M K Prabhavati

The First Lady Avadhaani

At one point of time, M. K. Prabhavathi was ridiculed for her poor memory. But with hard work and dedication, she managed to excel in the literary process of “Asthaavadhaanam,” which demands the highest level of attention and the ability to respond simultaneously to multiple tasks or multiple task demands.

M. K. Prabhavathi, my mother, is the first lady Avadhaani. “Asthavadhaanam” is a literary process (known to be done in Telugu, Sanskrit, Kannada & Tamil languages) in which the “Avadhaani” simultaneously answers to the questions posed by eight “Prucchakas” (Questioners) who pose questions specific to certain context and metre (Chandas). It needs superior mastery of cognitive capabilities such as observation, memory, multitasking, task switching, retrieval, reasoning and creativity in multiple modes of intelligence - literature, poetry, puzzle solving, wit, etc. A very difficult and arduous endeavour, Asthaavadhaanam, was a male bastion for more than a century.

She started the pursuit of becoming an Avadhaani in Telugu language at the age of 44 when she was working as science teacher at Railway High School and she was already a mother of three children. With the spark of writing poetry and motivation from well-wishers who motivated and guided her, she successfully held her 1st public performance in 1991 and went on to give her 108th public performance in 2016 at the age of 70 years.

An immensely dedicated lady to her family, she shouldered a huge responsibility at the age of 16 years when her father expired, leaving her mother and four siblings dependent on her. Given the age at which she started her effort in this line and her profession being totally unconnected to her passion of poetry, one would not have given much chance. As a person who was often ridiculed for her poor memory, it was no less than a herculean task and required enormous passion for poetry and language. Her dedication and persistence in mastering the skill which is totally unconnected to the challenges of daily life sets an example of what can be achieved when one decides to go the distance.

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