An overview of Telugu language & literature in Andhra (2005-2014)
A decade is perhaps too little a time to definitively decide the merits or demerits of any indefinitely continuing literary movement. If 2005 is reckoned the beginning of a decade to evaluate the status and standard of Telugu literature, it is, undoubtedly, in its good days. There is a healthy competition among present writers.
Telugu literature is like a garden with a variety of flowery techniques and expressions. When we talk about literature, it includes everything. And the most popular genre is, undeniably, the short story followed by modern poetry.
The fictional facet
The modern Telugu short story is more than a century old, travelling long enough to experience many a twist and turn. The short story 'Diddubatu' (1909) by Gurazada Apparao (18621915) is considered the first modern short story in Telugu written on a contemporary subject and in a colloquial language. Gurazada, steeped in English literature, was a multifaceted Telugu writer, with some English output also to his credit. His preface in English to his pioneering modern Telugu play Kanyasulkam is considered a masterpiece in literary theory. His centenary was befittingly celebrated across Andhra in which Vedagiri Rambabu, who has been proactive in spreading the Telugu story and renewing interest in it, took a lead role with a spirit of labour of love in these celebrations.
As in the West from where most of our modern literary forms are imported and inspired, the interest in the long winding stories and novels has migrated to the short story in tune with the hectic pace of life in the modern age and even in the Telugu land. With increasing exposure to the world literature, increasing levels of modern education and the availability of non-Telugu works in translation, many writers as well as readers have become aware of the popular and best writers in the West like O Henry and Maugham - as also Chekov and Tolstoy of Russia - and their approach, techniques and style.
Be it the older or the younger lot, we have good works across all genres of literature. The themes selected are mostly those based on social consciousness, which is but naturally appropriate in a democracy like ours. Globalization, seen with suspicion, has sparked off poems and stories developing its undesirable after-effects. Nostalgia and occasional retreat to the native roots has become a common theme. The wide-range of themes include evils like corruption, communal and caste strife, rural feuds and factions, inequalities of opportunities, disparities of income, exploitations of various types, atrocities on the fairer sex, suicide of farmers whose profession has become precarious owing to the vagaries of nature, plight of the poor and the downtrodden, and abuse of children.
Aware of the need to connect to the grassroots, some of the writers have been using the local idiom and dialect as the medium of their stories. The stories with a middle and upper class base use even English words and sentences. But a disproportionate amount of dialectal usage and excessive use of English expressions could limit the readership range.
Many writers know the importance of a striking title to their story (or even a poem or a novel). A title that is novel, evocative and unique would arouse the curiosity of the readers; it should, however, be ensured that the title is not a telltale one that gives away the central idea before it is read. The titles given by Avasarala Ramakrishna Rao, with a touch of neologism and pun, serve as good examples 'Aasti panjaram,' 'Ketu duplicatu,' 'Evarithonannaa lechi poradu.' Such titles and themes would spark off interest even in the other writers. And the story 'Evarithonannaa lechi poradu' by Avasarala ignited Katuru Ravindra Trivikram to ink a link story to this once both republished in the Chinuku monthly. It is the pathetic story of an unmarried woman, getting age-barred for marriage told in a touchingly epistolary style. Kommuri's 'Maramanishi,' Singaraju's 'Bhamini-Brahmachari,' Gaddam Narasimha Murthy's 'Garbhakuharam,' Katuru's 'Illuthalli,' Pisupati's 'Government Dongalu,' are some of the other variety titles.
Having a hand on the pulse of the readership taste, magazines like the Andhra Patrika weekly introduced a readers' ballot system to determine, post publication the best, better and good stories for awarding the prizes. This way, the story 'Godugu' by Katuru Ravindra Trivikram, came to be adjudged the best and it has been translated into many Indian languages.
The whiff of the modern breeze being irresistibly strong, even writers from old generation are changing tack which is a welcome trend, indeed. Writers like Arige Rama Rao, Devaraju Maharaj, Devaraju Ravi, Vedagiri Rambabu, V Raja Rammohan Rao, Chandra Sekhara Azad, Gaddam Narasimha Murthy, Simha Prasad and Ichchapuram Ramachandram are alive to the times. We have a good bevy of women writers like Aluri Vijayalakshmi, KB Lakshmi, C Bhavani, KV Krishnakumari, Somaraju Suseela, Potthuri Vijayalakshmi and Varanasi Nagalakshmi. A small-scale industrialist and a frequent traveller to the USA, Somaraju Suseela has an uncanny knack of converting anything that she comes across into an engaging story laced with healthy humour, like her collection Deepasikha (2009) that saw its second edition (2011) . Her Moogguru Columbus-lu narrates the American experience from the viewpoint of three Indians herself, her husband and her mother-in-law.
