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Fulfilment is his reward

What is the best reward for a teacher? It is the inexhaustible love of his/her students. The relationship between the teacher and the taught can be best described as the "union of souls brought together by love". In good old days, there was commitment on the part of both teachers and students. While the `guru' was aware of his duty to groom his `chelas' into good citizens, the latter were unfailing in their duty to learn and to treat their preceptor with respect.

That is the comment of the 92-year-old Chellapilla Sitarama Murti, who had retired as a lecturer in English from the Government Arts College, Cuddapah, in 1963. He is perturbed by the commercialisation of education, which has made most teachers shirk their duty, besides degrading their value. "During my long innings as a teacher, I had taught a number of students, some of whom had retired as college principals and IAS officers. They keep in touch with me even today and treat me with respect whenever we meet," he says with a sense of pride and fulfilment in his voice.

Sitarama Murti had a flair for writing right from his college days. In 1928, when the Brahmo Samaj founded by Raja Ram Mohun Roy celebrated its centenary, articles were invited from all over the country for the souvenir. "I was doing my B.A. then. I sent an article and it was duly acknowledged and published," he recalls.

He wrote an article, "The Maharaja, a pageant" for the shastipoorthi celebrations of the Pithapuram Maharaja in 1945. It was published in the souvenir. He also wrote articles on social reformers, Kandukuri Veeresalingam Pantulu and Raghupathi Venkataratnam Naidu. The latter had served as principal of the P.R. College, Kakinada, between 1905 and 1929.

"Venkataratnam Naidu used to give away almost all his earnings to poor students, keeping aside a small amount for his expenses. Once a young woman, who was said to be of a easy virtue approached him for help, Naidu gave her all the money he had. When someone questioned his wisdom in helping such a woman, he replied: `Condemn the sin but not the sinner'."

He considers V. Ramakrishna Rao, principal of the P.R. College as his first guru. "I was his student and later became his personal assistant".

Born at Peddapuram in East Godavari district on November 13, 1908, Sitarama Murti had his early schooling at the AELM High School. He did his Intermediate at P.R. College during 1924-26 and B.A. from Andhra University in 1926-28. He sat for the M.A. examination from Nagpur University privately and secured the first rank. After his retirement in 1963, he was reappointed as lecturer in Govt. Engineering College, Kakinada, where he served for a year.

He was again made lecturer and Head of the Department of English in C.S.R. Sarma College, Ongole, in 1964. He was appointed the foundation principal of Ideal College, Kakinada, in 1970, where he served for two years.

A close associate of the noted Vedic scholar, Sribashyam Appalacharyulu, for the last three decades, Sitarama Murti said: "It was Sribashyam who turned my mind towards religious literature and I consider him as my guru and `path finder' though he is 12 years younger to me."

During 1975-76, he used to take notes of the lectures of Sribashyam in Telugu on `Tiruppavai' . He later rendered `Tiruppavai' into English. The English version was published by the Tirumala-Tirupati Devasthanams. He also rendered Sribashyam's Telugu lectures on `Valmiki Ramayanam' in English.

He wrote 22 articles on "Women in Valmiki Ramayana" in English and translated them into Telugu. The articles were published in TTD's magazine `Saptagiri'. He rendered Sri Venkateswara Suprabhatam in English in the early 1980s and the same was published by TTD.

His other works include: `Hanuman - A study', episodes from Srimadbhagavatam, `Rama - A human personality' (English version of Sribashyam's discourse on the subject), studies on the Ramayana, `Vibishna Sarangati', `Aditya Hrudayam' and `Seven Hills of Tirumala - Seven cantos of Ramayana'.

Sitarama Murti came to the city10 years ago and stayed with his son, Somasundara Rao, who retired recently as the Professor of History in Andhra University. A regular evening walker to VUDA Park, he says: "Retired persons from different professions and backgrounds used to come to the park and we soon formed a senior citizens fraternity. We exchange thoughts, celebrate birthdays and participate in get-togethers." He is all praise for one of the members of the fraternity, Ayub Khan, a freedom-fighter who had participated in the freedom movement but refuses to accept the concessions being extended by the Government.

At his ripe age, he stands erect and his eyesight and hearing faculties are remarkably good. What keeps him hale and hearty? "I have done my duty to the full and that thought gives me immense satisfaction. It keeps me fit," he quips with a beaming smile.

B. M.G.

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