Crystallized Memories is the translation of Chekuri Rama Rao’s (1934) Smriti Kinankam. There are three parts in this Smriti Kinankam, ‘Mine’, ‘Mirth’, ‘Melancholy’ combined together make this book. It is a collection of biographical and autobiographical essays which objectively discusses contemporary the important literary events and great personalities of Telugu poetry. In this work he has used reminiscences as a genre of literary criticism. By reading any of the essays the reader would be benefitted either from the point of knowledge or in terms of feeling. These essays are considered a worthwhile contribution to Indian criticism in Telugu. Chekuri Rama Rao was honoured with Sahitya Akademi Award in 2002 for this work.
M.V.Chalapathi Rao is a well known writer and translator
Once or twice I tactfully escaped from the audacity of writing prefaces to Chera's books. This time, I could not and so, I am writing. Whether you would read it or turn over the leaves, it is up to you. You would have by this time understood the reason for my escaping. Yet I would recount it and tell you the reason for writing this. I have a crazy belief that if a preface is to be written to any book, the one writing it should be highly qualified than the writer of the book. I call this a crazy belief as this does not prove true in many cases and also due to the reason, that somehow or the other, I am not getting away. We cannot undertake such an audacious step regarding those regarded by us with a sense of awe. Chera is deeply read in the traditional literature. For analysing it, he has with him, besides the normal tools like the traditional grammars and rhetorical texts etc., extraordinary tools like historical social and psychological in- sights etc. These are enough, ~ suppose. Coming down to modem literature, his commitment, engrossment, perseverance and patience are beyond evaluation. He is the sage Agastya who guzzled up everything starting with the romantic poetry, including leaflets, without letting off anything. (Chera does not like such metaphors. What have I given up, because he does not like?). He is one with intimate contacts and friendship with various writers in an unusual degree. He is an individual who not only drained modern poetry but to a certain extent, even other genres too. He has also the additional faculty of easily assimilating even the literatures of foreign lands. This is the second aspect and the third sphere is well-known to all. If anyone is asked to name three Telugu persons who, at present, put in a lot of effort in linguistics, whoever may list the names, Chera's name would certainly be there. In the meeting for the award of literary laurel to him in the recent days (11-03-2003) by Andhra Pratibha Pratishtan, Rajahmundry, when I consulted some people who could speak about the learning of Chera, two people transpired. Of the two, one expressed his inability because he would have to be in America and the other, on account of ill health - the consequence, neither of them could be present.
It is a different matter. The reason for my recounting all thisis because a major part of his contribution in this science is in English in the form of seminar papers submitted at the national and international seminars and by that reason some might not have been aware of this. After his treatise on Telugu sentence has been printed recently for the second time and has been available, many are dazed. For the depth of the subject, the eyes of many have been enlarged in wonder As for me, after going through this, I am standing up, if Chera's is standing and sitting down only after he does so. Most significantly his research on non-finite verbs, imitations nomenclatives, has greatly strengthened Telugu linguistics as a science. If the remaining seminar papers also were to be brought out into Telugu, scholars may raise him to the skies. In this manner; in three or four spheres, he is lofty like a sal tree. Physically, I am six feet in height, but of what avail! I am a dwarf before him. Even after being aware of this, why would I dare in writing prefaces to his books! Though I may be cracked in wits, can't I comprehend this much! That is why, all these days, I have avoided; now there is no other go, but to write. It does not mean that overnight I have become a scholar by virtue of the deity like Kali writing some magical words over my tongue! I ventured to do this on pres- sure from the dedicatees of this book.