Pulicherla Sambasiva Rao is a prolific storywriter whose historical novel Rana Pratap has run into its fourth edition. His 'Naanna manasu' (Dad's heart) published in the Andhra Bhoomi daily (Apr 9, 2011) prompted U Atreya Sarma, because of its underlying multilayered subtlety, to translate it as 'L'affaire de sofa' and carry it in the Muse India ezine (Nov-Dec 2011).
Being an authority on the life and work of the celebrated Adivi Bapiraju, Dittakavi Syamala Devi has completed the historical novel Madhuravani, left incomplete by him. This novel has won encomiums for its seamless translation and it has run into its second publication (Oct 2013).
Syed Saleem, a Sahitya Academy award winning writer is progressive and humane in the treatment of his stories and novels. And there are writers like Vempalli Gangadhar whose stories like Greeshma Bhoomi Kathalu are done in a regional dialect.
The popularity of Telugu fiction can be gauged by the number of prestigious awards it has won during the decade, as under.
I. Jnan Pith awardees:
- Ravuri Bharadwaja: For the novel Paakudu Raallu (2012)
(Earlier in 1983 he was the recipient of the Kendra Sahitya Academy award for his sketches Jeevana Samaram)
II. Kendra Sahitya Academy mainstream:
- Abburi Chayadevi: For the short stories Tana Margam (2005)
- Munipalle Raju: For the short stories Astitvanadam Aavali Teerana (2006)
- Yarlagadda Laxmi Prasad: For the novel Draupadi (2009)
- Syed Saleem: For the novel Kaluthunna Poolathota (2010)
- 5. Peddibhotla Subbaramaiah For the short stories Peddibhotla Subbaramaiah Kathalu Vol. 1 (2012)
III. Kendra Sahitya Academy Yuva Puraskar:
- Vempalli Gangadhar: for short stories Molakala Punnami (2011)
Almost all the leading dailies and magazines have been conducting fiction competitions and giving away attractive prize monies. Vasireddy Naveen has been bringing out annual compilations of short stories picked up by his team under the Katha series.
Now let us take a quick, desultory look at the other forms and facets of Telugu language and literature.
The flow of poesy
The stream of Telugu poetry has many tributaries. Modern Telugu poetry is embracing every scene, setting, theme, topic and emotion. And it has its share of ideological tributaries.
We have mainstream poets writing with a rare sensitivity and sense of aesthetics.
Mukunda Rama Rao, himself an artistic and sensitive poet has brought to the Telugu readers the beauties of the Nobel poets across the world through his book, 1901 Nundi Nobel Kavitvam. Perugu Ramakrishna is remembered for his long poem Flamingo and he writes on environmental and universal harmony. For sublimity, subtlety and spiritual serenity one should go to BVV Prasad's anthology Akasam. Sasikant Satakarni's Jwalapatam (2011) is a collection of his intensely & insightfully reflective poems.
The spread and popularity of Internet has come in handy for poets and writers with computer savvy. We have beautiful poetry glimmering on the Internet with poets like Maanasa Chamarti, Nishigandha, Mohana Tulasi, Radhika and Usha Rani carving a niche for themselves. The bilingual writer, Nauduri S Murty has been using his blog not only to project his own poetry both in Telugu and English but also to showcase the poetries of many a poet through his translations.
Mainstream Muslim poets include Raja Hussain and Vempalli Sheriff.
Among the many bilingual poets and translators we may mention LR Swami, Soma Sankar Kolluri, Narayanaswami Sankagiri (USA), and Ramaswamy Nagaraju (USA).
The mini poetic form Naaneelu created by N Gopi has attracted many and the latest entrant is Mocharla Ramalakshmi with her Akshara Mandaralu. She has also recorded snippets of memories and penned lyrics and stories.
