[lg policy] Spirit of Kannada

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at GMAIL.COM
Sun Apr 3 16:21:26 UTC 2011

forwarded by E. Annamalai this from the magazine Frontline.


 <http://www.frontlineonnet.com/index.htm> [image: Frontline]
*Volume 28 - Issue 07 :: Mar. 26-Apr. 08, 2011*
from the publishers of THE HINDU  *•*

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* Spirit of Kannada *

* in Belgaum*

 * The second World Kannada Conference turns out to be a celebration of
Kannada as representing “a culture, a state of mind”. *


* The procession on the opening day of the conference on March 11. *

 TWO words resonated in the heat and dust of Belgaum throughout the
three-day World Kannada Conference – “Kannadanadu” and “Belagaavi”. While
Kannadanadu signified not so much a nation of Kannada-speaking people but
rather a sense of belonging and oneness among the lakhs of Kannadigas who
congregated from across the globe at the conference, Belagaavi (the Kannada
name for Belgaum) was used to send out a clear message to neighbouring
Maharashtra that Belgaum belonged to Karnataka and its people. The two
States have fought over the status of Belgaum for over half a century.

The choice of the venue of the Rs.30-crore extravaganza had provoked an
immediate response from Maharashtra, with Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray
stating that “the Karnataka government had chosen Belgaum as the venue
purposely” to provoke Maharashtra. He added that a Kannada meet in Belgaum
would not strengthen Karnataka's claim to the city.

Contrary to expectations, the World Kannada Conference, held from March
11-13, did not turn into a jingoistic shouting post for Kannada, as events
of this nature generally tend to, nor was it all about the language.
Kannada, which was accorded classical status in 2008, has become much more
than a language, according to Girish Karnad, the acclaimed writer, director,
actor and playwright. Speaking to Frontline, Karnad explained that Kannada
represented “a culture, a state of mind”, and many people who did not speak
Kannada wanted to feel and share the Kannadiga atmosphere.

Similar thoughts were expressed by Jayant Kaikini, an important member of
Kannada's younger breed of writers. Said the Bangalore-based writer of short
stories, film scripts and poetry: “Kannada is not just a language, but an
environment, a way of living, providing a certain vision. The language is
only part of it. The conference, with its emphasis on Kannada culture, folk
dances, art and lore, served to revive a spirit that was declining with the
onslaught of consumerism and globalisation.” Kaikini, who chaired the poetry
session, added that the conference went beyond the routine and thus served
to boost the self-esteem of the people. “In the time of urban and money
arrogance, which is indirectly connected to English arrogance, anything with
a local flavour and showcasing Kannada's heritage, folk art forms, theatre,
literature, and so on, is welcome.”

According to I.M. Vittal Murthy, a senior bureaucrat who was designated
Special Officer for the conference, the meet was meant to “celebrate and
herald the achievements of Karnataka and Kannadigas since the formation of
linguistic States in 1956”. Murthy said that the conference sought a
connection between the past, the present and the future.

To many, the conference, the second of its kind, the inaugural one having
been held in Mysore in 1985, turned out to be a kind of coming together. It
created an awareness and undertook a sort of cultural stocktaking: to see
how far Kannadigas had, in the days of globalisation, haphazard development,
multiculturalism and unbridled urbanisation, drifted away from their
culture, nativity, language and roots, and progressed otherwise.

The three-day spectacle got off to a noisy and colourful start with a
six-kilometre-long procession. If the size of the gathering was any
indication, it was a grand success.

The procession, which started off in the vicinity of the Congress Bhavi (or
Congress Well, the well that was dug to quench the thirst of thousands of
people who, along with Mahatma Gandhi, attended the 1924 Congress session in
Belgaum), included Balarama, the famous pachyderm which carries the golden
howdah during the annual Dasara festivities in Mysore, and six other
elephants. Also in attendance were dancing horses, Yakshagana performers and
over a thousand other folk artistes, all of whom showcased the multi-hued
cultural traditions and art forms of the State.

The inaugural function at the Rani Chennamma district stadium was witnessed
by over three lakh people. On three rows on the dais sat eminent
personalities from across the State, straddling fields as diverse as art and
culture, literature, music, dance, theatre, cinema, industry, politics and

Starting off the festivities was a scintillating Hindustani-Carnatic
jugalbandi by Kadri Gopalnath, the saxophonist who has adapted the woodwind
instrument to Carnatic music, and Narasimhalu Vadavatti, the clarinet
exponent. (On the days that followed, there were memorable performances by
the Carnatic vocalist Dr M. Balamuralikrishna, the ever-popular singer S.P.
Balasubramaniam, the music composer Hamsalekha and the flautist Praveen
Ghodkindi, to name but a few.)

Infosys Technologies' chief mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy, who inaugurated the
conference, spoke of the need for a multilingual environment if Karnataka
were to progress but stressed the need to speak in one's mother tongue at
home. Said Narayana Murthy: “I was born in Siddlaghatta in Kolar district,
studied in Mysore and Kanpur, and has worked in Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Pune and
Paris. So I know many languages. Multiple languages help me in my
profession. But I am always a Kannadiga at heart. We speak Kannada at home.
Though I use English for my official communication, even now I like to
express my emotions in Kannada.”

