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More than a search for the roots

By K.V.S. Madhav

BANGALORE, DEC. 25. He lopped off a handful of rice, dipped it in ample quantity of `gongura' pachchadi and stuffed the heap in his mouth with passion. Nirvana. Helpings of Kakinada kaaja, som papdi and pootharekulu later, the young man smiled, "I just love Telugu food and can't get enough of this."

His family had flown miles all the way from Malaysia primed for the mother of all experiences, the quintessential Telugu experience.

A fourth generation Telugu in Malaysia, Sashi Kumar Rao was there with his grandmother, who herself was born in Malaysia and a second generation Telugu there, among the steady dribble of Telugus from all parts of the globe and the nation on the second day of the sixth biennial conference of the World Telugu Federation.

Telugu all the way

It being a holiday on account of Christmas weekend, hundreds of delegates from Chennai and parts of Andhra Pradesh too arrived to take part in the cultural extravaganza that unfolded.

The mood was Telugu and the moment Telugu. Many came in traditional `pancha kattu' with `kanduva' dangling from their shoulders and the air was thick with Telugu spoken in different accents. Politics, culture, art, USA, agriculture, prawn culture, business, Information Technology and last but not the least, forefathers' villages, the topics were myriad, but the spirit was essentially Telugu.

For the nostalgic non-resident Telugus and curious gen-Xers, this was not just a search for their roots, but also a closer look at the customs and the cultural moorings of the land.

As traditional `garagalu' artistes from Chittoor district swayed rhythmically in a circle, dads snapped pictures and youngsters watched wonder-eyed.

For them, this was living a Telugu dream nurtured for years. "I've heard about Andhra, but this is my first visit and I'm loving it," Sashi Kumar, pursuing computer engineering, said.

"We are here more for the language. On a platform like this, we can listen to all those sonorous sounds of the language and the beautiful art forms of the Telugu land," maintained S. Panti Naidu, an Indian expatriate from Malaysia.

Says a retired college principal from Suva, Fiji, Devendra Rao, "However orthodox we are, we cannot impose our views on children, more so when it comes to language. Yet, we are trying our best to sustain their interest in Telugu and occasions like this open up new worlds to the Telugus living abroad."

"I have lived all my life in Malaysia, but mention the word Andhra and there is a deep stirring in the heart. For me, Telugu is the way of life," said T. Venkatesh, a resident of Kaulalampur.

Telugu filmstar NTR Junior was the star attraction at the conference attracting wide attention.

"Let us make our children learn our language. Let them not become clones of Western lifestyles and practices. There cannot be a more sweet language than Telugu. It is white as milk and sweet as honey. The satisfaction of uttering the word `amma' cannot be replaced by mama and papa," he said amid applause.

Comedians' show

A host of popular Telugu film comedians along with Kannada and Telugu filmstar Saikumar regaled the audience with their performances.

From veena recitals to mythological plays, complete with those mellifluous and long-forgotten harmonium notes, Andhra's very own Kuchipudi, a veritable cultural feast treated the band of Telugu brothers.

Yes, some of them also managed to strike a few business deals at the end of the day.

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