Inspired and encouraged by MK Sugam Babu, the originator of Rekkalu form of 6-line mini poetry who has suitably adopted Vemana's metrical format but devoid of its prosody and refrain, Ravela Purushothama Rao has come out with his bilingual Velugu Rekalu | Shiny Petals (2012) in Telugu and English. Sugam Babu's own Rekkalu rendered into English by David Shulman of Hebrew University had already appeared in its bilingual format.
Notwithstanding the ubiquitous interest in the modern free verse, there are still souls dedicated to the traditional metrical poetry, which is increasingly being used even for the current themes. While Unnam Jyothivasu, a science teacher, has won awards for his metrical poesy, the prominent poet and litterateur Rapaka Ekambaracharyulu is an authority on the history and art of Avadhanam, a unique feat of spontaneous versification. An ex-banker, VV Satyaprasad produces not only light-hearted lilting poetry on an assortment of themes the most mundane and the seemingly most frivolous and trivial. He writes with feeling, angst, ιlan, wit, and humour as appropriate to the context, as in Padya Prasaadam, even as he vindicates himself with earnest and intense devotional poems in different metrical genres, as in Bhakti Prasoonaalu.
Dr Koduru Prabhakara Reddy, a leading paediatrician is a poet-writer-lyricist-critic-translator with about seventeen works to his credit, metrical and lyrical poesy being his forte. His Palnati Bharatam, a ballad in Telugu has been translated as The Battle of Palnad into English metrical poetry by Prof Chintagunta Subba Rao, a veteran translator. Well versed in English, Sanskrit and Hindi, Dr Prabhakara Reddy has won several prestigious awards including the Potti Sriramulu Telugu University (2006 & 2009).
An ardent admirer of Sri Krishnadeva Raya, Gutti Chandrasekhara Reddy is an appealing metrical poet, having written two long poems Sri Krishna Rayamu and Rytu Rayalu both on the legendary emperor. He is also a bilingual translator (Telugu-Kannada).
Gottimukkala Subrahmanya Sastri, a profound savant from Nandyal, is an active metrical poet.
The art of Avadhanams so unique to the Telugus is kept alive by literary giants like Medasani Mohan, Madugula Nagaphani Sarma, Garikipati Narasimha Rao and Kadimalla Varaprasad. As recently as in November 2014, Madugula Nagaphani Sarma showcased his art for eight days in New Delhi. It is interesting and heartening that this ancient art revived in the 19th century has been coming down from generation to generation from the times of Tirupati-Venkata Kavis (Divakarla Tirupati Sastry & Chellapilla Venkata Sastry), Kopparapu Brothers (Venkata Subbaraya Kavi & Venkataramana Kavi), CV Subbanna, Narala Rama Reddy, Gandluri Dattatreya Sarma and Asavadi Prakasa Rao.
Thanks to the popularity of lyrics in the movies, Andhra has supplied a line-up of excellent lyricists like Veturi Sundara Rama Murty, Sirivennela Sitarama Sastry, Jonnavittula Ramalingeswara Rao, Bhuvanachandra, Ananta Sriram and Vennelakanti during the decade. The singing contests organised and telecast by ETV is generating renewed interest in classical music and literature as well.
In the section of poetry, Chitiprolu Krishna Murthy won the Sahitya Academy mainstream award for his Purushottamudu (2008). And Manthri Krishna Mohan has got the Academy's Yuva Puraskar for his Pravahinche Padalu and other Poems (2013).
Non-fictional Prose & Literary Criticism
Non-fictional prose writings too have their place of pride and prominence. Travel writings are encouraged by the Telugu daily, Eenadu.
Critical appraisal of Telugu fiction has gained momentum. One such work Mana Navalalu: Mana Kathanikalu by Rachapalem Chandrasekhara Reddy has won the Sahitya Academy mainstream award (2014). The glittering star on the firmament of Telugu literary criticism is Vadrevu China Veerabhadrudu, an incisive writer and critic. While his Somayyaku Nachchina Vyasalu (2012) is a collection of essays on various aspects of the contemporary society, one of his earlier books, Sahityamante Emiti is a scholarly analysis of what constitutes literature. We have bilingual writers & critics like Madhurantakam Narendra from Tirupati and Ramateertha from Visakhapatnam.
Literary appreciation/criticism of even traditional literature is not wanting. The book of essays - Vyasa Murali (2014) - by Amudala Murali touches upon and brings out many an interesting nugget/facet in this particular field, including the interest of Dalit writers in metrical/traditional poetry.
