Ravindranatha Thakoor and his Reminiscences – Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, I had discussed instances that showed how wonder-struck a young Ravindranatha Thakoor was in the company of mother nature.  In Part 2, I discuss his views on poetry, language, and education, as retold by him in Reminiscences (1912).  

Human beings are born imitators and as children we learn by imitating our parents and older friends. I strongly believe that learning by imitation is a life-long process and it does not stop at some adolescent age. Of all literary genres, poetry is the most susceptible to imitation and also the most difficult to plagiarise. Poets, howsoever great they are, would have learnt their ropes by imitating other poets they admire. Thakoor was a child prodigy in writing verse it appears.  He was trying to write complex verse even without knowing the meanings of the words quite early in his life.  His writing was influenced by many interesting people (retold in the book) either directly or indirectly. He acknowledges that he tried to imitate poets he knew and learnt to appreciate poetry and literature from his tutors and cousins.

Thakoor’s views on poetry and poems are interesting and but not well-thought out must I add. I am not sure whether he acquired those views late in his life or always held those views unchanged.  In an amusing instance, Thakoor thinks that mishandling of poor quality poetry by an ordinary poet is similar to rough-handling of an ordinary thief caught red-handed by a hard-nosed security guard! Thakoor’s main thesis about poetry is typical of any poet struggling to differentiate the lyrical from the verbal.  Simply put in his own words

to employ an epic to teach a language is like using a sword to shave with- Sad for the sword, bad for the chin…A poem should be taught from the emotional viewpoint (p57)…the less a song is burdened with words the better…I have often felt this while composing my songs (p206)”. 

His notion of poetry and song writing is confused at worse, conflicted at best. For someone who cannot read Thakoor’s poems in Bengali (and have not read much in English either), I am not in a position to comment on how successful or unsuccessful he was at rescuing himself from such dilemmas.I have come to understand, perhaps through imitation, consultation and self-realization (voila!), that poetry is not song writing and song writing is not poetry. Thakoor probably had come to similar conclusions but it appears he struggled with the idea even into his 50s.

An important aspect of Thakoor’s formative years was his access to free reading, learning, and experimenting at home. He was in a home filled with people who were formally educated, frequented by the rich and privileged, judges and professors, musicians and politicians.  Thakoor’s sister-in-laws were his reading partners. They read novels and magazines competitively. They had the means and ran their own home journals and published their own articles. Ravindranatha Thakoor’s father Devendranatha Thakoor was a big influence. The biggest chapter of the book is dedicated to Thakoor’s fond memories of his father [p67-100] and how he was guided by his father without ever being hand-held and handled. Thakoor’s father was an important personality of his times, a co-founder of Brahmo Samaja with reformer Raja Ram Mohan Roy. Devendranatha, as Thakoor recollects, was not deterred by the danger of Thakoor making mistakes, and he was not alarmed at the prospect of Thakoor (a privileged kid) encountering sorrow [p96].

Thakoor’s view on education is equally fascinating considering he was not formally educated. He tried to go to a school and a college but did not get much of it.  His visits to England are narrated at length and his failure to pursue university education is dealt with rather softly. Again, I was reminded of his privileged existence in a world where most of his fellow countrymen (Bengalis for him and rightly so) had very little to cheer about. People often cite the example, and I too remember reading in my high school history text book that Ravindranatha Thakoor returned his knighthood to the Imperial establishment protesting the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919. It was probably a powerful gesture because it came from someone like Thakoor, a nativist but not an anti-West thinker. Thakoor was and is a great man because he was aware of his privileged existence. It appears that he always contemplated the pros and cons of him being a  secure financial elite in his society. It is a different matter that Thakoor became an intellectual elite for his contemporaries and more so for the generations that came after. Whilst we are on education, I must also mention Thakoor’s views on education in one’s own mother tongue. This is another topic that is close to my heart.  I quote him [p58-59]

“…because we were taught in our own language that our minds quickened.  Learning should as far as possible follow the process of eating.  When the taste begins from the first bite, the stomach is awakened to its function before it is loaded, so that its digestive juices get full play.  Nothing like this happens when a [Kannada] Bengali boy is taught in English…while one is choking and spluttering over the spelling and grammar, the inside remains starved, and when at length the taste is felt, the appetite has vanished. If the whole mind does not work from the beginning its full powers remain undeveloped to the end. While all around was the cry for English teaching, my third brother was brave enough to keep us to our Bengali… To him in heaven my grateful reverence”.

