ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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People’s Poet and a Shy Revolutionary

Siddalingaiah (1954–2021)

The literary journey of Siddalingaiah as well as the trajectory of his creative experiments and activism are narrated.

When modern Kannada poetry was gasping, caught in the monotony of exploring the relation between the self and the society, and its voice choked by the dark forces of Emergency imposed on India, a raw voice emerged from a Bengaluru slum, not far away from the heart of the city. A Dalit lad in his teens, a pre-university student, Siddalingaiah, scribbled poem-like compositions in his notebook. He poured out his rage and angst in them. His cousin who noticed these scribbles got so scared that he warned Siddalingaiah’s father that it would land his son soon in jail. The father threw the notebook into fire and told his son in the evening with a sigh of relief, “I have saved you from the police, my son.”

A few years before this incident, Sidd­alingaiah’s parents, living in dire poverty, had left Manchanabele, a tiny village 70 kilometre (km) away from Bengaluru, and settled with their family of six children in a Dalit colony adjacent to Shri­rampuram in Bengaluru. Sad and angry and having lost his early poems, Sidda­lingaiah continued to write. He found a solitary hideout in the cemetery near his colony and there he wrote, read and spent most of his time after his classes. He cultivated the art of public speaking too. He used to render a popular narrative on B R Ambedkar. Gradually, he grew up as a rationalist inspired by E V Ramasamy Periyar’s thoughts. He was a gutsy debater in ­college challenging the conservative ­society, taking positions. Once, speaking spiritedly on the topic “God does not ­exist” in a debate competition, Siddalingaiah went up to the lamp lit on the stage, blew it out and threw up a cha­llenge, “I have put out the lamp [which my opponents argued as] god incarnate. If your god does exist, let him stop me from speaking.” A commotion erupted and a few boys forced him to light the lamp. Siddalingaiah refused to do so, and he won the first prize in the debate.

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Updated On : 6th Jul, 2021

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