Swatantryada Ota is Boluwaru Mahamad Kunhi's magnum opus. This mega novel, which is a collection of many stories, aspires for reconciliation and not conflict. Sahitya Sanchara, a collection of essays by T.P. Ashok, takes you through the world of Kannada fiction
Swatantryada Ota by Boluwaru Mahamad Kunhi
Muttuppaadi Pustaka, Rs. 750
Boluwaru Mahamad Kunhi is among our finest short story writers with five collections to his credit. “Atta Ittagala Suttamutta”(1979), “Devarugala Rajyadalli”(1983), “Anka”(1986), “Akashakke Neeliparade”(1992) and “Ondu Tundu Gode”(2000) all exploring the quotidian of the world of Muslims living in a small town in Dakshina Kannada.
Boluwaru's magnum opus novel “Swatantryada Ota”(2012), had its beginnings as a short story in his collection “Ondu Tundu Gode”. Chand Ali, the protagonist of the short story reaches Muttupaadi in this novel, and becomes an important member of the community. This man, originally from Pakistan, becomes a witness to all that takes place in Muttupadi for over half a century. Many of Boluwaru's earlier stories are retold in this novel, and they in turn get connected to new stories that take their birth in Muttupaadi.
One sees Boluwaru consciously treading the middle path as an effort to breakaway from the many half truths that have emerged from both fundamentalist and secularist discourses regarding Hindus, Muslims and their mutual relationship. There is an attempt to understand not only the quotidian, but also the larger discourses haunting the sub continent now – Boluwaru clearly refuses to be entrapped by the binary mode. Boluwaru avoids the linear narrative, the entire novel is episodic and each episode an independent story. But they all find their place in the scheme of the novel, in the story of a community that is struggling to come to terms with Independence, Partition and the new nation. The Muttuppaadi community includes both Hindus and Muslims. It is a testimony to Boluwaru's concern and craft that the Hindus and Muslims do not present themselves as two monolithic blocks. Characters are not types. There are conservatives, moderates and those with a modern outlook in the community. There are deeply religious people, reformists and liberals. This variety has contributed to the dynamism within the community. Conflicts within the community and those that happen in the world outside affect them. But solutions to most conflicts in the novel are found through religion. Boluwaru seeks answers in reconciliation and evades conflict. Muttupaadi is a fictional world. A Utopia in which time is real. In order to give it authenticity, he deliberately creates a fictional space called Muttuppaadi. The dialogue between the real and the ideal creates a dynamism in Muttuppaadi. The author invests his dreams, prayers and expectations in this imaginary space and invites his readers to look at the ‘real' world through the filter of Muttuppaadi.
Sahitya Sanchara by T. P. Ashok
Sahitya Sanchara is T.P. Ashok's sixth collection of critical articles on modern Kannada literature. This fairly voluminous collection contains in all 44 articles — 25 on short stories, seven on novels, eight on poetry, two long essays of general nature and one interview with Vaidehi.
Of the two long essays, the first one is on Kannada short stories and the second on Kannada literature post-Unification. The first essay, running to some 43 pages, is not either a historical overview or a survey. After the preliminary discussion on the form called ‘short story,' Ashok sets up certain categories based on major motifs or broad themes (such as self-consciousness, modernity and social change, man-woman relationship, colonial experience, etc.), and then discusses each category in a section each. Such categorisation helps him to bring together related stories for discussion, cutting across different periods and movements.
For instance, in the broad category based on the motif of ‘the onset of modernity,' Ashok brings together the first short story in Kannada (‘Kamalapurada Hotelinalli,' 1900) and other stories written in different periods by Kerur, Masti, and Ananthamurthy. Based on the analysis of these stories from the point of view of ‘the conflict between tradition and modernity,' he makes many revealing generalisations like ‘the hotel as a marker of modernity and secularism reappears again and again in the stories from Panje to Devanuru and in novels of Karanth to Alanahalli.' Similarly, regarding colonialism and its impact, Ashok brings together stories from Sediyapu through Masti and Kailasam, and says ‘Kannada short stories have successfully captured all the contradictory facets of colonialism, particularly the way English education alienates and dehumanises Indians.' Especially, his discussion in the category based on ‘self-consciousness and reflexivity' is very insightful. In fact, this is surely a major critical essay to come in Kannada on Kannada short stories.
Among the other interesting features of this collection is Ashok's discussion of stories and writers who are either forgotten or have remained unfamiliar. For instance, five stories by Kailasam, Kodagina Gowramma's stories, Girish Karnad's first story “Alida Mele” and such others. Also, Ashok's concern with ‘inter-textuality' — hardly noticeable in his earlier works — makes this collection highly rewarding. His introduction to a story by Gopalakrishna Bhat leads him to discuss Sanskrit theatre and writers from Kafka to Adib Akhtar. The long interview with Vaidehi brings out many thought-provoking points regarding feminism, woman as writer, film and fiction, and others.
This collection by Ashok is a significant contribution to the world of Kannada fiction.
Keywords: Kannada literature