Book of phrases and sentences exposes readers to English language in pre-Independence era
A hundred-year-old book has taken on a modern avatar, thanks to a decade-long efforts by the author’s grandson. A Vade Mecum of all Anglo-Telugu Readers, published in 1920, has been edited and released now as ‘A Century of An Epic’.
The book of Telugu phrases and sentences rendered into idiomatic and appropriate English exposes readers to English language in the pre-Independence era. The book was recently released by Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan.
“Some expressions sound funny given the contextual changes over the decades and that is what makes it further interesting,” says Dasu Kesava Rao, grandson of Dasu Kesava Rao Pant, the original author. First published in 1920, it had received such a phenomenal response that it went for reprints every year until 1938. Finding it amid a dusty pile of old books in 2010, the author’s grandson took a decade to refine, revive and reprint it.
In British India, Telugu-speaking people spoke either ‘Butler English’ or word-to-word translation, which sounded unnatural and stilted. The author felt they needed to speak idiomatic English to communicate effectively, and published the book, ‘Vade Mecum’, a Latin expression corresponding to handbook or guide. The tagline assured readers: ‘If you read this book carefully, you will speak English beautifully’, said Mr. Kesava Rao, who retired as the bureau chief of The Hindu in Hyderabad.
The book contains over 50 pages of Telugu phrases and sentences rendered into idiomatic and appropriate English, followed by English idiomatic expressions translated into suitable Telugu apart from a long list of Telugu proverbs with corresponding ones in English, and a large collection of useful English and equivalent Telugu words.
Explaining the reason for bringing out the book again after 100 years since its first publication, Mr. Kesava Rao said that apart from nostalgia he wanted the present generation to take a peek into English usage in India the way it was a century ago. The copy was in a very bad state, the pages having turned yellow and torn. But with the help of Veteran Journalists’ Association and senior journalists G.S. Varadachary and K. Lakshmana Rao, who were confident that the book would interest readers, it was was redesigned and retitled ‘A Century of An Epic’ to give it a contemporary look and character.
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