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    Ganesh Devy undertook 300 journeys in 18 months to explore India's languages / ANUSHREE FADNAVIS/INDUS IMAGES

    Ganesh Devy undertook 300 journeys in 18 months to explore India’s languages / ANUSHREE FADNAVIS/INDUS IMAGES

    When Ganesh Devy, a former professor of English, embarked on a search for India’s languages, he expected to walk into a graveyard, littered with dead and dying mother tongues.

    Instead, he says, he walked into a “dense forest of voices”, a noisy Tower of Babel in one of the world’s most populous nations.

    He discovered that some 16 languages spoken in the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh have 200 words for snow alone – some of them ornately descriptive like “flakes falling on water”, or “falling when the moon is up”.

    He found that the nomadic communities in the desert state of Rajasthan used a large number of words to describe the barren landscape, including ones for how man and animal separately experience the sandy nothingness. And that nomads – who were once branded “criminal tribes” by British rulers and now hawk maps for a living at Delhi’s traffic crossings – spoke a “secret” language because of the stigma attached to their community.

    In a dozen villages on the western coast of Maharashtra, not far from the state capital Mumbai, he discovered people speaking an “outdated” form of Portuguese. A group of residents in the far-flung eastern archipelago of Andaman and Nicobar spoke in Karen, an ethnic language of Myanmar. And some Indians living in Gujarat even spoke in Japanese. Indians, he found, spoke some 125 foreign languages as their mother tongue.

    Dr Devy, an untrained linguist, is a soft-spoken and fiercely determined man. He taught English at a university in Gujarat for 16 years before moving to a remote village to start working with local tribespeople. He helped them access credit, run seed banks and healthcare projects. More importantly, he also published a journal in 11 tribal languagesGrey line

    Languages of India

    • The 1961 census counted 1,652 Indian languages
    • The People’s Linguistic Survey of India (PLSI) counted 780 Indian languages in 2010
    • 197 of these are endangered, 42 of them critically so, according to UNESCO
    • Arunachal Pradesh and Assam in the northeast, Maharashtra and Gujarat in the west, Orissa and Bengal in the east, and Rajasthan in the north have the most languages
    • India has 68 living scripts
    • The country publishes newspapers in 35 languages
    • Hindi is India’s most used language, spoken by 40% of Indians. This is followed by Bengali (8.0%), Telugu (7.1%), Marathi (6.9%), and Tamil (5.9%)
    • The state-run All India Radio (AIR) broadcasts programmes in 120 languages
    • Only 4% of languages are represented in India’s parliament

    Sources: Census of India, 2001, 1962, UNESCO, People’s Linguistic Survey of India 2010.Grey line

    It was around this time Dr Devy had an epiphany about the power of language.

    In 1998, he carried 700 copies of his journal written in the local language to a dirt-poor tribal village. He left a basket for any villager who wanted to or could afford to pay 10 rupees (£0.11; $0.15) for a copy. At the end of the day, all the copies were gone.

    When he checked the basket, he found a large of number of currency notes – “grimy, crumpled, soggy” – left behind by the tribal villagers who had paid whatever they could afford from their paltry daily wages.

    Dr Devy and his team have recorded India's many sign languages / ANUSHREE FADNAVIS/INDUS IMAGES

    Dr Devy and his team have recorded India’s many sign languages /

    A story written in Spiti language, spoken in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh / ANUSHREE FADNAVIS/INDUS IMAGES

    A story written in Spiti language, spoken in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh /

    “This must have been the first printed material they saw in their life in their own language. These were unlettered daily wage workers who had paid for something they could not even read. I realised this primordial pride and power of the language,” Dr Devy told me.

    Seven years ago, he launched his ambitious People’s Linguistic Survey of India (PLSI), which he called a “right-based movement for carrying out a nation-wide survey of Indian languages as people perceive them”.

