Guwahati: Celebrated Kannada writer Santeshivara Lingannaiah Bhyrappa, widely regarded as one of modern India’s foremost novelists, recently visited Guwahati Press Club for an interaction program. Professor Bhyrappa says schoolchildren across India should be taught in their mother tongue, but they should also learn English as a subject.

“As English medium schools are growing in numbers across the country, we have to think over the implication of the development seriously. In my State of Karnataka, the English educated youths are not interested to read anything in Kannada, not even the newspaper headlines in language dailies,” Prof Bhyrappa said during the ‘Guest of the Month’ program held on 28 March 2016.

The prestigious Saraswati Sanman awardee, who was recently honoured with Padma Shri by the Indian Union government, says the English language is a major challenge to all Indian languages. The octogenarian author expressed concern that Indians want to send their kids to English schools, because they want a bright future for the children.

“Not to speak of the affluent section, but also the lower middleclass families today prefer English medium schools for their children. The result is that more and more youths in our country now remain unaware the local language and literature. If the situation is already acute in Karnataka, the same may be a reality for Assam within the next few years,” the soft-spoken gentleman noted.

Santeshivara Lingannaiah Bhyrappa

Santeshivara Lingannaiah Bhyrappa

Kannada Sahitya Parishad, the highest literary forum of the south Indian province, pursued the matter with the high court, where the verdict pronounced that the selection of schools for the kids remain the prerogative of parents. The literary forum appealed that the Supreme Court of India mandate that school instruction should be in their mother tongue until tenth standard, but the court dismissed that request.

“So unless there is a specific law in this regard, we cannot expect justice. Prime Minister Modiji also supports the concept to educate the children in mother tongue. But the Bharatiya Janata Party does not have the majority in Rajya Sabha and hence it becomes a futile exercise for them to bring a bill unless the Congress assures support. We need the political will here,” professor Bhyrappa said.

Veteran Assamese journalist DN Bezboruah supported professor Bhyrappa in his quest to change the system and support India’s own languages. He said that anyone educated in regional languages can also learn English professionally.

Bezboruah said that he studied in an Assamese school, and later learned English as a subject. He became president of Editors Guild of India, and today English is his working language.

Professor Bhyrappa: Early Life

Speaking about his early life, Prof Bhyrappa said he was born in a Hoysala Karnataka Brahmin family in Santeshivara village, around 175 km away from Bangalore. He had to struggle for survival and education. He lost his mother in the early days of his life, and also a younger brother whom he carried on his shoulder to the cremation ground. The poor family worked hard to make Prof Bhyrappa educated and support the family in future.

With little family resources, Prof Bhyrappa completed his primary education in Channarayapatna and then moved to Mysore for his higher education. He completed his MA at Mysore University and Doctor of Philosophy from Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. Prof Bhyrappa used to teach at various institutions and retired in 1991 from the Mysore Regional College of Education.

The Sahitya Akademi fellow has authored more than twenty novels in a career spanning more than five decades. Many of his novels were translated into various Indian regional languages inclusive of Sanskrit and English. Prof Bhyrappa has been one of the bestselling authors in Kannada for past twenty five years. For a brief period, Prof Bhyrappa participated in the  freedom struggle when he was a teenager.

Professor Bhyrappa: Books

His first commendable novel ‘Bheemakaya’ was published in 1958 and he had not looked back since then. Some of his acclaimed literary creations like  ‘Vamshavruksha’, ‘Tabbaliyu Neenade Magane’, ‘Matadana’,  ‘Nayi Neralu’ etc were filmed by acclaimed directors which had bagged critical acclaims from the filmgoers. ‘Parva’, ‘Daatu’, ‘Jalapaata’, ‘Anweshane’, ‘Grahana’, ‘Saakshi’, ‘Aavarana’, ‘Yaana’ are some of his most read novels.

Answering queries from the participating journalists, the nationalist writer commented that the character of Indian mainstream media has changed a lot recently. While the media played an important role in the pre-independence era to make India a sovereign nation, it started worshipping first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in the post-independence period. Anybody who dared to criticize or oppose Nehru was framed as an anti-national.

Slowly the media turned into a business entity where the politicians started getting involved with the medium because of its influence over the people. The capitalists also did not trail behind and grabbed many media groups. However, with the emergence of alternate media where everyone can participate in the discourses have changed the situation in favour of educated common people, the professor said.

Talking about Indian history, the doyen of Kannada literature asserted that he always insists on unveiling the truth over any political interest. He asserted that the students of history should know that Mughal emperor Aurangzeb destroyed many temples, but at the same time Akbar the Great maintained liberal and progressive policies.

Highlighting the recent controversy relating to Jawaharlal Nehru University, Prof Bhyrappa disclosed that the genesis of the higher educational institution could be traced back through Communist support to the Indira Gandhi-led Congress government in 1969. He also added that there was a time when most Indian universities were dominated and influenced by the JNU ideology.

Prior to the press club interaction program, Prof Bhyrappa was handed over the coveted national award in memory of Assam’s celebrated writer Indira Goswami consisting of a Assamese Cheleng, trophy, citation, a collection of books with a cheque of three lakh rupees in presence of Assam’s highest literary forum Asom Sahitya Sabha president, Dr Dhrubajyoti  Borah.

About 

Nava Thakuria is a Northeast India journalist, based in Guwahati, who contributes to NewsBlaze and various media outlets throughout the world. Nava is also secretary of the Journalists' Forum Assam.