I pity the young parents in Karnataka, who send their children to privately run English medium schools. They are alienating their children in their own backyard and ruining the lives of our future generation, a bewildered, disconnected, and transfixed lot. Most of the current socioeconomic elite (sadly not intellectual elites like Thakoor) are promoting education in English as the pathway to better life chances. The poor and lower-middle class (learning by imitation) are blindly following the messed up socioeconomic elite. Imitation is fine but imitation alone did not make Ravindranatha Thakoor who he became. One doesn’t need English or Hindi to lead a purposeful and productive life in Karnataka. Education in English does not teach you how to think and how to live. Primary education in Kannada can in Karnataka. The English language may help you in some situations if you already know how to live. Don’t get me started with the complaints about poor quality in government-run Kannada schools. I know I am a hypocrite because I do not use government services in every walk of my life citing access and corruption issues. Often, I am forced not to use public services. But, I have not given up. I continue to support government involvement where it should perform the role of the primary care giver. I will not support any move that intends to kill an ailing ideal of a strong and universal public system of primary health and primary education. God help me, please.

Next week, more on Thakoor’s Reminiscences in a third and final part.

[End of Part 2]

Tagore-Reminiscences 2

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Ravindranatha Thakoor and his Reminiscences – Part 1

I had been fascinated by the Bengali Indian poet Ravindranatha Thakoor who acquired global fame at one point (early 20th century), who wrote two poems that later became national anthems for two countries (India and Bangladesh), and who looked the part of a poet sage with his silky white beard, moustache, and piercing eyes. A professor and historian I have come to interact with and respect, had suggested that I should read Ravindranatha Thakoor for my own benefit.  I did not know where to start.  The great man has so many books to his credit. Luckily, I found a book in my father’s collection and it was Reminiscences (1912) by Thakoor. This was an English translation of the original Bengali Jeevansmriti. I read the book with much enthusiasm.  I realise that I have to read plenty more to understand his world view.  Nonetheless, I felt Reminiscences gave me a nice primer into the man’s makings.  

Reminiscences was first published in 1912 and I read a 1961 reprint by McMillan and Co., London.  The book is about Thakoor’s childhood and adolescent life (age 4 to 22), recollected and narrated when the author was 51 years old (hence the title). The fact that book was not written as a juvenile exercise attracted my attention. I expected to understand Thakoor by gauging how he had portrayed his own early life, a good indicator of many things. As a Kannadiga, I want to write and pronounce his name as Ravindranaatha Thakoor for obvious reasons.  You are free to see this as a poor attempt at mocking most citizens of West Bengal who proudly mispronounce non-Bengali words and South Indian names by converting any ‘va’ into ‘bha’ and any ‘a’ into ‘o’. So, let Robindranath Tagore be Ravindranatha Thakooru in humble Kannada.

Kannada playwright and novelist P Lankesh (1935-2000) had once remarked that the childhood plays a significant role in every author’s imagination but any author will have a tendency to find significance in one’s own childhood even where none exists. There are many instances in Thakoor’s Reminiscences where you will feel “can this be genuine experience of a 12-year old or is this a 50-year old trying to see significance in a rather cosy and privileged childhood?”. For instance, Thankoor says “luxury was a thing almost unknown in the days of my infancy (p 8)”. Not many pages later you wonder when he says that his father’s multi-storied bungalow had a shower in the third floor (19th century India). Blimey! He grew up under servocracy (one servant for his hand and many others for his feet, to translate a colloquial saying in Kannada). However, the author warns quite early in the book that one should not read this book as an autobiography.  Instead, he wishes that the book be read as an improvised account of unforgettably vivid real images.   So, I tried to follow his instruction.

“[A child’s] possessions are few and trivial, yet he needs no more for his happiness” (p17): A book about childhood experiences must have some indispensable wonder about the world around us.  Thakoor serves them in plenty and endearingly so. Thakoor writes about his learning from servants, teachers, elder brothers (4 of them), and above all nature.  What stood out for me were the myriad intimate encounters of Thakoor with plants. I was mesmerised and was eagerly turning the leaves of the book expecting them in every corner. To give you two of the better examples

  1. with tangled roots hanging down from your branches, O ancient banyan tree, you stand still day and night, like an ascetic at his penances, do you ever remember the child whose fancy played with your shadows” [This he writes as a poem on the banyan tree in their outer home garden. Note that the anonymous English translator says that the verse wherever quoted were translated from Bengali to English by Thakoor himself, p12-13].
  2. some way below our house there stretched a spur thickly wooded with deodars. Into this wilderness I would venture alone…these lordly forest trees, with their huge shadows, towering there like so many giants- what immense lives had they lived through the centuries! And yet this boy of only other day was crawling round about their trunks unchallenged” [Recounting the wanders as a 10-year-old in a Himalayan forest, p95]

I have experienced similar awe in the company of trees.  I resent the fact that people always surrender to dead dinosaurs to excite and terrify children about nature. Why not introduce children to the generous, poised, and living giants of the forests instead? Sadly, as Thakoor puts it the wonder is lost too soon. It resonated with me when I read about the custard apple seed he had planted as an 8 year old and used to water ever day and waited with wonder when it would come out and become a tree. He in his 50th year still saw many sprouting seeds of custard apple but he had lost the sense of wonder. “The fault is not in the custard apple but in the mind” Thakoor remarks (p21). Wisdom has its downside.