    As the indefatigable language hunter turned 60, he undertook 300 journeys in 18 months across the length and breadth of India to search for more languages. He paid for his trips using money he earned by delivering lectures in universities and colleges. He travelled night and day, revisiting some states nearly 10 times, and religiously kept a diary.

    Dr Devy also forged a voluntary network of some 3,500 scholars, teachers, activists, bus drivers and nomads, who travelled to the remotest parts of the country. Among them was a driver of a bureaucrat’s car in the eastern state of Orissa who kept a diary of the new words he heard during his extensive travels. The volunteers interviewed people and chronicled the history and geography of languages. They also asked locals to “draw their own maps” on the reach of their language.

    The script of a language called Sakal spoken in Maharashtra / ANUSHREE FADNAVIS/INDUS IMAGES

    The script of a language called Sakal spoken in Maharashtra /

    The PLSI has already published 39 books on Indian languages / ANUSHREE FADNAVIS/INDUS IMAGES

    The PLSI has already published 39 books on Indian languages /

    “People drew maps shaped like flowers, triangles, circles. These were maps of their imagination on the reach of their language,” says Dr Devy.

    By 2011, the PLSI had recorded 780 languages, down from the 1,652 languages counted by the government in 1961. Thirty-nine of a planned 100 books carrying the findings of the organisation’s survey have already been published; and some 35,000 pages of typed manuscripts are being vetted for publication.

    India has lost a few hundred languages because of lack of government patronage, dwindling number of speakers, poor primary education in local languages, and migration of tribespeople from their native villages. The death of a language is always a cultural tragedy, and marks the withering away of wisdom, fables, stories, games and music.

    ‘Linguistic democracy’

    Dr Devy says there are more pressing anxieties. He worries about the ruling Hindu nationalist BJP’s efforts to impose Hindi all over India, which he calls a “direct attack on our linguistic plurality”. He wonders how India’s melting-pot megacities will deal with linguistic diversity in the face of chauvinistic politics.

    Dr Devy is now planning to check the health of the world's 6,500 languages  / ANUSHREE FADNAVIS/INDUS IMAGES/

    Dr Devy is now planning to check the health of the world’s 6,500 languages / ANUSHREE FADNAVIS/INDUS IMAGES/

    “I feel sad every time a language dies. But we have suffered heavier losses in other diversities – like varieties of fish and rice,” he says, sitting in his home in Dharwad, a sleepy, historic town in Karnataka state.

    “Our languages have survived tenaciously. We are truly a linguistic democracy. To keep our democracy alive, we have to keep our languages alive.”

    source: / BBC News / Home> News> Asia> India / by Soutik Biswas, India Correspondent / October 27th, 2017

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    October 30th, 2017adminArts, Culture & Entertainment, Sports
    When stars meet: Veteran cricketers B.S. Chandrasekhar, Syed Kirmani, E.A.S. Prasanna, and Rahul Dravid releasing senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai’s book Democracy IX at the Bangalore Literature Festival on Sunday.   | Photo Credit: Sudhakara Jain

    When stars meet: Veteran cricketers B.S. Chandrasekhar, Syed Kirmani, E.A.S. Prasanna, and Rahul Dravid releasing senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai’s book Democracy IX at the Bangalore Literature Festival on Sunday. | Photo Credit: Sudhakara Jain

    Four Karnataka cricket legends shared the stage at the Bangalore Literature Festival on Sunday, leaving the audience spellbound.

    B.S. Chandrasekhar, E.A.S. Prasanna, Syed Kirmani, and Rahul Dravid regaled the audience in the company of senior journalist, Rajdeep Sardesai. The former India internationals were present to support Sardesai’s new cricket book Democracy’s XI.

    Dravid, the star attraction, stated that he was fortunate to start his career in a State that has produced several world-class cricketers. “The great thing about the cricket culture in the city is that you get to interact with international cricketers when you are young. I remember, when I was 18 or 19, we took a 48-hour train journey to Calcutta to play a Ranji Trophy match. I had G.R. Viswanath (then Karnataka chairman of selectors and team manager) and Kirmani sitting in my compartment. They were happy to share their inputs with me, and I was constantly picking their brain. As an 18-year-old, what more can you ask for,” Dravid said.

