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Bring the books out my friends

Bring the books  out my friends
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Of late, many friends have been sharing their favourite books among them. Generally, people show off their properties, educational qualifications,...

Of late, many friends have been sharing their favourite books among them. Generally, people show off their properties, educational qualifications, ornaments, sarees, furniture and others but they seldom share their books with others. But this type of friends are making the world happier and more loving with their slogan, ‘Tell me who your friends are, I shall tell what books you read’ rewriting the old proverb, ‘Tell me what books you read, I shall tell you who your friends are’.

In spite of the book reading transforming into a book exhibition, there are still miles to go to bring into limelight more valuable books which changed the lives of rural students like me. Not English classics and or Telugu classics but there are a number of gems of books which remained in the almirahs of my friends which are yet to appear on the small screen.

Of course, there are stories. But it is not clear who are those friends who love autobiographies of Veeresalingam (‘Swiya Charitra’), Chilakamarti (‘Swiya Charitra’), Kaloji (‘Naa Godava’), Viswanadha Satyanarayana (‘NaaRamudu’), Sanjeev Dev (‘Thummapudi’), Uppala Lakshmana Rao (‘Batuku Pustakam’), Darsi Chenchaiah (‘Nenu-Naa Desham’).

It is agreed there is poetry. But where are the plays like ‘Gayopakhyanam’ by Chilakamarti, ‘Pandavodyoga Vijayalu’ by Tirupati Venkata Kavulu, ‘Pururava’ by Chalam, ‘Maa Bhumi’ by Vasireddy-Sunkara, ‘Gumasta’ by Atreya, ‘Illu’ by Raavi Sastri, ‘Sita Josyam’ by Narla Venkateswara Rao, ‘Padamati Gali’ by Ananda Rao, and where are the radio plays of Sri Sri, Buchhibabu, and Krishna Sastri?

Above all, whatever happened to the great translation work which engrossed the Telugu readership in the past? Where is the translated version of Fakir Mohan Senapati’s ‘Chomano Athogunto’ by Puripanda Appala Swamy about 70 years back? Whatever happened to the magnum opus of Ravindranath Thakur’s Gora? Where is Tarashankar Bannerjee’s ‘Kavi’, which was written based on the lives of rural dacoity society?

Where are ‘Yayati’, ‘Parva’ and ‘Pather Panchali’, which could be described great modern histories? Where is ‘Malinaanchalam’ written by Phaniswaranath Varma ‘Renu’, who described the dirty politics in the post-independent India? Where are the two tear-jerking at the same time hilarious novelettes of ‘Patumma Meka’ and ‘Chinnanati Cheli’ written by Vaikom Mohmmad Basheer. I am still looking forward that somebody would remind me about ‘Agnidhara’.

Our friends are yet to bring out of their closets Dostoevsky of India, Ila Chandra Joshi’s novel ‘Pretamu-Chaya’, Charles Dickens translated work of ‘RenduMahanagaralu’ by Tenneti Suri, BellamkondaRamdasu’s ‘Samaramu-Santhi’ translated work of Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’, Prakash Tandon’s ‘Punjabi Satabdhi’ which is equivalent to ‘YeduTaralu’, and above all, the six volumes of ‘Viswa KathaaVeedhi’ by inimitable Puripanda, the greatest gift to the Telugu people.

It is not that I have read all these books. But I have been searching for the last 30 years for ‘Maa Tatayyako Yenugu Undedi’ by Basheer, ‘Abala Jivitam’ of HarinarayanaApte translated by PV Narasimha Rao. Could we find the books like ‘Genji Gaadha’ the translated version of ‘Genjimono Gotari’ written by Murasi Shikibu and ‘Hamlet’, ‘Lear Raju’, ‘Othello’, and ‘Macbeth’, the popular Shakespeare dramas translated by Sahitya Akademi?

One of the literary genres that is fast fading away in Telugu literature is ‘Epistolography’- the art of writing letters. Writers like Gurajada, Sri Sri, Chalam, Sanjeev Dev have written letters that readers evinced much interest in and found inspiration. While letters vanished from our lives, letters as literary form too are forgotten.

There is a readership for travel writing even now, but it would be difficult to answer the question if anyone remembers the travel literature of the yore. After travelling abroad with the Maharaja of Pithapuram, Kurumella Venkatarao had written the travel epic ‘Maa MaharajuthoDoorateeraalu’. But who remembers this. There are people who refer to ‘Kasiyatra Charitra’ by Enugula Veeraswamayya, but how many would have read the book. I wouldn’t think the current generation knows about Sri Sir’s ‘China Yanam’ and Tagore’s ‘Russia Lekhalu’.

Telugu literature also has some notable biographies. The first one to be arrested on charges of treachery in South India, the father of library movement Gadicherla Harisarvottama Rao’s biography, ‘Sarvottama Jeevitham’ should be used as part of the syllabus. The book on the flagbearer of Telugu Gidugu Rama Murthy written by GiduguRajeswara Rao is yet to gain prominence. ‘Kanaka Pushya Ragam’ written on National movement leader and inspiration Panakaa Kanakamma too has reached very few people.

Even amongst autobiographies, books like Adibhatla Narayana Dasu’s ‘NaaYeruka’, Tanguturi Prakasam Pantulu’s ‘NaaJeevita Yatra’, Veturi Prabhakara Sastri’s ‘Pragna Prabhakaramu’. A number of valuable books remain elusive since there has been republication, poor condition of rural libraries and stony silence of mainstream literary workshops.

In view of these circumstances, Veeralakshmi Devi Vadrevu has been introducing for the last five years in ‘Chinuku’ magazine the wonderful books published during the last 150 years in the country. Now all these introductions are brought out in a massive volume of 520 pages, which was released by Pochiraju Satyavati in Vijayawada.

When some of the introductions were brought out in a volume in 2011 with the title ‘BharatiyaNavala’ I wrote preface describing it as ‘Discoveries of India’. Because once a critic has described the novel of Vyankatesh Digambar Madgulkar ‘Banagore wadi’ as another discovery of India. The critic opines that the reading of that novel is sufficient for foreigners who wish to study the Indian society. The latest volume with 60 introductions could be described as ‘Bharat Ek Khoj’.

Veeralakshmi Vadrevu personally brought out the volume since no publisher came forward to publish the same. If I grab hold of that book I feel that whole stall of books is in my hand. In fact, these are not mere introductions. They are ‘retellings’. It is very difficult to retell a novel. Once it was done by the great writer Malati Chandoor. Now it is the sister.

Another notable thing here is that the books were dedicated by my sister to our grandmother (Bamma), Vadrevu Lakshmi Devi (1905-1993), who could be described as the representative of the great culture and literary affinity. She was our first ‘Literary Guru’ in our childhood.

That was why my first poetry volume ‘Nirvikalpa Sangitam’ (1986) was released by her. And that was also the reason the volume was dedicated to her. If one woman is educated, one family would become educated. But one woman studies literature the whole coming generations would become literature lovers.

By: Vadrevu Veerabhadrudu
Translated from Telugu by MV Syam Sundar

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