Tagore-Reminiscences

[End of part 1]

Ravindranatha Thakoor and his Reminiscences-Part 2

Supreme court of India does not know the difference between rights and duties

I am proud of my Indian identity without hating anyone. Some times I am angry and anger can be good sometimes. But the current situation in Karnataka and the injustices to us from the central institutions are transforming my pride into ‘self-doubt’ and I worry that I might start hating ‘others’. I have struggled with the ideas/ questions discussed below for a long time and I don’t think I have answers. I don’t claim to be correct with everything I say here.

SUPREMECOURTOFINDIAI have seen the photograph of the building that houses the Supreme Court of India.  Every time a news associated with a supreme court judgement comes along we see the photo of the building along with the news. The building does not mean anything to us in Karnataka because people in that building do not respect Karnataka’s rights and they do not understand the difference between rights and duties. I will explain. The Indian Supreme court has squashed preference to Karnataka citizens in post-graduate (PG) medical courses in medical colleges run by Karnataka (our) state or supported by our state. I feel the Supreme court of India just does not understand what it means to be an Indian. Indian citizenship is neither an entitlement nor a right to encroach on others’ rights. Where does ‘we’ stop and where does ‘others’ begin is a/not an easy question. The linguistic division of states is a good starting point and a criteria of population above a critical mass, and a geographic presence that is economically and ecologically sustainable are good boundary markers.

I know that the sense of entitlement in Indian citizens is not very different from the sense of entitlement in Karnataka citizens, when the latter demand preferential treatment in Karnataka. Critics will say if an Indian is not entitled to get a PG seat in Karnataka, a citizen of Karnataka is also not entitled to get the same. But, the problem is the top-down approach. The Supreme Court does not give equal importance to duties when it talks about rights. If a student has a right to study anywhere he or she likes, does he or she also have a duty that is beyond bounds?  I am not talking about fundamental rights (right to life etc) and fundamental human duties (vaguely, doing what is right etc). Most duties appear anchored in some place, stem from one’s own self and spread out (bottom-up). In contrast, most rights appear to be ubiquitous, give the impression of equity, and often imposed from outside (top-down). Those citizens of Karnataka who benefited from Karnataka (also India to a lesser extent) but are now performing ‘universal’ duties elsewhere must have faced these questions. The same also applies to many thousand non-citizen experts and non-experts residing in Karnataka, who trained elsewhere, are now serving Karnataka, may be with fervour.

Universalist attitudes are good and must be practiced under moderation (a contradiction, I know). By all means have a quota for all-India entrance exams. All institutions must give some seats on merit/need basis to anyone from anywhere in the world (not just within India). What is that ‘some’? 50%? or 80%? Be realistic, 20%? It is important to foster diversity in centers of learning (Karnataka has enough diversity within itself to enrich a student’s life and offers enough to develop a broad world view). But, any institution that is separated from its society is destined to die, and until then it will be a burden. Try this: Cut off the central funds (BTW, state funds disguised as central funds), cut the tap water from the local river or tube-well, cut the food supply from the local agricultural field, and cut electricity from a local grid, and see whether the institutions survive. If they do, by all means give all seats to students from Mars. Universities and colleges full of students from other states, who do not speak the local language, who do not trust the land (the land always trusts them), who create their own isolated bubbles within the larger society worry me. Having said that, it is worth remembering that PG seats in most state and central universities (all fields) have lost value for other reasons. Sadly, rampant cronyism, nepotism, treating education as a stock market commodity, and misinterpretations and misuse of ‘sense of entitlement’ by citizens of Karnataka have damaged us. Our claim for greater autonomy in state matters has suffered as a result. So it is probably not worth defending them today. However, I hope that someday our state run universities can really be worthy of being part of Karnataka.

I am proud of being a citizen of Karnataka and a citizen of India. Our central government and central institutions (including a blind Supreme court) are making me hate them. I worry that my anger may turn into hatred. Karnataka’s interests have been compromised in the name of India time and again. Of course we have elected some useless MPs to represent us in the parliament, which does not function anyway. With a heavy heart, I say that my faith in Indian federalism in its current form is evaporating.

 

Added on April 18th, 2018

When people start talking about ‘resource limitation’ or ‘violation of environmental norms’, the first thing they do is to look for scapegoats. Migrants (either recent or ancient) are easy targets and the same is happening all over the world. The ‘anti-outsider sentiment’ is one of the basic instincts that gets activated in any human or animal when it is under distress. However, let us also see why this feeling is more palpable these days in cities like Bengaluru.

(i) Cities like Bengaluru and Mumbai have become unsustainable. Blame the locals (who?) for their greed and for destroying the environment. But, there is some legitimacy with nativism too, considering how unjust our Indian federal system has become. Migration from rural to urban centers at the current rate (mainly from North to South India) will be fatal for both. “by 2050 AD” says a crooked fortune teller. Just wait and see.

