Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Short Holiday in Dakshina Kannada

Onwards to Mangalore

A quaint station on the way

Exiting one of the fifty odd tunnels the train passes through

Panoramic view to the right of the train

A small waterfall to the right of the train

One of the bridges that spans a deep ravine. See the three locos required to pull (actually push back) the train

 Entering one of the tunnels

Yours truly in front of a cave, called Parasurama guhe, on Kunjalagiri, near Pajaka - the birthplace of Madhvacharya.


A Garudagamba in one of the Devi temples, with the moon

An old old bridge on the way to Dharmasthala and is next to the sangama of Netravati and Kumaradhara

A butterfly trapped in a cup full of natural rubber being collected from a rubber tree.

 Devotees at a rare open air Ganapati temple

A rainbow in broad daylight without rain! Never have I seen one such before.

Garudagamba (?) in front of the the Thousand Pillared Basti in Mudabidri.

The view of the Basti with evening sky

 A storm threatens us at the Ullala beach.

Statue of Rani Abbaka Devi of Ullal. A figure that fascinated my sister and I when we had a lesson describing her heroics during her war against Portuguese invaders in the mid-seventeen hundreds. She formed a part of our games too.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Remembering Shivaram Karanth

It was in the mid 60’s. My father was invited to give a talk either in Puttur or Mangalore. The man who had invited him was none other than the polymath Shivaram Karanth. He was already familiar to me through his encyclopaedic works in Kannada. Though I had read little, I had devoured all the pictures in that book. I meekly put in an application to my father that I wanted to go with him. In retrospect, I am amazed that he agreed to take me along, after he sought the permission of Karanth. Those were the days before the telephone, so to say. The unendurable anticipation ended when Karanth said I was welcome and soon we were off.

The magic element started soon after we left Mysore by bus – I saw a mongoose cross the road in front of the speeding bus. I screamed in excitement and went red in the face when the whole bus turned to look at me.

Karanth had sent a car to the bus stand to pick us up. When we reached his house, I gaped open mouthed when I saw Karanth come out in kacche panche and banian. In my childish imagination, he was always dressed in a full kurta as in the photographs I had seen.

His house had two parts. An older Mangalore tiled part and a newer brick and concrete roofed structure standing a little apart from the older part. I was sleepy soon after dinner, in the older part of his two part house. We soon moved towards the newer part before which Karanth lit a cigarette and smoked, sitting on the steps leading to it. When we entered the building my mouth fell open. The walls were lined on all four sides with hundreds of issues of National Geographic magazine. There must have been a thousand other books there but all I could see was the golden yellow!
Soon, Karanth explained the sleeping arrangements: Lakshmana Rao and I will sleep in this hall. Anila will sleep in the next room on the tiger skin. In the night the tiger will wake up and kachch (kachchu in Kannada means to bite) him. Now this was a revelation! How can such a great man indulge in such jokes? Such thoughts were drowned in the fear of the impossible happening! I peeped into the next room and there was indeed a huge tiger skin on the floor with its mouth wide open and glassy eyes staring straight ahead, fortunately, away from me. He told my father how it came to be but I do not remember it since I was staring at a large framed oil colour canvas, perhaps 2m by 3m, resting against a wall. Years later, when I first saw a picture of a Gauguin, it reminded me of that painting. Was it Karanth’s himself? Or was it a Hebbar?

Thankfully, I did not have to sleep in that room alone and we slept on beds spread on the floor and quite close to my father.

The next morning, at breakfast he introduced us to his daughter who came to serve us, “she is my daughter, kShAmadevi….” (Thanks to the simple transliteration in English, the name could be pronounced with the first vowel short or long. When short, it means goddess of mercy or pardon and when long it means goddess of famine!) The item she had come to serve was a dark brown/black halwa with ghee oozing from it. He instructed me, “ತಿನ್ನಯ್ಯಾ ss ss s, it is genuine Indiyaaa rubber” in a theatrical style and voice.

