Is it still an honour when the honoured did not actually do what he is being honoured for, and the people who are doing the honouring have no idea who he is?
Is Rajnikanth going to become the new icon of the Marathi Manoos? Or is Dr Rajkumar now going to be the new Thaliva of Tamil Nadu? Bizarre as that may sound, it could be a possibility since apparently, a lot can happen in this nation.
Here is the latest sample of this: Telangana is planning on anointing Karnataka’s Adikavi Pampa as the new Telugu Adikavi. Pampa never wrote in Telugu, is not Telugu by blood, did not belong to a Telugu kingdom and is so unknown in Telangana that women washed clothes on the stones of his dilapidated grave. A grave, incidentally, only ‘discovered’ in 1970, since no one could read the old Kannada inscriptions.
The only connection Pampa has with Telangana if one can call it that, was the land he became famous in is today within the borders of shiny new Telangana. In Pampa’s time, it belonged to the Western Chalukyas. In fact, there are still people there who speak Kannada – a remnant from those days.
Now poetry, as an art, cannot be restricted to one people or geographical boundary. Tagore’s songs are the national anthem of our country and Bangladesh and the tune of his ‘Jai Jagadish Hare’ is the tune of the Sri Lankan national anthem.
However, at the very least, art has to have some meaning for those consuming it.
This is not the case here. In the halls of pettiness, the reason for this sudden love for Pampa has to be a major item.
Officially, the big reason for this new found interest in a Kannada poet seems to be to get a technically valid ‘old’ date for Telugu, a move that some claim will help Telugu get classical status in India.
Though that feels a very small fig leaf over a very large and more obvious reason – Brand new Telangana is no longer comfortable with having Nannayya as the Telugu ‘Adikavi’. Despite being a titan of Telugu literature, the fatal flaw is that Nayyanna was born in what is today Andhra Pradesh.
Unlike Pampa, however, he did actually write in Telugu. But to Telangana, that is of secondary importance.
Cultural battles are not new and as there is no fight more bitter than that between siblings.
But let us at least have some logic for this aspect of the fight.
While Telangana is free to run a spiteful campaign where it pretends it had nothing to do with those Telugu people from the south, the honour to Pampa is hollow. What is the point of being venerated for deeds which you have never done in the name of people who have no idea who you are?
It feels like the plot of a satirical novel.
Must Pampa now become the Adikavi of Telangana simply for being born in the land that is now Telangana? His great works are in Kannada. His identity is Kannadiga. He worked in a Kannada court.
Proclaiming him as a Telugu poet feels sarcastic at best, a joke at worst.
KCR fought hard for a separate state. And now he has to live with what he has. If the greatest Telugu poet is from costal Andhra, then perhaps he should learn to live it. And if he can’t, then he needs to find someone who has contributed to his culture.
Though as a Kannadiga I am happy he likes Pampa, there is no need for him to burnish his legacy by borrowing from Karnataka.