Mahatma Gandhi had once said, “The Future depends on what you do today.” Following his words of wisdom, Veerendra Kumar, a software engineer from Bellary decided to step-up and take action to protect the dying literature and culture of Karnataka. He opened a cafe that focuses on the very notion of the Kannada language and on the people who speak and write the language.
“I moved to Bengaluru for my job. I used to hear people respond to me in different languages. There was Tamil, Hindi, English, Telugu, but only a handful responded in Kannada. That’s when I realised that the language is dying because of migration and I had to do something to keep it alive,” says Veerendra.
His café primarily serves the local Karnataka cuisine. From Bellary’s ragi balls, jawar roti, dosa, chapati, puri, they have it all. The one dish that is famous and is in high demand is the Mandaki Mirchi dish that originates from North Karnataka’s spicy cuisine.
“It feels very nice to see people of different cultures and ethnicities walk into the café and learn about our language, poets, writers, freedom fighters, heritage sites. The word is spreading. In fact, I know people who even made an effort to learn the language,” he says.
With an aim of reviving Kannada literature and culture, Veerendra also conducts regular theatre, musical performances and literature events. During the opening month of his café, Karnataka’s famous musician, M Subhalatha performed at the café. He says that these performances are what attracts the non-Kannadiga crowd and also makes the Kannada crowd feel proud about their lineage.
Akmalbasha S, a Kannadiga theatre actor says, “I used to perform my plays in English and Hindi, because the crowd is filled with people who speak and understand these two main languages. Then I decided to slowly move towards my mother tongue; Kannada. It was so hard for me to find actors who can speak and perform in Kannada.” Talking about the impact the café will have on reviving the language, he says, “This is a good initiative for everyone. Kannadigas who have forgotten their culture will find a ray to attach themselves to the language again and people, who are from another state, will begin to learn the importance and pride we have in our language and culture.”
Both Veerendra and Akmal believe that through theatre, music, dance performances that are in Kannada, people become curious to know what’s going on. Karnataka’s culture in itself is very colourful, bright and filled with many inspiring and interesting stories. All one needs to do is to get it out there for people to watch.
Vinaya Suresh, a homemaker and a bibliophile says, “We need more initiatives to revive Kannada literature in particular. During my generation, we knew how to read and write Kannada, today even someone knows the language, they prefer reading an English novel. This is only because they are unaware of the content Kannada novels has to offer.”
The ambience of the café is the highlight of the place. Each wall has an image of Karnataka’s glory. From images of Kuvempu, Hampi, Rajkumar to Rahul Dravid, they have it all. What’s unique about these images is that each image has a scan code attached to it, and a visitor just needs to scan the image using a mobile phone, and the entire history and information is visible. This is one initiative that every visitor of the café appreciates.”...