Maa Naannagaru (2009), a compilation by Dwa Na Sastry of the biographical vignettes of 62 departed renowned literary figures of the modern times as recalled by their surviving children is a meaningful contribution. Kothi Kommachchi: Bapu Ramaneeyam by Mullapudi Venkataramana, a classy cine writer, is an interweave of his autobiography and the biography of Bapu, his closest friend and associate and a legendary artist & film director. Originally serialised in the Swathi weekly (2008-09), it later on came in the form of a 3-volume book. Mahanati Savitri: Venditera Samrajni (2007), a biography of Savitri, empress of the South Indian silver screen, penned by Pallavi (Garlapati neι Ravipati) ran into the fifth print (2012).
In books of humour, Sri Ramana's Parody-lu is a scintillating one, while reputed journalist Sankaranarayana has created and perfected Hasyavadhanam, a spontaneous feat of humour, wit & repartee. Leading editor MVR Sastry is noted for his incisive and well-researched books on socio-politico-cultural matters. His Andhrula Katha (2011) and Telugu Tagavu (2013) deal with a century of history of the Telugus including the circumstances and forces that had underlain the recent bifurcation of the first language-based state in the country.
Andhra has its fair share of artist-cum-poets like Vadrevu China Veerabhadrudu, BNIM, MS Ramakrishna, Makineedi Suryabhaskar, SV Rama Sastri and Anwar. Many of them are bilingually proficient.
'Whichever country you go to and wherever you set foot on, sing you should the glory of your motherland,' exhorts the great Telugu poet Rayaprolu Subbarao. Accordingly, Telugus settled abroad are in live touch with the culture of their homeland and have been making literary waves. Some of them are Narayana Swami Sankagiri, K Geetha, Vemuri Venkateswara Rao, Veluri Venkateswara Rao, J K Mohan Rao and Swatee Sripada.
Literature in Translation
Just as in the other branches of literature, new translators have appeared on the Telugu literary horizon even as the older ones are continuing. It is an agreed fact that the translations into Telugu are far lesser than those from Telugu. This distortion needs to be set right and it will be possible if only the Academies and Universities concerned call for able and willing translators, shortlist them and entrust them with translation of the class of works they have flair for. Without doing this, we bemoan the shortage of competent translators. And unless some reasonable remuneration is offered, one may not get enough number of good translators on board. After all, translators also have to make a living and expect to be compensated for the time and energy they spend.
By virtue of the sheer pleasure that the reading of certain books provide, people undertake the translation on their own. Devarakonda Balagangadhara Tilak's Amritam Kurisina Ratri has been nectar for quite a few to attempt its translation. While Velchala Kondal Rao had already done one, the recent one comes from Chepuri Subbarao, an English professor, under the title The Night Nectar Rained (2014).
U Atreya Sarma has translated sixteen select Telugu stories of Dr Mallemala Venugopala Reddy under the title Salt of the Earth (2013) which has received good reviews, in addition to poems, short stories and articles of quite a few Telugu writers. And he is on a panel translating Viswanatha Satyanarayana's mega-novel, Veyi Padagalu under the aegis of Viswanatha Sahitee Peetham, Hyderabad.
A bilingual poet-storywriter-translator, Ambika Ananth's Ambrosia, is an erudite rendering into English of 108 Annamacharya Sankirtanas that had been set to tune by Sangita Kalanidhi Nedunuri Krishna Murthy (2012). Presently, she is on a translation project on Sri Krishna Karnamrutham along with TV Subbarao, emeritus professor, Bangalore University.
Jayalakshmi Popuri, a prolific translator, has translated N Gopi's path breaking Naaneelu as The Little Ones (2007), Saleem's novel Kaluthunna Poolathota as Silent Storm (2011), and Annavaram Devender's poetry as Farmland Fragrance (2011).
Syamala Kallury, a bilingual writer, has translated the poetry of a large number of modern representative Telugu poets Twentieth Century Telugu Poetry (2006). She has also translated 20th Century women's writing from 1930-2001 under the title Telugu Stories: Women's Writing - An Inner Voyage.
Sujatha Gopal, a Malayali by birth and an English language expert, is well-versed in Telugu and has translated two instalments of Saleem's short stories as, Ocean and Other Stories; and Three Dimensions & Other Stories.