Korapati Murahari Rao and Narra Kotaiah who provided the money for printing this book met me in the book releasing function of "Telugu Sentence" in an unanticipated manner. "All of Chera's contribution is languishing in the form of essays in the newspapers and they are to be made available to the world in book form. What can you do regarding this?" 1 asked the' two, just the same way. Isn't it said that to one newly initiated' into Vaishnavism, more vertical, marks of devotion would be there all over the body? Both the gentlemen, brought their hands together as if in acquiescence (Murahari Rao added his natural suggestive smile) and said, "Do whatever you wish. We are ready." Then 1 told them that 1 would inform them soon the number of pages and the amount that would be required. Then they said, "The cost does not matter. We two, arc here. We will shoulder it". But they imposed a condition that I should alone write the foreword for the book. My eyes turned moist and for their refinement of an immediate assent, 1 bowed to them in gratitude. In that delight, 1 turned oblivious of every- thing and agreed to write the foreword. How liberal they have been! If it were to be another or some other person, they would have said. "Ah! Certainly. We will think over," and would have had the request repeated, at least, for another time and would have had us, knocking at their door or move round the house. (None of these two, till now, asked me to call on them at their houses). These did not do such a thing. They immediately consented. As they have been so refined and lovers of literature, I openly rut forward my request. 1 know that at the time of the function of "Three Sixties" of Donappa, these two were the ones who got all those books published and conducted the function on a grand scale. In that context, 1 worked with them for some days. Then I comprehended their love of literature and inherent attitude to standby the intense and independent effort in any field. From then on, I developed an infinite regard towards these two. By producing high-yielding hybrid seeds of superior quality, Murahari Rao, brought about a silent revolution in the field of agriculture. He toured across the country and abroad and recommended modern agricultural methods to the ryots and the public sector. Besides, he set up charitable trusts separately on the names of Tripuraneni Rarnaswami and Tapi Dharma Rao and made provision for presentation of awards annually to those who put in efforts in a rationalistic strain. He also made provision for the presentation of a gold medal to the topper in M.A. English of Kakatiya University. The two played a prominent role in bringing out the literature of Kaviraju, in several volumes. Narra Kotaiah made provision for the award of gold medals for the best research theses. He is a regular reader of literature. He is noted for honesty and high standards in his businesses and constructions. Kotapati Murahari Rao does not hesitate tq remark incisively if he finds something awry in the opposite individual. Kotaiah is of a very gentle nature who does not do that even. He stood by many in the business field and rescued them. In a plain and a simple manner, cooperated and set them right. Lakshmi Devi gaining access with the two becomes eminent but has not in anyway, made these proud. There are many, more affluent than the two and I have contacts with them too, but can we ask all the people for each and everything? They have been gracious enough not to turn down my request and I am grateful. Should I divulge another secret! Both of these are the eternal readers of 'Cheratalu', and highly fond of Chern. Yet, it seems, they shrank from coming for- ward on their own. Yes, tell me, how could they as Chera's poise and reluctance for aid is so steadfast. I think, I am fortunate enough as I got an opportunity to be a coordinator for a good task. There are many books published with the assistance of these two elderly gentlemen and there would have been many dedications also. But here I submit to both that the value of this 'Smriti Kinankam', is very special. I submit that the world will identify this as a suitable prop !o a suitable book and it would be remembered for a long time to come. With a heart cloyed by delight, I thank this publicity shy duo and wish them constant progress.
This is 'Crystallized Memories', a collection of essays. The one about to come out is 'Conscience of Language', and it is self-evident that it is a collection of essays concerning linguistics and the next one is a collection, a collection of essays written at different times on a variety of subjects. Looking at these names, there may be many, who may say that Chera has beerl completely spoiled. Let them be! The world would know how much Chera has written; the depth and the extent too would be known. This is my delight. Chera has a practicality. He does not speak at random. Even for delivering a talk, he should prepare it in advance. It seems to be good - without any scope for evaporation of thoughts and collecting some insubstantial things. So, it is to be taken for granted that if he speaks out something it would assume the form of letters. Savoury dishes have been prepared in plenty. Some have been set on the table and some may be in the vessels in which they are cooked. With the interest generated after 'Murahari Rao and Kotaiah nodded in assent, I collected them and on dividing them based on the content, they turned out into three or four volumes. I mercilessly discarded some of the ordinary essays and selected only some which had some merit or the other and so worth-publishing. They came upto so many books. Even for this, these dedicatees are to be thanked. The remaining books are about to be printed soon and reach the public.
