There are many leading poets, novelists and other literary giants from Dharwad. Till recently, I was under the impression that I knew most of them at least by name. Recently I stumbled upon a reference to a novelist whom I had never heard of despite the fact that the novelist lived in Dharwad for 40 years.
Many of us probably have not heard of G.A.Kulkarni. He was a famous Marathi novelist. Translations of some of his novels even appeared in popular Kannada monthly Kasturi some years back, it is said. At least I can not recall having read any one of them.
How did I come to know about GA (as G.A.Kulkarni was popularly known as)? Well, I sort of know a journalist friend in Bangalore who has a tabloid of his own. He published a compilation of his 1996 weekly columns in a book. One of the columns had reference to GA. What impressed me in that column was GAs rather peculiar personality. Most of the people who are in literature, philosophy and other unusual activities naturally have variety of idiosyncrasies. Some even label them as creative weaknesses. Let me jot down here some of the unforgettable bits that I read in that column.
GA was an English teacher in JSS College for roughly 40 years. He lived in Masoor Nayak chawl in Malmaddi with his two unmarried sisters. GA himself was bachelor all his life
The author of the column brings about several peculiar facets of GAs personality in the column. Believe it or not, GA spoke in Kannada only to two people. Absolutely two people. One was the peon in JSS College and other was an old woman who happened to be his neighbor. What did he do otherwise? He hardly spoke to anybody else. No adjectives are sufficient to describe his reservedness, shyness and unwillingness to mingle with others. Was a he a human hater? Probably not, the column writer wonders, as he found great zeal for life in some of his novels.
GA somehow wanted to always remain away from humans. When GA retired, the other teachers and students organized a farewell. They had a hard time in convincing GA to accept that. They thought GA had agreed to come to the function after so much persuasion. But, GA never went to that.
GA never walked on the right side of road even by mistake. He never bought his particular brand of cigarette form any other shop than one from he regularly bought. He always drank scotch in moderation and of course in perfect isolation.
GA always wore dark glasses irrespective the season or time. For what? Author wonders if this was another ploy to avoid strangers.
The original column also has incidents involving Girish Karnad, famous Marathi stage artist Sulabha Deshpande and our own Bendre. Girish Karnad once somehow convinced GA that he had to meet him to discuss about his novels. After a lot of persuasion GA gave him an appointment. Girish Karnad was at his door at the time agreed only to find GA going out of the house on his cycle leaving Karnad speechless.
Sulabha Deshpande once wrote to him "I have been thoroughly impressed by your novels. I am considering making one of them into a film. In this regard I want to meet you and discuss with you about the subject and rights of the novels among other things. Please give me an appointment". GA promptly wrote back "I have written all in the novels. Rights are with my publishers. Take them if you want. There is nothing to discuss. So, please do not come". What do you call that?
GA had won Kendra Sahithya Academy prize for one of his novels. Since it was a prestigious prize it was big news in Dharwad. Bendre also got to know about that and was surprised that author of such caliber existed in Dharwad and he did not know him. He wanted to see GA. GA was conveyed that message. As you expected, GA never went to see Bendre. Why?
When GA died in Poona after some years, newspapers and magazines had a hard time in getting an article written about him. Reason was simple. Everybody had heard about GA, everybody talked about GA (or about his peculiarities). But, nobody knew GA.
The original column was not about GA. It was about love and various expressions of love. The original columnist touched upon various faces of love and at one point said that broken love, sometimes, leaves a person with nothing but a dry and barren life. It actually steals the simple pleasures of life. "Was GA a victim broken love?" wonders the columnist. Columnist also categorically denies that he found any signs of remorse towards life or disinterest towards life in any of the GAs novels he edited. But, he did recognize dense shades of regret in his works. The original columnist equated that regret to the regret he (columnist) often found in the many unmarried women in their 50s and 60s.
Whatever it may be, it made a very good reading for me and I keep reading that column from time to time and wonder about GA. Mrs.Sapre of Dharwad seems to have written a book on GA. Most probably it is in Marathi as Mrs.Sapre often writes in Marathi. I also saw a couple of threads about GA in some Marathi news groups. None of them could give a glimpse of GAs personality as this one small article gave. I am happy today as I know someone called GA.
(Acknowledgements: Bits and pieces about GA mentioned here are from a chapter in the book Khasbaath-96 by Ravi Belagere.)