(ii) Recent immigrants into any city fall into two categories and both have bad reputation. The affluent from other richer cities who buy property in Tier II cities look at their new home as real estate. Nothing more. The poor laborers from other poorer parts of the country may bring unskilled labour to their new home and many do migrate out of economic needs. But, they also add to the existing ‘unstructured’ expansion of often illegal settlements. They do strain the public services, which is pathetic as it is. Even the ultra-rich are illegal in my view, since they buy properties developed on encroached lake beds or forests. Amidst this chaos, there are the old middle class (who are fast becoming the neo-rich, destroyers-in-chief of the environment), who do not vote, who only speak when taps run dry in their own homes, and who can exploit anything and everything for their short-term gains.

(iii) Add to the above, the linguistic mismatch, the public display of alien festivals, and all other conflicts that migration brings with it, and all of those concerns are brushed aside in the name of “India” and “equal rights”. This point is often ridiculed as the first refuge of the racist, the parochial, and the bigoted. But, those who ridicule this view point fail to realise the enormity of the problem. The Brexit vote in Britain has woken up sleeping liberals and universalists in their 1000s…a touch too late for them.

ಎಸ್ ಎಲ್ ಭೈರಪ್ಪ “ದಾಟು”- ಆಡಿಯೋ ಪುಸಕ್ತದ ಅನುಭವ

ಎಸ್ ಎಲ್ ಭೈರಪ್ಪ ಅವರ ಪ್ರಸಿದ್ಧ ಕಾದಂಬರಿಗಳು ಅನೇಕ. ನಾನು ಅನೇಕವನ್ನು ಓದಿಲ್ಲ.  ಅವುಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಸ್ವಲ್ಪ ದಪ್ಪವಾದ್ದು “ದಾಟು”. ಬೃಹತ್ ಕಾದಂಬರಿ ಎಂದರೆ ತೂಕ ಹೆಚ್ಚಾಗಿ, ಆರೋಗ್ಯ ಕಡಿಮೆ ಆಗುತ್ತೆ. ಇಂಥ ದಪ್ಪ ಪುಸ್ತಕಗಳೆಂದರೆ ನನಗೆ ಸ್ವಲ್ಪ ಹಿಂಜರಿಕೆ.  ಆದರೆ ಈ ಸಾರಿ ದಪ್ಪ ಪುಸ್ತಕವನ್ನು ದಾಟಿಸಿದ್ದು ನನ್ನವಳು. ಅವಳು “ದಾಟು” ಕಾದಂಬರಿಯನ್ನು ಸ್ವಲ್ಪ ಸ್ವಲ್ಪವಾಗಿ ಓದುತ್ತಾ ದಿನವೂ ನನಗೆ (ಅವಳ ಮಾತುಗಳಲ್ಲಿ) ಕಣ್ಣಿಗೆ ಕಟ್ಟುವಂತೆ ಕಥೆ ಹೇಳಿದ ಸಹಾಯದಿಂದ ನಾನೂ ದಾಟಿದೆ ಎನ್ನಬಹುದು.  ಹಾಗಾಗಿ, ಅವಳು ಹೇಳಿದ “ದಾಟು” ಕಾದಂಬರಿಯ ನನ್ನ ಗ್ರಹಿಕೆ ಇಲ್ಲಿದೆ. ನನ್ನ ಓದು ಓಸಿ ಹೊಡೆದದ್ದು ಆದರೂ ಮಿಕ್ಕಿದ್ದು ವಾಸಿ ಎಂದು ಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತೇನೆ. 

