He was my father’s contemporary. He was my father’s friend. Many do not know that he was the man who published “vishalandhra” (విశాలాంధ్ర) from Madras which later became the Communist party’s Telugu daily newspaper. He is the man who brought to light Guradazada’s ‘dEsabhakti’ (దేశభక్తి) poem penned by his own hand. He was the editor of “Soviet Land” a periodical published from Madras. He was one of the founder members of “arasam” (అరసం – అభ్యుదయ రచయితల సంఘం). A chapter of “Arasam” came into being in Madras and my mother was one of the founder members of that chapter and it used to conduct its meetings from our bookstore. The literary giants of the day used to attend those meetings and so were the film personalities especially from the Telugu film industry. It was left to me being the youngest of them all to spread the mats, arrange for refreshments. I also used to prepare the invitations. Invitations were nothing but post cards sold by the Posts and Telegraph department. I had to write the program and post them. During those days he used to visit our book store and spend long hours in the evenings after his office hours. He was Setti Eswara Rao. I did not know then that he had been observing me keenly. It was he who first mentioned that I had a gift and I should hone it. He was referring to me and my reading habits and my writing skills. That is the second time in my life someone mentioned that I had a certain talent. A talent to read and write. Of course, he did not mention it to me, I do not know why, but he always took an interest and encouraged me to write. There were times I used to scribble and throw them away. That is until a few years ago. Unfortunately I do not have any of his pictures at this time and this will have to do. Yes, I am grateful to Setti Eswara Rao garu.
It was in 1987, on February 13th the Government of India issued a commemorative multi colored postal stamp on my maternal grandfather “Kaviraju” Tripuraneni Ramaswamy. His daughter Chouda Rani is my mother. Atluri Pitcheswara Rao is my father. (He was a naval engineer, he served the Royal Indian Navy and subsequently when India won her independence he became part of the Indian navy. He participated in the Royal Indian Mutiny, against the British). I am their only child. My father passed away while I was very young.
So my mother and I were at New Delhi to attend the postage stamp release function by the the then President of India Giani Zail Singh. Smt Lakshmi Raghuramaiah wife of Sri. Kotha Raghuramaiah who held many prominent positions in the GOI, had made an appointment with the founder president of the War Widows Association. So we went to visit her. After a few minutes of chat she chose me to be the topic and was asking my mother about me. At the end of the discussion she had only this to say to my mother. “With your love for your only son, you are stifling him. Leave him with me and you will be proud to be his mother. Please listen to me”. Of course I do not know what hidden talents (which I am not aware of ) she was impressed about, but she is an other person in my life who in as many words made a deep impression about my own self-worth. Here is a total stranger, an elderly person, who had seen a world at much higher plane and found something in me that to this day haunts me. Gratitude, yes certainly for letting me know something I did not know until then.
“Start immediately. Stop. Mother Serious.” That’s why telegrams were dreaded those days. The minute they see the postman at an odd hour visit you by on his cycle with a pink document folded and sealed, one is always terrified. I remember one particular instance. That telegram came late in the evening almost when it was night. The minute my father opened it and read it out my mother started weeping. It informed us that her mother passed away. Those were the days of Telegrams and Wires.
My father had a friend who was into international trade. Exports and imports. He used to travel abroad quite often. He used to send me beautiful picture postcards from all those countries he used to visit. That was his way of saying, that I was in his thoughts. Madras is the only international airport in the peninsular India then and the gateway to the world, at least to those who could afford to fly. During one of his returns to India, invariably he visited me and took me out. He had something to convey to his importer in Europe. He took me to the GPO (General Post Office), on Mount Road, they call it Anna Salai now. That is the first time I was exposed to a Telex machine and international communication. He is the first exporter I ever came across. I filed it away as an other memory. Period.
Later I came to know a lot more about International Trade and commerce and many other components of the trade. I knew what was a Fax. I knew about ships. Containers. Precision. Strict Quality Checks. Pricing. Vendor Negotiations. International markets. Different Cultures across the continents. Penalties for delays. LC’s. Red LC’s. Open LC’s. Packings and packagings. Services. Cargo. Flights. Samples. Foreign Exchange. Dollar Terms. Taxes. Licences. Permits. Quotas.
And it was not the mundane affairs of the transcontinental commerce alone. It helped me sit up and open my eyes and observe those human creatures that clothe themselves in billion shades of grey and white and in between. I am a good listener and have always been one but with this man I have become a better listener.
All this was made possible by one man’s implicit faith in an other human being and his deliverables. He was always pushing me to my limits. He knew more about me than I knew about myself. Every time I thought I reached my limits, he used to nudge me. A very small nudge. That nudge helped me leap. Thanks to him today I am a totally different man. Today I can very confidently claim that I do not need any nudging. I can reach out and cross limits beyond my very own limits set at the horizon. I set them, I tried them and I reached them successfully, every time.
Love you Aditya. I do not know where I would be without you in my life. This is not Gratitude. This is sheer unadulterated celebration of joy and of friendship. Thank you dude!
Note: This is the fourth part of the Gratitude Challenge (Day Four). This is a post that I posted on my Facebook wall and I felt that confining it to that SMN is not right and that it should reach out to more people. That is why you see it here.Well, I guess that sort of sums up for the day four. It’s been hectic and one more day to go.