A case for humour

Kefa, the pen name of A. V. Keshavamurthy, is a familiar name for those who have been reading humorous writings published in Kannada period­icals. He was popular in the 70s and 80s. For unknown reasons, he receded to oblivion without much recognition. This is a col­lection of his select writings re­spectfully edited by one of our thinking writers, S. Diwakar.

Kannada literature cannot boast of rich tradition of humo­rous writing. “Koravanji”, a pe­riodical’ meant to publish humorous writings did not last long. Humorous writers and their writings are not taken se­riously by critics either. Writers like T.Sunandamma, Dasha­rathi Dikshith, H.L. Keshava Murthy and others are not con­sidered important writers of the language. Kefa’s humour is tas­teful, subtle and sensitive. It is borne out of rich-old Mysore upper middle-class Brahmin culture. Of course, much of the humour in the book looks con­trived. There is a scheme with which the 25 episodes are nar­rated. Panduranga Rao, the nar­rator and endearingly addressed as ‘Pandu’ by his ac­quaintances, is a lazy and fun­-loving bachelor who is fond of nicer things in life. He is a proactive member of a club called “Mygallara Sangha”. He agets into some problem – do­mestic, social, political, and most importantly, they have no solutions. But, the intelligent and ubiquitous assistant, Shou­rie, who is sharp and hard­nosed, solves those problems and transfers all the credit to his master ungrudgingly.

Pandu’s community consists of Babu, Jagga, Raghanni, Kitti, Venku, Sheeni, Raja, Chandi, Peter, Bhansingh, Gulabi Mala and others. Though the locale of all their activities is the simple old Mysore of 50s and 60s, more particularly localities in Mysore like the Clock Tower, Shivaram­pet, Ittigegud, Chamundipura, Old Agrahara, etc., the charac­ters are drawn from different walks of life. They hail from dif­ferent religions, cultures, and linguistic backgrounds. The narration is studded with the Mysore delicacies like bisibele­bath, badanekayi vangibath, laadu, gasa-gase payasa, aam­bode, Mysore jasmine, Nanja­nagud Rasabale, ‘strong’ coffee, topping all this with the wine parties in the evenings at ‘My­gallara Sangha’. Besides, you have ‘Ghantaghosha’, the local newspaper whose prime con­cern seems to be publishing the activities of ‘Mygallara Sangha’ and nothing else.

During all the activities of the lazy Pandu and Shourie, there is rich humour rendered in Kan­nada which looks outlandish. Though the Kannada used here is not like that of Kailasam whose mix of Kannada with En­glish and Urdu was unique, one cannot not miss code mixing and code switching, the main purpose of which is to evoke laughter. Expressions like ‘see­tastha’ (taking his seat), ‘sippe­bitta’ (he sipped), ‘rich soillu’ (fertile soil), ‘thumba clanishu’ (too clannish) are linguistically interesting expressions. There are occasionally translations of English idioms which look com­ical in Kannada like ‘skeletons in the cupboard’ becomes ‘ya­ryara beerunalliro asthipanja­ra’. ‘Don’t ficker bus’ refers to private transport buses of those days which were largely driven by muslims. The typical expres­sions of the time like – ‘ardha cigaretu samaya’, ‘morning show shuruvago samaya: etc., makes for an interesting obser­vation of what constituted the time markers of the period of a particular class and lifestyle.

K. Sundara Raj (The Hindu)

Title : Best of Kefa Edited: S. Diwakar Publication: Ankita Pustaka Rate: Rs. 95/-