The Finger Ring and Other Stories, Dr. T. Vasudeva Reddy, Authorspress, New Delhi., pages 168, Price. Rs 250/-
Tales from Telugunadu’s Story Writer, Educational Enthusiast and Professor in English
The author is from Alamlumangapuram, Lower Tirupati, and his stories are one among his numerous publications. All the twenty tales in this collection are replete with abundant Telugu flavor with prevalent contemporary ethos. The blurb goes thus: “This is a collection of short stories written over a period of more than two decades by Vasudevar Reddy, the well knows poet, critic and novelist of international repute. … What is remarkable TVR’s stories is the message that springs naturally at the end of each story and it is this aspect of lasting message that invests his stories with the great durable virtue of readability. Undoubtedly it is a matter of sheer design to delight to read these short stories of TDR which aim at prompting human values.”
Short stories printed in this book are mostly real situations with which I am directly connected or for which I was an eyewitness. The element of fiction is less, and the degree of realism is more; names may change to give fictional colour, but the content stays with close affinity to lived experience.
The first story The Palmist is about the trickster, who got arrested and his parrot, emaciated flew into the sky breathing at last in the balmy breeze of freedom. The tale begins thus about the palmist thus:
That place in front of the Public Gardens became more or less the legitimate place of the palmist. (p12)
It ends thus. You surely enjoy reading the narration. (One midday, ten days after his arrival in the village, Venkaiah received a telegram, which he read with a trembling hand and a parched tongue. (p. 14))
The Cup of Milk ends with a painful death. Pathos is the main feeling of this writer.
After the exit of the doctor, Krishnaiah went to the prayer room and sat silently praying to the God. He came to the bedside of the daughter. (p.19) The cup of milk was mocking at both of them. (p19) So ends the story, grievous death.
In Search of a Job
Sometimes the heads of the departments are benevolent dictators, but more often they are malicious despots and autocratic tyrants. Each department is a boiling cauldron, resembling that of the witches in Macbeth, full of hell-broth. It is a cockpit of caste rivalries, jealousies, hostilities, simmering hatred and volcanic politics and cold war. Mr. Rao’s position was critical. His depressed mind failed to comprehend what would happen to him, as his destiny depended on the whim of his Professor. (p22-23)
The plight of Research Scholars who have to be guided by professors, who are overworked already. This is painful actuality. The story is about a scholar, his tribulations and a good samaritan.
Again, actuality and a peculiar and special kind of humour. A well-educated young man is happy to have been given a job in an elementary school. Ongoing there happily for he could feed his starving kids he found the hut-school which did not have a teacher,
All his scholarship he had to forget with a disciplined heart. Neither his higher degrees not his scholarship could come to his rescue and feed his starving children. (p24)
Valentine’s Day is a day of celebration in special occasions. The story is about a teacher who goes to a single teacher school.
“The first gentleman, heaving a sigh, spoke with a feeling of respect. “At last our school will have a teacher. For ten months there is no teacher. He was welcomed by a man there:
“Sir, that’s the naked truth. In the morning it is pathasala, at midday it is pakasala ; from sunset it becomes panasala, because a toddy shop is opened by the side of the school.(p.43)
Again, the story of a teacher helped by an uneducated, rich landlord. The teacher was given a god ring on his retirement and read how he parted with his Farewell Ring.
He detached the new gold ring from this finger which the pupils and the parents had presented to him a farewell gift, a token of their respect at the time of his retirement. He said to her, Chinni, please accept this as wedding gift from this poor old teacher.
Change of Values.
“What do you speak? You are an old woman and what do you know about this? This is the latest craze among students here in New York. I thought you would feel happy to see this rare model, haircut; I didn’t expect such words from you’’
This is the story of a grandma and her grandson. The theme is hilarious fun.
She came three months ago from India to New York City after repeated requests of her daughter who lived there with her husband and her only son Ranjit. Her daughter and son-in-law were medical doctors; they came fifteen years ago and established their medical practice. As medical profession is most lucrative in America, they soon became much affluent, had a richly furnished palatial building and heavy bank balance.
Many times, she thought, “Life in America is more mechanical, and people leave their houses in the morning and come back at night to their nests.” (p. no. 47)
‘“Perhaps values change from age to age, from country to country just as styles change. Uma, my stay there is not a pleasure memory.” She took leave of her friend and with a relieved mind she went home as the sun had already set.” (p.no. 52)
This story is about the strength of people inherited from parents during their upbringing. Children in the rural areas grow under their parents accustomed to hard work.
