[Dr. H. L. Nagegowda]
If he were to migrate from one subject to another, Kuvempu would step into silence for a while and then commence the new. He did the same before he said, "The day before yesterday Puttayya Nayaka had come home. He said certain information might be available in your Shivamogga museum."
I asked him, "about which matter?"
"I have been collecting details for my novel, you see. It's about that. He gave me a few. He said you have a large collection of old books in your museum. I will visit it when I go there," he said.
"Yes, I do have old records, palm leaves, copper plate etchings; several of them. You might find what you are looking for if you could search through them."
"We just came to know when Chinne Gowda became a Christian. It was our mistake. It was the mistake of us in not taking the essence of Vedas and Upanishads to households. I have respect for Jesus, the Christ. But should we embrace other religion, on a plea that our religion has nothing? Our people committed a mistake in clutching Vedas and Upanishads as though it were their personal property. I am told that Devangi Ramanna Gowda had picked up a crowbar to dismantle the Tulasi Katte -Brindavana- after all of them decided to become Christians. His brother Nagappa Gowda took rifle into his hands threatening to kill all of them in case Devangi Ramanna Gowda dared to dismantle the Brindavana. That stopped the conversion. I am collecting all this information, for my novel."
"How big it would be?" I asked him.
"May be eight ten volumes. It will have account of whatever had happened in Malenadu region of Mysore province, in India and across the world in the last one hundred years. It is an epic novel of total view, till now not created in any language in whole of the world. It covers the whole universe! More than Tolstoy's War and Peace.....? I have more imagination than Tolstoy."
When he said this, I felt -Oh! This man is too haughty. However, when I thought that it was not Puttappa who said it, but a philosopher who holds tens of such Puttappas in him, the meaning in his words struck me.
"I want information about the past. When did the work of this Koppa-Theerthahalli road commence? When did the first bus run between these places? All this, and much of such information, about the past. This novel begins in the year 1860 and ends in 1920. When this road was laid and how people commuted earlier to it- all this. You can make notes of whatever you know and give it to me."
He had told this to me on a previous occasion also. But I had not done anything. I said "Yes." Wise men say that a man would be half mad at sixty. But this man had an ambition, a determination to write an epic novel of eight to ten volumes at this age. Really surprising. He did not appear to have had the limitations of the progressing age. I had asked him sometime before, "You are aged. How is the power of your intellect now? Is it as fine as it used to be?" I had a curiosity to know how I might fair when I reach that age. "Oh! Sure. I haven't lost anything." Even now it appears nothing has come in the way of his imagination and the vision. Except his moustache and his cropped hair, nothing in him seems to have aged.
"How far has the novel Malenadina Madhumagalu has been written up," I asked him.
"I am writing Malegalalli Madhumagalu. I started writing this novel while I was writing Ramayana Darshanam. Forty pages had been printed. It was getting published in magazine also. But I felt it was difficult to go with both Ramayana Darshanam and this novel at a time. They have different moods and it is not proper to sail with different moods. So I stopped the novel. I am doing it now. Not even a day's story is completed; it has crossed three hundred pages. I have created the characters and let them go. Now the novel is not in my hand; it is in their hands. It's like a mother who conceives, delivers, brings up her children and leaves them to their accord and sees them all. This is the state of things for me, now. I am now in their hands. I think a poet has to be not only a creator but also humble witness of the actions of the characters he creates. I can't say where this novel goes," he said.
I sat there for a while silently, brooding over those words.
"I have to write another book called Nenapina Doniyalli- Reminiscences." - Kuvempu said.
Kuvempu never spoke unnecessarily. I thought whatever he had spoken to me was more and I should not trouble him anymore. I signalled my intention to leave. He went into the home and came back. While he sat in his chair, I told him,
"If you can come to us, it would be helpful to collect any information you might be looking for."
His youngest daughter brought coffee for us. Perhaps he got a new enthusiasm sipping coffee, he said,
"The voice of valour of Swami Vivekananda should spread to villages in nook and corner. That is the voice that makes an impotent a valiant. He brought about a marvellous change in me. The other day there was celebration of his birth centenary. Do you think the mutts celebrated it? No. They don't have the desire to hear that voice. If they do it, they will lose offerings," and laughed.
He went in again and this time returned with the series of ten books in Kannada entitled, 'Vivekananda krithi shreni' and laid them before me. "In the first volume there is a preface I have written to the series. All these books may cost about sixty to seventy rupees. Take a bunch of these books and just keep them in villages. If someone runs into it, the dynamite will explode. You then watch what it does." Kuvempu spoke like a destructive spy.
'Hail him' I said to myself.