Born in a tiny village that’s pretty nonexistent for the world even outside the Hassan district. Lost his mother and three siblings by the time he was 10 or so. A father who had abandoned any semblance of responsibility towards the family, and who on occasion stole his teenage son’s twenty two rupees, earned towards his school fees by selling odd wares in a village fair. A semi-orphan who stood outside cinema “tents” as a ticket-checker. A hardworking student who quit his high school and walked on the railway tracks from Bangalore till Hubli and once there, became a waiter in a low end restaurant. A teenager imprisoned on a false charge at the behest (and bribe) of the restaurant owner. A lad who then landed in Bombay and worked as a coolie in the Dadar railway station. A boy who returned to Mysore to rejoin school. A bright student who fought against an attempts to deny him scholarship by a casteist principal. Stayed in a student hostel throughout student life. Gave tuitions to support himself. Lived in just one pyjama and shirt. Opted for B.A. Honours in Philosophy. His reply to the principal who tried to dissuade him from taking Philosophy: “if Philosophy does not bake any bread for me, I’ll open a bakery.” Earned a gold medal. Took his M.A. First job as a lecturer took him to Hubli. Wrote his first two novels while there. From Hubli to Vallabh Vidyaniketan in Gujarat. Took his PhD while in Gujarat. Wrote Vamsha Vruksha, the novel that catapulted him to literary fame. And from Gujarat to NCERT, Delhi. Wrote his other major novel, Daatu. And the novels never stopped coming. Took 10 years to write what arguably is his magnum opus, Parva. Won several awards including the Sahitya Akademi, on the way. Returned to Mysore and took up a teaching position. Was incessantly hounded by the Progressive-Marxist-Leftist literary clique that had gained a near monopoly in the literary circles. Said hounding included getting his house stoned by miscreants at the direction of a powerful duo who pulled the literary strings in Karnataka. Retired from his job not from his first and only love: writing. Never hankered after money or awards or positions. Kept writing. Somewhere along the years, earned enormous goodwill and fan following. Somewhere along the years, became the greatest living novelist in Kannada. Somewhere along the years, became a living legend.
And how is a man like me supposed to react when this legend sends word for me to translate his most popular and his record-breaking novel, Aavarana into English? I leave that to your imagination.
In terms of sheer commercial success, the Kannada publishing industry has never seen anything quite like it. A phenomenal ten reprints in just three months, and over 35 reprints in seven years. Aavarana has all the trademark ingredients of the legend: deep philosophy, infalliable research, conflict of human emotions, an entirely new way of looking at familiar things, and above all, fidelity to truth. Not to mention, like most of his novels, Aavarana too generated tremendous debate, discussion, and the fashionable term to describe his work: controversy.
I’m loathe to discuss stuff about the process of translating it. Suffice to say, the process was and remains a reward in itself. And now it is available in most major bookstores across the country. Look for the title Aavarana: the Veil. It has been published by Rupa. If you prefer ordering it online, here are the links: