H.S. RAGHAVENDRA RAO
It is hard to sum up the self-effacing Srinivasaraju’s personality in one word. He was a teacher, a writer, a publisher and most importantly someone who tended a healthy coming together of Kannada academics and activism. He passed away recently
There are persons who create a void in the cultural panorama of a community by their passing away and then there are those who create similar voids in the innermost recesses of individuals. C. Srinivasaraju, who passed away on December 29, 2007, who has at once created both of them. It is an ordeal to write about a friendship that spanned four decades of complementary activities spurred by a desire to inculcate the values of secularism, humanism, liberalism and an agenda of culture-centred activities, involving different generations playing unique roles. Raju was essentially a facilitator nonpareil, stroking the fires of creativity, literary sensibilities and organising skills depending on the specific potential of the person involved. Chikkaraju Srinivasaraju, born in 1942, was educated at Chikkaballapura and Bangalore. He felt the full impact of alienation in an atmosphere suffused with English during the early sixties. This quiet youngster was drawn in to the mainstream of a movement hoisted to uphold the Kannada identity. His academic pursuits veered towards Kannada literature after obtaining a degree in the basic sciences. His association with Kannada activists and journalists had given him a mindset that could forge a bond between academics and activism. His acquaintance with the travails of the urban poor added social and political dimensions to his worldview. This unique background stopped him from becoming a mere bookworm and his desire to serve the cause of Kannada with minimum fuss was further strengthened. He was deeply influenced by Prof. M.V. Seetaramaiah, Prof. G.P. Rajaratnam, G.S. Shivarudrappa and Prof. K.V. Rajagopal in diverse ways and inherited old world values and a sense of dedication from these doyens. However, his world view was formulated and sustained by a continuous inflow from a group of close friends referred to as P.P. Balaga and Ankana Balaga. Needless to say that he was the cementing force which held these individuals together by his efforts to foster a harmony based on love and compassion rather than an allegiance to a political ideology.
History repeated itself, when Raju was catapulted into Christ College as a lecturer in Kannada. He and his students were lost in a multilingual chaos. Fortunately, he found a couple of kindred spirits among his colleagues and a management which was wonderfully supportive of all his efforts. Rev Fr. Mani Giles the founder Principal of Christ College stood by him like a rock. Raju had virtues such as humility, sincerity and transparency which helped him in persuading many of his colleagues to learn Kannada and lend him a helping hand.
‘Christ College Kannada Sangha’ which has now become synonymous with publications of enduring quality and known as a rallying point for young writers of succeeding generations, owes this reputation to its eschewal of a confrontationist policy and linguistic chauvinism. Raju freed Kannada Sangha from the confines of his college by organising annual inter collegiate essay and poetry competitions. His decision to publish the prize winning entries in the form of small booklets was a master stroke that made him and his Sangha living legends among students with creative orientations. This act of tapping latent energies of young people resulted in a network of creative writers who formed a community of their own irrespective of geographical and social boundaries. A grateful admiration and love for Raju holds them together even after decades. Kannada Sangha was eminently successful in recognising many talented young adults such as K.R.Nagaraja, K.V.Narayana, T.N. Sitaram, Pratibha Nandakumar, Abdul Rasheed, H.Nagaveni, and a host of others have now made enduring contributions to Kannada literature and culture. Senior writers like A.N.Murthy Rao, P.T. Narasimhachar, Sriranga, Gopalakrishna Adiga, S.R. Ekkundi and B.C. Ramachandra Sharma have added their own works to the impressive list of its publications. He founded, “Ankana” a bi-monthly magazine devoted for literary criticism and academic reasearch.
Srinivasaraju was creative in more ways than one. The faculties that were dormant in his personal behaviour found avenues in his literary output. Drama was his favourite genre and he began his literary career with a collection of mime plays. This was a symbolic act, because these plays were written during the suffocating days of national emergency. Our quiet boy voiced his protest by writing plays focusing on the poor and the downtrodden and suggested solutions that were both violent and revolutionary. However, he was fully acquainted with human nature which he felt was essentially cruel and selfish. This awareness did not deter him from pursuing a path of reformism and idealism because he was convinced that love and friendship could alleviate suffering within the boundaries of human nature. This conflict between the essentially instinctive behaviour of human animals and the assiduously acquired humane qualities nourished by mankind provide the backdrop for his plays and poems. He has written five mime plays, five one act plays and “Haliya Melina Saddu” a full length play. His acquaintance with theatre enabled him to write plays that were successful on the stage and also passed the canons of literary judgement. Plays such as “Naale Yaariguu Illa”, “Haliya Melina Saddu” and “Phoenix” have seen many productions and are well known for their racy language so unlike the soft spoken ‘Real Raju’. “Chasanala Bandhu” is his solitary collection of poems containing a number of sonnets known for their tense and cryptic style. He has written a number of critical essays and a monograph on his mentor G.P. Rajaratnam.
This write up will be incomplete without mentioning some personal attributes of Raju which made him relevant in the present context. He was self effacing in an age that is known for shrill demands for accolades. His uncompromising commitment to certain values as manifested by a spate of resignations to cultural and academic institutions was complemented by a nature that was prepared to make any sacrifice to help the needy.
He eschewed religious dogmas and rituals. His desire to donate his mortal remains to a medical institution sans rituals was in keeping with his principles.