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Reminiscing Sankarambadi

By A.D. Rangarajan

TIRUPATI, NOV. 24. Gangundra Mandapam street, a nondescript bylane near Gandhi road in the heart of Tirupati, is suddenly in news. That too, after the Tirupati Urban Development Authority paid a fitting tribute to Sankarambadi Sundarachari, the composer of the State anthem Maa Telugu Thalliki.. by erecting his statue and holding a week-long literary event.

Forget the new settlers and traders, the elderly denizens residing there for decades are busy brushing their brains to recollect the hazy picture of Sundarachari and anecdotes relating to him. As Sundarachari kept moving places, many could only recollect events in `bits and pieces'.

The ancient house, where he lived on rent, is worn out, but it stands majestically in the midst of multi-storeyed complexes that sprouted recently. Narayanaguru Dutt, who is currently living in the house, is thrilled to know its significance. "Sankarambadi... in this house?'' He looked askance at the damaged roof and crammed rooms.

Many of his relatives living in the street recall him walking in their midst, calling them by his first name and hurling one or two limericks at will. Sundarachari did not have children, but his cousins and their families lived here. His cousin's son recalls the image of Sankarambadi, whom he had seen in his boyhood days, as a man clad in white dhoti and jibba, with `tirunamam' on the forehead.

His works

Sundarachari was said to be an authority on Ramayana. He had penned his version of the epic by the name Sundara Ramayanam. Later, he also wrote Sundara Bharatam, besides half-a-dozen other works. Not one of his works is available for reprint, even with senior scholars, libraries or his relatives. With this, posterity is denied the opportunity of studying his great works.

He used to engage a renowned scholar of his time, Kapistalam Srirangachary in (friendly) literary duels and discuss politics with Madabhushi Anantasayanam Iyengar, former Lok Sabha speaker, both of whom resided in the same street.

With his wife going mentally unstable, the poet started leading a wayward life towards the end of his life when he had to miss a lot of opportunities and recognition in life.

Faintly recalling Sankarambadi's death in the summer of 1977, another relative working in a bank has suggested to the Government to institute a chair in a university or a literary award in his memory.

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