Till YNK joined the Kannada Prabha, the Gandhibazaar Patrike came out in the tabloid form. But in the later years, the Patrike aspired differently.
From childhood, Bakina was interested in literature. The Chandamama, as he remembers, caught his imagination young and he had even written a couple of stories for it. His father was a village accountant and life was modest. He had to give up studies after PUC for lack of funds. Bakina came to Bangalore and worked as a manager in a factory. “They had given me a scooter. But I’m not the kind who can work for others. I gave up the job. My father said study further I’ll somehow send you the money…” Bakina joined the Printing Technology course in the SJP Polytechnic college. Having completed the course, he got a job at the Mysore Wesley Press, run by the Christian missionary. “It was a great training ground and I got a stipend from the government. In Mysore, I met a lot of writers. I would go to the famous Coffee House where many of our writers used to spend many hours discussing. I would sit in a corner and observe them, and gradually became friends with them.” When Bakina met K.V. Subbanna, he invited him to Sagar to run their press, Sagara Mudrana, which he had set up with his friend Prabhakar. “The Mysore Wesley Press was kind to me, they relieved me mid way through the contract, and with a glowing certificate. They called me ‘hardworking and best worker’…”
His days at Sagar were certainly a memorable period of his life. It was the thick of the Socialist movement with writers and politicians engaged in a creative dialogue. He got to meet the architect of modern Kannada poetry, Gopalakrishna Adiga and became his close associate. In fact, much later, when Adiga brought out his unusual literary magazine Sakshi, Bakina played an important part.
In those years, Bakina was a good friend of the Kannada writer P. Lankesh and had been reading the manuscript of Biruku which became one of his important works in the later years. “I suggested to Subbanna that we should publish this novel as it was different from anything that we had read in Kannada in those years. He agreed, and the novel got a good reception,” he recalls. Bakina was the kind who work tirelessly with great interest and commitment, but, “I was always crazy about starting journals. Around this time, I started a bi-monthly journal called Kavita – it was dedicated to poetry. Can you believe that I even started a journal dedicated to theatre, Natana , which I did with the help of B.V. Karanth. This had a short life though….”
It was after he returned to Bangalore from Sagar, that Bakina started Lipi Mudrana. The place that Bakina still occupies used to be a lawyer’s car shed. “He gave it to me on rent, and hasn’t disturbed me since,” he adds. “The very first book I published was poet Ramachandra Sharma’s Hesaragatte …,” he beams. It was only after the press gained momentum did he start Gandhibazaar Patrike . It transformed from a tabloid to becoming a serious, small literary magazine. “I made it a monthly with readers all over Karnataka. There was never a dearth of articles. It was a steady flow from all quarters, however I am choosy about what I publish. Many times writers were angry with me… but that didn’t bother me much,” says Bakina, who cannot mince words even if he tries. Gandhibazaar Patrike soldiers on bravely heading towards the three decade mark; it has always picked up the latest debates, and controversies in the world of Kannada literature, it has paid homage to writers and reviewed books that are considered milestones – all with a fair outlook.
Publishing never took a backseat. In fact, Bakina was among the first publishers who started the tradition of publishing complete works of writers. K.S. Narasimha Swamy’s Malligeya Maley , Gopalakrishna Adiga’s Samagra Kavya , Putina’s Samagra Kavya came from the stables of Lipi. “K.S. Narasimha Swamy was like a father to me. After publishing Malligeya Maley I became so despondent. I couldn’t sell it. I knew chief minister Ramakrishna Hegde rather well. I went to the Janata Darshan and explained the problem. ‘If I cannot pay such a big writer his royalty, isn’t it a shame?’ I told him. He took my appeal, and after two months when I had lost all hopes, I received a letter from the government saying they would buy 500 copies!”
Bakina swears he has never had a dull moment. He is full of anecdotes about his warm relationship with writers of the past – “those were great times. They will never come back.” The present is not bleak either. He has many stories from now also – of how a businessman handed over a cheque of Rs. 25,000 urging him never to stop the Patrike, how a reader came looking for him from Mumbai and paid for 20 subscriptions, so on and so forth. Bakina pulsates with a positive attitude, there’s not a bitter note in him. He walks up to the footpath and says, “I am 70 now. I don’t have money, but I have lots of friends. Can I ask for more?”
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