-excellence.

Their contributions to enrich Kannada literature is no less significant but at the same time S.L. Bhyrappa’s contribution too is no less significant. In fact S.L. Bhyrappa’s is much more significant both for reasons of artistic merit and scholarship and therefore must be recognised.

I only hope that the Jnanpith award panel need not be apologetic one day in future for not giving its award to S.L. Bhyrappa, like the Nobel Prize committee which regretted its omission in not giving the award to Mahamta Gandhi at the time it gave the award to Dalai Lama saying that this award was “in part a tribute to the memory of Mahatma Gandhi.”

And as for Kannada readers, even if S.L. Bhyrappa, a resident of Mysore, does not get the Jnanpith award, it does not matter. Has not Napoleon Bonaparte, the Emperor of France, said the last word on such unrealistic decisions?

France was not recognised by some of the European countries following Napolean’s victorious wars.

And Napoleon said: The Sun need not be recognised.

***

Also read: U.R. Anantha Murthy,our greatest living writer?

Did Adolf Hitler fetch S.L. Bhyrappa‘s freedom?

The mahaan elastic buddhijeevi of the year is…

CHURUMURI EXCLUSIVE: S.L. Bhyrappa on Avarana

WHODUNIT?: URA, Kambar, HSS, Mystery woman?

U.R. Anantha Murthy, our greatest living novelist?

6 July 2011

In the mid-1980s, he stormed into the pages of The Illustrated Weekly of India as “one of the 50 most important people” in the country. But the trajectory of the Kannada writer, critic, academic and public intellectual U.R. Anantha Murthy has not always been smooth, consistent or ascendant.

In his home land in recent years, URA has been the target of revanchist right wing forces, many his compatriots, who can only spot opportunism behind his thoughts, words and deeds. His peevish unaceptance of S.L. Bhyrappa as a peer and/or equal, belying his 79 years, is now the object of media ridicule, at least from sections of it.

Yet, it will please none of Anantha Murthy’s detractors, indeed many of them might in moments of humility write this down as their biggest failure, that URA’s literary star continues to shine incandescently on the national horizon and that he is spoken of in the same breath as the very best and brightest.

Two Sundays weeks ago, in an interview in The Times of India, the Booker Prize winning Kannadiga, Aravind Adiga, was asked about the writers who excited him.

Adiga’s response:

“Many regard Professor U.R. Anantha Murthy as India’s greatest living novelist. If anyone has not read his novel “Samskara“, I urge them to do so.”

This week, Chandrahas Choudhury reviewing the new English translation of URA’s Bharathipura, in The Wall Street Journal online, writes:

“Ananthamurthy brings to his material considerable gifts as a technician. His deft segueing between third-person narration and the protagonist’s inner monologue allows us to experience the novel’s world simultaneously from within and without.

“Although Susheela Punitha’s translation is often uneven, it releases into English this work of formidable interpretative power by a writer who warrants the title, as much as Amitav Ghosh or Vikram Seth, of India’s greatest living novelist.”

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: The U.R. Anantha Murthy interview

The mahaan elastic buddhijeevi of the year?

CHURUMURI POLL: Smooth, smart, stupid?

URA: A people’s manifesto for the 2008 elections

Is Anantha Murthy‘s Samskara a little too sexy?

URA: ‘India is the loser if Hindus become communal’

S.L. Bhyrappa versus U.R. Anantha Murthy

Should NRN open world Kannada conference?

28 February 2011

The letters to the editor of Kannada Prabha carries this epistle from the Kannada writer, Baragur Ramachandrappa (translated):

“I am writing this letter against the backdrop of reports that Infosys chief mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy has been invited to inaugurate the Vishwa Kannada Sammelana (world Kannada conference), to be held in Belgaum from March 10 to 12, 2011.

“If there is any truth to these reports, my humble request is that the honour should instead go to Kannada cultural personalities or to VIPs like the President, prime minister or vice-president.

“I do not have anything personal against Narayana Murthy. He is a Kannadiga entrepreneur and we are justly proud of him. But that is exactly why we must be getting him to inaugurate the global investors’ meet, not the world Kannada conference.

“Outside of his entrepreneurship, what is his contribution to Kannada? Not even a Kannada font has come out of his multinational company. On top of it, he has been a vociferous champion of education in the English medium from the first standard itself. It is to be noted here that learning English and teaching in the English medium are two different things.

“It is also to be remembered that he had lobbied with the S.M. Krishna government to change the State education policy to open English medium schools to help children of his employees, and had even had a discussion with me when I was chairman of the Kannada development authority in this regard.

“Besides, the income-tax department has only just slapped Infosys with a demand for Rs 450 crore for wrongfully claiming tax exemption.

“Instead of Narayana Murthy, the invitation could have been extened to poet laureate G.S. Shivarudrappa, Jnanpith Award winners U.R. Anantha Murthy or Girish Karnad, veterans like Patil Puttappa, D. Javare Gowda or M. Chidananda Murthy, renowned poets like Chandrasekhar Kambar, Chennaveera Kanavi or Nissar Ahmed, etc.

“Or we could have called upon a folklore artiste.

