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Usha Rai – Kannada Novelist and Painter

8 August 2010 6 Comments

Hi All,

It is my pleasure to invite Usha Rai madam for this edition of coffee with sundar. The artist K Usha P Rai, born May 23rd 1945 in Udupi, Karnataka , India is a well known personality in the Kanada literary circles and is an accomplished Kanada writer and novelist.

In July 2005 a near fatal car accident threatened to ruin her life and confined her to bed for almost 6 months. That was when she took to painting seriously as a therapy to overcome the mental and physical trauma. She immersed herself in painting during those rough times and very soon within a period of two years, she compiled her present collection of over 40 paintings. Let us speak to Usha Rai madam and find out about her experiences.

Me: Sundar Rajan G S
UR: Usha Rai, Kannada novelist and painter

Me: Hello Usha Rai Maam, Welcome to the show on Coffee with Sundar! Can you talk about your background, your childhood days?

UR: Sure. I was born on 23rd May 1945 in a small town Udupi, in south canara. I am the eldest daughter of Sri K.Honnayya Shetty and Kedambadi Padmavathi Shetty. My father was the editor of �Navayuga� weekly for nearly 50 years and he was a publisher.

The Navayuga paper was started in the year 1929 as the voice of National Congress party by Dr. A.B.Shetty who was a freedom fighter. My father became the Editor of the weekly in 1936 and he remained the editor till his last breath in 1974. It was not an easy task to run a paper for such a long time which was carrying some values. We have seen him struggling to publish every issue during the last stage of his life.

We are 7 children, 3 girls and 4 boys. We had a memorable childhood. There was no difference between boys and girls in respect of education. Our parents wanted all of us to study. Before becoming the editor of �Navayuga� my father was a teacher. He was a teacher to us all through out. He was a strict disciplinarian.

I studied in St Cecily�s convent in Udupi. The medium was Kannada. I had many good teachers both in school and college. Actually, I wanted to be a doctor. My parents also dreamt about me becoming a doctor. But there is something called destiny. I could not become a doctor though everything was favorable. Despite doing well in the exam I failed in PUC contrary to every body�s expectations. I was very upset. My parents, my lecturers were upset. At that time I realized life is not as we plan but life is as �HE� plans! HE had planned something else. I was destined to become what I am today!
I completed my degree with history and economics as major subjects and English literature as minor subject. That was the combination available with literature. Then I got married. After my elder son was born I did my post graduation in sociology as an external student. Then I joined Vijaya Bank as an officer. When my elder son was 9 years and 6 months my 2nd son was born. I worked in the bank for 25 years and took voluntary retirement in 1999.

Me: Thank you very much for that introduction.. At what age did you start writing? What are the subjects on which you write?

UR: In school my writings were limited to school magazines and competitions. I used to get prizes for essay writings and poetry. But I was never serious about writing because my dream was to become a doctor.
In school I was writing on given topics. When I was in collage I started writing out of my imaginations. I used to write for collage magazines both in English and Kannada. But it was for fun.

I penned my first novel �Anubandha� when I was 25-26. It was a true story with a touch of my imagination. It was serialized in Prajamata weekly when I was 28. After that I took writing little seriously.

I write on social subjects mostly on women�s and children�s issues; about evil social customs. Propagation of equality, self respect, confidence in women in a proper way is my concern. Women need equality in education, at home and in working atmosphere. Women should be respected socially for her mental qualities. She should not be looked down or harassed only because she is a woman.

Me: Very interesting! Did you have any one as an inspiration or did anyone influence your works? How did you become a professional writer?

UR: I got inspiration from my father K.Honnayya Shetty who was a journalist of pre Independence era. He was also a writer. He had written beautiful poems for children. His collection of poems �Mugulu� was a text book for primary school. His writings were value based. That influenced me a lot. Though I wrote my first novel when he was alive I never showed it to him. It was published after his death. He never saw my writings. That always pains me. Dr Shivaram Karanth has great influence on me.

Me: People say that various forms of art like writing, poetry, painting etc are genetic to some extent.What is your view on this?

UR: It is true to some extent. I inherited my writing skill from my father and the artistic outlook from my mother. She was an expert in needle work. She had an eye for art and she taught us what she knew.

In my family only I took up writing. But everyone has artistic outlook. The fields are different. One of my younger sister is very good in glass painting. I started painting seriously at the age of 60. It must have been in the genes.

@Readers: Hope you enjoyed this edition of Coffee With Experts. Stay tuned for the next session where we can hear a lot of interesting experiences from Usha Rai Madam.

For the previous editions of Coffee with experts, click here.




  • Vatsala said:

    Looking forward to the next part in this series 🙂

    And question to Usha – Will it be possible to get a copy of the “Mugulu” book that you have mentioned? Or do you know any bookstore where we can buy it?

  • Sundar Rajan G S (author) said:

    @Vatsala: Glad you liked the interview. I have put a word to Usha Maam regarding the book.

  • K. Usha P. Rai said:

    Vatsala, Thanks for reading this. Mugulu is out of print. I have only one copy. I am thinking of reprinting it. If I print, definetely I will send you a copy.
    By the way where do you stay? Are you from South Canara?Are you the regular reader of this blog?

  • Coffee With Sundar » Usha Rai – Former President of Karnataka Lekhakiyara Sangha – Part 2 said:

    […] we are having the part 2 of the interview with Usha Rai Maam. Please find the part 1 here. Brief Introduction to Usha Rai: The artist K Usha P Rai, born May 23rd 1945 in Udupi, […]