This year is the birth centenary of the Kannada poet G.P. Rajarathnam.
He has written many, many books, but he is best-known for his work Ratnana Padagalu - life as seen from the eyes of Yendkuduka Ratna (Drunkard Ratna). The entire work, in verse, is written in rustic Kannada style. It is recommended that you read it out aloud to experience the complete effect. It is a very funny, sad, and extremely thought-provoking work. My mom read it out to me for a while long, long ago, until other matters claimed our interest and we forgot all about it. I really have to read the whole thing soon. Ratnana Padagalu has been popularized by well-known Kannada singers, and it is still appreciated and admired.
But the reason why I personally like him so much is because of his poems written for children. You could call them Kannada Nursery Rhymes. I am sure every Kannadiga child knows at least one of his poems - at least "Naayi Mari". His poems are very lovable. Small, easy to recite, and enjoyable too, what with the rhymes and alliterations.
I grew up reciting and singing these small poems and songs... my favourites are "Naayi Mari", "Taata butti tumba rotti", "Putaani Krishna", "Haavu bantu haavu bantu", "Kuri mari byaa", "Namma maneyalondu sanna paapa", etc.
According to GP Rajaratnam himself, he had no intention of writing poems for children. But once, he found himself jobless after doing his MA, and stood in for his ailing father who was a Kannada teacher in a school. He was quite distressed to see the kind of poems in the Kannada syllabus for such small children. That evening, while he was sitting and thinking, a poem, "Bannada tagadina tutturi", came to him without his bidding. He was thrilled with it, and taught it to his students the next day, who loved it too. He then went around teaching it to all the children he knew, until finally, it came to a publisher's notice, who asked him to write a few more poems and published his first collection of children's songs. The rest, of course, is history.
In the introduction to his "Kandana Kavyamale", the collection of collections of poems (!), he has written that these poems were written four decades ago, and they are still so popular, and has asked, what more could a writer want?
He wrote that in 1978. He would be thrilled to know that thirty years after he wrote that, at least one mother is still teaching her daughter his poems. His words are still alive!
His works are available at all popular book stalls.
Sapna Book House has recently published 25 volumes of his children's literature, available at all Sapna showrooms in Bangalore.