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Atreya Sarma U

I V Chalapati Rao : In Conversation with Atreya Sarma

U Atreya Sarma and I V Chalapati Rao

At 89 Prof IV Chalapati Rao is still very active and sought after, having as latest as Sept 2011 brought out his autobiographic work What Life Taught Me, and a historical work The Stone That Speaketh under his editorship (Jan 26, 2012). He is, among others, the chief editor of Triveni, an 85-year old literary & cultural quarterly in English. An outstanding teacher of English, educationist, administrator, communication expert, motivational speaker, editor, journalist, translator and writer with over 30 books and over 100 forewords to his credit, he received a host of awards and felicitations, the most prominent being the Pratibha Rajiv Puraskaram 2009, a life-time achievement award by the Government of Andhra Pradesh with a purse of Rs one lac. All this despite his having lost his right eye some 45 years ago! Based in Hyderabad, this sagely personality, still keen on learning, continues his inspiring saga. Engaging him in conversation, Atreya Sarma tries to unveil the veteran professor’s life, work and philosophy – bringing, by the way, a focus on his insights, perceptions and obiter dicta on several aspects of contemporary and historical interest.


Atreya Sarma U: Sir, you’ve achieved remarkable success as a professional and as a person. In cases like this, one would like to not only know about the life and work of the achiever but also have a glimpse into that person’s family background as well and the influence of the family on such a person. Could you please throw light on this aspect?

Prof IV Chalapati Rao: I was born in Kakinada at my maternal grandfather’s home in 1923 – the year in which the Annual Conference of the Indian National Congress was held in the same town. My grandfather received a gold medal for making arrangements as Health Supervisor. My father belonged to Bandar (now known as Machilipatnam) of Krishna District. We lived in Lakshmi Vilas, our own house, a spacious 2-storied building in a prime locality. The headquarters of the Andhra Bank, a doctor’s clinic, two photo studios and a cycle shop were our tenants.

When the great cyclone had caused widespread damage at Bandar, my great grandfather Iyyanki Subbarayudu, as a member of the citizens committee, took an active part in the relief work initiated by the British collector. When the famous Telugu weekly Krishna Patrika, devoted to nationalistic struggle and values, was launched, my grandfather IV Chalapati Rao – after whom I was named - was one of the donors.

My father Venkata Krishna Rao owned a Zamindari estate, a rice mill and an imported bicycle business. And he was the bridge partner of the district collector Kudwa, ICS. The latter offered my father a job but he declined it.

ASU: So you had the advantages coming out of a well-off and cultured family?

IVCR: Culturally, yes. But financially, it was a reversal since Fortune is a fickle lady. They were the days of the great depression of the 1930s when I was at school. There was slump in the world. Goods were in plenty but prices fell down. People had no purchasing power. The rice mill proved to be a liability. The ryots of the Zamindari Estate were not paying their rents but the Zamindar had to pay peishkash to the government. Running into heavy debts, father had to dispose of both the factory and the house. With a choice between the house and the estate, he preferred to sell the house. In those days of worst depression there were no takers to buy the immovable property. Our family friend, Dr Bhogaraju Pattabhi Sitaramayya who later became President of the Indian National Congress, used his good offices to help us in selling our house.

It was a cruel blow and shock to my father. He was addicted to smoking daily a tin of Scissors cigarettes. He had a paralytic stroke. In a mood of depression he took his Webley Scot revolver to shoot himself. We took it away from him.

The financial crisis gave me a philosophical bent and taught me many practical lessons. My father’s life was an eye-opener to me. I realized the importance of education. I learnt that money and status are not permanent and everyone should stand on their own legs. My father himself told me that he learnt the habits of smoking and playing cards from his friends. He advised me and even took a promise from me that I would not smoke and get into bad company.

Even the estate was subsequently taken over by the Government under the Act of Estates Abolition and Conversion into the Ryotwari in 1948 when my father was no more and when I had just entered into a lecturer’s job at Ellore (now Eluru).

Unable to afford a lawyer, I myself appeared before the Estates Tribunal, and after a long time we received a nominal compensation, that too in several instalments for which I was made to run from pillar to post every time.

I felt the need for a law degree, when the Government rejected the petition on technical grounds and disallowed the ownership of 30 acres of our family, even as many landholders managed to retain their lands by producing fake documents, etc. As litigation was costly and as I was the only person from the family in a job, no appeal could be made to a higher court. I learnt another lesson: To be honest and truthful will cause suffering. Yet... you should be honest.

Deprived of our only piece of property, we (mother, wife, 3 siblings, and I), however, could get on reasonably well by God’s grace. I used to supplement my salary with a couple of private tuitions. Occasionally I took hand loans. A local publisher offered me Rs 2,000 if I published printed notes of the text book. I was unwilling to do it. I used to give free notes to my students when necessary. Considerations of dignity and self-respect prevented me from exploiting my students!

The pecuniary troubles continued to nag. My salary as a government lecturer while at Cuddapah was not sufficient to make both ends meet. I had to sell away my silver plates and purchased stainless steel plates. In those days the salary of a gazetted officer was Rs250. So much for our affluence! I had to start from the scratch and I liked it.

ASU: Those who inspired you during your impressionable stage?

IVCR: Besides my mother Damayanty and my father, there were a couple of personalities. There was a famous physician Dr Koka Ahobala Rao Naidu who was called the poor man’s doctor, because he not only gave free prescriptions to poor patients but also gave them money from his own pocket to buy medicines. He used to prescribe unorthodox diet to his patients, like oranges and mango pickles! He used to treat the family members of Dr Bhogaraju Pattabhi Sitaramayya although the latter was a practicing doctor. When Dr Naidu died he was heavily indebted, but his funeral was attended by hundreds of people! I have yet to see a doctor like him.

