Author Archives: Nidadavolu Malathi

P. Sathyavathi. The Song

                                         My Song by P.Sathyavathi

   I checked my appearance in the mirror and felt satisfied. The sweet face that looked back at me
was indeed, enticing. I was about to embark on a journey on to the other bank of the river.

I was inexplicably happy that day, perhaps due to my youthful energy, or due to an imaginative
mind that always desired for the moon. Armed with a confidence that I could get that moon if I
wanted to, I was on the clouds. I picked up my colourful bags, three of them, made with coloured
beads, bright flowers and colourful threads. Of course, I wouldn’t leave my friend behind, the ever present song on my lips, would I? In fact, I cunningly extracted a promise from the song, never to leave my lips.

Thus equipped to face the life, I stood on the bank of the river, watching the sun rise, awe struck. A small boat came along. It looked a pretty sight, swaying in the mighty, dignified river. There was a man in the boat.  He had a smile fixed on his lips and looked very handsome, indeed.

“Do you want to jump in?” he asked.
“Now, what are those bags?” he enquired further.
“These bags? My friendships, my memories, my ambitions, my likes, my talents and many things that define me,” I replied.
“I see! Ok, jump in. Don’t forget all those bags. You might bring that song on your lips too. Do you need to hold my hand to get into the boat?”
“Of course not! I can get into the boat all by myself, thank you. In fact, I know how to row the boat, as well. By the way, where are you off to?”
“Nowhere in particular. I will row as long as I can and stop when I feel tired. You can get down
where ever you want to get down,” he replied flippantly.
The idea appealed to me and I jumped into the boat.
“Welcome aboard,” he said as he looked into my eyes with a smile. I saw the light in his eyes and felt an inexplicable thrill.

The river flowed silently, displaying all her moods and colours. The blue hills along the banks, the greenery in the fields, the clear sky above, my song on my lips, the lively whistle of my friend, his witty talk, everything made me blissful. He told me about all his dreams, opinions and desires Lulled into a drowsy sleep with his songs accompanied by the ripple of the river, I hoped the journey would go on forever! In that happy, carefree moment I invited the young man into my thoughts and my heart. I shared everything with him, all that I called mine. I felt richer by the experience. I sang in ecstatic abandon. We vowed under the beautiful moon that we shall travel together always.

Up to that moment we had been taking turns in rowing the boat. But then he said, “Darling, you
look tired. Your bright eyes are drooping with sleep. Why don’t you take a rest while I do the
rowing?” I was proud of the love I inspired in him.

I closed my eyes listening to one of the songs he composed for me. Then he disappeared. I woke
up in fright. My song on my lips called him loudly. He returned panting.

“Where did you disappear?” I asked in fright.
“My dear! I realised we have a long way to row before we settle down. It is going to be a tiring,
boring job. I am trying to make a machine that will row this boat automatically.” He replied
“Oh yeah? What will you do if the boat is going all by it self? Look into my eyes all the time, I
suppose!” I teased him.
“My poor baby! We are young now. Do you want to spend the entire life rowing the boat? Don’t we need to settle down? Don’t we need to live happily ever after, like kings? I can’t have you rowing this stupid boat for ever! That is why I am slogging now, so that we can reach the other bank quickly, then build a nice big house and settle down comfortably.”

“What is this comfortable living?” I asked curiously.
“We will discuss that later, but now get me some food.” He became impatient.
“Did you not bring anything to eat with you?”
“No, I am going to be busy for a while with that machine. Here after it is your business to organize food for both of us.” He declared.
I got up yawning. I plunged into work. My friend, the song got bored. It said, “Hey, you seem to be too busy to notice me. I am going for a walk in the woods.” So saying it left me to go for a stroll.
“Don’t leave me now. I find it easier to work when you are with me,” I begged. “Don’t be silly. I will be back,” it replied hurrying out.

Eventually my lover found that he had no time to listen to my song. Nor did he have time to adore me.  When I stopped the boat near the bank to cook food, he searched in the nearby bushes to gather some material and filled the boat.  He demanded that I organize all that material and clean the boat to make it look nice. He began hoarding material.

His focus and hard work got to me. I admired his determination and strength. He is so strong and
loving, I thought happily. I decided to make him happy and keep him free of worries, at all times
and by all means. I cooked for him with more devotion; I shared his work to give him some free
time and relaxation. I insisted on taking turns with rowing. I did all this with love and sincerity.

The boat started to get filled with different kinds of things. Just for the sake of reaching the other
bank and settle down to live happily ever after he accumulated lot of material. The boat also
started to be filled with different kinds of noises. Hammering, sawing, drilling nails and all kinds of mechanical jobs made peculiar, unfamiliar noises in the boat.

One day, I was startled when I remembered that my song had left me long ago. “Where did it go
for such a long time? How could I stay for such a long time without my best friend?” I wondered. I called my song loudly. It came after a long time, reluctantly. I missed the affection in its voice which was always there.

“Where were you all these days? I had to call you loudly, to bring you here,” I complained. “What else could I do? I couldn’t bear the noises in this boat any more. In the beginning I found some rhythm in his hammering, sawing and drilling. I tried to join them. But slowly I started hating that sound, so I left. I cannot stay in this cacophony. I will come and visit you once in a while, if you want me to,” the song said defiantly. I did not know what to say. “Come on, let’s go for a small walk in the trees,” my song invited me.

“I can only come once in a while to comfort you. I cannot live on your lips any more, I am sorry!” so saying my song left me.

I lost the man who invited me into the boat with brightly shining eyes, the man who offered to help me into the boat, and the man whose face seemed to be fixed with a smile. I saw him only at meal times. All that laughter, that chattering, those songs, that love, everything disappeared. He seem to spend all his time and energy filling the boat with material and machines. I saw him working at something new one day. I asked him about it. He said that it was a weapon to protect us with.

I felt restless. I thought I will open my bags and look at my friendships, memories and my
belongings. But I could not find my bags. I searched everywhere on the boat. Looking under the
bricks, inside the tool box, under the hammers and every other inch of the boat yielded no result.

“My bags! I have lost them. My talents, my memories, my experiences, everything is lost. Where
are they? How could I have lost them?” I wept inconsolably. Did I forget myself in my love for him? Have I lost everything that belonged to me?

He took my grief very lightly. “Oh, don’t make such a big fuss. We must have chucked it out of the boat some day while cleaning. But, first come and see what I have got for you.” He led me into his work shop. “At last, I have finished what I had started. This machine will run the boat automatically.
You need not work hard any more. Take rest, here after. Look at yourself. Your hair started to turn grey. Your skin lost its lustre. You can leave the rowing and spend time looking after yourself. Make yourself beautiful as before. I still have some more things to finish. I don’t know if I have accumulated enough things to live happily ever after. Here, press this button. Throw those miserable oars into the river. I am making many more machines like this to make life easy for you. All that you’ve to do is to press the buttons.”

I pressed a button. The boat sped up. I sat down. I lost my song. I lost my beaded bag with
flowers. I hardly see my beloved. Now I don’t even have the job of rowing the boat. What do I do with myself?

“What shall I do now? I lost all my talents. Can I work with you in the work shop?” I asked him
eagerly one day.

“Oh no!  You take it easy and look after your beautiful figure. Cook for me. Look after me. That will be sufficient.”

I looked at my reflection in water. My lips looked dried after the song left them. The innocent sweet face with which I jumped into the boat looked jaded and tired. The boat went speeding, cutting the river. It suddenly seemed to be getting heavier.

I did not know what all things he filled the boat with, for us to live like kings, for a future full of
riches. Strangely, right from child hood I hated riches and kings. To live like kings we need to feel superior over others, which I disliked. I detested equally riches and treasures. What can we do with all the treasure in the world, except buying more and more meaningless stuff, I used to think.  My beloved harped on those two words which began to annoy me.

My best friends and my song left me and never returned. I lost my man whom I loved above
everything else. Why did I stat this journey and where am I going now, I wondered. What is my
destiny? Why did I fall in love with him as soon as I saw him? Why did I jump into this boat upon his invitation? I lost all that I shared with him. He mesmerised me with his eyes, with his smiles and with his love. He threw away all my belongings when they annoyed him. He promised to make a beautiful world for me. I surrendered my heart and my soul to him. Where has he disappeared?

I heard a small groan. I was surprised and got up to look. In this boat it is only both of us living.
Then whose voice was that? The boat was still running. Whenever the boat complained of increasing burden, he threw away old stuff. He threw away old memories, old habits and everything else he felt useless. Only the machines remained.

Then I heard somebody laugh. I was more surprised. Who groaned and who laughed?
“Yes of course, it is me who laughed. Could you figure out who groaned?” asked the rowing
machine.  It paused for a while and said, “I think it is time for you to jump out of this boat. I
cannot stand your weight any more.”

“First let us call him. Both of us will jump out of this wretched boat together. Or even better, we will kill you and row the boat with our oars as before,” I replied angrily.

“Call him? He won’t be able to come. He is stuck among those machines that he made and those
he plans to make. He is never going to make his way out of those desires in his mind,” the
machine laughed cruelly.

“Oh no! That is not going to happen. I am going to free him from those monstrous machines. All
these days I was in a kind of trance. He always managed to convince me into obeying him. Why did I listen to him? Why did I not convince him? Why did I not save him from these meaningless
desires? Why did I not hold on to my bags? How did I loose all my belongings? How could I be so careless? I want all those back, I also want my man,” I lamented.

“He is beyond your help now. You lost your song too. Who will help you in getting him out? Forget about him and jump out of the boat. Otherwise I am going to sink under all this weight.” The boat warned me.  

Who cares about this miserable little boat, I thought. But I am not the one to give up like that. I
raised my voice and called my song. I put my heart and soul into it. Of course, the song was my
best friend. It came rushing to my aid. It settled on my lips as always. Together we set out. To get him back, with the things that he loved.

To get back my man who invited me into this boat, to make new beaded bags, to throw away all the rubbish we accumulated in this journey, to keep only what we needed and liked, to live a life fully with some work, some creativity, some imagination, lot of love and to spare some thought for others, to fill my beaded bags with values, I set out with the help of my song. With my best friend on my lips, I was confident of a victory.

(The Telugu original, nenostunnaanu, was published in Andhra jyoti.
Translated by Sharada, Australia, and published on, August 2008.)

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Munipalle Raju. The Royal Fighter

Sprinkling outside; inside the air was at a dead stop, causing humid. The house was a crummy dump. It felt like the time had come to a standstill for over ten thousand years.

No dialogue between the father and the son. Both of them were royal fighters; carried a commanding physique. Thriving in the heroic service of the royalty, their muscles had put cowardice out of their minds. Their forefathers had served the same lineage of sovereigns for generations. Their blood was boiling like a burning pond; seemed to have got caught in the scathing stillness and stopped moving.

There was no lamp in the room. The senior fighter, Narasimhulu, well-known as Jetty, struck two fire stones and made a flame to light up the tobacco rolled in a raw leaf. His gray hairs glimmered like gold against the flicker from the fire stones.

His son, Veera Raghavulu, sat by the water pot in front of the clay stove and kept stirring the splinters to keep the flames going. They both sat down across from each other. Veeranna (Veera Raghavulu) was facing the east and Jetty the west. There was not enough heat since the splinters were raw; and it annoyed him further. The pot contained barely a handful of grain—that was all they could get after pounding the partially shelled rice. That tiny house was trying to break the dead stop of time with a momentary hope. The house turned into a platform of a hopeless goddess, a brisk, heavy, and presumptuous incarnation in the conflict of two heart-broken souls expecting a potful of gruel amid the smoke and venomous dead stop. Veeranna’s eyes were burning from the smoke.

Jetty was impatient; he was about to throw away the cheroot, but his hand pulled back. Veeranna, the junior fighter, felt pangs in his stomach; was about smash the pot, but his heart would not allow him. He threw down the bamboo pipe. The flames revived and the gurgling noise in the pot picked up simmering.

They were silent. Not that they hated each other, but neither of them spoke a word to the other.The common property they shared was made up of hunger, blood and valor.

Jetty hurled the cheroot in his had away. Without looking at his son, he transported his soul into the toxic air, “His Majesty sent for us.”

Veeranna blew into the pipe like an avenging snake. He did not utter a sound, not so much as an um. He was aware of the power of those words; he knew those words could break the silence and the toxic stillness of ten thousand years. But he did not reply. Blood shot through all his blood vessels and straight through his heart like a blast of lava.

The senior fighter said slowly, “They said the young prince has returned from abroad.”

There was no reply, no Oh or Ah.

“Asking us to teach him hunting.”
No Oh or Ah.

“The directive was ‘get rid of the cheetahs in the western forest’.”

A bolt thundered. “I have told you hundreds of times not to bring up the matter of those donkeys in front of me.”