“ದಾಟು” ಕಾದಂಬರಿಯ ಕೇಂದ್ರ ಪಾತ್ರ ಸತ್ಯಭಾಮಾ. ಓದಿದಾಕೆ, ಬೆಂಗಳೂರಿನ ಕಾಲೇಜಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಉಪನ್ಯಾಸಕಿ.  ಅವಳ ಸ್ವಂತ ಊರು ತಿರುಮಲಾಪುರ (ಕಾಲ್ಪನಿಕ ಹಳ್ಳಿ; ಮೈಸೂರು, ಮಂಡ್ಯ, ತುಮಕೂರು ಮಾರ್ಗದಲ್ಲಿ ಎಲ್ಲೋ ಒಂದು ಕಡೆ). ಊರಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಅವಳ ಅಪ್ಪ, ಅರ್ಚಕ ವೃತ್ತಿ ಮಾಡುವವ.  ಅವಳಿಗೊಬ್ಬ ಚಾಣಾಕ್ಷ ಅಣ್ಣ, ಹೋಟೆಲ್ ನಡೆಸುವವ. ಪುಡಿ ರಾಜಕಾರಣಿ, ಪಾರ್ಟ್-ಟೈಮ್ ಅರ್ಚಕ. ಅವಳಿಗೊಬ್ಬ ಪ್ರೇಮಿ ಅದೇ ಹಳ್ಳಿಯ ಮತ್ತೊಬ್ಬ ಫುಲ್-ಟೈಮ್ ರಾಜಕಾರಣಿಯ (ಮಂತ್ರಿ) ಮಗ.  ಸತ್ಯಭಾಮಾಳು ಅವರಪ್ಪನಿಂದ ಪರೋಕ್ಷವಾಗಿ ಪೂಜಾ ಕ್ರಮ, ಶ್ಲೋಕಗಳು, ಕೆಲವು ವೈದಿಕ ವಿಧಿಗಳನ್ನು ಕಲಿತಿರುತ್ತಾಳೆ.  ಪರೋಕ್ಷವಾಗಿ ಎಂದು ಹೇಳಲು ಕಾರಣವಿಷ್ಟೇ.  ಅವರಪ್ಪ ಹೇಳಿಕೊಟ್ಟಿದ್ದು ಭಾಮಾಳ ಅಣ್ಣನಿಗೆ.  ಇವಳು ಅವನಿಗಿಂತ ಮುತುವರ್ಜಿ ವಹಿಸಿ ಗ್ರಹಿಸಿರುತ್ತಾಳೆ. ಅವನು ಉದ್ಧರಣೆ ಹಿಡಿಯುವ ಬದಲು ಸಾರಿನ ಸೌಟು ಹಿಡಿದಿರುತ್ತಾನೆ. ಇದು ಒಂದು ಸುಳುಹು ನಿಮಗೆ.  ಕಾದಂಬರಿಯ ಸಾರ ಪೂರ್ತಿ ಇದರಲ್ಲೇ ಇಲ್ಲ.  ಆದರೂ ಇದೊಂದು ಆಧಾರ ಕಂಬ ಎಂದರೆ ತಪ್ಪಲ್ಲ. 

ಇಷ್ಟು ಹೊತ್ತಿಗೆ ನಿಮಗೆ ಭಾಮಾ ಬ್ರಾಹ್ಮಣ ಜಾತಿಯವಳು ಎಂದು ಗೊತ್ತಾಗಿರಬಹುದು.  ಆದರೆ ಅವಳ ಪ್ರೇಮಿ ಗೌಡರವನು. ಭಾಮಾಳ ವಿಚಾರಪರತೆ ಇಲ್ಲಿಂದ ಅನಾವರಣಗೊಳ್ಳುತ್ತಾ ಹೋಗುತ್ತೆ. ಇಂಥ ಸನ್ನಿವೇಶದಲ್ಲಿ ಜಾತಿ ಸಂಘರ್ಷ ಉಂಟಾಗುವುದು ಸಹಜ ಎಂದು ಓದುಗ (ಕೇಳುಗ) ಬಗೆದರೆ ಅದು ಸರಿಯೇ. ಸರಳ ಕಥಾ ಹಂದರ ಹೆಣೆದಿದ್ದರೆ “ದಾಟು” ಸಾಧಾರಣ ಕಮರ್ಷಿಯಲ್ ಸಿನೆಮಾ ಆಗುತ್ತಿತ್ತು. ಆದರೆ ಭೈರಪ್ಪ ಅವರು ಒಳ್ಳೆಯ ದರ್ಜೆ ಕಾದಂಬರಿಗೆ ಬೇಕಾದ ಸಂಕೀರ್ಣತೆಯನ್ನು ತರುವಲ್ಲಿ ಯಶಸ್ವಿಯಾಗಿದ್ದಾರೆ.

