Kambar and Karnad, Bhyrappa and Puttappa & Co

There are mole hills and snake pits and then there are “literary circles”.

For all their bonhomie and camaraderie, for all their high ideals and even higher aspirations from humankind, poets, novelists, writers and playwrights are a peevishly insecure lot, loudly backslapping their peers in public and quietly backstabbing them in private.

Maybe, this is as it should be given the small, lonely, insular and egotistical world that true intellectualism is (when it is not incestuous, that is). For, what good is a wise thinker or wordsmith who doesn’t think he and he alone (or she and she alone) is the almighty’s gift to the world to crack all its problems?

The occasion of Chandrasekhar Kambar becoming the eighth Kannada writer to bag the Jnanpith Award provides a small window for ordinary mortals to observe the small minds, the giant egos, the juvenile jealousies, and the awfully sour grapes on display.

Make no mistake. On the whole, there is great cheer and jubilation at a non-polarising figure like Kambar bagging the honour. But scratch the surface and the cracks are all too visible.

There are the professional flame-throwers like Patil Puttappa. On Monday, he was welcoming the honour and on Tuesday he was openly saying that Kambar didn’t deserve it and that he won it only due to hectic lobbying. And that—no surprise, no surprise—S.L. Bhyrappa deserved it more than Kambar.

Then there are the wise sages like M. Chidananda Murthy who suspect a vast secular, liberal conspiracy behind every tree and lamp post to deny Bhyrappa his due.

And then there are the sophisticates like Girish Karnad, who, in simultaneous letters to the editors of Deccan Herald (above) and Praja Vani, manages to turn Kambar’s moment of glory into his, and artfully manages to sneak in an advertisement for himself a la Norman Mailer.

Image: courtesy Deccan Herald

Also read: Chandrasekhar Kambar on our sense of history