“As they say, we have had their salt. Veeranna! We owe them.”

“I am telling you one more time. Never bring up that stupid subject with me again. Whose salt we have had? We ate only what was ours. Mother died the death of a stray dog. Which salt do you think brought it down upon her? And whose salt landed us in this wretched life? We can’t have a sip of broth without a fierce struggle. Why? And about that wooden leg of yours, whose salt has gotten that for you?”

Jetty’s muscles puffed-up at once. He could see his own demeanor even in that darkness like in a mirror. It was red like a beet; an overripe, dark beet. Veeranna’s words summed up his entire life span. He could not take it anymore; his leg moved heavily making a screechy noise. It came from his wooden leg.

Outside, the sprinkles turned into a heavy rain. Inside, silence took over the reigns of the outside world once again. The stove stopped hissing like a cobra. The man sitting in front of the stove stopped grinding his teeth. On the other side, the wooden leg stopped screeching.

The rain was pouring like the wailing of a large army of chariots, elephants, horses and infantry from the heaven, all at once. It looked like the fire in the stove died; the ashes on top of the burning coal underneath.

Veeranna poured the broth into two clay cups, put one next to the pillar, and sat down with the second cup. The broth in the two cups was letting out steam like the grief of Mother Earth.

The young fighter blew on his broth and took a sip. It had no flavor, no salt. He got up with abruptly, gritting his teeth like two tree trunks in the woods. He groped in a few places in the eaves. He could not find it. He pulled a stick from the stove, blew on it, and made a torch. With the torch, he found the salt in a paper folds. He opened it impatiently. There was not much salt in it. He shook it into the cup by the pillar and went back to his cup.

The wooden leg also moved. No more steam from his cup; the cold breeze blowing in cooled it down.

“Listen, Veeranna!”

Son was quiet.

Senior bent down, holding on to the pillar with one hand, and grabbed his cup with the other hand. He took a few sips quickly; stopped for a second, and swirled the cup in circles to mix the salt in the broth.

“Listen. Whatever happened has happened; it is over. You have not found work yet; not even royal horses to groom. They sent them away to the city. And I am not as brawny as I used to be. If we go for hunting with the prince, we’ll see a little money again. It gets us through until you find work.”

Not one word came out of the son’s mouth. He went on sipping the broth.

“I swear on your life. We are facing bad times.. Let me go this once, at least.”

Son did not speak. The broth in the Jetty’s cup was down to the last drop. Not a drop less in junior’s cup.

Father spoke again, “The prince is a nobleman. You two had learned to fence and shoot together. What a poise in his bearing! Have you not noticed it?.”

Son had only one question to ask. “When they accused mother of stealing and let their underlings broke her bones, did your poised prince stop them?”

The rain was pouring down as if a million hole were drilled into the sky; it was like all the divine space in the sky was wailing unanimously on that dark night. It was getting heavier by the minute. The cold wind added its mite to the rain like an older brother.

One sentence, one question, one unbearable, harsh truth; One family; One wife, one son, one father, and one atrocity.

The senior swallowed the wrath that gushed to this throat, like a lava. Who is that human who is still alive even after hearing that question? His own son! He was still alive only because the words came from his(Jetty’s) son; that was why he was alive.
“I gave them my word, Veeranna! Listen to me. We are dealing with the royalty. We can accomplish nothing by fighting them. We just have to learn to live on broth,” he said.

Son picked up his cup and threw it straight into the pillar ahead. That was the man’s offering to the sky’s howling. He screamed, “Go, go, please go. Of course, you’ve given your word! You are their minion. I am not your son anymore. I will never be born to a lowlife again. You and I are done. Go, just go.” And then he leapt into the dark rain outside.
The grief-stricken gods up in the sky did not ask him to go out. He disappeared into the darkness.

The broken pieces from the cup pricked the senior’s other leg. He peered through the rain. He put down the cup in the rain as a representative of the aggrieved people in universe above.


On the day before, the senior fighter had received an invitation from the palace. “The Prince set out to go hunting. The Yanadis[ A scheduled tribe engaged in services like agriculture, hunting, etc. ] have been waiting since morning. Agreed you are great senior fighter, but how dare you delay the plan? Come quick; move.”

What an invitation:
An invitation from a prince who would have a photo taken with the lion Narasimhulu had killed, and would be recognizes in the newspapers; his way of climb up the social ladder.

Narasimhulu’s wooden leg screeched again. He could crush the messenger into a hundred thousand pieces, just like Dhritarashtra had crushed the steel Bhima[1]An episode in Maha Bharata. On a different note, all these episodes referred herein from Maha Bharata and Ramayana, are too long to explain in a footnote. If you are interested, you may check them on … Continue reading. But the invitation came from the royalty; and the growling hunger from his guts! The senior fighter knew that.


 Father looked at his son lying on the jute-rope cot and moaning. I wish he had not returned home, he thought. The son had dashed into the rain last night, returned home completely drenched, threw himself on the shabby cot, and kept coughing heavily. He was running high temperature, lying in bed, and breathing heavily. He wished, for a second, his son did not return home that night. But he is my son, this is my house, and this is house. He lay in the beat up cot, coughing.
He looked at his son again. His wooden leg screeched breaking the silence following the messenger’s voice. Who am I? Yudhishtira or Dhritarashtra?[2]Characters in Maha Bharata.

Son stopped coughed one more bout and stopped. He uttered feebly, “Go ahead, Nannaa!”

Senior fighter looked at Junior. Father watched him keenly. Narasimhulu watched Veera Raghavulu, fixedy. Those words did not fall from the sky; nor they came shattering through the earth. That was his son’s voice; those words were spoken by his son. They came from the shabby cot and in between bouts of cough. Father’s wooden leg moved forward.

He sat in the jeep along with Yanadi drummers. Behind the jeep, the prince and his friend followed them in a Cadillac. The friend came from the city; his interest was only prostitutes.

Narasimhulu was brooding over: the cheetah could jump on the prince, after noticing the prince or getting shot. In either case, Jetty should save the prince by risking his own life. He must protect this prince with baby cheeks; must make sure that he was not hurt, not even a scratch by a thorn. He was the prince’s savior; But he was not eligible to sit next to the prince. The hurt crushed his heart. He saw his son’s face lying on the cot and coughing in the jeep’s murky the side mirror. Like the darkness of the night, dark thoughts spread across in his heart.

Within a mile from the woods, the king had a foot-path laid, but that had disappeared. The vehicles stopped there. It was not dark yet. Fighter Narasimhulu got down from the jeep, and greeted the prince respectfully. The prince threw away the cigarette in his hand and called the driver.

“Who has sent this crippled idiot to accompany us?” he asked.

Jetty did not hear what the driver had said.

The driver said, “Your Majesty may have forgotten, He taught you how to fire the gun and also martial arts in your childhood, your Majesty.”

Those words of wisdom did not reach the prince’s ear. He was consoling his friend who worried because he was missing the beastly pleasures he had enjoyed the night before.

Stupid cripple?

Arrangements to kill the cheetah were underway. But the senior’s heart was not on the arrangements.
Stupid cripple? He belonged to a long line of valiant fighters who had protected the king’s life, queen’s honor, and the treasury when the enemies attacked the country. He faught in competitions with other wrestlers and held the royal flag up high. How did he get the crippled leg? Was it when he risked his life and fought the tribal warriors and protected the forests the king claimed as his? Was he not the servant who had waited on them day and night, while suffering from jungle fever, ignoring his sores, and protected the palace? Did he not paid back ten times for the food he had eaten at the palace?

But these new breed of rulers – Bhishmacharya and Dronacharya[3]Characters in Maha Bharata – had acquired a new, fake urban values, and forgotten to give him the respect they would give to their servants. They were behaving worse than the low class people, worse than their arrogant driver. They would rob the people’s land, sell it, and buy factories and race horses in the city. This new sovereignty would not allow anybody to take refuge in the palace, not even in the bodyguards’ quarters.
Who is stupid cripple? This stupid cripple was a hero, a warrior, and fighter, as good as a guru; the king’s lifesaver. He had been an enemy of the public in the past. He is not Bhishmacharya, but Sikhandi. He is Vibhishana for Ravana[4]Characters in Ramayana.. He would not be Dhritarashtra[5]Characters in Maha Bharata by he would not die as Yudhishtara[6]Eldest brother of five Pandava princes in Maha Bharata. He was Aswathama who had escaped the clan of Kaurava lineage. Now the only Vedic chant for him was the word his son had spoken in the rain. That would be his goal and his duty. He would pay his respects, doused in blood, to the tombstones of all his ancestors who had lost their lives in the king’s service. His duty was to do justice; time to pay back the despots who had been holding the rifles over their heads for centuries. Now the lion would arise from lions, humans from dust, and from the past heroes to the new generation of heroes.
 It was getting dark. The quiet moonlight escaped from the clouds and spread over the dense forest.

Fighter Narasimhulu set the stage for hunting. He tied a goat to a tree, withered and just sprouting, and fifty yards away from the lake. Across from the lake and behind the tamarind trees, they built a temporary platform. Narasimhulu helped the prince get on the platform and explained the ins and outs of hunting to the prince in a soft voice.

The drunken city friend of the prince and the driver stayed back in the car. He was brave only in assaulting helpless women, but not in hunting.

The Yanadi drummers hid in the bushes on all sides by the platform. Their job was to play the drums at the right time and confuse the cheetah.

The cheetah was expected to pounce upon the goat, and after eating it, go to the lake for water. While enjoying the water, the bullet hits it. The drummers make huge noise. The cheetah could not figure out where the enemy hid; that confuses it. Then another bullet his it. That was it; that was the plan.

“We need to examine the place thoroughly and have our guns set to fire,” Jetty whispered in prince’s ear. “If the cheetah smells a human, that is the end of it; we can’t get it.”

The prince brought the Austrian double-barrel gun he had bought in abroad. The fighter had an old, rugged gun he had received as a gift during the First World War. Bu, that gun had ripped through the brains of a dozen animals.

It was quiet all around. Jetty could hear the prince’s heart thumping.
The prince was not as cheerful as before.

Jetty looked at the gun he had been saving with great care for all these years, like his own life. He had cleaned and polished it. The barrel was shining bright in the dark.

The prince’s heartbeat traveled down his double-barrels, past Jetty’s barrel and touched Jetty’s heart. It was quiet.

Suddenly, his own name came to his mind: fighter Narasimhulu. In the story Lord Narashimha killed[7]Refers to the story of a child prince, Prahlada, and his attempts to convince his atheist father and king that God exists, two demons, Hiranyakasipu and Hiranyaksha; and saved the young prince, Prahlada. But, he(Jetty) sat there, unmoved, like Lord Narasimhaswamy in Mangalagiri, who rested on the mountain swallowing hundreds of pots of sweetened water.

Suddenly, he asked the prince, “Babu, what is your name?”

The prince recited a yard-long name, including all his titles, and then asked, “Why do you want to know?”

“Just. I taught you how to use the gun in your childhood, but never asked your name. You were little then.”

Again, silence.

At a distance, they noticed a shadow in the bushes. The prince tapped on the fighter’s arm quietly. The hand was shaking.


“Wait a little.”


The shadow grew bigger; they could see the figure. The visible figure moved toward the groaning goat. In the following minute, a desperate cry came searing through the heart of the sky. The forest, shocked by the injustice, looked around and lowered its head. But an echo responded to the desperate wailing and echoed from another corner. Silence.

The eyes of the men on the wooden platform shone. Their breathing stopped. The barrels of their guns also shone in the dark. Man’s justice was about to arbitrate the injustice and the inequality in the world as prescribed by nature.

Jetty pulled up to the prince and said, “You.” The prince’s Austrian double-barrel gun was shaking. Even in that darkness, beads of sweat on his face were shining visibly.

Jetty nudged him again.

DHUM, a huge sound flashed and shook the wooden platform. But the bullet did not hit the animal. His shaky hands missed the target and landed in the water.

There was no more silence.

They heard a terrifying roar like the preamble of a despot. The drums resounded in every direction, like the orchestra at the time of Vedic rituals performed by the rulers of the eight directions.

The cheetah turned around and looked at the platform. It sensed the human smell, roared and jumped at them. The prince dropped his gun, jumped from the back of the platform and ran away, He left Narasimhulu alone.

Jetty stopped breathing. DHUM. He shot the animal. It spun around three times. Narasimhulu took out the javalin from the bushes and threw it straight into the cheetah. It was like an axle between the animal and the earth. The drums stopped. Silence filled the space.

The fighter took a deep breath and looked around; he spotted the white shirt hiding in the shrub; the prince could not run far. Jetty picked up his gun, aimed at the prince from above the shrubs and shot DHUM. Far off, silence bowed down to the echoes. One more round of DHUM, DHUM, DHUM.

