Revisiting a legend

Revisiting a legend

A pleasant Sunday afternoon is usually best spent lazing around at home but hordes of Bengalureans decided to battle the heat and traffic to attend the second day of 'Bangalore Literature Festival '17'. The literary event, held at The Lalit Ashok Bangalore, saw a confluence of literary celebs, established writers, reading enthusiasts and regular families looking to spend their weekend in a meaningful way.

One of the sessions that garnered much interest was a panel discussion on the life and works of A K Ramanujan, poet, scholar, philologist, folklorist, translator and playwright. Titled 'The World of A K Ramanujan', the discussion saw the presence of Girish Karnad and Guillermo Rodriguez and Chandan Gowda.

Guillermo Rodriguez talked about his decision to do a PhD on Ramanujan's poetry and his fascination with the poet's works and the multiple layers of his literary artefacts. He talked about how poetry and Ramanujan became a window to the Indian society for him and opened up the world of Indian culture to him.

The Spaniard detailed the effort he put into his dissertation, which involved tracking and chasing down almost every person who was associated with or had spoken to Ramanujan. Incidentally, Guillermo is the first researcher to have accessed Ramanujan's unpublished materials, including letters, diary entries and drafts of poems, essays and lectures, at The University of Chicago.

Talking about the reason behind a large portion of Ramanujan's works not being published, Guillermo explained, "He was very demanding of himself. There was a lot of self-censorship that happened in his writing which is why many of his works were not brought out. After his death, his ex-wife donated all the written material to The University of Chicago and that enabled me and others like me to access all this."

Guillermo also praised Ramanujan for his contribution in bringing Dravidian studies on the global academic map and even the pop culture.

Girish Karnad, despite keeping in poor health, was an active participant throughout the discussion and talked about his own perception of the poet. He praised Ramanujan's astute observational skills and hailed him as the first person who drew attention to the stories told by the women in the kitchen and his ability to apply that elsewhere. He also drew attention to an interesting phenomenon of characters and places getting names and identity when they came into the public sphere, and not when they were being recounted in stories by old women.

"Ramanujan was able to apply what he saw in a Kannada kitchen to Tamil poetry and illuminate a whole range of studies," said Girish. The session also saw readings of some of the selected works of the poet.

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