To understand churumuri’s R.K. Narayan campaign, we must turn our minds towards Trichy. There, three weeks ago, the house where the only Indian physics Nobel laureate, Sir C.V. Raman, was born and bred, was demolished.
We must turn our minds towards Hubli-Dharwad, where the private bus service in the twin cities is called, most unbelievably, Bendre Bus Service.
We must turn our minds towards Pune, where the Symbiosis Institute has set up a statue of the Common Man that Narayan’s younger brother R.K. Laxman introduced to the world.
And we must turn our minds towards a letter from Poornima Venkatesh in the Star of Mysore of April 18, 2006, in which she responds to an editorial in that newspaper four days earlier.
“Recently,” says Poornima, “during a visit to Delhi, I went to the Indira Gandhi museum reluctantly. To my surprise, I spent more time there than I had expected and was fascinated by the rare pictures of her and her family and other items on display.
“Millions of us grew up watching Dr Raj’s movies and listening to his songs. Our children and grandchildren too should be exposed to the actor’s great qualities… I hope the Government sets up a Dr Raj Kumar Museum for public display.”
In short, to understand churumuri’s R.K. Narayan campaign, we must get out of the little holes we have dug in our minds of what should be or can be.
The issue is not about getting a road or a circle named after him. That’s easy, all it takes is a glass of panaka with a Corporator. And you know which one he likes.
The issue is not about holding a seminar or centenary events. That too is easy, all it takes is networking with the hyphens.
The issue is about creating something more substantial, something that will last forever.
Something that shows we care.
The issue is about how we honour the good and the great. And about who decides whom to honour. The issue is about how we remember our icons and legends. And how we remind them to those who will follow us. The issue is about how we perpetuate their memory to all those who enter and pass through our city.
On those simple parameters, there is no shame in admitting that Mysore and Mysoreans have failed Rasipuram Krishnaswamy Narayana Iyer.
Yes, R.K. Narayan was no man of the masses. But which writer is and why should he be in what is a solitary trade? Are all those who have roads and circles named after them men of the masses? If so, what is the minimum requirement?
Does anybody know who on earth A. Ramanna is that he should get a major junction in Yadavagiri, an area he had only recently moved into, named after him while he was alive, while Narayan just up the hill was gasping for life?
Yes, R.K. Narayan was no folk hero like Kuvempu. But which English writer is and how can he ever be in a nation where illiteracy is so high and English readership is always, forever, going to be lower than, say, Kannada readership?
Does anybody know what T.N. Narasimha Murthy’s great contribution to our City is that the biggest circle should be named after him? Just that he conveniently passed away when it was nearing completion?
Yes, U.R. Anantha Murthy should speak up an issue like this, if only to reassure the world that, for just this once, he does not think the world revolves around him. There have been others bigger and better before him and he should use what Narayan didn’t have and he does—political canny—to get their due.
But URA is only an emblem and, hey, where would all these English writers and professors, and us, be if Narayan hadn’t started writing in English?
Which is why we should think of Raman and Bendre and Laxman and Indira Gandhi while thinking of what we can do for R.K. Narayan.
We should think of Sir C.V. Raman’s house because it shows our extraordinarily poor sense of history. What would have it taken a government that promises 10 kg or rice for every 10 kg bought to preserve Sir C.V.’s house for posterity?
We should think of Bendre Bus Service because it shows that our politicians and administrators can get out of the linguistic, parochial and communal straitjacket that we have thrust them into. Bendre like Narayan was an expat in his own land.
We must think of the Common Man’s statue because it shows what good corporate social citizenship can do. A “deemed university” had the vision and foresight to recognize Laxman. The editor-in-chief of “India’s National Newspaper Since 1878” (2005 turnover: Rs 1,200 crore) for whom Narayan wrote all his life didn’t even have the courtesy to respond to a petition from eminent Mysoreans on the issue.
And we must think of Indira Gandhi’s museum because it shows us what we can do to give generations of Indians an inside view of how India’s most famous English writer lived and worked. We will be able to see his desk, his writing implements, his books, everything.
Nobody wants Mysore to be a city of mausoleums like Delhi.
Still, R.K. Narayan is, without question, responsible for spreading the name of our City the farthest. What are we going to tell those who come here looking for him? What are we going to show of his house?
Italian ceramic tiles?
With a little effort, R.K. Narayan could well be Mysore’s finest tourist symbol like writers in the West are. But we need to get out of the huge hole we have buried him (and ourselves) into.
