DeshaKaala: fifth year's special release

Vivek Shanbhag went about his affairs quietly in college. He was among the best performers in his batch, and he stood out because of his reticence in a boisterous class, so I knew Vivek though I was two years his senior, though I've spoken not so much as ten sentences with him on the campus.

DeshaKaala: Release of special edition on 5th anniversary
Not many of us knew that Vivek was already in touch with the literary giants in Kannada—Shanthinath Desai, Yashwanth Chitthal, Ananthamurthy—and that he was on his way to a writing career. Now, in the same calm manner of those days, he publishes Deshakaala, each issue always on time, and presented better than all the previous.

He stumped everyone with the special issue last fortnight—it was big, attractive, and it had contributions from all the great contemporary Kannada writers, and, though a good job was expected, Vivek surpassed the expectation.


Girish Karnad had arrived early. Shabhana Azmi walked in shining like a star and took the first seat on the first row, and in seconds Karnad was before her. She had performed in a Karnad play the day before. Then came her husband Javed Akhtar, chief guest. Ananthamurthy paused before Shabhana Azmi, as happily surprised as all the others, and tapped her on the knees to draw her attention. (Was she lost in reading something? I couldn’t tell, though I was directly behind her, one row removed.) She rose bringing her hands to a namasthe; he held her arms and asked her to stay seated; "not before you, sir," she said.


I don’t suppose there was anyone in the audience who didn’t enjoy Akhtar’s speech. So many of us respect Urdu, and some have taken to hating it for other reasons. Akhtar theme was that language does not belong to religion, it belongs to its distinct region. And, in colonial times, in the process of dividing to rule, that lyrical language was taken from the region where it was born, from the culture it had fostered, and foisted upon the Muslim people. Urdu was thereby orphaned; a culture was orphaned also; and the result shows in the literature of the region, in Bollywood, in the noisy media.

It wasn’t a short speech, but there was complete silence until the last two minutes, when a few began to shift in their seats and look about. But he was done, and he received a standing ovation.