I’m Kalburgi Speaking..

(M M Kalburgi was an eminent scholar, rationalist and an authority on Vachana literature. An author with over 100 books to his credit, Prof. Kalburgi taught at the Department of Kannada, Karnatak University and was also the vice-chancellor of the Kannada University, Hampi. He is recipient of several awards including those from National Sahitya Academy and the Karnataka Sahitya Academy.

When he was shot dead at his residence on August 30th by two unidentified men, it sent shock waves across the whole nation and sparked widespread protests.

This straight-talking professor had had several run-ins with right wing Hindu groups because of his outspoken remarks and views critical of idol worship, traditional practices and brahminical rituals. He had received death threats from the Lingayat community hardliners for supposedly “derogatory references” to 12th century saint Basava in a book. Some of these groups even celebrated his killing.

It is still unclear who killed him or why. However, this is widely seen as another gruesome reminder of a growing climate of cultural intolerance and violence against writers, rationalist-thinkers and intellectuals in the country.

Here, Gafoor Arakkal pays tribute to the noted litterateur with his poem)

I’m Kalburgi Speaking

I am seventy seven years old,
Every day after drinking morning tea from the teashop
I used to scatter pure smiles
At those sitting around.
Even while writing on Vachana literature
I used to do away with the
Insane thoughts roiling up bile-like
About those pulling hard at the plough
In the green/oasis beyond the camels
And of the grinning monkey dancing scared
To the beat of the drums.

But it was when the first bullet
Pierced into me that
I first thought of death.
More preferable than
Being fished out from the gutter
After being hit by some unidentified vehicle
Or better than the decomposing body
In some drowned Boeing plane
Or even better than being shot dead by an enemy
at some boundary pointed out by someone.

When the second bullet sped towards me
I called out to God as passionately,
in the hearing of those yelling in His name,
In the same voice as Gandhi.

My daughter Roopdarshi on seeing my mimicry
Laughed for a moment.
Did she laugh on realising the irony
Of both the hunter and the victim
calling out to the same god?
Or reflecting on god’s helplessness
did she twitch her lips
Like she usually did mockingly on hearing my philosophy?

Nothing matters.
I only want this one thing.
Pluck out any one word
From any of my books
Taking it, with a beating heart visit
All the great holy places on all the continents
And when you find
Insane love pooling around the word
Forgetting language
Forgetting religion
Forgetting geography
Be born a man.

[Poem: njan kalburgi parayunnu (Malayalam)
Translation: Vineetha Mekkoth]