Kethu Viswanatha Reddi, the most authentic observer and interpreter of strife and famine-ridden Rayala Seema is no more. He passed away on May 21 at the age of 82. I had met him several times in Hyderabad where he lived and in the United States he would often come to spend time with his daughter’s family.
I first met him in the Hyderabad office of Indira Gandhi National Open University to hand over a bundle of corrected answer papers. He glared at a cheeky subaltern telling me that it was not the job of the Hyderabad office. I had the privilege of carrying his story titled The Nurse in our very first anthology named The 1947 Santoshabad Passenger And Other Stories. I was surprised when he readily accepted my suggestion to introduce atmosphere into the story by describing the labour room ambience at Janaki’s place and the track to Patha Palle Obanna had to bicycle to reach the nurse’s place. The Hindu (February 7, 2012) carried an article by me in which I referred to him as the Alchemist from Seema. In fact, what he wrote was avidly read wherever Telugu is spoken, including that part of the world inhabited by Indian diaspora.
His characters are children of the soil, innocent of the ways of a new era driving them to the brink by a world that has lost its conscience to mammon and a borderless regime of land sharks and peddlers of globalization. I met Reddi Garu a last time at his home in Hyderabad where it pained him to see me climb two flights of steps to reach his airy and roomy place.
I gave him a classic English-Telugu dictionary compiled by an American academician. When I was about to leave, his wife gave me a packet of Seema sweets. Since it is next to impossible to delve into the voluminous oeuvre of Reddi Garu in the limited space a newspaper offers, what is possible is to glean his philosophy that steered him through life and betrayed shades of Camusian despondency. The colours of life shine through his several novels and short story collections. His canvas was Rayala Seema, particularly its hinterland. Before he died, he ushered in a new generation of young writers to keep Seema’s problems and its people in the limelight. Among the many awards that came his way worthy of mention are the Kendra Sahitya Akademi award, Bharateeya Bhasha Parishad award and the one from Telugu University. (EoM)
(The writer has been an accomplished journalist and writer settled down in the US)