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Walking the precarious line

P.V. SUBRAYA
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LITERATURE Rahamat Tarikere, winner of the Kendra Sahitya Akademi award for Kannada, is an unusual voice who brings to fore voices from marginalised cultures P.V. SUBRAYA

R ahamat Tarikere, the Kannada writer who won this year's Kendra Sahitya Akademi award for his book, Kattianchina Daari” published in 2006, is highly accomplished in his chosen area of work. Winning the award for an anthology of book reviews is an oxymoron. Rather, Rahamat believed that colonialism did not end with the British, but it existed before them and continued after India's independence.

What takes centre stage in most of his writings is the simmering discontent among the oppressed as revealed in his “Maradolagina Kichchu”. He does not theorise on how the process of how the caste brigade trample upon the marginalised, whose identity has remained besmirched in the contours of dominant cultures.

On the other hand, he narrates through prevalent myths and rituals that exist among the oppressed even as he places them vis-a-vis main line dominant strategies of culture and civilisation.

He speaks of cultures that are resistant to cultures that have established themselves as products of modernist discourse. Rahamat does not expose them in a nuanced manner, but devises a discourse wherein anger, deprivation, and guilt are revealed discursively. In “Prati Samskriti” (counter culture), we perceive an indignant observer who privileges the extraordinary energy of the “low brow” over the “high brow”.

While consciously controlling the narrative mode to make it specifically discursive, Tarikere augments the scope of his discourse by placing literature and culture beside myths, folklore, inveterate belief systems, rituals and politics.

At the same time, Rahamat finds in himself a role to place the spirituality of Sufi saints in perspective. So came his book “Karnatakada Sufigalu” in 1998. Exploring the Sufi texts, he takes the cue from them to hone his perception of fractured cultures that have remained so because of culturally puissant registers of modernity.

We should understand Tarikere's writings against the backdrop of the dominant texts of literature starting with Sanskritic texts, to Kuvempu and others of Kannada. He does not believe in the territorial boundaries of such texts, but extends their scope and meaning beyond the pages in order to perceive greater relevance by engaging them with the contemporary political and cultural milieu. He reads them as politically nuanced texts and treats them as cultural and social metaphors. Kuvempu, Bendre and the entire cream of writers down to Adiga, Ananthamurthy, Lankesh and those bracketed with Bandaya and Dalit movements are all not only master craftsmen of their art, but specifically writers who have emerged in particular socio-cultural and political landscapes.

Rahamat believes that Kannada writers should open themselves to challenges posed by global texts of civilisation and culture by re-orienting their expression and archiving seminal elements of myths and legends through which our past cultures have expressed themselves.

Kattianchina Daari for which Rahamat has got the award includes his unflinching comments on not just writers like Tejaswi, Lankesh and Ananthamurthy, but also encompasses an innate quest for understanding Basavanna and Raghavanka, providing powerful insights into how past and present literatures need to be negotiated.

Rahamat belongs to a trans-modern pantheon of writers whose pre-occupation with culture involves not totally invalidating its rudiments. It is to retrieve the invigorating zeal of submerged cultures and try to find an antidote to modernistic approaches to art as a whole.

His discourses are perennially bound to determining a space for dethroned cultures which have suffered neglect and ignominy in the global conundrum.

He is genuinely secular for he keeps his beliefs intact in the very mundane, even as he tries to understand the global without subordinating those beliefs to secularism.

In his writings, Tarikere has inarguably scripted a soothing space for marginalised cultures.

And for the Kannada literary world he has provided a much needed impetus to break from the shackles of erstwhile forms and discover a new idiom to negotiate the fast changing realities of our times.


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