i had this strong desire to learn, but where was the opportunity? all my friends went to school and would tend to the cattle only on saturdays, sundays. i would admire the pictures in their books and pester them to tell me devdatta's story. it was about how siddhartha turned into the buddha. they'd promise to tell the story if i looked after their herds. they'd never finish a story in one day- each tale would drag on for 4-5 days. this was a ruse to ensure that i looked after their animals all those days. but, does it matter? i learnt to read from them, but i haven't learnt to write until now. *he never went to school but was awarded a doctorate a couple of weeks ago. he worked as a shepherd, a farm hand, a construction labourer, and at other odd jobs since the age of six.. never enjoyed a freshly cooked meal until he was well into his teens. his mother ran away when he was seven, a sister three years later, and his father could never bring home enough to eat. poverty, disease, hunger, unrelenting shadows, followed him all through his childhood and youth.
if you can read telugu, please learn about andesri, in his own words. because this unlettered poet of the indian village might teach us a lot about india. like kaloji, gaddar, he is yet another literary miracle shaped by the harsh but magnificient soul of telangana. how does a land ravaged by so much deprivation, violence and misfortune produce such generous lovers of humanity? life has been so unkind to him- yet he sings like my mother.
[* my translation of a part of this page. via kaumudi. one day, perhaps, i'll try and translate the whole page.]