Published: 10th June 2019
He would drive to my house on his scooter and read out his plays to me: Dharwad writer remembers Girish Karnad, his friend of 60 years
The two writers lived close by and studied in the same schools and collaborated on Karnad's first few plays too
Among the many people who are mourning the loss of Girish Karnad is Dr Siddalinga Pattanashetti, one of his oldest friends and a fellow Kannada writer. They first met in 1956, more than 60 years ago while they both studied at the Basel Mission High School in Dharwad. Pattanashetti is one of the three friends Karnad never failed to meet when he visited Dharwad.
"Until a few years ago, Girish would come on his scooter to meet me. His home was just a kilometre away from mine," Pattanashetti said. Karnad was three years senior to him, while Pattanashetti was in SSLC, Girish was doing his 'inter-studies', "Those days the BA course was four years long and it was divided into the first year, inter and only the last two years was the actual degree. I remember Girish stood first in Karnataka Arts College where he was pursuing his inter, "We invited him to the school to felicitate him and that was the first time I saw Girish and that's how our 60-odd year friendship started."
Childhood memories: Dr Siddalinga Pattanashetti, one of Karnad's closest friends| Credit: Vijayavani
Pattanashetti said that the two even worked to together in a few plays till he got the Rhodes Scholarship at Magdalen in Oxford. "After that, his life changed but our friendship was as strong as ever. He continued to meet me when he came to Dharwad and we would spend hours discussing politics and other things. He lived in a beautiful house in Saraswathipuram and it was a place that inspired him to write many plays and books. It was very close to my home like I mentioned he would drive on his scooter to come to see me," he explained. While the house was sold, Pattanashetti says it still exists.
The last time that Pattanashetti met Karnad was about a year ago at the Dharwad Sahitya Sambhrama which is where he noticed that the playwright's health had deteriorated. "I remember when he used to write plays he would come and meet us and then read it out to us. He would then ask us what we thought about it and depending on what we said, he would make the changes. That's the kind of person he was. From writing small poems he went on to become such a great writer." the friend remembers.
Pattanashetti also recalled that Karnad had written a film script and wanted to direct the film with Shankar Nag and even Pattanashetti's wife was supposed to have a role in the film. Unfortunately, Shankar died in an accident a day before and the film never took off.