Madhurantakam Rajaram

The following is a review on the 1993 Sahitya Akademi Award Winning Book, "Madhurantakam Rajaram Kathalu". Translated into English by J. Bhagyalakshmi Posted to SCIT by Lakshmanna Vishnubhotla

Madhurantakam Rajaram has been contributing to Telugu literature for more than four decades. He left no genre of literature untouched. He writes novels, plays, essays and lyrics besides short stories. Yet he is more well known as a short story writer. The author himself once said, "I am a short story writer ... it is in the short story that I could find out my medium of expression. It overwhelmed me by completely occupying my consciousness. It made me laugh. It haunted me and taunted me. It also made me shed tears ... I was in ecstasy when I realised that a writer could successfully communicate his impression as intensely as he experienced to the reader."

Madhurantakam Rajaram is adept at realistic portrayal of life. He comes from Rayalaseema in Andhra Pradesh which has its own identity. There the life style is different, especially of the village folk, who are naive, down to earth, loving, caring yet bearing the burden of poverty as stoically as they can. Their hard life with its day to day problems has not hardened their attitudes and perceptions. All these aspects and many other nuances get reflected in Madhurantakam Rajaram Kathalu which won the Sahitya Akademi Award for 1993.

The book contains 40 short stories written over a period of four decades. They truly represent the range of Rajaram's canvas. Here every story has its place, its identity, its message and adds color to the kaleidoscopic view of life that emerges out of the volume. The characters we come across in his stories are ordinary people we see in our everyday life. They are convincing and realistic and help us have an insight into human nature because of the magic touch of the author. Madhurantakam Rajaram's stories are purposeful and they have subtle message which only the discerning readers can discover; their author is never blatantly didactic. As a writer he firmly believes that literature should denounce the bad and uphold the good. He says, "Literature may not be strong enough to transform the society. But it can infuse the spirit needed into the public which can provoke a marvellous revolution of ideas. It can also describe an Utopia which is the goal for the humanity."

The author confines his stories to middle class or lower middle class. He depicts life as he sees it in its various hues and dimensions. He prefers first person narration in many of the stories perhaps to bring the story near to the reader. In certain cases he uses Rayalaseema dialect just to give the story its right flavour.

Madhurantakam Rajaram as a writer comments on people's weaknesses, strengths, noble and mean qualities. He gives an overview of life without any pretension of self-righteousness. In its citation, Sahitya Akademi says that "Madhurantakam Rajaram Kathalu" is recognized as a masterpiece of Indian short fiction in Telugu "for its faithful delineation of the outer and inner life of the rustic folk, its proper employment of dialect, its total comprehension of social and existential reality and its directness and force of narration."

The language and presentation of Rajaram are so inimitable that they acquire a character of their own. All pervasive flavour of Rayalaseema and intrinsic naturalness reminds one of the fragrance of the wet earth, newly-cut grass and the gurgle of a brook.

Madhurantakam Rajaram Kathalu (Short Stories) are published by Visalandhra Publishing House, 1991, pp. 460, Rs. 65