I was an average student who was good at sports. Whenever I played kabaddi, I would smartly smear oil all over my legs before going to play the game so that if an opponent tried to catch me, I could slip away effortlessly. All the students in the school went gaga over Ratna, our Social Studies teacher who used to colour co-ordinate her saris with her footwear and bindis. We would bunk other classes, but never Ratna teacher’s class. With her charisma she used get the attention of the students and her teaching was equally fascinating.
After completion of Class IV, I joined Nrupatunga High School in Baghlingampalli. In those days the education was entirely different. My father, who is an engineer himself, wanted me to be an engineer too. To become an engineer, one has to be good at Mathematics, but I was not. As I was not good at Mathematics, my father was worried about my result in Class VII board exam. It was D-day for me as the results of Class VII boards were out. My father who was anxious about my result purchased the evening newspaper and couldn’t find my roll number in it. He rushed home leaving work at office. Meanwhile I spotted my number and showed it to my mother. Everyone at home expected my father to celebrate the moment with sweets, but to our surprise, he yelled at us as he couldn’t found my number in the newspaper. Later when he understood that I did pass, his happiness knew no bounds.
I was passionate about playing with marbles and I was a champ in it. I used to sell marbles I won and bought eatables in school. We also played gilli dhanda and lattoos. As my brothers were never sent out to get the provisions, taking advantage of the situation I used to demand extra money for doing it. There was no time for me to study as I would go for tabla classes and table tennis coaching on my father’s insistence. After Class X, I started learning tricks in magic.
Then I joined Class XI and XII in Babul Reddy Junior College in Begumpet. One day there was a magic show at Ravindra Bharathi. I got inspired by it and joined magic classes in Andhra Balananda Magic School. I used to show my magic tricks to my classmates that’s how I became a celebrity in college. Although I secured a good rank in Eamcet, due to the volatile political scenario prevalent at that time, the counselling was scrapped in the State in the last minute. All the Eamcet aspirants were informed to pay donation fee to procure engineering seat and my father was against it. So I joined BSc in PG College Secunderabad. With my magic tricks, I impressed the girls in the college.
Our Principal Madan Mohan Reddy made me contest the student union elections for president and secretary and as I had good name and fame in the college. A day before withdrawal of nomination, my opponents knocked at my door at midnight and tried to kidnap me so that I could not contest the elections. But I thwarted their plan and won the elections with thumping majority. My principal was a Godfather to me. He encouraged me in all fields - be it academics, magic or extracurricular activities. With the college funds, he sent me to Kolkata to learn more magic skills. I wanted to become popular and started visiting various places in Hyderabad to perform magic shows and got paid for the shows. Once I was showing magic skills at Doordarshan TV studio, Sailaja Suman, now director of Doordarshan Hyderabad, approached and asked what I was doing, I told her I don’t need money I just want to earn name and fame with my skills. As she liked my attitude and work, she called me to the Doordarshan studio to present my skills. That’s how I got a break in Doordashan and earned fame for myself.
Although I visited 30 countries, my father is still unhappy that I did not become an engineer.
(As told to Yuvraj Akula)