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Humble barber is a man of letters

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Hyderabad: Subbaiah Vanapatla may just be a humble barber for the denizens of Nagarkurnool town and his Bargavi hairstyles a little known destination. However, very few persons of his large clientele are aware of the brighter dimensions of this barber.

He is the man who made a difference with his towering presence at one of the venues of the World Telugu Conference (WTC) on Sunday. One of the 700 poets being feted at Indira Priyadarshini auditorium as part of the WTC, he received enthusiastic cheers from the crowd.

Never shy of calling himself a “working barber”, 43-year-old Subbaiah has more than a dozen literary works to his credit and half a dozen titles awaiting publication. His latest contribution “Telangana Tene Palukulu” is all set for release.

Recipient of the C Narayana Reddy award, Telugu University Keerthi Puraskaram and Telangana Sahitya Vedika Puraskaram, Subbaiah says his small saloon has not only been the lab that helped in shaping his random thoughts into thought provoking works, but remained a big source of support for his family and his literary activities.

Admirers’ wish

His admirers are keen on making the book release happen on the main dais of the World Telugu Conference at Lal Bahadur Stadium on Monday. The book is all about the new genre of literature and the patronage enjoyed in the new State.

He made his foray into literature in quest of solutions to issues linked to life. He says being a critic in literature is not all. He believes strongly in ‘questioning the questionable and helping in finding the way forward.’ “Olleda” his first contribution to Telugu literature is all about the impact made by people from traditional occupations during the fight for separate Telangana.

The general perception is that the employees were singularly responsible for the success of the 42-day ‘Sakala Janula Samme’. But the barbers coming out of their saloon to give haircuts in the middle of the road, the dhobi washing clothes in public places to register protest had made more impact than others.

His saloon that was converted into a workshop of social thought had for long been the platform for channelizing the growing discontent into a mass movement.

Subbaiah says his friends and classmates who are today in high positions, have begun to acknowledge his contribution to the fight for statehood. He was successful in bringing together people from across the system in quest of the root cause behind problems faced by society and then collaborate in devising solutions.

Makes a mark

As the secretary of the “Vennela Sahitya Academy”, which he floated with the support of his friend Dinakar, he has certainly made his mark in Telugu literature. It was instrumental for many of the literary meets organised in the district and elsewhere. It sponsored many studies on the ills and evils of society.

Subbaiah, who added “Pasarantina Kodavali” (greener stain on the sickle edge), to the long list of his literary works had the life experiences of mother Balamma and father Balaiah as the sum and substance of literature.

His father had worked for paltry sums in the farms of well-to-do farmers while pursuing at least for half-a-day his traditional occupation as a barber.

I first thought of writing about my only occupation, as very few people in history ventured to do so. The profession of barbers, which fetches very little, has no place in the works of literary greats. Writing about such subjects was a taboo as it enjoyed no respect as a profession, he said.

He had many of his works published in vernacular dailies such as Namaste Telangana and Andhra Jyothi that facilitated him to find platforms with larger reach. His contributions such as “Thadi”, “Kurchi” and “Podi” had only part fulfilled his mission. “There is a still a long way to go,” he said.  “My father has nothing of his own till date except for his name on the voters’ list. I have no craving for money. All that I would like is a free mind that can give expression to the ordeals of the underdogs in society,” he said.

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