Thursday, December 4, 2014

Book Review #47: Bhitti - An Autobiography by Dr. S.L. Bhyrappa

I was not at all ready to write up a review for this book. This book, Bhitti is the autobiography of Dr. S.L. Bhyrappa, the ace novelist, the philosopher and a great human being. Bhitti is a Kannada language word. It can be translated to English as a WALL or a PORTRAIT, where one can post their picture. Evidently, this is an apt title for this book. He has written his life story as a picture on the wall. It is so thrilling and one will feel profound whilst reading this book. I am quite inspired by this book, at the same time; I was saddened by reading his life journey. For sure, Bhitti is a masterpiece narration and it stands as a lesson for those who are writing their autobiographies.

What made it more special about this book? It was the sheer brilliance of SLB sir and the way he narrated his account of life in this book. He has not crossed the limits of boundaries while describing events and not derided anyone who directly or indirectly was the cause of sabotaging his earlier childhood and his teen years.

He started his book by describing his childhood when he was aged 4. He went on describing the social status, surroundings, events, the neighbors, his family members, his relatives and most importantly his mother who played a crucial role in bringing up him in the righteous way. He also writes about his father who was good for nothing and describes him as an aloof. His father was directly responsible for all his miseries that he went through as a child. His mother was the sole responsible person in his family who was taking care of the daily needs of all the family members. He has grown up in a situation where there were not even proper meals to eat. His family often slept without eating anything except for his father who happened to be the revenue collector from the farmers around the village and he used to spend most of his earnings for his amusements like eating in hotels, travelling for days, etc…

He has written in detail about his early childhood, his teen years and his college days and till his retirement age that spanning over 70 years. He tells us a riveting story.  His great shock came in when his elder brother and sister who died on the same day in a span of 3 hours due to plague epidemic. This was literally a shock to young SLB. After this incident, his mother sent him to his brother’s house so that he can get a proper education. SLB describes his stay at his uncle’s house as one of the devastating years of his life. He literally became a slave for his uncle doing cattle work, temple cleaning during the day with little or no food till noon. Even here, life was cruel to him, he received a message from one of his villagers that, his mother too died of plague. He was barely 11 years old at that time.

He has given an account of his childhood and his young teen years in 2 of his novels “Grihabhanga” and “Anveshana”. The stirring images and characters from both of these novels is a true incident happened in the life of SLB. He had faced some of the brutal tortures by his uncle, his aunt and importantly from his father. So, he decides to run away from home and goes to a different town where he literally begged every day for food. In those times there was a concept called “VAARANNA” that means “WEEKLY FOOD”. This concept is not existed in recent times. But, this is a concept where a student that begs in each house will come to an agreement with them that, he will be given a day’s food. Like this, he arranged in 7 different houses that agreed him to provide food.

He was not agreeing with himself for begging during his teen years. So he does odd jobs during his school breaks to make the ends meet. He works in a small hotel as a cleaner and waiter, he sells incense sticks during evening, he even worked as a gatekeeper for a cinema hall, and he went to every village as a story teller and amuses the villagers by his story and accepts whatever the gifts the villagers will offer. By all this means he manages to complete his schooling. While describing these events, SLB never forgets to remember all those kind hearted teachers that helped him a lot in his education.

SLB has struggled in every walk of his life by managing to keep him alive and educated. With a “vagabond” father, his life should’ve been finished long ago. But, some divine force was keeping him alive all these years so that he can win the hearts of millions of people that he has won today.

Despite undergoing such hardships in his life, his quench for reading never stopped. He was reading almost anything. By the time he reached his 20’s, he might have read at least 200 odd books. That’s what made him a good story teller. With all the blessings from every good person that he met in his life, he went on to complete his M.A (Honors) in Philosophy and managed to stand out as a gold medalist in his final years. He has written his first novel Bheemakaaya when was just 18 years old!!

Very early in life he realizes the correctness of defeating an opposing view by logical and knowledgeable argument rather that brow beating it by raising the voice. This comes through in his books which are very well researched. We see his views on religion and rituals evolving, his philosophy of life taking root and the awakening and evolution of his creative genius. Tips for new writers are strewn throughout the book.

SLB has seen life from very close quarters and is very well travelled. He has travelled all across the globe (may be 3 times overall) not to mention large swathes of India. SLB writes as he preaches with a detached air but is forthright. He never hesitates in calling a spade a spade; we see this in him even as a young boy.  He has always stood up for truth and justice and is a fighter and a survivor. A survivor because all the bitterness, the pain and betrayal he has seen  would have broken the spirit of an ordinary human being but it has not made SLB cynical. He has internalized it all to reach great heights. The success and heights that SLB has attained is testimony to the triumph of the human spirit. The autobiography is written in a linear chronological manner. The language is succinct and the book gripping and not able to put it back.

What I feel is the childhood and his student days of SLB sir’s autobiography must be made mandatory for all the new generation kids for reading. They will realize the importance of education. They will get a new perspective in life and will develop a respect for their life, their education.

I feel very underage to judge the autobiography of a great human being. At the same time, I made a point clear in my mind that, whatever happens in life, I will fight it till the end. The silver lining is a birth right of every human being on this planet. I recommend this book to be read by everyone. I prostrate my head at the feet of SLB sir for giving me a lifetime treasure of books. What one can only imagine in their life is a fact from SLB sir’s books.  

My Rating:

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  1. So many difficulties he had faced in his life. I felt very sad when his mother also died.
    Its true that great souls comes with lot of difficulties.

    1. Yes. His life is no less than a tragic movie. But he kept fighting it to prove he is bigger than his problems. Thanks for your comments. :)

    2. Yes. His life is no less than a tragic movie. But he kept fighting it to prove he is bigger than his problems. Thanks for your comments. :)


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