Tag Archives: Dr. V.V.B. Rama Rao

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.)

HER PERSONALITY By Tripuraneni Gopichand

“How did you know that she’d be arriving by this train?” I asked Sastri. It must be about six., the time for the train from Bombay to arrive. Sastri and I were on the platform chatting. “I got a telegram today,” replied Sastri. Telling me that she was a friend, Sastri brought me along to the station. From what he had told me, I gathered that she must be a very interesting person.

“A wonderfully pleasant person, a wonderful person,” says Sastri whatever I ask him about her. He would only say “You’d see her yourself!” He would also say, “I don’t know, I am not able to say, there would be no such person in our society. In the society to come there may be such women like this. Perhaps now in Russia there may be such women!”

“Then, what is her husband? What does he do?” I asked.

I felt like knowing more and more about her.

“He must be doing something. Every now and then she’d say that ‘Kameswarudu is like this and that. How active he always is, do you know?’”

“Perhaps she has great love for her husband.’

“She has four children in all. One boy and three girls,” said Sastri mischievously.

Really, when he mentioned her children my mind got a little jab of pain. Like the rest of the women, should even this woman have children? For some reason I couldn’t stomach the idea.

Meanwhile, “That’s it: the train is coming,” said Sastri. At that my heart was aquiver.

Suddenly there was movement on the platform. Two passengers getting their things together stood away from the edge of the platform. An old woman held a knapsack in one hand and her grandson in another. A farmer standing just like that was agog. For a while he took the stick for the cheroot and the cheroot for the stick.

As soon as the train stopped, Lashmanasastri reminded me “Third Class”. She would always travel third, he said. She did not like being alone. For that reason she liked to be in the crowded third class. The more crowded, the more convenient for her, she seemed to have told him… I felt like going in search of her but my legs didn’t move. I stood there looking around.

That was a small station: not many would get down there.

“There! She is getting off,”

I looked towards the guard compartment but couldn’t find her.

“Hello!” he said shaking hands with someone. That person was in an overcoat with a leather-bag in the hand.

“I thought you wouldn’t turn up,” he said.

“Why so? Why did you think like that?” She was saying.

Then I knew that the one in the overcoat was a woman. The eye looking for a woman couldn’t see the person in the overcoat. While in Kerala I was in such situations. Those in lungi-like wraps with towels thrown over could not be identified as women. Now the same thing happened.

Lakshmanasastri said: “Where there is expectation, there is apprehension too. Along with the expectation and hope of your arrival there’s the apprehension of your not turning up too.”

She laughed and said, “Kameswarudu would talk like this!”

When she brought up her husband’s name Lakshmanasastri was worried and tried to change the topic. By way of introducing me, he said, “This is Sarat Chandrababu, my best friend. A writer, has connections with films. A good …”

Still holding Sastri’s hand without letting it go, she looked at me sizing me up and said: “I read some of your stories. Your stories are good.”

She stayed in Sastri’s house!

That night I was unable to sleep and so I woke up a little late the next morning. After quickly completing my morning routine, while I was thinking of going to see her, Lakshmanasastri came. “Come to my house once. She wanted me to bring you along,” he said.

“Why,” I asked. Inwardly I had the wish to go. I knew that she had been calling me for no purpose. Even so, effortlessly, I asked as much.

Lakshmanasastri looked at me with a little surprise in his eyes, stopped for a while, “All right, come along!” I set out.

We entered. There were a few friends of Lakshmanasastri and some youngsters of the town. She sat with them and seeing me asked with a smile: “What sir, did you think you shouldn’t come till asked?”

“Our friend is shy with women.” Said Sastri.

Everyone laughed. Only her face fell. I didn’t understand the reason but I clearly saw she was hurt. That was only for a short while. Again as usual, she started chatting with all. She narrated her experiences descriptively as stories. At the end: “You don’t have even one tenth of the experience I have,” she said.

True, everyone agreed. “So, not to speak of age, I am a mother to all of you.” She said.

This fell like a thunderbolt between us. Some hung their head in shame. Some laughed emptily. Some pulled a long face.

