ಕನ್ನಡ (Kannada)

- Life and Times- His Meeting the Irish Poet James H Cousins -
Introduction

Kuvempu- His Birth, Childhood and Life

His Initiation into Learning- School Days

A Poem That Became His Childhood Guru

His Studies at Mysore

His First English Poem

Kannada at the Time of Colonial Rule

His Meeting the Irish Poet James H Cousins

His Writing poetry in Kannada

His Trip to Calcutta

His Marital Life

His Teaching and Writing

KaviShaila, Poets home after 1994
 

Puttappa received applauds from the fellow students and teachers for the poems he wrote imitating the English poets he had read and those he wrote for occasions like farewell parties and school anniversaries. Greatly infatuated by the encouragement he got, Puttappa, who had been enchanted by the treasure of literature in that alien language continued to write poems in that language without any guidance from anyone. While he was in the SSLC class, that was at his age of 18 (1922) with the encouragement of his friends he brought out a 16-page poetry collection entitled "Beginner's Muse" that included the poems he had so written.

Even after the publication of the Beginner's Muse, the creative activity of Puttappa continued in English language alone. As Puttappa puts it, the 2nd July 1924, a Wednesday, was an unforgettable day in his life, especially in his literary life. M.H. Krishna Iyengar who taught history at the Maharaja High School and the then vice chancellor Brajendra Natha Sheel informed Puttappa about James H Cousins, an Irish poet who had come to deliver special lectures and asked him to meet Mr. Cousins and show his poems to him.

The next day itself, Puttappa went to the guesthouse where Mr. Cousins was staying and gave the manuscript into his hands. Mr. Cousins leafed through the script; raised his head to look at Puttappa who was clad in Khaddar responding to the call of Swadeshi Movement, from head to toe. The conversation between them, in the words of Puttappa, went on like this:

"Mr. Cousins spoke in a tone of displeasure: 'what is this stuff' he asked me. 'From tip to toe you are clad in Swadeshi clothes. But, this is not Swadeshi. Have you written anything in your own language?'

"I was getting angry with him for his tenor and style. I had wished that Mr. Cousins too will like them and praise me the same way as my friends and teachers had done. I was feeling disappointed and humiliated. Though I had written Amalana Kathe and attempted a few poems in Kannada by then, I replied arrogantly, 'No. It is not possible to say profound thoughts and great ideas in Kannada unlike English. The level of that (Kannada) language is too low. The meter is archaic and older like Kanda, Vritta and so on. There is no variety of meters as we find in English.'

"Mr. Cousins heard my answer, which now seems to me as arrogant, foolish and ridiculous, and he, the experienced and wise, said to me in a soft, consoling voice: 'It is not so. No language is capable by itself. It may appear so to an incapable writer until a capable one arrives. In the hands of the capable, it can work wonders. See the Bengali Language now. It was fitting to your description of your own language. Then Ravindranatha Tagore arrived. He wrote in a new style, invented new meters. He got the Nobel Prize also. You should also invent new meters, coin new adages with great possibilities. Write literature of a new kind. When we find that the literature you have created is great, we will translate it into our language, like what we did in case of Ravindra's literature. You cannot produce creative literature in English. That is an alien language for you. Great creative writing can come in the language that is yours by birth. Certainly, no one can write the best poetry in a language that is not his own. You will never know that. But it strikes to us, the native speakers, how ridiculous a creation it is.'

"He said a few more words of wisdom, returned the manuscript and bade good-bye to me. I came out, dejected and angry.

"I concealed from my friends who were waiting for me outside what I thought as a humiliation. I told them rather sarcastically that, Mr. Cousins wanted I, being a nationalist, to write in my Swadeshi language, Kannada and had said that it would be a symbol of my patriotism.

"Though the advice of Mr. Cousins had been rejected by my mind in the foreground, luckily, my inner self appears to have had accepted it. There was the blessing of the Goddess of Kannada words. Utilising the opportunity she lifted this child of hers to her milk filled breasts."

From then Puttappa resolved to write in Kannada. As he has said, 'it was a historic event.'

[Picked from Shri K. C. Shiva Reddy's book - Ugada Kavi (Poet of the Era). Translated to english by Shri R Vijayaraghavan]

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