Remembering the achievements of Kuppalli Venkatappa Puttappa or Kuvempu on a day marking his 114th birth anniversary.
His is a household name in Karnataka and his magnum opus was the first Kannada work to bring home a Jnanpith. This day, 29 December, marks the 114th birth anniversary celebrations of Kuppalli Venkatappa Puttappa or Kuvempu (his pen name), and tributes are galore.
The National School of Drama is presenting an adaptation of his epic novel, Malegalalli Madumagalu, with a nine-hour-long play, as the novel also enjoys a golden jubilee this year, alongside his Jnanpith-winning magnum opus Ramayana Darshanam. The Department of Posts also released a special cancellation postal cover to mark the golden jubilee of Kuvempu receiving the prestigious national award.
The virtual world too is rejoicing the life and works of the literary giant, with Google Doodle paying a tribute wherein the poet is seen seated in the lap of nature, putting pen to paper. The doodle, created by illustrators Upamanyu Bhattacharyya and Swati Shelar, has the word ‘google’ in Kannada letters and Kuvempu seated against the scenic backdrop of hills and lush green surroundings, aptly depicting him and his works in a single frame.
Novelist, playwright, critic, and thinker Kuvempu’s contribution to Kannada is exemplary. Regarded as the greatest Kannada poet of the twentieth century, he played a great role in the mother-tongue education movement, spearheading it to make Kannada the medium of education, founded the Kannada Adhyayana Samsthe at the Mysore University to facilitate research in Kannada, which is now named after him as the Kuvempu Institute of Kannada studies. He is the one who penned the state anthem, ‘Jai Bharata Jananiya Tanujate’, and was honoured with the title of ‘Rashtrakavi’ in 1958 and Karnataka Ratna in 1992.
While the poet’s birth is being celebrated even a century or more after, his death is apparently the reason why the shelves of his home-turned-museum, which hold all the other awards, will never see his Padma Vibhushan medal that was stolen two years ago. The second-highest civilian award was conferred on him by the Government of India in 1988 and the medal was stolen in November 2015. The prime suspect on being arrested had said he may have lost it in the forests as he fled after stealing it, which led to a search operation in and around Kuppalli – all in vain.
As if the theft wasn’t appalling enough, topped with the fact that even after two years, there seems to be no trace of it, the government’s denial to issue a copy of it in its place, citing the reason as ‘the recipient is not alive’ is sad and disheartening, to say the least.
An appeal for a replica by the Rashtrakavi Kuvempu Pratishthana, which maintains the museum, was turned down by the Ministry of Home Affairs on grounds that the recipient was not alive.
Astonishing as it may sound, the ministry had said that it would have possibly considered if Kuvempu himself had asked for it. But, how? His writings may be immortal, but surely he isn’t. So expecting him to rise from the dead just to get a ‘replica’ of something he didn’t ask for but was honoured with, is rather strange and uncalled for.