A thin veil covered over the white shirt. The prince fell to the ground.

Jetty got off the platform and sat next to the cheetah. He pulled out the javelin from the cheetah’s body and tossed it into the river. The drummers hurried to the vehicles.

Not until early next morning, the police van surrounded Narasimhulu. He was sitting by the prince’s body. He let the police see his face in the dim light of the lantern; stretched his hands forward, and said, “My name is Narasimhulu. I killed him. Arrest me.”

The senior fighter set to be hanged.

The police allowed his son to visit him in the morning.
Son touched father’s feet respectfully and said, “Nannaa, you are a world-class fighter. I am your son. Please, forget the words I had said to you on the other day.”


(The Telugu original, Jetty”, was published in Andhra Patrika weekly, September 22, 1954,and included in the anthology, Munipalle Raju kathalu. Visalandhra Publishing House, 1992.
Translated by Nidadavolu Malathi and published on, January 2005. Revised February, 20, 2023)

Photo of the author courtesy of


1 An episode in Maha Bharata. On a different note, all these episodes referred herein from Maha Bharata and Ramayana, are too long to explain in a footnote. If you are interested, you may check them on
2 Characters in Maha Bharata.
3, 5 Characters in Maha Bharata
4 Characters in Ramayana.
6 Eldest brother of five Pandava princes in Maha Bharata
7 Refers to the story of a child prince, Prahlada, and his attempts to convince his atheist father and king that God exists

Magical Realism in the Stories of Munipalle Raju

by Nidadavolu Malathi

I have known Sri Munipalle Raju for over 60 years. I have come to know of his experiments with magical realism only in April 2014, when I started working on a translation of his anthology, Astitvanadam Aavali Teeraana (Beyond the Shores of the River Existentialism)

In his preface to the anthology, Raju stated that the western literary historians claim that the term “Magical Realism” has been coined by Latin American writers like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but the same amazingmayavada rasa has manifested itself in the Indian folklore and puranas like Ramayana, Maha Bharata and Bhagavad Gita. He added Vyasa Maharshi was the first poet to captivate it in a way nobody else could. Raju stated he undertook his story-writing process, keeping in mind the works of guru Vyasa, the creator of Magical Realism, and within the purview of the complex problems in our daily existence.

In analyzing Raju’s stories, I kept in mind his premise regarding the themes as enunciated by him. According to Raju, the fundamental questions of humans in the Indian metaphysical world fall into three categories of agony: those caused by the mind (adhyatmikam), those caused by others (adhibhautikam), and those caused by Providence (adhidaivikam). “This complex set of questions has been pestering the humans in every yuga each time the wicked diabolical forces create the deadly fire and destroy the quietude of people’s lives. If we take the period when someone assembles his creative energies and destroys these lawless rogues as a transition period, in that twilight period these questions are the same as the doubts that cause the individuals to ache.

“… The social consciousness, and the consciousness of self are two flanks of modern man’s consciousness. They travel in the inner celestial chariot in his prolonged and distraught dream life at night. This magical realism is an attempt to articulate those mysterious vibrations. This genre has the power to transcend Time and Space. … … The magical realism, the marvellous reality, is the instrument that extricates the supra-mundane truths beneath the truths that are visible to the naked eye. Its natural form becomes visible only in the style of word-constructs of mayavada and chayavada schools. This does not follow the empty slogans of literary trends.” (Preface. Astitvanadam Aavali Teeraana).

Against this background, I attempt to shed some light on the concept of magical realism in Raju’s stories.

Both in print and on the Internet, a vast amount of discussions of the term “Magical realism” is available. However, for the purpose of this article, somewhat simplistically, I would like to define magical realism as an element that is faithful to everyday events in our lives with a touch of magic or mystery. The spirit of this element has been achieved in these stories through setting and expression.

Invariably, the term “magic” brings to our minds an assumption that it goes beyond what is visible to the naked eye and what we believe to be normal—the mysteries in our everyday lives. In our Puranas, a man born out of an earthen pot (Kumbhasambhavudu), a dog which followed Pandava Prince, Dharmaraja, to heaven, Hanuman, a monkey, growing to gigantic proportions at will, and crossing the ocean in one jump–all these constitute a kind of magic, and require the readers to stretch their imagination in order to visualise the event. In our daily lives, we hear or tell stories; we do not question or doubt their authenticity. We tell children the story of a hare challenging a tortoise to race, or a lion convincing a baby goat to pay for his father’s sins. No child asks in what language the hare the, tortoise, the lion, and the baby goat spoke. In fact, in today’s ever popular Sci-Fi and mysteries, this magic is present. Nevertheless, the core theme is, most of the time, if not always, the virtue conquering the vice. And, let us not forget we attribute human values of “virtue” and “vice” to the animals. The point is, in each case, a group of animate objects is created to drive a point home. We, the listeners, accept them with “willing suspension of disbelief,” and proceed to grasp the underlying message. That is magical realism. An aura of magic or mystery is created in a given story in order to transport the reader into an unknown milieu. Within the context, the story is told to reaffirm the truth reflecting the author’s point of view.

The dog in “Satrayagam in Naimisa Forest” (Naimisaranyamlo Satrayagam) plays a significant role in the life of the protagonist. The bird in the “Goddess of Good Fortune” (Adrushta devatha) plays the role of a friend and an intermediary. The big tree in “In the Shadows of the Maha Bodhi Tree” (Maha Bodhi Chayalo) speaks not only words of wisdom, but also offers comfort to the protagonist. The parallel between this tree and the Peepal tree under which Gautama Buddha had received enlightenment is unmistakable. There is, however, one difference between the two. The tree in this story goes beyond imparting spiritual knowledge. It provokes him to ask mundane questions and to act according to the responses he has received. In fact, he is also aware that nobody believes him if he says the tree has spoken to him. It is real for the protagonist and magic for the rest of us.

Of all the stories of Munipalle Raju, the story that has received the highest accolades is “The Red Dot that Honors a Hero” (Veera kumkuma), in which the bull, Pullanna, plays the hero by protecting his owner, Pratapa Reddy from two butchers. We all are aware only too well the relationship and the mutual appreciation that exists between farmers and their animals. Pratapa Reddy inherited Pullanna from his grandmother; he21 was born in their home and, therefore, treated as their eldest son. That being the case, it is no surprise that when Reddy’s life was in danger, the bull went to his rescue and crushed the enemy. At the end, Pullanna hauled Reddy’s body with his horns on to his back and brought him home. The author said that he had heard the story while traveling in Rayalaseema in the early 1950s. In this story, the magic is not completely unimaginable, but it sure is out of the ordinary and must be construed as an instance of magical realism!

The role of the dog in “Satrayagam In the Naimisa Forest” played out is interesting in its own way. At the beginning the protagonist, Chakri, found it at the railway station, fed it for a while, and later tried to get rid of it as he boarded the train to Naimisa forest. Chakri went to Naimisa forest in an attempt to renounce his worldly attachments and to seek liberation. He struggled to leave his old baggage without success. His language clearly showed anger, but not renunciation, when he narrated his past to Prof. Baruva. He was still upset about the way the woman (Kamala) treated him and let him down; he blamed her for all his miseries. Normally, the first step for a person seeking the life of renunciation is to forgive all those who had wronged him. He achieved it only after watching the death not only of Kamala, but also the dog. At one point, he even wondered if the dog was symbolic of his attachments. Thus the dog’s demise seems to complete the process. The magical element is evident in two instances – in the reappearance of Kamala and, second, the appearance of the dog in Badarikavanam, twelve years after he had taken the vow of renunciation and become sansyasin.

We will have to assume that the spatial relevance of the dog in Badarikavanam contributes to the idea of the magical realism. Chakri (later known as Goswami Avadhuta) left it behind at the railway station on his way to the Naimisa forest. The same dog appeared at the foot of Himalayas in Badarikavanam and played the role of an envoy from Kamala. How it could overcome the distance is left to the readers’ imagination. Similarly, Kamala’s appearance appears to be more than a simple coincidence.

The tree in the story “In the Shadows of Maha Bodhi tree”(Maha Bodhi Chayalo) was, unlike the Bodhi tree of Gautama Buddha, more than something that divulges knowledge. To him (we know him only as Chinnayya), the tree stood for all the six kinds of gurus mentioned in the same story—preraka, suchaka, vachaka, darsaka, sikshaka and bodhaka. It was also his confidante. He found immense solace under the shade of the tree. It consoled him, asked him potent questions, and provided sensible answers. In some ways, it was like his conscience and the better part of his judgment. The part in which he heard the tree communicate with him was similar to the experiences of the sages who lived in the woods. People receive ideas or thoughts when they move away, far from the madding crowds, and listen to “the still small voice within.” The point is, we all rely on an animate or inanimate object for inspiration or for answers to the confounding questions we come across every day.

Silence is a unique concept in Indian culture. In the west, silence carries a negative connotation; silence is weakness. Smart people speak and ask questions whereas the weak remain silent. In our culture, on the other hand, silence is a poignant spiritual experience. A term for sage in Sanskrit is muni, which is a derivative of the noun maunam (silence). The author refers to this concept of silence in “Satrayagam in Naimisa Forest” in two instances: First, when a sage on the banks of River Gomati put stones in his mouth to help him maintain silence; and second, when he quoted a sloka from Dakshinamurthy stotra which says guru Dakshinamurthy remains silent and the disciple’s doubts are dispelled (gurostu maunam vyakhyanam, sishyastu cchinna samsayaah).

The author depicts in this story silence is not just an abstract idea but a powerful spiritual experience, “Silence is not just a word” (nissabdam oka padam kaadu). For me, however, the magical realism in this story is equally pervasive and evasive as the idea of silence itself.

The protagonist Rao barely spoke, and when he spoke it was a monologue; he spoke to himself. His wife complained, ‘We never know what is on his mind; he never tells us what’s bothering him. … He worries only about his people; not a whit about things here at home,” His son was supportive of his father. “Everybody has a soft spot for one’s own people. What’s wrong with that?” he asked. The phrase “his own people” was not explained; no characters were introduced directly. The daughter-in-law’s explanation of her mother-in-law’s annoyance was: “She suggested that he (Rao) should perform his father’s annual death ceremony not at home, but in a choultry, and after that, he (Rao) stopped talking.” From this line, it would appear there was no love lost between Rao and his wife, and possibly, his mother and the siblings, if any. Maybe she meant siblings when she mentioned “his own people.” The point I am trying to make is, so much information was left unsaid. Probably, not only Rao, but the narrator, also, courted silence. Life is elusive; human nature is elusive; we never know what another person has on his mind at any given moment. The silence of the protagonist and the narrator forces readers to draw their own conclusions. The author might be implying that the “unknown” is the magic, and that is the reality. I am not sure, though.

In the “Goddess of Good Fortune” [Adrushta Devatha], there is a fascinating episode in which the protagonist, Murali, listens, enraptured, to the music from his mother’s flute. At the end of the song, the wade of butter in the little cup placed in front of the god disappears. Murali believes that baby Krishna had come and eaten it. The description of this event is fascinating.

As she began with the praise of Sabda Brahma [Creator of Sound] softly and continued to sing the Radhesyam bhajans and ashtapadis of Jayadeva invoking exquisite postures by a danseuse, he listened to the music, enraptured. In that moment, there were only two listeners—the baby Krishna and Murali. His mother swayed to the music with absolute devotion. The wad of butter in the silver cup, like a kiss of the moonlight, vanished leaving the imprints of the baby boy’s fingertips at the bottom of the silver cup. “Ammaa! Ammaa! The wad of butter?”
“Yes Babu, Krishna heard our prayers.”
It is a magical moment when baby Krishna responded to the mesmerising music from the magic wand called flute, played by his mother. The experience of the child Murali, totally immersed and lost in the magic of the music, is fascinating. Is it possible that little Murali identified himself with baby Krishna, unconsciously of course, and ate the butter? Such interpretation is sustainable but takes the charm out of the story. The episode is probably intended to create that mystical aura around his mother, for whom he has enormous respect, and later allows him to communicate with the bird.

Murali needed to create a halo around his mother, matrumurthy (supreme mother incarnate); she was an outstanding musician, who had devoted her life to music, but the world called her a “mistress,” unaware that his father had married her while she was on her deathbed. He lived all his life with the resulting inferiority complex, incapable of speaking up at any cost, and incapable of acting on his own. He needed the bird for a friend.

Yet another example is the ending in the story “On the Shores Beyond the River Existentialism” (Astitvanadam Aavaliteerana). It is an interesting story. It illustrates the life of a man known as Bairagi in the beginning, and later as Raghu, seeking a life of renunciation. He ends up in a hospital where his friend Satchindanandam treats him. The narrator’s play upon the name—sat, chit, ananda —is probably intended to be a prognosis of the protagonist’s predicament. He was searching for that ultimate Ananda and he attained it while on the stretcher. Dr Lavanya removed the sheet on the stretcher to check upon the patient and found nothing, no Raghu, no patient. Presumably the gross body dissolved into the ether. One might think of a magic show where a person disappears from a box or a cubicle.