“On the other hand, by calling upon somebody who is just a entrepreneur to inaugurate the Vishwa Kannada Sammelana is an insult to Kannada culture, literature and folklore. If the invitation cannot be revoked at this juncture, it is best Narayana Murthy is invited as a ‘guest’ to the inauguration.”

File photograph: N.R. Narayana Murthy watches and Infosys CEO and MD, ‘KrisGopalakrishnan, speak at a conference organised by the all India management association, in Bangalore in October 2010 (Karnataka Photo News)

***

Also read: Narayana Murthy and the Netaji Bose fixation

The Mahatma, Narayana Murthy and information technology

Who’s U.R. Anantha Murthy? What is his contribution?

CHURUMURI POLL: Will you vote for Hema Malini?

27 February 2011

The BJP’s decision to nominate the former dancer-actor Hema Malini as the party’s nominee for the Rajya Sabha polls from Karnataka is now a fait accompli. In itself, appointing an “outsider” is neither unprecedented, unconstitutional nor unwelcome. Parties and politicians have their own requirements (seemingly political, but usually financial) and there are other institutional and individual dynamics at play.

The lawyer Ram Jethmalani has represented the Janata Dal, Shiv Sena and BJP from three different States, because his legal eye was required by parties and personalities in them. Moneybags like the stud farm owner M.A. M. Ramaswamy and the mobile phone operator turned media baron Rajeev Chandrasekhar get in because, well, they can afford to. The Kannadiga owner of Garuda mall (Uday Garudachar) tried Bihar but failed.

Another reason is that many politicians stand no hope in hell of being elected given the role cash, caste, community and other imponderables play in our politics. Prime minister Manmohan Singh represents Assam because South Delhi, a prime beneficiary of his reforms, didn’t think the great reformer was worthy of their vote. The Kannadiga Jairam Ramesh represents Andhra Pradesh; Venkaiah Naidu, a Telugu, represents Karnataka.

However, Hema Malini’s candidature doesn’t sit so easily in such silos. Au contraire, it raises some fundamental questions about the kind of candidates parties push through the back door; about the track record of candidates and their ability or lack thereof to shoulder the expectations of the people they represent; about how the hands of legislators are tied by the whip in what is supposed to be a democratic setup. Etcetera.

For starters, is a rich dancer-actor, who has previously represented the party in the RS, the only “artiste” the BJP could think of for the State? The playwright Girish Karnad says the ‘Dream Girlhadn’t asked a single question in her earlier term. Words like “dud, daddi, buddi illa, inefficient” have been freely used by Kannada “buddhijeevis” to describe the BJP candidate. Plus there are murmurs that her candidature doesn’t have the backing of all BJP legislators and that has she been imposed on them to quell the dissidence.

To be sure, Karnataka has been through this debate before, when businessman Rajeev Chandrasekhar was pitted against the literatteur U.R. Anantha Murthy. Then, too, similar questions had flowed forth. But it tells us something about the worldview of Basanti of Sholay when she promises to take special interest to develop Ramanagaram. Was the BJP incapable of finding a writer, dancer, intellectual who could earn the legislators’ vote other than Ayesha Bi?

It’s easy to blame our woes our legislators, the party whip, and the system, for these infirmities.

Here’s a straightforward, counterfactual question: If you could take part in a Rajya Sabha election, if you weren’t bound by the party whip, would you vote for an outsider, “dud, daddi, buddi illa, inefficient” celebrity like Hema Malini, party affiliation notwithstanding? Or would you back a home-grown intellectual, a drama and theatre expert with his ear to the ground like Dr K. Maralusiddappa, party affiliation notwithstanding?

What can a statue at Rs 25 crore do for Kannada?

21 February 2011

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Ajji applauded the Kannada Sahitya Sammelana president G. Venkatasubbaiah for his forthright remarks.

Kaddi thundu mado haage helidrallo on corruption. He didn’t mince any words.”

Ajji, at his age and wisdom, he doesn’t have to hide behind niceties. In fact, being a lexicographer, he could have chosen any number of synonyms to drive home his point.”

“I am happy Kannada ruled in the City even if it was for only five days. People seem to have woken up after a deep slumber,” replied Ajji.

Howdu Ajji. I thought they did a mistake in not having a sammelana for nearly five decades in Bangalore. We had almost lost Bangalore for Kannada.”

Adu seri, Ramu. Bhuvaneshwari statue maadtharanthallo. They should erect ‘bhoomi thayi’ statue considering the enormous love and obsession our leaders have for bhoomi that is site-u, especially in Bangalore.”

Ajji had bowled an unexpected doosra, just like Bhajji.

Ha, ha adu nija, Ajji! Bhuvaneshwari statue will be similar to the Statue of Liberty in New York. Our CM has announced Rs 25 crore for it.”

“Your brother Suri had sent a picture of that long back.  A lady wearing a crown which had horns.”

“Horns alla Ajji, she wears seven spikes representing the seven continents and the seven seas.”

“Anyway, kannadakke kombu bandilva… that will represent our present seven Jnanpeeth winners: Kuvempu, Da Ra Bendre, Shivarama Karanth, Masthi Venkatesh Iyengar, V.K. Gokak, U.R. Anantha Murthy, Girish Karnad.”

Sariyagi heLde Ajji, it is indeed a great pride for us.”

