Leaping across binaries is the bottomline
Kendra Sahitya Academy awardee Kolli Siva Reddy talks about how the trauma of his mother's death and the burden of multiple obligations made him...
Kendra Sahitya Academy awardee Kolli Siva Reddy talks about how the trauma of his mother's death and the burden of multiple obligations made him retreat from the 'real' world to the world of 'imagination,' thus giving birth to the poet in him right in his school days "I am a poet, so brevity is my dictum and diction. If I am asked to tell about my student days, in a nutshell, it is merely leaping across binaries: nature- nurture; poverty- affluence; reality- fantasy. I lost my mother when I was just five years and my three-year-old brother was in my lap. In our village, Karmurivari palem near Tenali, my father had only two acres of land, he was a farming labour, not really a farmer. Since my father did not remarry after my mother passed away, I remained motherless and was obligated to look after my younger brother. I spent childhood without childhood, as Maxim Gorky would put it. So, the biological inheritances, temperaments took different shape with my early acquaintance with the world, the schools I attend and the cultures in which I was compelled to plunge. This speaks of nature- nurture duo and how I engulfed the chasm. The same trauma of being abandoned by mother and being alone with multiple obligations, made me retreat from the 'real' world to the worlds of 'imagination.' My mother, a tender mountain of a woman, suffered from TB and struggled for life for more than a year. My tall, statuesque father with magnificent strength was depressed with my mother's death. Both his eyes were affected by cataract. So, utter poverty and misery became my first teachers of life. I had to labour for household duties including cooking, sweeping the floor, taming of cattle and farming work. Although I had to skip school and lessons because of my mother's demise, my father's lap became my first school. So, my life began in the raw, poignancy and bitterness turned into charm of learning at my father, who was also passionate about education. Despite many odds, he goaded me to join Kuchipudi High School, which was 7 km from my place. With no other mode of transport to go to school, I would to and fro. I would wake up much before dawn and finish my day's chores and cooking before going to school and would not return until cows came home. I owe a lot to my teachers since my primary school. Jasti Sriramulu sir was the first Telugu teacher who sowed the seeds of poetry with his sonorous rendition of traditional verse poetry. He inspired me to write verse poetry. Another school of learning was the outstanding library run by my cousin Venkatrami Reddy, a well-read man, who made me read literature of Sarat Chandra Chatarji and also Ramayan by Srinivasa Siromani. By the end of my SSLC, I thoroughly read eminent Telugu writers Chalam, Lata, Gopichand and Buchibabu in my second school. After PUC in Tenali, I joined BA literature in VSR College in Tenali and shifted to the town for my education. To save expenses, I had to take a single room and walk 5 km to college every day. My passion for literature made me do BA double literature both in English and Telugu. My Telugu lecturer Darsanacharya Konduri Veeraraghavacharyulu sir made me read the classics in Telugu literature. He ushered me into serious literature and made me write an elegy in verse poetry on my mother. The poems were published in our college magazine which was edited by Konduri sir. Before joining MA (Eng) in Andhra University, Waltair, in 1964, I went to Osmania University for MA (Telugu). Since the date of admissions had lapsed, I had to join AU and that was my turning point. My literary pursuits took a definite shape and my perception turned from conventional, conservative verse poetry to modern literature. After my native village, I revere Visakhapatnam immensely. The surging sea, which was a stone's through away from my window, used to teach me poetry. Inspired by this teacher of abundance, and also by the city of destiny- Visakha, I did not return to Tenali to join the government service in 1966; but came to Hyderabad in search of poetry and the journey in quest for poetry that started at my student days is still on�. (As told to Naresh Nunna)