VINDA KARANDIKAR—A TRIBUTE
Gurur Brahma Gurur Vishnu
Gurur Devo Maheshwaraha
Gurur Eva Param Brahma
Tasmai Shri Gurave Namaha
I am grateful to the Lokmanya Seva Sangh for having given me an opportunity to pay my humble tribute to my Guru. I had the privilege of studying English under Prof. Vinda Karandikar in Ramnarain Ruia College over fifty years ago. He taught us Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice" and "Macbeth" and Lo and Behold , the characters would spring alive in our classroom, Macbeth brooding in high tension and remorse and Portia becoming a “ Daniel come to Judgement ”for the bloodthirsty Shylock. Prof.Karandikar's lectures held us spellbound and he inspired a generation of students. It is quite rarely that we come across instances of eminence being achieved simultaneously in two languages. Karandikar strode like a Colossus the twin worlds of Marathi poetry and English prose.
Govind Vināyak Karandikar (August 23, 1918 — March 14, 2010), better known as Vindā Karandikar, is a well-known Marathi poet and writer. He was the most experimental and comprehensive among all the modern Marathi poets. He was also an essayist, literary critic, and a translator. He was conferred the 39th Jnanapith Award in 2003, which is the highest literary award in India. Conferring the Award in 2006, President A P J Abdul Kalam described him as an essayist, critic and translator who has made a notable contribution to Marathi poetry and literature."His life is an example of extraordinary achievement realised through ceaseless search for aesthetic perfection,". Some of the other awards conferred on him included Keshavasut Prize, Soviet Land Nehru Literary Award, Kabir Samman, and the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship in 1996.
Karandikar was born on August 23, 1918, at Ghalval village in the present-day Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra. He was born in Ghalval village district to a poor farmer and went through times of great hardship, so much that he could complete his school and college education from Kolhapur, solely due to timely help from a well-wisher. He completed his Masters in English, and went on to settle in Mumbai, choosing teaching as his profession.
Thought provoking subjects like universal truths, mortality, scientific approach and spiritual inclination, were the core of his poetry. Vinda did a lot of experimentation with his poems and he dabbled in different types and compositions of poetry like ghazal, song, mukta suneet (free sonnet). His famous collection of poems include SwedGanga , MrudaGandha , Dhrupad and Jatak ). His collection of short essays, Sparshaachi Palav and Akashacha Arth not only show his unique style of thinking, but also his sharp wit. Parampara ani Navata , is a collection of analytical reviews, which enjoys an important place among the various critiques in Marathi literature. Vinda wrote many poems for children, different from traditional nursery rhymes. His poems for children show good understanding of children, their own little world, their imagination, their ideas and are especially touching because he has used the novel, imaginative, mystical, humorous and unique ideas of children. Ranichi Baag, Ekda Kaay Jhale, Ajabkhana, Sarkaswala, Pari Ga Pari, are some of his popular collections that enriched children's world.
Karandikar's poetic works include Svedgangā , Mrudgandha , Dhrupad , Jātak , and Virupika . Two anthologies of his selected poems, Sanhita and Adimaya were also published. He also modernized old Marathi literature like Dnyaneshwari and Amrutānubhava. Besides having been a prominent Marathi poet, Karandikar has contributed to Marathi literature as an essayist, a critic, and a translator. Karandikar was the third Marathi writer—after Khandekar and Shirvadkar-- to have won the Jnanpith award in the year 2003 for his work called Ashtadarshan (poetry). We are all aware that Vinda with Vasant Bapat and Manesh Padgaonkar, travelled all over Maharashtra, organizing thousands of poetry reading sessions.
