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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pulsating Portraits of Telugu Rural Life

The one remarkable thing about Tripuraneni Gopichand is that he is very clearheaded, unbiased and unprejudiced. As a creative writer and artist he is committed to the demands of art, without allowing himself to be carried away by any didactic obsessions because he knows that didacticism dilutes the quality of art. He is a writer who has distinguished himself in all the genres of literature which he has attempted—novel, short story, philosophical essay and playwriting. He is an intellectual of the top order but he never allows his intellect or vast scholarship or his thorough grasp of almost all philosophical systems to overshadow the creative beauty of his writings. That is to say that he has tremendous balance and restraint which are very much needed in creative writing.

His short stories are woven around unpretentious themes and uncommonly common people. We find him almost all the time delineating the cultural matrix of the countryside of Andhra Pradesh. He is a story teller who does not depend for effect upon vulgar sensationalism or cheap suspense element. He relies instead on lively characterization and evocation of atmosphere proper to and necessary for the story. Everyone knows the depth of his philosophical knowledge but it is refreshing to notice that he rarely philosophizes; he only presents in vivid terms the actual scenes from real life, especially the life of the farming community, the domestic relations of simple folks. In “Attachment”, he graphically depicts the intense attachment to the fields, of a farmer who has spent all his lifetime toiling and working in them, not just for living but out of a sort of spiritual affinity. In “Introspection” he makes us vividly feel the tug-of-war raging silently in the mind of a wife between honest housewifely love and an unfulfilled spirit of independence natural to all of us, though she is devoted to her husband. “Rivalry” is a fine story in which fatherly love and nobility of character win over the erring son. Gopichand has the courage of conviction to follow the dictates of his judgment without ever thinking for a moment of what others might comment. “Obedient Husband” is a very short story which fills just a page, but it ends with a telling effect. Ramarao is upset that his friend Kistappa blindly believes whatever his wife tells him, but when asked who has told him so, he tells him that he has been told by his wife. Funny and ironical! Brevity is one of the virtues of Gopichand’s writings. In “Fear” the uncertainties and the ultimate loneliness in life as well as the irony of contentment are very well presented through the humanist concerns of a young man. In “Bus Halted - Left” we are made to see through the responses of a thoughtful young man, Ramachandra Rao, the sublimation of personal love into patriotism which is surely its nobler expression. “Impoverishment” shows how utter helplessness caused by poverty turns people unimaginably irrational, or sometimes brings out the worst jealousy and meanness. “All in Wives” somehow does not make an absorbing reading, though the point that is sought to be driven home is clear—that it is always the wives who are blamed, slighted, insulted and harassed. A more confident change of attitude comes about in Tayaramma, but it is sad that her husband remains as bitter as ever. “Neighborhood” is about the petty quarrels which neighbors in our society generally have with one another. Though they are petty by nature one can imagine the enormous social tensions to which we are all subject and which disturb our peace in a big way. “The Most Harassed Heart” touchingly suggests how personal alienation and anguish lead a person to realize the sufferings of the people at large and lead him to join a revolutionary movement seeking redress and ultimate liberation from the tyranny of the times. “Human Life”—can it be a short story? Isn’t it something like a tidbit?
“The Retired Ox” stands out as a brilliant short story well written and well translated. The story runs in the form of a painful soliloquy and it moves us deeply with pity and anguish. The decadence that has set in human relationships and the absolute lack of compassion even for the animals which have served us all along throughout their lives have very well been shown in a moving way. It is one of the best stories in the collection. Gopichand is keenly interested in recreating the village life in all its aspects and presents pulsating portraits of Telugu rural life. He feels quite at home when he deals with simple folks with the rural background. The physical suffering and the mental anguish of the aged ox have been raised to universal relevance indicating the inevitable predicament of the whole of mankind in old age. In “Mother” the veiled suggestion is that it is not so much the lullaby as his mother that the boy needs to be by his side at bedtime. For a child its mother is its whole world. “It Could Happen Like This” proves the point that revolutions occur out of spontaneous indignation of the masses and an all-out preparedness for accepting the consequences. They do not occur on somebody’s empty speeches.

“Me–My Character” may not merit to be considered a story, but it details with telling effect the art of story writing. This shows Gopichand’s wholesome vision of a good story. Gopichand could invest a tree, a babul tree here or an ox there with a great personality convincingly characterized by dignity, nobility, compassion and a sort of spiritual refinement. He shows effectively how values have degenerated though knowledge has exploded. The modern man might not have lost reason, but he has surely lost compassion.

We find in Gopichand the wholesome blend of idealism and realism. In “The Lamp of Hope” he suggests that living well itself is a bliss and there is no need to discover the purpose of life. But he never loses the sight of existing realities, harsh and unpleasant. In “Hindu Chastity” he deals with disharmony. All closely-related people live in the same house disliking one another. How true! He brings out the squalor and misery in the lives of domestic helps in “Servant Girl”. “Fallen Women” is a good story with a reformist message. The fallen women in the story have really become awakened women with a determination to live honorably, and not just that, they want to awaken boys under their upbringing to rebel when they grow up against the abominable tradition of treating women of a certain caste as prostitutes. We never feel that the story is written with the conscious intention of conveying a message. But the message emerges as the events unfold and characters reveal themselves. In another story, “Fathers and Sons”, he brings out the widespread disharmony between fathers and sons with the advent of the daughter-in-law into the family fold.
Gopichand doesn’t choose pompous themes and never strives for tedious intellectual elaborations in his stories. He writes with conviction and presents life as he finds it around him in an artistic framework that suits a short story. So we find in his stories a lot of social relevance and they provide us literary pleasure. As we read them and enjoy them, they get into our minds imperceptibly great human values.

GRK Murty’s command of English matches his love of it and his literary temperament and artistic sensibility, his passionate propensity for translation and his ardent admiration for Gopichand make it easy for him to translate the beauty of the original Telugu stories into English, and his translation retains their native flavor intact . His style is simple, crisp, and unadorned. Murty is very faithful to the original text in Telugu. But sometimes a translator can deviate from the exact expression in the original and transcreate it so as to bring out and heighten the effect of the subtle nuances of the beauty of the original. Where translation fails, transcreation succeeds. In fact, a good translator is a transcreator, and Murty is such a one. I congratulate GRK Murty on his meritorious work and the C P Brown Academy on its commendable services in making the treasures of Telugu literature accessible to the larger international community of lovers of literature, through excellent translations.

C Subba Rao
Former Head, Department of English,
SVRM College, Nagaram.


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