If all we have to show to the world are roads, circles, memorials, halls, localities named after two-bit politicians, three-bit goons and four-bit operators, what a pathetic city we will turn out to be.
Or already are.
I agree with this writter. To show our next generations what our past generatons left for us in terms of determination and dedicaton.
I also believe our future generaton should not ask who is Rajkamur, when they are passing the roads or Circles which will be named after him. By building a musuem of his works, of his films, of this determination and dedication towards saving kannada, his messages through his films everything about him. I beleive it wont take much time or money for our Government to do this.
Atleast if not Government, people or sanghas who are talking about making Rajkumar live after his death also should do this.
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Churmuri says: Nobody wants Mysore to be a city of mausoleums like Delhi. Still, R.K. Narayan is, without question, responsible for spreading the name of our City the farthest. What are we going to tell those who come here looking for him? What are we going to show of his house
At http://www.mymysore.com we suggested a ‘RKN festival’. To read more check out: http://www.activeboard.com/forum.spark?forumID=56063&subForumID=142044&action=viewTopic&commentID=4259235&topicPage=
There is poignancy in your eloquence; sharp critique in your concern; a sense of history and sure respect for it in your words; an embittered yet strong yearning in your quest to get the great man his due.
As you say, it is not just a question of getting some blessed circle or road (almost always built by some nefarious contractor using sub standard materials!) named after Mr. R K Narayan but it is more of an attempt to lend a sense of permanence to his works; his very life and times and tell the world the larger story of his purpose.
A musuem would be such a wonderful idea. Indeed.
To show that Mysoreans care for literature and the literary minded and perhaps to also prove that the reputation the Mysore University once enjoyed the world over was not just one of those things.
As an after thought I suddenly remembered that Mr. R K Narayan is definitely not in the league of ‘mathadishwaras’ surely, for the government of Karnataka to readily, willingly, lovingly and urgently earmark 4 crores of taxpayers cash to celebrate the centenary of his birth!!!
Fantastic article that really drives home the point. Writers like RKN can never be born again. The rich aura of literature that RKN evokes can be attributed more to the simplicity of his characters and the ease in flow of the language. Indian Literature would never have been given its due in the international Hall of Fame if not for RKN’s amazing works.
It is always difficult for the government to identify people who stick to their simplicity without brandishing their image. RKN is one of them. He was the symbol of simplicity and he still lives in the hearts of millions of readers throughout the world.
There should be a mark of recognition for the newer generations to identify people from the past. I am not sure whether the government is going to do something on this regard, but as long as Indian Literature survives, Malgudi days will play a prominent part in shaping people’s lives for generations to come!
raising the issue of a city preserving the names of literary or artistic or music or social giant is timely. This reflects upon the cultural values of the city and holds a mirror to the values upheld by the residents.
All of us should be ashamed for the tragic deaths of eight which followed the death of Raj Kumar. We need to study this unfortunate event deeply from different angles. Experts and non-experts have started to advance their theories explaing this type of unusual “phenomenon”. Our society goes out of the way to demonstrate their “love” and “admiration” for their heroes. How come society does not show the same concern for their illustrious sons like R. K. Narayana, C. V. Raman etc ? Why do we even have to plead ?
I think the answers to your last two questions are quite simple.
How many people in KG Koppal know who CV Raman is ? How many of them know who RK Narayan is ? And, finally how many of them know who Rajkumar is ?
I am NOT implying that people in KG Koppal beat up everyone. From what I have seen in Mysore, KG Koppal is one of the areas with an extremely low percentage of educated people. By education, I mean simple literacy, nothing more.
When you talk to an educated person A vs an uneducated person B, it’s obviously easier to brainwash (for lack of a better word) person B. In this case, person B’s environment and surroundings also play a huge role.
Person B enjoys watching a Rajkumar movie and thoroughly gets a kick out of Rajkumar beating up the villains and dancing around with the heroine. It is impossible for person B to read RK Narayan for the simple reason that he cannot read. so, let’s not even go to CV Raman.
Now let us suppose RK Narayan’s “Guide” was made in Kannada and Rajkumar acted in it. Now, person B would connect with RK Narayn’s story through Rajkumar. And thus, ends up appreciating Rajkumar again, NOT RK Narayan.
So, education plays a huge role here. I am NOT trying to generalize the issue, neither am I saying that lack of education is the ONLY cause for such illogical moves as hitting and burning.
