Eminent scholar K V Narayana’s path-breaking initiative ‘Reading Karnataka’ seeks to radically change our traditional concepts of information and knowledge.
“We are not going anywhere,” said Prof G Venkatasubbaiah
, effectively indicating that “the Kannadigas
are here to stay and we will survive” irrespective of all the recent politicising of language issue.
Another crusader, Prof U R Ananthamurthy, never gets tired of pushing for “all information/knowledge to Kannadigas through Kannada”. But there is an unexpressed “also” to it, implying most of our knowledge sources are in English.
That the language issue has become a political game is common knowledge. The current topic of debate is the Nature of Knowledge. Journalist Sugata Srinivasaraju calls it an “epistemological intervention”.
Scholar and critic Dr K V Narayana thought of expanding the debate on such an issue and he started a series of workshops, a special knowledge zone, what he calls ‘Karnataka Oodu’. Some translate it as ‘Reading Karnataka’. It could also be termed Karnataka Studies. The three basic questions he poses are:
1. What should be the nature of the knowledge that we receive through Kannada?
2. Should the knowledge that we receive through Kannada be similar to the one we derivefrom English?
3. Is there a need to also import the frameworks through which we receive knowledge, that is, should we also borrow the troughs in which knowledge is contained?
“Karnataka Oodu (studies) is a result of debates we used to have among a group of friends and we decided to expand the reach and started conducting workshops at various places for the last two years,” says KVN
“The first step we need to take in this process is to integrate the various knowledge zones that remain scattered, independent and disconnected in the language. Though we can’t erase the borders between them, we should not create walls. Through this process, as it connects history, sociology, political science, anthropology, archaeology, art history, linguistics etc., we’ll figure out the way Karnataka has been perceived and interpreted by these disciplines. As we peruse the material, we’ll realise that the various disciplines have perceived and placed the land and its culture in a global framework. That there is hardly any difference between an insider’s view and an outsider’s take because the theoretical receptacles are the same or similar. They are indistinguishable and alien. The only difference is that the insider would have written his exegesis in the Kannada language
‘Karnataka Study’ aims to get as many as possible to think about acquiring the capacity for thinking in Kannada and it should start from within and not be borrowed from outside. Education has resulted in getting into the habit of looking at ourselves from the outside rather than evolve a method that comes as being an insider critique.
If this has to change, we have to use frameworks that have an organic or symbiotic relationship with the knowledge that is created.
“In our enthusiasm to ensure that all knowledge is made available in Kannada, we opened our gates wide. Now, we realise that the knowledge we possess is what got transferred from elsewhere and that we haven’t created any of them ourselves. We seem to have expanded our understanding of things, but then we have lost the ability to think independently. Ram Manohar Lohia
had once said that India
had not produced an independent thinker since the 4th century. Shankaracharya
was the last one. We have come to such a pass that if need to develop a process of thinking, we borrow it from outside; we have lost confidence that a Kannada mind can create it independently. When we borrow, we struggle to adapt to them to our circumstances and that in itself appears like a huge exercise. We should not only have a goal to create our own knowledge systems, but we should also believe that it is very much possible.”
He says that some sort of languor or fatigue has impeded the Indian mind. To think independently has taken a back seat. “It is like the state of Hanuman
’s mind in Ramayana just before his leap across the ocean. He thinks he is an insignificant small ape and may not be able undertake the venture. But luckily for Hanuman, there are others around to instil confidence in him, that he is very much competent to carry out the job. But sadly, there is nobody to do that to our languages and cultures. We have simply given up.
“As we get into an exercise like this there are people who’ll accuse us of being frogs in the well. They may be correct, but while we express wonderment about the expanse of the ocean, we can’t allow our ponds and lakes to go dry. They sustain us, not the sea.” (Translated by Sugata Srinivasaraju)
Is the ‘Reading Karnataka’ a process or a product?
KVN says it is both. “It is something that I have been preoccupied since 30 years since my student days. Take for instance, the American concept of South Asia
. For them, South Asia comprises Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iran, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka
. But from our point of view Tibet, Burma, Malaysia, Japan also belong to South Asia. However, we are conditioned by their concept. But our culture thoughts should be for our understanding and should relate to our lives in the contemporary times. The Kannada life, its problems should be understood from our point of view and we have to reclaim our intelligence. I call it the moment of realisation. Can we really reclaim our way of thinking? I think we can. We have to interact and include our younger generation into the debate and since it is not merely an intellectual exercise, but also emotional. They will definitely respond.”
KVN also talks about the scholars who address the pan-Indian or global audience “with their backs turned on Kannadigas, they should be facing the Kannadigas, if you know what I mean.” One has to talk to Kannadigas as an insider and not as an outsider.
KVN and his friends are organising workshops across the state and the response has been phenomenal. The next workshop is on September 1 and 2 at the farm house (Nisargadhama, Doddaballapur – Chikkaballapur Road, Thimmasandra,) of Kannada activist T N Prabhudev at Doddaballapur. Boarding and lodging facilities will be provided at Doddaballapur for participants. Those interested contact K Y Narayana Swamy (9739007127) and Ravikumar Bagi (9448881480).