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An extraordinary gentleman

K.S.S. SESHAN
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Tribute Writer, educator, scholar, poet, and critique C.R. Reddy left an indelible mark. K.S.S. SESHAN

Life less ordinary C.R. Reddy Photo: C.V. Subrahmanyam
Life less ordinary C.R. Reddy Photo: C.V. Subrahmanyam

A t a time when western educated Indian intellectuals of the early 20th century were more interested in getting into the British bureaucracy for power and pelf, Cuttamanchi Ramalinga Reddy, a doyen among luminaries from the state, followed his heart and plunged into varied spheres like education, administration and politics and succeeded in every field that he chose. The diversity of interests at various stages of his life proved to be both his strength as well as weakness. He had the zest and passion to dabble in whatever he thought was right and challenging. In many of these pursuits, he was highly successful and left an indelible mark. However, as an educational administrator, his name still remains almost legendary in the south.

Early years

C.R. Reddy as he was familiarly known, was a writer, scholar, poet, critique, debater, orator, teacher, administrator, legislator and above all a fine human being. Born in Kattamanchi, a suburb of Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh on December 10, 1880, he had a brilliant academic career.

Having finished his school education in his hometown, he went to Madras Christian College for graduation. After winning a government scholarship, he went to Cambridge where he was elected as vice-president of the Union society, the first Indian to hold that post. After obtaining a first class in History Tripos, he returned to India to become the vice-Principal of Maharaja's College, Baroda in 1908. From then on positions of power came in succession. As Inspector- general of Education in Mysore, he introduced far-reaching reforms.

The schools for the first time were opened to Dalits in the State. He then became the foundation Vice-chancellor of the newly established Andhra University in 1926. As vice -chancellor he set such high standards in every branch of University administration that his period has become the defining phase in the history of the University. What Ashutosh Mukherjee was to Calcutta University and what Madan Mohan Malaviya was to Benares Hindu University, C.R. Reddy was to the Andhra University.

He was a powerful writer and a skilled orator both in English and Telugu. His work, Kavithatathwa Vicharamu, was almost the last word on literary criticism. It stands testimony to his distinct style in Telugu literature. The values he stated in it and the perspectives he defined provide new insights into the élan of classicism.

The fervour and forthrightness in his works proved that the classical style of writing Telugu was more spontaneous, virile and crisp than the colloquial style of the moderns. His other works like Musalamma Maranamu and Arthika Thathwam also reflects his poetic skills and fertile imagination. Many pundits have paid him tribute for his interpretation of characters and passages in the Mahabharatha of which he was an ardent student.

His English writings were as noteworthy. Some of his published speeches in English have left a record of original thinking and mastery of style. His writings reflect his keen intellect, depth of knowledge and the range of his interests.

Quotable quotes

He had a unique gift of chiselling sentences and crafting new phrases. His random observations and one- liners have become almost bon mots and quotable quotes reflecting his colourful personality. He named the house he built in Chittoor as ‘Padma Prabasa'. C.R. Reddy passed away on February 24, 1951 in Chennai.

There is today, as never before, every need to remember and recall to the present generation the fearless spirit of individualism, the unblemished administrative acumen and the path- breaking literary traits of C.R. Reddy, worthy to be emulated.


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