“They will start with 25 crores and end up spending  somewhere near 250 crores.”

“That is a distinct possibility, Ajji.”

“Later, all sorts of temples will spring around this. Before you say Yenappa -Hogappa, duplicate temples of Shani Mahatme, Mookambike,  etc would have sprung up in the vicinity making it another centre for agni pareekshe and dosha parihaara. It should be a centre for Kannada and only Kannada here.”

Howdajji, there is always that danger.”

“Why can’t we have a  good Kannada library? Or a mini-theatre for watching art movies and documentaries in Kannada? Or a research centre for development of Kannada.”

Nija Ajji, this will help promote Kannada arts.”

“By the way, Ramu, how will outsiders and foreigners learn Kannada? Namma software Seethamma helthidru, in France, they use only French for all their daily transactions, it seems. She spent six months visiting her daughter, a software engineer. Seethamma rattles some kind of ‘butler French’ now.”

“Almost like your ‘Butler English’!”

Ajji ignored my comments.

Namma Airport-galalli, gandasara picture haaki ‘Gents’ antha bareethare. Naavu Englishinalle ‘Gandasaru’ antha yaake bareebaardu? Haage hengasina picture haaki, ‘Ladies’ antha bariyo  badulu ‘Hengasaru’ antha Englishinalli bariibahudu. After sometime I am sure they will start using the term.”

Howadjji! This can definitely work.”

Haage ‘push’, ‘pull’ baagila picture baredu arrow haaki ,  ‘thalliri‘,  ‘eleyiriantha Englishnalli bareyabahudu. Hanigoodidre halla. A drop finally becomes an ocean. We can start slowly and innovate. We can indicate by picture and write Kannada words in English alphabets to start with. Once people become familiar with lots of words, we can introduce Kannada letters. We all learnt Hindi after mastering Hindi songs!”

Nija Ajji.”

“Bangalore has great artistes and young enthusiastic students and engineers. They can create Kannada words through symbols in malls, cinema theatres, railway and bus stations, traffic signals etc. The Rs 25 crore should go for such initiatives. That is what Karave, Kannada rajya koota, AKKA, Thamma, etc should be doing to promote Kannada.”

Ajji, you are now hitting sixers like Sehwag for Kannada. Wonderful.”

Hodeebeku kano. If we don’t make efforts to spread our language, who will”

Noorakke nooru nija, Ajji.”

What our Sahitya Sammelana should be all about

3 February 2011

 

PRITHVI DATTA CHANDRA SHOBHI writes from Bangalore: In his classic Jnapaka Chitrashale, D.V. Gundappa (more popularly known to all as DVG) reports on the 1922 Kannada sahitya sammelana in Davanagere; M. Venkatakrishnaiah, also known as “Tataiah“, who was the doyen of Mysore journalism, presided over the session.

In those early years of the Kannada Sahitya Parishat, the sahitya sammelana used to be a modest affair. An advance party would go from Bangalore to the designated city and work with the local literary figures on the logistics.

So, in 1922, when a small advance party arrived in Davanagere, no arrangements had been made; even the venue hadn’t been decided. The advance party couldn’t buy groceries from the local stores nor could they get pots and pans to cook their own food.

The local community, it appeared, had decided to be non-cooperative, if not downright hostile.

There was quite likely some caste animus against a Brahmin-dominated Kannada Sahitya Parishat. While DVG hints at this, he never spells out the details. In any case, these details aren’t relevant for our story.

So, the advance party reported the matter to the office-bearers of the Kannada Sahitya Parishat.

Since the deputy commissioner, Chitradurga, couldn’t be contacted quickly enough, DVG went to meet with the then diwan, Albion Bannerjee. The Maharaja himself was the chief patron of the Kannada Sahitya Parishat and so assuring his visitors of government assistance, the diwan asked them to leave for Davanagere without any anxieties.

The next day DVG, Karpura Srinivasa Rao, Bellave Venkatanaranappa and others went to Davanagere and tried to negotiate with the prominent local leaders, but couldn’t make any headway. So they reluctantly wired their concerns to the diwan.

The next day, the DC arrived at the high school where all the visiting dignitaries were staying and ensured that the sahitya sammelana was conducted smoothly. While a section of Davanagere didn’t attend the sammelana, DVG reports, the organisers managed to get the pots and pans, as well as a venue.

***

I was reminded of this story on the eve of the 77th edition of the sahitya sammelana,which begins in Bangalore on Friday. It is no longer a modest affair. Vast amounts of money is mobilized from various sources, including the government.

Tens of thousands of people attend the event. Politicians and swamijis compete with each other to participate, often overshadowing the real heroes, the writers. Hundreds of booksellers set up stalls. Colleges are closed so that students and teachers can experience the festivities. And picking the president of the sahitya sammelana has become a big, somewhat political affair.

Let us also not forget the changed circumstances.

Cities compete to host the sahitya sammelana and rarely do we see caste groups or local communities boycotting the event. Local politicians, both of the political as well as literary and cultural variety, are keen to see themselves in the limelight.

Indeed, this annual event has become a big deal.