The next person who attracted me was Dr Pattabhi himself. He was a fair complexioned and dynamic personality. I used to go to his house with my mother. My mother and Rajeswaramma (Pattabhi’s wife) were friends. Their younger son Radhakrishna was my friend. We used to play. At that time I did not know that Dr Pattabhi was a great national leader and freedom fighter. He later became president of the Indian National Congress and Governor of Madhya Pradesh. I was inspired by such role models.

ASU: How were the times generally during those days?

Incidence of crime was very low, hence there was not much of work for the police officers; so the Circle Inspector of Police (Venkateswara Rao) across my home used to call me to the police station and ask me to play on my banjo! Theatre was very popular during those days. Actors like Ramanatha Sastry, Sthanam Narasimha Rao, and Bellary Raghava were very popular. Drama is a living art whereas cinema is a mechanical art. It is unfortunate that Stage plays have become a vanishing species today.

ASU: When did you develop your reading habit and how?

IVCR: Fortunately, I got into the reading habit rather early. It was while I was at Bandar where I studied up to 1st Form (6th Standard). Whenever there was a movie or circus a jutka used to go around distributing the advertising leaflets. I used to run behind it to collect a leaflet. I would study the whole thing and reproduce the contents to my mother from memory. This reading habit and narrating to others what is read, has persisted throughout my life. Perhaps this helped vocabulary building and laid the foundation for communication skills. None can master a language by merely looking at words in a dictionary. Reading shows the words in action and context. Gradually my reading habit extended to essays, short-stories and novels. Early in my boyhood I tasted the pleasures of reading.

ASU: What about teachers who came to influence you?

IVCR: When the principal’s post at Pithapur Rajah’s College, Kakinada fell vacant in the early years (well before it became the PR Government College); two stalwarts were bracketed after screening the applications. They were Rt Hon’ble Srinivasa Sastry, the silver-tongued orator of Guild Hall fame and Brahmarshi Sir Raghupati Venkataratnam Naidu, the well-known teacher and social reformer. Whom to appoint? The committee was divided fifty-fifty. The Maharajah had the casting vote. In consultation with Kandukuri Viresalingam Pantulu, the famous social reformer, he selected Venkataratnam Naidu. The criterion was that it was not enough if the principal was a scholar but he should also be an agent of social change to be able to inspire and motivate the students and the college should be a centre for social ferment. A teacher should be a gardener of the heart and pearl fisher of the soul, Sri Venkataratnam Naidu used to say. The fine distinction made by Kandukuri and the objective and consultative approach of the Maharajah left their impress on me when I later on became the principal of the same college.

I found that even my high school teachers made a difference to our lives. I remember my English teacher who gave me two cuts gently with the cane when I obtained 36 marks out of 40! I owe my tolerable command over English to those teachers. They expected perfection from us.

ASU: What is your concept of an ideal teacher?

IVCR: It is my conviction that teacher is the sheet anchor of education. The future of the country depends upon the youth – the students. Their future, in turn, depends upon the teachers. They are the salt of the earth. If the salt itself loses its savour, wherewith can it be seasoned?

To be able to inspire, a teacher should have nine qualities, according to the Indian tradition. Deshiko nava-lakshanaha. A teacher should have character, communication skill, impressive personality, moral courage, sharp memory, output of written work, humility, self-enthusiasm, and inspiring traits.

Great leaders across the climes and times have acknowledged the crucial importance of their teachers, more specifically the lower class teachers. Bill Gates said: “I owe my success to my mentor, a high school teacher.” More than 3,000 years before that Alexander the Great observed: “I owe my living to my father, and living well to my teacher, Aristotle.”

In the ancient system of education in India, students always identified their education with their teachers, not institutions. And the teachers imparted both sacred and secular education. They were also good counsellors as they should be, like how Vasishta and Agastya were to Sri Rama, as can be found from Yoga Vaasishta and Aaditya Hridayam.

Parents also should have a right attitude with regard to the teacher-student relationship. Here Abraham Lincoln’s letter to his son’s teacher and Aurangazeb’s to his own teacher serve as opposite examples.

ASU: While on the subject of teachers, how do you feel that the teacher recruitment process should be held?

IVCR: There should be teacher recruitment strictly on merit and motivation. There should be no compromise on this. Especially, at school level the teacher plays a crucial role. Let’s take note that in the USA, Nobel Laureates are engaged to draw up the school syllabus. Here we turn a blind eye to it.

No extraneous or political considerations should interfere with the teacher recruitment process.

When MV Rajagopal, IAS, MA (Cantab) was the Director of Higher Education and I, the Dy Director, an MLA approached him with a recommendation for the appointment of a Junior Lecturer. Though Rajagopal said it was not proper on the part of a legislator to do so, the MLA was dogmatically insistent. Consequently Rajagopal left for his chamber without satisfying the MLA.

The MLA felt insulted and tried to move a privilege motion in the Assembly against Rajagopal. He could not succeed because Rajagopal had the support of many members. The point is, officers used to be so independent and strict in those days. Today it is common knowledge that there is an unholy nexus between officers and politicians. The New Education Policy and Perspective Document pointed out that the two evils of education are politicization of education and criminalization of politics.

ASU: Sir, you’re a prolific writer. When exactly you began to develop your writing skills?

IVCR: I was the student editor of the college magazine while I was at PR Government College, Kakinada. The magazine was an attempt to train the students in writing skills and the art of journalism. I could learn a thing or two about the art of writing from the college magazine. In my case it did prove to be a launching pad into journalism and editorship.

Not only that. While I was in my BA I used to contribute to a few outside magazines. A few articles of mine appeared in the True Confessions of India, a journal from Punjab. I was also writing about scientists for Electro, a Karachi based magazine. This interest, naturally, led to satisfying editorial credits in future. It’s nostalgic to remember that I had the opportunity of editing the souvenir in English of the 1st World Telugu Conference.

