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Humour is his armour, satire his attire

Avasarala Ramakrishna Rao.-- Photo: C.V. Surbrahmanyam

In teaching? Non-stop fun!

In writing? Evergreen pun!

Even at seventy-one

I enjoy being two-in-one!

His eyes twinkle in pure glee as he comes out spontaenously with the above four-liner describing himself.

A 'mini man with mega ideas' is the impression you would get if you meet Avasarala Ramakrishna Rao, a literary 'jack-of-all-trades' and master, too.

Teaching English has been his sustained vocation and writing in Telugu a cherished avocation. He has been pursuing both activities with relentless discipline and commitment for over five decades.

``My uninterrupted morning walks of the past 30 years are the secret of my energy,'' quips Dr. Ramakrishana Rao, a la the ad of a popular beverage. One can understand how the energy has flowed into the wide range of his works.

His numerous short stories, eagerly grabbed by Telugu weeklies and monthlies, have been brought out as anthologies---first appearing as serials in periodicals and later published in book form. His novels are read with gripping interest even now with the same popularity. The other works include a number of one-act plays, songs and poems for All India Radio and literary magazines, essays on mathematics and science.

Avasarala's feature 'Mathe-me-tricks' was carried regularly in the children's magazine, 'Bala Jyothi', with a silver jubilee run. Some of the parents, who read the feature as children, take out the preserved copies of those issues and show them to their offspring, and grandchildren on occasion, explaining the many intricate problems and solving them all over again along with them. It provides a great source of joy, learning experience and general knowledge even in these present times, where computer games and game shows dominate the scene. The only lamentation from the parent's side is that translating the whole thing into English takes away most of the fun.

His facility can be savoured only in Telugu, a language of his overall expression. ''I say 'savoured' because my works are full of subtle humour and pungent criticism and the comfort I enjoy with the language is either used to describe a rotten system or ridicule a person's idiosyncrasies. They are to be taken with a pinch of salt. Don't expect sweetness in my writings, even in poetry!'' he exclaims.

``Of course, we did get a taste of it in your 'Rasavadgita', a parody on pseudo-religion,'' I venture to say. So, what has he done to bring a reform in these injustices?

``An author can only bring about a change in his writings and thought-processes. In the last 40 years, I have tried to convert foolish faith to pragmatism, blind belief to reasoning. All my writings originate from my inner self and the message is purely personal. I don't moralise or preach, but do hope people mould their lives more practically.''

Anybody he admires among his peer-writers?

``Yes, Ranganayakamma and Volga.''

Both women! Why?

``The first, for leading a life of her own choice, and the second for telling what she feels with straightforwardness and clarity of expression. I have great respect for education in women and have highlighted this in my novel 'Sampengaloo Sannajajuloo'.''

Is that his best work?

``No, my most satisfying work has been the recent 'Peka Mukkalu', a compilation of the short stories published in various magazines over the past 52 years. These stories were written with a message of sorts and caringly picked for this pack. There are more than 100 stories still waiting to take a book-form, but 'Pekamukkalu' is an intense self-revelation.''

The list of felicitations and awards is impressive. But the ones Avasarala appreciates are 'Best Writer in Humour'-Telugu University 1994, Ugadi Puraskar-Delhi Telugu Academy 2000, felicitation by the Andhra Sanskriti Sangham, Chandigarh 2000.

How does he feel about the recognition acquired so far?

``Not very satisfied. There is still so much that I have to achieve. I am not talking of the awards and accolades showered over writers in general. There are things like wanting a song written by me to be sung by a famous singer; a novel made into a movie perhaps by a tasteful young director''

Why young?

``Because the older generation has already used up the popular writers who were money-spinners. They didn't want any of us integrated lot, who could not tune in with their demands. The youth now seems to focus on values and tradition, but tell it through media in a more acceptable form. May be we oldies will stand a better chance with them!''

Currently writing a column 'Angrezi-Made-Easy' for a leading Telugu daily, Avasarala puts in a lot of research into this work of his and tells us the origin of the English word by the usage of Telugu word-play. An interesting column by all means!

His untiring literary prowess extends to 'India Today', too and he regularly contributes book-reviews and a feature called 'Sebhashitalu' in this weekly.

'Ganitha Visarada', which appeared as a children's serial, is coming out shortly in novel-form to tickle the taste buds of all his readers.

Looking at his vast range of works and infected by the rhyming pun so effortlessly inserted into every sentence Avasarala writes and speaks, one can only say in conclusion through an inspired couplet:

All in one!

Second to none!


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