I felt like being in a different world. She went on talking to everyone in the same way as though she hadn’t observed anything. The youngsters were all listening to her in absolute silence. None dared say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. For them it was a matter of shame to ask her to go on by making little sounds to signify it. She wouldn’t remember at all that she was a woman. I felt very happy. But when she was saying: “In the past for progeny there didn’t appear to have existed a need for woman-man contact. But it is necessary now. After some years, once again it may not be necessary.” Even my mind registered a jab of pain.

After a little while all of us set out to a coffee hotel. Even she was agog. But then how to tell her?

While we were walking along the way, I noticed people in little groups gaping and ridiculing.. One or two words they said about her also reached my ears. Everyone finished the coffee thinking of going home quickly. But she was in no hurry.

“Look, pass the halwa to me,” she said and took half of it from Subbarao’s plate, “Take a little of this boondi,” she said as she emptied some from her plate into Sastri’s.

One should listen to the whispers from the other tables.

In the evening we went to the park. It’s the same even there. All those there began looking at us as though we were animals in a zoo. Whatever was happening, no change was visible in her. But what I observed was that she was more shy than me with women. She talked to Sastri’s wife with her head bent. She used to feel extremely shy to answer her questions.

“How many children do you have?”


“How could the children be tended if you went about like this?”


“How much did you pay for the stitching of this blouse?”

She used to be confused trying to answer queries like these. Though she wanted to reply politely, for some reason, either finding no answers for those or for lack of habit, she used to feel choked. It is not just that alone. The same thing happened when she saw little children. While we were all talking when Sastri’s son calling his mother crept into her lap, I’d never forget the fright that she experienced. She reacted as though a scorpion fell in her lap. When Sastri’s wife said: “I’ve to put the seasoning in: keep an eye on this fellow,” and proffering the kid went in, only almighty knew the agony she experienced. Not knowing how to carry the child in the crook of her arm, she held him as Sastri’s wife would hold the pot on the chula. But however much the pain, she would forget it the next moment. Coming out she’d talk happily as usual to all as if nothing had happened. She would not mention anything about that.

After my meal I sat thinking about her. Meanwhile after finishing hers at Sastri’s house she came saying “Come, let’s go to a movie.”

After hesitating a little I asked: “Where’s Sastri?”

“Wouldn’t you come without him?”

“Why shouldn’t I?”

“Then, come.”

“I’d have a carriage called.”

“Let’s go on foot.”

We set out. None was walking along on the road. The municipal lanterns were standing watch just twinkling. From a distance noise of the horse drawn carriages was audible. We were walking abreast. She threw a shawl over her for cold. For that reason she didn’t appear like a woman for me. After a little while, she heaved out a sigh and said: “Your town remained very backward.”

Not knowing what to say, “It’d have been better had Sastri accompanied us.”

Waiting for a moment, she said, as if to herself “Very backward.”

“If not so, how could it look like Bombay!”

“It’s not about the place. It’s the people. I’ve been observing all the time since I came. Oh! I wonder how you all live here! One would get angry if I talk to another. If I talked to all, all are angry. Perhaps, this is what is called jealousy. I observed you all. I observed this in Sastri’s house. When we went to the coffee hotel I saw the condition of others here. What an injustice? All primitive qualities. The condition of women is worse. Every wife feels it her duty to protect her husband from other women. She thinks that every woman who speaks to her husband does so to steal her husband from her. How primitive! You seem to be living in the era of Mandhata.” (The ancient Hindu law-giver prior to Manu)

I didn’t say anything. I knew what she said was true. From the moment she came, I’m able to see clearly our inhuman ways.

“You are intelligent. You are more intelligent than you think of yourself. Therefore you interest me. But what’s the use? Since you are part of the primitive society around you, you too have many primitive instincts in you. Right from the beginning I’ve been observing you. I’d give you a piece of advice. You organize a Women’s club here. Unless women are made to mix freely, this beastliness wouldn’t go.”

Those words brought to my memory the quality of life all if us have been living. Keeping wives at home and roaming about the streets in small groups and, when a woman is seen, resorting to monkey tricks and ridiculing her – always discussing women – all these appeared hateful. The recent murders for the sake of women have come to my mind. Is the reason for all this the one she said? I fell into thinking without replying to her. She too seems to have guessed and didn’t raise that topic.

