Kannadigas wear their language on their sleeves; quite literally

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With more and more Bangaloreans buying t-shirts printed with catch phrases in Kannada, their sales are steadily rising.

Bangalore, March 22, 2018: Startups manufacturing t-shirts with quirky Kannada phrases, movie dialogues or idioms have seen a surge in sales as more people are buying into the trend.

“Our unique concept has picked up really well among the people. It’s been four years into the business and we have seen growth in Bangalore. We sell about 40-50 t-shirts online per day. This year, we plan to begin distribution across Karnataka,” said Sameer Desai, owner of Hemmeya Kannadiga (Proud Kannadiga), a t-shirt store.

He also mentioned he sets up stalls at college fests and IT events of companies like Infosys and Cisco which fetch bigger sales volume.

Lakshmikanth, owner of Total Kannada (a store which sells only Kannada items), said, “Book sales have reduced. In fact, what sells more are t-shirts and key rings with Kannada captions. Most of the orders are placed online.”

He further stated that ‘Karnataka Rajyotsava’ (a day celebrating the formation of the state in 1956) is an important occasion which helps increase his business drastically.

With 41.54 per cent people in Bangalore speaking Kannada, the start-ups cater to a population of around 51 lakh people.

Vinanthi Gowda, an engineering student and a frequent customer at the store, said, “I am proud of my roots. And wearing a t-shirt is a matter of asserting that cultural identity. I think it’s a way of keeping the language alive.”

Balaji Margonda, art curator and language enthusiast, said “Language plays an important social and cultural function; hence its preservation becomes necessary. This move will certainly help keep Kannada alive. In fact, we should popularize it not just through t-shirts but other merchandise as well.”

These t-shirts sport a variety of things ­­— slogans, funky symbols, slangs, movie dialogues and colloquial lingo.

‘Yen Ninna Problemu’, ‘Nanage neenu ishta illa’, ‘Saku Muchappa Kandideni’ and phrases by writers like D.V. Gundappa and D.R. Bendre are some of the most popular.