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Memories, like the fragrance of a flower

By July 20, 2018No Comments

Source : The Hindu  –  H.S. Venkatesh Murthy

M.N. Vyasa Rao, well-known Kannada film lyricist, poet and novelist, passed away last weekend. The affectionate, affable writer had a huge circle of friends who cherished his company and warmth

Poet, and short story writer M.N. Vyasarao, is a household name in Karnataka as a film lyricist: he was to his friends an affectionate person with the simplicity of a child. Vyasa was a dreamer, sought after by many; and he, was always there for his friends — to help and support when they needed him. As a friend, I can for sure say that he was an indispensable part of our lives. Like sugar in milk, he remained invisible, but infused the lives he touched with a sweetness. If his songs worshipped love and beauty, his stories and novels had surprise, an unexpected twist, an element of the mysterious. Like he did with his stories, he ended his life too in a mysterious moment. He gave an unanticipated twist to his life and left all of us aghast and shocked. Like poet Adiga’s lines: “Edurige iddava ommege illavagibitta, dilli deepantarakke kaikotta sakha” (He who was right here, disappeared suddenly, the companion who held hands .

He was a close friend of poets Gopalakrishna Adiga and K.S. Narasimha Swamy. If Adiga wrote a new poem, the first one to know about it and transmit the news to us would be Vyasa. Many years ago, I remember how, one morning, he barged into my home like a storm, restless with excitement. Adiga had just written his extraordinary poem Battalarada Gange and Vyasa had got to read it. “He calls Ganga Gangajji in the poem. What a wonder of a poem it is I say,” he paced up and down ecstatically, with tears in his eyes. If at all you spotted Adiga at a literary function, you could conveniently assume that Vyasa would be sitting next to him. To Adiga, he was nothing less than a son. In fact, when Adiga left to Shimla, he chose Vyasa to go with him. No less for K.S. Narasimhaswamy – Vyasa was his life’s companion. Narashimhaswamy would land up in Vyasa’s house in the morning and pour out his woes, and exalt in his joys. Silence personified Vyasa’s wife had to make coffee for him, without which K.S. Na. never left. How can one recall all those innumerable occasions of love and warmth — there are just too many and it is impossible! Wasn’t it the same with GSS too? If ever the GSS couple went to watch a film, Vyasa would be there sitting with them!

Who did not want him? Just like he was indispensable for the seniors, he was an inevitable part of the life of his contemporaries too. Not just that, he had many young friends. Once, I wanted an English translation of one of my poems urgently. I implored to Vyasa. He was close to the poet H.S. Shivaprakash. Within no time, the translation was ready, he organised a meeting with both of us at his office, and the rest of the evening the three of us had an unending discussion on literature at Coffee House.

His bank was on M.G. Road. The college I worked was on Brigade Road. Whenever I had some free time, I would go to Vyasa’s bank. Seeing me, he would step out of the counter. “ Enayya , what is bothering you?” would invariably be his opening line. This almost seemed like his ruse to treat me at a nearby hotel – after having fed and watered me to the brim, with happiness beaming on his face, he would ask dramatically: “What bringst thou here?” How does one forget the generousity of this affable friend! Adiga used to always jokingly call himBilloja (the one who picks up the ‘bill’!). No one dared to ask for the bill when Vyasa was around. It was his birthright.

We always hung out together — Vyasa, Narahalli Balasubrahmanya, B.R. Lakshman Rao and me. We were always there for each other’s literary gatherings. Even for family functions. “How can your programme be complete without me?” — Vyasa would ask. Even when we travelled, we always took neighbouring rooms.

It was because of Vyasa that Ashwath became dear to me. He was responsible for my film Hasiru Ribbon which I came to know only much later. When the film was complete and we had an audio release programme in Kadur and Shimoga I learnt of Vyasa’s handiwork. He worked for his friends and kept it discrete till the end.

I did write a poem about him, the opening lines of which are “Innobbara kashatakke aaguvude vyasana havyasa” (To be there for another’s sorrow is Vyasa’s avocation).

It is known to the world that Vyasa was a poet, a film lyricist, dialogue writer for television serials, and worked with stalwarts like Puttanna Kanagal, T.N. Seetaram etc. With his songs for Shubha Mangala hitting the popularity charts, he became an overnight star. He was close to Dr. Rajkumar as well. Speaking about him, Vyasa turned into a poet. Rajkumar’s acting, voice intonation, his hushed tones — Vyasa could imitate him with verve. Among us friends, he was the most enchanting storyteller.

I used to be among Vyasa’s first reader. Whatever he wrote, he gave it to me for a peer review. He and I have discussed endlessly about how to write a sonnet. When he had questions or needed information about ancient Kannada literature, he invariably called me. Even two days before his demise, during a car journey, we had a long chat about a pre-modern text.

Vyasa had a keen eye, and a sharp nose to boot. Organised, and clean, he would pick holes if things were not in order. ‘Let’s go for dinner, but it must all be over by 9 p.m.,’ he would order. Once we went for a programme in Chintamani, and it got delayed. He walked out of the hall, and sat outside sulking! His books, his home auditorium, everything reflected his orderliness.

“Suryange Chandrange”, “Nakondla Naaku”, “Ninna Kangala Koladi”, “Neenillade…” all these songs became the favourites of Kannadigas. He was childlike at heart — pure and joyful. He would get angry and sulk over inconsequential things — we would tease him about it. Vyasa has left the mortal world, but his vibrant friendship, and his joyful demeanour lingers on in the air like the fragrance of a flower – an invisible presence that can be felt and not seen. He will remain with us for long.

The writer is a Kannada poet of repute.

Translated from Kannada by Deepa Ganesh

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