Dr. U.R. Ananthamurthy awarded 18th Basheer Puraskaram3 min read
Manipal: Held for the first time outside Kerala, the 18th Pravasi Doha Basheer Puraskaram was presented to Dr. U. R. Ananthamurthy. Abhishek, a student he’d chosen from his native village received the M. N. Vijayan endowment scholarship. The award ceremony was organised by the Pravasi Trust Kerala in association with Manipal University (MU) at the auditorium of the TMA Pai Planetarium, Manipal Life Sciences Center on September 27.
Created to preserve the memory of one of Kerala’s popular novelists Vaikom Mohammed Basheer, the awardees are selected for their intellect in art, literature, activism and others. The year’s recipient Dr. U. R. Ananthamurthy with numerous accolades including a Padma Bhushan and a Jnanpith Award to his credit was also close friends with Vaikom Basheer during his time in Kerala.
Reminiscing their time with Basheer and the imprints of his influence in their life were the dignitaries on stage. Award presenter Padma Bhushan M.T. Vasudevan Nair, another household name in Kerala for his contribution to writing and films fondly connected his memories of Basheer with their mutual friendship with U. R. Ananthamurthy. He said, “I called him (Basheer) Guru, not because I was learning from him, no one can lean from him; his writing is inimitable.To present an award in the name of Basheer, to Ananthamurthy who is very close to me is special.” The cash prize of Rs. 50,000 was presented by Basheer’s son Anees Basheer. The citations were read out in Kannada and Malayalam.
Following the felicitation addresses, Dr. U.R. Ananthamurthy addressed the packed gathering. Smiling at Abhishek he said, “My relationship with Kerala culminated today. I became a writer because I went to a Kannada medium school. I sat with poor boys, rich boys. You don’t see the difference in private schools. In Kerala, the Muslims and Christians don’t seem like the minority and that is the greatness of Kerala; I want that in Karnataka.”
The scholarship winner Abhishek was awarded Rs. 15,000 by Padma Vibhushan Dr. M. S. Valiathan, first Vice-Chancellor of MU, who congratulated the Trust for their imaginative initiative of handing scholarships. Delivering an emotional memorial lecture was Padma Bhushan T. J. S. George with his numerous anecdotes about Basheer. He also joked that half the people in Kerala think Ananthamurthy is a malayalee and the other half consider him an ‘honorary malayalee’.
Ankit K. S., second year Mechanical Engineering student from Manipal Institute of Technology, despite being unfamiliar with the writer before was impressed and said, “His personality sounds like that of a typical artist. He wasn’t brought up with a conventional education and his asset turned out to be his unconventional mindset.”
“People said he was crazy and that he’ll beat me. But he was very nice to me. As a school kid when I read his ‘Shabdangal’ I did not understand it. But after my adolescence it started to make sense. I studied his autobiography and decided to meet him,” said M. A. Rahman, maker of ‘Basheer the Man’, a National Award documentary which was screened at the end of the ceremony.
Vice Chancellor of MU Dr. K. Ramnarayan presided over the function. Babu Mather, Managing Trustee, Pravasi Trust; Dr. M. V. Kamath, Honorary Director, Manipal Institute of Communication (MIC) and Varadesh Hiregange, Director, MIC were also present.
Sub-edited by Sabari Saran