But Seriously.....

Venkateswara Rao Veluri (vrveluri@worldnet.att.net)
Tue, 02 Jun 1998 00:40:49 -0500


Dear Friends:

For over 20 years, Telugu community has been meeting under different
contexts - for family get-togethers, for religious festivities, for
culturalenrichment and to revisit the greatness of our heritage. 
Some of these are major gatherings attended by thousands of our
people from all over the North American continent. They have attained
the status of national institutions. 

What happened in Atlanta a week ago during the Memorial Day Weekend is
significantly different from these gatherings. For the first time,
members of the Telugu community met for one specific purpose: to discuss
literarture and language. We met as people who not only enjoy good
literature, but as people who produce literature, and critical ideas
about literature.

A second item of importance in this gathering was related to
institutionalizing Telugu language and literature in American Academia.

I came back from the symposium with a confidence -- jokes apart -- 
that the Telugu community of US has matured into producers and critics 
of Telugu literature in their own right.

This is a beginning. None of us assume even in our dreams that we are
already producing great literature; nor great criticism,  but we all 
agree that we are producing literature and critism worthy of our time.
We are conscious of our limitations but we are no more amatuers.

The Atlanta gathering made us recognize ourselves. It gave us the
confidence that as a diasporic community we have a distinct role to
play in enriching Telugu literature, and modernizing it in ways that
Telugu community in Andhra itself, great as it is, may not be able to
do.

The point is that we are differently located in a challenging
cultural context, and our creativity is responding to the challenges we
face. Every literary piece presented in Atlanta shows distinct evidence
of a diasporic literature in the making. We are professionally Doctors,
Scientists, Engineers, Software Specialists, Businessmen and
Academicians. But we have emerged as poets, writers, critics and
essayists.

What has happened in Atlanta over a couple of days, in formal and in
informal presentations, in public and private gatherings is simply this:
we are energized as a literary community and we visualized a possiblity,
vague as it may seem now, of achieving something tangible in the long
term.

People who organized this gathering are my good friends: Pemmaraju
Venugopala Rao and Vanguri Chitten Raju and the Atlanta Telugu
community. Organizational errors of omission and commission, minor
lapses can easily be found. Any one of us organizing an event like this
would probably commit them ourselves.

The point that should not miss our attention, however, is that as an
event it has generated a collective literary awareness in all of us.
While it happened as a result of this spontaneous expression from people
that attended, the real credit should go to the Atlanta organizers who
had the imagination and vision to conceptualize and organize a symposium
like this one. We all owe them a debt of gratitude and a round of thanks
for making this happen!

This was a historic occasion. Its historicity grows with time. Telugu
community in this country will, in years to come, contribute more
and more to Telugu literature.  We will then remember that the
beginnings were made in Atlanta, May 23 - 24, 1998.

Big things always begin small. It is incumbent on us to make small
things big. In my own experience, the India Literacy Project was started
by a handful of people about ten years ago and it started small.

On hind sight, I wonder whether we should have discussed in Atlanta
about future programs. May be, it was alright to have left it somewhat
vague. I would very much hope another spontaneous gathering like this
will take place with the personal energies of some of us, supported by
a community which enjoys literature even more!

Finally, a word about the committee for Telugu Chair: Let me restate the
idea as I understand it: It is a committee to PROMOTE  the idea of a
Telugu Chair, and in that sense we are all more than members of the
committee-- we are all partners in that Committee!!

Meeting you in Atlanta was good; I am looking forward to meeting more of
you next year.

P.S. Are you shocked that I who wrote a lot jokes about Atlanta meet
should wirte this? I am afraid it's a kind of saha-vasa-dosha, with
literary folks like you.

Regards.

Venkateswara Rao Veluri