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Politics meets culture


M.P. Prakash seamlessly negotiated the worlds of literature, culture and politics


Bibliophile M.P. Prakash's love for books was legendary

M.P. Prakash (Matada Patil Prakash 1940-2011) who passed away last week was not just a politician, but an actor, writer, orator and social activist.

He was a rare politician who served as a minister shouldering a number of portfolios for more than a decade under several chief ministers. He was a multi-faceted personality in whom politics, literature and culture blended in a rare sort of way. He was committed to value-based politics and the hallmark of his multifaceted personality was his equanimity and simplicity. He was an integral part of Karnataka's cultural life. He also made several innovations in theatre.

Even a hot and dry Bellary became a culturally fertile land under the aegis of Prakash. He spearheaded efforts to make the district culturally vibrant.

My association with Prakash lasted for several decades. In the early Seventies, Mysore provided a forum for writers and artists and I met Prakash and his friends from Bellary at a conference. I met him on several occasions thereafter – at seminars and conferences, reflecting upon socialist ideals.

Prakash was not only a great lover of books but also a voracious reader. He would curiously move around the stacks of books in exhibitions, browse and pick up all he wanted.

He had joined the socialist party by then and had organised a conference in his home town Hoovinahadagali. Whatever type of literary, cultural or progressive thinkers' meet that would take place in Bellary district, Prakash would be the organiser, executive, host, active worker.

In 1979, the Bandaya or the protest literature gained momentum and the first national literary conference of these writers was held in Bangalore, followed by a second meet in Bijapur in 1980.

I was also an enthusiastic participant and on my way back to Bangalore I got down at Hospet remembering M.P. Prakash's standing invitation to visit his place and took a bus to Hoovinahadagali solely with the purpose of meeting him. When I asked somebody about Prakash, he ran to the neighbouring courtyard and lo, within minutes Prakash was seen hurriedly coming towards me in his advocate's robes. I still remember the way he treated me, his warm and heartfelt friendliness, his unassuming deportment and his unstinting hospitality.

His thirst for knowledge, social commitment, his way of discussing things of our common interest had left me spellbound. I had just then bought a copy of Tejasvi's “Carvalho”, which he literally snatched from me and rushed to pay its cost. He could not resist the temptation of going through that book though I told him that I would send him another copy from Bangalore. I was with him for nearly three days including my trip to Mylara. The day I returned to Bangalore, we stood chatting at the bus stop waiting for the bus and the bus did not arrive at the bus stand even after ten'o clock. We were discussing vachana literature in detail till I got into the bus. Later during the ensuing general elections Prakash was elected to the Legislative Assembly and became the Transport Minister!

M.P. Prakash became more and more occupied as he entered into his active political career. Whichever portfolio he occupied in the Government during later years, his love for literature and culture stood unabated and he would always accord top priority to them. In fact, he wanted me to serve as a member of the Folklore Academy, which I later did and became its chairperson. At the behest of Prakash, I also got an opportunity to serve as a member of Kannada University Syndicate when Prof. Kambar was its vice-chancellor and we established a chair in the name of Ramamanohar Lohia. Even for the Lohia volumes brought out by the Karnataka Government for which I have been the chairman, I am happy to acknowledge that it was at the behest of Prakash and other like minded friends that we were able to do it. It was Prakash's penchant for propagation of culture that he was instrumental in organising Hampi Utsava, a grand annual cultural festival to mark the glory and grandeur that Vijayanagar was.

In the demise of a towering personality like M.P. Prakash, we have unfortunately lost one of our champions dedicated to the cause of our literature and culture. He was one of the rare gems of our soil who managed to take active politics, art, literature and culture together. He always kept service before self and carved out a niche for himself in public life and the void left behind him can hardly be filled.

(The author is a senior writer and critic. Translated by Lakshminarayan Aurora)

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