I have been, by God’s grace, able to maintain my writing momentum till date.

ASU: You are known as an engaging speaker and communication trainer? How have your skills evolved?

IVCR: Within a few days of my joining the Government Arts College at Rajahmundry as a lecturer, I was asked to address a public meeting arranged in celebration of the Anniversary of the formation of the Andhra State. With my very first public appearance I struck an instant rapport with the people and the students. Since then there was no looking back. Whenever there was a social, cultural or educational meeting in Rajahmundry and its neighbouring places, I was invited to speak.

This experience came in handy in my later life in delivering lectures at over a score of prestigious organisations – governmental, public and private - to impart and improve HRD philosophy, skills in writing, communication, team-building, work ethics, personality development, personnel development, and management.

Communication skill gives access to the choicest society. It is the secret of leadership. It is the lifeline of management and a tool of public relations. Today unfortunately a vast majority of students who leave the universities and colleges are lacking in communication skills. Something should be done to remedy this defect.

ASU: How were you influenced by your parents?

IVCR: I said my father had owned an unremunerative Zamindari estate at Chandrupatla near Nuzvid. Once, my father had to borrow money from one of his wealthy tenants by executing a promissory note. It was out of a dire necessity to pay the Peishkush to the government. The promissory note got burnt along with a portion of the creditor’s house in a fire accident. Yet my father stood by his honour and repaid the amount in due course. Honour and self-respect guided his way throughout. I learnt from my father honour and integrity. So also he advised me not to smoke or fall into bad company unlike him.

From 2nd Form (7th Standard) to SSLC, I studied at Pithapur Maharajah’s Collegiate High School, Kakinada. When I appeared for the public examination and was expecting the announcement of results, father died. Ever since, mother looked after the family and exercised wholesome influence on us. She led an austere life denying herself all comforts such as women of her age permitted themselves. For example she never saw a movie. She used to wear a simple khaddar sari and white blouse. Being well read and highly accomplished, she trained us on sound lines and introduced us to the scriptures and our cultural heritage. She used to regale us with the stories from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata and the teachings of Bhagavad Gita. She knew the slokas of the Gita by heart. Sometimes she used to play on veena. She learnt music from great scholars. She taught music to my sister. Thus in our formative years she was our mentor and first guru. Matri devo bhava.

Our mother’s spiritual thoughts sustained her through thick and thin. She lived for 84 years without any ailments. She used to say, “You will have no occasion to take me to any hospital. When I die, I won’t give you any trouble. I was born on Ekadasi (11th day in the lunar calendar); I had spiritual initiation from a holy woman on Ekadasi; and I will die on Ekadasi.” True to her prediction she died on Ekadasi. No disease. No hospitalization.

ASU: How about your extra-curricular interests while at college?

IVCR: I have always been an extrovert. I was active in extra-curricular activities, sports, and college magazine.

Both at school and college extra-curricular activities were not extras but integral part of the education. The time table had moral culture although it was not in the syllabus. In the weekly class the teacher used to tell us about good manners, discipline, helpfulness to others, concern for the poor, and such other things. A test used to be conducted and prizes given. I feel proud that I received the First Prize – Shelly’s Complete Works – for moral culture in a meeting.

As a college student I used to play badminton. I was a member of the team which won the Prince of Chettinad Cup in the tournament conducted by the Loyola College, Madras. Later on as captain I led the team in inter-collegiate tournaments. Afterwards I switched over to tennis and won prizes. I became a member of the Andhra Pradesh Lawn Tennis Executive Committee in 1960s. Games will teach us leadership qualities, team building and equanimity.

ASU: Were your activities limited to the campuses or did they extend beyond?

IVCR: My grandparents and great grandfather were into their bit of social service. Perhaps I had their blessings running in my veins since my interest in social service carried me beyond the campus.

When I was principal there was a severe cyclone at Kakinada causing colossal damage. I called an emergency staff meeting, for I always consulted the staff before taking important decisions. We took a decision to close the college for a few days and organize relief work in the town under the auspices of our College Social Service League. Later on when I was transferred from Kakinada, even the Rickshaw Pullers Association and Construction Workers Union along with 20 other organisations willingly joined to bid me farewell. Although they were not directly connected with the college, they participated because of my relief work during the cyclone.

Social service should be an important part of extra-curricular activities. The Crowther Committee on education in UK defined education as social service.

ASU: What about your siblings? Were they too brilliant like you?

IVCR: When I was in the college, my sister Sri Lakshmi and younger brother Achyuta Rao were in the school. My youngest brother Subba Rao was too young. Sri Lakshmi won Shantha Shankar Medal for classical music in the competitions for juniors. Emani Sankara Sastry, who later became a famous maestro in Veena, won the Medal for seniors. He was my classmate and close friend. Our friendship continued till he died.

Whereas I used to get low marks in mathematics, Achyuta Rao scored 100 out of 100 marks in mathematics and stood first in the class. He did his MSc and DSc in Physics and retired as a senior director of DRDL under the captaincy of APJ Kalam. Subba Rao became a double postgraduate - in History and Social Work. He got into Sarabhai Chemicals and retired as circle manager. My sister married Desiraju Krishna Rao, who rose to be Director of Meteorology, Delhi and a UN expert. His brother Ramachandra Rao married Sakuntala, daughter of Dr S Radhakrishnan.

ASU: Could we have a few words about your better half?

IVCR: When I was in my BA in 1942 I got married to Sita Devi, to satisfy my mother’s desire; and the dictum Vivaaho vidya naashaaya (Marriage mars education) didn’t prove true in my case. My wife was very understanding, helpful and cooperative. She was a good writer in Telugu, and some of her poems were published. She was also good in Hindi and Urdu. She is still remembered by one and all for her proverbial cheerfulness and hospitality.

