Inspirations behind the Billion Trees and Beyond - Late Dr. Shivarama Karanth

Photo courtesy: Wikipedia

Dr. Shivarama Karanth is well known Kannada literary figure in India as he is one of the Jnanapeetha awardees. I too am one the many who believe that he deserved a Nobel prize for literature. 

If you notice the internet information references, there is not much discussion about his engagement with environment as such. He successfully dabbled with many fields in addition to Kannada literature, environmental issues were one of them.

Dr. Shivarama Karanth was holistic in his approach to life. This was empowered by two key characteristics, deep connection with the nature and the resulting commonsense. Personal level integrity was the hallmark of this common sense. He applied this commonsense in everything he dealt with, as a result he could be a revolutionary at the same time a compassionate who understood a sense of evolving continuity between the past, the present and the future. People who were deeply influenced by his revolutionary outlook and want to stay with the label of "left" are bit dismayed by this aspect as he does not fit into the ideology they want to propagate. This is the main point, which is, he dint stand for any ideology as such, he stuck to common sense, when things made sense, he spoke and wrote with an authority and a level of arrogance around it, when it did not, he was able to park things with a sense of wonder, unresolved questions and a level of agnostic acceptance to ensure sanity for all concerned. One who understands him will agree that he was quite spiritual in nature, which comes from his total marriage with nature.

Common sense is the most valuable asset of Dr. Karanth that fueled his expressions, creativity, activism and compassionate engagement with people, issues and opportunities. He had a level of clarity that always ensured high level of personal integrity behind his statements and activities.  Nature played a major role in shaping his common sense and integrity which further fueled all his other positives and phenomenal success.

He did not use slogans around his deep love with nature. He simply soaked himself with the nature, looked at everything with deep curiosity to learn. Most of his masterpieces of literature are based on the elegance of the nature (eg. Bettada Jeeva, Marali Mannige, Chomana Dudi, Kudiyara Koosu).

In his later years, he sensed that the environmental issues need big help, and he engaged himself as a natural activist. He collaborated with agencies and activists. I myself do not have full account of his accomplishments in the area of environment. But, I do have a first hand experience of seeing the results of his small efforts in our native village called Parampalli. He engaged the forest officials towards the conservation of Mangroves in our  backwater areas and attempted to bring wild life, for example the peacock. Today, the peacocks are thriving well in our village, may be even to the bane of our farmers there, but ours is not a fertile farm land, however the results of his small efforts are clearly visible through the elegance of our nature with the harmony between the farmland, wetland and the forest land. 

In 2012, when I visited our native with an open mind and camera, I was totally bowled by the natural beauty around these mangroves, here is one photo I took of such a mass in our back waters.

My cousin, Sri Harsha recently took a sabbatical from his very busy software career, and spent good time in the surroundings of our native place with his camera.  The resulting wonderful photography gives a glimpse of the richness of our nature surrounding our farmlands. 

Sri Harsha is a person with a gap of two generations with Dr. Karanth, and exuberates the same common sense which therefore includes deep love for the nature.  I am mentioning this as a small example of the inspirations Dr. Shivarama Karanth has created across multiple generations, through this common sense, over and above his creations, activism and presence.

Obviously, this note I am writing does not do any justice to all the work Dr. Shivarama Karanth has accomplished in the area of environment.  My main point is that he is a huge inspiration for anyone who wants to consider self as a serious candidate to make some difference to anything around, including the environmental causes. 

Dr. Shivarama Karanth has been a huge inspiration in my life. I allowed myself to be an atheist at the age of 12 itself in spite of the theistic background of my community, due to heavy influence through his writings (fiction). Interestingly, he too is a huge influence behind my exploration with spirituality, as his spirituality is the deep sense of love and compassion as a common sense and that is all. (I did explore the esoteric aspects of the same, but not much luck there, only the strong message to return to the common sense after wasting quite a good number of prime years)  Though I could not sense his influence fully through my youth, it became very clear through my forties.  He has been a major influence in me accepting the reality that I need to return to common sense and holistic approach, a level of curiosity about everything and cultivating a level of stamina to accomodate resulting and residual contradictions and confusions. (I admit, I am still learning and long way from doing true justice to his inspirations)  I have not been as pure and integral like him, hence limited success, but I will continue to bet on him for further learning and leverage in the future.

Billion Trees and Beyond drive has a slogan associated, so there is a contradiction and deviation wrt to the common sense Dr. Shivarama Karanth brought to the table through his presence, but there is an effort on my part to keep this drive simple, only the time will tell, how far this drive will succeed, but given that I am a small being with limitations, his commonsense and integrity reminds me that I need to be very clear with my commitments around this, and there I say a minimum of 1,000 plantations through my sweat alone, the rest could be my wishful thinking like building a ladder to the sky at the worst and hopefully to be proven a creative genius through the future ahead, at the best (as I like to stay positive too).

The purpose of this note is to say that Dr. Shivarama Karanth is a source of inspirations for any on two aspects, 1. common sense driven integrity, expression and engagement 2. therefore willing to err on the side of the nature when in doubt.  Dr. Shivarama Karanth even attempted to become a Member of Parliament, mainly to rally on the environmental causes, but miserably failed in the election as an independent candidate, he was not afraid of failures, believed only in his efforts with integrity and dedications.

Apologies for not fully doing justice to his spirit, expressions and accomplishments!  Please add your comments to this blog to bring more justice in this regard.


Nataraja Upadhya,

Founder, Billion Trees and Beyond
Founder, Paint Bengaluru Green and More (ಬೆ೦ಗಳೂರಿಗೆ ಹಸಿರು ಓಕುಳಿ)



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