In the august company of doyens

From the albums

In the august company of doyens

This photograph is a precious one. I was passing through hard days and remember purchasing this photograph with borrowed money. And I have kept it all these 58 years!

It was a red letter day for me. The well-wishers of ‘Kannada Sangha’ had come together and I, a student ‘writer’, was part of this esteemed gathering.

It was the day I met the doyens of Kannadaliterature like KS Narasimhaswamy, the author of ‘Mysore Mallige’;KV Iyer and Pu Thi Narasimhachar, the poet. I also met future poets and novelists like Nissar Ahmed and P Lankesh among others.
It was a unique opportunity to show our respects to GP Rajarathnam and V Sitaramaiah, who taught us what to read and how to write.

Also, the edibles we got on that day are unforgettable. All the items were made of ghee and the drinking water was mixed with ‘kesri’. For me, who came from a poor labour class family, this was a rare feast.

I also remember meeting Mo Subramanya Shastri, who had translated Sanskrit dramas into Kannada. Then there was the great lyrical poet Pu Thi Narasimhachar whose collection of poems ‘Ganesha Dharshana’ was a textbook for us and not to forget, RL Narasimhaiah, who wrote about ‘stars and planets’ in Kannada for the first time.

Our respected guru GP Rajarathnam had also joined us. His ‘Rathnan Padagalu’ is unique in Kannada literature. Among others, ther were Prof AR Krishna Shastry and V Sitaramaiah. How this ‘writer’ student was selected for the occasion is a story in itself. GP used to hold special evening classes five or six times in a year. We had learnt more things in these classes than the regular classes.

He used to read a passage from a book or recite a poem and write it on the board and ask us to copy it. He would explain the special feature of the passage / poem asking us to write a two-page appreciation. Based on the writing by students, the ‘writer’ member was selected.

Books were given as prize to all ‘writer’ members. I got three books by DV Gundappa. It is a treasure whichI preserve till now. Even today I keep ‘Kagga’ under my pillow while sleeping.

Those days, I was also a football player of the Central College team. Our Kannada class was at the fag end of the day — between 4.30 pm and 5.30 pm.

Once while I was sitting in the class, our captain signalled me to come out. I requested GP, who was taking classes to permit me to go because we had an important match at 5 pm.

GP was angry. He told me, ‘if you are a football player, you should be in the grounds, if you want to learn you should sit in the class’. Anyway, he allowed me to go. Fortunately, we became the winners of all the four inter-college tournaments conducted then.

Our team photo even appeared in Deccan Herald dated February 14, 1956. Later, GP met me in the college corridor.

He patted me and said “Good, you are the champions. I saw your photo, forget what I said the other day!”

BV Nanjundiah (Stage, film and TV artiste)

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