ASU: Why did you opt for English literature and choose to do your MA in the Nagpur University?

IVCR: I liked English literature. In those days Andhra and Madras universities didn’t offer literature course but only language course. Literature course was offered only by Lucknow, Nagpur and Allahabad universities. I preferred Nagpur University. When our students of the Nizam College (Hyderabad) joined Gandhi ji’s Independence movement in the erstwhile Nizam’s dominions, they were expelled from the college. Then the Nagpur University admitted them and conducted special classes to save their academic year. Nagpur was then capital of the Central Provinces and Berar.

ASU: Can you recall some of your professors?

IVCR: Our classes were taken by professors of two colleges – Morris College and Hislop College. I joined Morris College, the main university college.

Prof Dewick (an Englishman), Prof Krishnan, Prof Jacob (who later on became the chairman of the UGC), Prof Mitra and Principal Ganguly were taking classes by an agreed arrangement. Prof Ganguly took his classes in Science College as he was its principal. Thus we had to go to three colleges. Mr Twynam was the Governor. As he liked Sanskrit, he appointed Mahamahopadhyaya Mirashi as principal of Morris College. Many of us have prejudices against the British. Whatever the evils of the British rule in India, there were a few British scholars who had put the people of India in everlasting debt by discovering and bringing to our notice and to the notice of the world the treasures of the Indian literature and the wealth of Indian heritage.

ASU: How did you feel suddenly in the new environment at Nagpur away from your home and region?

IVCR: In Nagpur though I could not speak Hindi or Marathi, fellow students extended their love and support to me. In those days the feelings of regionalism and linguistic fanaticism did not infect the minds of the people. I shared a room with a Hindi speaking student of Chanda for a few months and with another student of Chindwara for a few months and finally with a Maharashtrian student of Dhamtari. I felt that I enjoyed the best of social life by interacting with those students who opened their hearts to me, nursed me when I fell ill and gave me glimpses of the culture of the land. No place is foreign if you can understand and adjust.

ASU: Could you please recall some of your memorable experiences or impressions while at Nagpur?

IVCR: Yes, there are... While studying social life of the place, I found that women were forward and progressive minded in Nagpur. Most of the girl students used to attend the college on their bicycles. This was something new for us who belonged to South. On the whole, I got the impression that women were held in great respect in Maharashtra.

Another important incident. Nagpur was not far from Wardha which was often visited by Mahatma Gandhi. We used to visit the place to have a darshan of Gandhi ji. I remember our first meeting with Gandhi ji. Raj Kumari Amrit Kaur sent us inside the room. Gandhi smiled on us. There was a board in front of us: ‘Be quick. Be brief. Be gone.’ He spoke a few words enquiring about us. It was a memorable meeting.

In short, my student life in Nagpur was a lesson in national integration and social cohesion. By the way, I was the topper in my MA exams.

ASU: Did you continue your extra-curricular interests at Nagpur also?

IVCR: Early in the morning I used to run round the Sitabaldi Fort for exercise. I played shuttle badminton and ball badminton and made friends with the local sportsmen. I also attended Social Service classes at 7 pm at National College, Dhantoli, a typical Maharashtrian locality with a garden in front of every house. Eminent social workers like Mr Kodanda Rao of the Servants of India Society, Mr Mani, Editor of Hitavada (a local English newspaper) and others delivered lectures.

It is my considered opinion that education is incomplete without social service which trains one in sharing and caring. Education is pure knowledge and social service is applied knowledge. That is why the Crowther Commission of UK defined education as social service. This experience later on was found useful when I served the old age homes and the educational institutions of Andhra Mahila Sabha founded by Durgabai Deshmukh, the doyen among social workers. Social service is one of the lessons life taught me.

ASU: Now would you please tell something about your career as a lecturer?

IVCR: In 1946 there was a great demand for English lecturers in many colleges in India. They used to offer lecturer’s post without the candidate having to apply for it. They would write to the universities and get the names of toppers. I received offers from Hislop College of Nagpur, University College of Rajasthan and MR College of Vizianagaram. I opted for Hislop College of Nagpur, my own university place. Later on in the same year I got a chance and moved over to WG College, Bhimavaram, in my domicile district.

Learning of my resignation from the Nagpur job, Dr Pattabhi Sitaramayya commented: ‘You have done a foolish thing. You should have continued there. No Andhra will be recognised in Andhra.’ Anyway, I couldn’t retrace my step at that stage.

One thing I liked most about the Bhimavaram college was its rural atmosphere. It reminded me of the Gurukula ashram atmosphere. I was convinced that it is not the buildings that make a college and the four walls that make a classroom. Although I was the youngest of the faculty, I was a popular loved by students and colleagues.

After a brief stint at Bhimavaram, I joined the CRR College, Ellore (now Eluru), the district headquarters town and my place of domicile where we owned a house. At Ellore I closely associated myself with great artists like Banda Kanakalingeswara Rao and Harindranath Chattopadhyay.

After putting in 9 years of service at Ellore, in 1954 I applied for the post of Gazetted Lecturer advertised by the Andhra Public Service Commission. I was selected and placed first in order of merit among the English lecturers. My first government posting was at the Government Arts College, Rajahmundry.

ASU: Rajahmundry is a historical place with rich literary and cultural background. How did you benefit by this?

IVCR: While at Rajahmundry, I had the good fortune to be in the company of worthies like Col Raju (personal physician to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose) and Swami Nityabodhananda (President of Ramakrishna Math). By listening to them I learnt many things.

