"Sahitya - Samaja Sangama" is an excellent felicitation volume in honour of Prof.Shekhar Pujar, an avantgarde, multifaceted personality. A professional social worker, creative writer, poet, singer, theatre artist, researcher, teacher, and mentor; Prof. Pujar is a rare combination of all these roles. He is the first Indian social work scholar to explore the intersection between folklore and social work. In a country with the majority of the population being rural and tribal, oral tradition of the people has not been given due recognition by social scientists and social work professionals neither in research nor in practice. Prof.Pujar's research study and the book "Social Work in Kannada Folk Songs" are pioneering efforts by a tenacious scholar without a research guide and against vicissitudes which do not merit mention here.
Creative literature, oral as well as written, preceded social studies in the study of social relations and human behaviour. With the advent of social and behavioural sciences, empirical research and literature have become complementary.
Indian society cannot be fully understood without taking into serious account of the orality of the Indian rural culture and literature. The kind of insights that folklore can yield into our social life can never be provided by the objective and so-called scientific study of our society. Hence, from this perspective also, Prof.Pujar must be regarded as a pioneer says Prof. Raghavendra Rao.
Social and individual development is the concern of social work. Application of folklore in social work practice is of high utility in social group work and community organization. Changes in attitudes and practices can be brought about folk songs and plays, which are created by the people of a particular community themselves, and which facilitate interchangeability of roles between the performers (change agents) and the audience ( client groups).
Prof.Pujar's research work is unique in the field of social work in India. As Prof.Gangrade observes the folk songs touch the mind (emotions and thinking) which signals heartbeats (feeling and sensitivity), and the combination of both make men and women to put these thoughts and feelings into action or practice; they no longer remain merely in the realm of knowledge.
Prof.Pujar's playlet "Koravanji Kalyanamrna" won him the Mahatma Gandhi Award for Creative Literature in Social Work by the Association of Schools of Social Work in India in 1979. Kalyanamma, a community worker, was committed to reforming the people of a village who were steeped in ignorance. They would seek the advice of a soothsayer (Koravanji) for everything. Kalyanamma got an idea and she donned the dress of a Koravanji. The villagers believed that she was a soothsayer. She was able to influence the minds et of villagers and enable them to work for the development of their village. In course of time, she revealed her real identity. The villagers vowed not to follow wrong advice and they assured that they would act rationally in future.
A personal note: I value my association with Prof.Pujar which spans nearly five decades. I am proud that he was awarded the Mahatma Gandhi Prize during the period when I was the General Secretary of ASSWI. He has not received the recognition which he deserves for his outstanding contribution to society and social work profession.
(Dr.T.K.Nair was formerly Professor at the Madras School of Social Work. He was the General Secretary of the Association of Schools of Social Work during 1977-1981.)
Director (Rtd), Institute of Social Work & Research, Chennai