Earlier in the story, the Bairagi had set out to free himself from worldly entanglements, and to obtain the ultimate absolution. For all appearances, he had left everything back, and moved on with only a shirt on his back and a small handbag. That he was inclined to relinquish everything he had, is evident when he gave the sheet from his bag to a half-naked woman with her baby whom he had found on the choultry steps. While pulling out the sheet, three rupees fell out of his bag. Somebody alerted him, but Bairagi dismissed it as his last possession he was willing to let go, and went away. Later, however, while he woke up in the choultry and realized his bag and the camera in it were gone. My question here is, would a person who had relinquished everything carry a camera on his way to absolution? Probably, we have to take it as an element of magical realism. For want of better explanation, we may say that as long as one has the appetite to cling to something, it does not matter what the thing is.

In addition to the events that seem to spark an aura of magic, there is another contributory factor in the stories—that is the author’s experiments in the narrative technique, his use of peculiar figures of speech, metaphors and phrases, out of the ordinary at times.

Modern day short-story gurus instruct writers to write in a simple, straightforward language, at the level of a 10th grader, to be precise. Sri Raju goes against this trend, especially, in the magical realism stories. He draws heavily on his knowledge of our culture and language to create a specific mood in the reader’s mind. No doubt he trusts the readers’ intelligence, instinct and imagination. His use of unusual phrases is a stretch, at times; nevertheless, it serves the intended purpose. For instance, here are a few constructs: “Are some mysterious everlasting parents worried about the welfare of their heir on the planet below while in yogic sleep on the banks of a wholesome pond in the world above?” (Amidst the Monologues of Another World); “Dewy melodies amid flames of musical notes” (On the Shores Beyond the River Existentialism); and, “Friendship with my classmates that has just started sprouting like the first response at dawn” (Under the Shade of Maha Bodhi Tree). These constructs make readers stop and try to comprehend the meaning. Let me add that the above translations are mine. Readers need to go to the Telugu originals to appreciate them fully.

We see this kind of expansiveness mostly in the stories intended to create the milieu of the moment. This usage, naturally, puts readers’ imagination to test. But then, there is no magic that does not force the readers to stretch their imagination.

The stories that are anchored in magical realism reflect Sri Raju’s in-depth knowledge of Indian culture and command of diction. As I tried to establish, it certainly helps to create the needed characteristic in those stories.

Author’s note: The stories, referred to in this article are included in my translation in the upcoming book, On the Shores Beyond the River of Existentialism by Munipalle Raju. Sahitya Akademi, Delhi. (In press at the time of this writing.
Update: Published in June, 2023.)
Originally published on in Sept-Oct, 2015, issue.

(February 5, 2022)
Revised February 17, 2023

Recapturing traditions in fiction by Nidadavolu Malathi

I was twelve or thirteen at the time. A young man used to come to our house for meals once a week. I do not know where he is now or what he is doing. Nevertheless I have this one vivid image of him in my mind—he coming early in the morning and standing by the pillar on the front porch to remind my mother of his vaaram [my mother’s commitment to feed him] in our home on that day. That is what captured my curiosity when Kameswari sent me her story, vaaraala abbaayi among others for translation.

There are a few angles to this story, vaaraala abbaayi. First the title. The Telugu original was published under the title, “weekly boy”. I am not sure whether Kameswari was aware of my apathy for the usage of English in Telugu stories or she changed her mind about the title after the story had been published. She crossed out the Telugu title on the tear sheet and wrote vaaraala abbaayi in the ink. If she had not written the Telugu phrase, I would never have guessed what it was about. This, of course, is an issue for translators, which I have addressed in another article.

I have been seeing comments even from Telugu people questioning the authenticity of a dialogue or a character in current day stories. “That is not the way things are” is a comment by several readers, possibly because the current generation is out of touch with our past, maybe not every young person but most of them, especially those who have been  educated in English medium schools. I have received emails from several young men and women saying that they did not know this or that until they had read about it in a given story in translation. For those who are unaware of this tradition of vaaraalu, Kameswari’s story is an education. That brings us to my second point. If the same story were written in the sixties, the author would not have described the tradition in such minute detail as she did in this story, published in 2002.

The author presented one angle, the plausible outcome emanating from this practice—a poor boy receiving education and becoming a successful judge because seven kind-hearted women had agreed to feed him seven days of the week, one woman a day on a regular basis. Another famous writer, Munipalle Raju, wrote a story (his first story, I understand) by the same name, vaaraala pillaadu, in which he depicted the negative effects emanating from an indifferent and/or humiliating attitude of the hostesses. The protagonist in Kameswari’s story also had experienced this kind of apathy from some of the women. Venkataramana, the protagonist, says, “Your mother was an incarnation of the goddess Annapurna; not all mothers were like that.” On the other hand, Raju narrates a series of incidents in which the host families humiliated the young boy and drove him to a life of degradation and finally to his death by execution.

The gist of it is as follows:

Narayana was a little boy, probably about ten, when his paternal grandmother died. Nobody in the family explained to him where his grandmother went or why.

Narasimhvam was a vaaraala abbaayi in Narayana’s house. Narayana, having no one else to talk to, approached Narasimhvam and asked him about the dead. For the first time, he learned that the dead people would never return; their bodies would be burned to ashes. The burning would happen in the graveyard. Narayana asked Narasimhvam to take him to the graveyard. Narayana, surprised by Narasimhvam’s knowledge, changed his attitude toward this vaaraala abbaayi; swore that he would never tease him again, would not doodle in his notebooks, nor hide them.

Narayana wanted to learn more about Narasimhvam’s way of life. Narasimhvam narrated his experiences—cruel and humiliating as they were; he did not get food always as he was supposed to. Some women would forget their commitment, were resentful toward him as if it was his fault, and almost everybody treated him like an insect. “The windows in his [Narayana’s] little heart opened fully for the young boy, a student in a local Sanskrit school, who came timidly to their house once a week, ate and went away.” During the same period, Narayana learned a few more things about this vaaraalu tradition. He asked Narasimhvam naively where he would eat on the other six days.

“A different house each day.”

“What if they don’t give you food?”

Vaaraala abbaayi hesitated for a second and said, “Starve.”

For Narayana, the information was fascinating; he saw the tradition as a way of life, independent living at that. Soon after that, his father was blamed for bad accounting at work, for no fault of his, and committed suicide. His mother sought her brother’s help for Narayana’s education. The brother sent him to the city and set him up as a vaaraala abbaayi. He was faced with the same experiences as Narasimhvam first hand and they were not pleasant. Ironically, at one point, he met Narasimhvam, but this time the tables were turned. Narasimhvam was in the ‘host’ position; he barely recognized Narayana.

Narayana turned a petty crook first, and then a thief, and eventually a gang leader. He committed murder and was sentenced to death by hanging. On his way to the execution, he told his mother that he had implored the court to turn all his property and belongings over to her, and asked her to support a vaaraala abbaayi.

A famous critic, K.V. Ramana Reddy, commented in his preface to the anthology of Raju’s stories that it is a powerful narration of the heartrending lives of delinquent children. I think it is as much about the tragedy of a poor child as the manifestation of the inhuman attitude of some people in the name of tradition. I am not sure if this vaaraalu tradition is to be blamed exclusively for a young man’s downfall. Several factors come together and undermine one’s self-confidence and lead to his delinquency and destruction.

It has become quite common in India to blame religion for all the evils in our society. By putting these two stories of two poor boys in pursuit of education in juxtaposition, we may obtain a perspective that is more balanced. I believe that any system is put in place with the best of intentions. Most of the problems arise from its misuse or misinterpretation by some individuals. In one story, a woman with good intentions helped a young man to improve his lot while in the other story several individuals forced a young man to evil ways through their inhuman behavior. We need both stories to understand how a system works or fails.

After several years, I have come across the autobiography of Sripada subrahmanya Sastry, Experiences and memories [anubhavaalu, jnaapakaalu], in which he describes elaborately his experience as a vaaaraala abbaayi. That narrative clearly shows how the measure of commitment and discipline on the part of both the parties in the practice. It was quite an education for me. It is not just about food or education for that matter. It contributes to the student’s personality development immensely.

We may be able to read similar perception in the story, “Chicken Burglars.” The author describes the lives of two women—a mother and a daughter—and their animal poultry farm. Within their means, they were living a happy, carefree life. A small group of men with evil thoughts on the daughter, Nookalu, failed to get her attention and decided to hurt her with a devious plot, an act of cowardice. They would snicker and gloat over their own transgression but in their heart of hearts, they knew it might not last long.

In the story, “Why would I lose it, daddy?” we see a child’s agonizing longing to go to school and his father’s helplessness in sending him to school. The story is considered one of the best of the author, Chaganti Somayajulu. It reveals his ability to illustrate a potent issue through the narration of a few everyday events and make them a powerful medium to make a point. The author seem to draw a parallel between the father’s unsuccessful attempts to quit smoking and the child’s longing to go to school. The story opens with the father sending the boy to fetch cigarettes for him and closes with asking the child if he still had the money or lost it. “Why would I lose it, daddy?” the child asks. Is he asking why father would think that the son could lose the money? Or, is it a mild reminder to the father, “I am acting responsibly with the money you’ve given me; what about your responsibility of giving education to your child”? Our age-old tradition dictates that father has a duty to educate the child and the child has a duty to take care of the father in his old age. It is a lifestyle of “give and take” in the larger scheme of things.


© Nidadavolu Malathi

April 1, 2007

Editing My Translation: My Struggle for a Perfect Translation

“There is always room for improvement” is a common precept among the elite.
Does that mean there is no such thing as a “perfect translation”? That may be true. But, in reality, we have to stop somewhere and say, “I am done. This is my best version.” I arrived at that juncture regarding my translation of my novel, Chataka Birds, A Story of Immigrant Experience, and posted it on my website,, recently.
That translation took me 11 months to finish. It is only 144 pages; should have finished it in 3 to 4 months. But, for a few months now, I was going through my old translations and found they could use editing. In the past one year, I became better aware of the little differences in sentence construction in English. My recent translation reflects those nitty-gritty details. So, I thought it would be a good idea to share my experiences here. You may know some of them. However, in view of some of the translations I had received, I thought I should mention them again.
Translating stories for readers from other states within India is different from translating for readers who are not knowledgeable of our traditions, customs, and intrinsic cultural values. In the latter case, translators should be aware of how readers from other cultures would receive the translation. They may not consider our jokes as jokes because of the cultural differences. What is normal for us may sound abnormal to them; or vice versa.
Let us start with changes in the content.
Possible changes needed/useful
In my novel, I made some changes in conversations, both in the conversations among Indians, and in the conversations between Americans and Indians. In the conversations among Indians, I diluted some lines that might sound awkward for those who do not know our culture. A story should not be treated as a sociology class. However, giving some information minimally does not hurt. One example is the use of relational terminology. I did not go into an elaborate description of the principles of how one addresses the other in our culture, but mentioned it is common in our culture to use the relational terminology to address others as a way of respect and in interaction with others. In America, people do not use terms like uncle and aunt the way we do; not even the words like brother and sister, except in close-knit groups and under certain circumstances. Translators should check if they are using the words in the correct context.
I like proverbs. I have used them in the Telugu version. Some of them are not really add to the content. So, I deleted them in the translation. In the past, I had given the Telugu proverb in footnotes, as some English-speaking Telugu readers asked for them. In a short story it was alright, but in a novel I found they increase the number of footnotes. So, I dropped that idea. My point is, while it is nice to cater to the needs of the students of English medium schools, it is also important to design the text to suit the primary target audience’s interests.
Even more intriguing are the relational terms like చిన్నన్నయ్య, మామయ్య, అత్తయ్య, తోడికోడలు etc.; they are hard to translate. చిన్నన్నయ్య would be younger older brother! Instead, I used the Telugu terms as proper nouns, with a footnote the first time it occurred in the story. So also, మేనరికం is a term I had to struggle with. Not only because the word has no equivalent in English, but also because the practice of the marriage between cross-cousins is not acceptable in the western world.
Culture-specific words like mangalasutram and pellichupulu needed some attention. I searched on the Internet to see if there are words in English already in use, before I coined my own terms. I found out that thali for mangalasutram is in use in English texts. Until now, I thought thali meant only a plate. For pellichupulu, I did not find a word in English. So, I used the same term, and gave a brief explanation in a footnote.
Sometimes, I put the explanation in brackets in the text itself. e.g. Pullareddy Sweets (A famous store in Hyderabad). That way, the need to go back and forth between the text and the notes would be less. My point is do not go overboard with footnotes. Too many footnotes would be frustrating; they ruin the joy of reading a good story.
Another major cultural difference is in the perception of privacy. Historically, privacy is not a moral or ethical value in our country. It may have originated from conditions such as living two or three generations under one roof. Population is a major contributory factor in developing cultural norms. In recent times, the western educated people are taking privacy seriously. However, the age-old practice kicks in even among the educated and so-called “cultured” groups. I tried to point out this anomaly in my novel. But, I also tried to water it down by using one character to provide an explanation. You are welcome to tell me whether I succeeded or not in my attempt.
Basically, I focused on giving more information on topics which non-native readers are not familiar with and/or have questions about. That includes customs, traditions, viewpoints, and misconceptions. I tried to illustrate the views or misconceptions which exist in both America and India without prejudice. Sorting out those notions and presenting them in a logical manner took plenty of my energy.
I checked on the Internet for grammar, sentence construction and vocabulary every step of the way. This is something I had not done before, and found it paid off richly. Also, another reason it took so long to finish it.
2. Editing
Having a good command of diction is only a first step. A good understanding of both cultures is important. One Telugu reader commented it was not proper for Geetha to receive suitcases from a stranger. In my opinion, that is a false sense of morality, and hypocritical to some extent. I would not take such comments seriously.
The translator is responsible for the language in the translation. Do not tell the magazine editor they may make changes as they please, and that you would not mind. It is not fair to the original author either.
It is not the editor’s job to correct or make changes. Also, every translator has their own vocabulary. Only the translator knows what he/she intends to interpret the author’s view by using a suitable word or phrase. This is particularly true of linguistic variations and sentence construction. Editor’s understanding of the story, if he reads, may be different from yours. Thus, editor’s attempt to change can mess up the entire translation.