When Col Raju spoke about his experiences in the company of Netaji, I felt an irresistible urge to write about the lives of those great freedom fighters who gave their today for our tomorrow. Swami Nityabodhananda advised me not to omit a reference to our great literary and cultural traditions whenever I delivered a lecture on culture and literature. Hitherto I used to speak only about English writers and English literature. In response to his wise counsel I began to study our own Telugu and Sanskrit writers to restore balance to my literary labours. Thus I learnt and unlearnt many things in life. Every experience is a teacher.

In 1958-59 Swami Chinmayananda, the great spiritual leader visited Rajahmundry. By listening to him I learnt a great deal about the art and technique of speaking. There are no uninteresting subjects. There are only uninteresting speakers. Even a subject which is dry as dust and barren can be embellished, embroidered and made interesting to the audience. I also became convinced that Bhagavad Gita is one of the invaluable treasures of India, the noblest of scriptures and a guide for everyday living.

ASU: Being in government service, you must have been transferred from time to time?

IVCR: Yes. From Rajahmundry I was transferred to Cuddapah (now Kadapa) the heart of Rayalaseema. As usual I went with my family. A new life began. It was the Government Arts College, the only college in the district. Pulivendula and Jammalamadugu were notorious for factions and murders. But people were peaceful and law-abiding. Particularly students were disciplined. They had great respect for teachers. Even women teachers could manage the classes at a time when indiscipline stalked in many other places.

ASU: Any other memorable occasions while at Cuddapah?

IVCR: When I thought I would continue there for a couple of years, I received orders deputing me to the Central Institute of English, Hyderabad which was newly started with the British Council experts from England. It was then co-sponsored by the Ford Foundation of the USA. Obviously the Central Government thought that it would be more economical to get professors from England than to send us to England, in deviation from the old practice. We were 30 teachers selected from the different States of the Indian Union. Our expert professors were Brutan (Structures), Barron (Phonetics) and George (Methods).

ASU: How was the academic spirit at the Central Institute of English?

IVCR: We used to have Brains Trust session at weekends when the experts answered our questions and doubts. After one month, Prof VK Gokak, a reputed professor was appointed as Director. Brutan was designated Director of Studies. Prof Gokak handled my favourite subject of Literary Studies. Little I expected at that time that I would become the Registrar of the CIEFL afterwards. Today it is renamed English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU).

There was free discussion in the Brains Trust sessions. Sometimes experts used to differ from each other. Prof Gokak’s pronunciation was too Indian. Once when he spoke, Barron, the phonetics expert closed his ears with his hands. Then Gokak retorted ‘These English men know only the sound of English but not the sense.

At the end of the 4-month course they gave me a certificate in Structures, Phonetics, Methods and Literature.

ASU: How did you encourage your students to hone their reading, writing and speaking skills?

IVCR: I would relate a representative example when I was a lecturer at Rajahmundry. As President of the Metcalfe Union, I trained students in elocution and debates and sent them to the University to participate in the inter-collegiate competitions. Once when I selected a PUC (Pre-University Course, equivalent to the 12th Standard) boy for Andhra University competitions, the principal expressed fears about the boy’s ability to compete with university post-graduate students. I convinced him that the boy had real merit and it would at least give him valuable experience. To the surprise of everyone and satisfaction of the principal, he came out first and we won the shield.

Communication skills are essential for success in life. We should never dismiss people on the plea that they are too young and inexperienced. How can they gain experience unless they are provided opportunities?

I always advised my students to use simple language when they speak or write. Bombastic language (dressed up language) does not show scholarship. If obfuscation could be profundity, a clear statement might be superficiality! One could speak or write to express but not to impress.

ASU: When did you get into the post of a principal and how?

IVCR: An advertisement appeared in The Hindu from the Andhra Pradesh Public Service Commission calling for applications for the direct recruitment of principals for First Grade Colleges. It was for the first time that there was direct recruitment of principals. By God’s grace I was selected and placed first in the order of merit. Only three of us were selected.

On selection, I was posted to the SRR Government College at Karimnagar.

ASU: How was your stay at Karimnagar?

IVCR: It is my considered opinion that a college is not merely a citadel of learning and a centre of culture but also a launching pad of social service. The NCC and the Planning Forum were activated to take special interest in community development and rural service. Commendable work was done by students in this direction. I happened to be the only principal in the State to be appointed as secretary of the People’s Defence Committee for Karimnagar District during the critical period of Chinese invasion of India and the subsequent Pakistan aggression. So also I was the office-bearer of many cultural, service and sports organisations at Karimnagar.

Later on, I had the rare privilege of being the guest of honour and delivering the address at the Silver Jubilee of this noble institution. Again I had the signal honour of participating and speaking at the Golden Jubilee Celebration. Although I am 89, I look forward to the opportunity of attending the Diamond Jubilee! The college has a central place in my heart. I learnt many things from my association with it, always enjoying the blessings of Sri Raja Rajeswara, the presiding deity of Vemulawada after whom the college is named.

ASU: Karimnagar was a vibrant district politically. How did you get on from this angle?

IVCR: I appreciate the culture of the local politicians. They had great respect for teachers. In spite of their political rivalries among themselves, they gave full support to officers. PV Narasimha Rao, J Chokka Rao and KV Narayana Reddy – all these ministers extended unstinted cooperation to me.

ASU: The literary giant and Jnana Pith Awardee Viswanatha Satyanarayana had also been the principal of the same college...?

IVCR: Kavi Samrat Viswanatha Satyanarayana was my illustrious predecessor. Way back when I was a lecturer at Bhimavaram in 1946 we invited and felicitated him. And as recently as 6th June 2012, I had the good fortune of attending and presiding over a book launch on Viswanatha at Karimnagar. I am also happy that on the dais were Dr V Kondal Rao, a leading educationist and patron of letters and who had been my colleague at Karimnagar as Vice Principal; and Prof Anumandla Bhoomaiah (my old student at the same college), who rose to be the Vice Chancellor of PS Telugu University.

