That was the question before me. Where do I begin? That pestering question was around me like a monsoon mosquito buzzing around. Why a mosquito you ask? Why not a fly? Fly does not bite though it could kill you. When did it begin? On 29th of August, some time around noon I think. We all affectionately call him TRS and apart from other things he is a voracious reader and he tagged me. Where you say? Facebook. That’s where. For the ”top ten books”.
There were others too. But I am not mentioning here because here I am going talk about only the English books.
It is a great advantage to be born into a family of letters. That is until someone comes and asks you for a list, like TRS does here, to list the “Top Ten”
Here is my first one in the series.
Physics for Entertainment.
Yep. A non-fiction book. Actually a set of two books.
This is the book that kindled in me a certain scientific temperament. It helped me understand things better and equipped me with the right tools to understand life as it unravelled its secrets to me.
I tore off a page from one of my used rough note book, made a container out of it, and with the lighted candle, boiled water in that paper container! That was just fantastic don’t you think?
Then I understood how this little bird you see in this picture constantly keeps dipping its head into the glass of water?! Like a perpetually thirsty bird! I think a whole generation was inspired by this book.
Yakov Isidorovich Perelman was the author of this book. It is unfortunate that this author died of starvation during the seize of Stalingard, by the Germans.
This book was translated into many Indian languages. One of them was in Telugu నిత్యజీవితంలో భౌతికశాస్త్రం. (nityajiivitaMlO bhautikasastram).
So there you are TRS, this is the first book in my “top ten list“. I’ll try to post them as and when I find the time.
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 Raogaru.
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 youAditya. 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.
1 – “No, I can’t let him go” she said. “He’ll be with us for as long as he wants to.” That’s what Ellen Sharma, the founder of Children’s Garden School, Madras, said when she was approached by my relatives when they wanted to remove me from the school and take me with them. This happened when my father passed away and I was alone with my mother. That’s where I learnt a whole lot more about life.
Ellen Sharma, how can I forget her? How can I forget V. N Sharma her husband who always had a smile on his face and used to borrow books from my dad’s library? And it was such a pleasure to run those errands carrying those books back and forth!! Gratitude! Yes, if that is the word.
2 – They used to call it “Erra Meda” ( ఎర్ర మేడ – Red Building). The evening turned to night. I was sitting there in a corner when he walked in and the hall erupted with noise. It was my cousins chirping and they all ran towards him. With a large smile, he pulled out a fistful of coins from his trousers and dropped them into every open palm spread out before him. Well, he is their father. Something was just about to crack into a billion pieces and began to ache within me. That’s when he came towards me, caught me by my hand, opened my palm and dropped the coins he had saved for me. He looked into my eyes and I looked back into those kind eyes that were full of love, warmth and they were smiling.
3 – It was sometime around 70 or 71. I was home and the postman delivered me a small brown paper parcel. It came by registered post. Brown paper covered all the sides. The twine thread with a perfect knot to a side and trimmed with just enough to hold between your fingers, held the cover in place. The postage stamps were at the top right corner. Our address written in perfect handwriting, almost like caligraphy, perfectly placed at the center of the packet. So was the from address. Lower left corner of the packet. I did not have the heart to tear it open but I did. I took a pair of scissors and cut it open from one side. Gently pulled out the contents. There is an other layer of newspaper. This too is neatly folded around the content which was rectangular in shape and slightly hard. Opend the flaps of the newspaper from one side and in lay a book. Beautifully wrapped up in a thick tissue paper, what we call butter paper. It is translucent, enough to help you make out the title of the book.
It is “kathalu kaakarakayalu” (కథలు కాకరకాయలు – Ed -1968). A short story collection by Chalasani Prasada Rao. I did not know who he was. I turned over the pages. I found the following words “keerthisEshu’Du‘ Atluri Pitcheswara Rao ki” (“కీర్తిశేషు ‘డు‘ ” అట్లూరి పిచ్చేశ్వరరావు కి). I met him a few years later and came to know that he was the editor, magazines Eenadu. What I couldn’t comprehend then was why would anyone that too a stranger dedicate a book to my father and ?! Gratitude did you say?
Note: This is the second part of the Gratitude Challenge Day Two. 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.
That’s right, she did it yesterday. But then she thought it was a “challenge”. I don’t think it is. It is so simple for me. Here are my reasons.
1- Am grateful to my parents for teaching me so many things. Especially my dad Pitcheswara Rao Atluri. Though I got to know him for only may be 5 or 6 years. But he is still around who inspires me to do the things that I am doing now.
2 – To my mother, a young housewife who became a widow, fought against extremely tough odds all alone to bring me up and offer me the best within her means.
3 – To my wife who loved me more than anything else in her life , even while fighting valiantly a losing battle gave her all to offer me the best she could until her last breath from a bed she knew she would retire early from this life.
I am also grateful to all those men and women who continue to teach me what life is all about and help me lead a full and better life.
Oh I forgot to mention the person who threw this at me. She is Aparna Thota and I thank you Aparna for this opportunity.
Note: 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. Thank you for visiting.