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Address At the Function to Felicitate Shri Kalipatnam Rama Rao, Visakhapatnam, 18 January 2008.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I congratulate the organizers for the function  to felicitate the eminent Telugu writer Shri Kalipatnam Rama Rao. I sincerely regret that due to my indisposition and under medical advise, I have been unable to attend this important function. I thank the organizers for their kind invitation. The Loknayak Foundation and the Chairman of the Andhra Pradesh Hindi Academy, Dr. Y. Lakshmi Prasad deserve due appreciation for honouring renowned writers of Andhra Pradesh every year on the occasion of the death anniversary of Late Shri N.T.Rama Rao, the hero of the masses in his reel life, who later became their hero in real life too.

I am very happy to note that the function is being organized in the prestigious Andhra University campus, which has given the Parliament of India two distinguished Presiding Officers. Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, a former Vice-Chancellor of this University, adorned the office of the Chairman, Rajya Sabha with distinction for two terms, before his elevation to the Highest Office of the country. The 12th and 13th Lok Sabhas had the privilege of having Shri G.M.C. Balayogi, an alumni of this University, as Speaker.

Telugu literature is one of the oldest literatures of India having a rich reserve of stories, dramas, epics and poems. It reflects the rich cultural and traditional history of Andhra Pradesh, a State blessed with many outstanding writers who have immensely contributed to the enrichment of Telugu language. Shri Kalipatnam Rama Rao, affectionately called ‘Ka Ra Mastaru’ in the Telugu literary world, is one such luminary who   has had an ennobling literary career spanning nearly six decades.

Shri Rama Rao’s writings reflect the social milieu of his own moorings, of the real life, experiences and difficulties he encountered in his younger days.  It is these real-life experiences that equipped him to view the society around him with a critical eye, distancing himself from the class and caste system prevalent then and with immense love and affection for the poor and the downtrodden.  His great story ‘Yagnam’ which he wrote way back in 1964, for which he was honoured with the prestigious the Central Sahitya Academy Award,  poignantly depicted the feudal set up in a village. Shri Rama Rao’s stories are indeed incisive  reflections on the social structure, conditions and class system of the times which unfortunately conditioned social behaviour and preferences than other higher values. In fact, Shri Rama Rao’s stories have left a deep impact on the readers and his felicitous writings have won him a very large number of admirers.  Thanks to the translation of his works into Russian, English and many Indian languages, his stories have touched a deep chord among people far and wide.

One can find that Shri Rama Rao’s writings have been mostly inspired by the hardships faced by the common man and his internal struggles with the existing societal forces. Through his sensitive writings, Shri Rama  Rao has used literature as  a potent weapon against the exploitative social order and to articulate the cause of the people living  with many inhuman social realities.  Admirably, Shri Rama Rao’s current poject ‘Katha Nilayam’ is a unique endeavour to establish, in his hometown Srikakulam, a Library of stories of leading languages of the world.  Since he has been working on this project with a missionary zeal, I am sure this project, when completed, will become a veritable storehouse of stories and will help conserve the precious story literature to posterity. Certainly, the generations to come will be eternally grateful to him for this unique Library of stories.  I am told that his Library already has a stock of some 6000 books, anthologies, magazines and numerous entries in other formats. This is, no doubt, a good collection by any means and I am sure he will receive the necessary encouragement from all quarters in taking forward his dream project.

We all know that literature knows no boundaries.  Despite the cultural and linguistic diversity which we all celebrate, we in India have shared a common past, irrespective of our regional identities, and we all have a somewhat similar social structure, facing diverse problems, some similar in nature, in every region of our country.  After all, man and his emotions remain fundamentally the same everywhere and sensitive literature is what touches a chord in every sensitive human being. That is why it comes as no surprise to me to know that the translated version of Bengali literature has made a deep impact on the Telugu readers and writers. As you all know, substantial Bengali literature has been liberally translated into Telugu.  One of the foremost personalities among the great Bengali writers who influenced the Telugu literature had been none other than Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore himself.  Tagore’s influence on Telugu literature can be traced back to as early as the 1890s. Acceptably, his influence on the poets of modern Telugu literature has been quite significant.

Another Bengali literary giant who had considerable influence on Telugu literature and whose themes and characters are quite familiar to the Telugu readers is Sarat Chandra.  I am glad to know that his translated works still remain best-sellers in Telugu.  I am sure that similar translations of great Telugu works into Bengali and other regional languages will become quite popular among the discerning readers across the country. 

Writers and littérateurs, no doubt, make a deep impact on society through their profound observations and sensitive portrayal of the problems of its various strata.  As members of society, writers are carriers of a particular history and culture and their writings reflect the strength of society, its warts and blemishes, as well as its future directions. In fact, the writers perform a noble role; from time immemorial, they have served the twin purpose - entertaining readers on the one hand and encouraging the sensitive ones to change the course of their lives, on the other.   

Men and women of letters are well placed to foster the spirit of co-existence and national integration the significance and relevance of which in a multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual country like ours can hardly be over-emphasized. In a world which is getting easily polarized around divisive issues, it is the duty of  writers and intellectuals to help bring people together irrespective of any narrow consideration of caste, creed and religion and to fill their lives with higher social and ethical values and norms. The writers also have a role  in sensitizing  people about the dangers of  the various aberrations  beginning to be seen  in our socio-political life and  in sustaining people’s faith in  our democracy and its institutions.

It cannot be denied that writers often do not get due recognition and appreciation that should rightfully be theirs. Under such circumstances, the need to encourage and appreciate good writers cannot be underestimated and the efforts of Dr. Y. Lakshmi Prasad in this context deserve to be commended. An eminent parliamentarian, a renowned academician, an acknowledged social activist, and a writer of repute  Dr. Prasad is indeed a multi-faceted personality.  His translation of Bhishma Sahni’s famous novel ‘Tamas’ into Telugu, which earned him the Central Sahitya Academy Award in 1972, was a commendable endeavour and a valuable addition for the Telugu readers.  His initiative to felicitate great litterateurs of Telugu language is worthy of great acclaim.

Friends, today we are also observing the death anniversary  of one of the greatest sons of  Andhra Pradesh, Shri N.T. Ramarao.  I consider NTR as not only a versatile actor, director and producer but also a great leader who carved out a permanent place in the hearts of millions of Telugu people all over the world. His unique and natural style of acting characterized by ease and originality has inspired generations of actors and hopefuls and still continue to do so even today.  Endowed with an enormous sense of pride in being Telugu, his respect towards his people and his mother tongue was the base to his popularity.   His broad national vision and the courage of conviction made him a leader of national stature and the role he played in the national politics at a critical juncture in its recent history was indeed praiseworthy. He was an institution by himself and an embodiment of discipline, self-respect and value-based life.  I take this opportunity to pay my respectful regards to his memory today.

I once again congratulate Shri Kalipatnam Rama Rao for his exceptional literary achievements and extend my best wishes for the success of his dream project ‘Katha Nilayam’. I am sure that the varied dimensions of Shri Rama Rao’s work will go beyond the present generation and will continue to guide many more in their search of the evolution of Telugu stories. I wish him the best of health and many more years of service to the Telugu literature.  I wholeheartedly appreciate the efforts of Dr. Y. Lakshmi Prasad who, after his retirement as Member of Parliament, has taken up this task of encouraging writers in various ways. 

Thank you.



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