After we entered the cinema hall, twice or thrice she made me speak. Once she said “I like Charles Boyer and Kameswarudu has a liking for Greta Garbo.”

“I know those who’d like Charles Boyer. But it is surprising that you like him.”


“He’s very masculine. I’m afraid the screen would be torn apart when he kisses a woman. “‘Let it be torn,’ That’s what I’d tell myself.” After a little while she added slowly: “That opposite qualities have attraction for each other is an old theory.

Again, after a little while, “I remember one thing when you say that. Why not tell you! I sent in an application to enroll in a Women’s club in our place and they sent it back saying, ‘We admit only women,’” she said and began laughing aloud. As for myself I pitied her.

Again we sat watching the film.

After the first night passed and it was morning, when the hero and heroine with great enthusiasm went about merrily, one smelling a flower and another singing the duet holding a tree’s bough, “How’s this scene?” she asked.

“Not good. She should have acted for some more time.”


“The previous night was the first for her. For that reason, on seeing his face it would be natural to feel very shy,” I said.

“How do you know that that was her first experience?” she asked and laughed. While laughing she put the Champak flower she was holding in her hands into mine. Though I didn’t like flowers I sat smelling it.

“Did you see Greta Garbo’s ‘Queen Christina’?”

“Yes, I did.”

“How was that scene?”

I knew which scene she had in her mind. In that till Greta lay down beside him, the hero would be under the impression that it was a boy! Suddenly he would realize it was a young woman. She was asking me about that scene.


“How was it shot?”

I knew which shot she was asking me about. But she was not asking about the beauty of the shot. She was asking me about Greta in that. Garbo was standing She was in a loose shirt with nothing inside. She was asking me as to how that was.

“Basically, while watching Garbo in films, I feel odd and suffocated. I don’t enjoy feeling so.”

She didn’t say anything.

As soon as we came out from the cinema hall she said: “I can’t live here any longer. You are all primitive peoples. You are now leading the kind of life, which obtained four centuries ago. When I see you, I am reminded of the hill tribes in Barua’s pictures. He would show ultra-modern families and then suddenly dump the audience in a village of hill- tribes. I feel just like that having come here after seeing other places. I can’t survive here: I’d leave tomorrow.”

I felt it would be fine if she stayed there a little longer. I had the hope that with her around our lives stood a chance of slight change.

Not able to confess more I said: “Please stay for a day, just tomorrow.”

“I tell you truly: in this atmosphere I cannot live even a moment longer. You have seen Tarzan! Amidst those animals, in that wild forest: the girl by his side filled me with fright. In your place, in such a plight, how can I stay! No, I wouldn’t.”

The next morning, Lakshmanasatri and I along with some more friends took her to the station. We all stood looking at her when she got into the train to Bombay.

After that I have changed a lot. She has changed my entire attitude and life style. Earlier I used to have no incentive to do anything. I became more cheerful now. Earlier I was never enthusiastic to attend lectures. But it is not so now. Now I wish to write stories, give lectures, and have the desire to invite praise. More important is the desire, whenever there’s a chance, to have a wash. These are just examples to indicate the change in me. Whenever there was something to do, some one to be talked to, every time, I used to feel overjoyed as though I had learnt a great secret of life or got into an inspiring initiation of chanting a mantra. Her words and her being intimate and not yet not being so … being very familiar and at the same time not being cheap or vulgar… discussing everything without inhibition… whenever I thought of these, my heart used to exult. It is said that if a woman goes out with a man she’d get ‘contaminated’: what a mistaken saying!

That evening I went to Lakshmanasastri’s house. Along with him I remembered her. Even while I was talking about her I used to feel she’s been smiling sitting, by my side. When I went in there were Subbarao, Krishnarao, and Venkateswararao. Lakshmanasatri was telling them about something. I discovered that they were discussing her. I pitied them. They were sitting glum. With her gone, their lives became dim and confused. They felt like birds that lost the shelter of the tree. They sat like bereaved children. The words she uttered, “I’m your mother,” rang in my ears.

