Well-read Bengaluru has few spaces for Kannada readers

Art & Culture City Karnataka Lifestyle

The reason is dominance of English reading

Bengaluru  has very few reading clubs that have Kannada readers, with most reading English books alone, say book clubs. 

According to the 2017 Amazon Reading Trends Report, Bengaluru is the most well-read city in India, with Mumbai and Delhi ranking second and third respectively.

Bengaluru is home to several popular reading clubs as well as popular bookstores. However, very few of them have Kannada as their preferred language or even a substantial amount of readers who suggest reading Kannada books.

Himavarshith S from Under the Lamp, a book club, informed The Observer: “Our base is primarily English. Our members usually vote on a book to be read for the month. Since not a lot of our readers know how to read Kannada, we haven’t tried it (reading Kannada books) yet. We did  once do a reading of the Kannada play Tughlaq by Girish Karnad.”

Asked if there are any Kannada readers in his club, Perry Menzies, owner of Urban Solace, said: “The books we read are purely English. Ours is a serious club where highly educated people come and read books. (they) have serious opinions on reading, and discuss authors and even socio-economic factors about the writings.”

While the reality is the same for most clubs in the city, few have different formats that allow for more vernacular book reading.

Abhiram R of Broke Bibliophiles Bangalore said: “Unlike other clubs, we actually just get together to discuss the books that we have individually read. When we meet up, the members talk about the books they have read; the rest listen. While the books we read are majorly English, we have had quite a few Kannada readers as well. In fact, we have readers in Tamil and Malayalam as well.”

Anyone can read any book and talk about it. “It gives the rest of us an opportunity to know about other languages, and maybe even try and read translated versions of them,” he added.

The Observer tried to find Kannada book clubs in the city, but couldn’t.

Kiran Singh, administrative officer at Kannada Pustaka Pradhikara, said: “We do not have idea about such reading clubs. We only sell Kannada books at low prices to increase readership among people.” 

Similarly, Bhagya, an employee at Book Brahma, a global Kannada literary platform, said though they are involved in Kannada literature they do not know about any such clubs.

Vishweshwar Bhat, Editor-in-Chief, Vishwavani, said: “Yes, there are some reading clubs in the city, but little is known about how active they are. I had been called to one or two of them as guests, but I don’t know if they exist anymore.”

Vivek Shanbhag, a prominent Kannada author, however, doesn’t think this is worrisome.

 “I knew one club called Abhyasa some time ago, but don’t know any other. But it is OK…. reading clubs are not exactly a part of the reading culture here. Maybe that is why the clubs have a more English-reading attendance. So you may not find them for Kannada books in the city. But you do have readers going to libraries, attending book launches and reading them individually in the city.”

T. Govindraju, an ex-Kannada professor who also worked for the Kannada Development Authority, said it is essentially a result of how much functionality a language offers.

 “Students in the city mostly study Kannada as a second or third language. Their medium of instruction is majorly English. This is because the language you study and the kind of employment you take up have a connection. And since English is a major commercial language, it finds major patronage. So you won’t find maximum readers in Kannada. The readers in Kannada will only be those who have an explicit interest in the language.”



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