3. Grammar and spell check.
I must admit that my translations are not perfect, despite my long record of translating work. In my early translation adventure, I used to ask my American friends for their advice. I found something interesting in the process. What one reader considered a mistake was acceptable to another. Thus, I realized that there are always going to be variations because of individual reader’s perception and education; that I might not get a perfect version ever.
I was not aware at the time, but now I found some free software on the Internet for checking spellings and grammar. They are not perfect, but were helpful in double checking my text. Check thesaurus also helped a lot. Everybody has his or her own vocabulary. That might not be enough. Each word has a slightly different connotation. I check thesaurus regularly for the word, which suits best in a given context. It never hurts to double-check if you are using the correct word in the context.
Finally, as the editor of my website,, I would like to address a few issues from the editor’s perspective.
1. I mentioned it earlier. It is not proper to tell the editor they can change the text as they please, and that you have no objection. Here is why:
a) The editor may not have read the original in Telugu. Even if he did, his understanding of the story may not be the same as yours. That requires the editor to compare the original to your translation, and rehash the translation as needed. That is as good as doing the translation himself.
b) Every person has his own vocabulary. The words he uses may not be in your vocabulary (personal dictionary), and that could lead to misinterpretation of the original. That goes for the colloquialisms, too.
c) It simply is not the editor’s job. You have undertaken the translation; it is your job to prepare a good translation to submit.
2. Language. Be consistent. Formal, informal, scholastic, colloquial, urban – whatever you choose, be consistent. Using colloquialisms, acronyms, abbreviations, buzzwords, like sis or bro, may not work well in a translation. We are not Americans and no point in pretending to be.

4. Footnotes and formatting.
I never thought I would have to say this, but, after seeing some submissions from highly educated writers, some even with doctoral degrees, fumble on footnotes and formatting, I thought I would mention it.
There is a difference between notes and footnotes. Notes would work when the translation is 3 or 4 pages long. For a longer translation, footnotes is a better choice. Consider it from the standpoint of a reader having to scroll back and forth. If you are providing notes, put the numbers in brackets following the word for which the note is meant.
Formatting is important, irrespective of who your audience is.
a) Paragraph breaks. Insert a space between paragraphs. In conversations, each dialogue is a paragraph.
b) Double-check where two words are hyphenated and where two words become another word independently. For example, copyright is one word, not two words. Whiteman could be a proper name, but a person of the white race is a white man, two words.
c) Capital letters, Italics, and Bold have different connotations. Do not use them as you please. Check on the Internet, if you are not sure. Using italics for more than 2 or 3 sentences is not a good practice.
Last, read a few English short stories, paying close attention only to the formatting. Trust me, it improves your translation immensely.
Translation guidelines.
DownloadableEditiing a translation, my struggle(1)

Nidadavolu Malathi
February 8, 2023.

Telugu Women Writers, 1950-1975, An Analytical Study

The Telugu Women Writers achieved a phenomenal success in the first quarter of the post-Independent India. This book examines the historical, familial and sociological conditions which contributed to their never heard before success.
This book has been published originally in 2008. The current version includes several revisions, based the new information which came to my attention.
– Nidadavolu Malathi.


Review by Veluri Venkateswara Rao here

Malathi Nidadavolu
January 25, 2023

Lead me to Light! by Vasireddy Sitadevi.