ASU: Could I interrupt here for a while to briefly know about your other students as well who made it to prominent positions?

IVCR: I feel proud to have a galaxy of old students who have made a mark in their lives, like – VS Rama Devi, former Governor of Karnataka & Himachal Pradesh; CS Rao, film director & writer; KVK Raju, founder of the Nagarjuna group of companies; Dr P Venugopala Rao, Professor in Emory University (Atlanta); Dr V Narayana Rao, Professor in Wisconsin University; Anantha Swamy, who became the Vice Chancellor of Osmania University. My students, who are now in their seventies never forget me. They are my visiting cards.

ASU: Where else did you serve as principal?

IVCR: I worked for a long and memorable period (1961-1969) in Karimnagar when Government decided to transfer me. Sri PV Narasimha Rao, the then Education Minister, expressed his desire to take me into administration as Deputy Director of Public Instruction. For the first time, the Department wanted to fill the post with an experienced principal. Initially I was reluctant to accept it as I preferred to be a principal so that I could put my signature on an educational institution. I requested the government to let me work as Principal. So I was posted as Principal, PR Govt College, Kakinada. I was proud to be the chosen Principal of one of the oldest of colleges in Andhra Pradesh, which incidentally was my alma mater.

This college had strength of 3,000 students with degree classes, Intermediate, an evening college, and an attached high school. There was indiscipline and it was unwieldy for the principal. Hence I had to take some drastic decisions – and finally succeeded in delinking the Intermediate classes and the High School wing and transferring them to the newly constituted managements.

Now as things were proceeding smoothly, the Department of Education once again offered me the post of Deputy Director of Public Instruction which remained unfilled. The College Teachers Association of which I was the unanimously elected President for two terms advised me to accept it. The College Teachers Association consisted of principals, lecturers, tutors and demonstrators of the entire State of Andhra Pradesh.

ASU: And how was your experience as Deputy Director?

IVCR: Being the only Dy Director for the entire State of Andhra Pradesh, I had state-level jurisdiction. Of course, the Director had overall supervision. I liked the work. As I was easily accessible and courteous, I was popular with the principals, lecturers and the support staff. My work became smooth because the section superintendents were efficient and the UDCs and LDCs were dutiful. I used to motivate them through positive strokes. One can attract but not extract cooperation.

One of my duties was to attend the Legislative Assembly along with the Education Secretary to be available to the Education Minister with the files concerned in the Question Hour so that he could answer the questions put to him. Sri PV Narasimha Rao as Education Minister used to answer the questions without asking us to show the files. We had to feed the others with relevant information. PV was a genius.

While being in the department I had the occasion to undergo a brief orientation programme in administration at the Administrative Staff College of India. The programme was conceived by the foresighted Prof Ravada Satyanarayana, Vice Chancellor of Osmania University for the Professors and Readers. It was a good decision. Without any pride, Prof Ravada too attended the classes. He was taking notes now and then. The College gave us useful reading material on aspects like management and leadership. I derived maximum benefit by attending the course. I am always a student, eager to learn.

ASU: Did you bring about any innovations while being in administration of education?

IVCR: We brought in quite a few innovations which later on came to be adopted for the entire country when PV Narasimha Rao became the Minister for the newly created HRD. Our special schools in Andhra Pradesh gave a cue to the Navodaya Schools. The UGC Academic Staff Colleges were inspired by our own Collegiate Cell, which was the first of its kind in teacher training at higher education level. Autonomous Colleges are modelled upon the pattern of our Silver Jubilee College, Kurnool. Thus our educational schemes in Andhra Pradesh served as models for adoption at national level. Andhra Pradesh can claim legitimate pride for these educational innovations.

ASU: What associated engagements did you have as an administrator?

IVCR: I was often invited by the NCERT, Delhi to participate in their programmes conducted in Delhi, Nagpur, Hyderabad and other places. I also took part in the meetings of the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA), Delhi. I was examiner for IAS, UPSC and other examinations. This gave me ample exposure at the Delhi level.

ASU: Post-retirement, did you take up any academic or administrative assignments?

IVCR: I retired from government in 1978. I did not get a single promotion in Government service. Only by direct recruitment and selection by competition, I rose to higher positions. But Government always honoured me. Finally it selected me for the prestigious award, Pratibha Rajiv Puraskaram for 2009.

Going back to your question, I got quite a few good offers soon after my retirement. And I opted to be the Registrar of the Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages – CIEFL (now EFFLU), a deemed central university - for it related to my subject and as the posting was in Hyderabad. I enjoyed unstinted cooperation from the professors and the teaching staff because I was associated with the Institute from its inception.

ASU: Did you take up any regular assignments after the CIEFL tenure?

IVCR: I was into a couple of things afterward.

I was director of the Vivekananda Institute of Management, a private management training institute started by my friend Dr V Kondal Rao. It was a unique experiment in that though it didn’t have regular staff, it had excellent guest faculty drawn from prestigious institutes like Administrative Staff College of India, Open University, and Osmania University. I took classes in the subject of Communication. It proved to be a successful experiment. Although the degree was not recognised by our University, our students were employed by prestigious private companies who prefer knowledge and skills to paper degrees. Some of them became entrepreneurs by starting their own industries and businesses. The secret of the success of our Institute was that it was affiliated to the Newport University, which awarded the degrees. The President of the American university came to India to preside over the Convocation. It was a creative experience off the beaten track. This was a forerunner to our Government decision later on to invite foreign universities to India so that competition will raise the standards of teaching and research. In this context, I can say that our accreditation with the Newport University was an experiment in the right direction.