Taking the Kannada movie example again, other than a “samskAra” here and a “vaMshavRukhsa” there, how many times do we actually talk about the story writer, unless we are voracious readers ourselves. Sure, we do talk about Triveni when it comes to ‘sharapaMjara” or “beLLi mODa”, but even there Puttanna takes the pedestal.
So, writers not being recognized as much as they deserve is mainly because of lack of education. Scientists are one step further in the eco syste, so let’s not even go there.
I agree with Stud :)… but for a moment forget KG Koppal, I wonder how many of the new generation kids read novels by RK N ?.
I would venture to say that coz of the Malgudi Days serial by S Nag he atleast has some ‘Brand Recall’ or should i say ‘Author Recall’
Looking at the Jaganamohana Palace circle’s name makes me cringe…
What on the earth, did the founder/ex-chairman of MOrimallappa had to do with that place?
The corporation will name a road or a circle in Ghousianagar or R. S. Naidunagar!
Best thing will be to name a train as “Malgudi Express”.
I posted this as a response to another post in this regard and think it is more appropriate in this thread.
Honoring R.K. Narayan has been on my mind for a long time. My idea is to preserve his house on Vivenkanada Road, Yadavagiri, as a library and book reading center- a place where people can come and read and discuss books and conduct various literary activities. The problem with naming roads after individuals is that over a period of time, the road and the surroundings develop characters contrary to the values of the person after whom it is named. As an example, take a look at all the MG roads in India – I am sure even the ashes of this honorable man must be squirming at what goes on along these roads.
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An academic who recently raised a controversy of sorts over the English language issue happened to share the table with me at CDN’s first anniversary last week. Known for speaking his mind out, he had a confession to make: I don’t call it Manasagangotri. It is PG Koppal.
“here is no shame in admitting that Mysore and Mysoreans have failed Rasipuram Krishnaswamy Narayana Iyer”.
Ok. I agree and I strogly support ,albeit sitting in a place thousands of miles from Lakshmipuram/Yadavagiri, any initiatives taken to perpetuate RKN’s memory.
But not wishing to be rude, I would like to ask just what RKN did in practical terms for Mysore? Atleast until 30 summers of my life, I lived in Mysore not far from RKN, talked to him a few times mainly I was the talker, saw him walking along the 100 feet road and also saw him coming to and going from the VV market sitting in his shiny mercedez in later years etc.. What effect this had had on him? I mean moving to Chennai later. If he had passed away in his Yadavagiri home, how the Mysore goverment would have reacted to it?
We were told by my English teachers in my high school days in 1950s, RKN spurned many attempts to invite him for a talk mainly with the pupils. Our School was literally at the edge of the boundary rope for some one holding a willow in his garden. His circle of friends we were told was very tightly drawn. A Tamilian to the core ( not that we minded as us -a small core including him were the remnants of the Iyer diaspora that Sir K. Seshadri Iyer created with consummate skill just before the start of 20th century, my family like his, the Tamil Nadu had us on a choking cultural embrace. But my father, a ‘working class person’ about the age of RKN, realised this situation and made us to learn and appreciate Kannada language and literature. He gave us familiar Kannada names, removed the Iyer last name albatross etc.. etc.. We got quickly integrated in Mysore. I read in your website some where RKN making comments on Indian Diaspora in America and I had to smile).
In my school days, though sitting in an ‘English Medium’ class, I do not recollect any of his books made as texts for us or for my younger sisters. I used to read them in my leisure time and discuss the writing style with my friends. But soon we moved to Oliver twist and Dickens. As Sir CV is mentioned. We had a collection of essays and in there was a fragment of an article written by Sir CV, and in my opinion he was some writer. Would have been noticed had he taken up writing in English and had not pursued research in Physics. Unfortunately nothing there by RKN. Unlike Kuvempu for example, his name was not widely recognised at that time. I sense no universal clamour ( I agree it is a shame) even amongst those who lived and breathed in ‘Old Mysore ( meaning RKN Mysore and not the IT Mysore ), except us the relatively small number of chatterers for linking RKN and Mysore in some kind of way. Please do not bring Sir CV Raman in to this discussion- the Department of Physics at IISC and the Raman Institute will herald his contributions. About his Trichy house, well I know what our Dravidian cousins in power in Tamil nadu would say. That is something else for another round of discussion.