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‘Regional languages a treasure house of experiential wisdom’

Starting from the age of 19, Kaikini has won many prizes, including the Karnataka Sahitya Akademi Award in 1974 for his debut book of poems.

india Updated: Feb 04, 2019 01:22 IST
Vanita Srivastava
Vanita Srivastava
New Delhi
regional languages,kannada,jayant kaikini
Kannada writer-lyricist Jayant Kaikini’s book of short stories, “No Presents Please: Mumbai Stories”, translated into English by Tejaswani Niranjana, won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2018 on January 25.(HT Photo)

Kannada writer-lyricist Jayant Kaikini’s book of short stories, “No Presents Please: Mumbai Stories”, translated into English by Tejaswani Niranjana, won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2018 on January 25 this year. The $25,000 prize was jointly awarded to the author and the translator.

Starting from the age of 19, Kaikini has won many prizes, including the Karnataka Sahitya Akademi Award in 1974 for his debut book of poems. Then came three awards for his short story collections, followed by the Karnataka State Award for best dialogue and lyrics. He also bagged the Filmfare Award for best lyrics in Kannada four times. In an interview with Vanita Srivastava, Kaikani talks about his writing, the ideas that led to his stories and more.

Please tell us about your artistic journey.

Life is non-literary and unstructured. I started writing a bit early, at 16 years of age. Poems happened to me like pimples. I clung to reading and writing to combat my homesickness and anxiety after shifting [to Mumbai] from my cosy home town [Gokarna in Karnataka] for college studies. Senior Kannada writer Yashwant Chittal once said, “I don’t write what I know. I write to know.” I belong to that school. So writing itself is a mode of thought for me.

How and when did you get the idea to write “No Presents Please: Mumbai stories”?

Mumbai is a hard-working city which has evolved into a liberating collective mind... It is a spiritual space in the real sense...Mumbai just took me in to its own rhythm of restlessness and naturally became part of my writing and sensibility. “No Presents Please” is a bunch of 16 stories picked and translated from five of my Kannada short story anthologies. Tejaswini Niranjana has done the translation brilliantly.

You have a Master’s in biochemistry. How has a science background helped you in writing?

Science is an art and art is a science. Both are involved with the same thing — understanding the plight of the human world, so they are complementary.

How important is social media in today’s world?

Social media has given space to voices that were suppressed or never heard...it has also led to a new “pseudo sense of participation” in life and issues.

What steps should be taken to preserve regional languages?

The medium of education in schools must preferably be in regional languages at least till the 7th standard. Each regional language is a treasure house of experiential wisdom of so many generations.

First Published: Feb 04, 2019 01:22 IST