Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Dinakar Desai, the poet and me

Note: Those who know Kannada will enjoy this post more.

I was not named after Dinakar Desai, but people remembered him through my name! 
Read on, you will come to know.  First I must brief about the great man.

The name of Dinakar Desai  [click for Wiki link] was on every Kannadiga's lips, esp. during the 1970s and 80s when Kannada magazines and periodicals carried his four-line limericks [ಚುಟುಕ].  These limericks were extremely popular for their beauty, simplicity, relevance, crispness, and meaningfulness. In fact, Desai is considered as ಚುಟುಕ ಬ್ರಹ್ಮ [chutuka brahma - creator of limericks]. This became his 'signature format' which other poets followed later. 

The topics for his limericks ranged from current affairs to politics and politicians or about life or just about anything which everyone easily understood.  He coated reality with a subtle touch of humour. That became his style loved by thousands of readers.  He has written thousands such limericks which were published in many pages of Kannada magazines for many years.

Desai lived between 1909 and 1982, was a poet, educationist, writer and political activist.  
 Kamat's Potpourri  [some info here].

Regarding the selection of topics, Desai himself wrote in his inimitable style:

ನಾನು ಬರೆಯುವುದೆಲ್ಲ ನಡೆದ ಸುದ್ದಿ. 
ಇದಕೆ ಸಾಕೆನಿಸುವುದು ಸಾಮಾನ್ಯ ಬುದ್ದಿ. 
ಸಾಮಾನ್ಯ ಬುದ್ದಿ ಇದ್ದವೆರೆಷ್ಟು ಹೇಳು?
ಹೇಳದ್ದಿದರೆ ಒಳಿತು. 
He also says,

ನಾ ಬರೆದ ಚುಟುಕಗಳಿಗುಂಟು ಆಧಾರ. 
ಇವು ಜೀವನದ ಅನುಭವದ ಸಾರ.

Another quadruplet reveals his humility:

ನಾ ಬರೆದ ಚುಟುಕಗಳು ವಿಪರೀತ
ಶೇಕಡ ತೊಂಬತ್ತು ಹೊಡೆಯುವುವು ಗೋತ
ಉಳಿದ ಹತ್ತರ ಪೈಕಿ ಏಳೆ೦ಟು ಸತ್ತು
ಒಂದೆರಡು ಬದುಕಿದರೆ ಅವು ಮಾತ್ರ ಮುತ್ತು.

...which means, "My chutukas are too many, nearly 90% are a flop.  Of the remaining, atleast seven to eight will die and if the remaining one or two survive they will be the real gems." 

For one who did not like real poetry in college, these used to impress me. My father used to subscribe to various magazines as reading books was an important pastime before the advent of computers.  Desai's limericks were published in ಸುಧಾ and ಮಯೂರ particularly.

Through him, I would also get a free suffix of  'Desai' whenever I answered my name.  There would be that instant reaction 'Dinakar Desai'!!  I felt so happy with that.   It was better than someone rhymed my name for some teasing fun as 'Dinakara Emmekara' - 'ದಿನಕರ ಎಮ್ಮೆಕರ '  [ಎಮ್ಮೆ = buffalo].  I used to enjoy both, anyhow! 

I could not believe that this suffixing even went in print!! I was playing cricket for Mysore Zone at Tumkur in 1983.  Someone from our team was scoring in the book and in the evening when the press reporter came to collect the match scores, he was shown our score book.  There it was, the scorer had written my name as 'Dinakar Desai'!! The next day, it came in ಪ್ರಜಾವಾಣಿ newspaper with the 'Desai' suffix because I had also put up a good peformance!
See clipping below - underlined in red.  Mysteriously, the second day's report had deleted the suffix!  .

The original Dinakar Desai had died in 1982 and as the 1980s went through, his name also waned with the public because magazines stopped printing his quadruplets. Thirty years on, I wonder if the newer generation has heard of him at all!  But his contribution to the literary world was so immense that a 'Dinakar Desai Award' came into being after his death.
But I'll be there anyway....

Here is my silly little rhymer on my cousin Subbu:

ಇವನ ಹೆಸರು ಸುಬ್ಬು,
ಬಲು ಚೆಂದ ಇವನ ಹುಬ್ಬು,
ಆದರೆ ಇವನ ಹಲ್ಲು ಕೊಂಚ ಉಬ್ಬು,
ಇವನ ಬಾಯಂತೂ ಬಲು ಗಬ್ಬು. 

ನಮ್ಸುಬ್ಬುವಿಗೆ ಇಲ್ಲ ಕೊಬ್ಬು,
ಅವರಪ್ಪ ಬೆಳೆದಿದ್ದ ಕಬ್ಬು,
ಇವರ ಮನೇಲಿಲ್ಲ ಬಾತ್ ಟಬ್ಬು,
ನಮ್ಸುಬ್ಬುವಿಗೆ ಓದಲಾಗಲಿಲ್ಲ ಬೀ-ಲಿಬ್ಬು. 

ಅವನ ಬೈಸ್ಕಲ್ಲ್ಗಿತ್ತು ಹಬ್ಬು,
ಎಡವಿ ಮಾಡ್ಕೊಂಡ ಅಬ್ಬು,
ಅಬ್ಬುವಿಗೆ ಮಾಡ್ತಿದ್ದ ರಬ್ಬು,
ಇವನೇ ನಮ್ಸುಬ್ಬು. 

~ ಕೊ. ರಾ. ದಿನಕರ