ಜಾತಿ ವೈಮನಸ್ಯ, ತನ್ನ ಮೇಲಾಟ, ಇದಿರ ಹಳಿಕೆ, ಇವೆಲ್ಲಾ ಬೇರೆ ಬೇರೆ ಪಾತ್ರಗಳ ಮೂಲಕ ನಮಗೆ ಸಿಗುತ್ತದೆ.  ಸತ್ಯಭಾಮಾ ಸಹ ಕಾದಂಬರಿಯ ಬಹುಪಾಲು ಇದೇ ಜಿಜ್ಞಾಸೆಯಲ್ಲಿರುತ್ತಾಳೆ. ಅವಳು ಆತ್ಮಾವಲೋಕನದ ರೂಪದಲ್ಲಿ ಪ್ರಶ್ನೆಗಳನ್ನು ಕೇಳಿಕೊಳ್ಳುತ್ತಾ ಬೆಳೆಯುತ್ತಾಳೆ.  ಬೇರೆಯವರು ನಿತ್ಯ “ರಾಜ”ಕಾರಣದಲ್ಲಿ ಸ್ವಕಾರ್ಯ ಸಾಧನೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಅದೇ ಪ್ರಶ್ನೆಗಳನ್ನು ಕೇಳುತ್ತಾರೆ.  ಅವಳು ಉತ್ತರ ಹುಡುಕಲು ಪ್ರಯತ್ನಿಸುತ್ತಾಳೆ, ಅವಳ ಸಹಪಾತ್ರಗಳು ಅಲ್ಲೀವರೆಗೂ ಹೋಗುವುದು ಕಡಿಮೆ.  ಹೀಗೆ ಹೇಳಿ ನಿಮ್ಮಲ್ಲಿ ಸತ್ಯಭಾಮಾಳ ತಲೆಯ ಮೇಲೆ ಕೋಡುಗಳಿತ್ತು ಎಂಬ ಭಾವನೆ ಮೂಡಿಸುವ ಉದ್ದೇಶವಿಲ್ಲ.  ನೀವು ಓದಿದಾಗ (ಕೇಳಿದಾಗ) ಸತ್ಯಭಾಮಾಳ ಪಾತ್ರದ ಓರೆಕೋರೆಗಳ ಪರಿಚಯ ಆಗುತ್ತದೆ.  ಕೋಡುಗಳಿದ್ದರೂ ಅದು ಓರೆಕೋರೆಯೇ ಆಗುತ್ತದೆ. ಇಲ್ಲಿ ಹೇಳಿದರೆ ಅಷ್ಟು ಸ್ವಾರಸ್ಯ ಇರುವುದಿಲ್ಲ.  ಸತ್ಯಭಾಮಾಳ ಅಪ್ಪ ಕಾದಂಬರಿ ಬೆಳೆದಂತೆ ಕೊಂಚಮಟ್ಟಿಗೆ “ಸ್ವಂತ ಲೋಕ ವಿಹಾರಿ” ಆಗಲೂ ಸಹ ಜಾತಿಪಾತವೇ ಕಾರಣವಾಗುವುದು ನಿಮಗೆ ಗೊತ್ತಾಗುತ್ತದೆ.  ಆದರೆ, ಈ ಜಾತಿ ಪ್ರಪಂಚವು (ಜಾತಿ ಪ್ರಜ್ಞೆ ಎನ್ನಲೇ?) ಒಬ್ಬೊಬ್ಬರಲ್ಲಿ ಒಂದೊಂದು ಬಗೆಯ ಪ್ರತಿಕ್ರಿಯೆ,  ಪ್ರತೀಕಾರ, ಪ್ರತಿಷ್ಠೆಯ ರೂಪಗಳನ್ನು ಪಡೆವ ರೀತಿಯನ್ನು “ದಾಟು” ಕಾದಂಬರಿಯು ಚೆನ್ನಾಗಿ ಕಟ್ಟಿಕೊಡುತ್ತದೆ ಎನ್ನಬಹುದು.

Bhyrappa_Daatu“ದಾಟು”ವಲ್ಲಿ ದಲಿತರು (ಅದರಲ್ಲೂ ಹೊಲೆಯ ಮಾದಿಗರು) ಗಾಂಧೀಜಿ ವಿಚಾರಗಳಿಂದ ಪ್ರಭಾವಿತರಾಗಿ ಜೀವನ ದೃಷ್ಟಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಬದಲಾವಣೆಗಳನ್ನು ರೂಢಿಸಿಕೊಳ್ಳುವ ಉದಾಹರಣೆ ಸಿಗುತ್ತದೆ.  ಅದೇ ಧಾಟಿಯಲ್ಲಿರುವಾಗ, ತಾವೇ ನ್ಯಾಯ ನಿರ್ಣಯ, ನಿಷ್ಕರ್ಷೆಗೆ ಕೈ ಹಾಕುವ ದಲಿತ ಮನಸ್ಸುಗಳೂ ಸಿಗುತ್ತವೆ.  ಎಲ್ಲರೊಂದಿಗೂ ಸತ್ಯಭಾಮಾಳ ಒಡನಾಟ ಇರುತ್ತದೆ.  ಅವಳಿಂದ ಅವರು, ಅವರಿಂದ ಅವಳು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿತರಾಗುವಾಗ ಓದುಗರಲ್ಲಿ ತಮ್ಮದೇ ಸ್ವಂತ ಅನುಭವಗಳ ನೆನಪು ಬಂದರೆ ಕಾದಂಬರಿಯು ಕೆಲಸ ಮಾಡುತ್ತಿದೆ ಎಂದು ಕೊಳ್ಳಬಹುದು. 

