Literary Friends

Sri T.V. Subba Rao, MA (Cantab)

Retd. Prof. Head, English Department,

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Open University, Hyderabad

Late Y. Rosaiah was more than my teacher. During the four years of my college studies in Guntur , I was, like many of our friends, under his spell. He was an institution for us. He possessed a distinguished character too rare in his, and our times, a character far beyond a college teacher who was then and is now a philistine. Philistinism didn't attack him because of his sensibility and because his mind was always concerned with values. I have a vivid memory of him as a teacher of English and as our warden in Kamma hostel in my last year.

There was something soulful or spirited in his teaching and instruction. His interest in English literature was so inspiring to us that we thought he was communicating his lessons with his whole being involved in it. He stood out remarkably as an engaging scholar in comparison with many teachers whose interest was merely mechanical in their subject. To listen to him on Milton was indeed a treat to us.

He communicated to us life and values. A new era commenced in our modern education in his time; a blind and bigoted spirit preferring professional and technological courses began to prevail with social sanctions in favour of it, because of which the humanities were relegated to a socially unimportant position. I should have been a doctor but for him, and I was ever so grateful to him for my escaping from the social conditioning. As all of us knew and remember still, he was a very strict traditionalist in phonetics. He was fabled for his concern, bordering on obsession, about the way we pronounce English-riding on his bycycle he would stop people in the middle of the road and correct their English on the spot if they happened to speak it with an accent influenced by the mother tongue.

He wouldn't suspect that he was embarrassing to them. He would certainly have disapproved of American twang! His enthusiasm for English, however, is not due to philistine attachment to it, but a keen awareness of its value. Rosaiah was a humanist associated with a coterie of M.N. Roy followers in Guntur and around. It would mean his supporting a 'progressive' line of thinking but he was never showy. He was always cheerful and very friendly. I could never imagine that a bad thought would have crossed his mind.

I admired him all the more because he was unworldly. I remember the play of smile in his face; he was always childlike in his humane bearing. He never looked busy! One thing unforgettable about my teacher was that he would have been very hostile to the present established philistine trend of rejecting every thing Indian - the mother tongue, classical music, Sanskrit and so on - but desiring only a degree in a professional course for a career with an eye to the advantage of migrating to the States.

His passionate love of Telugu literature bears ample testimony to my point. What was Indian was then in our blood. That is how we distinguish, those of the generation of my teacher and that of mine, from those who have come after us. I cherish his memory for that which I received from him.