It was some months back that Shruti had mentioned in one of her postings that this is the centenary year of one of the legends of kannada literature Sri G P Rajaratnam. Being one of the confirmed fans of Sri Rajaratnam, I thought that I would write about the great man to the extent possible from me but I was at a loss as to what I would write? My only contact with Sri Rajaratnam was when he visited our college as a speaker in one of the functions. I have read and enjoyed his poems but have no knowledge or authority to write about them in an informative way. Since there is no other way that I can commemorate his centenary, I decided to write what ever I have felt about his very popular collection. Ratnana PadagaLu is a collection of poems in a style which was new to the kannada literature at the time of it’s publication. I believe that it came under a lot of flak from the traditionalists. It was not just new, it was unacceptable. The language is raw, rural kannada with no polish whatsoever, written just as an illiterate would speak And the poet claims himself to be one! The poems have a liberal sprinkling of slangs in kannada and urdu which are commonly found in the language of a very very common man. When the collection was ready, I believe there were no publishers to take up the task of publishing it. Rajaratnam decided to publish it himself but lacked the finances. He was so sure and firm about his style, that he pawned the gold medal that was awarded to him for academic excellency and published the book. It became an instant hit.
I tried to write down the poem verse by verse and add my explanations. The transliteration tool in the composing menu does not co operate. I type something and see something else. Where as, whatever I type comes out perfectly in Baraha. On top of it, as I started writing more and more I started getting more and more doubtful about my ability to write about Ratnana PadagaLu. Hence I have just photographed the poem and added it as an image to whatever I had managed to put together. the language used in the collection is raw but very appealing. the meaning is fully cooked and full of wisdom. i will put out the parts that have appealed to me most, along with my ramblings.
In the very first verse, the poet ( a teetotaller) notifies his fondness for the spirits, and informs that he talks a lot when he is under it’s influence. He calls himself “Ratna” and declares that whatever he spurts out is the effort of his drink. The first stanza is a simple statement. (The important point here is the disclaimer. The words are not mine, they are the efforts of the drink. I did not say them.)
“Vyasa, the author of Mahabharata found Vinayaka to write down his epic and I met this vagabond who joined my words and made a poem out of it. Who knows what was his compulsion to do so?”
Writing it? Go ahead, you half wit. And I will render whatever help I can. “thinking thus, I have got it printed. Don’t blame me.”
“I do not know any letters. One needs to learn if one wants a big job!. If the verses are appealing, credit goes to my drink. If they are bad blame the vagabond!”
The real poet turns himself in to a mere spectator. He creates the ‘drunkard’ Ratna and the vagabond. The drunkard in turn attributes all his words to the drink absolving himself from the ownership of the words. And as far as writing it down is concerned, the culprit is the vagabond. And Ratnana PadagaLu gets along splendidly.