More importantly, the circumstances that motivated the organisers in the early decades of Kannada sahitya parishat have changed. Note that until 1956 Kannada speaking regions were administered by at least four major administrative entities—the presidencies of Bombay and Madras and then the kingdoms of Hyderabad and Mysore.

Except for Mysore, Kannada speakers were a minority in the other administrative regions, which meant Kannada wasn’t the language of the administration and rarely received the necessary state support. Consequently Kannada couldn’t develop as a language of administration, culture and literature.

As surprising as it may seem today, even the early discussions at the Kannada Sahitya Parishat were held in English. When B. M. Shri was invited to give a talk at one of the early parishat-sponsored events, he spoke in English on the great accomplishments of pre-modern Kannada literature.

I note this to point out the objective of the sahitya sammelana in the 1920s and 1930s was quite simply to organize likeminded litterateurs and activists, and to use the occasion to discuss the challenges confronting Kannada language, culture and people.

The office-bearers of the Kannada Sahitya Parishat opted to take the conference to different parts of the Kannada speaking regions and primarily celebrate Kannada, especially its literary accomplishments. That meant the Kannada writer was always the hero.

These early conventions were small enough to actually conduct useful discussions and hence there was a substantial intellectual dimension to these events. Equally important was a desire to build a sense of community among the participants, who would have come from different states and this was especially critical in the emergence of a Unification Movement.

Especially this latter goal was an important aspect of Kannada activism prior to the reorganization of linguistic states in 1956.

In the last 3-4 decades, the sahitya sammelana has evolved into more of a celebratory event. The last significant political interruption was during the height of the Bandaya literary movement in the late 1970s and since then ecstatic celebratory character of the sammelana has become more important.

Personally, I don’t see anything wrong in that.

The principal challenges that confronted Kannada have changed significantly. Be it the challenge of globalisation, or the marginalisation of Kannadiga in Karnataka itself and in the national arena or the slow progress of Kannada IT or most importantly, Kannada’s future as the language of education, administration and commerce—none of these are going to be discussed at and solved in a three-day event, even if we manage to find the right format and forums.

So, the main thrust of the critique articulated by many that the event doesn’t have a constructive dimension seems to be misplaced. I say don’t think about what doesn’t happen in these three days. Instead, consider what we need to do for 362 days and then we can spend these three days of the sahitya sammelana celebrating our achievements.

My reasoning is quite simple. When the Kannada Sahitya Parishat was established in 1915, Karnataka had no Universities, very few colleges and no other state institution that could do the work of Kannada.

Now, we have more than 20 universities, and thousands of colleges; the various academies, and other government institutions such as the Kannada book authority and Kannada development authority along with numerous civil society institutions function throughout the year.

While we may not be happy with their functioning and many of our problems remain unsolved, the entire burden of Kannada doesn’t fall on the sammelana itself. We must use the rest of the year to organize conferences and brainstorm on what we need to do.

***

Up until the 1950s, the sammelana was the only venue for such strategising but that no longer is the case. During the sammelana, if there has to be any speech-making, let that be to put forward the big picture and tell the Kannadigas what we need to do during the next year.

My hope is that such speeches wouldn’t be utilised to abuse our neighbors or lament globalisation but to put forward a constructive agenda. This could mean actually working on setting up sustainable Kannada schools, with rich curriculum and world-class facilities, instead of simply demanding that the government implement Kannada as the medium of instruction.

Or it could mean working on open source Kannada software projects.

Let this be the occasion when we, all of us, get to hear what our intellectuals and writers thought and figured out throughout the year.

Let this be a populist avenue where our writers and thinkers can have a wide audience.

Let this be an occasion for book exhibitions and cultural performances and poetry meets.

Thus, in my mind, the purpose of the sahitya sammelana seems to be something different, far simpler.

The sammelana offers a platform to highlight the cause of Kannada and bring attention to it. We could celebrate our accomplishments and articulate programmatically a vision for the future.

The sahitya sammelana also serves a different cultural and political purpose. As in the past, it puts the Kannada writer on a pedestal and celebrates him. Here the critics are right when they point out that politicians and swamijis have come to occupy the center stage. It would be perfectly all right to kick them out, and bring back the writer to the centre.

It would be extraordinary to have a 98 year-old Kannada grammarian address one-hundred thousand people in the heart of Bangalore. Such a privilege eludes the cosmopolitan Indian English writer, as Dr U. R. Anantha Murthy is fond of pointing out.

The English writer might get a huge advance and publicity in the English press but there is something spectacularly magical, and indeed culturally empowering about a writer demanding and holding the attention of sixty million Kannadigas and outlining his vision for their future. This is why our writers choose to write in Indian languages.

Let the celebrations begin

***

Photographs: A view of the main hall for the 77 all India Kannada sahitya sammelana at the National College Grounds, in Bangalore on Thursday (top); and Mysore pak being prepared for the participants at a kitchen at Kempegowda Nagar (Karnataka Photo News)

The book Bhyrappa won’t be writing? Or will he?

16 December 2010

Deccan Herald and Praja Vani cartoonist P. Mahmud‘s take on the writer S.L. Bhyrappa‘s description of the people of Karnataka as tarlegalu (a bunch of good-for-nothing whiners), in the weekly magazine, Sudha.

