Gurajada’s diaries throw light on the changing trends in social and linguistic spheres.

A widely acclaimed writer, Gurajada Venkata Apparao (1862-1915) was the harbinger of the modern era in Telugu literature. The credit for launching the movement for spoken dialect in 1911 goes to him along with Gidugu Venkata Ramamurthi (1863-1940).

Gurajada’s famous drama Kanya Sulkam depicts the evil of bride purchase. His patriotic song Desmante (‘never does land/mean clay and sand/the people, the people/they are the land’ (Translation by Sri Sri) reverberates even today everywhere. His debut story Diddubatu (1910), which speaks of a housewife reforming her husband, is the first of its genre.

Historical source

Personal diaries, apart from providing an insight into the individual’s personality, serve as a base for historical overview. Anandarangam Pillai’s diaries, for instance, are a valuable source for history scholars looking into the early period of East India Company in the Madras Presidency. Gurajada’s diaries throw light on the changing trends in social and linguistic spheres. The apparently casual scribbles convey significant, even vital, information, not recorded elsewhere. It is unfortunate that his diaries pertaining to the period 1906-13 could not be traced.

The diaries (in English) were acquired in 1946 by the Prajasakthi Publishing House, which got them translated into Telugu by Avasarala Surya Rao and published them, later turned the manuscripts over to the Andhra Pradesh State archives. In a painstaking effort, Pennepalli Gopalakrishna, editor of this volume, went through the original manuscripts and provided footnotes to the entries. Reputed writers like K.V. Ramana Reddy and Arudra have quoted extensively from Gurajada’s diary manuscripts.

Avid reader

Gurajada was an avid reader of newspapers, a good number of them, as evidenced by a diary entry listing the newspapers kept in his reading room; they include Amrita Bazaar, Bangalore Mail, Daily Post, and Madras Mail. Surprisingly, his interactions with celebrities such as Madan Mohan Malaviya and Rajaji find only a passing mention. Similarly, the death of Ananda Gajapati, an occurrence that caused profound grief to him, is referred to in just one sentence.

Among the several entries that speak to his keen sense of observation and attitude to life are the ones containing statements like: “Sunken eyebrows express cruelty”; and “When I am incapable of doing any work, I do not care to live.”

His abiding interest in literature, art, and sculpture comes across sharply when he expresses his admiration for Kalidasa’s penchant for rustic beauty after reading Sakuntalam and refers to his visit to the Kolkata museum (on December 3, 1900). How unrelenting he was when it came to securing source material for research is seen from the fact that he approached Lord Durrell, the Librarian of Imperial Library, and the Professor of History in the University of Paris for assistance in this regard.

Gurajada’s diaries provide a platform for evaluating his revolutionary ideas and reforms, and in a way testify to his achievements in the social and literary realms.

DIARIES OF GURAJADA: Edited by Pennepalli Gopalakrishna; Government of Andhra Pradesh, O.M.L&RI, O.U. Campus, Hyderabad-500007. Rs. 100.

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