Gandhi Classu (Autobiography)
By Kum. Veerabhadrappa
Sapna Book House, Rs. 225
Kum. Veerabhadrappa's (Kumvee) autobiography “Gandhi Classu”, begins with a moving declaration: “All these pages contain truth. Nothing but the truth. Whatever I have said is the truth. The truth is that my life is of my misfortunes and challenges… I have not enjoyed my childhood or my adolescence intensely like others… I have shed tears while giving expression to the experiences of my growing up years… With anxieties and uncertainties constantly trailing me, it's a sheer miracle that life has placed me on the threshold of sixty.”
Gandhi Classu can be seen as a metaphor and can hence denote poverty accompanied by simplicity. It could also mean the gallery. At times, in very colloquial terms it even speaks of Gandhian values. Kumvee, as he uncovers the stark social, political, cultural and economic realities pertaining to rural Bellary and the adjacent Rayalaseema region — means all of this, differently in different contexts.
The author devotes the first 90 pages of his work to his childhood, idiosyncrasies of his villagers, and the what and how of their problems. The next 300 pages is more or less a display of his erudition in Kannada and Telugu, as well as his familiarity with Marxist philosophy. He traverses through his struggle as a social reformer, an ideal teacher, a rationalist dreaming of creating a classless society in a feudal system and broods over his sympathetic association with perpetrators of ghastly violence in the faction-ridden Rayalaseema politics.
In the course of his puzzling narration, Kumvee gives a detailed account of his father Halappa, who is reminiscent of Dostoevsky's Fyodor Karmazov, with all the tragic undertones in place. He calls himself cloaked Raskalniikov who capable of committing a crime for ideological reasons, self-protection and honour.
Although the work commands intense reading despite its jarring structure, sudden Telugu surprises are sprung on the naïve reader, and of course there is the printer's devil — the work doesn't excel in any big way.
Some expressions that Kumvee coins are striking, for instance, “kannolage bevara hani”, but at times they become self-conscious and ambitious too. Sometimes they become a clear case of “over craft” and tend to desensitise words – the repeatedly used “panchendriya” is a case in point.
However, several poignant and comic incidents, his humanitarian outlook, his street smartness, and his predictions over the academic and financial fate of his works deserve attention. But they also challenge discreet readers to discern where the autobiography ends and fiction begins or does it work in the reverse?