25 June 2008

S L Bhairappa's novels and the Gnaanapeeth award

Aavarana was the first novel I read of S L Bhairappa. In fact, the first Kannada novel after a decade, I guess. I stopped reading Kannada novels after I chanced upon Anantha Murty's Samskara. It left such a horrifying mark in my mind, about our whole cultural bias and all that. I was just out of school, had entered the city for the first time and happened to read that book, to add to it a tragic phase at home for me made a great impact and I'm glad that I stopped reading any novel works in Kannada at that time.

So, times changed and now I don’t get into a novel to get impacted so much. I don’t try to relate it neither to my life, nor with anyone I know's lives. So, I can understand the novel as a novel, feel for the characters and appreciate the art of story telling. Now, I distinguish between neither the languages nor the writers and get biased about the whole stuff.

So, I got curious about the debate Aavarana raised, and particularly since it was claimed to be a documentation of historical facts that are buried under the pseudo-secular truth. I started reading it, I dint like the language it used, nor the behaviour of characters. But yet, what attracted me there, I don’t know. May be because of the hard work of the writer or anything related to it. Definitely it’s not a classical wonder as far as the novel was considered, but it was successful in making me forget everything else for a few days, I had stopped speaking to my parents also until I finished it at one read!! I read for a week to complete the novel till late nights to make for the lost time when I worked.

Though I didn’t appreciate the novel experience, the addiction it caused haunted me. Just like a drug addict, had to buy a few more books, and yes, visited Ankita and bought four more Bhairappa books. Thabbaliyu neenade magane, Daatu, Nirakarana, Gruhabhanga. One after the other.....I must admit I had fallen pray to the trapper called Bhairappa. His way of implementing things that are known to us, not known to us.. Marvellous.

He takes us to a village named Kalenahalli thru his 'Thabbaliyu neenade magane', and crafts a story there as if it is a real village, and the people are our own ancestors, and as if one character there believes and thinks similar to me!! He does create a structure where without mentioning he induces in us a truth that though the elders had little knowledge of the world outside, the quality in their lives is missing even with our advanced Hi-tech living. He never mentions any point there, and leaves the impact to reader's imagination. Is this a quality novelist's traits? I have never experienced such a thing while reading modern novels in other languages, I have read a few English novels, a few Telugu novels and a couple of Hindi novels of very big novelists, but the feel of Bhairappa is really unique. An addiction to be specific is a criterion when you describe a Bhairappa's novel.

Last day of my reading the novel TNM, I had to take a sick leave, since I felt feverish and couldn’t think of anything else that day, I was depressed and totally down!! Gruha bhanga is another novel that made me cry with pain, as if it is happening to me! How and why should people be sacrificed like that? I felt relieved finally that I live in an entirely different era than the one mentioned in the book. And about Daatu, I was disgusted throughout it. Ah! Indian infamous caste system at its peak is in discussion over there. People feeling guilty of crossing lines, making lines to call themselves superior....oh! To what level...I never knew there existed an upper caste feeling among the lower caste people aswell. I mean the lowest castes themselves have different categories, of which one is superior to another and they call balagai (right hand) over another yedagai (left hand)!! And also it pictures how difficult it is to defy the system, uproot it or live against its hardliners! It is a disgusting novel, about which I have no specific comments than that it made me believe that there is no hope to the Indian system of living!

It all started at a theatre presentation of one of Bhairappa’s novels Mandra, where I bought Avarana and started with SLB’s works. I have no doubt that there is a great amount of truth when SLB states thru Avarana that he was virtually removed from the Text book formation committee of Indira Gandhi govt., for voicing against the thought of teaching history in a leftist way and hiding the facts!

I am told that Parva is a great novel, and it is one of its kind in the Indian literary circles. I, so doubt the authenticity of the award givers of Gnaanpeeth, country’s highest literary award. I don’t understand why SLB has not got this award till date, is that because his views are opposed to the leftist ones? Or is that because his works are in Kannada language? Or he has more enemies in literary circles than friends? Can’t say if the award is given away with authenticity and impartiality.

If one URA who propelled me to stop reading Kannada novels could be given the award, why not Bhairappa, who propelled me to buy more Kannada books, and get hooked to them?! We have lost many legendary writers in Kannada who died without being awarded with Gnaanpeeth, the likes of DVG, PuTiNa, Adiga, KSNarasimha swamy, who all deserved it more than a few who were conferred the award with. One can understand the authenticity of such awards, and also of their order.

I demand the Central Sahitya Academy to confer the award on Bhairappa instantly.

Of course, not that without the award he is not what he is already, but it becomes our duty to honour such people with the due respect on our part. Let’s not waste any more time in the regard.

Correction : It is presented by the Bharatiya Jnanpith, a trust founded by the Sahu Jain family, the publishers of the The Times of India newspaper.