There are three parts in this 'Smriti Kinankam.' 'Mine,' 'Mirth' and 'Melancholy' - combined together make this book. In the part, 'Mine' essays concerning his literary friends, literary relatives, his trips to America, the journal that influenced him, Veerulapdu of his liking and others, found place. In the part 'Mirth' essays about good books, good seminars, good awards and good individuals like Nanduri Ramamohana Rao - Dharma Rao - ABK are there. Anguishes experienced by him when eminent persons like Kelly, Rarnanujan, Ra.Ra., Varada, K.V.R., Bommakanti, Kethavarapu, Donappa, Arudra and the like departed from this world have been included in 'Melancholy.' By reading any of the essays the reader would be benefited either from the point of knowledge or in terms of feeling. It is not easy to extricate, if I try to review these and it is also not necessary. I will express my account of the book in a few words.
It seems, a philosopher of a long past said that we can identify the qualities in us among the people who confront us. (It is better, if no one said so.) The root causes for the paradoxes, laziness and forgetfulness observed in Chera, can be found in these essays. There are many paradoxes in Chera. He does not have a belief in God, yet enjoys listening to devotional songs. He rejects the values and practices of the past yet happily enjoys the melodies of classical poetry. He has a strong faith in leftist ideology but at the same he would state firmly that it is not and need not be the panacea for everything. Chera is of a philosophical background" which suggests that nothing is distinct, devoid of an attribute and nothing -is perfect. I became close to him after I joined Telugu University and I consider it to be my fortune. Observing Chera, I learnt that withstanding the ups and downs, despairs and frustrations etc., and standing up to the challenges hurled by life and time, (the same is called God by some - Yam Brahmeti, Sanskrit, to mean, these are alone Brahma) is resoluteness. I am not certain whether I learnt or not but have known it. In my view, Chera is a confirmed scholar. Even among. Atheists, there would be confirmed scholars and it is not a thing to be imbibed just by studying the Vedas. A man with this quality would be able to get on without any distinctions with the society around him. He would be in a position to receive opportunities and unpopularities (can I use the word) as the obverse and the reverse of a coin and would even enjoy criticism and would feel glad thinking that though the criticism jibed at him, he has become the theme of poetry. 'This has been possible as he is not an egotist and is free from desires. Chera is an unpretentious literary being. Chera wishes to read even if he gets a minute's leisure but does not develop unnecessary hopes and later experience trials, and be subjected to despair. He is so generous as to love even those who hate him and an honest one who does not in any context conceal their virtue. He is such a liberal as to forgive though he is aware that he is treated like a curry leaf. He never shrunk back from proclaiming the truth nor had he written hoping for something and even did not feel sorry for his acts. He never desisted from locking horns with any high-standing person and so only has not switched over to any camp. If circumstances proved to be too formidable like a sky overcast with dark clouds, he put off his pen and never compromised and did not beseech. To put it in a word, Chera is a critic who did not abandon his character and who did not tarnish the character of those opposed to him. I write so, because, 'guarding the interests of others should be the sole aim,' is an age old maxim.
Though he locked horns with somebody in a serious manner, it was only concerning their opinions but not with the individuals. Chera has the self-confidence to introspect in a broader aspect and rub shoulders with a hearty laugh. There are many instances in these essays wherein Chera identified the same attributes in others opposed to him and I will present some sentences here and there. There is another thing which should be mentioned even before this. There have been many instances in which Chera, who many a time said that in writing essays meant for expounding the content, rhetorical style would not be suit- able, wrote in a style imbued with poetic content. For example, look at the second paragraph of the second essay - "At the mention of Narsaraopet, numerous milestones of incidents would be confronted. Showers of memories pelt down. Tender caresses of soft winds cause tingles." Similarly, the tingling ex- perienced while walking at daybreak from Chidambaram to Annarnalai, is another example. Such prose would be found to a great extent in the essays under the chapters, 'Mine' and ‘Melancholy’. As all these aspects are concerning the heart, this style would have been needed. It is a great thing to stir the reader through mere prose by intensely suffusing words with feelings and melancholia. Probably, the romantic poetry imbibed by Chera would have afforded this style and this life-force. All said and done, I submit to you Chera that in some circumstances, even ordinary prose may necessitate rhetorical style!
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