Aruna Vyas, a trilingual scholar in Telugu, English and Sanskrit has, among others, translated Vakati Panduranga Rao's Our Tomorrow into Telugu as Mana Bhavitavyam. She has also rendered into English Pullela Sreeramachandrudu's autobiography Naa Gurinchi Naenu: Sanskrita Bhasha Seva Naa Jeevita Lakshyam as Happy Reminiscences.
Dittakavi Syamala Devi's spiritual novel on Adi Sankara under the title Kailasam Nundi Kailasam Daakaa (Sep 2006) in Telugu, which has won plaudits, has been translated into Hindi as Kailas Se Kailas Tak (Jan 2011) by Y Saroja Nirmala, noted Hindi scholar.
Out of the 700 Prakrita & Sanskrit storytelling couplets collected & compiled by the ancient poet Hala, including 44 of his own, Dr Koduru Prabhakara Reddy has rendered 300 of them into lucid Telugu verses under the Tetagiti meter as also into engaging English prose under the title Gatha Trisathi (2013), winning critical acclaim.
This section would not be complete without mentioning LR Swami (proficient in Telugu & Malayalam), and Trishna (Telugu & Hindi).
Print Magazines & Literary Associations
Popular and quality magazines like Andhra Vara Patrika, Andhra Prabha and Yuva had disappeared into the flow of time. It is becoming increasingly difficult to successfully run a periodical. Aspirants start a magazine, aiming big but experience proves it otherwise. Big magazine houses collapsed with the advent of the electronic media. TV serials replaced the magazines. Women in particular are a big chunk of patrons of literature, but they too have turned their eyes to the TVs. The decade has undergone this change in social attitude. The number of good readers has narrowed down.
Swathi magazine (weekly as well as monthly) has stood the test of time thanks to the vision of its editor, Vemuri Balaram. He has learned from his early days that values alone cannot sustain a magazine. Marketing qualities are more important. Taking in stride the motivated criticism against him, he has steadily improved the readership base of Swathi, since long the largest circulated magazine. After seeing its success, many have started imitating it. But as it happens, an original is always better than its imitation. Swathi gets quality stuff because of its attractive remuneration to the contributors at a minimum of two thousand rupees. Even readers win prizes under different categories.
We have other Telugu magazines Chatura and Vipula of Eenadu group; Navya, Andhra Jyothi, and Andhra Bhoomi, apart from the Sunday magazines of newspapers like Eenadu, Andhra Bhoomi, Andhra Prabha, Andhra Jyothi, Vartha, Sakshi and Visalandhra.
There are some spiritual magazines like Rishi Peetham, Sapthagiri, Bharateeya Margam, Bhakti Sudha and Daivam. Besides the main content of spiritual matters, some of them provide a literary aspect that is ennobling.
Agri Gold Group is publishing Nadhi (weekly & monthly) and Chitra (monthly) and they are well received by readers. Nadhi has conducted a variety of competitions in ancient as well as modern literature. The AP state magazine Andhra Pradesh is flavoured with literature, thanks to its chief editor G Valliswar.
Eenadu group's Vipula merits a special mention. It publishes not only the original Telugu stories but also translations in Telugu of non-Telugu stories. A feature in this magazine 'Kathakula File' by Vedagiri Rambabu on novels by V Raja Rammohan Rao is a feather in its cap.
The writings of some of the vocal writers are underlined with their respective ideological inclinations. Arasam is a 70-year old literary association inspired by Communist movement and ideology, Virasam is a revolutionary writers association of 45 years standing, drawing its sustenance from the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist-Naxalite thought and philosophy. Paradoxically, these groups use the Western idiom and accept their historiography of India; at the same time, they keep denouncing the intrusion of Western culture, but without acknowledging the Indian culture either.
One should complement the Visalandhra Publishing House, a CPI organ founded in 1953, for its positive attitude to publishing and dealing in the general, classical and even religious and devotional literature in addition, of course, to the books of its ideological hues.
Then there is the 66 year old Jagriti weekly of nationalist ideology. The RSS-inspired Sahitya Niketan publishes and deals in not only nationalist but also general literature.
Some of the prominent print literary journals are Telugu Velugu (of Eenadu group), Pala Pitta, Nelavanka Nemaleeka, Misimi, Chinuku and Jayanti (bilingual). This Jayanti is a reincarnation of a magazine of the one founded by the literary legend Viswanatha Satyanarayana.