He also echoed the perspective of many Kannadigas when he said: “Development
of Karnataka does not mean development of big cities and towns, or progress
of software companies. True progress is only when there is an improvement in
the quality of life of the hapless people in the villages.”

* Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa (right) with Infosys chief
mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy at the meet. *

The loudest cheer at the inaugural function was reserved for the actor
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan – though detractors questioned the decision to invite
her to the event because, according to them, she had done nothing for the
State – and former India cricket captain Anil Kumble.

Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa announced the establishment of a park and a
glass house on a portion of Belgaum's historical 62.4-hectare Vaccine
Institute to commemorate the World Kannada Conference. He also announced
that henceforth the World Kannada Conference would be held once in five
years and that he would make efforts to get Belgaum renamed Belagaavi.

The Jnanpith Award winner and noted Kannada writer U.R. Ananthamurthy and
Rashtrakavi Dr G. S. Shivarudrappa, well-known votaries of making Kannada
the medium of instruction in schools, expressed regret that successive
governments had not had the resolve to take a decision in this regard.
Ananthamurthy observed that English should act as a rich fertilizer to
Kannada, not overpower it. English, he added, had divided India into a rich
India and a poor India. In a reference to Bangalore's multinational software
companies benefiting from the State's facilities but not giving back enough
to Kannada, the writer sought to know whether multinational companies could
prosper in countries such as Germany and France if they were apathetic to
the local languages.

Speaking to Frontline, Ananthamurthy said that the people of Karnataka
wanted Kannada to become the lingua franca of Bangalore. He added that
entrepreneurs and heads of multinational companies should do some
introspection: “Even while employing those who are intelligent, they must
conduct a committed search for talent from the underprivileged. This will
allow new ideas and knowledge to emerge. Otherwise, we will only be serving
up what we already know. Companies should also use the local language for
some purposes. A language cannot grow because of its literature alone. It
needs the support of the state.”

Shivarudrappa, in his speech, lamented the failure of successive governments
to protect the interests of the State and tackle corruption, communalism,
reckless industrialisation, and the destruction of the ecology in the name
of development and the impact of all these on language and culture.
Shivarudrappa, who has been critical of the government policy of imparting
education in both Kannada and English from Class I, wants a downscaling of
English; he also wants companies such as Infosys to provide employment to
those who study in the Kannada medium.

The conference saw an exhibition of over 10 lakh books in all genres of
Kannada literature. In addition, the Department of Kannada and Culture
brought out 100 important and representative works from all genres of
Kannada literature. Veteran actor Anant Nag urged the government to organise
literary meets in the border areas of the State to strengthen Kannada and
culture. A Kannada film festival was organised during the conference. The
Kannada film industry sent nearly 1,000 representatives.

Seminars on topics such as “Knowledge, science and technology”, “Kannada and
globalisation” and “Opportunities for investors” were conducted as part of
the conference.

Speaking at the “Kannada and globalisation” seminar, T. Mohandas Pai,
director (human resources), Infosys Technologies, said that industries were
fleeing Karnataka because of rampant corruption. “They [public
representatives and bureaucrats] ask for bribes. You have to pay money
whether it is to get land or to get an environmental clearance. This has
forced investors to shift base out of Karnataka.”

During the conference, Yeddyurappa met with around 60 non-resident
Kannadigas (NRKs) from across the globe. Many of them had been specially
invited for the meet, and the Chief Minister sought their help in the
development of the State and in attracting overseas investments. Many of the
NRKs wanted the government's Non-Resident Indian (NRI) Cell to scale up its
activities and coordinate with NRKs.

Said Amarnath Gowda, an attorney and counsellor-at-law in the United States
and a former president of the Association of Kannada Kootas of America
(AKKA): “Just as much as we want the government to help us in imparting
Kannada to our children and in keeping us in touch with our traditions by
sending teachers or organising cultural meets abroad, we want the State to
benefit from the goodwill that we have earned by our contributions to our
local communities in various parts of the world. We are in an ideal position
to influence local leaders in our communities. This can be leveraged by the
Karnataka government.”

Dayashankar Adappa, AKKA president, said that there should be constant
interaction between NRKs and the government. “The government has to devise
ways to involve overseas Kannadigas in the development of the State. It can
do much more and we are ready to help. And this help need not be just in
terms of money,” he said.


In the run-up to the conference, the government's decision to invite
Narayana Murthy to inaugurate the conference was questioned by some writers
and activists, who accused the Infosys chief of not having done anything to
protect the interests of Kannada and Kannadigas.

Bargur Ramachandrappa, a leading Kannada writer, led the criticism by
stating that he was appalled that a person who, outside of entrepreneurship,
had contributed little to Kannada should be inaugurating the conference. He
pointed out that Narayana Murthy's software company had not even come up
with a Kannada software/font and had instead been a vociferous champion of
education in the English medium.

However, Ramachandrappa's view that “calling upon somebody who is just an
entrepreneur to inaugurate a World Kannada Conference was an insult to
Kannada culture, literature and folklore” cut no ice with the government.
The government's stance also found favour with Girish Karnad, who said,
“Kannada is a mindset and I see nothing wrong in somebody who represents
today's mindset inaugurating the World Kannada Conference. Narayana Murthy
certainly represents this modern state of mind. It is time we stopped
looking backwards and moved away from our preoccupation with Kempe Gowda and
Rani Chennamma.”

   * *


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 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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