Karvalo: A journey in search of truth


Poorna Chandra Tejaswi has always been one of my favourite writers. His writings cover a wide range of topics from the Latin American lifestyle to the flora-fauna of Western Ghats. The disciplines of his work range a great deal from novels, short stories to non-fiction to transliterations.

His Millennium series is undoubtedly a unique concept by itself. In this series, he introduces Kannada book lovers to the wonders of the world. The subjects such Apollo moon missions, World wars, Inca-Aztec civilizations are really a treat to read.

Today, I thought, I would pen down my views on Karvalo – one of the widely read novels of Tejaswi. This novel has been translated to many languages all over the world, which shows its immense universal appeal.

Karvalo is set in a remote village on the foothills of Western Ghats of Karnataka. The  way this story explores many interesting things about human existence. Why are we living today? What made us exist the way we do today? What if our evolution had taken some other path and ended up in becoming something completely different from homo sapiens. What if dinosaurs had managed to exist today, battling all the natural calamities that they faced? There are many such questions which pop out as you go through the pages of Karvalo. These are the fundamental questions which kept on coming back from the days of stone age man to the days of Charles Darwin and to this era of DNA technology.

In Karvalo, the protagonist is a well educated farmer, who is also the narrator of the story. In spite of his great interest in rural lifestyle, his unsuccessful agricultural work makes him contemplate to quit and head towards the city. During this time he meets Karvalo, a middle aged scientist. In their first few meetings they discuss the difficulties the protagonist faced in his field. There is another interesting character Mandanna, who makes his appearance in the initial stage of the novel. He is a local cowboy and a sort of side-kick to Karvalo. Mandanna is considered to be a good-for-nothing fellow by the villagers and his friends alike.

The narrator was surprised to see that Mandanna and Karvalo share a close bond like a scientist and a research assistant. He wonders what is the thing that brought these opposite characters to a common platform. What is that a scientist finds so special in a local cowboy?

As the story moves, we see the narrator getting an explanation from the scientist himself as to the importance of Mandanna in his work. Mandanna might have been labelled as a dumb guy by all, but he too has some unique skills in his kitty which makes him a special asset. Mandanna’s ‘observational skill’ is the thing which made Karvalo choose him as a person to help him with his research work. As Karvalo says, Mandanna is very good at identifying different creatures.

One fine day Karvalo reveals that his fellow ‘student’ Mandanna had seen an endangered reptile in the jungle, which was previously thought to have been extinct. It is a flying lizard which opens a wing-like organ when it has to fly from one place to another. Karvalo is now on a mission to find this creature. He asks the narrator to join his team, which already includes the scientist himslef, his fellow student Mandanna, a camera man and a womanizer cook.

Their journey to find that endangered flying lizard is the story of this novel. The series of discussions and revelations that take place in their expedition gives a deep philosophical aspect to the story. The questions like ‘Do they find the flying lizard?’ become immaterial when you find that it is not the lizard but the truth of life what they are in search of.

I find the serious discussions by the characters very interesting to read. In one chapter, there is a discussion about the existence of God. A believer of God thinks about the rising sun, stars and wonders of natures and take them to be the proofs for the existence of God. But quiet ironically, these are the same set of examples that make a non-believer think that there is no such thing as God and all these things work on their own. Finally, we have to believe that it is the examples which are true and the all the conclusions that we draw from the examples are myths. What a brilliant thought? Yes, you find lot of such discussions in this novel, which can give you a whole new idea about our universe.

This is a story that makes you think about the wonders of nature. Some people may call it God; to some it is an ever-existing world. Call it the way you perceive, but it cant stop you from thinking about the universal question. If you have not experienced the thrill of this novel yet, I suggest, give it a try.