Potlapally Rama Rao – A forgotten poet of Telangana

By Ampasayya Naveen

Thanks to the separate Telangana movement, many forgotten poets and writers are now being brought into limelight. One such poet is Potlapalli Rama Rao.

At a recent function held at Hyderabad, his prose and poetry writings, brought out in two beautifully designed volumes, were released. Mr. Bhupal, known for film acting, theatre acting and writing, had produced a thesis on the writings and obtained PhD. from Osmania University. His thesis ‘Potlapalli Rama Rao’s Life & Literature’ was also released along with Rama Rao’s writings.

Many of Rama Rao’s poems, short stories and plays are not available. But Mr. Bhupal collected Rama Rao’s works from various sources. He had appealed for such material through newspapers. He received many writings. He published two volumes: one of poems and the other of prose writings. These volumes will help readers understand the great talent of Rama Rao.

Rama Rao was born in 1917(his exact date of birth was not recorded) in Tatikayala village in Warangal district in a middle class agricultural family. He didn’t get formal education as the erstwhile Hyderabad State under the seventh Nizam was educationally very backward.

There were no government schools in villages. Rama Rao could study up to the VII class in private school (private schools were called Rangi Schools).

The period of renaissance started in Telangana in the 1930s. First, the Andhra Jansangam was established in 1920 and it was merged into a broad-based cultural organization called Andhra Maha Sabha under the leadership of stalwarts like Madapati Hanumantha Rao and Suravaram Pratap Reddy.

The main objective of the Sabha was to uplift Telugu language, literature and culture undergoing suppression during the Asafjahi rule. Urdu was the official language and medium of instruction in schools and colleges.

Rama Rao, as a young man, participated in the activities of the Andhra Maha Sabha and literary movement along with Kaloji Rameshwar Rao, Kaloji Narayana Rao, Vattikota Alwar Swamy, Pendyala Raghava Rao and many others.

By the time the Andhra Maha Sabha was captured by Communists in 1944 under the leadership of Raavi Narayana Reddy, Rama Rao was participating in all activities like fighting against the system of Vettichakiri (using the services of down- trodden sections of society without any payment), caste discrimination, autocratic nature of big landlords (who were called Doralu), etc..,

He had also participated in freedom movement under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. While participating in all these movements, Rama Rao concentrated on writing poems and short stories. The main theme of his writings was the socio-political atmosphere prevailing in Telangana villages. Vallikota Alwar Swamy, one of the great pioneers of the Library movement in Telangana, published the writings of Rama Rao during those days.

Rama Rao was an introvert who expressed his thoughts in poems and short stories. There were elements of philosophical forebodings and spiritual leanings in his poems like ‘Chukkalu’ (stars) and ‘Atma Vedana’ (Agony of the Soul), two of his best anthologies.

His best short stories are included in his ‘Jail Kathalu’ (Stories of Prison), a collection of eight stories. Rama Rao went to jail for some time in 1941 during the freedom struggle. He died on September 10, 2001, at the age of 84.

He and his literature were not different for Rama Rao. Most of his experiences were transformed into his poems like ‘Chukkalu’ and ‘Atma Vedana’ and stories like ‘Jail Kathalu’. Rama Rao had written some plays and playlets and Galpikalu (short satirical stories).

Rama Rao said: “My village is my universe. The premises of my heart are my school. The forest, the hills, the sky and clouds- these are my teachers. The earth, the water, the light – these are my group of friends. The essence of deep thoughts is my real life.

“About 50 years ago I was introduced to Kaloji brothers. Their commitment to education and literature had a great impact on me. Afterwards, going to jail and participating in political meetings and meetings of some writers in between had inspired the writer in me and helped me to write those poems and short stories.

“Once the fire of writing is ignited, it cannot be extinguished. I wrote poems, stories, plays and essays with great passion but, unfortunately, I lost some of my writings. As I am basically a village dweller, I was afraid of participating in and speaking at literary meetings and conferences.

“But this nature of preferring loneliness helped me in another way. I could look into myself and thought deeply and I could translate these thoughts into words and sentences. As I grew older, loneliness became my life. For this reason, one finds in my writings deep introspection, deep analysis of life and facts of my life’s experiences”. [The Hans India]

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