Among the English newspapers published in AP/Telangana, the name of The Hans India, a multi-edition English daily, deserves mention since it has been according due prominence to Telugu language, literature and culture, especially in its Sunday section.
Literature, tradition and religion being interconnected the way the Indian culture is, the programmes presented by devotional TV channels like Bhakti, SVBC and Om encourage and promote the taste for healthy literature based on the classical Telugu and Sanskrit lore.
Promotion of literary works
Ones the books are written by the authors they need to be publicised and circulated among the readers. In addition to the usual book distributors, there are a few bibliophilic individuals and organisations facilitating the book distribution by their customised membership/subscription schemes. In liaison with the writers, one such organisation from Hindupur Sri Krishna Deva Raya Granthamaala, founded by Kalluri Raghavendra Rao, a writer himself has been making available 12 latest books a year at a nominal annual subscription of just five hundred rupees under its scheme Naa Pustakam.
Patrons of literature
Gone are the days of royal patronage of writers. Though there are governmental and academic bodies, the patronage that is flowing being inadequate, many literary associations and individuals have it taken upon themselves to conduct literary competitions and present awards to the writers. Some of the patron-writers are Dr Koduru Prabhakar Reddy, Pothukuchi Sambasiva Rao, Dr Mallemala Venugopala Reddy, Nori Narasimha Sastry Memorial, Dwa Na Sastry, Gutti Chandrasekhara Reddy and Goutharaju Hanumantha Rao.
The interest in Indian epics and ancient classics continues unabated. The 7-volume Valmiki Ramayanam brought by noted scholar Pullela Sriramachandrudu (2013) has already sold over 10,000 copies. Earlier in 2012 his 1012-page Mahabharata Saara Sangraham (The quintessence of Mahabharata) sold like a hot cake.
Another writer, Uppuluri Kameswara Rao too has come out with his own 306-page Valmiki Ramayanam (2013), which too has been a great success.
Online literary journals
In pace with the technological evolution, literature also has gone high-tech, belying the prediction by some academics that humanities and literature were doomed to be crushed under the juggernaut of computers. A string of online Telugu literary journals have come up and are active. Some of them are Koumudi, Pramukhandra, Silicon Andhra Sujana Ranjani, Telugu Naadi (8 years old, from North America, on paid subscription), Samputi, Eemaata (16 years old), Saarangabooks, Vaakili, Newavakaya, Vihanga, Kinige, Maalika, KaLaagautami, and Telugu Jaathi.
In addition, Muse India, a decade old Indian English ezine has been promoting Telugu literature by way of translation into English, as part of its promotion of the literatures of Indian languages, by bringing out special features from time to time. They are 'Modern Telugu Literature' (May-Jun 2007), 'Telugu Dalit Poetry' (Nov-Dec 2007), 'Telugu Literature' (Nov-Dec 2011), Focus on Telugu Literature as part of the HLF-2012 sessions (Mar-Apr 2012), and 'Focus on Adivi Bapiraju' (Nov-Dec 2013).
Annual book fairs, by exhibiting their publications and organising talks and symposia, are promoting books and authors and also inculcating a renewed interest in books among the educated.
Popular literary blogs
Avoiding the hassles of publication and difficulties of marketing, a number of computer-savvy writers have created their blogs and airing their literary thoughts, views, creations and translations, thereby bringing their world of writers and readers close together in the flick of a moment. Some of the active blogs are Telugupadam, RaccabaMda, Telugutuulika, KottapaLii, Aksharam, AnviikshaNam, Kashtephale, Kotta aavakaya, GaDDipoolu, Chinni-chinni ASa, navarasa(jna)bharitam, Nemalikannu, Maruvam, RoTTamAkurEvu, varoodhini, Jaajimalli, Sarkari, SAhitiiyAnam, Sujanamadhram, SankarabharaNam, SamaanyuDu, Indra dhanussu, Madhumaanasam, Venneladaari, MaanasaviiNa, Trishna, AntarlOcana, Teluguanuvaadaalu.wordpress.com, and sunamu.wordpress.com.
Further benefits of cyber revolution
The web has magazines being run by US expats for teaching of Telugu language in schools, colleges and universities.
