By Nava Thakuria
Guwahati: Celebrated Kannada writer Santeshivara Lingannaiah Bhyrappa, wh o is widely regarded as one of modern India’s foremost novelists, opines that the children in schools across India should be taught in mother tongue. Professor Bhyrappa, who was recently at Guwahati Press Club for an interaction program, however emphasized on learning English as a subject efficiently.
“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,” said Prof Bhyrappa during the ‘Guest of the Month’ program held on 28 March 2016.
The prestigious Saraswati Sanman awardee also added that the English language thus emerges as a major challenge to all Indian languages.
The octogenarian author expressed concern that now everybody in India wants to send their kids to English medium schools expecting a bright future for the children.
“Not to speak of the middleclass, but also the lower middleclass families today prefer English medium schools over 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 will be true for Assam too after few years,” added the soft spoken gentleman, who was recently honoured with Padma Shri by the Indian Union government.
It may be mentioned that the 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 soon approached the Supreme Court of India with the appeal that the medium of instruction for children should be mother tongue till tenth standard, but it was dismissed by the apex court.
“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 doesnot 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,” commented Prof Bhyrappa, who was conferred on 2nd Mamoni Roysom Goswami National Literature Award, constituted by Asom Sahitya Sabha.
His comment was supplemented by veteran Assamese journalist DN Bezboruah, who was present in the meeting and asserted that anyone educated in regional languages can also learn English professionally.
Bezboruah, who studied in an Assamese school, later learned English as a subject and today English becomes his working language, disclosed the former president of Editors Guild of India.
Speaking about his early life, Prof Bhyrappa narrated that he was born in a Hoysala Karnataka Brahmin family at Santeshivara village, around 175 km away from Bangalore and he had to struggle for survival and education. He lost his mother in early days and also a younger brother
whom he even 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 locality and then moved to Mysore for higher education. He completed his MA from 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 over 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 hardly a teenager.
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 in present days. 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 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, stated Prof Bhyrappa.
Talking about the 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 lot of 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 in the Communist support to the Indira Gandhi-led Congress government in 1969. He also added
that there was a time when most of the 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, collection of books with a cheque of rupees three lakh in presence of
Assam’s highest literary forum Asom Sahitya Sabha president Dr Dhrubajyoti Borah.
(The author is a senior journalist and secretary of Guwahati Press Club)