Writer Ravuri Bharadwaja was a simple man who rose to great heights.
“The inspiration to establish the first Open University in the country is that renowned writer and producer of AIR, Dr. Ravuri Bharadwaja” said Bhavanam Venkatram, the then Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, during the inauguration of the Open university ( the present Dr.B.R.Ambedkar Open University) on 26 August 1982. Bharadwaja had presented 50 to 60 books to Venkatram when the latter was a Minister. Venkatram was amazed: there were novels, short story collections, handy ones on science and technology and some translations; all these by Bharadwaja who had no formal education beyond 7th class, due to dire poverty. Thus came the impetus to provide an academic platform for those who could not afford it when young. After the inauguration, Bharadwaja sent some money to the Chief Minister as donation, to help all those unfortunate ones who missed formal education!
K.A.Abbas found similarities between Bharadwaja and Maxim Gorky; M.Chalapati Rao placed him in the company of Honore` de Balzac. What made Bharadwaja, the author he was? This writer had the pleasure of sharing a room with Bharadwaja at All India Radio, Hyderabad for a few years.
Bharadwaja used to say that he received all his profound non-academic education from three teachers: Hunger, Need and Shame. He left school when he was caned for wearing torn clothes, on the day of the school inspection. He threw the cane along with his worn out books, never to return. A few days later his father beat asked him to get out of home. Bharadwaja found shelter under trees and on the banks of the local pond at Thadikonda village, in Guntur district. “I found water to be a staple food, on more than one occasion,” he would recollect.
He did sundry jobs involving hard labour as a labourer, coolie or a petty assistant. Yet Bharadwaja was very firm. When he was heckled for his lack of the ability to understand poetry or compose it, he decided to learn. He went to the local library but could not borrow any book as he could not afford the membership fee. A friend, Kolluri Koteswara Rao helped Bharadwaja to pay the three rupees to the library. He would borrow books; take them to the local temple where he used to rest during nights. Incidentally Bharadwaja dedicated his Jnanpith award –winning novel Paakudu Raallu to Koteswara Rao, as a matter of gratitude. Bharadwaja’s gratitude extended to naming his four sons and a daughter after his benefactors. He named his daughter Padmavathi in memory of Paddakka, a Dalit woman who fed him during his starvation days.
His search for livelihood took him to many places. . On 15th August 1947, he had water from Penna at Nellore, for lunch, for he was short of 2 Annas (equivalent to 12 paise) to have a meal. He came to Hyderabad in April 1959, to work for the monthly ‘Yuva’ and stayed put in the city till his end.
With the help of Tripuraneni Gopichand, Bharadwaja joined All India Radio, Hyderabad as a script writer and rose to become a Producer. AIR stabilized him despite some indifferent senior officers .He worked very hard, in the process acquiring a sizeable library. During his early days at the station, one evening he was chastised by the Director. The same night the Director passed away suddenly. Bharadwaja said the incident taught him to understand the frailty of human life and the need to be humble. He was very serious about work. He was very punctual and rarely took leave of absence. “Work doesn’t kill; to be successful one should know everything about the job assigned and handle emergencies,” he'd say.
He had a great sense of humour. We had a new entrant with lot of airs about him. His room had a thatched portico. Bharadwaja used to go near the thatched shed and touch a protruding bamboo in mock benevolence claiming that the bamboo improves knowledge, as it had done in the case of our new colleague. He was also very considerate. He made it a point to help, whenever he found someone in need and he would do it silently.
Bharadwaja was very much attached to his wife Kantamma.He was in the habit of telling her all that happened every day and also of chronicling it all in his diaries, since 1956. Paakudu Raallu(Once he was annoyed with this writer and shot out a letter with the remark: ’I wrote in my diary of your indifference’).
He was very tender at heart and childlike in temperament.
He had an emotional bond with AIR, Hyderabad. He used to visit the Station on the date he joined it every November. The station would miss his visits from this November on. But he would be remembered as the simple man who became special!