This is my first time away from home and all my favorite festivals have passed by. I really miss the food, the celebration and of course meeting the extended family. Dasara and Deepavali are given a lot of importance due to various religious and spiritual reasons, in between there comes a festival (Utsava) called ‘Karnataka Rajyotsava’,the state formation day. Its a festival for every authentic kannadiga whose family has been actively involved in the independence movement to the ‘EkeekaraNa’ movement. My thaatha was a part of freedom movement, my uncle from the first movement of EkeekaraNa chaluvaLi and he still continues to go on. As a child as much as I watched the Republic Parade on TV live, my thaatha and amma would make me watch the colorful displays and programs in the Manekshaw Parade ground live on TV. I was always taught that we are as much as an Indian as a kannadiga. Nation comes first definitely, but the identity of kannadiga can never be traded off.
Kannadigas are very less known among the people of India, may be little more than from the North East Indians. The South Indians were generally branded ‘Madrasis’ and thought they all spoke Tamil. It was and is still a tough fight to maintain the identity because kannadigas always took pride in not being fanatics of their language or their culture. Infact I have cousins who do not read and write kannada because they go to a certain international school, or not go to the ‘stupid'(sarcasm) state syllabus schools. I remember there was clear distinction in schools who took sanskrit as first language or who took kannada as first language. It was automatically considered you are not good at studies if you take up kannada, its not as scoring as sanskrit or you would learn a new language. I was not in the attendance list of both the sections in high school for a week because I refused to go to the sanskrit class and my kannada teacher refused to take me stating that I scored well and should be taking up other subject. The drama ended after my mother came to school and said its the child’s wish to do so. I was really angry as to why my own language gets second preference in my own land. I challenged I would score as much as them and I did that as well.
My house was always filled with kannada books, my thaatha read most of the literature to me and I would read back to him. He would correct my pronunciation, the diction and fluency. There were translations, fun poems and little games in Kannada I thoroughly enjoyed. November 1st was a festival with equal importance to other festivals at home, there were discussions at home about the literature, how to improve on it and most importantly speak and teach in kannada. As I grew up in such an environment, I was a little shocked when I started studying Engineering. It was a campus which spoke very less kannada, everything was in English and Hindi. This was just about 20kms away from namma Bengaluru. The demography of Bengaluru also slowly changed becoming very cosmopolitan which doesn’t mean move away from the actual language. That’s where I started to teach kannada to people who didn’t know the language. There was a prevalent joke that if you see two people talking in English, they are definitely kannadigas 😀
After all the frustrations of not hearing and not listening to kannada, passionate kannadigas formed groups virtually and actually to impart the history, culture and the language. My father was one who wrote science in kannada apart from him being a busy scientist building missiles to the country or Nagesh Hegde who studied at IIT Kharagpur and still continues to write in kannada educating children and adults in simple language. Well this is exactly the way kannada as language has to be improved. I have come here to Barcelona, every manual, sign boards and numbers are told on either Catalan or Spanish. There are most educated people to the less educated but what binds them is language. Here we fight along saying mangloor kannada,mysore kananda, uthara karnataka kannada and such lame reasons. It is kannada and we are all kannadigas.
For a long time,kannadigas were in sleepy mode. We had almost forgotten to fight for own rights. We have two nationalist parties significantly and both have ‘high command’ to take decisions, and the regional party is little insignificant due to its less representatives in the state parliament. The recent judgement awakened a quite a lot of kannadigas to take a stand. I saw there are practical solutions seen. Kannada as a language is now been taught by youngsters to other youngsters, they do not shy away from speaking the language and they stand up for their own right. It’s cool to speak kannada you know !. KannadaGottilla was one such initiative that like minded youngsters took interest run it in a professional setup. There are no violent demonstrations, no loud orchestra but silent crusaders teaching kannada, the literature and culture throughout the year. An average kannadiga can always do this, read literature, stand up for his own right and mainly speak kannada without inhibitions .
This language has a history of thousands of years and has been a language which is very sweet, the literature is wonderful and so are the people. Let us not just treat that as a holiday, raja(holiday) but lets propagate the language, culture and history in a nicer way. When I teach kannada through whatsapp everyday, it makes me feel home. Far away from my land, I stay connected to my roots. Rajyotsava was and will never be a Raja-Utsava for me but a self evaluation day for the work I did the previous year and what more to do. Barcelona is also struggling to keep up Catalan language and culture, their propagation. Interestingly the flag has Red and Yellow, reminded me of the my Karnataka and the flag.
Happy Karnataka Rajyotsava..
PS : The post is in English for the non native kannada speakers to understand the importance of the language and culture of the state I belong.