As soon as I sat down Lakshmanasastri began “You, my dear man, did you hear what our Krishnarao has been saying? He says we should call her and get Women’s Societies started.”

“Good! Make necessary arrangements and send word for her,” I said without revealing that I felt the same desire.

“It’s not enough to say that. You have to write to her: there’s no knowing whether she’d come or not,” said Krishnarao.

“Would she come for us? Whoever writes, the result will be just the same,” I said.

“Why? Aren’t there things like good bad and friendship? She has trust in you,” said Subbarao. I did not like Subbarao’s looks and manner. The whole thing looked odd. I felt that their whole attitude had changed. I was angry about their tenor.

“All of us are friends here. Whoever is not?” I said.

“What is our friendship? It is all empty. Do we write stories? Do we speak humorously and make people laugh? Do we take them out for films?” asked Subbarao.

For his last words everyone laughed viciously. Since Krishnrao’s health had never been very good, whatever he felt he would not be able to contain. . He couldn’t restrain his laughter and went on laughing noisily. Even their laughter, apart from their conversation, appeared unnatural. Anger was rising in me by the minute.

“I looked sternly at Subbarao and said, “Glad you’re intelligent. Couldn’t you stop even now?”

“It is common knowledge that, amongst all of us, she has a special liking for you! When it is a man and woman, when once going together started…”

“Sastri!” I shouted.

He didn’t heed. He went on speaking in an odd way: “What’s wrong with that? Is she so innocent and pure?”

Everyone broke into a loud laughter.

I was growing more and more furious by the moment. ‘Even if you say one word more about her, I would not tolerate.’ Saying so I got up.

While my fury rose, Sastri’s playfulness went on increasing. His face was full of mischief. – “Look, How furious he is when I mentioned her name! He implies that we shouldn’t utter even a single word against her! You listen to me with attention. Not one word, I’d say a thousand. She is a devout, dedicated wife- a pativrata – Recently our friend tried to protect her chastity. She …”

He said this much but I could hear well beforehand what he was going to say next. I didn’t like those words: I couldn’t restrain myself. Meanwhile Sastri was talking about a flower, honey and a honeybee.

What more! I leapt on him. I don’t know how many blows I delivered. I don’t know what happened later. After a while I stood up. Subbarao, Krishnarao, and Venkateswararao were trying help Sastri sit up. I pitied the way he was looking at me. He could not have ever imagined that I’d resort to this kind of action. He looked at me pityingly and said: “You have gone mad!”


I never repented for what I had done. Why should I repent? Without knowing good and bad, what to say and what not to say, if he had just blabbered how could I tolerate! They may be my friends, all right, but even then? That too, about her? Is she that kind of a woman? Shouldn’t they know that much! Though I sat by her side, talked to her and laughed along with her such a foul idea never came to my mind. It’d appear to be floating in imagination, in another world, in clouds where bodies are not remembered! Should they ascribe such a mean feeling to her! Even these are under the impression that a woman who goes out with a man is fallen! However great friends they are of mine, why should I tolerate them?

I really felt glad for what I had done. At one moment, I felt like writing to her what exactly had happened. But hesitating that it would hurt her I never did it. I knew how bad she would feel and how her pious heart would flutter if she knew how some people were discussing her and thinking about her. For that reason I did not write to her of the things that had happened here.

Even so, on the fifth day I got a letter from her. How I wondered! My joy knew no bounds. I quickly tore open the envelope and read the letter. If the arrival of the letter surprised me, the reading of the contents therein made me feel that my heart had stopped.

This was the letter:

” I am fine enough. I reached home like an unruffled flower. Ever since I came I have been thinking of writing to you. But I’m not sure as to how to write. I was wondering what you’d think and whether I’d write in a way you can understand. I don’t know the language you understand. Even if I knew, I must have forgotten it.

“Today I got a letter from Lakshmanasastri. Don’t be surprised. You already know we have been friends, don’t you? He wrote to me in detail about your fight. He hasn’t written any lies. He wrote whatever has happened. It was like a piece of detective fiction, a scene in a stunt movie.