“Is that Gopalam? Why are you walking away as if you’ve not seen me?” Rama Sastry called out.
Gopalam was startled. He was lost in his thoughts; did not pay attention to whereabouts. He turned around and saw a vague outline, short, stout, and rounded as if three balls were stacked up. The man who addressed him was of fair complexion and wore no shirt. He wrapped a green silk shawl around his shoulders, and his tummy was peeking through its folds. He wore a dhoti up to his knees, lion-headed bracelets on his hands, and big red dot on his forehead. Gopalam felt like laughing but did not.
“You’re looking at me as if I am a stranger. What’s new? How is father?”
“Oh, no, no. I got distracted; thinking of something. Yes, father is fine. He talks about you sometimes.”
“I’d like to see him. I’ve been so busy lately, no time at all.”
“Of course, I understand. I’m sure you’ve heard about our conditions at home after father’s retirement,” Gopalam thought.
Rama Sastry was a well-known priest. So, he would get calls for all festive occasions in the houses of high ranking officers and ministers. He had no match in drafting horoscopes. He made good money and earned some clout in social circles. All his children recieved good education and landed good jobs.
“How is father’s health? Are you done with your schooling?” The concern in his voice sounded unnatural.
“Father’s health is not good. I finished B.A. in first rank. I’ve been trying to get a job for the past six months. That is one more worry for father,” Gopalam said sadly.
“What’s the point in worrying? Father knows that is the way life is; Why worry about such small matters?” Sastry’s face glimmered with his philosophy.
Gopalam was irritated. He wanted to tell Sastry to recall the life he had had when he first came to this town. At the time, Gopalam was just twelve. He could still visualize the day Sastry had been sitting there, looking desperate. Gopalam’s father had cheered him up.
“Wouldn’t there be problems for people who are knowledgeable about life?”
“Of course, there will be. But, does it help if you beat yourself up? Praptavyamartham labhyate manushyah. Devopi tam langhayitum na saktih,” Sastry said, with partly closed eyes and waving his hands in the air.
“I don’t know Sanskrit. Can you please tell me the meaning?” Gopalam asked, irately.
“Certainly, listen. It means man will receive whatever he’s supposed to receive. Even God cannot prevent that,” Sastry replied, submerged in the thought.
“Are you saying that whatever we’re destined to receive, will come to us on its own? And even God cannot do anything to change it?”
“That’s correct, Gopalam,” Sastry replied proudly and with a smile.
“That means God cannot save a man. So, tell me what is it that God can do?” Gopalam, smiling, asked him.
Sastry was baffled. He took out the gold-plated snuff box from his waistband and sniggrf a pinch. “Where’re you going?” he changed the subject.
“From zero to infinity,” Gopalam replied, watching Sastry keenly.
Sastry missed the sarcasm in Gopalam’s words. He burst into a laugh. “You speak strange, Gopalam. Where did you get this vocabulary?” he said and finished the rest of the snuff in his palm. He wiped his nose and hand on his shawl.
“And you? From where to where?”
“Me? I’m coming from the collector’s house. He got a son, the savior of his lineage, after four daughters. I drew up his birth chart. He is an extraordinarily fortunate boy. That is the chart, that’s the way one’s a chart should be. He’ll live ninety years; enjoy a royal life. Let’s go, we can talk on the way.”
Gopalam followed him without questioning whereto. Today, Gopalam did not want to let go of Sastry that easy. He set out without thinking where he would go to; just wanted to kill time. Thoughts about future were eating him up inside, like a bug.
“So, Sastry garu, you say collector’s son is a blessed boy. What if your chart were …” Before he finished the sentence, Sastry cut him and said,
“Oh, no, How could you say that! Are you questioning the chart I’d drawn?” Sastry’s voice was sharp.
“Maybe you’ve forgotten but you said the same thing about me to my father. You’d drawn an extraordinary chart for me, too. You’d written that I would attain a high status,” Gopalam said, staring into Sastry’s face.
“Yes, I said. Are you suffering hardships now? How much you’ve seen in your life that you should question my chart? Just watch. You will soon enough the Lady Luck comes to embrace you,” Sastry chided Gopalam.
“Lady Ill-Luck embraced me long since,” Gopalam mumbled, as if he was talking to himself.
Both of them kept walking silently. Gopalam asked, breaking the silence, “So, you’re sure that the collector’s son will live ninety years as you predicted.”
“Yes,” Sastry replied in calm and steady voice.
“What if the boy dies in a day or two?”
“No way that can happen. No matter how many dangers he encounters, he will live to be ninety,” Sastry said firmly.
“Then, Guruji, can you tell me what do people mean when they say akaala mrutyu?[1]
Sastry felt cornered. He pretended to be looking at something far away and not listening to Gopalam as kept walking.
“When time comes, nobody can evade death, that’s what you’re saying, right?” Gopalam was persistent.
“Yes. It has been prescribed in our texts, na kale mriyate kaschit praapte kale na jivati[2].
“That means if I am down with fever and am destined to die, even a million attempts to remedy me are sure to fail.”
“That’s true, my boy. What is in our hands? We are simply human. How can our attempts stack up against the decision of that inexplicable Lord?”
“But you took your sick son to Dr. Nair a few years back, why? I heard that you were down on your knees and begged him to save your son. You claim to know everything, yet groveled in front of another human, begged him to save your son’s life, why?”
Sastry was stuck like a rat in a cage.
udyoginam purushasimham upaiti Lakshmi. Boy, we must do the best we can.”
Gopalam broke into a big laugh. Sastry stopped walking.
“Keep walking. We can talk while walking,” Gopalam said, smiling.
Sastry thought, “There is nothing more stupid than debating these young fools. Modern day youth! Oh Lord Rama! The world is going to the dogs, no fear of god at all! What kind of education they are getting? Atheists are growing in number by the minute.”
“What’s it, Guruji? You are lost in a reverie. Look, the baby goat in the arms of that little girl, a charmer, isn’t it?”
“Yes, yes,” Sastry said, unable to figure out Gopalam’s approach.
“Let’s say that she is destined to die in six months per her horoscope. You’re saying nobody could kill her in the meantime.”
“As the proverb goes, even an ant will not sting without an order from Lord Siva.”
“All right. I’ll kill her right now while you’re watching. What can you say for that?” Gopalam looked into Sastry’s face. He thought this would dries up Sastry’s mouth.
Sastry’s face was lit up with a mix of smile and solemnity. “If she is destined to die today, Lord Siva would cause you to think of it,” he replied, and took a pinch of snuff and rubbed his nose with his palm. The sight made Gopalam feel sick in his stomach.
“You mean our brain makes us to act per our destiny.”
“Correct,” Sastry said zealously.
“That means our brain does not act independently; and man is not responsible for his actions. That means man does not have to account for his good and evil deeds. All the dharma sastras and legal canons, which stipulate rules, are meaningless, I suppose.”
Sastry continued to walk, looking around. He hastened his steps. Gopalam also hastened his pace. He said, “Sastry garu, I have a small doubt.”
“What?” Sastry growled.
“Man’s brain does not act independently but follows the lord’s command. If that is so, why does not God make all people do only good deeds?”
Sastry was upset. He was baffled for want of a good response. He asked, “Gopalam, Have you ever made the mistake of going to the temple?” He was disgusted.
Gopalam laughed a big laugh. “Why are you upset? You’ve not given me an answer to my question. Let it be. I’ll give you my answer to your question. I used to visit the Anjaneya temple along with my mother in my childhood days. Do you know why? For the prasadam.[3] I’d never been to any temple as an adult. My heart is still pure. There is no need for me to go to the temple and wash off my sins,” Gopalam spoke fervently.
“So, in your mind, all those people who go to the temple have committed sins?”
Gopalam was shocked by the ire in Sastry’s tone, stopped for a few seconds, and then, continued walking. He said, “I didn’t say that. But I do think that most of them are that kind. Some people go to have their wishes fulfilled, and a few others to have their hardships cleared. You tell me how many go there simply with a sense of devotion and only devotion?”
“How do you I know? You tell me that too,” Sastry said, stressing each word as he spoke.
Gopalam felt like laughing but did not; he pursed his lips tight. He was afraid of Sastry getting further annoyed. “Today, I’ve learned a very important lesson from you. I’ll remain grateful to you for the rest of my life,” he said, sounding casual. But Sastry noted a streak of sarcasm in it.
“What is that?” Sastry asked.
“The man who has sinned need not be afraid, nor he be afraid of god.”
Sastry stopped suddenly. He was surprised; he looked into Gopalam’s face for a second, and said, “Oh, Lord Rama, did I say that?”
“You’ve said it just a few minutes ago. You’ve said the brain is not independent and that it acts as preordained. Whether the lord made the man perform good or bad deeds, man need not be afraid of it.”
“I don’t know how to respond to atheists like you. We’ve believed our guru’s words. We never raised gawky questions like you are doing now,” he said, unable to come up with a better answer.
“Oh, no. We’ve come too far, while chatting. Come on, let’s go to the public gardens. We will sit there for a few minutes,” Gopalam said. He was feeling down; this would be good pastime, he thought.
“What for? So you could kill me with your questions?”
Gopalam giggled to himself.
Suddenly, they came across a dead body on a stretcher. The carriers were chanting ‘Hare Rama, Hare Rama’. Some of them looked sad. The dead man’s son was walking ahead with a pot on his head.
“Don’t walk in front of it, come here,” Sastry grabbed Gopalam’s shoulder and pulled him to a side. Then, he stood to a side, closed his eyes and prayed to the lord, “Oh Lord, may his soul be blessed with peace.”
Gopalam stood there watching Sastry. Several questions about life and death rose in his mind, “What is that life has and death does not have? How does the life’s inner stream, that has been alive up until then, dry up so suddenly? How does that consciousness freeze abruptly? The issues and hardships, which pervade life, do not exist in death. But, why is man afraid of death? Is it because he is afraid to imagine this world without himself in it?”
Sastry commented ardently, “Today is mukkoti ekadasi.[4] He must have done many good deeds to die on this day!”
“Sastry garu, you’re so happy as if you that attained status yourself,” Gopalam blurted and regretted it in the next second.
Sastry eyeballed Gopalam. Gopalam turned away, as if he did not notice Sastry’s displeasure. “So, Guruji, you believe those who died today would go to the heaven straight.”
The question threw Sastry into a spell of ecstasy again. “Yes, Gopalam, today all the doors to the heaven are open. One can go straight to the feet of Lord Vishnu.” Sastry closed his eyes partly and was overwhelmed by the heavenly beatitude.
“Then, Guruji, do you believe there is something called Atman?”
“What kind of question is that? There is of course Atman in this temporal body. Atman has no death; it is immortal. This body is like a shirt on our bodies. When the shirt is dirty, we’ll remove it and wear a new one. The Atman discards the decayed body the same way.”
“But sometimes it also discards a child’s or youthful body, how come?”
Sastry was furious; he knotted his eyebrows. “That’s because of their actions in their previous lives. Each one lives in this world only to settle the account, based on their good deeds or evil deeds in the previous lives, and then they goes back,” he said.
“Some people die as soon as they are born; they enjoy nothing. And then there are others who are born dead.”
Sastry’s was getting angrier by the minute. He kept walking without a word.
“You’re angry with me, I think.”
“What for?” Sastry said.
“May I ask one question?”
“Will you leave it there if I say no? Ask.”
“What does Atman mean? Will it be affected by the little annoyances the body suffers? Will the Atman also suffer along with the body?” Gopalam asked him, with a show of humility.
Sastry’s face reddened with irritation. “Way to go,” he told himself, his face was solemn.
“There is something beyond body, senses, heart and mind, and a manifestation of Truth, Beauty and Beatitude. That is Atman. Atman is a self-created bliss. It has no pain. Atman is simply another manifestation of the Lord. It will not be touched by the affliction the body suffers from.” Sastry went on a sermon.
“Is the Atman in you the same as the one resident in me?”
“Exactly. In you, me, and the Atman resident in all the animate things is the same one. It is a fragment of the Lord. Since it is covered by illusion, the Atman forgets its original form, and craves for corporal pleasures.”
Gopalam looked at Sastry while he was lecturing like a great philosopher. He smiled.
“What are you smiling about?” Sastry asked, annoyed.
“I am smiling at your arguments, which seem to cross each other out,” Gopalam replied with a smile.
Sastry felt like he was thrown on to a bed of burning coals.
“Come here, let’s sit on the bench,” Gopalam headed toward the park bench near the gate, without looking for Sastry’s response. Sastry followed him mechanically. His mind was hovering around Gopalam’s question. This nut had always been like this even from his childhood. There had been one incident when Gopalam was eight-years old.
Sastry was telling Gopalam’s father about somebody’s death. Gopalam sat on the floor and was cutting pictures from his picture book. He stood up and came near his father and asked him, “How do people die?”
“They just die, that’s all,” his father replied, not knowing how else to answer.
“What does it mean to die?” Gopalam asked again.
“Go to bed, you and your stupid questions,” his father yelled at him. Gopalam did not move.
“Dying means the life leaving the body,” Sastry replied.
“What do you mean by life leaving the body?”
“Life leaving the body means the person cannot talk or walk; he becomes stiff like the bat you play with. Then he is burned to ashes,” Sastry replied.
The little boy’s face was filled with fear and curiosity, one after another. “How does the life leave the body?”
“It flies away.”
“Does the life have wings like a bird?” Gopalam asked him, with surprise, and glaring at him.
“No. … Yes. …” Sastry was perplexed and did not know how to answer.
“Where does life come from?”
“From god,” Gopalam’s father replied.
“Where will it go again?”
“To the same god.”
“Will the god take it back himself?”
“Yes,” Sastry replied.
“Do the lives of people in Japan and America also go to the same god?”
“Yes,” Sastry said.
“Is the same God causing wars?”
“Does that mean god is not a good person?”
Sastry and Gopalam’s father stared at each other. A little puppy appeared in the front yard. Gopalam ran quickly to the puppy, forgetting everything else. That had happened long time ago.
Gopalam brought him back to the present with his question, “Guruji, what’s it? You seemed to have been lost in deep thought. You didn’t answer my question.”
Sastry returned to the present and thought, “I couldn’t answer your question on that day; and certainly not today.” He turned to Gopalam somberly and replied, “You say that my arguments are contradicting each other, right?”
“Yes, sir. On one hand, you’re saying Atman is a manifestation of beatitude and is independent; it will not be touched by ordinary problems and evil. At the same time, you’re also saying the Atman is shrouded by illusion, and thus, craving for carnal pleasures. How can the Atman, independent and a fragment of the Lord, be shrouded by illusion? Earlier, when we saw the dead body, you’d prayed for the peace of Atman. What is the point of praying for the peace of the Atman, if Atman is already a manifestation of Truth, Beauty and Bliss? You’ve also said the Atman would go straight to the heaven since he had died on the mukkoti ekadasi day. The Atman had already been a part of the Lord, where else would it go if not to Him? Better yet, life and death are only physical attributes of the body; that being the case …” Gopalam stopped abruptly, looking into Sastry’s face.
Drops of sweat were glistening on Sastry’s face, like pearls. His face turned crimson. He took the remaining snuff and snorted. Gopalam felt sorry for him. “He is senior, why bother him? He has his beliefs, why not leave him alone?” he thought. But the problem was such people would try to rub their beliefs on others and that’s what bothered him.
“Please, come to my house. Father is thinking about you,” Gopalam said, changing the subject.
“I’ll,” Sastry said, feeling relieved.
“Shall we go to the exhibition grounds? Today, a sixteen-year-old boy, doused in kerosene, will set himself on fire and jump into a three-hundred-yard deep well,” Sastry said, in an attempt to preempt Gopalam from reverting to the earlier topic.
Gopalam was surprised. He looked into Sastry’s face, “You have such interests too?”
“Just for fun,” Sastry laughed aloud. Gopalam could not understand his humor.
“That’s true. For many people, watching others in danger is a pleasure,” he said.
Sastry could not understand Gopalam’s comment; he frowned.
Gopalam continued, “Guruji, why do people get excited about watching things like boxing, circus, and or somebody standing amid lions and tigers, and poking at them? Why people want to watch them?”
“What do you mean why? That’s fun and pastime. Why do you consider it as watching people in danger?” Sastry was getting vexed with him.