ನಾನು ಇಲ್ಲೀವರೆಗೂ ನಿಮಗೆ ಸತ್ಯಭಾಮಾಳ ಹೆಸರನ್ನು ಹೊರತು ಪಡಿಸಿ ಬೇರ್ಯಾರನ್ನೂ ಹೆಸರಿಟ್ಟು ಪರಿಚಯಿಸಿಲ್ಲ.  ಆದರೆ, ಸತ್ಯಭಾಮಾಳಷ್ಟೇ ಗತ್ತು ಉಳ್ಳ, ಅವಳಿಗಿಂತ ಹೆಚ್ಚಿನ ಜೀವನಾನುಭವ ಉಳ್ಳ (ಸತ್ಯಭಾಮಾಗಿಂತ ಒಂದು ತಲೆ ಹಿಂದಿನವಳು) ಮತ್ತೊಂದು ಹೆಣ್ಣು ಪಾತ್ರವನ್ನು ಭೈರಪ್ಪ ಕೊಟ್ಟಿದ್ದಾರೆ.  ಅದು ಮಾದಿಗರ ಹೆಣ್ಣು ಮಾತಂಗಿ ಯ ಪಾತ್ರ.  ನನ್ನ ಪ್ರಕಾರ ಕಾದಂಬರಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಸತ್ಯಭಾಮಾಳ ಪಾತ್ರ ಕೆಲವು ಬಾರಿ ಕೃತಕ ಎನ್ನಿಸಬಹುದು.  ಆದರೆ, ಮಾತಂಗಿಯ ಪಾತ್ರ ಇಡೀ ಕಾದಂಬರಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಎಲ್ಲಿ ಬಂದರೂ ಓದುಗರ ಮನಸ್ಸು ಮಿಡಿಯದಿದ್ದರೆ ಆ ಓದುಗ “ದಾಟು”ವುದು ವ್ಯರ್ಥ.   

ಸತ್ಯಭಾಮೆಯ ನಡೆ, ನುಡಿ, ನಿರ್ಣಯಗಳನ್ನು ಅವಳ ಸ್ಥಾನದಲ್ಲಿ ಇನ್ನಾವುದೇ ಗಂಡು ಪಾತ್ರ ವಹಿಸಿಕೊಂಡಿದ್ದರೆ “ದಾಟು”ವುದಕ್ಕೆ ಇರುವ ಅಡ್ಡಿಗಳನ್ನು ಭೈರಪ್ಪನವರು ಪ್ರತಿಪಾದಿಸುವುದಕ್ಕೆ ಕಷ್ಟವಾಗುತ್ತಿತ್ತು.  ಹೆಣ್ಣಾರು? ಗಂಡಾರು? ಎಂಬ ಪ್ರಶ್ನೆಗಳನ್ನೂ ಜಾತಿ ತಿಕ್ಕಾಟಗಳ ಮಧ್ಯೆ ಸೇರಿಸಿಕೊಂಡರೆ ದಾಟಬೇಕಾಗಿರುವ ಕಂದರ ಎಷ್ಟು ದೊಡ್ಡದು ಎಂದು ಓದುಗನಿಗೆ ಗೋಚರಿಸಬಹುದು.  ಕಾದಂಬರಿಕಾರರಾಗಿ ತಾವೇ ನ್ಯಾಯ ಹೇಳುವ ತುಡಿತ ಭೈರಪ್ಪನವರಲ್ಲಿ ಇರುವುದು ಕೇಳುತ್ತದೆ.  ಆದರೆ ಅವರು ನ್ಯಾಯಾನ್ಯಾಯ ನಿರ್ಣಯ ಮಾಡುವುದಿಲ್ಲ. ಸತ್ಯಭಾಮೆಯೂ ಸಹ ಪ್ರಶ್ನೆಗಳನ್ನು ಕೇಳಿಕೊಳ್ಳುತ್ತಾಳೆ, ಅಥವಾ ಬೇರೆಯವರಲ್ಲಿ ವಿನಂತಿಸಿಕೊಳ್ಳುತ್ತಾಳೆ.  ಅರ್ಧಬಂರ್ಧ ಉತ್ತರಗಳು ಕೆಲವರ ಸಾವಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಸಿಗುತ್ತದೆ.  ಆ ಸಾವುಗಳ ತುಲನೆಯನ್ನೂ ಓದುಗ ಮಾಡಬಹುದು. ಅದು ಒಳ್ಳೆಯ ಚಟುವಟಿಕೆ ಎಂಬುದೇ ನನ್ನ ಆಂಬೋಣ.  ದಾಟುವುದು ಕಷ್ಟ ಎನಿಸುವ ಮುಂಚೆ ನಿಮ್ಮ ಮನಸ್ಸಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಪ್ರವಾಹ ಉಕ್ಕಿ ಬಂದರೂ ನನಗೆ ಆಶ್ಚರ್ಯವಿಲ್ಲ.  ಓದಿ, ದಾಟಿ ನೋಡಿ. 