    He alluded to the fact that his seniors were not averse to knocking back a few cold beverages. “Forty-eight hours is a long time, you have to find ways to pass time. There were some card sessions, and I won’t say what else happened. All I can say is that the weather was warm, and that in those days, there were no fitness tests and diet rules,” he said.

    source: / The Hindu / Home> News> States> Karnataka / by Ashwin Achal / Bengaluru – October 29th, 2017

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    October 30th, 2017adminArts, Culture & Entertainment


    Chennai :

    What happens when five friends from drastically different musical backgrounds, equally passionate about music, come together? Naturally, music is taken to a different level — to a supreme level. Param (meaning supreme in Sanskrit), a four-year-old Mysore-based band took Chennaiites on a joyride with their music recently. CE got in touch with Mayur GS, the band’s drummer, who lets us in on their journey so far.

    “We were all in Mysore, playing for different bands when we happened to meet and realise that we have similar taste in music. We also had similar aspirations. That’s how the idea of forming a band came about. Since we all are equally serious about music, it wasn’t very difficult to get started,” Mayur recalls.
    The boy band has Vijay Hegde (lead vocalist), Shreyas Urs (lead guitarist), Sanketh Kumar (bassist), Mayur GS (drummer) and Abhimanyu Menon (percussionist — tabla).

    The band, which is popular for the Hindustani Progressive Rock music genre, has played at several events including Toyota India Ekiden 2015, Mysore, and has even opened for musicians like Baiju Dharmajan. One of their biggest achievements is securing sixth position in the All India Category at the Channel V India Fest held in Goa in 2014. “We were among the top three bands from South India. It was quite exciting to tour as a band, but we have stayed away from competitions ever since to focus only on live performances. Our strength is that we rely purely on our original compositions,” he explains.

    It is often said that music is universal…but how is it possible to fuse two diverse and different genres at the same time? The band combines elements from Hindustani and progressive rock that are like chalk and cheese in notes, tradition, language, etc. “Vijay has been singing Hindustani music for the last 20 years. I am trained in Carnatic music; our guitarist and bassist has a blues and traditional rock sound background. Our percussionist comes from a Hindustani background. Diversity is not the problem,” he avers. “The challenge is in keeping the songs simple, yet interesting. Sometimes tunes that sound good in Hindustani, for instance, might not sound very good in rock and vice-versa. That is where we need to understand limitations of the two, and produce some great music.”

    ‘Param’, which takes inspiration from bands such as Shakthi, Porcupine tree, Motherjane and Avial, has a diverse fan following as well. “The youth is attracted to rock music, but sometimes we see several senior citizens at our concerts. I am not exaggerating but even my grandmother comes to our concerts,” he laughs.

    Though this is their first performance in the city, the band seems quite familiar with the musical history and tradition of Chennai. “Both Chennai and Mysore have played a huge role in preserving the rich history of classical music. But the concept of live music and performances is only catching up in these cities,” Mayur opines. “We perform quite often in Bengaluru as it offers a better platform for live musicians.”

    An embarrassing moment?
    We misplaced our guitar while travelling to a gig. We realised that it was missing only few minutes before the gig. Thankfully, a friend had a guitar and we managed just fine.
    Musician you want to work with?
    Steven Wilson
    Your jam song?
    Away, one of our originals
     Your dream stage?
     Royal Albert Hall in London — long term
    NH7 weekender — short term
    Why are there no women musicians in the band?
    It is much simpler this way, because we are all really good friends first and then musicians.
    source: / The New Indian Express / Home> Cities> Chennai / by Thushara Anne Mathew / Express News Service / October 29th, 2017
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    After her wedding, Ashwini Anil left her hometown Puttur and moved to Bahrain. That was 10 years ago. Despite having had a postgraduate in computer science, she found it difficult to get a job, thanks to recession. Inspired by her mother, Durga Govind, an expert in crochet designing, she decided to take up crocheting. That changed her world and now their products are being used by the poor all over the world.

