Friday, July 6, 2007

Dinakara Desai

ದಿನಕರ ದೇಸಾಯಿ - Dinakara Desai

Born: 1909
Hondakkal, Kumta taluk, Uttara Kannada, Karnataka
Died: 1982
Occupation: Writer, Educationist, Political activist
Nationality: India
Genres: Poetry
Literary movement: Chutukas
Debut works: Kavana Sangraha (ಕವನ ಸಂಗ್ರಹ) (1950)
Influences: B. M. Srikantaiah

Dinakara Desai (Kannada: ದಿನಕರ ದೇಸಾಯಿ) (1909-1982) was a well-known Kannada poet and a social activist. He is the inventor of a four-line limerick format in Kannada poetry known as chutuka and hence is known as Chutuka Brahma (creator of Chutukas).[1][2] This format was later adopted by other poets. He has made immense contribution towards the literary development of the Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka.

Early life

Dinakara Desai was born in a small village called Hondakkal in the Kumta taluk of Uttara Kannada district of the Indian state of Karnataka. His father's name was Dattatreya who was a teacher in a primary school and his mother was Ambika.[3] He lost his mother at the age of nine and he was brought up by his grandmother. His father who had a meager salary of Rs. 7 per month had to work additionally to prepare ropes of coconut fibre in order to sustain the family. Dinakara had to spend his early life in complete poverty. A loner in early life, his walks through the nature while going to school were the initial motivation for him to start thinking about poetry.[3] During this period, he came in touch with a teacher of poetry called Rangarao Hirekerur who taught him and then guided him to compose poetry in its various forms. He initial writing were inn Konkani, his mother-tongue.[2] These poems gained popularity because of their satirical and humorous nature. His poems were published in newspapers like Karnataka Dhureena, Kannada Vrutta and Jaya Karnataka.[3] Deenaginta Deva Badava (Lord is poorer than a destitute) which was first published in the Jaya Karnataka paper is arguably his most famous poem. When Dinakara Desai went to Dharwad for his matriculate examination, he came across a collection of English poems written by B. M. Srikantaiah. These set of poems which were written in a new form of poetry greatly influenced him and motivated him to move to Mysore to learn under B. M. Srikantaiah who was then a Kannada professor in the University of Mysore. He completed his Intermediate education in Bangalore and then moved to Mysore, where he completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in Kannada History (stood first in the class) which were done under the guidance of B. M. Srikantaiah and T. S. Venkannaiah. Receiving further guidance on poetry from his distinguished teachers, his first major break was when four of his poems were published in a collection of Kannada poems called as Taliru.[3] He then moved to Mumbai and joined the Saint Xavier's College where he completed his Master of Arts (MA) in history. His MA thesis on Mahamandaleshwaras (Governors) of Chalukyas of Kalyani is an authoritative work on the subject till date. Apart from MA, he also earned the LLB degree.


Initially, Dinakara Desai intended to become a lawyer but he came under the influence of labour union activists M. N. Joshi and Thakkar Basha, who motivated him to contribute to the labour movement. He became an associate to M. N. Joshi and started looking at the social issues plaguing labourers. In this regard, he joined the Servants of India Society which was an organisation started by Gopal Krishna Gokhale. The membership to this organisation was very stringent and the members were admitted only on an oath that they would serve the country without expecting anything in return.[2] His initiation to social activism was when he had to fight for the rights of the dock workers in Mumbai who were mainly Konkani people. Later, he also went to the Bijapur and Dharwad districts of Karnataka to help in providing relief when a severe drought had set into those region. He grew in stature and also held a position in the Mumbai City Corporation.[3] Later, he decided to concentrate on his native district of Uttara Kannada and here he started an agitation against the landlords which finally culminated in the law granting the land ownership to the person who tills the land. He started the Kanara Welfare Trust in 1957 and under the aegis of this trust, various schools and colleges were started in this district. He also started a Kannada language weekly Jansevak at Ankola to create social and political awareness. Some of the regular contributors to his weekly included stalwarts like Gourish Kaikini.[2] Dinakara Desai also tried his hand at politics and was once elected to the Parliament of India.

[edit] Poetry and literature

Dinakara Desai started his association with poetry by writing lengthy poems. His first publication was called as Kavana Sangraha (meaning collection of poems) and this was released in the year 1950. This was followed by a 1955 collection of poems, Hu Gonchalu (meaning bouquet of flowers). Hu Gonchalu contained some popular poems like Tarunara Dasare and Kadala Kannada. Later, he started experimenting with different forms of poetry and invented his signature format called as chutuka which was essentially a four-line limerick. His chutukas were published in his Jansevak paper and these became hugely popular. He wrote his chutukas in various themes and these included satires, criticisms and humour. He has also written few books for children and a travelogue called as Na kanda Paduvana.

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