Mar 122005

Racchabanda and vividha

[Preamble: There was darkness everywhere. Actually, it was not that. People were discussing the NRI influences on Telugu literature. Several bigwigs backhome were expressing disapproval at this influence. In that background, I wrote this article]First of all, don’t shoot the messenger. Dileep is merely expressing the opinions of the many from back home. Nothing more. In fact, I think we should appreciate his honesty in speaking out. Why, none of the “professionals” have responded — perhaps they do not want to get down to RB level!

My thanks to Dileep Reddy.

And, there are several noteworthy points in there. Unfortunately, most of us are nitpicking without paying attention to his points. Let me address those issues:

Professional writers vs. non-professional writers: Incidentally, this issue is coming up in the journalistic circles back in the US as well. The rise of blogosphere is threatening the regular professionals. On one hand, the professionals have training, standards, and the history behind them. The interested amateur has none of those. However, what the amateurs point out is that the professionals have not done a great job. They are incompetent, ill-prepared, and often dishonest. Amateurs bring out the fresh perspective.

Now, coming to RB vs. the others, is RB composed of non-professional writers? Yes, mostly. Most of us are successful in our chosen careers; most of us are well-read; most of us have an interest in the matters of literature, arts, and social issues. And, most of us have certain view points, which is honed with tools that they mastered in their own professions.

Never mind that the tools are not that of professional writers. Never mind the tools are used in different contexts. They are indeed useful. I can only reflect on my case: My training has been in computer science, where I did my thesis on semantics of languages. I doubt that any professional writers in AP would understand syntactic and semantic issues of languages from a structural, and denotational perspective as I do [Heck, the field is non-lucrative enough that there aren’t many in CS that understand it!] And, I bring that perspective in whatever I do.

But, of course, there lies a danger. Merely because I am successful does not mean that I can pass opinions of things that I do not comprehend. I heard about it a few times. A fellow comes to US. Fellow is a doctor in the 70’s, business man in the 80’s, or software company owner in the 90’s. Fellow makes lot of money. Fellow gets lots of respect back home. Fellow knows a little bit about literature and even less about economics. Fellow starts making pronouncements. Fellow is resented thoroughly back home.

In fact, the whole NRA community is tarred with the same feather.

Now, what is wrong with this picture?

First of all, the picture is never so monochromatic. There are lot of shades. Along with such successful ignorants, there are people here who are really capable. Lot of them have more knowledge, passion, and capability than the professional writers back home.

In fact, let us turn the tables a bit.

What special training do writers have back home? They often make pronouncements about Economics. Do they understand the subject? Did they do any courses in it? Did they read any books? Do they at least read the budget? Do they understand the impact on interest rates on the price of onions?

If they do not, why do they think they are in a position to talk about economics?

A reasonable case can be made thusly: We do not need to know economics, to understand the suffering of the fellow humans. We do not need to know the intricacies of measuring the poverty to understand poverty when we see it. What we see, what we feel, is what we write.


Still, consider the possibility. At best you are becoming a chronicler of the current state. As an acquaintance in Bangalore said: “I know that Rayalaseema does not have rains. Why do they have to keep telling in every story about it. I empathized with Krishna reddy when he suffered from it. I understood Venkata Reddy when it hit him. I stood by when they told me how raaghava reddy lost his land. But, it is really getting to me that they are going through the whole set of people!”

Yes, each person’s story is different at a macro level. As a writer you should somehow bring out that difference. At the same time, you should look for the big picture. Without that, it becomes repetitive, boring, and ultimately, self serving.

The best book on this subject, as with any other subject is “chaduvu”, if you want to get what I am saying.

Now, where were we? We are talking about how people in the US are non-professionals. What I argued is that several non-professionals here are more capable than the professionals back home. And, I also argued that the “professionals back home” are not really professionals.

Here is some more anecdotal evidence:

Let us briefly look at the professionals and non-professionals. Several of the non-professionals here have written books, articles, and other reading materials under the strictest guidelines. When I read the prose published in AP, I cringe. It is full of rhetoric errors and logical mistakes. Exceptions are truly rare. On the other hand, when I read an article by Jampala, I do find it logically consistent, rhetorically balanced, and on the whole reflects his training as a professional who wrote scientifically precise articles on tricho-tillomania (Haha only kidding [about the decease that is. He actually an authority on Anorexia nervosa]).

One point I concede: the professionals back home may have more facts at their disposal. However, when I see people like Paruchuri, I do not believe that it is their monopoly either.

In short, the RB, when discounted properly, in its spare time, has more interesting things to say than the professionals back home — who often are illiterate in the matters of larger context. Them’s harsh words, but I calls it as I sees it.

Dr. Ramarao Kanneganti [wink, wink, nudge, nudge, poke, poke]

PS: There is an accepted name for these non-professionals. They are called Pro-Am: professional Amateurs. For a full discussion on this term, you can see the fast company article.

 Posted by at 9:15 pm

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