Biography

The following sections have been developed using many formal and informal sources, including interviews of the author, diary entries, author reminiscences, and personal experiences of friends and family members. References have been cited and displayed wherever possible.

Childhood

Balivada Kantha Rao was born on 3 July 1927 to Suryanarayana and Ravanamma, in Madapam village on the banks of the Vamsadhaara river near Srikakulam town in Andhra Pradesh. He was the oldest of nine children. His father was the village primary school teacher with limited finances. Balivada studied in the village elementary school until he was nine. As he reminisced in one of his essays,

Parents of Balivada Kantha Rao
Suryanarayana and Ravanamma (parents)

“I was born in a tiny village on the banks of the river Vamsadhaara in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh and my first guru was my father. He was the headmaster of the village school and was well versed with our classics.  He was a singer and performed in Puranic dramas in the village. My father,  the river, the beautiful surroundings, and the people left an indelible influence on me”.

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Career: Government Service and Early Writing

At seventeen, Balivada joined the Army Ordinance Depot as a temporary civilian clerk. After the war, the office was closed down and he had to go back to his village. This was in some ways the beginnings of Balivada the writer. According to him:

Young Balivada Kantha Rao
Balivada at twenty.

“In 1947, I spent some time in my village and read Kovvali and Jampana’s novels and had the yearning to write.  I wrote a novel, Sarada.  With some praise and encouragement from my aunt,  I wrote to Raut Book Depot asking if they could publish.  They responded in the negative stating that they don’t publish new authors.  So I sent it to the magazine, Chitragupta.  It was accepted and published in serial form. Later,  I got a job and moved back to Visakhapatnam.  I used to visit the Hindu Reading Room after work and read until they would close at night.  I wanted to write for G.M. Acharya’s “Prajabandhu” magazine which published a single short story every week in the center page titled “This week’s story”.  I wrote my first short story, Parivartana, and it was accepted and published in this magazine”

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Critical Acclaim

His love for story-telling and capacity to write was such that he wrote consistently throughout his life. His known, documented output of novels, short-stories, and plays are captured in this list. Below is a description of some of his selected works as reviewed by critics and his contemporaries. You can read some of these novels and short story collections on the literature page.

Novels

In The Hindu article “Presenting a realistic panorama”, Chitrakavi Atreya writes

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Personal Life
With his siblings in Visakhapatnam

To Balivada, family was always a source of great strength. Early in life, he took over the responsibility of his siblings, cousins, and many of the extended family members, to get them educated, married, and oftentimes counsel them to get good jobs. In this endeavor, Balivada had admirable support from his wife, Sarada, whom he married in 1951. She was the charming and strong force behind many of Balivada’s initiatives for the extended family, and the public interface with friends. She too like Balivada, did not have the privilege of a college education.

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Life Journey in his words…..
Center Stage at the Sahitya Akademi Award Function as he is being introduced (New Delhi, 1999)

In the writers meet the day after the Sahitya Akademi awards ceremony in February 1999, Balivada summarized his life journey in a speech to the distinguished audience, reproduced here from his draft.

“A writer creates out of his life’s experiences.  No wonder the famous Italian writer Alberto Moravia said…. “Over half a century, all  I have done under the mask of different stories, is to tell the story of the life of a man called Alberto Moravia“.  In my fifty years of literary career,  perhaps I did the same. I am the product of the past, producing the fruits with my labor and leaving the seeds for the future. I am always reminded of Victor Hugo who said, “If the writer writes only for the present, let him throw away his pen“.

My roots are in my village and this helped me depict the lives of the deprived and downtrodden in my novels and short stories.  I was born in a tiny village on the banks of the river Vamsadhaara in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh and my first guru was my father. He was the headmaster of the village school and was well versed with our classics.  He was a singer and performed in Puranic dramas in the village. My father,  the river, the beautiful surroundings, and the people left an indelible influence on me.  After my secondary school education,  being the eldest child, I decided to help my father in managing his family of nine children.

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References

Q&A with Attaluri Narasimha Rao …Part I

( Published in Andhra Jyoti Magazine (1989) in Telugu.  Translated into Hindi by Dr. J.L. Reddy.  Translated into English by Ashok Balivada). We have not been able to secure the original telugu version.

Q:  When did you first come to Visakhapatnam and why?

A:   In 1936.   To study in 5th Standard in AVN College’s High School.

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Q&A with Attaluri Narasimha Rao …. Part II

(Published in Andhra Jyoti Magazine in Telugu, 11th Dec, 1989.  Translated into Hindi by Dr. J.L. Reddy.  Translated into English by Ashok Balivada). We have not been able to secure the original telugu version of this interview.

Q:  Looking at your novels, the plot and characters of one novel never appear in another.  What are the reasons for creating such diversity of plots and characters?

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Critical Review Articles
Research Publications

Balivada Kantharao Navalalu Pariseelana“, PhD Thesis by Dr Yohan Babu, 1989

Telugu Navalaku Velugu Rekhalu: Malapalli-Vamsadhaaralu“, Research Publication by Prof Yohan Babu

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English తెలుగు