Manjunath V.M. lost his ancestral home in Venkatala village to the National Highway 7 when it was widened in 2004. Ironically, this huge sense of loss led to the flowering of his creativity.
Mr. Manjunath, who has to his credit two collections of poetry, a volume of short stories and a novel, started with a memoir on his childhood titled ‘Highway 7’. The highway has since been the central theme and the wellspring of his creativity, even as he has dabbled in several media: the written word, the stage, pen sketches and now, even a film.
Fifty of his pen sketches on the theme of life off a highway is part of a four-day exhibition titled “Heddariyalli Kanda Chitragalu” at the Venkatappa Art Gallery, which started on Wednesday and will conclude on Sunday. “These pen sketches are a collection of life seen from a sleepy village off the highway,” Mr. Manjunath said.
Mr. Manjunath is the youngest of five sons. “Living off a highway gives you a unique glimpse of life,” he said. “We children used to sleep below the lone mango tree in front of our house to guard the grains and condiments our mother used to dry on the highway. Life was calmer then,” he nostalgically reminiscences.
But the calm was shattered when the highway was widened and the Kempegowda International Airport came up just a few kilometres away from his village. “The airport changed everything for us. We lost our home and the compensation that the government gave us was just enough to move into a rented house in the village. We were reduced to tenants in our own land,” he said.
The highway has since become a metaphor to understand the world around him. While his creative endeavours celebrate the life along a highway, it also becomes a critique of the “development” that snatched away his home.
Mr. Manjunath is now preparing to make a Kannada film titled Highway Guide. The story deals with a group of people who make away with onion-laden trucks by killing the truck drivers. He said the story was built around real incidents reported a year ago when onion prices had spiked.