A creative response to real stories

Mogalli Ganesh’s art of storytelling is an effort towards a compassionate understanding of the exploitative context in a society like ours

Mogalli Ganesh’s “Devara Daari” (The Way of God), a collection of 19 stories, is a creative writer’s response to the social complexities of our times. He appears to be much different from his contemporary Dalit writers in his portrayal of the lives of subalterns in general and Dalits in particular. What is striking in his writing is the recognition of the hegemonic agencies that cut across caste, class and gender and also of the cyclical nature of these agencies in their operations. While many of the stories in this collection end up with repetitive pattern (for instance, many solutions to the issues appear to be fait accompli), various modes of emancipation from exploitation are also explored most often very subtly, sometimes too literally (as in Mugubottu, Devara Daari and Katthalige Kicchchu Hacchi, where the women leave their husbands for good to live with the ones they love). At times it is too romantic, (for instance, the excitement of Dalit boys at the moment of becoming recognised literates in Minchida Aksharamale, without the realisation of the newer and subtler forms of humiliation that is inflicted on them even after becoming literates, as in Satkara, and the dramatic mass protest in Akkalu).

Perhaps Mogalli’s much desired vision of emancipation could be seen in Neera Dharani in which a Dalit, Siddaraju marries a Brahmin girl named Jalajakshi in the presence of our Dalit leaders like Devanuru Mahadeva and Ramadas and the daughter of Siddaraju and Jalajakshi, Dharani, who later becomes a doctor to be serving in Ethiopia.

The realistic and most powerful story in the collection, Devara Mara, could be read as an allegory of the conflict between Hindus and Muslims on the issue of Babri Masjid. Similarities and differences between the Dalits and the Muslims in the complex web of our society and that one is pitted against the other to settle scores of the feudal caste (which is ‘Brahmanical’ in nature) is a marked point in this story. Curiously, the Brahmin here (and also in many other stories in the collection) appears to be not only harmless but also a victim of feudal atrocities. It is debatable whether Gandhian non-violent method suggested in the story could be deemed as the solution for the all the inter-religious and inter-caste conflicts in the country.

In the story, Jambhavathi Kola, Mogalli brings out yet another agency in the modern exploitative machinery called Academics (Knowledge), whose selective readings of the so called archaeological evidences, complicate the already complicated Dalit issues in the village and furthers the violence inflicted on Dalits.

Nammuura Siddegowda and Thurthu Paristhithi explores the irony of how the most progressive land reform legislation brought out by Devaraj Urs in Seventies could only end up in the swapping of agencies of exploitation. Three stories, Dehavoo Jeevavo (Body or Soul), Ee Oora uura Mudhukaru (The Old men of this village) and Endaguduka (Drunkard) which is acknowledged as an adapted version of the well known Nigerian writer, Amos Tutuola’s The Palm-Wine Drinkard, stand distinctly apart from the other stories of exploitations and protests. The dialectics between life and death, life in death and death in life, the creativity involved in the process of old age when human beings become much more matured towards the human follies and acceptance of life and death as just natural phases in existence, are recounted metaphorically in these stories.

Mogalli’s art of storytelling is an effort towards a compassionate understanding of the exploitative context in a caste ridden society like ours. During this process of understanding, rightly so, the ideological positioning of the writer gets muffled. The actors here are by and large active participants in a culture which is basically asymmetrical in nature. Thus it becomes difficult to focus on any one particular strong motivation for the cruelty and harassment in these stories except of the realisation of the naturalised processes in the caste hierarchy.

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