Unique effort to preserve Telugu fiction

SRIKAKULAM, NOV. 30. "Kadhanilayam", the abode of story, is a unique effort to preserve the Telugu fiction in all its manifestations to posterity. The noted writer and Kendra Sahitya Academy award recipient, Mr Kalipatnam Rama Rao, has taken upon himself with a missionary zeal this herculean task of collecting the published Telugu stories. The effort is aimed at giving short story its pride of place because of its role in social development and its ability to lead to an understanding of complex human relations and life. It is distinguished from an ordinary library and is described as "a reference library for Telugu story". Prof. Gutala Krishna Murthy has said that no such effort to collect books on a literary genre has been taken up anywhere.

Launched in February 1997, as of now Kadhanilayam has more than 4,000 Telugu weeklies, monthlies and special issues. Mainstream Telugu periodicals used to carry trend-setting stories generating considerable debate. The present collection includes issues of Yuva, Jyoti, Jagruti, Andhra Jyoti, Andhra Patrika, Bharati, Jayanti, Samvedana and Abhyudaya, among others. Mr Rama Rao rues the decline in the quality of stories in the weeklies which have become commercial. The collection of the weeklies and other periodicals itself is a laborious task. For example, the issues of "Bharati", the now defunct but much-acclaimed literary monthly, were collected from 1944 onwards but efforts were on to get the earlier issues as well. Kadhanilayam has another 2,000 anthologies and collection of short stories and other books relating to story-writing and 2,000 other titles. The earliest book in Kadhanilayam is Trilinga Kadhalu of Akkiraju Umakantam, published in 1910.

Mr Rama Rao, known as Ka.Ra. Mastaru in literary circles, says it has the novels of popular writers like Yaddanapudi Sulochana Rani and Yendamuri Veerendranath because they reflect certain trends. Some English fiction and non-fiction titles also find place. He puts the number of writers in Telugu at 3,000 and so far his efforts can secure only the stories of 600 of them. Many writers who have published limited stories think that their work is not significant and do not bother to send in their stories. But Mr Rama Rao considers that each story reflects the attitudes, life and conditions in society.

The ground floor of Kadhanilayam has the collection of books neatly in racks built into the walls and the enclosures above with sliding glass doors for special issues. The building has been constructed with the contribution of hundreds of enthusiastic literary supporters, well-wishers, and with government help as well. The first floor is a big hall which serves as reading room for locals and is the venue of various writers' workshops Kadhanilayam conducts. Mr Rama Rao made over the assets of Kadhanilayam to the trust board in 1998, the very year in which the board was formed. There are two separate bank accounts in the name of Kadhanilayam Trust and Kadhanilayam (Development.)

Meanwhile, Mr Rama Rao continues the collection of stories, contacting authors by writing letters. Daily in the morning and evening he spends not less than seven hours cataloguing books, writing letters and getting the books arranged. Mr Rama Rao wants to see Kadhanilayam function as a reading room with staff for which a corpus of Rs 3 lakhs is required. Though the present corpus is about Rs 1.2 lakhs he wants to go ahead with launching the reading room. It can also take up other activities like conducting workshops if the corpus amount is Rs 6 lakhs. All his stories, writings on stories and literature, and interviews given at various times have been brought out in a book form. Published in chronological order, it runs to 971 pages and proceeds from the sale will go to Kadhanilyam Trust.

The 76-year-old writer is still very enthusiastic about going out for collection of rare issues of books. For example, when told old issues of `Bharati' were available with someone in Rajahmundry, he says he will go to fetch them. He feels that the emergence of Telugu software will make his task of cataloguing easy. He has no worry about the continuance of his historic work. Mr Vivina Murthy, noted writer and a Navy official at Bangalore, is ready to take over the work at Kadhanilayam and live at Srikakulam.

Truly, the dimensions of Mr Rama Rao's work go beyond a generation and will continue to guide many more to come in their search and the evolution of Telugu story.

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