FRIDAY REVIEW

A scholarly voice

Heady days P.T. Reddy’s self portrait with Yashoda Reddy.   | Photo Credit: Photo G. Krishnaswamy

SUMANASPATI

Yashoda Reddy, one of the main voices of Telugu culture, passed away.

Long before Vaikuntam’s iconic women became the rage of the art world, hers was the authentic voice of the Telangana woman: steeped in rural traditions, confident, humorous and hugely sentimental! In the 60s and the 70s people waited eagerly around their radio sets to listen to her chatty talks - to discover or rediscover and savour the beauty of the Telangana dialect. You could experience the rustic flavour of the region in all its lush fecundity in those 10 or 15 minutes. Yashoda Reddy’s death recently has robbed the Telugu world of a charmingly eloquent speaker, writer, teacher, scholar and researcher. She was a junior member of the generation which produced the great figures of modern cultural renaissance in Hyderabad and Telangana. Her husband P.T. Reddy was of course one of the pioneering figures of modern art in the country.

P.T. Reddy, who had returned to Hyderabad after his study at J.J. School of Art in Mumbai and working in Lahore in 1947, saw the young Yashoda speaking in chaste Telugu at a school function, and was thoroughly smitten. That led to a remarkable marriage. The two were as different as chalk and cheese but the way they nourished each other’s creativity is a remarkable story.

P.T. Reddy’s steadfast encouragement saw her completing her BA and MA in Telugu studying under eminent teachers at Osmania University. Soon she served as lecturer, reader and professor. Her PhD thesis Telugulo Harivamsamlu in which she examined the poetic rewriting of the Hari Vamsa Purana from Sanskrit into Telugu by classical poets like Errapragada, Nachana Somana and a few others is a highly respected scholarly work. She was the Chairperson of the A.P. Official Language Commission from 1990 to 1993.

Apart from numerous scholarly and popular books and papers on language, culture and classical Telugu literature, Yashoda Reddy’s fame rests on her numerous talks on radio and two published collections in Telangana dialect: Mavoori Muchchatlu and Echchamma Katahalu.

She contributed greatly to the Tantric phase of P.T. Reddy’s work by reading along with him and expounding on relevant ancient and medieval Sanskrit and Telugu texts. They also collaborated on a still unpublished set of remarkable lithographs illustrating Kama Sutra of Vatsyayayna, Ananga Ranga and Koka Shastra along with texts beautifully handwritten by P.T. Reddy.

After the death of P.T. Reddy in 1996 and till her last years, she took great pride in conducting visitors through the three floors of their remarkable residence cum gallery housing his mammoth art and sculptural output. P.T. Reddy Art Museum (also called Sudharma) is on the YMCA - Narayanguda road. Lovingly designed and built by P.T. Reddy himself, the front side galleries of the museum are now under threat of demolition due to road widening. But Lakshmi Reddy, their adopted daughter, who is herself a trained artiste and teaches art and design at S.V. College of Fine Arts, Madhapur is committed to preserving the legacy of her parents and make it a popular destination.