According to the newspaper, DNA, Bhyrappa said:

“Our people are lost in internecine quarrels. There is a need for them to reform…. Our people know only how to spend, not to save.”

Cartoon: P. Mahmud/ Sudha

Also read: Did Adolf Hitler fetch S.L. Bhyrappa‘s freedom?

And the mahaan elastic buddhijeevi of the year is…

What Obama missed by not coming to Bangalore

7 November 2010

PRASHANT KRISHNAMURTHY writes from Bangalore: Looking at the wide-eyed, over-the-top coverage of US president Barack Obama‘s 100% sanitised weekend break to Bombay and Delhi,  you can only wonder what he and Michelle are missing by not coming to namma Bengalooru.

***

1) By not coming to Bangalore and meeting B.S. Yediyurappa, Barackappa, whose Democratic party has suffered a drubbing, has missed picking up a lesson (or 11) in political management.

2) By not coming to Bangalore and meeting the Reddy brothersulu, brother Barack has lost a manch powerful chance to know that all trade barriers can be easily surmounted by simply shifting the borders.

3) By not coming to Bangalore and meeting the geniushris behind ‘Operation Lotus‘, Barackshri will go back without the wisdom that that what he really needs to shore himself up is ‘Operation POTUS ‘.

4) By not coming to Bangalore, Barackgaaru won’t know that the Rs 900 crore per day bill he is running up during his visit, would have easily fetched the loyalty of a couple of dozen MLAs for three months.

5) By not coming to Bangalore and filling up at Deve Gowda petrol bunk, Barackgowdru won’t that there others like his pal, Rahm Emmanuel, who break into expletives at the break of dawn.

6) By not coming to Bangalore, Barackopal will understand that the government of Karnataka gives away Rajyotsava awards even more whimsically than the Alfred Nobel foundation did two years ago.

7) By not coming to Bangalore and being interviewed by Ranganath Bharadwaj, Barackwaj won’t know that the biggest existential question on 24×7 Kannada news television is, “yaake antha” (why).

8) By not coming to Bangalore, Rockline Barack won’t know that Jackie, Tsunami, Y2K, Excuse Me, Psycho et al are actually titles of films in the language of the locals.

9) By not coming to Bangalore, change agent Barackaiah won’t know that BMTC conductors have always insisted on “change you believe in” before you board the bus.

10) By not coming to Bangalore, Barackanna has lost a golden chance to know that our darshinis serve better bisi bele bath than Bukhara. And that there is a resort near Yelahanka called The White House.

11) By not coming to Bangalore while worrying about jobs in Buffalo being “Bangalored”, namma Baracku won’t know that the jobs are actually being “Bengalurued”, thanks to U.R. Anantha Murthy.

12) And by not coming to Bangalore, Michelamma won’t know that for all our outsourcing prowess, pakkada mane Parvathamma still cannot find a maid when she wants one.

What other local specialities do you think Mr and Mrs O are missing by not coming?

‘Brahmins need a deeksha to awaken empathy’

20 September 2010

As the caste and communal cauldron gets nicely stirred up in Karnataka by the competitive padayatras of Hindu and Dalit seers, the noted Kannada writer, Devanoor Mahadeva, turns the mirror on Brahmins, in an important intervention at a seminar held under the auspices of the University of Mysore on Saturday.

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By DEVANOOR MAHADEVA

I vividly remember an interview that Alanahalli Krishna did with Kuvempu many years ago.

Alanahalli asked Kuvempu: “Do you really believe that the Madhwa philosophy is a mean one?”

Kuvempu replied: “Mean? Most mean.”

Alanahalli had a hearty laugh over that, and the waves of that laughter still reverberate in my ear.

Kuvempu’s impatience with the Madhwa philosophy can be understood in the context of his broad humanist position. The “Nithya muktha, nithya samsaari, nithya naraki” (“One who is forever free, forever involved in worldly affairs and forever goes through the torments of hell”) philosophy of Madhwacharya holds that the human being and the world do not change.

It renders society static, devoid of dynamism, and makes a philosophy of hellish hierarchies.

Vishvesha Teertha is born in this context and is the head of a mut that propagates this philosophy. He seems to be trying to move out of the inertia, struggling to break the confines of the philosophy. It strikes me as the struggle of a little sparrow caught in a net and desperately fluttering its wings.

There are times that I feel that he ought to be with us, not out there. But when I ask myself if his struggle is truly from the heart and born out of a deep religiosity, I cannot confidently answer in the affirmative.

We begin to wonder if Vishvesha Teertha’s padayatra is a matter of religious faith or religious politicking when we juxtapose him with the vachanakaras who said “Keelingallade hayanu kareyadu”, implying that there is no redemption without defeating the ego, and moved closer to the lower castes with this deeply felt faith.

When asked if a man from the Kuruba community would ever be made the head of his mutt, Vishwesha Teertha lost patience and retorted: “You ask this only to Brahmins. Would you ask the same question to a Christian or a Buddhist institution?”

In fact, any man belonging to the Christian or Buddhist faith can ask his religious institution why he cannot head it. Those religions allow it. But is such a thing possible in a Hindu caste-religion? Did a Kanaka Dasa, who stood outside the door of the temple, not belong to your religion? Or is each caste a religion by itself?

