ಪದ್ಮಶ್ರೀ

ಜಿ. ಬಿ. ಜೋಶಿ

(29 July 1904 – 26 December 1993)

It was by accident that GB, as Govind Bhimacharya Joshi was popularly known, became a playwright and publisher. Writing under the pen name, Jadabharata, GB went on to become one of the most acclaimed of Karnataka’s playwrights with dramas like Sattavara Neralu and Kadadida Neeru to his credit, apart from founding Manohara Grantha Mala in Dharwad in 1933, which has the distinction of having been in the forefront during the tumultuous phases of the evolution of Kannada literature over the last seven decades. It has published the works of more than 200 authors, each one of them a name to reckon with. It received the Distinguished Publisher’s Award in 1993 of the Federation of Indian Publishers.
When Geleyara Gumpu, a closed circle of friends in Dharwad which included Jnanpeeth laureate D. R. Bendre and Sham. Ba. Joshi, disintegrated, GB, who was not only an active member of the group but also worked as the managing editor of Jaya Karnataka, became unemployed. The late Sham. Ba. Joshi suggested to GB to begin a publishing house.

Housed in a rented building, obtaining paper on credit from Bombay, Manohara Grantha Mala (MGM) took off with the publication of Betgeri KrishnaSharma’s maiden novel, Sudarshana. Someone, it is said, purchased a horse just because he found a horseshoe. This was true of GB. But GB was lucky. The Grantha Mala is now 75, and going strong. Almost all writers belonging to the Navodaya literary school got their works published by MGM.

Be it a literary work of his own or a publication of his MGM, it was the fruit of GB’s indefatigable will-power. His was the will of the sage Vishwamitra who swore: “Anyamindram Karishyami” (I will create another Indra). But underneath the tough exterior of GB lay a genius which found expression in his dreams. None of the members of Geleyara Gumpu, save
D. R. Bendre, had this power of dreaming. But while Bendre’s dreams acquired metaphoric dimensions in his poetry, GB wrote down his dreams and left it to the reader to discern their meaning.

Just before Geleyara Gumpu broke up, GB had a dream. He saw one of the members watering plants in a garden while holding burning embers in his dhoti. Only one branch of a tree could survive the blaze and the whole garden was reduced to ashes. Bendre sensed the significance of the dream. This green branch appeared later on the cover page of Jeevana, a journal edited by Bendre.

For GB, a play or a conference, everything had to be like a fair, a festival. Though he hailed from an humble family of the priestly Brahmins, he was known for his magnanimity. His was a kingly extravagance. As Bendre has said in one of his poems, GB’s life was a Kashmiri Shawl. It becomes munificence and renunciation as well. In 1942, he organized Vasanta Sahityotsava in Gadag. He collected about 150 writers and honoured them by offering jasmine garlands, kosambari panaka and Mosaravalakki. This was his way of felicitating writers.

The chariot of Manohara Grantha Mala forged ahead more or less on similar lines. GB had certain unwritten rules. The Grantha Mala had the copyright only for the first edition of any publication. The author retained the right to bring out the second edition. Many a time this resulted in MGM incurring losses. But GB remained unmoved.

G.B. Joshi receiving Padma Sri Award in 1986
G.B. Joshi receiving Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1989

We always recognize a person by the success he has achieved. GB was not deprived of success. The success he achieved in writing plays and building the Grantha Mala into a landmark in publishing history was tremendous. The fact that his publishing house has survived for the last 75 years, is in itself remarkable. Thousands of subscribers have established a live relationship with MGM.

But Dharwad without GB will never be the same again. Bendre, Sham. Ba. Joshi, GB and suchlike have given Dharwad its character and its identity and its “itness”. Now they are no more. The shravana of Dharwad lost its rhythm after Bendre. Sham. Ba. Joshi’s death stripped Dharwad’s intellect of its intensity. And now, the mangoes and green gram of Dharwad have lost their savour after GB.

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