‘’These are small things; they can’t do any harm to me. As long as God’s grace is there, we need not worry. My father did much hard work till the end. He trained me in doing hard work; your father knows how hard I worked in those days. With this small kit I can earn and live anywhere. This is our noble profession and we need not search for any small job and we need not depend on others. The seed is strong, and I have this confidence in me and trust in God, the Almighty Father”. (p. 68.)
Sankranti is a very festive season in South India. This time they insisted that he should come to the ancestral place to celebrate the Sankranti festival, the most important one, often called the Big Festival in South India and it is the harvest festival celebrated for four to five consecutive days and the second day is the most important day when all the inmates remember the departed souls in the family and offer puja for the pleasure of the departed souls. (p.69)
Ramaswamy with a smile spoke “My leave has come to an end. Moreover, I would be retiring soon. After my retirement I would come and live with my parents here itself. They are old and we should be here to look after them”. (p.75)
“Next evening Ramaswamy went to the Railway Station with his wife and son ; his parents accompanied him to the Station in an auto rickshaw and Kandasamy with al their luggage came there in another auto-rickshaw. He placed the suitcases and two more bags near their berths in the compartment and Ramaswamy put in his pocket two five hundred-rupee notes though the latter was protesting.” (p. 76)
This is a story about a mishap and a sad family Purohits console people and bring them to normalcy. Swami said with a smile, ‘You are very much welcome, Sastrigaru and your services are needed to the temple. And here you can start afresh your Vedic teaching. Our country now needs the teaching of Upanishadic thought, the essence of our Sanatana Dharma which is at once comprehensive and inclusive, synthetic and humanistic, harmonious and eternal’(p83-84)
Pilgrimage (A Real Story)
Among rural folk pilgrimages mark the devotion of people who go areas called Chardhaam: Rishkesh, Haridwar, Kedarnath and Badrinath. Vaishnodevi is one among many. Tirupati is the most devout not only in Andhra but the entire South.
There was not a big rush; I went in the queue and had the darshan of the Goddess Vaishno mata in the holy Cave. Previously I was told the cave is narrow and one has to bow or bend the body to go inside the cave to have Darshan. (p.87)
‘No! You are all mistaken. Media is responsible for all this misunderstanding. We are citizens of India and we love to be in India. A handful of people, who are getting huge funds, speak of separation and it doesn’t mean that all of us are behind them. Some of them are misdirecting the helpless youth and under the lure of money they dance to their tunes. It is the reality here.’ (p.89)
I felt as though Lord Amarnath has sent him to help me in this hour of crisis. I felt as if my blood pressure has come down and a wave of chillness has taken possession of me. With his help I climbed the steps and stood in front of Lord Amarnath, as the place echoed with the primordial sound OHM. (p. 97-98)
The story goes as a conversation between to friends, Rao and Sharma who meet after a long time. It shows the lifestyles of both: one disciplined and the other ‘modernistic’ The writer has a purpose for his work. He shows high thoughtfulness and good living. Rao is strongly influenced by Shri Sastry whose speeches are being aired in a TV channel.
They are surprised to see the holy man brushing his teeth at 9.00 am. They talked to him but Sarma and Rao were flabbergasted seeing the behaviour of the lady of the house and Sastry. Sastry gave the friends a lecture about our leaders and politicians
“What you speak is true. Sastrigaru, you are a great pundit in Sanskrit and an eminent speaker in Telugu and your talk has magical spell; people consider you as a role model, but here we see you as a different man. We are not able to understand.” (p107)
The next minute they were there in the auto-rickshaw and the driver felt happy as they came back soon. The rainbow colours of their great expectations faded as their eyes placidly began tasting the feast of the beauty of the river and the auto-rickshaw raced fast leaving a cloud of dust. (p.108)
This is story of a case of gratitude. A poor boy was given money for his education by a landlord, who is educated at all. The travails of higher education and research are the subject of the story.
In those days getting selection in the postgraduate course was a great academic feat, and especially in mathematics unless one scored the highest marks, he was not sure of admission.
When the scholar, Murty spoke in gratitude about the repayment of the debt, this is the reply:
‘Who asked you about the repayment, dear boys! Only when he is comfortably settled, he can think of repayment, otherwise he need not think of this amount.” Expressing their namaskarams to him they left. (p.113)
“Narayan, Murthy’s brother said, ‘Nowadays life has become mechanical and there is no place for sentiments. People talk in terms of globalisation, but minds are becoming more selfish and narrower.” (p. 115)
The old man lost the courage to speak. Narayan took the envelope from his brother and before they stepped out of the big compound gate he quietly put the envelope in the pocket of Sri Ranga Rao and both the brothers left with folded hands as the old gentleman stood speechless. (p.117)
TVS is a clever writer and gives his stories titles like Valentine ’Day and Vanity Fair.
