In 1996, noted writer and publisher, S V Sreenivasa Rao, was given the Aryabhatta award, in recognition of his contribution to Kannada literature. Thereafter he was awarded the ‘Kannada Sri’ from the Kannada Sahitya Parishat (2000) and ‘Karnataka Sri’ from Karnataka Rajya Prashasti (2005). Rao has also won Attimabbe and Ranne Sahitya Prashasti for Mahitikosha, his encyclopedia on Kannada writers.
Winning awards is a habit for 76-year-old Rao. His drawing room has no more space, given the awards that he’s won; starting from school days, through college life, until today. Strangely enough, this stalwart of the Kannada literary scene was a scientist, who served in the defence establishment, CQAL, for 34 years. But Rao showed his love for language early on. Though a science graduate and completing AMIE, he also did MA in Kannada, Hindi Rashtrabhasha Visharadh and took a diploma in Russian.
A lover of Kannada literature and a creative writer from his school days, Rao’s very first short story won the first prize in a school contest. After that there was no stopping the creative streak or his talent for writing. Over the years, Rao tried his hand at every genre. Short stories, travelogues, features, science fiction, historical novels, children’s books, translations (Bengali and Oriya), biographies (Veerappa Moily and Sri Guru Nanak), compiling and editing…Rao has done it all, with a whopping number of 87 books published so far.
His historical novel, Prouda Pratapa Veera Rajendra, about a Coorgi emperor, was adjudged one of the best books written during the decade 1980-90. Besides this, Rao’s stories have appeared in publications like Vishwa Karnataka, Kathegarara Kathanjali, Karmaveera, Sudha, Taranga and Mayura. “I am proud to say that all my 24 novels have been serialized in leading magazines. This includes three novels for children, serialized in Bala Mangala – a children’s magazine. I think this is a record of sorts,” says Rao.
What inspires him to write? “Anything that I observe around me. For example, I wrote the maximum during my stint in the busy city of Bombay because I got to witness so many things during my train journey to and from office. A train accident in Matunga inspired me to write the short story ‘Raktha Karanji’, which was published in the weekly, Sudha. There is a lot to write, if only we look around us with our inner eye,” comments Rao.
Despite this inherent creativity, Rao feels that his greatest contribution to the Kannada literary world is Kannada Sahithi Darshana. The first edition, which contains a brief biography of 1,500 Kannada writers, authors and poets, was released by the great poet Kuvempu in 1989. The second edition contains details of 3,000 Kannada literary figures, along with particulars of the various organisations working for Kannada literature, the awards instituted and the list of awardees. “It is almost an encyclopaedia and will serve as a good reference book. I have put my heart and soul into compiling this book,” says Rao proudly. Published in 2007 by the writer’s own publishing house, Sowrabha, the book was released in December 2008 by the Chief Minister of Karnataka, B S Yeddyurappa.
As if all these accomplishments were not enough, Rao has been associated with a number of organisations such as the Karnataka Makkala Sahitya Parishat, Karnataka Publishers’ Association, Banashankari Samskruti Sangha, and Karnataka Sahitya Parishad. He served on Doordarshan as a preview committee member for four years and was a member of the book selection committee at the Directorate of Libraries and Kannada Book Authority, Government of Karnataka. Besides this, he was the editor of Kannada Nudi (2001-2004).
So how did he manage to be prolific as a writer, given that he had a full time job and was involved with various organisations?
“Night is his usual time to write. He starts his work after dinner, when there is least disturbance and the house is quiet,” interjects Anusuya, Rao’s wife.
“My wife is my first fan and critic. I show her whatever I write and she gives very useful tips and suggestions,” remarks Rao.
Which brings us to 70-year-old Anusuya. During the interview, Rao’s wife kept giving inputs about his writings, awards and achievements. On being appreciated for her keen interest in her husband’s vocation, the lady revealed that she herself was a writer-publisher, winner of the national award for the best woman writer cum publisher as well as for her book on children!
“Since both of us have common interests, we support each other and understand the other’s problems,” explains a modest Anusuya.
So was this a love marriage?
“Not exactly. But we are cousins and knew each other’s interests from the beginning,” she replies.
“Both of us have been writing short books on various characters/ events/ features of Mahabharatha for the Makkalige Mahabharatha series being published by Geetha Agencies. I have written about Karna, while my husband has written about Draupadi, Dharmaraya, Arjuna and a few more,” adds Anusuya.
She could have remained in the shadow of her husband, but Anusuya, who has written a number of features, essays, short stories and dramas in leading Kannada magazines and journals, chose to stride out on her own. Her ‘Sundara Karnataka’ was published in the International Year of Women by the Kannada Sahithya Parishat. Her book for children on the theme ‘tolerance’ won her the NCERT award in 1994-95. In 2000, she shared the Best Woman Publisher award along with Nirupama. This award was given by the Federation of Indian Publishers for her publishing house, Sourabha Prakashana.
Interested in music, fine arts and theatre (she has directed some popular dramas), Anusuya was secretary of the women’s wing of the Banashankari Cultural Association. An active member of the Executive Samithi of the Karnataka Lekakeeyara Sangha for 10 years, Anusuya is now a life member of this sangha, organising and participating in their seminars, workshops and activities. Even as she supports and critiques her husband and his work.
Whoever said old age is a curse couldn’t be more wrong. This couple, leading contented lives and managing busy schedules, shows us just how fruitful and interesting life can be in your seventies.