    Ashwini told BM, “My mother is so talented. She does knitting, crochet sewing, embroidery and many other crafts. She used to stitch all our dresses, sweaters and even school bags. I feel proud to say and my sister Anushri and I rarely wore readymade dresses. She has been an inspiration. Though I was not very active in the art world when in Puttur, crochet and art became my world, without even realising how and when. Initially, it was difficult to get the right yarn. Then I started experimenting with plastic as the raw material. I started using waste material like milk bottles and the outcome was attractive. My husband, Anil Dheraje, a project manager, has helped me in every step,” she said.

    Her work became an instant hit and she was introduced to Momwise, a group on social media. They were holding an exhibition and she was surprised when she was asked to share her work. Ashwini was later introduced to Chennai-based Subhashri Natrajan who through ‘Mother India Crochet Queens’ (MICQ) was successful in making the largest crochet blanket in the world, measuring 11,148.5 sq metre.

    Ashwini and her mother participated in the project along with over 1,000 participants from the country and 13 other countries.

    The blankets were donated to the needy last year. The team was not satisfied with this record and they decided to create the world’s largest scarf.

    To promote international peace, a group of crochet enthusiasts knitted the world’s longest scarf measuring 14.09 km. The feat was acknowledged by the Guinness World Records.

    Ashwini said, for this record, MICQ created about 5400 scarves. 900 of them were sent to Secretary General of United Nations and head of states as a step towards spreading global peace.

    Attempting another record, they are now working on huge crochet sculptures.

    “The aim is to make the largest display of crochet sculptures and we hope to break the UK record created in 2014,” she said.

    source: / Bangalore Mirror / Home> News> State / by Deepthi Sanjiv, Bangalore Mirror Bureau / October 28th, 2017

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    October 30th, 2017adminRecords, All, Sports
    Lagori is no longer just a child’s play

    Lagori is no longer just a child’s play

    20 teams to participate in the tourney slated for first week of January

    Along with surfing, Mangaluru is likely to become the go-to destination of the state for lagori too. As the First Lagori Tulunadu Cup 2017 organised by Pathway Mangaluru in June this year with the participation of nearly 20 teams of 12 players each from Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Kasargod was a huge success, the Amateur Lagori Association of India has asked the Pathway to organise the Senior National Lagori tournament for men and women in the first week of January in Mangaluru.

    Deepak Ganguli from Pathway told BM, “The association was impressed by the manner in which the district-level tourney was conducted and hence asked us to hold the seventh national level tourney under the Amateur Federation of India. The event will be held in the Karavali Utsav grounds. The sixth edition was held in Rajasthan.”

    He said they were expecting at least 15-20 states to participate and were hopeful that at least three players from Mangaluru will be representing the Karnataka men’s team. Before the national tourney, a selection camp will be held in Mangaluru, which will see the participation of at least 200 players (men) from across the state. In an attempt to popularise the game, plans are to hold premier league matches on beachside. “The top 15 players will represent Karnataka in the national match and our aim is to have at least one player from Mangaluru for the World Cup to be held in May next year at Mumbai,” said Ganguli.

    Pathway has received queries from women players wanting to participate. “As the Association has informed that the state team (women’s) has already been finalised, we are likely to hold district level matches for women next year,” he said.

    source: / Bangalore Mirror / Home> Bangalore> Others / by Bangalore Mirror Bureau / October 25th, 2017

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    The cenotaph was demolished with official sanction on Oct 28, 1964.

    The cenotaph was demolished with official sanction on Oct 28, 1964.