In his book “Poems of Vinda” there is a very valuable discussion entitled “Ten Minutes With The Poet’, a dialogue between Vinda and Sadanand Bhatkal. Recalling the earliest incident in his life the poet says --“I was just a kid. I ran to my mother, to know for certain, whether I had a step-mother, whether she had tried to murder the son of a kinsman, and whether she was arrested, tried and transported for life; for that was how his playmates teased him. My mother, with tears in her eyes said it was so and added that my step-mother was a witch who deserved hanging. I found myself haunted by a deep sense of sin from which I have never been able to extricate myself”. His father, who married his mother much later, must have felt socially uprooted. The couple had five daughters and four sons. His father, who had the dignity of a village leader, imbibed the reformist zeal from Savarkar and patriotic fervour from Tilak. Villagers told us stories of his fight with a tiger, his risky plunge into a flooded river to save a woman’s life, his throwing away his idols into a well in a monotheistic mood, and his courageous facing of a social boycott for his softness to Untouchables.
Highly praised are his translations into English of Shakespeare’s “King Lear”, Aristotle’s “Poetics” and the first part of Goethe’s “Faust”. Along with A.K.Ramanujan, that eminent poet and folk-artist, he translated his own poems into English in two volumes—“Poems of Vinda” and “More Poems of Vinda”. Adverting to the art of translation of his poems into English, the poet recalls his association with A.K.Ramanujan, who for Vinda represented a happy combination of poetic genius with linguistic methodology. He gives credit to Ramanujan for his guidance. Later on he got good help from M.V.Rajadhyaksha, R.Parthasarathy and Derek Anto.
Vinda’s acceptance speech at the Jnanpith Award function is a classic example of explaining a Poet’s credo. I shall dwell on the cardinal items. The poet who wants to cope with the variety and complexity of life has no other alternative but to accept an “open view of poetry”. This accepts the possibility, usefulness and aesthetic significance of different kinds of moods, forms and styles. It does not equate “purity” with certain states odd emotions, or “beauty “with particular attributes of form. It does not belittle traditional forms and modes in its enthusiasm for experiments or dub normal moods and attitudes as essentially non-poetic. It admits ugliness, dirt, cruelty and vulgarities but refuses to worship these as deities…My poetry includes realism and fantasy, a Marxist concern with social reality and a Freudian concern with sex or the unconscious, satirical outbursts and mystical probings of the ineffable, traditional modes and new experiments. Marxism gives me one more insight into the nature of Man and Society. It becomes a part of my imaginative awareness of life. I have never conceived myself in the role of an active revolutionary. ”.
Vinda believed in an open view of life, art and literature. “As I was a Professor of English literature, my poetry was influenced by Browning, Hopkins and T.S.Eliot. The three Marathi poets who influenced me were Keshavsut, Madhav Julian and Mardhekar. In my poetry there is a diversity of ideas which reveals the influence of Marxism and Gandhism, Russell’s skepticism and Indian mysticism. For those who believe in self-consistent closed theories I am a very inconvenient poet.”
“I believe in Science, not in Religion. Long ago Bacon said “Knowledge is Power”. By knowledge I mean not only knowledge of the world without man but also the knowledge of the world within man and of the society he has brought into being. So Freud or Marx, Lincoln or Gandhi is as much a liberator of man as Darwin or Einstein….Science will create the new man who recognizes no distinctions of colour, race, religion, sex or nationality, who stands for the unity and brotherhood of mankind, who believes in freedom, equality and social justice as basic values…He will be an incurable optimist in spite of set-backs”.
All of you are aware how munificent he was. He donated over 7 lakhs of rupees—the money he earned through prizes—to arrange the Madhav Julian and R.D.Karve Memorial Lectures. During his life he donated wealth and after death he donated his body for scientific research.
Kindly allow me to conclude on a light note. I have a photograph of Vinda Karandikar with a newly wedded couple. He is all smiles and shows the bridegroom a gunny bag full of vegetables and declares –“This is what you will do after marriage!.”
( I recited two stanzas in English from Vinda’s “Dhondya The Barber”—hilarious and touching at once. I shall furnish on request.)
Thank you all for a patient hearing.