LEAFING THROUGH Ga. Su. Bhatta's Yakaschit Hulada Kathe comprises two long narrative poems. Besides being a fascinating experiment, it is a fitting response to contemporary questions
Yakaschit Hulada Kathe
by Ga.Su.Bhatta Bettageri
Akshara Prakashana, Rs. 50
Ga.Su. Bhatta Bettageri is an unassuming, but important contemporary writer. He has published five works of poetry including “Nala Damayanthi” a long epic of 3,000 quartets, three plays, a novel and a critical work, “Valmikigada Anyaya”. He is deeply rooted in the Indian poetic tradition. Very few contemporary poets are as familiar and comfortable with Kannada prosody as Ga.Su. Bhatta. However, he is not interested in just continuing tradition. He not only interrogates traditional forms and value systems but also experiments with new narrative strategies without violating the rules of the game. Another interesting noteworthy feature of Bhatta's poetry is that he has been sustaining longer narratives when most of his contemporaries are satisfied with shorter poems, limericks and versified jokes. Bhatta's experiments with rhythm and diction are also commendable. His long poem “Navlu” is composed in the Havyaka dialect. One should not, however, misconstrue that Ga.Su. Bhatta is preoccupied only with aesthetics and indifferent to the burning issues of these times. His works are subtle, but sensitive responses to the contemporary world. His latest work comprises two long narrative poems — “Yakascith Hulada Kathe” and “Koneya Saalu”. Both record and respond to changing lifestyles, value systems and new aspirations of contemporary civilization. Bhatta's little narratives have been successful in mirroring and echoing the archetypes of mega discourses of today. They seek to explore the impact of modernisation and urbanisation from multiple view points. The younger generation feels that the agrarian mode of living is totally redundant and irrelevant. Looking for new possibilities in the cities, they mercilessly desert their homes and villages, but slowly they realise that neither modernisation nor urbanisation is an easy solution or alternative to their burning needs and desires. The past is lost; the future is uncertain. The confusing complex present needs to be comprehended and interpreted with new images and narratives.
Ga.Su. Bhatta's poems have chosen to tread the ‘less travelled by' path. That is the reason why they look so fresh. In “Yakaschith Hulada Kathe”— roughly translated as the tale of an insignificant little worm, a little insect inadvertently travels to the city along with the village girl and her boyfriend. It has to live in their house, in a completely new environment. As the girl attempts to adapt herself to a new space, the little insect also struggles to live on unnoticed by its human counterparts. It is also exposed to the details of a new lifestyle with all its new anxieties, challenges and struggles. The little worm thus becomes a witness to not only the village girl's new ventures but also to the general demands of the modernist, consumerist, urban life. Its existence and awareness were not two separate entities in the village, but here his intellectual world stands expanded. The little worm narrates these transformations to us with its own impressions and footnotes. That is why Bhatta's poem is entitled, “The tale of an insignificant little worm”. The readers may wonder whether the words ‘Yakaschith Hula' apply more to human beings, metaphorically. The overenthusiastic reader may also rush to draw a parallel with Kafka's ‘Metamorphosis'. But one should admit that Bhatta's world is not as static and grotesque as Kafka's.
However, in the second poem “Koneya Saalu”, one encounters a more macabre and violent world. Here an old man is a mute witness to the transgressions of the new generation. The first poem presented some hope and optimism. In the second it's a changing world where violence has become the order of the day. The poem anticipates more bloodshed, more chaos, and more tension. However, here too, the poet has consciously shunned the realistic mode and has been able to elevate contemporary experience to mythical heights.