“Sir, is it to defend my honour that you fought with Sastri? Did you beat him for that? In my imagination I can clearly see your tousled hair, reddened eyes, excited trembling hands and feet, Lakshmanasastri falling down, you leaping on him, pulling at his hair, scratching his face. While I imagine all these, my admiration for Nadia grew. It’s not just a manner of saying. I admire Nadia. How she would beat groups of men with her hunter!

“The chivalry you have displayed attracts me. Travelling on a kite, landing in front of you, I’d like to express my gratitude. If I were to sit in front of you with my folded hands you’d raise me holding my hands and say ‘Do you have to praise me so much for this: I’ve carried out my duty’; right? I remember to have seen such a thing in some film. I like such scenes too.

“But I’d like to ask you one thing first. If you give me a right reply I’d come to you on wings and enact that scene before you. How did you know that I am not a ‘nanganachi’* -one   <deliberately putting up a show of enticing innocence. What is the basis for your thinking so? Did my words give you that impression? It is not so since I am not that. Lakshmanasastri told you the truth. I never had the desire to become one either.

“Don’t misunderstand me. I tell the facts as they are. About your chivalry too I have a doubt. I feel that the reason behind this chivalry is the belief that it is the duty of a man to protect the honour of a woman. That opinion has a close relation to the idea that a woman is the property of man. If she is thought to be a piece of property, and if she is not in a position to protect herself, the necessity of protecting arises. For the simple reason that I spent some time and went to a film with you, such conclusion on your part, and that the onus of protecting my honour devolved on you is unjust. What’d be the difference between you and people like Lakshmanasastri then? They spoke as they pleased out of jealousy that I have become someone else’s property. Feeling hurt and insulted that they were ridiculing your property you fought with them. Where then is the difference? Your fighting for me brings to my mind the Rajput hero’s valour, courage and bravery risking his life for saving a fortress that’s empty.

“How much is the difference between you and your stories! Your behaviour is one thing. and your stories are quite different. While one pulls you back, the other urges you to go forward. As I think of it, it makes me wonder if it‘s you who had written them. I know several writers. Many of them are so. The opinions they express in their writing are progressive, but their behaviour is worse than an ordinary man’s. I think the reason for this is the lack of effort to translate thoughts and feelings into action and experience. You too have the strengths, weaknesses, emotions and passions generally found in other writers.

“You have to change, please, you have to. This I’ve told you even while I was there at your place. I am saying that again. The reason why I say this so emphatically is that I like you, in spite of all your weaknesses. For that reason I deeply wish to make you better. There’s only one way out I can see. You organize a ladies club. If you can be the secretary, it’d be all the better. I’d be happy. Don’t neglect this. If you allow the disease to get worse, it’d be no use how hard you tried later.

“‘I feel choked if am the secretary. I don’t like to be that’” saying this does not strike as the posture of a devout and pious wife, a pativrata. You say that emptily but what else happens if it does not? All the time you were preoccupied judging me whether I was speaking beautifully and intelligently. Why didn’t you ever feel like speaking up naturally and truthfully? I don’t like your being a ‘pativrata’, afraid of society and becoming thus a slave, spending your time always grunting and grumbling

“Now I take leave. I have written frankly and sincerely all that I wanted to. It is my wish that you too would do the same. Reply without fail.

“I’ve forgotten to ask you, sir, in the theatre when offered a flower, does anyone sit smelling it all through? Is a sampenga flower just given to smell alone? Why did flowers come into being? To smell. Why does a stream flow? To sing. Why is the sandalwood tree born? To shelter serpents. Only this much and not beyond. You don’t know that according to situation and circumstance man either creates or infers new meanings, or tries to put across feelings, which cannot be expressed in words. How primitive you are! Above all this there’s an attempt to spread the impression that I’m a ‘nanganachi’! Is it not your implication that I’m primitive too? Perhaps it’s your wish!”

Yours truly,


P.S. Not Lakshmanasastri’s letter. (1953)

(Translated by Dr. V.V.B. Rama Rao, and published on thulika.net, January 2005.)