Bhamidipati Ramagopalam – Writer, Journalist (1932 Vizianagaram)
Compiled By – Sri Ramakrishna Prasad – Chennai
Ask any Telugu literary buff to name a prominent contemporary storyteller of humour, and pat will come the answer: Bharago. Bhamidipati Ramagopalam was a prolific storyteller and good conversationalist. His writings, invariably tinged with humour and satire, never veered off the contemporary middleclass life. With an acute awareness of the complexities of the most ordinary occurrences, his characters come alive with all their inadequacies, embracing uncomfortable truths, which keep the reader in lither vein for a quite while.
Bhamidipati Ramagopalam was born on February 6, 1932, at Pushpagiri (Sree Venugopalaswamy Punyakshetram) in Vizianagaram district, he was the eldest son of Bhamidipati Suryanarayana and Suramma. He had regular schooling from III form onwards at M.R. Branch College and later he graduated in B.A. Economics in 1951 from M.R. Degree College, Vizianagaram.
After serving a temporary assignment as a checker to start with for seven months from April to December 1951 at the Census Sorting and Tabulation office, he served as a clerk, surveyor, head-surveyor and district surveyor of the Department of A.P. Survey, Settlement and Land Records. He was chosen to be assistant to the Editor of Andhra Jyothi Weekly for a year and a deputy surveyor of Visakapatnam Port Trust for about 16 years, before retiring in 1990.
Born with extraordinary flair for creative writing, Bharago, who started writing by contributing a short story at the age of 15 as an intermediate student for the college magazine in 1947, soon got himself established as a versatile writer. Successfully continuing with a review on feature film Drohi for December 1948 issue of the film magazine Roopavani, Nenu-Maa-Avida story for February 1949 issue of Andhra Patrika and essay on ‘one party government’ for the Swatantra English weekly (November 1949), he brought out 160 stories, three novels, 50 essays and over 1000 articles in Telugu besides 50 in English under the section ‘News and views on cultural matters’.
He was credited with three novels Kundapenkulu (1961), Sparsa Rekha (1984) and Nakee Udyogam Vaddu (1988) and stories under the heads Vantochina Mogudu (1966), Vennela Needa (1997), Kadhanakutoohalam (1985), Itlu Mee Vidheyudu (1990), Sarada and Kulasa Kadhalu (1997) besides the translation of the biography of Asutosh Mukherjee from English into Telugu for National Book Trust, Kalpasootram from Prakrit into Telugu, two volumes of 116 Goppa Telugu cinema paatalu each with discerning commentary and Anusthana Bhagavadgeetha (2001) before he died at the age of 78.
Beginning from the A.P. Survey and Land Records Employees Souvenir of 1976, he successfully headed the souvenir committees of almost all important celebrations for 15 till 2001.
Bharago received a number of awards — second prizes in Andhra Patrika (weekly) Deepavali Kadhala Poti in 1960, Yuva Monthly, kadhala poti (1978), best book award (1981), best humour writer award of Telugu University (1990), Central Sahitya Academy Award (1991), Kurella Sahithi Award (1994), Vaisakha Award (1996) and Kalasagara (Chennai) Award (1997).
He also produced several commemoration volumes (souvenir) which included the ones on great personalities like Dwaram Venkataswamy Naidu, P. Bhanumathi, Ravu Balasaraswathi, Palagummi Padmaraju, and Raavi Sastry. A versatile genius, he also wrote in English and was an acclaimed singer.
A family background of literary interests and the encouragement of a galaxy of teachers helped him reach this much-desired position in the field he loves so much. “Read, read and read is my only advice to the youth of today. We were inspired to write only because we read great authors like Somerset Maughm. You know something? I wanted to translate Cakes and Ale of Maughm. When I wrote to him, he gave me complete rights of that book. He didn’t want any share in the profits. For some reason, I couldn’t do it. Had I done it, I would have been a rich man.”
Voracious reading and interaction with scholars in rich literary ambience of Vizianagarm inspired him to take up writing with passion and helped him reach a coveted position in the realm of letters. His affable presence in literary cirlces was conspicuous. His outstanding contribution was bringing out rare books of writers. An untiring researcher and literary activist, he promoted other writers than himself.
There was a lot of integrity job-wise which he was known to convey as an ideal in almost all his stories. Much of it was said through satire and humour, a humour compared to likes of a Bernard Shaw, an Oscar Wilde, perhaps. He seemed to enjoy the comparison. The various literary honours bestowed on him in the past four decades have made him happy, but he is a complacent man, not ruffled or excited by bouquets or depressed by brickbats. “I handle the brickbats with humour. The ability to laugh at myself is my only weakness – or call it strength if you feel like.”
‘Itlu Mee Vidheyudu’ can be called Bharago’s magnum opus. It won him the prestigious Sahitya Akademi award. The values he practiced in life have been well conveyed in this book. “Don’t preach through your writings, especially political stances and half-baked solutions to social evils. Feminism, caste discrimination and cruelty all these are time-bound. They change according to the situation. Why shout through your stories about your strong feelings? Won’t these shouts become mere whispers in due course, with no one paying attention? So why waste your breath?” A strong stuff indeed. He had, in all penned over 160 short-stories, three novels and 50 essays.
A lesser known facet to his personality is that he was a good Carnatic musician and wonderful singer of KL Saigal and P Bhanumati songs.
Bhamididipati Ramagopalam’s final words in parting, “Poverty is a challenge, not a sin”, leave you in undoubted admiration of this gutsy writer who tells it as it is, be it his opinion or the truth he believes in!
And what is that truth?
“This world is such a beautiful place! Can I leave this beauty behind when I die? Can I hear these beautiful songs in the other world? There are only three things in any world – Happiness, Beauty and Melody. We must find them wherever they are.”