    Bengaluru has had a long history of renaming its roads and landmarks. This story is about a landmark which was completely destroyed because of its link to the city’s colonial history.It happened on October 28, 1964. A cenotaph dedicated to soldiers who died in the 1791 Siege of Bangalore was demolished.

    “A group of Kannada activists led by Vatal Nagaraj wanted to demolish structures and statues that they considered as symbols of colonial victory over Indians,” said Mansoor Ali, founder, Bengaluru By Foot.

    While statues of Queen Victoria, King Edward and Mark Cubbon were also on their radar, they zeroed in on the cenotaph as it was in the city centre (Hudson Circle).The call to pull down the cenotaph goes back to the late 1940s but it was in October 1964 that a resolution was passed by the city corporation under mounting pressure from Kannada activists. Today ,a statue of Kempe Gowda, the city’s founder, stands in its place.

    The 35-feet-tall cenotaph pillar was constructed in the memory of the 50-odd soldiers and commanders who died in the 1791 Siege of Bangalore and other Anglo-Mysore wars. It had stone plaques and ceremonial urns on all four sides, similar to the one constructed in Tipu Sultan’s capital Srirangapatna.According to Ali, the cenotaph included names of not only British soldiers, but also of Indians who fought as part of the Madras Engineering Group (MEG).

    During the siege, the British first captured the pete (which housed residential and commercial areas) on March 7, 1791, and then captured the stone military fort on March 21.The event put Bangalore on the British map. Subsequently , the British used the Bangalore fort as a base for the Siege of Seringapatam in 1792, which forced Tipu to concede defeat.

    Initially, officers who died during the Siege of Bangalore were buried in the Fort’s Cemetery .Robert Home’s book `Select Views in Mysore, the country of Tipoo Sultan’ illustrates graves of soldiers and indicates that the land was filled with cypress trees, rose bushes and flowers. In the early 1910s, the records of these officers were transferred to the Cenotaph that was raised in the British cantonment.

     After the demolition, the stones from the cenotaph were thrown away . One remnant was a bench in the corporation office until recently , while a some others were at the nearby Abbas Khan College.The Cenotaph Road on which the structure stood was renamed Nrupathunga Road. “Instead of eliminating a heritage structure that marked a turning point in the history of Bengaluru, we could have constructed another monument of Mysoreans who lost their lives in war. Both could have coexisted,” said Ali.

    source: / The Economic Times / ET Home> Magazines> Panache / by Divya Shekhar, ET Bureau / October 26th, 2017

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    Bengaluru :

    Epigraphists at the University of Mysore are close to unveiling facts about Bengaluru’s founding fathers. And, the story predates Kempegowda, who is believed to have founded the city.

    The team is recompiling Epigraphia Carnatica -considered an authentic history document -which will shed new light on how Bengaluru was built and how it existed with its present name centuries before Kempegowda.

    “The recompilation is going on in full swing. We are aiming at publishing revised volumes about Bengaluru by April 2018,” said MG Manjunath, organizing editor of Epigraphia Carnatica’s revised volumes.

    Among the information to be added to the document are the chapters about an inscription found in Begur on the city outskirts, according to which Bengaluru’s existence dates back to 890AD and the period before it. The inscription found in 1952 at Nageswara Temple in Begur says: “Bengaluru kaalagadalli Nagaththarana maga Buttanasetty saththam.” (Nagaththara’s son Buttanasetty  was killed in the Bengaluru battle). Nagaththara was a feudatory ruler under Gangas, who flour ished in the ninth century , and the inscription is believed to have been written in 890AD.


    Another piece of evidence to show Bengaluru had been built much before the time of Kempegowda (1510 to 1570AD) is an inscription on the wall of Someshwara Temple near Madiwala Lake. It reads that the Hoysala king Veera Ballala donated a piece of paddy land to the temple in 1218AD and mentions the temple was in Bengaluru.