ASU: What was the other assignment you accepted?

IVCR: On the initiative of Chief Minister NT Rama Rao, an apex body called Commissionerate of Higher Education was established to monitor the working of all the educational institutions of higher education including the universities. Though the High Court ruled against it on a writ petition by the Osmania University Teachers Association, the intended purpose was soon after served with the UGC coming up with a similar idea in the name of State Council of Higher Education to supervise the working of all universities and other institutions for each State. I played my role both as Advisor in the Commissionerate of Higher Education; and as Member-Secretary of the committee constituted to determine the modalities of the first State Council of Higher Education in Andhra Pradesh. We advised the Government and drafted the Constitution. Today the Council is functioning smoothly.

ASU: What are your present journalistic activities?

IVCR: A retired man is a free soul. He can enjoy complete freedom or take up any of the three categories of work – (1) Full-time work, (2) Part-time work, (3) Own-time work. I wanted to take up book-writing or journalism for a change. It was fulfilled when they offered me the chief editorship of Triveni, probably the oldest literary and cultural English quarterly in the country. Triveni, started in 1927, has an illustrious history. It was founded by Sri Kolavennu Rama Koteswara Rao, well-known freedom fighter and journalist. Mahatma Gandhi was regularly reading it. Dr S Radhakrishnan was the Chairman of the Advisory Committee. Sri Aurobindo wrote the first poem, ‘Shiva’. Jawaharlal Nehru, C Rajagopalachari, Sir CP Ramaswami Iyer, Rt Hon’ble Srinivasa Sastry, Harindranath Chattopadhyay, Sarojini Naidu, VK Gokak and such celebrities were its contributors. The journal ran into difficulties because of drastic decline in the readership taste. The new generation of readers wanted glamour and glitz! In England also journals like John O’ London, London Mercury, Athenium and even Punch had to fold up.

All the issues of Triveni from 1928 onwards were digitized and put on the web for free access to readers anywhere in the world. We are seriously thinking of making it an e-journal for the convenience of international readership. I have been the editor of this prestigious journal for the last 20 years.

ASU: Are you the editor of any other magazines or journals?

IVCR: Yes, I have also been editing a monthly newsletter of the Association for the Care of the Aged, the Twilight Life for the last 15 years. Earlier we called it Senior Citizen... Our Association was adjudged the best in India by the Federation of Old Age Homes in Pune. We received a shield, citation and a cash prize. Our Association has a membership of one thousand as on today. Three times we stood first in the country.

I also look after the English section of Aradhana, a bilingual monthly magazine, run by the Endowment Department of Andhra Pradesh where my articles regularly appear.

I am also the Chairman of the Editorial Board, Andhra Mahila Sabha for all its publications. Andhra Mahila Sabha was founded by the prominent social worker Durgabai Deshmukh. While the history of Andhra Mahila Sabha was written in two volumes by Durgabai Deshmukh herself, the third volume (1979-2011) – The Stone That Speaketh - brought out under my editorship was released on 26th January 2012.

ASU: Could you relate something about your writing output?

IVCR: Beginning 1969 up to 2011 I have written over 30 books of different types in addition to a number of articles. Some of them deal with the lives of great patriots and freedom fighters. Some of them deal with culture and ethical values which should inspire and motivate the youth, particularly the students who are our future citizens. A few books deal with the various topics of education which will be source of information and methodology to the teachers and educational administrators. There are books on Adi Sankara, Satya Sai and other spiritual leaders. Subjects like Swami Vivekananda are a source of perennial inspiration to the young and the old.

ASU: It appears that with your serene and positive vibes, you must have been a role model to quite many?

IVCR: The world is not a parking space but a racing track. We are on a swiftly moving conveyor belt without enough time to think. As such I might have taken some wrong decisions in life. Being not deeply informed in financial matters, I am not a model. I could not rise to the expectations of my own people. But they never found fault with me, at least openly. I had no desire for prominence, dominance and affluence.

On the whole, I am a cheerful man, an extrovert. I derive pleasure in company, although occasionally I wish to be alone. Solitude is not loneliness. Loneliness hurts but solitude fulfils.

ASU: How come you lost your right eye? Haven’t you felt it as a handicap, for eye is a most important organ?

IVCR: It was when I was principal at Karimnagar. I was returning from a trip to Mysore, unaccompanied. On the way I stopped for a cup of coffee when a soda bottle burst at a nearby kiosk. A flying splinter shot into my right eye piercing the iris. The doctors led by Dr Siva Reddy did their best but in vain. Being an incurable optimist, I remembered what Milton said about his blindness: ‘My eyes are not lost. They have turned inwards.’ I lost my sight in one eye but gained insight. The left eye took the entire load without complaint during these 44 years in spite of its suffering from cataract for a short while.

My surgical trysts were to continue – for thyroid, for urine blockage, for enlargement of the prostate. When I was principal at Kakinada, my left hand fractured when I ventured to take part in a running race!

These temporary reversals of health are testing times. It is only a question of mind over matter. We have to roll on.

ASU: May I venture to say that with your one-eyed vision, you are in the rare company of doughty souls like Moshe Dayan and MAK Pataudi?

IVCR: Oh, thanks for the compliment. Those two are a class apart, indeed, and a great source of inspiration.

ASU: You have vast experience as a teacher and administrator. From that position, you should be having your own ideas or suggestions to strengthen our education system...

IVCR: All education should aim at cultivating independent and original thinking. Teaching should not be a one-way method but an interactive process. While most of the inputs are common in a vast majority of the countries, no country should ignore its own essential ethos and basic strength. While science & technology are the strong point of the West, culture and philosophy are the strong point of India. It doesn’t however mean that they should be mutually exclusive. It only emphasises the bottle in which the wine of knowledge is to be stored, conveyed and tasted.

