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A tribute to noted writer U.R. Ananthamurthy
I was too busy with those humdrum occupations that included the coverage of by-elections and coal block disease. However, thought of a great writer, a towering figure in the world of letters, Udupi Rajagopalacharya Ananthamurthy, who died in Bangalore on Friday, August 22, was always there in my mind.

Unfortunately, wrong priorities had got the upper hand and obstructed the journey of tribute. Now, it is better to be late than never.

U. R. Ananthamurthy had famously declared in 2013 that he wouldn't live in an India ruled by Narendra Modi. One has to be magnanimous in victory but this is not what is taught in RSS shakhas. To match his intention and eloquence, BJP wittily sent him a ticket for Karachi.

It was the last battle of Anantha and he was determined to fight with all his might because he knew he was on the right side. He kept his promise and left for heavenly abode as per his commitment. It was the end of a great career. It was a good fight to the end.

Choosing the great writer is a very easy and very difficult game either way. It provokes people to spend disproportionate time into reading whoever gets the call. What makes a great writer? According to learned, it is the philosophical depth, honesty and integrity, quality of writing, range of emotions, ability to move around the canvas and the power to influence the reader and other writers of the age in which he lives.

It would be invidious for me to choose one name, but at the moment I have Anantha and Anantha alone in the frame. Greatness lies in either saying something that nobody has said before, or saying it in a way that no one has said it. A great writer tells you something that appears to you to be new, but then you realize that you always knew it. Great writing should make you rethink the world and not only reflect current reality.

He wrote wonderful sentences, of course he wrote too many wonderful sentences but Ananthamurthy had a gift for warmth also and he loved talking. This was the lethal combination these traits which allowed him the transition from being a stranger to being the benevolent acquaintance you knew for ages.

In a country where everything is politically charged, every choice a writer makes threatens to define him. He was not afraid of that. Once he did threw a considerable weight behind the cause of Kannada in Karnataka, His critics felt that Ananthamurthy's passionate commitment to his mother tongue had shaded into a kind of chauvinism.

He did give voice to the weaker sections with his systematic and unrelenting opposition to RSS ideology. He was never an acolyte of Congress either. As a hard Lohaiaite, his political life had been broadly spent in opposition to the Congress. He had supported and campaigned for a succession of non-Marxist socialist parties and politicians on the principle of the lesser evil. In Modi and the BJP he found a political bent that he loathed even more than the sordid corruption of the Congress.

Of course, great writing communicates moral truths, and that is true for writers all through ages. Anantha's pen and voice expressed what I feel the real moral truths about the way we perceive Secularism, its beauty and kind of India Mahatama Gandhi dreamed.

However, writers are not seers. They are not going to get everything morally right because they can make superb story. But there has to be some kind of moral force in great writing - a non-egotistical desire to get it right. You feel that with U.R.

On the news of his death, the prime minister Modi was magnanimous to comment "U.R. Ananthamurthy's demise is a loss to Kannada literature." Sceptics described this as a back-handed compliment: the prime minister, they claimed, was suggesting that the winner of the Jnanpith Award and the author of 'Samskara', arguably republican India's greatest novel, was no more than a provincial writer. This was exactly analogous to Jinnah's response to Gandhi's death when he wrote that Gandhi "…was one of the greatest men produced by the Hindu community…"

U.R. Ananthamurthy has enjoyed in his life a love-hate relationship with the 'Brahmanical' world in which he had been raised. They say that for the privileged self, a form of self-rejection- not personal, but political- may be necessary to reach out to others, to know oneself and become fully human." U.R. Ananthamurthy wanted to be fully human.

He was born in 1932 in the Kingdom of Mysore and lived in the forest and as a Brahmin boy. He lived in a world where everything was sacred. He had described his childhood house as classic anthropology. He went to a village school, a traditional samskrita school which was a world which was both cosmopolitan and local. It was out of this living world that two of his greatest works - Samskara and Bharatipura- emerged.

He went onto Birmingham for his PhD on European Politics. He later became a Vice-Chancellor at Kottayam, chairperson of the Film and Television Institute, and head of the Sahitya Academy. In his personal and professional life U.R. was courageously right and politically astute.

Among the wonderful worlds he created is 'Heggodu where he and K.V. Subbana established a platform where theatre and Kannada comes alive.

Anantha is gone but he would live in heart of those who boast being the bearers of just, social, secular and egalitarian society. As a scribe he will live on in the folklore in every house in Karnataka and in every debate about the genius of language.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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