He later asked me, “ಏನಯ್ಯಾ ನೀನೇನು ನೋಡ್ಬೇಕು? ಮಂಗಳೂರಿಗೆ ಹೋಗಿ ಅರಬ್ಬೀ ಸಮುದ್ರ ನೋಡ್ಬೇಕೋ? ಕಾರ್ಕಳಕ್ಕೆ ಹೋಗಿ ಗೊಮ್ಮಟನ್ನ ನೋಡ್ಬೇಕೋ? (My man, what do you want to see? Go to Mangalore and  Arabian Sea or got to KarkaLa and Gommateswara) I chose Mangalore and the sea. And that is what we did. On the way there, he challenged me, “ನೀನು ಇಂಜಿನಿಯರ್ ಆಗಿ ಪುತ್ತೂರಿನಿಂದ ಮಂಗಳೂರಿಗೆ ಹೋಗೋ ರಸ್ತೇನ ನೆಟ್ಟಗೆ ಮಾಡಿದರೆ ನಿನಗೆ ನೊಬೆಲ್ ಪ್ರೈಜ್ ಕೊಡಿಸ್ತೀನಿ.” (If you study Engineering and straighten the road from Puttur to Mangalore, I will get you a Nobel Prize) Unfortunately, I never took up the challenge.

As with childhood memories, perhaps aided by some of these things recounted by father later, my memories stop there. I have some visual memories of the lay of the land near his house, his fair shiny hairless shoulder and upper arm peeping out of the banian, the remarkable twinkle in his eyes which would suddenly disappear when deep in thought and so on.

I write all this to show how childlike he was while dealing with me as a boy – a facet of a great man that hardly ever gets described.

Note: This was written on Karanth's 110th birthday -  this year - 10th October. 

Sunday, October 07, 2012

An Explanation

I posted this picture on Facebook and commented that people who collect blood - like blood banks - might have missed an opportunity here. (The last line in the banner says "we are ready to give blood but we will not give a drop of water")

Three of my good friends took objection to this. One of them (F1) said I was being insensitive. Another (F2) said that he felt bad. I am particularly fond of this friend F2 and hence his opinion matters to me. If I make him feel bad, even unintentionally, I feel very bad. It so happens that the third friend is also someone who I am very fond of agreed with F1 and F2 and said that he is sensitive to social and farmer related issues.

Starting from the last one, my response is - so am I! But the question is, are farmers in Tamil Nadu not farmers? Having said that, I do not know if the demands made by the TN government are just or not. Since the dam was built by Karnataka (The erstwhile princely state of Mysore), it is in Karnataka, Karnataka "loses" large tracts of land to store the water and the major part of, if not all of, all the people displaced by the waters are in Karnataka, the catchment area for the dam is in Karnataka and Karnataka bears the maintenance charges for the dam, does Karnataka have a greater claim on the waters?

(The plight of the displaced people is something ignored by all. Some of those 'new' settlements have drinking water shortage. Since their numbers are smaller their cries are unheard. All of us are guilty.)

If I remember and understand right, some agreement was reached on the water sharing issue and Karnataka was supposed to release x units of water but TN is asking for 6x. Upping the ante like this is not fair if my understanding is right.

The other reason that makes me not take the banner seriously is this. Is it really the directly affected people who feel so or is it the politicians of both TN and KA whipping up passions for their gain and let the people (farmers and others) be damned. Do we really know either way?

And one final point is that is it not better that we share waters justly, the only measure of it is optimising or maximising food grain production for the nation? Yes, it is right to be sensitive to famers' issues - even if it is purely out of self interest! But that is not my interest. Assume that KA hoards water, a not inconsiderable part of it will evaporate over time, and we as a nation produce less grain than we could, who are the worst affected? The poorest of the poor - farmers and other workers - industrial or otherwise and every one of us

The slogan quoted above is emotional. I do not reject emotions but distrust them. When rational solutions are the need, emotions are at best distrusted!

Dear F1, F2, F3, I rest my case.

* Note, when I talk about Karnataka above, I do not say "we" - only when I talk of India.