If the Mahatma could rethink his xenophobia…

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?

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7 Responses to “If the Mahatma could rethink his xenophobia…”

  1. Ramesh Banavara Murthy Says:

    I fully endorse Mr.Ramachandra Guha’s view. You need not have to write in Kannada to be known as a Kannadiga.
    Through his writings, Mr.R.K.Narayan has brought immense glory to Mysore and its people and made foreigners to appreciate a great culture as ours.
    This should be more than enough to consider him as our own. We will honour ourselves by honouring him.
    Let us not stoop to such narrow level as branding Mr.Narayan as a non-kannadiga.
    I, for one, is very proud of the fact that he lived in Mysore and through his novels, enriched our lives.

  2. Deepak Says:

    He He He…Churumuri article by Ramchandra Guha quoting Girish Karnad and URA, talk of the muster of the vultures !!! Biggest joke of an article. Thanks for some comic relief.

  3. Murthy Says:

    Looks like Churumuri is obsessed with RKN. I just clicked on RKN’s tags from this article and I could see so many articles. Most of them are related directly to him. But the way, I think the protest from Kannada writers was about his contribution, not about him being a Tamilian. Because there are so many Tamilian who have immensely contributed to Kannada and everyone recognizes that and acknowledges that same.

  4. harkol Says:

    I wonder, if the folks who decry honor to RKN for his lack of contribution to ‘local language’ – would also decry any attempts to honor Bhimsen Joshi or Gangubhai Hangal – Because they contributed nothing to ‘carnatic’ music and their achievements were only in ‘hindustani’ music, which is north Indian and thus ‘foreign’ to karnataka?

    Does honor in Karnataka only belongs to those who can speak ‘fluent’ Kannada (if so, then 90% of Kannadigas will be disqualified as they may not be able to speak a few sentences without mixing english).

    Or can only those who contribute to Kannada alone be honored in Karnataka? If so what happens to Konkani, Tulu or Marathi literature? Or those who contribute in other domains than literature?

    How petty and irrational can people get?

  5. chidu22 Says:


    This is another instance of bad example. Uttara Karnataka has had influence of northern states and hence the hindustani style being more prevalent here as is Karnatak Music in south Karnataka. So hindustani is a style and dioesn’t mean north Indian music. The joshis and hanagals are honoured as they assimilated with the locals unlike the snob,RKN.

    UK has no memorials set up for non english authors or who have contempt for english. So you will do good to take your theories else where.

    Trying to say that karnataka has discriminated tulu/konkani etc is another lie to suit your bogus/irrational points.

  6. harkol Says:

    >Trying to say that karnataka has discriminated tulu/konkani etc is another lie to suit your bogus/irrational points.

    You are resorting to strawman argument now. Where did I say Karnataka Discriminated Tulu or Konkani. I had said Tulu folks weren’t narrow minded to oppose great achievers amongst them, just because their contribution wasn’t to Tulu. And they don’t consider folks who can’t speak Tulu in Mangalore as ‘snobs’.

    >UK has no memorials set up for non english authors

    Memorials aren’t the only way to honor contributors. However, UK does have monuments for folks who once opposed them – Gandhi, Nelson Mandela.

    However, UK has also bestowed very high honors on non-British authors like Maurice Druon (French Novelist), Daniel Barenboim (Israeli Musician), Anna Morpurgo Davies (Italian paleologist), Even Ravi Shankar (Indian musician) to name a few.

    >Uttara Karnataka has had influence of northern states

    So, is it your case that South India hasn’t had influence of ‘english’ or British?

    >hindustani is a style and doesn’t mean north Indian music

    All music of world are just variation of styles based on same 7 notes. Indian classical music is categorized a Dakshinadi (Carnatic) & Uttaradi (Hindustani). Southern culture revolved around Carnatic classical for hundreds of years (purandara dasa, Tyagaraja etc).Can you name a few Hindustani greats from 19th century in Southern India??

    Similar to Hindustani music English too made its way to south couple of hundred years back and why grudge some authors using ‘that style’ (laguage).

    When does a language/style become our own? How long should be be present and How many people should be speaking/singing it, for it to be accepted as ‘local’?

  7. harkol Says:


    ಕನ್ನಡದಲ್ಲಿ ಒಂದಲ್ಲ ನೂರು ಕವಿತೆಗಳನ್ನು ಸಂಕುಚಿತ ಮನೋಭಾವವನ್ನು ಖಂಡಿಸಿ ಬರೆಯಲಾಗಿದೆ. ಇದನ್ನು ಕೇಳಿ:

    ಬೀಳಿಸದಿರೊ ನಿನ್ನ ನೆರಳನಿತರರ ಮೇಲೆ, ಬಾಳಿಕೊಳುವವರು ತಂತಮ್ಮ ಬೆಳಕಿನಲಿ
    ಮೇಲುಬೀಳುಗಳಾರ್ಗದೆಂತೊ ನೀನೇನರಿವೆ, ತಾಳದಿರು ಗುರುತನವ ಮಂಕುತಿಮ್ಮ.

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