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“Rajaram: Andhra Splendour in English Letters”

[Translation by U Atreya Sarma – on Sep 30, 2010 -  of the full page feature in the Andhra Prabha Daily, Sep 26, 2010]

Rajaram is a Splendour of Andhra in English literature. Even at 79, his pen is sharp. Though he has been penning since 1965, the shine and quality of his writings hasn’t dimmed. The poet-writer has been, without rest to his pen, enriching English literature for the last 45 years. The abridged version of the Ramayana that he composed in simple English for children and youth sold 1000 copies in no time. There is a saying that children’s literature is for elders – for the first readers of such literature are always the elders! Thus Rajaram’s Ramayana has attracted the attention of, and appealed to, even the elders. His writings have won an acclaim of being delightful to all age groups. Lovers of literature cutting across national and regional identities have been showering praise on his works.

Each one has to play his part
For the social upkeep in tact
To promote a nation’s welfare
Or to keep away from warfare.

Poetry is always inspired by Nature. Rajaram was travelling from New Delhi to Vijayawada by train in 1965. He was in the first class compartment. The distant hills and glades, and the greenery, seen through the window, enchanted him a lot. The rhythm of the running train swung his mind in a flight of fancy. That bliss gave him an ineffable sweetness, and the consonance of the words conveying his feelings resulted in his debut poem, A Song of the World. It was a unique coincidence that the railway official got his springing inspiration while on a running train. And that poem was published in the souvenir of the South Indian Cultural Association of Vijayawada. Seeing it in print, he was overwhelmed with joy. He realised that there was a poet in a corner of his being and that he was capable of writing poetry. So did begin his poetic odyssey. Since then he has been composing poetry whenever possible and it has been winning the hearts of poetry lovers. He compiled all this miscellany of scattered blossoms into A Banket (sic instead of Bouquet) of Oriental Poems. This is replete with the poet’s 40 years of feelings, experiences and emotions, as well as prayers, religious themes, children’s songs, jokes, etc. He says with confidence that his works would to some extent or the other help those living abroad who are keen on learning about our culture and traditions. He dedicated this anthology to his father Ramachandran, who he says was his original inspiration.

How many have the courage
Or, more strength at any age
To break this stale bondage
That shackles at every stage?

That poets across the world have begun to talk about A Bucket (sic instead of Bouquet) of Oriental Poems is a testimony to its poetical power. The fact that his poems have been posted in various websites like www.poemhunter.com (French), www.voicenet.com (USA), www.hangtide.com (USA), www.museindia.com (sic USA), www.thepoetsroadhouse.com (UK), www.kavitanjali.com (Canada) point to the popularity of his work. Rajaram’s poetry has been on display on our country’s websites like ndtv.com, triand.com, and myspace.com.

Going into the personal details, Rajaram was born in Chennai and has settled down at Juhu, Mumbai. Retired in 1989, he has been leading a stable life without any economic encumbrances. Born in 1931, he assumed official responsibilities in the South Central Railway at Vijayawada in 1964. Working continuously for 25 years at that place, he considered himself to be an Andhra. He closely intermingled with the Telugus. While at Bezawada, he took part in many social service activities. He was the secretary of the ‘Funds (sic instead of Friends?)) for Small Pleasures’ that was set up there. This organisation was meant for the health protection of the destitute children.  Besides (medical) treatment, it tries to keep them happy by buying them toys and playthings. This organisation which grew thanks to Rajaram is still flourishing at Vijayawada. He was always in the forefront in catering to the minimum needs in the railway and government hospitals. As the treasurer of the South Central Railway Bharat Scouts & Guides, he rendered a yeoman’s service. He created an awareness and promoted scouting. He relentlessly strove. The spirit of service in Rajaram hasn’t flagged a whit be it now or then. He has been donating part of his pension every month for the benefit of cancer patients.

Post retirement, Rajram’s 17 poetic compilations have come out. They have become very popular since he expressed profound feelings in a simple language devoid of any bombast. Rajaram has created a chapter for himself in world’s poetry. Former President Kalam, who read some of Rajaram’s creations, flooded him with praise. Sahitya Academy (Mumbai) and Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (Mysore) have described his Ramayana as a masterpiece. His works have been reviewed and appreciated worldwide by many poets, writers and literati.

