Chapter 5

Sri Jonnalagadda Rama Rao


Illustrious Teacher


Mr. Yalavarthi Rosayya was a master by qualification, vocation, avocation and title.

He was a rank holder in SSLC Examination in Madras Presidency – that comprised of present Tamil Nadu, major part of Andhra Pradesh, part of Kerala and part of Karnataka. He pursued his studies with the same unflagging zeal and industry through M.A. His merit was recognised by all his teachers but while awarding class in M.A. examination, their caste prejudice dominated over their sense of fairness. They decided to put him under a disadvantage for ever and placed him in the third class. This might have led to diffidence and developed a complex which surfaced now and then in later life. The debility haunted him. The third class was a stumbling block to make him Principal, J.K.C.College, Guntur. To clear the block I had to run from pillar to post.

By vocation he taught English. By avocation he taught Telugu. He taught inside and outside of the campus to all those who have yearning for knowledge. He was adored with the title ‘mastaru’ by one and all.

Students generally stop reading books as soon as they leave the campus and teachers stop reading the books as they enter the campus. In contrast Mr. Rosayya continued to read the books, new and old, after leaving the campus as a student and after entering the campus as a teacher. It is paradoxical that in the recent times even the Readers in the Universities stopped reading!

He had quite a good collection of books in his personal library. When tested by quality they belong to the top; When judged by his spending on books in relation to his income one or two may stand in comparison.

It was on the eve of birthday celebrations of Prof. N.G.Ranga, on 7th Nov. 1952, I saw Mr.Rosayya, for the first time, on the dais along with Unnava Laxminarayana, a well known freedom fighter and a renowned novelist – reformer. Such was his outstanding, scholarship in English and Telugu though he was a junior member in the teaching profession then.

As a doyen of teaching fraterinity too, like Vallabhajosyula Subba Rao, Principal, Hindu college, Guntur, he continued his love for teaching in and out of campus. For a student or colleague in need of his help, it was immaterial for him whether they belong to his college or other colleges in the city. In seeking clarification from him in matters of language and literature one need not be a student or a teacher. Those who have love for learning used to flock around him. Some of his mannerisms were also an attraction. Many liked his punch on the stomach, pinch on the lap and toffee from his pocket. His observation of road rules was so meticulous to brand him to be quixotic.

He was a good conversationist. During one such conversation he narrated the story of his lunch box. Once he went home for lunch and had a small nap. By the time he rushed to the college, the then Principal of A.C.College, Guntur, an Englishman, Mr.Cypps was handling Mr.Rosayya’s class. He took the bitter lesson. From then on he carried the lunch box to the college to avoid such contingency. Even when he became the Principal of another college in the city, he continued to have the lunch in the college. He was the first to enter and last to leave the campus thereby enforced discipline.

Mr. Rosayya appeared to be intransigent and uncompromising. But when dependable people adduce reasons he used to come around. In view of the fact that Mr. Rosayya had certain reservations to serve in the new born college, Dr. K. Sadasiva Rao wanted me to convince Mr. Rosayya to serve in the newly started J.K.C.College. I could succeed in convincing Mr. Rosayya.

People like me who were struggling in hostile atmosphere found him to be of different genre – a welcoming and interacting teacher. Mr. Rosayya’s house was a conversa zione. I made acquaintance of many a stalwarts from various fields at his house of whom some turned out to be good friends. Once he introduced me to Mr. Avula Gopala Krishna Murthy (AGK) who spearheaded the rationalist reforms in this area. His introduction was typical in my case. He did not recite my bio data with minute details of Surname, place of birth etc. as he was fascinated to do. He simply remarked “Open thy mouth as he may see thee”.

Under the influence of Tripuraneni Ramaswami, the reformer poet, Mr. Rosayya married a child widow. Thus, he was in the company of few. As time passed he moved from the company of few to the company of many.

(Jonnalagadda Rama Rao is a progressive Seed manufacturer at Guntur. He visited USA.)