Hyderabad becomes an International City of Hospitality
“I had no tuition fees to pay; Guru Mrityunjaya Sharma was not my relative or family friend. And yet, he took a ‘stone’ like me and polished me, because he saw a spark in me… He taught me without expecting anything in return, only because of his love for the Telugu language. It is because of such teachers that Telugu has flourished and will continue to flourish.”
Humility, passion and dedication to one’s mother tongue are just some of the qualities to describe these humbling words spoken in Telugu by Telangana Chief Minister Kalvakuntla Chandrashekar Rao (affectionately referred by millions of his admirers as ‘KCR’), who mesmerised the audience at the opening ceremony of ‘Prapancha Telugu Mahasabhalu’ or the ‘World Telugu Conference 2017,’ held at Lal Bahadur (LB) Stadium, Hyderabad.
This five-day event, devoted to the richness and heritage of Telugu language and Telangana culture, was held from December 15 to December 19, 2017 in Hyderabad City in the South Indian State of Telangana at various venues besides the main LB Stadium.
As a New Zealand Citizen of Indian origin born in the Kingdom of Bahrain, I was fortunate to be a part of the large international delegation comprising members from 42 countries, representing my birthland (Bahrain), motherland (India) and homeland (New Zealand) in my roles as a Telugu Cultural Ambassador performing traditional Kuchipudi dance and as Indian Newslink Reporter.
The New Zealand Delegation
Other members of the New Zealand delegation to WTC included Telangana Rashtra Samithi New Zealand President Vijay Reddy Kosna, Telangana Association President Kalyan Rao Kasuganti, Sangeeta Bharathi School of Music Director Govardhan Mallela and Telangana Jagruthi President Aruna Jyothi Reddy Muddam.
WTC 2017 was a platform which united the Telugu community from various parts of the world apart from the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and rest of India.
The mega event was not restricted to natives of Telugu language but included lovers of Telugu literature, music, dance and folk traditions.
Mahesh Bigala, the official Non-Resident Indian (NRI) Coordinator for WTC 2017, was responsible for promoting this event internationally and has encouraged prominent Telugu individuals, community groups and associations to participate in this prestigious event and help make it a grand success.
Language is Power
Organised by the Telangana Government, Telangana Sahitya Akademi, its Chairman Nandini Sidda Reddy and Tourism and Culture Officials, Hyderabad was decked with over 100 welcome arches and hoardings commemorating various Telugu luminaries to bring into focus the spirit behind WTC 2017 and to spread the beauty of Telugu language and culture.
Attended by almost 8000 Indian, Non-Resident Indian and Non-Indian delegates, WTC hosted seminars, literary plays and discussions which focused on preserving and promoting the Telugu language for current and future generations.
The pre-conceived notion that one needs to study in an English medium school to rise in career and life was side-lined when India’s Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu put forth his own life and that of KCR and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu, stating that they all studied in Telugu.
“Only when language flourishes, the culture and traditions of a community would sustain. People, government and media should work together to bring prominence to one’s mother tongue,” Mr Naidu said.
Tribute was also paid to neighbouring Tamil Nadu, and the way its people take pride in insisting to speak and converse in Tamil instead of succumbing to speaking in Hindi, which is prevalent in some parts of North India.
Similarly, speakers from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have been encouraged to do the same since Telugu is an official language of these two States.
City of Two Faiths
Nowadays, it is a pity to see people of different faiths fighting amongst each other, more common between people of Hindu and Islamic faiths.
However, this was not the case in pre-independent and pre-British India, especially in Hyderabad where different communities continue to live together regardless of race or faith, and where it is not unusual to see a Hindu Temple and a Muslim Mosque in the same location.
Indian politician and President of the All India Majis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen Asaduddin Owaisi, proudly described himself as ‘A Telugu in South India, a Telanganite in Telangana and an Urdu-speaking Hyderabadi in Hyderabad’ during his speech at the WTC, drawing wide appreciation and applause from the public.
“Since the time of the Qutub Shahi, Hindus and Muslims in Hyderabad have been living together in a spirit of brotherhood. Telangana is an embodiment of Hindu-Muslim unity,” Mr Owaisi said.
A function on Telugu literary works and publications held at the prestigious National Theatre Ravindra Bharathi was scheduled on the concluding day of the WTC, at which Member of Parliament (elected from Nizamabad) and Telangana Jagruthi Founder President Kalvakuntla Kavitha was the Chief Guest.
This writer performed ‘Tarangam,’ a traditional Kuchipudi dance where the dancer’s feet are balanced on the edges of a brass plate, simultaneously balancing a brass pot of water on the head, to a packed audience consisting of local and NRI delegates.
Ms Kavitha delivered a presentation on the history of Telugu language, saying that she was touched by the response of the delegates from all over India and abroad, and that it was overwhelming to see NRIs preserving and promoting their culture despite living thousands of miles away from their native land.
“We are not making efforts to teach Telugu here, but NRIs are making efforts to teach their children Kuchipudi, Telugu basics and poems,” she said.
Awards and Honours
Ms Kavitha and Mr Bigala presented Special Awards to people who have contributed to the promotion of Telugu culture in various fields. Among the recipients were Mr Kosna, Ms Muddam and this writer.
City of Three ‘B’s
“Hyderabad is majestic as the City of Biryani, Badminton and Baahubali,” India’s President Ramnath Kovind mentioned in his speech, much to the delight of everyone gathered at the closing ceremony of WTC at LB Stadium.
He said that Hyderabad had given India delicious food such as Biryani, a string of badminton champions and films such as Baahubali which exuberated Indian soft power.
Other speakers commended the contributions of Telugu poets and writers, particularly those from Telangana, whose works were not given prominence prior to the formation of the Telangana State three years ago.
Following the success of this five-day event, KCR announced that an annual two-day grand festival will be held in December to celebrate Telugu language in the context of Telangana culture.
The ‘World Telugu Conference’ concluded with a spectacular display of colourful fireworks and a laser beam light show both of which were well synchronised with percussive music in the background.
Taking a bow
My wonderful time in Hyderabad was due to the sponsorship and travel arrangements made by Telangana Sahitya Akademi and Vijay Reddy Kosna, and the generosity of my friends including Geetha Sagaram, former New Zealand Telugu Association President Sitaram Salvaji and Aruna Jyothi Reddy Muddam.
I am grateful for this opportunity to represent New Zealand, to showcase my talents at ‘Prapancha Telugu Mahasabhalu 2017’ and to experience the warm and friendly hospitality of the people of Telangana.
Ratna Venkat, who received the Title of ‘Kuchipudi Princess’ from former New Zealand Prime Minister Sir John Key on November 28, 2016, is an Award winning Indian Classical Dancer, Choreographer and Assistant Editor of Indian Newslink. She was a member of the New Zealand Delegation to ‘World Telugu Conference 2017,’ an International event sponsored by the Government of Telangana, Telangana Sahitya Academy and its Chairman Nandini Sidda Reddy, in Hyderabad, in the South Indian State of Telangana. Like her on facebook.com/ratnarangnz and follow her on instagram.com/ratnarang to see some exclusive snaps from her Hyderabadi adventure.
- Auckland delegates Kalyan Rao Kasuganti, Vijay Reddy Kosna and others with Telangana Chief Minister K C Rao (Photo by Prabhakar Kodi)
- Ratna Venkat with Telangana Chief Minister KC Rao
- Kalvakuntla Kavitha honours Ratna Venkat, watched, among others by Kalyan Rao Kasuganti, Aruna Jyothi Reddy Muddam and Mahesh Bigala (Photo by Prabhakar Kodi)