'It's sad that a Muslim has to prove his Indianness'

The Inquirer

'It's sad that a Muslim has to prove his Indianness'

 Bolwar Mahamad KunhiFor more than three decades, he has been in the forefront as a writer and an activist. He strongly believes that literature can bring about changes and it has done so in history.

Bolwar is a bank executive — chief manager (publicity) for Syndicate Bank in Bangalore. Short story is his favourite form of literature. He has published collections of short stories — ‘Atta Ittagala Sutta Mutta’, ‘Devarugala Rajyadalli’, ‘Anka’, ‘Akashakke Neeli Parade’ and ‘Ondu Tundu Gode’. His characters exhibit commitment to secular values and strive for harmony.

Bolwar’s contribution to children’s literature is also significant. He brought out a collection of poems written by various poets — ‘Tattu Chappale Putta Magu’. His ‘Papu Gandhi’, ‘Gandhi Bapu Aada Kathe’, a life sketch of Mahatma Gandhi for children recently won him the Central Sahitya Academy award in the children’s literature category. The award, which carries a cash prize of Rs 50,000 and a memento, was presented at a function held in Delhi on Sunday (November 14). Satish Shile of Deccan Herald spoke to Kunhi on being conferred with this prestigious honour. Excerpts:

What drove you to a career in writing?

Writing was not my passion until a colleague inspired me to write a short story in early 1970s when I was working in Gulbarga. My first story was published by a newspaper and that was enough to prompt me to write more and more. In the beginning I had not thought of bringing in issues concerning religion in my writings. Gradually, I dealt with those issues. And, reaching out to people, particularly children of the Beary community, and educating them through literature became one of the mottos of my writing.

You got the academy award for your literary piece written for children. What was your objective when you started writing for children?

The country’s future is shaped by today’s children. They should develop noble values at an young age. My ‘Papu Gandhi’, ‘Gandhi Bapu Aada Kathe’ is a narration of Gandhi’s life for children. In recent years Gandhi and his values have been ignored. If children are told that Gandhi was like any other kid before becoming a Mahatma, they will develop interest in knowing about him and try to inculcate his values. If they decide not to tell lies after going through Gandhi’s life story that itself is enough.

Do you think literature can bring about changes in society?

I strongly believe literature can bring in changes in the mindset of people and influence them to do good. Every religion has its holy books. These holy books have been influencing people for ages. These works are nothing but literature.

Have you come across any changes that have resulted from your writings?

My intention in early days was to reach out to young minds of my community (Beary) who did not have access to modern education. I chose to write for weekly magazines popular in Dakshina Kannada. My short stories were widely read. At times I had to face difficult situations because of my views. Those who opposed girls going to schools then have changed their views now. My writings became a subject of discussion among locals and I constantly kept in touch with the community people and tried hard to motivate them. Those who opposed me then, now appreciate my writings.

In my earlier writings I had to strike a balance while criticising conservative practices of both Muslims and Hindus. Moreover, my associations with Bandaya, a literary movement and with Samudaya, a theatre movement, gave me strength and support I needed those days.

As a writer, what are your views on the socio-economic status of minorities in the country?

Minorities in India are happier than the minorities in many other countries. Though minorities are considered second-rate citizens in this country, their status is better compared to their counterparts in other countries. I strongly feel minorities in this country can lead a contented life as long as they continue to be tolerant with the majority community.

At the same time I don’t subscribe to the argument that the government offer more facilities for Muslims than the others. Tell me what additional benefit a Muslim girl gets compared to any other girl from a backward Hindu community? Both fall under the backward classes category and enjoy common benefits. But Pejavar seer Vishvesha Teertha Swamiji and others keep commenting that Muslims enjoy more reservation and opportunities.

The Sachar Committee recommended reservation for Muslims and that committee has revealed that so far there has been no separate reservation for Muslims. It is sad that in India, all Hindus become Indians by birth, while a Muslim has to prove that he is an Indian and loves to be an Indian every moment.

What are you writing now?

I am writing a novel — ‘Avara Desha Avara Jeevana’ — which runs into at least 900 pages. The story begins in the pre-independence era and continues up to the contemporary time. There is a character whose story has similarities with the BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani. It basically revolves around the changes in the life of a nation in the last one century. I hope to complete the novel in about a year’s time.

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