    “These are known facts and it has already been established that Bengaluru existed much before Kempegowda,” said HS Gopal Rao, vice-president, Karnataka Ithihasa Academy , and a wellknown epigraphist. Efforts are on to recom pile disparate historical facts into an authentic document and the revised volumes of Epigraphia Carnatica related to Bengaluru districts will be published,” Gopal Rao added.

    Rao, however, said Kempe gowda’s contribution to the city’s development cannot be denied. “Kempegowda is credited with having developed Bengaluru into a commercial capital of Yalahanka Naadu. He built commercial hubs like Chikkapete and Doddapete apart from the mud fort that was built in 1532. He gave Bengaluru an initial identity, thanks to the temples and the four iconic towers among other monuments he constructed,” Rao said.

    The original Epigraphia Carnatica complied and published in 1905 by British historian and archaeologist B L Rice contained 12 volumes.While it was based on over 9,000 inscriptions found till then, there was a supplementary volume based on the findings at a later stage. The supplementary volume had more information about Bengaluru, but it was not included in the main volume, which went out of print in 1950. Subsequently, over 2,000 more inscriptions were found, and Kuvempu Kannada Study Centre of UoM took up the task of recompiling Epigraphia Carnatica with inclusion of the supplementary volume and later findings.

    Deverakonda Reddy, president of Karnataka Itihasa Academy, was tasked with compiling two volumes about Bengaluru in 2005. But he could not complete the project for want of support from the university in terms of resources and manpower, and he surrendered it in 2013. “The work has been fast-tracked now. I hope the revised volumes are published early next year,” said Reddy.

    source: / The Times of India / News> City News> Bangalore News / by Shivshankar / TNN / October 28th, 2017

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    October 27th, 2017adminRecords, All


    A Deputy Range Forest Officer, who served to break the back of poaching and smuggling rackets at Kali Tiger Reserve, was selected as one of the recipients of the Green Warriors’ Award instituted by the Royal Bank of Scotland.

    Chandrakant Naik, whose work in Uttara Kannada, included busting a Bull Frog smuggling racket, collected the award on Thursday.

    Chief Minister Siddaramaiah commended the officer, and took to Twitter to say: “I congratulate Forest Officer Chandrakant R. Naik for this distinction! His efforts to preserve our rich ecological heritage are commendable.”

    Mr. Naik developed a reputation of tireless protection work during his stint in Kulgi and Kumbarwada Wildlife Ranges of the then Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve. A release said, he not only confronted the poaching and timber mafia, but also emphasised outreach activities that saw poachers changing their profession.

    It was in 2012 that he played a crucial role in busting the Bull Frog smuggling racket.

    source: / The Hindu / Home> News> States> Karnataka / by Staff Reporter / Bengaluru – October 27th, 2017

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    October 27th, 2017adminBusiness & Economy

    With the aim of encouraging individuals to come up with original and useful devices, and to provide a platform for innovators, the Department of Information Technology, Biotechnology and and Science and Technology will organise a two-day ‘Maker Faire’ on November 17 and 18 on Palace Grounds in Bengaluru.

    Announcing this at a press conference here on Thursday, Vasant Kamat, innovation consultant of Workbench Project, an agency partnering with the event, said the government was holding such an event in the State for the first time.

    He said many individuals design unique and useful devices, but in the absence of the right platform to showcase them, the products go unnoticed. “Considering this, the government has decided to hold an event where innovators and entrepreneurs can both come under one roof. While the innovators get the opportunity to display their products, entrepreneurs will get to see some unique models that they can buy and develop. This helps innovators make money and showcase their talent while companies get new designs for manufacture and sale,” he said.

    He said anyone can participate in the event by registering his or her product.

    Mr. Kamat, however, made it clear that before approval for display, the designs would be checked by a committee. Only around 100 designs are expected to be approved. He also said though no financial assistance would be assured to any innovator, if participating companies show interest, they could select designs for manufacturing.

    Admitting that innovations in the field of agriculture is need of the hour in the country, Mr. Kamat said their focus would be on designs in that sector. He also said that since Karnataka is a hub for the textile sector, technology that could upgrade this sector with innovative designs could be displayed.

