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He writes for self-edification

"Why do I write? Because I want to enlighten myself mainly and then the reader. By writing I am able to transfer knowledge. "Of course, there are welcome fringe benefits like recognition - Every passer by says, 'There goes Bharago. Have you read his latest book?' - and money. Quite an enjoyable occupation! While I write with a commitment, I entertain with my soul-interest: music! "Did you hear my 116 Telugu film songs compilation? You have? Don't you think it is a great work? Since you belong to the 1950s generation, you must have found at least half the songs to your liking? Which song did you enjoy most? Let us hum it. Oh, you heard my Saigal songs on the TV? You thought my voice was good? Do you know, I insert some detail or the other of a song into my stories, and people call me up to find out the sources and the background information of these songs. I am the happiest when I am discussing music.

"I think I have answered all your enquiries already. Have you any more? Give me a few minutes. I have to coordinate a small matter over the telephone. Just look at these books brought out by me

through Jyeshta Literary Trust in the meantime...."

That was the cascade of words from Bhamidipati Ramagopalam - the popular writer of short stories in Telugu and fondly called 'Bharago' - whom this scribe met recently. His interests, apart from story writing and music, revolve around people in general. He has developed a wide range of contacts in the past 40-odd years and uses them to promote the literary field. The book he bid me to browse is an analytical study of his works compiled by S. Suvarna Lakshmi as a thesis presentation.

Telugu writers of repute have praised his works in this book, and nowhere does the praise seem inapt. Bharago again, after answering the phone call: "My health does not permit me to move around much. I have this arthritis problem and can manage everything by telephone only. My wife is very cooperative. In fact I make her so. I am the king of the house, a dominating villain!"

The printing of his own books along with those of friends in his literary circle, who lack the knack of publishing skills, and marketing his music cassettes keep him busy all through the day.

"They also keep my spirit young. I forget pains while at work," he grins. One can understand the involvement. "How can any one curtail the excitement of a young boy whose story was read to the

entire class by his scholar-teacher - a story that was published in the highbrow literary Telugu magazine, 'Bharathi'?"

A family background of literary interests and the encouragement of a galaxy of teachers helped him reach this much-desired position in the field he loves so much. "Read, read and read is my only advice to the youth of today. We were inspired to write only because we read great authors like Somerset Maughm. You know something? I wanted to translate Cakes and Ale of Maughm. When I

wrote to him, he gave me complete rights of that book. He didn't want any share in the profits. For some reason, I couldn't do it. Had I done it, I would have been a rich man."

"Arent you?" I asked. "Well, richer perhaps!" He smiles again.

Money is important to Bharago. He makes no bones about it. "I write, you pay," he quips. His financial growth has been a difficult climb. "The hard way! But there was plenty of satisfaction in the process itself. Hard earned money always stays and satisfies. I have not much of property, no debts either. From my 16th year till date, I have grown from minus to plus. It gives me an immense sense of achievement."

There was a lot of integrity job-wise which he was known to convey as an ideal in almost all his stories. Much of it was said through satire and humour, a humour compared to likes of a Bernard Shaw, an Oscar Wilde, perhaps. He seemed to enjoy the comparison. The various literary honours bestowed on him in the past four decades have made him happy, but he is a complacent man, not ruffled or excited by bouquets or depressed by brickbats. "I handle the brickbats with humour. The ability to laugh at myself is my only weakness - or call it strength if you feel like."

'Itlu Mee Vidheyudu' can be called Bharago's magnum opus. It won him the prestigious Sahitya Akademi award. The values he practiced in life have been well conveyed in this book. "Don't

preach through your writings, especially political stances and half-baked solutions to social evils. Feminism, caste discrimination and cruelty all these are time-bound. They change according to the situation. Why shout through your stories about your strong feelings? Won't these shouts become mere whispers in due course, with no one paying attention? So why waste your breath?" A strong stuff indeed.

Bhamididipati Ramagopalam's final words in parting, "Poverty is a challenge, not a sin", leave you in undoubted admiration of this gutsy writer who tells it as it is, be it his opinion or the truth he believes in!

And what is that truth?

"This world is such a beautiful place! Can I leave this beauty behind when I die? Can I hear these beautiful songs in the other world? There are only three things in any world - Happiness, Beauty and Melody. We must find them wherever they are."

One wishes that one's truths could be that easily attainable!

There is no harm in trying!


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