A function was arranged in grand conference hall.
Though the organisers invited papers on chosen topics they failed to pay even scanty attention on the perceptive papers so studiously penned by many scholars. Time was not sufficient for the organisers to beat their own drums. p.(123)
Govind and Raju left in a taxi which left the latter at the airport and the former at the Howrah Railway Station. Govind got into the train and occupied the reserved berth and as the superfast train gathered speed and raced, his mind raced towards his distant home away from the hue and cry and sound and fuss of the egoistic intolerance and self-projection in the Vanity Fair. (p. 123)
Walk the Talk
There was the talk of an eminent man. There is more of self-praise of the old man, the speaker who hurt a lady while opening his car door and walked to speak. The one who gave the concluding speech said this:
‘Sure, your words reflect the wealth of experience of your ripe age. As you say, what is the use of quoting countless slokas from the Upanishads and the Gita, what is the use of giving pravachanams every day when the so-called godmen can’t put their words in practice? What is the sanctity of the sacred prefixes before their names such as guruji, Brahmarshi and so on? It is easy to talk, but it is difficult to walk the talk.” (p. 128)
This is a story which the writer must have felt the best since it deals with Sankranti, harvest festival in South India. The decadence of the young, the abundance of politicking and greed worry the thinking people
The village appeared in a different light wearing a dull and dim look without the usual liveliness, brightness and noise. Flour designs were there in front of the houses, but most of the houses were dull without any white washing and not a house had been painted. As soon as he entered the village, he was greeted by his boyhood friend and class-mate Gopal, ‘Oh, Raju, I am so happy to see you. After a long gap you are now coming with your family for the festival to be with your parents. How long do you stay? (p.129)
“The wheel of downfall has started moving and no one can stop this juggernaut and its downward march. For the sake of votes all parties are playing the same game and indulging in liberally showering irrational promises and boons which are truly a bane to the real progress of the country.” (p.131)
“While the aged and children stay back, the able-bodied have left to earn livelihood in the cities. But there also it seems it is a struggle for survival, struggling to find work and get wages. But every month they return for a day or two to keep their ration cards alive lest their names be removed from the welfare list, draw provisions and their different types of pension form the Government.” ( p.132]
“It is a recurring feature in Anatapur District. It has now spread to the western belt of Chittoor District too. People of Kadir area suffer from scarcity of water and workers come to our parts and stay here for a few months often” (.133).
All on a sudden the village was shaken with the hocking news of the death of Ranganna. Someone rushed and informed “Ranganna is found dead beneath the neem tree in his field with the pesticide bottle near his hand”. (p.136)
A Shattered Dream
This story is about the degradation of values and norms which really shatter the dreams of our great leaders and thinkers who sacrificed their all for Mother India.
Then he came outside and called others loudly. In a couple of minutes, the persons in charge of the hostel rushed and all were in sorrow to see the dead body with a small slip beside with a note – “No one is responsible for my death. But I wish the institution to protect human values and spirit of freedom. Goodbye, Ramu; I miss your company” (p142)
Someone advised me to put a couple of plantain fruits on the step while it would observe. I did as he said and in a couple of minutes the monkey came down, put the bag on the step, took the plantains and quickly climbed the tree. I cannot forget that incident. They are an intelligent and courageous lot.” (p.151)
Simian culture is the culture of monkeys. What they observe and what they learn and how they behave is portrayed in this excellent story. Read and smile with discernment.
“Krishna, what is commendable is the nobler sense of their unity which we humans lack. There is so much to learn from them. In some ways they stand as role models, where ever there is good we have to accept. Whether it is an ant or elephant, man or monkey it is immaterial; we are all living beings and traces of the one of the Omnipresent Lord.” Thus, reflecting on the simian culture, they left the place…. .(p.155)
In conclusion I must say this. This is a collection of short stories written over a period more than two decades by T. Vasudeva Reddy, the well-known poet, critic and novelist of international repute. Stories published in reputed journals over the period and a few fresh stories now appear in the present collection. What is remarkable in TVR’s stories is the message that springs naturally at the end of each story and it is this aspect of lasting message that invests his stories with the great durable virtue of readability. Undoubtedly it is a matter of sheer delight to read these short stories of TVR which aimed at a purpose -, promoting high human values.