At the Dharwad Sahitya Sambhrama, poet and playwright Chandrashekar Kambar took the eager audience on his life’s journey
“My writing is a response to certain contexts,” said writer Chandrashekara Kambara, without making much of his creative process at the Dharwad Sahitya Sambhrama, that concluded last Sunday. In a question answer session with Madhava Kulkarni, Kambar said to a packed audience: “I haven’t really thought too much about my writing.”
Vibrant, engaging and peppered with some poignant moments, Kambar mingled, joked and conversed with readers with an easy comfort, without the airs of the acclaimed writer that he is. “If something saddens me deeply it is the way in which my village lost its oral traditions. Every little corner of the village was throbbing with various folk arts – bayalaata, sannata, gigee pada… In my growing up years, my friends and I thrived on it. In fact, our favourite pastime was to gather in our own little spaces and imitate these artistes. It is only in retrospect that I realised how much we learnt from it all,” Kambar spoke evocatively of his childhood.
He narrated an interesting story to speak of the beginnings of his creative writing. But it was hardly putting pen to paper, but firmly rooted in the oral tradition – “we wove stories, told each other, and kept on adding to them,” he explained. Kambar invoked his picturesque village by the side of which the Ghataprabha river flowed. “The river took a turn by the side of our home.” During the rainy season, the river would be in spate and coincidentally that was also the season of feuds in the village. Dead bodies came floating in the river and would often land in front of his home.
“The village head would come, do a panchnama (an enquiry) and leave. From that point, our stories would start,” he recalled, laughing. Kambar spoke of the innumerable stories that he would build around the dead person, and as it passed from one person to the other, it gained more colour and body, “and it eventually return to me rich with details.” This, he said, was the most fascinating part of his childhood, when the village was throbbing with stories. He remembered how he would remain inspired by the local balladeers and he too attempted to create patriotic ballads.
Kambar spoke extensively of folk theatre, its technique of creative distance, how it forged major artistic and philosophic leaps and its influence on him. It was only later in his life that the vachanakaras, particularly Allamaprabhu, became an enduring force within him. “My guru Bhoosanuru Math was working on a collection of vachanas. I used to help him. He was such a scholar that we had named him Allama. It was because of him that this extraordinary mystic poet entered my consciousness.” The other major force in his life was the folk scholar and writer A.K. Ramanujam. “He made it possible for me to be in Chicago. He was a popular teacher. His feminine voice was a source of amusement to us. I benefited a lot from his views on folk traditions.” Continuing to recall the people he remains indebted to, Kambar became emotional speaking of Savalagi Shivalinga Math. “The seer gave me freeship and took care of my education without which I would have not been what I am today….,” he trailed off.
He spoke fondly of his association with poets Gopalakrishna Adiga and Bendre. While Adiga impressed him as a great human being, Bendre was dear to him because of the magic in his poetry. G.S. Shivarudrappa, poet and teacher to many was the man “who brought me to Bangalore. He was always there to listen and had great interest in new ideas and thoughts.” Without Krishnamurthy Puranik giving a reading, Kambar never finalized his works.
“I have rejected the three unities that theatre believes in. Folk is timeless, and that’s where my works belong,” he said, speaking of theatre. “In fact, as far as I am concerned all my creative expression is poetry, some turn out to be plays, some novels and others.”
Kambar read his poems, and even sang for the audience.