The Pustaka Mela organised by the Kannada Book Authority is throbbing with Kannada-ness in a city that’s fast losing its local flavour

As you walk into this Kannada “country” of sorts, poet Sri Vijaya fills your mind. In his poem Kaviraja Marga, he conceived Kannada as a political space. The language is Kannada, boundaries are Kannada, and people are Kannada. The Pustaka Mela organised by the Kannada Book Authority in the Ravindra Kalakshetra premises is throbbing with Kannada, in a city otherwise completely English-ed.

With nearly 80 stalls occupied by publishers from various parts of the State, there are thousands of books from all streams of learning. From hard core literature, to arts, to sculpture to philosophy to science – all those faculties that you still imagined were the stronghold of the English world. Look further and you see beyond the strict compartments — you will come upon interdisciplinary surprises like vedanta and physics, women and religion, the art of science; there are several others. Some stalls have CDs and DVDs of important Kannada works and films.

Most of the stalls by government departments – the Kannada Book Authority, Karnataka Anuvada Sahitya Academy, Central Sahitya Akademy, Karnataka Sahitya Academy, National Book Trust – have unusual books and their pricing is unbelievably low! The modest looks of these books, and their non-availability in regular book stores, have kept them so low profile that you easily gloss over their worth. While all publishing houses offer a minimum discount of 25 per cent at the exhibition, some of the government publications have a big discount of 50 per cent! The Prasaranga stall of Mysore, Bangalore and Hampi Universities has abundant books on a wide variety of subjects. The Karnataka Nataka Academy also has some interesting monographs and biographies of theatre personalities who have gone into oblivion. The Sangeeta Nritya Akademi didn’t have a very impressive display though.

Apart from the well-known publishing houses like Ankita, Prism, Navakarnataka, Sapna and Chanda, it was heartening to see the Geeta Book House stall, one of the oldest publishing houses from Mysore. Even if there wasn’t any book that you wanted to pick from here, you felt compelled to buy a book for nostalgia’s sake. Shanti Prakashana, Mangalore, brought Islamic literature, and they had several translations of the Quran available. There was also a stall from Kuppam in Andhra Pradesh. The Ramakrishna Math stall as usual had lots of books on Vivekananda and Ramakrishna Paramahamsa for children as well as adults. The little book of songs sung at the Ashram was also there to buy. The Karnataka Vignana Parishath has done enormous work in the field of science in Kannada and their stall was testimony to it. They had books on scientific temperament, space science, ecology and a whole lot of topics. There were plenty of books for children as well.

The Janapriya Pustaka Maale of the Kannada Book Authority has books on remarkable individuals who have contributed to the field of literature, theatre, and other fields of art, but who have been more or less forgotten. Imagine that you can find a book on doyens like Kandagal Hanumanta Rao and Kotturappa! The Ravindra Katha Manjari by Anuvada Akademi is a treasure. Kuvempu Bhasha Bharathi has fantastic books — complete lectures and writings of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Somadeva’s Katha Saritsagar, a collection of Pu.Ti. Na and Kuvempu’s works — all priced very reasonably and produced well. Running into the translation of Basheer’s novellas at the NBT stall was like a dream come true; the book was first published in 1972, and even though the second edition came out in 1993, it was never visible even on their own shelves!

Popular books dominated the book exhibition, and that’s a reason to be disappointed. However, there are a good number of books that a Kannada book lover would want to buy.

Kannada has always been spoken quietly, and the exhibition mirrors that quality. Enormous work has been done in Kannada but it’s hardly made known. An exhibition of this nature has to be valued for the manner in which it opens us to the many worlds within Kannada. The world is in Kannada.

(The Pustaka Mela at Ravindra Kalakshetra premises ends today.)