Demands of the society are changing in the flux of the times. Hence when the Central Government is introducing sweeping reforms in higher education, the State Councils of Higher Education should convene State-level seminars and convey the consensus to the Government. Unfortunately no such democratic action is taken. Reforms are being announced by the Union Education Ministry arbitrarily. There is no culture of consultation.

Education also needs to be liberated from the clutches of politicians and bureaucrats. There is a need to revive the Indian Education Service (IES), which existed until 1947, and make it autonomous. The sagacious Js MC Chagla, as Union Education Minister tried his best to revive the IES, but his efforts came to nought. The Kothari Commission too revived this recommendation but it too ended in a cry in the wilderness.

ASU: Why is it that, of late, there are few takers for the humanities, art subjects and literature? Is there a need to correct the trend?

IVCR: While specialisation and material priorities are welcome, that shouldn’t lead to compartmentalised perceptions. Every educated person should have a holistic attitude and vision and that it would be possible only when the other subjects of importance are also made part of curriculum by way of add-on or integrated courses. It’s worth recalling in this context what the Kothari Commission had to say in this regard. The report appropriately titled ‘Education and National Development’ states that the principal object of higher education is “to deepen man’s understanding of the Universe, of himself, the body, mind and spirit, to disseminate understanding throughout society and apply it in the service of mankind.

ASU: How to inculcate morality and a sense of responsibility among college students?

IVCR: I am of the opinion that though value-based education is needed at all the levels, the right time for it is the impressionable age at the school level.

There need not be a separate moral science subject or a separate teacher for it. Every teacher should do something to inculcate values. Every teacher should identify an opening in his subject, be it a science or art, and appropriately try to inculcate values then and there. Inputs from books like the Lives of Scientists by Thomas & Thomas may be drawn upon. Discussions, debates and extension lectures can also be organised on these aspects. Though the reports of all the Committees and Commissions on education right from Dr S Radhakrishnan’s (1947-48) have laid an emphasis on this score, it is regrettable that no government has cared to implement the recommendations – obviously owing to their misconception of values and morals in the name of secularism.

This highlights the imperativeness for the politicians to correct their attitude to morality which will be possible only when education is depoliticised. As early as 1947-48 the Radhakrishnan Commission considered that “our Universities must be released from the control of politics.” Dr. Zakir Hussain, the former President of India too pitched in when he said “Politics has a strong presence in education but very little education is found in politics.” It is an open secret that the rumpus on the campuses today is due to politicization of education.

The New Education Policy Document of 1986 under the ‘Role and Essence of Education’ stated that ‘Education has a cultural role. It should refine sensitivities and perceptions that contribute to national cohesion, a scientific temper and independence of mind and spirit.’ Still earlier the Wardha Education Conference held under the Chairmanship of Gandhi ji, the Committee of Members of Parliament on National Policy on Education, the Sri Prakasa Committee (1959), and the Sampoornananda Committee (1961) placed a premium on value oriented education – but no government took care to implement the findings. Its callous and continued neglect has brought us to the present day rampant corruption and drastic decline in ethics.

ASU: Coming to our educational curriculum do you think it is in tune with the demands of the present times? Or do you feel a need for any drastic changes in the paradigm of our educational system?

IVCR: It is admitted on all hands that the present curriculum is certainly out of tune with the demands of present times. Science & technology are no doubt important but they should be balanced by culture and ideas of national integration more so because of fissiparous tendencies and political corruption that are raising their ugly head. Education should be oriented to promote original thinking, assimilation of ideas, and continuity of national ethos rather than cramming the information and memorization. The present scenario of “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” needs to be changed to ensure that we have modern science and technology with a human face. Anyway all these pious things are a common thread in the reports of the plethora of Commissions and Committees on education with each one of them reiterating what has already been observed and recommended by its predecessor. But all these reports have been gathering dust in the lockers of the bureaucrats in Delhi. Our education is thus a clear case of Niagara of Reports and Sahara of action. If only the government is really serious it has to show its political will to implement the core of their essence.

ASU: How do you feel about old age and retired people?

IVCR: Retirement is a blessing for real maturity and maximum efficiency are reached only after sixty. Retirement is, therefore, not a terminal point. It is a starting point, a joyous experience of social good and a pleasant journey towards the winning post of self-fulfilment and self-realization. It is a launching pad into a new life. It is wrong to think that one’s warranty has expired. One can expect to enjoy leisurely the activities of the day and entertainments of the evening. If one is in real need to supplement one’s pension, one can accept work with alternative modalities.

ASU: Even at this age you let yourself a hectic schedule? How do you squeeze in your leisure?

IVCR: Even today, I am kept busy with my missionary work of teacher training. Some of my friends humorously call me ‘The High Priest of Teacher Training’. Universities and colleges use my services. My post-retirement life appears to be more productive than my service life. I do not believe in old age. Age is arterial, not chronologic.

My idea of leisure is not having no work to do. That is idleness. Leisure is to have a break from one type of work and shifting our attention to another type of work. Monotony in any form debilitates the mind. Change rejuvenates the mind.

From 9:30 pm to 11 pm I enjoy listening to music – classical and light – on transistor in my bed. I get up fairly early and the regular walk and meditations I do keep me cool and balanced.

ASU: What is your philosophy of life?

IVCR: I have had my own share of sorrows and setbacks in life. We should affiliate ourselves with causes that work towards the welfare of the society. If we cast our bread on the waters, unpredictable rewards will be ours. There will be unlimited opportunities if only we are alert to the next big chance.

ASU: Thank you, sir, for the time you’ve kindly spared. It was an edifying experience to meet and listen to a sagely personality like you.

IVCR: My pleasure. May God bless you! And all the best to Muse India!



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