Sugata, a journalist, writer and translator, working as one of the editors of Outlook, has collected some very perceptive biographical pieces which are moving and original observations on them relate to the anxieties and responses of a regional language ? Kannada and cultures that were suddenly exposed to the speed and dynamics of globalisation. This book is a report primarily on the ?onslaught? of English and the milieu it generates. In other words, it is essentially about Kannada language and literature and culture. It also resonates with the crisis faced by practically thousands of regional tongues across the globe.
The author'sown biography is emblematic of the fate of the Kannada culture. Beginning as an ardent defender of Kannada culture, art and literature, but having worked and studied both the threats and opportunities, which face traditional societies in the presence of global monoculture, and having been exposed to both English language and Hindi, he recognises that the work of preservation can quickly fall into a sterile and backward-looking desire to freeze the past.
He says that on scanning more than 1,000-year old written history of Kannada language and literature, he is convinced that an enlightened cosmopolitanism is a constant and continuous stream through the centuries. It is built by imagining a common destiny for the human race. He says that Pampa, the 10th century poet, in his epic Pampa Bharata, says, ?Manava jati tanode vallam?, meaning the entire human race is one.
In the early part of the 20th century, Kuvempu'sengagement with an ?unhoused soul? strives to nourish the stream in the lines below:
Winnow the chaff of a hundred
Beyond the systems, hollow as reed,
Turn unhorizoned where truth leads,
To be unhoused, O my soul!
Before Kuvempu, Govinda Pai explored the last days of Christ through his epic Golgotha and last day of Buddha in Vaishaki, in which he wrote as a dedication line:
?Truth is the only chariot on which the chariots of all gods run.?
Even the most ordinary characters in Masti Iyengar'sshort stories, like Mangamma, the curd seller or ?talkative? Ramanna demonstrate the cosmopolitan spirit. Lankesh'swritings have a ?special way of keeping contact with the world despite its involvement in the minutiae of Kannada culture,? says the compiler. U.R. Ananthamurthy and Girish Karnad explore cosmopolitanism by working on pan-Indian ideas of history, caste, mythology, bhakti and religion. It runs in the works of the Dalit writer, Devanuru Mahadeva. It is also amply substantiated in his idea of ?Sarvodaya Karnataka?, a political forum he created to unite the oppressor and the oppressed in a feudal milieu. To integrate organic farming, one of the key agendas of the party, with the idea of ending caste violence is in itself a harmonious, non-violent and therefore a Gandhian way of solving issues on hand, and this is seen in A Writer Dreams Big.
One of the intentions of the compiler is to suggest that we need to innovate to protect our mother tongues and their rooted cosmopolitan milieus. He then suggests some of the models that have been tried in the Kannada context ? the creation of Kannada word processing software; the Kannada blogs; the lexicographic enterprises in the last 50 years; the creation of an exclusive Kannada University to ?create knowledge in Kannada? and not just literature at Hampi; and so on. The final word of the compiler is that new methods that we may devise and the strategies that we build henceforth will have to be broad-based and not confined to language and literature alone. An expanded vision will ensure a vibrant existence of our cultures and languages in a globalised world and not a ?clipped and compromised existence of an artefact.? So the time is now to begin as the reference point being Kannada, though the compiler'sconcerns include all the languages of India.
(Navakarnataka Publications Private Limited, Embassy Centre, Crescent Road, Bangalore?560 001.)