ಜೊತೆಗೆ ಇಂದಿನ “ಆಡಿಯೋ ಪುಸಕ್ತ” ಯುಗದಲ್ಲಿ, ತೂಕಡಿಸುತ್ತಿದ್ದ ನನ್ನನ್ನು ಎಚ್ಚರಗೊಳಿಸುತ್ತಾ ನನ್ನವಳು ಅತ್ಯುತ್ತಮವಾಗಿ ಈ ಕಥೆಯನ್ನು ಹೇಳಿದ್ದೂ ನನ್ನಲ್ಲಿ ಅತೀವ ಸಂತಸ ಉಂಟುಮಾಡಿದೆ.


The Fetish for Giant Statues in Modern Indian Politics

A thousand years ago (in 980 CE), an acclaimed sculptor oversaw the making of a big monolithic statue of Mahaaveera, a Jaina Teerthankara. The 57 foot tall statue has continued to serve its purpose for all these centuries and today it is still sanding strong in Shravanabelagola, Karnataka. Around 500 years ago (in 1528 CE), Emperor Krishnadevaraya of the Vijayanagara Kingdom commissioned the sculpting of a big monolithic statue of Ugra Narasimha, a Hindu deity in Hampi, Karnataka. The statue of Ugra Narasimha (~21 feet in height) was vandalized many times by tyrants but it is still there standing bright amidst Hampi ruins. A giant Buddha statue in Leshan, China (carved in 8th century CE) is still there. The giant statues of Buddha in Bamiyan (7th century CE) that were carved into the natural hill cliffs in Afghanistan were lost under tragic circumstances.

Today in India, central and many state governments are spending millions on tall statues of historical figures. For instance, the central government wants to build a 182 m tall iron statue of Vallabha Bhai Patel, at an estimated total cost of nearly $550 million (Rs 3000 crores). The Maharashtra state government intends to build a 210 m tall gigantic statue of Shivaji spending $280 million (Rs 1200 crores). Now, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana state governments are competing to build two statues of B R Ambedkar (both >100 feet tall). All of these governments are also in a race to outdo one another in misusing people’s money. There are some NGOs and some private consortia that are funding the building of giant statues of religious or spiritual symbolism. Their intentions are also suspect. India is not the only country that is obsessed with Gigantism in statue building.  An internet search will give you a list of at least 50 other statues of such gigantic proportions from all over the world.  It is easy not to overlook that most of these statues have been commissioned and built over the last 15 years. Many countries are in the process of erecting some new statues of incredible size and proportions.

tall statues of the world

Our current political leaders have no idea of what statues can and can’t do. Indian politicians (by and large) do not understand the value of public money anyway. They certainly do not understand the value of visionaries like B R Ambedkar. Sculpting of a Gommateshwara in 10th century CE in hard granite is not the same as casting gigantic pieces of modern metallic or concrete “junk” in 21st century. We cannot compare the artistic grandeur of Ugra Narasimha to modern construction of concrete statues in many places all over the world. There is nothing great about building any big statue that has no aesthetic or technical appeal (be it of Gods or of mere mortals). Building statues is not a challenge with today’s technology and mechanical support but building statues incurs costs without benefits. By entering the rat race of building the tallest statues in the world, India does not suddenly start respecting and practicing the values espoused by its heroes.

Indian politicians are not paying any attention to ancient monuments that are decaying due to decades of neglect.  All they want is to misuse public money to erect some XYZ statue, so that, they get to unveil a piece of tiny slab inscribed with their names on the day of statue inauguration. They don’t realise that building such statues may take many years and the people who started the project will not be in office and may have died, and costs sky rocket by the time the ill-conceived monster comes to life. The fetish for these useless modern colossi is hard to explain. Justifications including the sultry notion of national integration, or the sundry notion of local pride are a façade. These living politicians have no achievements of their own to commission their own statues and sadly, the dead are revived and hung to dry in the open again. Perhaps it is not feasible in a democracy like India to erect your own statue. Some kings, queens and some dictators used to do that in the past. I hope these politicians realise that their names on the parapet are even less durable than these statues themselves.  Indians do not value such statues anyway. The poor state of hundreds of human sized Ambedkar statues (with not-so-shining suits and boots) and thousands of Mahatma Gandhi statues (with broken glasses and shabby walking stick) in the streets and corners all over India serve a grim reminder. It is a different matter as to what concern we have for the modern day Ambedkars. Mahatma Gandhis are extinct anyway.

The Roman colossus of Nero began as Nero, became some other Sun God at some point, and then the statue’s head was replaced to convert him into some other emperor. The same is also true for many temples and monuments, which evolve and become something else through generations. But, some monuments survive and gigantic statues rarely survive. Those that survive and remain endearing to the public are often aesthetically, spiritually, and sometimes technically awe-inspiring. Those that survive are not the “me too” types. We should not forget that the Colossus of Nero probably did not help Nero glorify his legacy, and his statue did not even survive the fall of the Roman empire.

PS: Some of you might be thinking of Ozymandias by P B Shelley (1792-1822).

 

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