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Amma in the portico

12-07-2013
Amma has been unwell for a while now. Although she doesn’t have any major health problems, her movement is affected because of severe back pain. Most of the time, therefore, she is confined to her room. A couple of times in a day she is able to come out and sit in the portico for a brief while and get some fresh air and sunlight for herself.

While in the room, it is the transistor radio that keeps her constant company. She is an avid radio listener. Amma gets her news from it; views of writers and artists and leaders from it; music from it; old cinema songs from it; her favourite Harikathas also are given to her by that little box she keeps next to her. Most of the time the transistor is beside her on her bed, or on the bed-side table. She dozes off listening to her favourite programmes.

Amma led a very active life. In her teens she walked long distances along with many other girls and women to visit villages around Narasapuram to meet women and organize them. She was a part of the fledgling women’s movement in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Her marriage to Nannagaru was a remarkable, if not a revolutionary, event those days. The marriage took place in 1948, very soon after Independence. Amma came from a respectable and tradition-bound family belonging to Gowda caste. Nannagaru was a full-time communist activist and belonged to an orthodox 6000 Niyogi Brahmin family.

Inter-caste marriages rarely happened those days. It was, indeed, a sensation. Not only was an inter-caste marriage rare, but also a wedding without a priest and traditional rituals was probably unheard of. Amma tells me that hundreds of people turned up just to see what a marriage without mantras, priests and rituals looked like. There was exchange of garlands, reading out of wedding vows by the bride and the groom, and of course fiery speeches by communist leaders about social change. While it was an interesting and never-seen-before spectacle for most of those who turned up, for both the families that were steeped in tradition it was indeed an unbearable social disgrace. It rocked both the families and had far reaching consequences for them. The way Nannagaru and Amma waded through that turbulence is an interesting story about which I will write some other time.

Amma spent years in underground along with Nannagaru during the days when the Communists implemented the so called ‘Ranadive Thesis’ and took to arms to overthrow the Nehru government. She spent many anxious months at her maternal home when Nannagaru was underground with shoot at sight orders on him. She wasn’t sure during those days whether she would at all see him again. Anytime they met with great difficulty away from the searching eyes of the police, they parted with the hope that was not going to be their last meeting.

She was as active as Nannagaru. Every close political colleague of Nannagaru did not go without meeting her when they came home. Local karyakarthas spoke to her about their difficulties when they could not get to speaking to Nannagaru. She played a great supporting role in Nannagari’s political life.

After Nannagari death in 1981, she served as an MLA.

After such an eventful life, today she spends a quiet life in Isavaasyam with a little transistor as her main companion. Of course, she also has a modest daily dose of newspapers.

1.      Amma is Mother

2.      Nannagaru is Father, and Nannagari is Father’s

3.      Karyakartha is a party worker

 

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