Coronation of a phenomenon
The award of Bharatiya Jnanpith can easily be termed as the Indian version of Nobel Prize for literature. It is literally the very seat of knowledge,...
It was Viswanadha Satyanarayana who received the coveted award for his magnum opus "Ramayana Kalpavriksham'' way back in 1970. It was rumoured that he had been considered for the first-ever award in 1965 for his yet another magnum opus in yet another genre, novel, "Veyipadagalu'', but it didn't happen.
When asked to react to the miss, Viswanadha was reported to have said that it was good that he missed it, as the right focus was given to the right masterpiece years later. One journalist enquired what he would do with the money given. Viswanadha's quip was popular and realistic. He said "It will naturally go into my pocket which has many holes''.
The second award went to another contemporary stalwart Dr. C Narayana Reddy for his mystical muse "Vishwambhara''in 1988. A And now to this multi-faceted creative writer Ravuri Bharadwaja for his novel "Pakudu Rallu''. Of the three, Bharadwaja stands distinct for the simple reason that he dipped his pen into the misery, helplessness and exploitation of the downtrodden from where he started his journey picking up from his moorings.
When I interviewed him for a literary magazine programme of the HMTV ('Vandella Kadhaku Vandanalu') sometime back, I asked him what his main inspiration was to become a writer.A His answer was revealing, unambiguous without any pretentions, breathes the entire import of his literary work. I quote in Telugu: "avidya (lack of education), Avasaram (need), and even more poignant reason 'aakali' (hunger)."
This answer reminds one of another poignant statement of the great legend Charles Chaplin. When somebody enquired about his education, he answered -"I was educated, not because I like education- but as a shield against people's contempt towards the uneducated.''
When Bharadwaja was hardly 13 in his 7th class, his teacher noticed the only boy with rags on his body, a consequence of dire poverty. Instead of sympathizing with the lad, he thrashed him mercilessly before all his colleagues in the class.
His helplessness revolted and his sensitivity thoroughly ruptured, he threw his books on his teacher and ran out of his classroom never to return. That was the end of his academic education. But he has read, assimilated and reacted to the world ever since and his works became class texts to several students in later years.
I rang up his friend and colleague who shared the hunger, misery and poverty during his Tenali days of the 1950s, Aluru Bhujanga Rao who is almost his age (85). He used to cook food for him. Another celebrity during that period was yet another writer S.Natarajan ('Sarada' was his nom-de-plume) who was a Tamilian, worked as a server in a hotel, but wrote startling novels in Telugu. Tenali was then the journalistic capital of Andhra. Bharadwaja worked as an agricultural coolie, and later as a press worker and then a proof reader in Nalanda press and then in Yuva, Jyothi, Rerani, Abhisarika.
However, both the writers were distinctly different in their outlook- Sarada, a writer committed to an ideology while Bharadwaja was much more practical, committed to his basic needs and hunger. A He wrote stories of sex initially, and anything and everything that could give him the much needed sustenance. But slowly he graduated to his own genre and consolidated his voice. He wrote 185 books, ranging different subjects, novels, sketches, children's books, scientific essays, stories.
He worked for a brief period in 1956 in 'Jameen Raitu' and even edited a weekly magazine called 'Deenabhandu'. The final plunge happened to be All India Radio (1959) where he worked for 28 years as a script writer in the rural section. A That was when we were colleagues for eight years. I cherish many memories of his company, shared stage with him for several gatherings. He was a prolific writer and slowly developed a sense of humour and insulated his wounded psyche through literary works.
He was given Andhra Pradesh Sahitya Akademi award during 1968 and the Central Sahitya Akademi award in 1983. He was given honorary doctorate by three universities �Nagarjuna, Andhra, Jawaharlal Nehru Technical University.
Many awards poured onto his lap regularly- Yuva Sahiti Award, Soviet Bhumi Nehru Award, Raja Lakshmi Literary Award, Lok Nayak Foundation Award etc. His magnum opus novel "Pakudu Rallu'' (''Slippery Stones'') was written in his early 40s. It was about the luring illusions and the unrealistic, cruel life of the tinsel world in a vivid allegorical presentation. While several English writers like Sydney Sheldon ("The other side of Midnight'') wrote on similar themes, Bharadwaja stands tall as the only writer in Telugu to have dealt with the theme so convincingly to date.
He originally called it 'Maya Jalataru' ("Illusive Glitter'') but his friend Seela Verraju proposed the present title "Pakudu Rallu". The novel appeared in Krishna Patrika for three years as a serial and readers went into raptures reading each week a revelation of yet another facet to which they were not exposed.
Another soulful elegy he wrote was on his departed life partner not in one book but elaborated into five -'Naaloni neevu', 'Antarangini', 'Itareyam', 'Ayinaa oka Ekantam', 'Okinta Vekuvakosam'. A It is an interesting coincidence that only other Jnanpith awardee, Viswanadha Satyanarayana, wrote an astounding elegy on his departed wife- 'Varalaxmi Trisati'. This muse and agony are unprecedented and unsurpassed.
Among the 48 recipients of this prestigious award, Bharadwaja represents a unique genre which is more democratic and pedestrian (not in a derogatory sense) - when a writer belonging to the basic roots represents the agony and ecstasy of the ethos to which he belongs.
Indian literature has come a long way to embrace the most realistic, naked, honest portrayals of human life.