“Don’t be annoyed with me. I am just asking. Why don’t the same people show the same enthusiasm, if it was playing with dogs or cats? But they buy tickets and go to watch someone jumping from a ten-foot-high structure? Why would anybody go there? What is special about it?”
“Don’t ask me what is special about it; say where is the danger in it?”
“Are you saying there is cruelty in wanting to watch these sports?”
“In a way yes. This is the proof to say that the humans evolved from beasts. Actually, you can see the animal qualities in human beings. In some, they are dormant. Man needs to satisfy his animal instincts.”
“I don’t know, Gopalam. I don’t understand your logic. Just tell me, are you going to the exhibition grounds or not?” Sastry asked.
Gopalam, by nature, was not interested in watching such shows. In his childhood, he could not watch the dommari girls tumbling on the top of long poles; he shut his eyes then. His friends called him a coward. But today, Gopalam was feeling down. Spending time with Sastry was a welcome pastime for him. “I’ll go with you, let’s go,” he said.
It was dark by the time Sastry and Gopalam reached the exhibition grounds. The entire area was splendid with dazzling lights. People were pouring in. Gopalam was surprised to find that the number of women and children to be higher than he had expected. He wondered why children should be brought to this kind of shows.
They both bought tickets and went in. People had filled the seats closest to the well. Gopalam did not like people gathering so early there either. In fact, he did not even like watching that spectacle. He wanted to see the young performer. Sastry’s eyes were looking for someone. They both kept walking and chatting. They saw a small crowd at a distance and walked toward the crowd. There were about ten to fifteen people gathered there, and a young boy in khaki knickers. He was zealously answering their questions. Sastry and Gopalam understood who the boy was. They both elbowed into the crowd.
Suddenly, a man with bushy moustache walked into the crowd and suggested to disperse. He saw Sastry, folded both hands respectfully and greeted him. Sastry’s face opened up like a fresh blossom.
“Sir, come on, come here. I sent for you earlier this morning,” he said. His name was Yadagiri. He was very happy Sastry had come to his show.
“Yes, I’ve got your message. I could not meet you in the morning. That’s why I came now,” Said Sastry.
“You should not have bought the ticket. Had I known I’d have come to fetch you personally.”
“No problem. This young man bought the tickets. He is a good friend of mine,” said Sastry. Yadagiri greeted Gopalam with folded hands. Gopalam also joined his hands in namasthe. Yadagiri escorted them and the boy away from the crowd. Gopalam was trying to figure out the connection between Sastry and Yadagiri.
All the four disappeared into the tent that was ten-feet away from the well.
“The reason I’ve sent for you is, I would like to perform the Satyanararayana puja at our new house the day after tomorrow,” Yadagiri said.
Yadagiri has been conducting the merry-go-rounds, lucky-dips, and other stunts, at village fairs and other places. He had entertained people in several ways and earned one hundred thousand rupees. He had a new house built. He invited Sastry for all the pujas and rituals. He was not afraid of hell but believed in god.
“Sure, I’ll perform the puja for you,” Sastry replied. He thought of the gifts he would get on the occasion. His eyes, however, were fixed on the boy.
The boy looked at Sastry with curiosity and joined both hands in reverence. The boy was fair-complexioned and chubby. His features were well-defined and attractive. In his eyes under the bushy eyebrows were splarkling with several hopes and ideas. A dark line over strong upper lip seemed to highlight his youth, and also was prepared to take over his body. The signs of childhood seemed to leave the charming face rather reluctantly.
Yadagiri left them in the tent and went away. He told them he would be back soon.
Gopalam’s heart shook at the thought that crossed his mind, “What if this boy died in the flames?”’
Sastry asked the boy with curiosity, “What’s your name?”
“Nagesh.” His voice sounded like a puff of wind came out of a broken bamboo stem. Gopalam was amused by the voice; the voice at that age would sound strange.
“How long have been performing this feat?” Gopalam asked Nagesh.
“This is the first time,” he replied.
“First time? Aren’t you afraid?” Gopalam asked again, pitying him and gazing keenly into his eyes. What a charming face; looked like he was educated.
“Afraid? Why?” Nagesh answered with a question and a smile. Gopalam thought if he had asked the emperor, Sikinder, who was on a mission to conquer the world, he probably would have answered the same way.
“Who taught you this act?” Sastry asked him.
“Nobody. This is our family vocation,” Nagesh replied.
“Are you saying your father also performed the same feat?” Gopalam asked him, anxiously.
“Yes. Not only my father but also his father and his grandfather were in the same business,” Nagesh answered with renewed enthusiasm.
“Is your father around?”
“No, sir. My father died while performing the act in Pune last year.”
Gopalam cringed and looked deep into Nagesh’s eyes. He could see nothing in the boy’s eyes; they filled with tears at the thought of his father.
“How did your grandfather die?” There was pain in Gopalam’s tone.
“My grandfather was also performing the same feat for a long time, and eventually died while performing.”
“And then, what about his father?” Gopalam’s concern was escalating. Sastry was tired of this line of questioning.
“He died of natural causes. He fell sick and died, I was told,” Nagesh replied with a smile.
Gopalam sighed. “You are aware of all this, and yet, are willing to perform?” Although it was intended for Nagesh, it sounded more like he was asking himself. He tried to look far into the future of Nagesh.
Nagesh broke into a hearty laugh. Gopalam looked at him, with a stupid expression.
“Sir, let’s say your father and grandfather had died at work in an office. Would you be scared to work in the same office?”
Gopalam did not know how to respond to that question. Surprised, he kept staring at the boy for a second.
“How can the two instances be the same? Anyway, why didn’t you learn the feat from your father?” This time, it was Sastry’s turn to raise the question.
“My father did not like my going into this profession. He did not even allow me to watch his performance. A couple of times, I sneaked in and watched him. Later he came to know about it and beat me up.”
“What did your father want you to be?” Gopalam asked him, curiously.
“He wanted me to go to school, study well, and take a good job.”
“What did you study?”
“I finished high school two days back.”
Both Sastry and Gopalam were shocked to hear his response.
“You’ve finished high school, and still want to pursue this profession. Why? Why don’t you find a job, as your father wanted?” Gopalam said.
Nagesh laughed a funny laugh, like a veteran thinker. He said, “Babu, you don’t seem to understand the situation. Nowadays even people with M.A. and B.A. degrees are scrambling for jobs. Who would give me a job, especially without a recommendation. Haven’t you heard of a recent incident? An engineer went for a lower division clerk position and the officer turned him down. Probably, the officer had a B.A. degree and got the job, based on recommendation from a politician. Possibly he was afraid to take a better qualified person under his supervision.” Blood shot to his cheeks as Nagesh spoke ardently.
Gopalam was surprised by the boy’s knowledge.
“So, after all that education, are you going to settle down in the same profession?” Sastry asked him.
Nagesh looked somber beyond his age. He was thinking quietly. And then his eyes flashed; the glow overtook the somberness in his face.
“No. I will study further, pass the I.A.S. exam and will become a collector,” he said, looking far into the horizon. The words sounded like he was making the decision for himself.
“You sure can become a great man, boy! Your face is radiating with signs of royalty. Look at that forehead, Gopalam. What a superior forehead that is!” Sastry said zealously.
“Sastry garu, read his palm,” Gopalam suggested.
Nagesh, out of curiosity, looked at Sastry, and then toward the almanac under his arm, and stretched his hand toward Sastry.
Sastry took Nagesh’s hand in his own, studied it, and said, “Vow, extraordinarily fortunate boy you are! You’re sure to become a collector. When you do, you must reward me with a pair of dhotis.”
Nagesh blushed. He opened his wallet, gave a five-rupee bill to Sastry, and touched his feet seeking his blessings. Sastry hesitated to take the bill for a second. He said no but took it anyway and stuffed it at the waist, next to his snuff box. Gopalam felt bad for a second. He looked at Sastry resentfully. Sastry was not embarrassed; he did not notice Gopalam’s resentment.
Suddenly, Gopalam got a brilliant idea. “Sastry garu, tell me how long he will live?”
Sastry examined the boy’s palm carefully and said, “No doubt, he will live eighty years, at least.”
“Pay look closely,” Gopalam asked him nervously.
“I did. See this line? Straight as an arrow. There is not even a single crossline. Anyway, Gopalam, you don’t believe in such things. Why now?”
“I feel like believing now,” Gopalam replied. On any other occasion, Gopalam would not have believed it. Now, haunted by several feelings, he wanted to believe, just for a change. He turned to Nagesh and asked him, “You said you wanted to pursue further studies. Can you afford it?”
“I am free for two months. I will perform during these two months and make money. Today’s earnings already reached five-hundred-rupee mark. I will get hundred rupees atleast as my share.”
“Who gets the rest of it?”
“Some of it goes to cover the expenses. Contractor Yadagiri garu and I split the net proceeds. He takes care of the arrangements.”
“After that?” Sastry asked.
“I’ll earn three thousand rupees atleast during these two months. The income is big since I am young. I have an older sister, and my mother is worried about her marriage. I will arrange her marriage. I will earn the money needed for my education by performing whenever I get a break from school,” Nagesh was talking with great fervor. Imagine several Niagara water falls that could make up for the outburst in Nagesh!
“But you did not learn this technique from your father. How could you perform? What if …” Gopalam’s voice registered a note of discord.
“I will not face any danger. Look here, a locket with Anjaneya swamy picture. My father used to wear it when he performed and so also my grandfather. You see, now I am wearing it. Nothing is going to happen to me,” so saying, Nagesh unbuttoned his shirt and showed them a palm-sized copper locket hung around his neck by a black thread. It contained a distinct picture of Anjaneya holding up the sanjiva mountain in his palm. Nagesh brought the locket up to his eyes humbly, let it down on his chest, and buttoned up his shirt again.
Sastry looked into Gopalam’s face pompously.
“What about the day your father had died? Did he not wear it?” Gopalam asked him. The question enraged Sastry very much.
“No, he didn’t. He had forgotten it. That morning my mother had polished it with tamarind mush and worshipped it. My father forgot about it and went away. My mother talks about it and weeps every day.”
“Even if that is the case, I am sure that locket alone is not enough to save you. I am sure there are some guidelines specific to the feat, and the clothes also might be of a specific kind. Why don’t you ask your mother about them?” Gopalam suggested; his heart was sinking.
“My mother does not know about this. I told her that I was going to visit a friend in Hyderabad. Had she known, she would never let me go, not on her life,” Nagesh replied, peeking through the tent.
Gopalam became nervous. He said, “It’s not a good idea for you to perform without proper training and knowledge of the art. Postpone it for today. We’ll figure it out later.”
“How is that possible, Babu?” Nagesh said wistfully.
“Why not? Just return their money to the audience. We can ask the contractor to explain them that you fell ill,” Gopalam suggested.
Sastry cut in quickly, “Do you think this crowd would let go of Yadagiri alive, after all this humdrum? Anjaneya swamy is blazing forth splendidly on his chest; Why fear? Atheists like you do not understand the powers of the swamy. Besides, look at the lines in his hand, so perfect! He will live for eighty years, no question. He has a great future.”
Beams of light filled Nagesh’s eyes. Life flowed in each particle of this body wholly. Gopalam watched the boy without batting an eyelid. Commotion started in the crowd by the well at a distance. Nagesh cringed and looked in that direction.
Contractor Yadagiri’s voice resounded through the mike. “Quick, come on quick! In about five minutes, there is going to be a world-shaking performance right here. The entry fee is just one quarter of a rupee! Twenty-five naya paise! Quick, Come on, time is running out!”
Nagesh stood up.
Sastry got goose bumps.
Gopalam shivered.
“A performance nobody has ever heard of in the entire world! Come and watch a raw, sixteen-year old boy turn into a ball of fire and jump from a height of three hundred feet into the well of death. Just for a quarter! Well of death for the price of a cup of coffee! The cost of two balloons! Twenty-five naya paise. Hurry, the show will begin in a few minutes! Well of death!” Yadagiri’s voice shouted at a high pitch.
“Well of death.” The voice was ringing in Gopalam’s ears. His head was aching. He stood up, approached Nagesh, and grabbed his hand.
Sastry’s heart wobbled.
Nagesh spoke, “Babu garu, don’t be scared. Time for me to go. I’ll be back in a half hour and meet with you. Don’t go away without seeing me again,” he said, bowed to both Sastry and Gopalam, and rushed out.
Gopalam followed Nagesh and stood there. He kept staring keenly at Nagesh. He was standing at the foot of the ladder by the well, a little away from them. Sastry tapped on Gopalam’s shoulder and said, “let’s go. Let’s watch the show.”
“I’ll wait here. You go,” Gopalam said; his voice sounded like it came from the bottom of a well.
Sastry stared into his face with surprise and went away, cutting through the crowd.
Two minutes went by. Nagesh started climbing the steel steps. Thousands of eyes were following the boy up the ladder, step by step. They all were watching him holding, their breath.
Gopalam looked up, straining his neck. Nagesh looked like a moon amidst stars at the top of the steel frame under the expansive sky and clusters of black and white clouds. The sixteen-year-old Nagesh looked small, more like a five-year old.
The crowd around the well was so thick, specks of sand would not seep through. They were anxiously looking up. A pregnant woman in her second trimester and with an eighteen-month old baby in her arms, was staring at the boy nervously.
Nagesh pulled out a bottle from his pocket. People shouted, “petrol, petrol.” Nagesh doused himself with the liquid and threw down the bottle into the well. He pulled out a matchbox from the other pocket and showed around to the audience. Everybody understood what he was showing, although the matchbox was not visible.
Sastry was sweating slightly; the almanac under his arm and the five-rupee bill at his waist were dampening. He wanted badly to have a pinch of snuff, but what if the show opened at that precise moment? He could not sniff!
“Grappling with death! Well of death!” Yadagiri’s voice stopped instantly. A big bell rang at once.
One! Two! Three!
The fire broke lose like the hunger of a poor man. Along with the blazing flames, a desperate cry came out exploding even more ghastly. The sizzling form came down twirling and fell not into the well but on the heads of the crowd!
The gathering scattered in all directions in panic. Some of them caught fire. They ran away, stomping on each other, unmindful of the others, young and old, men and women, alike; it was a huge rampage. The only dharma in that rampage appeared to be saving oneself even if it meant walking on the people on the ground.
Gopalam’s heart broke; balls of fire flared up in his mind. In the next moment, darkness enveloped him. Indistinct shapes hovered around. He was not aware of his surroundings until Sastry came and pulled him by the shoulder. Gopalam came to his senses, stood up, shook off the dust, and walked out, holding on to Sastry.
The exhibition ground, which was bubbling with enthusiasm, excitement, and crackling up until a few minutes back, turned into a terrible sight, and was crammed with desperate wailings. Sastry and Gopalam saw it and left the scene mechanically.
Gopalam was walking on a paved street; was dragging along as if he was walking on sand. By his side, Sastry’s feet were hitting the ground furiously. Silence stood between the two like the Himalayas. Gopalam’s brain was in a very cold place suitable for solidifying. Sastry’s brain was like a snowball, ready to melt.
Gopalam heard something, stopped, and without thinking. Sastry also stopped, watching him.
They both heard the bells coming from the Anjaneya swamy temple. Since it was Saturday, the temple was packed with devotees. The chanting of Anjaneya swamy prayer was clearly audible from sanctum sanctorum of the temple.
Gopalam could not see anything; it was all dark. Darkness inside and outside. He folded his hands and entered the temple premises, as if drawn in by a supreme power.
Sastry watched him with astonishment. He was about to take a step in that direction but stopped, like a machine after a power failure. He felt something soft under his foot; he heard a feeble screech. That could be a baby crying for milk or a fetus from the full-term mother he had seen earier!
Sastry shook his head vigorously, opened the almanac, and studied it for a few minutes. His eyes were burning like lamps. He tossed it on the dog that was rolling in the garbage by the temple walls. He pulled out the five rupee bill from his dhoti folds and gave it to the blind beggar at the temple entrance. He sniffed two pinches of snuff. He shook his head as if he had a revelation and left hastily in big strides and past Anjaneya swamy temple.