What then is dharma or religion? It is, in fact, the hierarchy of higher and lower castes and practices associated with it. This is why we do not think it is petty when Vishwesha Teertha is not allowed to perform puja in Tirupati.

This is also why we fail to see the hypocrisy of a man who will command people not to convert to other religions without a hint of moral dilemma, but will never declare: “Do not covert to other faiths, I am willing to make you the head of my mutt.”

We are never struck by the cruelty of a system that has accepted exclusion as a tradition.

Vishwesha Theertha is all set to give “Vaishnava deekshe” (initiation) to Dalits. There are already several Dalit cult traditions which have long ago been initiated into the Vaishnava tradition. They follow the purificatory rituals of “madi” and treat their shankha-jagates (conch and cymbals) with reverence and do not allow others to enter places where they are kept. They look for brides and grooms within their own small community.

This has led to greater divisions rather than any coming together.

The seer’s padayatra might increase the population of such dasas among dalits, more people might blow conches and strike cymbals. People who have done this have never moved from their position as untouchables.

When such is the case, the Pejavar seer would do well to re-think his plans of giving “Vaishnava deekshe”.

Instead, giving “thrija” (third birth) deekshe to the twice-born Brahmins might be good for the unity, balance and health of our society. The present dwija initiation is intellect-centric. The Gayatri mantra that is central to dwija deekshe speaks of awakening the intellect.

Intellectual activities could also lead to deceptions, discriminations and a sense of superiority and inferiority. What the Indian society today needs urgently is an awakening of a sense of compassion and camaraderie. I request the seer to give this (the thrija deekshe), especially to the Brahmins, to awaken empathy.

My request should not be mistaken for arrogance. (I am sure U.R. Anantha Murthy would ask me to give him “thrija deekshe” if he were to hear of this new concept!)

India has given birth to many things. In fact we are masters in the business of giving births. We are people who have made rowdies of gods to keep the hierarchies of the four varnas, and the discriminations that come with it, intact. I am asking the Pejavar seer to inspire yet another birth and awakening.

We are, after all, a nation that believes in births and re-births.

Let me add to this logic with another theory: Those who practiced untouchability in their previous births are born untouchables in this birth, in order to experience it first hand. Those who practice it now will be born untouchables in the next birth. If there is any truth in re-births, this could as well be happening.

The Indian mind which has killed itself thinking up logical arguments to justify hierarchies, might as well indulge this logical argument for once to bring about unity.

I am getting tired and weary, but there is no end to this. I am living from time immemorial in the hope of finding love and equality. My dream is that the Pejavara seer’s padayatra would inspire at least a few young dwijas to turn trijas, marry outside their castes, and inspire the birth of a new humanity.

I hope my dream comes true.

Link: courtesy Mahamed Ismail

Translation: courtesy B & B

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News library

Also read: For one good turn deserves another and another

What’s in a name? The key to a casteless society

What to do after ravaging our natural resources

External reading: Untouchability: a sin and a crime

Dinesh Amin Mattoo: Open letter to Visvesha Teertha swamiji

Did Adolf Hitler fetch S.L. Bhyrappa’s freedom?

21 August 2010

The American humour writer P.J. O’ Rourke says the Soviet Union did not collapse because of Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher or Star Wars; it collapsed because of Bulgarian blue jeans.

The Kannada writer S.L. Bhyrappa who tilts at the windmills of history like a latter-day Don Quixote, is no humourist; even the Sancho Panzas who sit at his lotus feet wouldn’t accuse him of a sense of humour. But the “Arun Shourie of the South” can still crack a joke, with a scowl.

Speaking five days after the 63rd anniversary of independence—at the 72nd chaturmasya of Sri Visvesha Teertha swamiji of the Pejawar Mutt, go figure—Bhyrappa has declared, apropos nothing, that India did not attain freedom because of non-violence or hunger strikes.

But because, well, the British were bored and tired of staying on.

Maybe even plain pissed—in their Bulgarian blue jeans.

“The British did not leave India because of ahimsa or upavasa satyagraha. You can only cleanse your conscience with a hunger strike; you cannot drive out the British.

“After World War II, the British were sapped of all energy. Moreover, the troops stationed in India were agitated. This was the main reason for the British to leave India.

“At the time of granting independence to India, the then prime minister was asked how much ahimsa had been a factor. He replied very little.”

Implicit in this line of thinking is the belief that the independence movement was a passive one, not an active one. That freedom was something that the Brits gifted us, handed down to us; not something that Indians fought for and won. In other words, if the Brits didn’t want to give it to us, we wouldn’t have got it.

Implicit is the belief that all the wars, mutinies, marches, strikes, boycotts, sacrifices were futile exercises that we now humour ourselves with in Amar Chitra Katha comics. In other words, the Brits didn’t take any note of them and wouldn’t have at all if their energies and attentions hadn’t been otherwise diverted.

Implicit is the belief that independence was a sudden, spontaneous, off-the-cuff development. An event not a process. That after 200 years of rule, the Brits just woke up on 7 May 1945 and decided enough was enough. That none of the months and years that preceded it had any role in it. In other words, had it not been for WWII, we might as well have kissed independence goodbye.

In other words, we must thank Adolf Hitler for engaging the Brits in a war that fetched us freedom?

