The Telugu World Column No: 26
As Sindhis Trade, Do Telugus Teach?
A friend recently told me how he remembered lifelong the explanation of an expression ‘swan song’ by Prof. Doraiswamy in Osmania University Post-Graduate English Department decades ago. The name shows he was from Tamil Nadu, but was heading a university department in what was Andhra Pradesh. Then it struck me that there were several Telugu professors in universities all over the world – be it the United States of America or any state in India. Telugus seemed to excel in academics. The academic world may be one of the few to rise above the divisions of caste, language and creed created by politicians. It was due to this migration that Sarojini Chattopadhyay became Sarojini Naidu; her father came to Hyderabad to teach. Just as labour from Palamur (Meboobnagar in Telangana) did the earth work for most large projects in India, professors from the Telugu land worked in most universities. I met them in Nagpur. Patna, Banaras Hindu University, Amravati, Indore and Sagar Universities.
As we are concerned here with the Telugu world we will recall some Telugu professors outside the Telugu states, though it is not possible to list all of them. Among the most famous Telugu professors outside was Prof. P.S. Sastri, MA in three languages, who could “speak without notes for four hours in Sanskrit,” knew 14 languages and has two Ph.D. degrees in Philosophy as well as a D. Litt. An authority on Rigveda, Aesthetics and Coleridge, he retired in 1980 after 17 years as the head of the Department of English at Nagpur University. He was president of All India Teachers Conference at Varanasi in 1950.
He was the author of over 60 books on literature, philosophy, English and Telugu, as well as the author or translator of a number of books on astrology. He translated Astrological classics and authored works on Jaimini Sutram, Uttara Kalamrita. Brihat Jataka, Secrets of Astakavarga and rectification of birth time. His Text Book of Scientific Hindu Astrology (2 Vols) is valued all over the world. Kotamraju Narayana Rao, an astrologer himself and son of the eminent journalist K. Rama Rao (mentioned earlier as founder of National Herald) rates Prof. Sastri as the “best astrologer of our decades”. And yet he was unassuming, both in appearance and talk and said he was just lucky to have learnt from the right guru. K.N Rao was for some years in Nagpur as Deputy Accountant General, Maharashtra. I personally witnessed Prof. Sastri saying, after just a glance at the palm of another professor from a distance, that the professor’s wife would commit suicide and as it could not be averted, it was no use telling him. A few days later she did. Sastri began his career in Chattisgarh College, Raipur, founded by another Telugu, J. Yoganandam, in 1938. Raipur is another place which had a large number of Telugus.
Nagpur University those days – till 1980s – was attracting thousands of students from the neighboring Telugu areas as it was one of the oldest in the country and the Telugu region had very few. In fact for quite some years Telugu students were in majority in some departments like the PG Department of Public Administration. Thousands came to study in the Law College – including P. V. Narasimha Rao who during his days in Nagpur as a law student, became proficient in Marathi. The Public Administration department was headed by Prof. V.S. Murthy who was considered very knowledgeable. All through the year, he used to start his lecture by referring to a news item on a current event in the local English daily. His discussion and analysis of the event used to lead to a principle of public administration as it dealt with the dynamics of what was happening in the country and not textbook theories. At the end of one session, a mischievous student (obviously from Andhra) praised the way he spoke of the newspaper content and asked when he would come to the syllabus, for he never taught it. Prof. Murthy said, “Oh, you want the syllabus?” and covered the entire syllabus in three-four days!
There were many other Telugu professors in Nagpur those days, just as there were many from other non-Marathi communities. The (then) Central College for Women, the first girls’ college in central India, had Dr. Sridevi as Principal. Another Principal was Laxminarayana of the Law College. T.K. Damodaran was the Principal of Ambedkar College. One of the main centers of technical education in central India, the Laxminaraya Institute of Technology (LIT) was set up with a donation by a Telugu mine-owner Daham Laxminarayana. The scene was similar in many other universities in the country. Nagpur is mentioned just as an example typical of many cities.
The ‘transplanting’ of many Telugus then was due to their yearning for education, just as it is for employment now.