Translated by Nidadavolu Malathi and published on, January 2006.
(The Telugu original, tamaso maa jyotirgamaya, was published in Jayasri, 1967)

[1] Untimely death.
[2] Nobody dies when it is not time, and nobody lives after reaching the time to die.
[3] The food offered to god and distributed to devotees.
[4] A special holiday. Hindus believe that death on that specific day helps the soul to go to the heaven.

V.V.B. Rama Rao. Fragrance and Flowers of Many Colors: Balasahityam (Children’s literature)

Fragrance And Flowers of Many Colors:
Balasahityam in Telugu and some considerations about children’s literature.

Authors of children’s literature are circumscribed only by the experiences of childhood, but these are vast and complex, for children think and feel; they wonder and they dream. Their lives may be filled with love or terror. Much is known but little is explained. The child is curious about life and adult activities. He lives in the midst of tensions, of balances of love and hate within the family and the neighbourhood. The author who can fill all these experiences with imagination and insight, and communicates them to children is writing children’s literature.
–P.A.K. Mathew

To see the world through the child’s eye means to see it with clarity and directness. All childhood experiences are fist experiences and, therefore, in the nature of miracles. And writing for children will be literature only if it reflects universal truths as seen through the clear unclouded eyes of a child. — Shanta Rameswara Rao

Children’s literature is never a miniature form meant for elders. It is a peculiar type itself, it exists and it has got an identity of its own. It has gas hot rational form and scientific basis in most of the forms and individual cases. It has got a social purpose. To speak the truth, children’s literature does more for the betterment of the society than does literature for the adults.
— D. Sujatha Devi

At last Dodo said, “Everybody has won, and all must have prizes.” Lewis Carroll – Alice in Wonderland

All children are lovable and each child is a unique flower. The best gift for a child is a storybook. Child heroes and heroines leave lasting impressions on children and adults alike. Children’s Literature is a literary genre in no way inferior or less worthy of the attention of scholars and critics. Panchatantra, Hitopadesha, etc were basically fable-cloaked for moral edification and unveiling the ways of the world. They are food for children’s thought and entertainment. Down the ages, this literature has come down but never had the status of a discipline of study. It is time it received adequate scholarly and critical attention. Its methods, techniques and devices are unique creative stimuli. Every language in our country has a treasure of this genre. Eminent intellectuals have been exercising their minds on Children’s Literature. Here is K.S.Karanth’s seminal statement: “We in India have seldom bothered to delve deep into the inexhaustible treasures of nature. How many of our poets and literary men are bird watchers, wild life enthusiasts and lovers of nature in all aspects? There is no dearth of material for writing for the young, but when we elders lack experience and appreciation of the above-said repository, very little will come through our pens. … This basic drawback has come from our lack of proper education. We have made childhood a sort of vessel, which has to be filled up, by elders and teachers with material that the consider useful, or worthwhile….”[1 ]1

Children’s literature plays a vital role in shaping the individual’s personality in the formative years. With an impressionable, plastic mind, a child looks around the world and goes on slowly acquiring understanding and insight. Children grow anyway but aiding them to grow in a happy and enlightening way needs proper tending. While education has a big part to play, reading is one of the most important inputs for the mind to mature into ever-widening vistas of thought and action. The ability to respond positively depends on a child’s exposure to rational and well-considered choice of action with right attitudes in pursuing and achieving goals worthwhile. This form of literature is drawn from the native ethos, from the family, the nation and basic human nature. To begin with, the elders around, most importantly the parents and elders in the family and the incidents, make the child imbibe habits and values. Each of our languages is a product of a constituent culture within the diverse yet unified grand, national culture. The role that literature the child reads or introduced to being vitally mind shaping, writing for children needs to be a carefully designed, purpose-oriented activity. This genre with many forms has not received significant attention from critics and literary historiographers.

Comparative studies of the writing for children rooted in national ethos and culture would be a valuable exercise what with the erosion of values that our intellectuals find all around. With so much of Children’s Literature extant, no systematic or sustained effort has gone in to analyze it comparatively with a view to understand the achievements in our various languages. A project designed for this could well be a beginning.

Story for a child came into being from its mother, granny or grandpa right from the times of the cave man. Children’s Literature is a unique component of a nation’s cultural languages blossoming. A nation’s uniqueness rests squarely on its culture and its nobility and pervasiveness. The children’s literature produced in a country like ours has multiplicity not merely in its various languages but also in the way the forms of that branch of literature, which flourished down the ages. The languages and genres may vary but the cultural ethos remains the same with small regional variations. The variety and vibrancy of literature in a particular age in a particular age varies.

Writing for the young minds is a unique component of a nation’s literature since
it is an index of the cultural development of a nation. Just as a country has a history, it also has a history of its children’s literature. In our country there are thousands of languages but as many as twenty-four have been identified as widely spoken, or ‘major languages’. Our literature has been growing reflecting the widening of our horizons and sharpening our awareness of the contemporary reality besides universal values, particular after our Independence. Democratization has come to be total in the area of freedom of expression and writing.

Apart from this, our efforts to promote inter-language and inter-regional understanding, Comparative Literature has come to be an important aspect of literary studies. There has been widespread encouragement for studies in comparative literature.
But among these, Children’s Literature does not seem to have engaged the attention of scholars and researchers. With the availability of translations, thanks to the encouragement literary translation has been receiving, comparative studies have come to be less formidable now. Though it is true that the heart of Indian Literature is the same whichever language it was it has been produced in. The regional varieties and qualities of their respective uniqueness deserve to be investigated and analyzed. This kind of studies help us to draw conclusions about the state of affairs in the field helpful to the present practitioners in the field. A systematic effort has to go into collection, classification and comparison would be of immense use to practitioners all over the country to widen their horizons.

In this context, a comparative study of excellence of literature, meant for children in various forms, must be recognized to be of great practical utility. In the languages unique artifacts are being produced. Not all are along the same lines. Though we can readily agree that all are meant for children, nowadays we see that children of specified age groups have come to the target readers.

Identifying unique and insightful literary creations and honoring high flyers with awards has become a tradition now, after independence. Earlier, Zamindars and Maharajas of yore discharged this function.

For quite long children’s literature though written centuries ago exclusively for children. Panchatantra and Hitopadesha, still are read avidly since they teach all developing expedience tempered with moral sense. Down the centuries moral stories have been the staple reading/listening for the young. With the advent of the printing press and periodicals illustrators became as important as children’s writers.

Children’s literature that has been produced in Languages has great potential for comparative study, which would provide impetus to writers to give their best to our children today. Every Language is coming up with periodicals especially for children. We have realized the importance and the potential of this form. Children’s stories may be classified and analyzed according to a set of formulated norms.

In Telugu a language widely spoken in the South there have been story- clusters like Vetal Stories, Bhatti Vikramaraka kathalu, Marydaramanna Stories, Paramanandashishyulu stories.. To cite a brilliant example in Telugu periodicals, there has been CHANDAMAMA for six decades which has constantly been growing both in demand and supply, being published in as many as twelve languages and go to many countries.

Writing for Children in Telugu came in a big way during the last century with the emergence of children’s corners in periodicals and whole monthlies devoted exclusively to children’s stories, songs, and so on, more importantly in the 1950s. In Telugu besides CHANDAMAMA mentioned earlier there were BALA, BALAMNITRA, BALA JYOTHI to name only a few. Organizations of writers in that field began to come up. Telugu Balala Rachayithala Sangham [Association of Child Writers] came up in 1952. Even earlier there were smaller groups in various Telugu-speaking region. In the Telugu speaking area even in towns association for children’s writing came up, though no systematic study of that aspect has been made. The objectives of writing for children, mainly are: aiding recognition; helping them understand the ways of the world; making them familiar with life styles and cultures; exposing them to various new / unknown ways of children; stimulating thought processes; motivating further reading/thinking/ absorption of values and beliefs. These are only provisional and may need to be further expanded or fine tuned to make the list exhaustive.

Principles of comparative study and evaluation should inevitably start with setting up of points of comparison. The following list may be useful as points of comparison between the products in two different languages:
Entertainment value, the capacity to engage and enlighten the young plastic minds Sustenance and gentility of exposure to various things around
Stimulation of reader interest it (what next – the suspense motif is basic):
Simplicity and ease of putting across concepts and ideals
Building a pleasant passageway between the known and the unknown
Reducing slowly and securely the divide between the young world of wonder inquisitiveness, imagination, intriguing actuality and the adult world
Provoking a healthy, rational sense of enquiry

The study should also include the institutions, and organizations in various languages as for example A.P. Balala Mahasabha, Balananda Sangham, Baalala Academy, Bala Sahitya Parishat in the case of Telugu.
Notable events Gidugu Sitapati Childrens’ Writers’ Training 1960, Baala Academy (Children’s Literature Training Camp )with 100 children and many writers) in 1979 in International Children’s Year Celebrations etc.
Periodicals carrying writing for children before and after 1950, Bala, Balamitra, Balajyoti, Chandamama, Bala Prapancham etc. The following is list of the veterans of yesteryears (before 1950) Chinta Dikshitulu; Chalam, Tekumalla Kameswara Rao, Voleti Parvateesam, Kavi Rao, Narla Chiranjivi, (Nastik Kendra); Nyayapati Raghava Rao, Medicharla Anjaneya Sarma, Yedida Kameswara Rao. Veterans still writing and highfliers and distinguished among those writers after 1950 both living and departed
B.V.Narasimha Rao, Balabandhu Madduluri Ramakrishna, Miriyala Ramakrishna, Vejendla Sambasiva Rao Vejendla Sambasiva Rao, Challa Radhakrishna Sarma, Velaga Venkatappiah; Ravoori Bharadwaja, Balantrapu Rajani Kanta Rao, Dr P.Tirumala Rao, Menda Prabhakara Rao, Menda Suryanarayana, Palanki Venkata Ramachandra Murty, Reddy Raghaviah, Gidugu Rajeswara Rao C.V. Sarveswara Sarma, D.Sujata Devi, among many others. Among these there have been specialization of individual genres: science; historical personages, primarily informative biography, popular science etc., for designed for children. Basically personality-shaping themes receive encouragement for we all believe that child is the father of man. We try our best in the area of literature, not written alone but for oral narration, performance.

With Bapu illustrating and Mullapudi writing the content, an extremely diverting hero has come up comparable to Denis the Menace the cartoon strip character. Next to pathos, karuna, aardrata, the most captivating emotional experience is drawn from humour, haasya in our terminology. This humour may be more to the enjoyment of the adult, but the visual cartoons are a joy for all.

The shift of focus in the very recent years is from mere fancy to rationalistic, scientific, knowledge enriching themes and incidents. This aspect has to be carefully analyzed on the basis of dependable data

Different forms in Children’s Literature in prose and verse, right from cradle songs
Lyrics (geyams in Telugu)) for tiny tots for recitation and listening in classrooms and elsewhere on other suitable occasions, story poems and songs, short plays (both on the Radio and Children’s school functions etc) and most importantly, narratives short and long including serializations in periodicals.

Presentation-wise many categories could be set up. The following is a tentative list:

Traditional: Episodes in adaptation from our puranas and classical literary texts
Culture oriented proving exposure to the tales laid in other cultures and countries.
Message oriented pieces for moral edification, entertainment and exposure to the ways of the world and the behaviour patterns of the good, evil etc.,
Language specific creations and fantasies

Modes of illustrations in colour and line drawings can also be classified as shown below: :
1. Period specific and culture specific pieces
2.Apparels of outlandish / imaginative characters and situations
3.Aids for the understanding of Life styles: Fabulous, Realistic, Humorous, Fantastic

Besides these categories, more can be set up based on the analysis of the themes, variety of subjects, narratlogical devices as in string stories, stories within stories, story clusters round personalities; imaginative variety and conceptualizations.

Scholastic preoccupations need not blunt us the ground realities and our responsibility to the tender, affectionate, thinking minds. Here is the prayer of Madduluri Ramakrishna,[2 ]2 a Telugu writer, who has been veritably leading a crusade for the recognition of the child’s claim to joy in a busy business-engrossed adult world.

“Where there is nothing like a school,
Where play is learning,
Where kids never know force,
Where they live sweetly as birds
Where kids are understood by adults
Where adults themselves can become kids,
Father, in that world, let me be born.”

Ramakrishna, born slightly after General Dyer’s diabolic action in Jallianwala Bagh, a frontline fighter in our struggle for Independence, has been drawn to children and their joyous world. He became a schoolteacher. He has been veritably leading a crusade for the recognition of the child’s claim to joy in a busy business engrossed adult world.
Now an ailing, incapacitated writer soon to become a nonagenarian, he continues to be his cheerful self with kids, now mostly with his own grandchildren.

1. Introduction, p.1148 Comparative Indian Literature, Pt II Children’s Literature, Ed. K.M.George. 1984, Macmillan
2. Nenu Naa Baala Sahityam, Ed Kavi Rao et al, Telugu Baala Rachayitala Sangham Vijayawada 1986
What is Children’s Literature, The State Institute of Children’s Literature, Tiruvananthapuram, 1982
Children’s Literature in Indian Languages, Ed. Dr K A Jamuna, Publications Division, 1982
Aspects of Children’s Literature, Vol II Ed Manasranjan Mahapatra and Dwijendrakumar, National Book Trust 2006
Baala saahitya Nirmaatalu, Reddi Raghaviah, Telugu Baalala Rachayitala Sangham, 2002
(This has been published several years back on this site. However, during change of server this got lost. Found now and reposted. 12.21.2022. My apologies for the mishap.)