Each of Rajaram’s following writings is a pure gem in itself. 1. Ramayana 2. Krishna Leela 3. Mahabharata 4. Shilappadigaram or Killer 5. Manimekhalai 6. Adi Sankara 7. Nala 8. Harischandra 9. Meera 10. Sakuntala (based on Kalidasa’s Abhijnana Sakuntalam) 11. Saint Thyagaraja 12. Gautama Buddha 13. Swami Vivekananda 14. The Holy Bible 15. Saint Bernadette (A real story based on the Song of Bernadette)  16. A Bucket (sic instead of Bouquet) of Oriental Poems 17. Mother Teresa.

To me the death of a bird
Ushers a touch of gloom in that world
A depressed sense of sorrow
Deep in my heart o’er a sparrow.

“I love a lot to write poetry. I’ve written poetry on various themes for the children. For the sake of elders I’ve written on religious themes. It’s heartening that almost all of my works have won universal praise. My grateful thanks to the websites which have held my poetry dear to their heart and made it available to the worldwide lovers of poetry.

“One day Santha Mohan of kavitanjali.com called me from Chennai and suggested it would be good if I wrote something to convey our ancient literary wealth to the present generation. As soon as I heard this, the Ramayana by the (world’s) first poet Valmiki came to my mind. And it was published in instalments under the column ‘World of Rajaram’. I composed the Ramayana with a resolution that it should afford a smooth, easy and at-a-stretch reading for children as well as anyone who is interested in learning the story. So I adopted only the essence of the story, skipping the many descriptive parts. Though I mostly relied on Valmiki’s Ramayana, I adapted the other versions too for some episodes. There is no mention of Lakshmana-rekha in the Valmiki version. But I included it in my rendition. This is how I made some more modifications,” explained the humble and discriminating Rajaram. This Ramayana was published by Sri Sri Sitaram Seva Trust and distributed by the Bhakti Vedanta Book Trust (Juhu, Mumbai).

Encouraged by the success of his Ramayana, he rendered the Mahabharata into English. Veda Vyasa composed the Mahabharata in Sanskrit and it comprises 18 books (parvas) and about one lakh slokas. There are divergent opinions on the time of the Mahabharata story which has inspired and regaled generations and generations of people. It occurred in 3139 BC according to one section of scholars, and somewhere during 950-1500 BC (sic instead of 1500-950 BC) according to another viewpoint. Rajaram has adapted the Mahabharata – which has stolen the hearts of the international community – in 120 poetic sections. Mahatma Gandhi observed that a reading of the Mahabharata gives the experience that comes out of a study of the (whole) world. Rajaram says that if Vyasa’s Mahabharata is read it gives us the knowledge of our culture that had flourished five thousand years ago. In his characteristic broadmindedness and breadth of vision, Rajaram suggests that readers should go to the original works without an impression that his Ramayana has given them the full insights into them.

Drawing inspiration from the successful percolation of the stories of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata to the present generation, he rendered Sri Krishna’s revels into English poetry and got acclaim. He did this by adapting the Krishna Leela work by Bhakti Vedanta Prabhupada. He did a lot of exercise to compress the thousands of the original slokas into 150 pages. It was enterprising indeed (on Rajaram’s part) to poetise the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Bhagavata which already existed in a large number in English prose.Very recently, Rajaram’s poetic talent has been recognised and rewarded by museindia.com, a renowned Hyderabad-based website, which awarded a prize to his poem, A Driftwood I Am. The Andhra Pradesh (sic) Central Institute of English & Foreign Languages has prescribed his long story, The Haunted House, as the non-detailed text book for Intermediate.

Rajaram’s name is included in the Chinese Dictionary of World Poets, compiled by the Chinese Quarterly Journal and the Greek World Poetry.

This service minded Indo-Anglian poet can be contacted at rajaram1931@gmail.com, logged in at rrr@divinechannel.in, or tried over phones: 0-97694 55803 or 022-2670 1091.

Dr Vangala Ramakrishna, Ratnaprabha.

 

 

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