A Pleasant Memory
by Nuggehalli Pankaja
Some people leave a stamp of their personalities wherever they happen to go!
G.P.Rajaratnam was one such unique person.
G.P. Rajaratnam was a famous versatile writer of Kannada literature. Whenever I think of him my mind journeys back to that balmy morning when he walked in unceremoniously holding forth a just then published English short story of mine. No, I had not known him before, but he knew who I was, through my father-in-law. If I had thought he had come to congratulate me like others, I was in for a rude shock!
“Were you born in England?”-He straight away came to the point..
“No”-I faltered, completely taken aback- “In nearby Sheshadripuram” .
“Then, why do you write in English? Not in Kannada?” Next query.
“My Kannada language is not that good”—I mumbled.
“What! Born and bred on our Kannada soil, nurtured by the rich harvest of our Kaveri, are you not ashamed to own ignorance of your mother-tongue! And that too coming from the family of B.Venkatachar!(Famous Kannada novelist).”- There was a trace of anger in his tone!
Believe me, I did feel ashamed of myself then..All my English-ego dwindled. Perhaps he sensed that, for the next moment, he advised kindly- “You should read a lot of Kannada books written by good authors; You will find them in plenty if you go to Gandhi Sahitya Sangha round the corner. The eminent scholars there will guide you; Next time I come you must have a Kannada script ready.”
That, I should say, was the turning point in my literary life!
Shedding any blossoming dream that I had of becoming a second Pearl Buck or Margret Mitchell, I landed as a Kannada writer! Was it preordained?
Whatever it be, the rich library of Gandhi Sahitya Sangha and the intellectual guidance I found therein did elevate my knowledge of our Karnataka, and its rich heritage which is in no way inferior to western literature and culture, so much so that my heart soars with immense pride whenever anybody mentions me as a Kannada writer.(Though I do dabble in English whenever muse and mood overtakes).
Again, it was Rajaratnam who helped me discover my forte-
‘Humor” by getting a skit of mine published in Koravanji,
(a leading magazine of humor in those days), and from then on, no looking back! Crowning glory – on December 25th, 2006 when I was felicitated by the prestigious "Koravaji Aparanji Trust" as a veteran popular humorous writer in their annual ‘Hasyotsava’. Yes,I did remember him that day, and mentioned in my thanksgiving speech about the way he used to come and congratulate whenever he came across any of my published humor.
Another indelible incident— Many years back, when invited as one of the special delegates for the mammoth Kannada Sahitya Sammelana held by Kannada Sahitya Parishat at Dharmasthala under the auspices of Dharmadhikari Shri Veerendra Heggade, I found myself seated beside Rajaratnam for breakfast. That was the final day of the function. When I refused an avalakki preparation, he expounded its qualities in his magnetic voice,smiling happily when I found it tasty.
His parting words that day was -“banni manege,
(Come home),I want to give you a book”.
I did go alas, only to pay my respects to the departed soul …for our Rajaratnam- simple and unassuming till the end, had expired in the same dignified way, and that very soon after!
Long have I pondered—‘ What was the book he wanted to give me?’ ***