Above all, implicit in the quasi-rant against ahimsa and satyagraha is a palpable lack of belief in, and contempt for, Gandhian modes of protest. In other words, a vote for un-Gandhian aggression and machismo, sotto voce,  as chain-mailed by other patron-sants of the sangh parivar before, like this one here in 2008:

“World War II ended in the summer of 1945. In the general election that followed, Winston Churchill lost to Clement Attlee. With the war-torn economy a shambles, Britain was in no shape to hang on to the vast colonial empire. In March 1946 Attlee decided to grant independence to India.

“The following years saw independence granted to many colonies—Burma, Ceylon, Ghana, Malaysia, British Guyana and others—that had no history of freedom struggle. So it is correct to conclude that independence to India was a given with or without satyagraha.  The truth is that non-violence was inconsequential in achieving India’s independence. “

Of course, it is a point of view, one which those who hold it are well entitled to hold.

The only question though: would S.L. Bhyrappa‘s negative post-facto vote for ahimsa and satyagraha have turned positive had the characters behind them boasted different surnames or belonged to the other end of the ideological spectrum, one of whose brave members pumped three cowardly bullets at 5.45 pm on 30 January 1948 into the upper thigh, abdomen and chest of the man who was its apostle?

Photograph: courtesy S.L. Bhyrappa

Also read: S.L. Bhyrappa on Avarana

S.L. Bhyrappa versus U.R. Anantha Murthy

S.L. Bhyrappa on the N.R. Narayana Murthy issue

“An appeal in the name of our friend, George”

16 February 2010

The following is the full text of an appeal/ statement in the matter of member of Parliament George Fernandes by his longtime friends and wellwishers, issued by former Union minister and ambassador, Ajay Singh.

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George Fernandes is one of the most influential of India’s political leaders of the last four decades. His entire life was dedicated to fighting tyranny, oppression, corruption, and for the upliftment of deprived sections of our society. His battles for equality, democracy, a free media, human rights and against all forms of injustice are well known.

“We, the long time friends of George Fernandes, are deeply distressed at the events of the last few weeks, which diminish this image of a great man who, due to a debilitating illness, is unable to defend himself or express himself publicly.

“We are also making this public statement to convey our deep concern for the well being, health and care of our friend George. We understand he is being moved from place to place and decisions on his well-being are being suddenly and arbitrarily taken by people who are not familiar with the particular aspects, past progress and treatment of his ailments. This is bound to have a severe adverse impact on his state of mind and body.

“A panel of suitable people comprising of his familiar doctors at AIIMS and his long time colleagues and care givers, including the immediate and extended family, should be constituted through a legal process to ensure a stable atmosphere for him to feel comfortable and at ease.

“All unseemly speculation and discussion being carried out in public view about his assets and relationships undermine the values that our friend George stands for.

“It is our duty as his friends and admirers to ensure him his dignity and to demand respect for what he has done and the choices he has made over so many years.”

***

Issued by

1.    Justice M.N. Venkatachaliah , former chief  justice, Supreme Court of India, former chairman national human rights commission, Padma Vibhushan awardee

2.    Farooq Abdullah, Union minister of new and renewable energy, former chief Minister Jammu and Kashmir

3.    Jaswant Singh, member of Parliament, former finance minister and defence minister

4.    Viren J. Shah, former governor West Bengal and arrested in the Baroda dynamite case with George     Fernandes, former Member of  Parliament

5.    Kamal Morarka, chairman Gannon Dunkerley group, former Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) and former Minister of State

6.    U.R. Ananthamurthy, renowned Kannada writer,  Jnanpith awardee, socialist, Padma Bhushan awardee

7.    R.V. Pandit, philanthrophist, film producer,  publisher

8.    Rahul Bajaj, chairman Bajaj Group, Member of  Parliament (Rajya Sabha)

9.    Uday Kotak, vice-chairman and managing director of Kotak Mahindra Bank

10.  Ravi Ruia, vice chairman, Essar group

11.  Chandan Mitra, editor and publisher The Pioneer,  former Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha)

12.   Capt C.P. Krishnan Nair, chairman, Leela Group of hotels,  Padma Vibhushan

13.    Rajesh V. Shah, managing director Mukund Ltd, former president CII

14.    Lord Meghnad Desai, writer, economist, member of the House of Commons, UK

15.    Kishwar Desai, writer

16.    Vandana Shiva, writer, social activist, scientist

17.    Leela Samson, eminent dancer, writer, Padma Shri awardee

18.    Dr Beatrix D’Souza, educationist , former member of Parliament

19.    Dr. Sonal Mansingh, eminent dancer, Padma Vibhushan Awardee

20.    Ajay Singh, former deputy minister for railways,  former ambassador to Fiji, journalist

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

Also read: By George, it’s pati, patni aur woh & some crores

How the BJP government hounded Tehelka promoters

It takes all types to keep a City clean and green

19 June 2009

DSC03807

At the beautiful Gangothri Glades cricket stadium in the city that produced English language wordsmiths of the calibre of R.K. Narayan and R.K. Laxman, Raja Rao and U.R. Anantha Murthy, H.Y. Sharada Prasad and T.S. Satyan, a small epitaph to the gigantic ocean of learning, Manasagangothri, behind it.

