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For the love of the motherland

For the love of the motherland
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For the love of the motherland. Dr Boya Subramanyam Reddy, a physician who hails from Thondavada, a small village near Tirupati and who had settled...

Dr Boya Subramanyam Reddy, a physician who hails from Thondavada, a small village near Tirupati and who had settled down in Mineral Wells, a village 80 miles from Dallas, US, requested me to translate a book titled ‘Meditation’ written by Eknath Eswaran, an India-born spiritual teacher who established the Blue Mountain Centre of Meditation in California, USA. Then he published it (Dhyanam) under the banner of Subhashini Prachranalu in 1998.

Dr Reddy was my father’s acquaintances. When my father visited USA for a conference at Chicago on the invitation of TANA in 1995, Dr Reddy contacted him and invited him to Mineral Wells. He introduced himself as an ardent fan of my father’s stories and my father, in one of the introductions he wrote to a short story collection, related the interesting way he travelled to Mineral Wells from Chicago by a domestic flight and how Subhashini, Subramanyam’s wife, received him in Dallas. The latter told him that one of the stories he was fond of was ‘Chalichelama’ (A Pond in the sand). It is a story about a person called AJ Devabandhu whose original name is Anjaneyulu before conversion. When his aunt’s daughter gets married to some other person and he is denied of her hand due to his poverty, he flees to Chennai, converts to Christianity, gets educated with the help of the missionaries, goes to London, marries a Christian woman and thus flourishes well. But he cannot escape from the nostalgic memories of his childhood. After many decades he meets his childhood friend’s son on the road, accidentally, takes him to his house and makes elaborate enquiries about many people and things of the past. He points out that he has a terrible desire to go to the rivulet of the village, make a pond in the sand and drink the waters of it till his thirst is quenched. The young man who narrates the story relates that the ground water in his village had gone down and so water wouldn’t ooze in the pond of sand.

The reasons for Dr Reddy’s fondness for the story are quite obvious. Searching for greener pastures, he left his motherland for the US many decades back, settled there and he and his family are now legitimate citizens of the country. But he still has his roots deeply fixed in his village.

The interesting thing is that my father wrote that story in 1967 after visiting Chennai and I accompanied him on that occasion. We went there to attend the obsequies of a relative and it was then that my father took me to the museum, zoo and a movie and we spent lot of time in the Central railway station. I know that he used every one of his trips to any place as a setting of a new story. It is a common practice of all writers but the greatness of a writer depends on the way that he spins a plausible story around it.

It so happened that I went to Allahabad and saw how the funeral rites of the people were conducted at the Thriveni Sangam, the confluence of three sacred rivers, Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswathi. The unforgettable experience I had there became the theme for a story entitled ‘Asthithwaaniki Atoo Itoo’. It is about two friends who are caught in a storm as a result of which the atheist in them transforms into a theist and vice versa. Subramanyam read it and was happy to find the philosophical overtones in it. While discussing the same, I had told him that there are many great philosophical stories in Telugu literature. He immediately requested me to compile a book of Telugu Philosophical Short Stories.

The psychologists observe that the man is happy during the day time as he can live with his imaginary world and the same man gets frightened during the night as his imaginary world gets punctured and so he has to live with his own self. Why the man should get afraid of himself? What are the questions that he encounters during the night? Why should he get agitated to think about himself and his life? What exactly is the meaning of life? Man has been tackling these questions ever since the beginning and there are diversified and multitudinous answers to them though all of them once again are questionable. It is not just the philosophers but also the writers of all the ages who took part in the same discussion. And the same quest for answers is going on and will go on in the future too. If the final and ultimate answers are revealed and if there would be no need of having further interpretation and inquisition, the life may lose its vitality, mystique and freshness.

As there is a need for reinterpreting and re-enquiring of life which becomes more complex with the passage of time, many writers and philosophers are emerging ceaselessly. The Vedas and Upanishads had done the same in the ancient India and the efforts of Mahaveera and Buddha can be considered a continuation of the same. All the scriptures of all religions belong to the same category. Man is always been the centre of literature and so literature took up the same responsibility in its own inimitable way since the beginning. There are many questions which the science cannot answer and literature by means of its artistic tools like symbolism, allegory and imagery can answer them. Literature asserts that questions are permanent, answers belong to heaven, there are many alternative answers to a single question and an awareness of it makes the man matured.

The Telugu short story which has celebrated its centenary recently has proved itself as a suitable vehicle for many oriental and western philosophical discourses. The Telugu writer posed questions about the things on the other side of darkness. They analysed the human predicaments, intellectual perceptions, mystical realisations and introspective assays. They can be considered modern Upanishads and can also be called Kathopanishads.

I could gather 29 such stories which included, Chalam’s ‘O Puvvu Poosindi’, Rachakonda Viswanatha sastry’s ‘Sristilo’, Padmaraju’s ‘Gaalivaana’, Sathyam Sankaramanchi’s ‘O Roju Vellipoyindi’, R S Sudarsanam’s ‘Madhura Meenaakshi’, R Vasundaradevi’s ‘Penjeekati Kaavala’, Thripura’s ‘Bhagavantham Kosam’ and Swami’s ‘Chamkidanda’. A collection of stories like this can never be comprehensive but it proves the vitality and vibrancy of Telugu short story. It was titled as ‘Thathvika Kathalu’ and the same Subhashini Prachranalu published it in 2002. It was released in the ATA conference held at Dallas in 2002 and the curious coincidence was that I was invited to attend it as the editor of the book. Then I had the opportunity of going to Mineral Wells as a guest to Dr Boya Subramanyam Reddy’s house exactly seven years after my father visited it.

Mineral Wells is a small village and Dr Boya Subramanyam Reddy’s house is on the cliff of a mountain. It has a huge backyard from which the serene meadows and green fields of the valley appear clearly. When we were sitting there Subramanyam showed me a group of cattle grazing in the far away fields and said that he would be always waiting to watch them like that as it always reminded him of his village in India. He became a USA citizen but he doesn’t break his umbilical relationship with India. He is fond of the Vedantic books written by ‘Eknath Eswaran’. He constructed a school in his village and started an orphanage in Kadapa. Of late he is seriously thinking of bringing out a revised edition of ‘Thathvika Kathalu’. Fortunately he is not a Deenabandhu as waters never stopped oozing in the sand of the river Swarnamukhi, near Thondavada.

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