Articles and Reviews

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Review of Vaasane, Shabda, Banna, Ityadi by Ashok Hedgde

Ashok Hegde, Vaasane, Shabda, Banna, Ityadi
Heggodu: Akshara Prakashana, 2008                 pp. 136; price: Rs. 80
                  “Indomitable Will Against Odds”
     One major feature of Kannada literature since the last two decades has been the emergence of a group of young writers from Uttara Kannada district.  Besides senior writers like Chittal and Jayanth Kaikini, this group includes
Vivek Shanbhog, Shridhar Balegar, Sacchidananda Hegde, and others.  Sensitive and precise details,  competent craftsmanship, and introduction of new themes into Kannada fiction are some of the
characteristics of all these writers.  With his two novels and three short-story- collections, Ashok Hegde is a prominent member of this group; and his third collection of stories, Vasane, Banna, … deservedly has bagged the prestigious ‘B. H. Shridhar Award’  for the year 2008.  
     The Western part of Karnataka, hedged in by the turbulent sea and the Western Ghats,  with dense forests, torrential rains and burning heat, seemingly teaches people how to survive against odds; and this fighting spirit characterizes most of the protagonists of the fiction by Karanth and Chittala. Ashok Hegde’s characters also, in this and other story-collections, display this spirit –the indomitable will to survive against either Fate or man-made evil systems.
     To illustrate: The husband of a young woman, Rukmini,  in “ Male” (Rain), is paralytic  and bedridden.  Even after prolonged treatment and prayers, he doesn’t improve; still Rukmini continues to nurse him with hope, resisting all youthful temptations.  Shailakka, in “Greeshma” (Summer),  having spent her youth helping her family, decides to get married in her middle age; and, despite  jibes and ridicule,  she remains firm in her decision.  The story “Henada Batte” (shroud) shows us a witness to a rape-and-murder incident in a pub, who, initially, tempted by offers of huge money, commits perjury in the court.  But, when he is recalled, facing opposition from his own family and threat for life by  criminals, he tells the Court the truth.  Later, even when he is about to be murdered, he remains calm.  Another story, “Samudra” (Sea), explodes the myth of striking it rich in other countries.  A highly educated young couple emigrates to Australia with great hopes, only to find them shattered.  When  the husband fails to get a job there, his wife decides to find herself a job and maintain the family.  These stories tell us,  odds may break one’s body but not one’s spirit.
     However, in Hegde, it is the City, with its crowds and competition, that kills human spirit; and the last story, “Kattale” (Darkness),  dramatizes such  urban life.  The protagonist, working in an IT company, has no time for his wife or school-going daughter.  Job-insecurity, pressures of time-bound projects, late hours, and disrupted home-life, all these together dehumanize him to such an extent that when he comes across an auto –driver dying in an accident,  he just looks at him and roars with laughter.  Similarly, another story “Hasiru Seere” (Green Saree) shows a highly successful IT professional, who realizes one day that he has been living a life of lies , and decides to escape from that world.        
     Craftsmanship, if over-emphasized, leads to ‘thesis-stories.’  If Hegde guards himself against such a possibility, he has much to contribute to the Kannada world.
Dr. C. N. Ramachandran

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