There is one forum completely dedicated to Telugu in the Google Groups Telugupadam who are, commendably, creating usable alternative words to enrich Telugu especially where translation is concerned.
We have one Rahimanuddin Shaik, a young IT professional and Telugu-lover who has joined Wikipedia Telugu and doing a yeoman's service to the language.
Many of us know the facility of Lekhini.org an efficient and wonderful online easy-to-use application for preparing a Telugu text, by using the English Keyboard, thanks to the invention by Veeven.
At a time when Telugu language is devoid of a comprehensive and professional lexicographic tradition even in this cyber age, praise is due to the Andhrabharati.com for its reasonably comprehensive multiple-dictionary facility, including listing of synonyms. This site is also a good reference source, for it has in its pages stored a lot of Telugu literature language, history, places of importance (pilgrim centres and places of pleasure), epics, long poetical compositions, Satakas, poetry, classical and devotional lyrics, religious lore, folklore, children's literature, prose compositions, dramas, fine arts, prominent personalities, and miscellany. Of course, there are many areas that are yet to be filled in/updated. One should compliment Vadapalli Seshatalpasai and Kalepu Nagabhushana Rao, the brains behind this site.
The demand for books of literature depends upon readers' taste. It also depends upon the ability of a writer or publisher to elicit the interests, tastes and expectations of the educated before they think of producing a book, as long as sales, royalty and profit are the criterion. But if you are writing and publishing something for your own satisfaction and record, then there is no cause for any regret. It is also equally true that a writer by creating an extraordinary and trail-blazing piece can sway the market. All said and done, a successful writer should have abilities of a high order. One particular thing causing concern is the decrease in the number of libraries. Perhaps a concerted effort is needed to cultivate and enhance the reading and library habit.
Promotion & development of Telugu as language
From the angle of philology, Addanki Srinivas, a young academic, has done substantial work relating to language, grammar and literary criticism.
With the Telugu language steadily losing its place as a medium of instruction, not to speak of as a subject of deeper study and research, we have to take a leaf or two from the stand of our neighbouring states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra where the mother tongue and the literary activity continue to be vibrant. A certain amount of statesmanship on the part of the political leadership and a certain amount of keenness to own and preserve our mother tongue are called for in a situation where English cannot be dispensed with but at the same time a healthy, identity-prompted balance needs to be struck. While the medium of instruction may be left to the choice of parents and students, there can be a mechanism whereby every student irrespective of his course or level of study, should have Telugu as a special subject in each and every year of the course. Telugu lovers and political leadership has to consider and settle this question without further delay.
Even as Telugu is at a crossroad where its very existence is said to be threatened, a few activists have found it necessary to turn an assiduous focus on purging Telugu of all its Sanskrit diction. The activists in this achcha Telugu movement are Sa Vem Ramesh and Dr P Srinivasa Teja, who has brought out a monograph on mother tongue and elementary education (Matri Bhasha: Prathamika Vidya). While an attempt to find, coin or revive pure Telugu words is welcome, a zealous effort of indiscriminate de-Sanskritisation may not be worth its trouble; it can even be counterproductive, since Indian languages have been inseparably influenced by Sanskrit, itself a very much Indian language and highly systematic, capable of creating any number of neologisms, that too pithy. The relationship between the Indian languages and Sanskrit is akin to that between the classical Greek/Latin and the European languages. But there is no deliberate mission of de-Grecianising and de-Latinising them.
It is hoped that the bifurcation of the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh will not create any chasm between the writers and artists of the two new states; but bring about a spirit of interaction, exchange, cooperation and synergy in the overall and long terms interests of Telugu language, literature and culture. And there are many in Andhra who sincerely appreciate the historical angularity of the Telangana dialect and culture and believe that in fact, at this present juncture, the movement of Telugu literature in Telangana is at a higher pitch compared to that in Andhra.
While there are people who lap up the assessment that Telugu is a dying language, the sheer number of its speakers and the status of Telugu as an ancient-cum-living classical language should make them take heart.
1. The authors sincerely seek the indulgence of the many writers who could not be covered in this article, owing to space and time constraints. Such writers are requested to send in any further data to Muse India, who would be considering it for one of their next features on Telugu language & literature.
2. The authors express their sincere thanks to the bilingual writer NS Murty for readily providing some of the relevant inputs that have an enhancing value for the article.