    For details, visit All entries must be submitted by October 30 (Monday).

    source: / The Hindu / Home> News> States> Karnataka / by Special Correspondent / October 27th, 2017

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    On October 29 falls the 30th death anniversary of Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay. Paying tribute to the grand lady who changed the way society looked at women, we carry excerpts from acclaimed Kannada writer Vaidehi’s book on her

    Do you know Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay from close quarters? Wasn’t she your contemporary?” I asked Kota Lakshminarayan Karanth once. Cursing his forgetfulness and praising his younger brother, Dr. Shivarama Karanth’s phenomenal memory, this 91-year-old pathbreaking educationist would recollect from his “wretched” memory: “I met her only once in Mangalore. It was the year 1926 I think…What an exquisitely beautiful young lady she was! Already committed to public life, she had a vast collection of books. ‘Can I borrow some books from your library?’ I asked her. She recalled that I was a classmate of her ex-husband’s younger brother and said, ‘Why not? But remember to return them within seven days.’ I went to her place in Kodialbail, a mansion opposite the cart stand. I borrowed Trotsky’s History of Russian Revolution. I promptly returned it within a week. Kamaladevi was delighted. ‘ Nobody has ever returned my books on time. I had to be strict, you know, as books once lent just disappear into thin air!’, she said.


    “ Age cannot wither nor custom stale her infinite variety”

    Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya – was in Bangalore to attend the Zonal Theatre Festival. Just the right height, she was by then well into her Eighties. Time had drawn its picturesque lines on her full face. The wrinkles and sagging muscles played rhythmically as she spoke. The tell-tale signs had only chiselled her into a graceful, ripe beauty. K.V. Subbanna introduced me to her as the translator of her work, “Indian Women’s Struggle for Freedom” into Kannada. Looking sharply at me, she asked Subbanna: “Has she done justice to it?” Her eyes were gleaming like the edge of a sword , sending a slight shiver down the spine. Smiles were infrequent visitors on this aristocratic visage.

    There were bangles on her hands – not of gold, but what tribal women made in remote corners of India. Her ethnic handspun sari with a border and pallu seemed to derive its elegance from the charming wearer.

    Not many knew her as a Mangalorean, as she left home early on to join the Swaraj movement. Only a few were in touch with her. For the new generation, Chattopadhyaya sounded a Bengali by birth!


    Back to Mangalore days … A wedding ceremony was in progress. Bride – a Brahmin, the groom was a non-Brahmin. The elders overseeing the “arrangements” of this match were none other than Rajaji and Kamaladevi’s maternal uncle. Rajaji had come to play the part of the bridegroom’s father. The uncle introduced little Kamala to Rajaji.

    “What do you want to become when you grow up?” Rajaji asked the feisty young girl who stood like a willow, head held high.

    Kamala: I want to reform society, especially the condition of Indian women.

    Rajaji: You are ambitious!

    Kamala: Of course!

    Softly Rajaji ‘s hand patted the girl’s head.

    When Annie Besant visited Mangalore Kamala’s mother, Girijabai, had taken her to seek the blessings of the venerable lady. Girijabai was in close touch with Pune’s formidable women. She had founded a Women’s organization in Mangalore in 1912 itself. Freedom fighters, existential warriors, front door visitors, father’s drawing room buddies and mother’s pyol pals- all went into the melting pot of Kamala’s childhood. She had already come across tormented women, their tales of exploitation and deception, the solitary strife of her widowed and disinherited mother, sisters and aunt.

    Kamala’s sparkling repartee to Rajaji had emerged from this backdrop… Pune’s avante garde radicals brought clarity to her life’s purpose. Gandhiji’s speech in Mangalore in 1917 mesmerised her. In 1924, during the All India Congress Conference in Belgaum, Dr. Hardikar and Smt. Uma Bai Kundapura asked Kamala’s assistance in training volunteers. This was Kamala’s debut of sorts in public life.

