It was again late in the evening and we were visiting Guntur. I just heard about the new school there. I do not remember if there was a power cut or some local problem. We, that is I and a couple of boyhood friends, went visiting. It was dark. Some of the students were already sleeping on bed spreads laid on the mat. *Maamma (మామ్మ – meaning granny in English ) was around. This was sometime around 66 – 68.
I used to visit Tenali which happens to be mother’s native. She was born there you see. I used to visit Tenali, Guntur during my holidays. Had some real good fun there and again life taught me many lessons during those visits.
There was a call for me one evening from Ms. Devi, (to them anyway). She is one of the founders of the school at Guntur I was referring to earlier. For me she was always Mangadevakka (మంగాదేవక్క – Manga Devi Akka meaning, sister Manga Devi).
I went to visit her in the morning. Akka is always direct. She told me that a publisher had approached her and wanted her to prepare a text book for the primary classes. I have heard of this publisher and he is known for readers and supplementary books aimed at the primary classes. Quite casually, she suggested me that I should write the book. That was like a bolt from the blue. I do not know what gave her the idea that I could write a reader / text book for the primary classes. I said, “I will think it over”. That is one way of wriggling out of that unsavory condition.
I? Writing or preparing an English primer?! She did not relent, until I began. Her refrain was always the same. “It is there in your genes. Do it. You can do it”. I yielded and I did, on a old Remington typewriter (I still have it) with her support, guidance and inputs and directions. And the best part is, the publisher paid me for it. That way it is Dr. Nannapaneni Manga Devi, the founder of Sri Venkateswara Bala Kuteer, Guntur who made me write my first book , if I can call it a book. Later I was visiting a lambadi farmers’ thanda in the interiors of Nalgonda district and I found that book there. It reminded me of Mangadevakka. If she hadn’t, perhaps I would never have . Thank you Mangadevakka. Thank you once again.
*mamma by the way is Mangadevakka’s mother.
I later met him at Vijayawada. We had some common friends. Tall and lanky guy. With a certain rustic charm about him. Even today he reminds me of a farmer who is more comfortable in a farm tending to his cattle and farming. A rustic villager who enjoys reading a poem when he has the time. With quite a sharp wit and a heart full of love. With boundless energy. I do not know what he saw in me but he felt I should write. That my writings should help the younger generation. This was almost a decade ago. Without his relentless perusal, my columns wouldn’t have appeared in Andhrajyothy‘ s weekly supplement Diksuchi that used to come out in the form of a pull out magazine, in those days. Now it is part of a broad sheet.
I believe it is the first time in the annals of Telugu magazine publishing a two page colored spread out was out-sourced to a single columnist. That column was ePadam. (ఇ పదం) At the same time I had to also contribute to an other column and that was Career Corner . Again in the same diksuchi ( దిక్సూచి). Those two columns appeared for a few years and ran into couple of hundreds. The editor then was K Ramachandra Murthy and it was Kiran G who was looking after “Diksuchi“. Katta Sekhar Reddy who is the CEO of Namaste Telangana now was then with Andhrajyothy. Thank you all friends.
And this gent did not leave me there. Along with his wife (I truly believe she was brought into this world just for him) he appeared at my home one morning with a basketful of vegetables. They went into my kitchen and began to cook. All the time they made sure I was with them and giving me instructions on how to go about cooking those veggies. I had noting to do and I was helping them with an open mouth and trying to absorb what was happening around me. You know what?
That morning they went to the Erragadda Ryot Bazaar and bought all those vegetables just for me as if they had nothing else to do. They have two beautiful daughters who need her attention. He had an important job and is in a responsible position with a major Telugu news publishing entity, Andhrajyothy. But still they made enough time to take care of my health and want me to live longer. Oh my what a great couple! Gratitude you say!
I began this with “I later met him at Vijayawada.” Actually, we met at Madras, when he was still a student at the SV University. He visited our book store then. We did not know then but we remember now, the where and how and the who of it. Thank you KP, thank you for everything. Gratitude you say!
Five, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty five and then you lose count. They were willing to pay in advance to book a copy. It was just a weekly magazine. Not a book, not a novel of fiction. Why was that? It was a serial that was appearing. That had the whole Telugu reading world in its grip. Needless to say he had changed the commercial dynamics of the Telugu publishing industry. I know of publishers who offered him blank checks. He went on to create history whichever portal he had entered.
He was contributing to The Hindu, the largest circulated English daily newspaper in South India and the only Indian English news daily that was publishing simultaneously from different places in India. He was a regular columnist in that daily and his column was reaching a few million readers especially students and their parents.
I used to follow his column and one day I found something inconsistent with the style of his narration. I emailed him with my opinion and suggestion. He called back. He was planning to publish that column as a book and he enquired if if I would be interested in doing the job. I had my hesitations. I said I will try. He couriered me the complete script. I took my time. Did a few chapters and emailed it to him. I was damned sure he was not going to call back and that was that.
One fine morning he calls me to inform that the whole work I had sent had been forwarded to the publisher. I said, “No you shouldn’t be doing it. You should have someone else to go through the copy”. He said, “I liked what you did Anil garu. It must have reached the printer by this time and they most probably are printing it. Please tell me how much I should pay you.” I did not know what to say. It was not money, it was not fame that I was seeking then. I wanted a break from the enormous stressful situation that I was in, living 24/7 with a terminal patient at home. I said, “No, I am not accepting any money”. He was equally emphatic, “I do not accept anything free”. Then he found a solution. He would gift me a set of his books. We made a deal and I was happy about it.
One more surprise was in store for me.
He acknowledged my services. In fact he added something in there which I felt I did not deserve and I changed it to read as it appears in that book today. He is none other than Yandamoori Veerendranath, the playwright, the master story teller, the author, the film director, the Chartered Accountant and …
Thank you Yandamoori garu.
Note: This is the fifth and the final part of the Gratitude Challenge (Day Five). 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 five and it is over. You will not be burdened to follow because this stops here. Thank you being here.