Bandaaya writers from all parts of the state arrived in Bangalore to proceed to Madikeri for a conference. All of us boarded the same bus. When it reached Mysore, more Bandaaya writers got in. Quite a few writers had to travel standing. It was night, and the standing passengers were nodding off. Some young girls also stood in the aisle. Writers stood on either side of the girls. The journey was tiring. As Madikeri approached, the lights in the bus came on. A writer started shouting at another. Blood was gushing from his foot. He was screaming that the other writer had caused the injury. We stopped him when he advanced to kick the fellow-writer with his injured foot. The accused writer, also young, had boarded the bus in Mysore, and pressed and dug this writer’s foot with his toenails.
We asked the injured writer, “Why did you keep quiet all the way till we reached Madikeri?” He said he had assumed the girl standing next to him was pressing his foot. “And why did you press his foot so violently?” we asked the other writer. “I thought I was pressing the foot of the girl standing next to me,” he replied.
As long as he imagined the girl was pressing his foot, the injured writer had found pleasure in his pain. The foot of the girl standing between the two had remained safe. When the truth came out, we didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, and just kept quiet. Someone said in a low voice, “Bandaaya writers are also human, aren’t they?”
DR Nagaraj’s extreme
Two debaters had to be selected from the college and sent to an inter-collegiate debate. Our college organised its own debate to decide who would represent it, and I took part in it. I quoted my own poems and attributed them to our national poet Kuvempu:
Temples are houses of black magic,
Religious leaders are magicians,
Pilgrim centres are places of disease,
Innocents, idiots, these pilgrims.
Impressed by the speech and the poem, the judges selected me to represent the college. One of my fellow debaters, a thin, tall student who had made a wonderfully interesting speech, came over after the debate, and congratulated me.
“Nowhere has Kuvempu written the lines you attributed to him. Tell me the truth, whose lines are they?” he said.
I was disconcerted. “I said so only to impress the judges,” I confessed.
“Those are my lines.”
He said he wanted to see my poems. He pointed to a tree in the campus and said he would wait there at a certain time the next day. “Come with your poems,” he said, and introduced himself. That was my first encounter with
D R Nagaraj, soon to become a valued critic and mentor. One class ahead of me in our college, already known as a revolutionary, Nagaraj offered me a friendship that gave my life a new direction.
Nagaraj was delighted to discover that I was a rationalist. His own need to promote rationalism led to some interesting escapades. For instance, when members of the Yuvaka Sangha, a youth group in Dodballapur, were stirring the horsegram usli for distribution among devotees during the Ganesha festival, Nagaraj had somehow managed to pour Kunthi Kumar Oil, which induces loose motions, into the huge frying pan. All those who ate the prasada that day had upset stomachs. Several devotees fled from the venue into the open fields without so much as telling anyone. Convinced that no one but Nagaraj could have done such a thing, members of the association went looking for him to give him some of his own prasada. After such incidents, Nagaraj would take refuge in his relatives’ house in Bangalore and avoid his hometown.
Holy man who set the Chinese on India
I once saw a curious advertisement in the paper. It said those who did not believe in god could meet a certain holy man who would show god to them. My friend Devarajappa and I went to the given address.
We met the holy man and paid our respects. I appealed to him to show us god. He said all sorts of things. Not satisfied, we rained more questions on him. Shaken, the yogi said, “Why are you trying so hard? I am god myself.”
I then said, “Swami, there are millions of gods. Which of them are you?” He replied, “I am Shiva”. Solemnly, I said, “Sir, in that case you have committed a murder.”
He was dumbstruck. “What murder? I haven’t murdered anyone,” he replied.
“Didn’t you burn Manmatha to death with your third eye because he ruined your penance?” I asked. The holy man collected his wits and said, “Oh? That Manmatha was acting smart with me. That’s why I burnt him to ashes”.
I asked, “Swami, where do you live?” To that he said “Kailasa”. I persisted, “Swami, you shot an arrow of flowers and killed Manmatha. But in 1962 the Chinese bombed your Kailasa and entered India. What were you doing then?” Not in the least ruffled, he replied, “The Indians weren’t showing enough devotion towards me. That is why I set the Chinese on them.”
Towards the end it became difficult even to talk to him. By then, devotees who had gathered around him were planning to beat us up. We got wind of it and fled.
A Word With You, World | Siddalingaiah | Translated by: S R Ramakrishna | 2013 | Navayana | Delhi | Rs 395
The book was launched and discussed at a seminar organised by the Centre for Gandhian Studies and Department of Political Science, Bangalore University, at Jnana Bharati recently. The speakers were Dr B Thimme Gowda, vice-chancellor, Bangalore University, S Anand, publisher, Navayana Publishers, New Delhi, Siddhartha, thinker, writer and institution builder, professor M J Vinod, chairman, Department of Political Science, and professor Jeevan Kumar of the Centre for Gandhian Studies. Siddalingaiah and S R Ramakrishna also spoke.