A Classy Conference Organized by Houston Kannada Vrinda

From Left: Parvathaneni Harish (Consul General of India, Prof. S. N. Sridhar, Stony Brook University, New York and Vatsa Kumar, President, Kannada Vrinda.

From Left: Parvathaneni Harish (Consul General of India, Prof. S. N. Sridhar, Stony Brook University, New York and Vatsa Kumar, President, Kannada Vrinda.

By Dr. M.S. Nataraja

HOUSTON: Houston Kannada Vrinda (HKV) did it Again!  More than 250 lovers of Kannada literature gathered and celebrated the tenth anniversary of Kannada Sahitya Ranga (KSR), the one and only national organization dedicated to the growth of Kannada literature in the United States.

It was a meticulously executed conference showcasing literary and cultural events for two days on May 18 and 19 at the Hamman Hall auditorium inside the beautiful campus of Rice University in Houston. When the out-of-town guests arrived on Friday evening, the HKV volunteers were buzzing with activities — decorating the foyer with art work specially made to suit the occasion, and setting up the registration desk and a book exhibition/store while many artists were going through their final rehearsals for the show. Three scholars, two from India and one from Stony Brook University in Long Island, NY joined the several office-bearers of KSR and HKV and felt the enthusiasm of the local organizers under the leadership of Vatsa Kumar, a veteran organizer of multiple conferences.

The Saturday inaugural session started promptly with the honorable Consul General from the Indian Consulate, Parvataneni Harish lighting the lamp and releasing the conference publication “Beru-Sooru,” a 550-page book of essays written by Kannada writers settled in the United States, covering a variety of topics and their rich experiences.  HKV-funded project, in which a hitherto unpublished book of Raja Rao was re-created and translated into Kannada from an existing manuscript in English, also was brought to light during this conference.  This book and three other books –two of translated poetry and one on humor — were released by the two other special guests, professors S.N. Sridhar and Sripati Tantri.  Professor K.V. Tirumalesh a well-known scholar of Linguistics delivered the keynote speech in which he enlightened the attendees with several interesting nuances of languages in general and Kannada in particular.  He explained the meanings of the words that originated from the native Indian languages and are retained in their pristine form; he gave the examples of the names of several states in this country, including that of Texas (friendly folks!).

There were several interesting literary sessions during the two days. There was one in which people read their poems and essays, another in which a short story converted into a play was read such that the story could be visualized by the audience. There was a special session that was a tribute to Raja Rao (the translator professor C.N. Srinath from Mysore was also present to share his experiences while professor Sridhar gave his literary evaluation of the translated novel “Nareegeeta”).  A special session showcased our own writers who have recently published books while another session was devoted to introducing the languages and culture of the west coast of Karnataka (Professor Sripati Tantri was the main speaker).  And finally, there was a very stimulating dialogue session with the chief and special guests with audience participation.

It was not all literature; there was a segment of cultural events on Saturday evening where for the first time, Rajam Ramamurthy of San Antonio presented a ballet in Kannada based on the famous ballet Swan Lake.  Other artists from HKV (directed by Indrani Parthasarathy and Rashmi Sahshi) presented brilliant segments of group dances and artists from California (coordinated by Vasu Aitala) put together a very interesting Yakshagana episode.

The program started off and ended with melodious group songs presented by HKV artists (coordinated by Neela Chakravarthy, music by Jayasimha Murthy) while young musicians (students of Vidushi Rajeshwari Bhat) enthralled the audience on Sunday morning.  It was the segment by the children of Texas that stole everybody’s heart with their demonstration of flawless conversational Kannada in their hilarious skit (Poornima Kashyap’s group) and a mock Kannada class (Nataraja Kallur’s group).

Texas Kannadigas showed their generosity and hospitality and made sure that all the guests had a wonderful stay. After the millennium Kannada conference of the year 2000 which brought name and fame to Houston Kannada Vrinda, they have once again demonstrated their enormous strength and organizational capability by successfully conducting a two-day literary convention in a remarkably classy way!  While a large number of volunteers (starting with Venkatesh Gowda and friends transporting the guests from the hotel to the venue and back) have worked long and hard for the success of this program, two of them stand out for their dedication and commitment –Dr. Mangala Prasad and Yashvanth Havalimane. The members of KSR are ever indebted to this show of support for our work being done by the literary enthusiasts scattered all over the country.

Long Live Kannada in the United States.