With the recent demise of writer U.R. Ananathamurthy, a unique tradition of teachers, who transcended their classrooms to inspire hundreds, may now be a thing of the past. The Kannada literary world has always had ‘meshtrus’ (master or teacher), whose ﬁeld of inﬂuence went far beyond formal education.
Ananthamurthy, for instance, was a mentor to many writers and students all through his life. He groomed a generation of youngsters through discussions, debate and by seeding new ideas.
Another writer who enjoyed a similar following was writer and ﬁrebrand journalist P. Lankesh. While Ananthamurthy enjoyed a large following across the country, thanks to him serving at various cultural and educational institutions, the readers of Lankesh’s weekly tabloid Lankesh Patrike provided him a large army of “students”. An evening meeting with Lankesh was almost a routine for many young writers of the generation.
Writer Nataraj Huliyar, who both adored and critically examined his two meshtrus, Lankesh and critic D.R. Nagaraj in a recent book Inti Namaskaragalu, said though Lankesh never taught him, he had always addressed him as meshtru.
Nagaraj inﬂuenced him deeply through his views about culture, politics and literature.
Historian Ramachandra Guha, in one of his articles, recounts how Ananthamurthy groomed intellectuals such as Nagaraj. “Ananthamurthy told Nagaraj: “I have taught you all I know. Now, I must send you to Delhi to learn from Ashish Nandy.”
When Nagaraj passed away, Ananthamurthy said he had lost both a shishya and a guru, reﬂecting the democratic tradition of the nature of mentorship in the Kannada world. Gopalakrishna Adiga also inspired a generation through his poetry and led the Navya movement in Kannada literature. He too was considered a meshtru by Ananthamurthy.
Ki. Ram. Nagaraj was another great teacher, critic and poet, who groomed Kannada sensibilities. Clad in crumpled kurta and pajama, he had the ability to turn even the Bangalore University buses into classrooms, holding forth on Pablo Neruda or Pampa with his co-travellers. Though he hardly put his pen to paper, he was the guiding force behind many writers of this generation. C.G. Krishnaswamy, popularly known as CGK, was the meshtru of Kannada theatre. From ideology to theatre craft, many in the contemporary theatre world to this day recall him as a great inﬂuenc