Rare honour for 69-yr.-old writer

GULBARGA May 22. The achievement of 69-year-old Vasant Rao is a shining example of how perseverance can help one achieve distinctions in the literary field.

Mr. Rao, popularly known as Appaji Patil, has won the award instituted by the Ministry of Human Resource Development for Hindi writers living in non-Hindi speaking areas for his maiden work, "Aatma Bodha," for 2002-03. Mr. Rao was a reputed contractor and an architect before foraying into the literary scene.

Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Rao said he did not have the benefit of formal schooling during his childhood as there were no schools in Nagore, his native village in Bidar, where he was born. Also, the conditions prevailing at that time made schooling a luxury as the oppressive Nizam regime prevented people from getting educated in the language of their choice. The atrocities committed by Razakaars, the private army of the Nizam, unsettled his family life.

Yet, Mr. Rao has mastered several languages. He can read and write Sanskrit, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, English, and Urdu. Ask about his multilingual ability and pat comes the reply: "It is God's gift".

Mr. Rao, who helps his son, Ravindra Patil, an urologist, in running a pharmacy at the Urology Hospital here, says that it took him three months to write the book. "Aatma bodha" deals with the degeneration of standards in modern-day life. He says the epics — Ramayana and Mahabharatha — inspired him to write the book in which he tries to place characters and events from the two epics in the present day context.

Mr. Rao describes the honour conferred upon him by the Union Ministry as the recognition given to an illiterate who has documented his experiences by drawing from the epics to explain the ills facing the world today. The Prime Minister, A.B. Vajpayee, presented the award comprising a certificate, a sum of Rs. 50,000, and a shawl to Mr. Rao in New Delhi on April 30. The book is now being translated into English by a friend of Mr. Rao, Srinivas Rao, based in the U.S. and will be released shortly.

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