    In 1927, the first session of The All India Women’s Conference was held in Pt. Rama Bai’s Seva Sadan, Pune. Kamala put her heart and soul as a volunteer. Noting her efficiency, the Executive Committee comprising Margaret Cousins and Sarojini Naidu selected her as the future Secretary of the Conference. Thus began the journey of responsibility, up the ladder, step by step. As Secretary, she travelled all over the country. She made the AIWC take up issues like accommodation for women labourers, crèche for their children, special allowance for pregnant women etc. She used to personally go to the Legislative Assembly to discuss laws with the people’s representatives. She ran from pillar to post, meeting key legislators, seeking their vote for Harbilas Sharada Act abolishing child marriage. She met Motilal Nehru, who looked at her, and said: “What brings you here, sweetheart?’’

    “Your party must support the Sharada Bill,” said Kamala and almost immediately added: “You WILL support us, won’t you?”

    Motilal: (in his typical raised voice) You slip of a girl, how dare you suggest what we should vote for!

    Kamala: Oh! I see, your issue is my age! Okay, wait. I will bring along some old grannies!

    So sayingKamala fled the place. Later, whenever Motilal met Kamala, he used to laugh recollecting this. Sharada Bill was passed.


    For the young Kamala, active participation in the independence struggle went hand in hand with the responsibilities of AIWC. She was in close contact with prominent national leaders including Gandhiji, but held her own before all eminence. If she disagreed with them, she did it with courage and conviction. A sensitive and reflective writer, she travelled through remote villages to get first hand knowledge of the real riddles plaguing the country.

    Her perspective on Salt Satyagraha was unique. Gandhiji, more concerned about women than women themselves, did not favour their joining Salt Satyagraha! Kamala was flabbergasted. If women could be trusted to look after the Ashram in his absence, why couldn’t they be allowed to take part in the independence movement?

    Kamaladevi went straight to Gandhiji. In the thick of Dandi March, he was camping in a village. When she appealed to him for women’s equal participation in Salt Sathyagraha, she got Bapu’s broad smile in reply.”I think you don’t know about your sisters,” he said.

    “I know. That is why I am requesting you.”

    She refuted all his arguments.

    Finally, Gandhiji had to yield to her perseverance. What confidence the Salt Satyagraha inspired in womenGandhiji conceded that women were the most important weapons in the march for Swaraj !!


    The dreamer in Kamala began to visualize a composite cultural renaissance of music, drama, painting and sculpture. If today, dhrupad, thumri and ghazals are part of artistes’ repertoire, it is due to the untiring efforts of Kamaladevi who later founded the Sangeeth Natak Akademy. Our theatre those days was just regional stage episodes – not a discipline to be studied. Kamaladevi realized the theatre practitioners’ need for a school, curriculum and training by professional teachers. National School of Drama was the outcome of this foresight.

    She built a dedicated army of enthusiasts who strove to unearth weavers, the rich but dying handloom legacies of Kanchivaram, Gadwal, Pochampalli, Paithani, and Jamdani. Her autobiography, “Inner Recesses Outer Spaces’, is not just a chronicle of independence movement but a singular narrative thronging with personalities from the world of art.


    Kamaladevi was majestic and transparent, yet very private; a perfect blend of tradition and sophistication, beauty and brains.

    Her sparkling humour and mimicry would have people around her in splits. She had fashioned her own signature style, setting a trend for generations to come.

    Breaking the shackles of outdated societal mores, she had carved her own path. She was a phenomenal force, an epitome of feminine grace and creativity.

    An atypical stateswoman commanding love, respect and awe though never seeking the spoils of power. A true feminist in her own right and a truer woman – her life reads like a legend and a myth.

    Translated by Sumathi Niranjan Karody

    source: / The Hindu / Home> Books / by Vaidehi / October 26th, 2017

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