Also read: So that your childrens doesn’t learn English

Arly to rice makes menu helthy, velthy and vice

CHURUMURI POLL: URA, smooth, smart or stupid?

17 November 2008

He has himself publicly stated that he had his disagreements with the Janata Dal (Secular) as a party and some of the decisions taken by H.D. Deve Gowda and H.D. Kumaraswamy. He stood as a candidate when JDS put up “outsider” Rajeev Chandrashekhar for a Rajya Sabha, prompting Kumaraswamy, as chief minister, to ask “Who is he?”. And he has had the mortification of having his contribution to the State and even Kannada questioned by HDK.

Yet, U.R. Anantha Murthy had no qualms in sitting to the left of HDK, and to the right of H.D. Deve Gowda, while releasing a booklet titled “Aftermath of Friendship with BJP—A retrospection” in Bangalore yesterday.

Should our “public intellectuals” be weather vanes like politicians, who have no firm stand, no firm beliefs, no firm principles, no firm loyalties or enmities? Or is U.R. Anantha Murthy a supersmart intellectual, who is not stuck in his position and ideology, swallows his pride, and moves with the flow, depending on the “secular” situation?

Does this kind of weather-vane intellectualism enhance the image of intellectuals among the aam janata? Or does it only expose our public intellectuals and contribute to the raging cynicism about their motives and motivations?

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

Also read: The mahaan elastic buddhijeevi of the year is…

The U.R. ANANTHA MURTHY interview

‘Campus interviews polluting schools, colleges’

13 January 2008

The Jnanpith Award winning Kannada writer U.R. Anantha Murthy has lashed out at campus interviews and recruitments, saying that they “pollute” the education atmosphere. Corporates and campus recruiters, he has said, should be kept away from colleges and universities:

“Anyone who can speak a couple of sentences in American English gets a job which can even fetch him Rs 25,000 per month. It does not matter if the person has not even passed SSLC.

“But a person who has completed MSc struggles to get a job for even Rs15,000. People who work in call centres are burnt out by 40. They cannot even produce healthy children. Is this what we call progress? What kind of situation have we landed ourselves into?”

Suggesting that the total approach towards education should change, Dr Anantha Murthy said even an arts student should be allowed to join medical and engineering courses:

“If you churn out doctors who have no clue about the historical background of this country, what kind of service can you expect from him?”

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Should campus recruitments be banned?

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

‘Mavinakayi Chitranna’ in 5 easy steps

30 March 2006

For most people, obbattu marks the high point of Ugadi, but allow me to strike a seriously contrarian note: It’s the mavinakayi chitranna that really gives the Kannada New Year the eating edge.

I mean, you can pick up a packet of holige, and pretty decent holige at that, all year round from Nalpak or from Kamat Lokaruchi. But ever seen any restaurant in any city serve you good mavinakayi chitranna?

Tomato rice, our bhattaru are masters at, and masters they will be because the stuff is so darned cheap these days that the Corporation authorities are encouraging tomato farmers to crush them on the road so that the potholes remain hidden till monsoon.

Ditto, coconut rice.

But, this is the point, most of the “rice items” our restaurants serve these are characterless, assembly line productions, which any Ramya, Rita or Rehana can make.

Puliyogre, you can get any time because of MTR.

Likewise, BBB.

But mavinakayi chitranna is, as intellectuals like Prithvi would posit, is “predicated” on the availability of mavinakayi, and that my dears is thankfully not so across the country or across the year.

Id est, it is namma speciality, guru.

I was thinking about all this when young Nikhil called from Poona around noon to wish us HNY and all that. “What are you doing for habbada oota,” I asked, “has some Maharashtrian classmate invited you over for Gudi Padva?”

“Nope,” he said, “we are all outsiders here, etc.” (U.R. Ananthamurthy, please note)

So, I asked Nagu, who makes the most divine mavinakayi chitranna on the third rock from the sun, just what magic she worked on it.

Here is what she says she would recommend to feed three hungry stomachs, pining for a slice of home in lands, far and near.

Ingredients: Mukkaal paav rice (approximately 200 grams); one full green raw mango; half a coconut; 3 tea spoons of oil; 2 tea spoons of mustard; 1 tea spoon each of bengal gram, urad dal and methi; 2/3 tea spoons of ground nuts; 10 pieces of red chillies; 2 sticks of curry leaves; half a spoon of haldi; hing and salt to taste.

Method: 1) Cook the rice in a cooker and allow it to cool naturally by spreading it out on a plate. Once it has cooled, add salt and a spoon of oil to the rice. Forget about it for a while.

2) Grate the mango and the coconut, and grind it with one spoon of mustard and 8 red chillies. This is the chutney for the chitranna.

3) Now prepare the seasoning. Take two tea spoons of oil, and add mustard, urad dal, 2 red chillies, the groundnuts, hing and haldi. Add the seasoning to the rice.

4) To the empty baandli, now add one tea spoon of oil and fry the grated ‘chitranna’ chutney for 3 minutes. Pour this on the rice and kals it with your bare hands, repeat bare hands.

5) Dry roast the methi, crush it with a lattange, and sprinkle the powder on top of the chitranna before serving. 


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