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He enriches the city life

Photo: K.R. Deepak

A. Prasanna Kumar.

Rarely do we come across a city known as a high-voltage port city becoming a centre of academic and cultural excellence. Happily it has happened in the case of Visakhapatnam. Many charitable trusts and well-intentioned individuals have added a new dimension of glory to this city of myriad attractions by nurturing and sustaining such organisations.

Prominent among those individuals is the urbane, unassuming and ever-smiling Ayyagari Prasanna Kumar, former Rector and retired Professor of Political Science of Andhra University. His personality is a rare blend of a teacher, writer and a sports lover.

National newspapers allotting pages for city and regional news is a recent phenomenon. Till the late 1980s, there was only one national English daily - The Indian Express - published from Vijayawada and circulated throughout the State. In the mid-1970s, `Express' started a special feature, `Dolphin Diary', highlighting the academic, literary, cultural, industrial and other socially important events of Visakhapatnam.

Vizagites were looking for such a feature with a personal touch and, needless to say, it became very popular. The columnist was Prof. Prasanna Kumar, who wrote in his inimitable style about men and matters of moment, besides commenting on important events, with a tinge of humour. By that he had in more than one way enriched the cultural milieu of the city. His presentations won him accolades from commoners and connoisseurs alike. As the Vijayawada edition of the `Express' was circulating throughout coastal Andhra then, readers in other districts, too, became aware of the rich cultural ambience of the City of Destiny. In fact, the feature blazed a trail and heralded the beginning of the present cult of personal columns in these parts.

He has been writing to national dailies about sports for a long time. Being on the panel of commentators of All India Radio, he covered Asiad '82, First and Second Masters and Grand Prix in Badminton, Davis Cup and ATP Challenger tennis tourneys. Besides these, he offered his excellent running commentary on many zonal, national and international cricket matches.

He has penned the biography of the multi-faceted personality, Bhogaraju Pattabhi Seetharamaiah. What Boswell was to Johnson, Prasanna Kumar was to Pattabhi. The biographer's job is a tough one. It is like crawling on a sharp sword. An overdose of appreciation reduces the biography to mere flattery and an understatement of the achievements robs the subject of grandeur. Judged by any standards, Prasanna Kumar's biography of Pattabhi was an excellent record of the colourful life of one of the greatest visionaries of the country. Pattabhi's patriotic fervour, astounding dynamism and pragmatic approach are excellently captured in this work. The biography received rave reviews for its objectivity, clarity and simplicity.

Prasanna Kumar's long innings at the AU Political Science Department was a bright chapter in the campus annals. Only a few professors can match him in the manner of winning the respect of students. His former students fondly recall his excellent analytical approach in the classroom while interpreting global events.

The game of cricket cast a spell on him and it became a "magnificent obsession" with him. As a commentator, he collected a lot of material about the game and brought out the book, `Game of Memories' in 2002, containing thumbnail sketches of famous cricketers. The cricket celebrity, G.R. Viswanath, in his foreword to the book, writes: "... He is one of the most respected and loved personalities of Andhra cricket, who speaks and writes on cricket. After all, that comes naturally and fluently to him. For the last five-and-a-half decades, he has been following the game with astounding fervour and has been speaking and writing on this fascinating subject with an amazing degree of clarity and control. There lies the essence of this man's passion for the game."

Cricket has thrown up many opportunities for him to tour all over the country and meet some famous players, besides writers and leading journalists. He still cherishes the moments he spent talking to Lala Amarnath, Mushtaq Ali, Sunil Gavaskar, Khushwant Singh and P.S. Rangaswamy, the then Assistant Editor of the Vijayawada `Express'.

Prasanna Kumar is also a good tennis player. He brought out two books on tennis - `Tennis Players of Andhra' with a foreword by Ramanathan Krishnan (1990) and `Ramanathan Krishnan...Portrait of a Supreme Artist' (2000).

After retirement from AU, his zeal for serving society led him to establish the Centre for Policy Studies which organises regular get-togethers with "men who matter" from various fields of nation-building activity, thereby embellishing the intellectual profile of the city. The centre also publishes a monthly newsletter, of which he is the editor, providing a rich tapestry of comments on a variety of subjects.

Prasanna Kumar is the most-sought-after speaker by organisations of not only Vizag but also in various cities in the State and metros. He is one of the very few speakers, who do their homework before taking the mike. Though he occasionally wrote under the penname, 'Rambler', the fine art(?) of rambling is not his cup of coffee. Interspersed with interesting anecdotes and quotable quotes, his speeches are indeed the delight of the discerning listener. He is connected with a good number of universities that often seek his sagacious guidance in toning up their curricula.

Vizagites will be beholden to him for at least one effort of his---that is the building of a Ramalayam in Pithapuram colony, that, too, in a remarkably short span of less than three months. That was Prasanna Kumar at his constructive best.

Prasanna Kumar's circle of friends and admirers is large but larger is the cultural garden of the city of Vizag where the fragrant roses of his social service bloom in large number in all seasons.

K.V. PURNESWARA RAO

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