My Life Memoirs-3
My Life, Full of Beautiful Memories
3.The people of my village
Justice Avula Sambasiva Rao and his mother Ms. Bapamma were the richest people in Mulpuru. But they were very humble and respectful to people, and that is why the whole family earned the esteem of the villagers.
He was closely associated with the Humanist and Rationalist movement. He served as the Chief Justice of A.P. High Court and also as the Vice- Chancellor of Andhra University. My father was very close to him, they were like brothers. Hence we called him ‘Babayi’ (younger uncle.). I closely know his youngest daughter, Manjulatha, as a student, as the Director of Telugu Academy and as the Vice- Chancellor of Telugu University, Hyderabad.
Avula Gopalakrishna Murthy:
He was a gem of a person in his family, an intellectual giant, a writer and an orator. He practiced law in Tenali. He was a Humanist and Rationalist. His untimely death left a blow to all of us in the village.
Dr. Kolluru Venkatrayudu:
He was London trained and served as the military doctor. He was a strict disciplinarian and cared for personal and patient hygiene. He was a great friend of my father though, I met him only once in my house. He was handsome and dignified.
He was the village post master. He was very gentle and soft spoken, a good friend of my father. I still remember him vividly, as fair and short.
He was known as Kamma –Brahmin. He was the priest of the village, performing all kinds of rituals and pujas in non- Brahmin families. He used to jokes and make us laugh. He was a good man by nature.
She was our washer –woman dark and big build and – very affectionate. She washed our clothes cleanly and folded them for us. We used to tease her, but she never took offense and loved us as we were. My mother used to give her hot dinner every night but she didn’t eat along with us. She took it home to share it with her grand children (Her adopted son’s kids.), She is an unforgettable woman.
She was in charge of pounding paddy for our rice, preparing pulses, cleaning the house on festival occasions. She was straight and slim, and it was difficult to guess how old she was. She was a quiet and sincere worker. Her beautiful daughters also came to our house to help in domestic chores.
He was the head of all our agricultural laborers. He took care of agricultural cattle and tools. We cried a lot when he died of typhoid. Those days, medicines were not available for typhoid.
He was a fair and hefty person, very dignified and always looked neat. He was a friend of our Peda Mamayya. But he was present in our house on all important occasions, marriages, and other major functions and parties. He was in-charge of supervising cooking, serving, attending on guests and so many other things. We could rely on him for any work. He was so very trust worthy.
Bondili Lakshmi Bayi:
She was the sweet maker. A small person with hoarse voice, very clean in her work and very strict in her business. She used to come home with her staff to prepare sweets on large scale for the marriages of my sisters and brother, weddings that were lavish and pompous.
Basavammakkayya, Krishna pinni, G.V.K. Mamayya, Chinamani pinni were friends of our sisters and brother and – I loved them immensely.
My mother’s friends:
Venkayamma was my mother’s childhood best friend. She used to sing and tell us stories. She was very helpful to my mother. If we were sick she used to stay at our bedside and when Vimalakka delivered her kids, she was a great help to us. Those days children were born at home with the help of a village mid-wife.
Seethamma peddamma,Kamalamba peddamma, Samrajyam and Soubhagyam akkayyalu, Lalithamba pinni (Vasumathi’s mother-in-law) Tulasamma peddamma were all our neighbors.
They were very friendly and loving people. They respected my parents and were always ready to help my mother on important occasions. They used to gather in our house after their men went to sleep and spend time with my mother who never stepped out of her house. They used to bring her all the village news. They used to joke and laugh, they had the best time away from their domestic chores. Though sleepy I used to sit on my mother’s lap listening to them.
My friends Swarajyam, Prameela (the village Munsiff’s daughter) Padmavathy, Nagendram and Hima Sailavathy, I still remember how we played together, gossiped, and how we enjoyed those innocent childhood days.
Thus life in our village is memorable. I pay my respects to all the people I mentioned.
4. My Early Education
We had only a primary school in our village at that time. I remember my teacher- Mr. Venkateswarlu making me sit on his lap to teach me reading and writing. We used to sit on the ground or on very low benches in the class. Boys and girls sat together on those benches. We girls used to tease the boys who sat with us by pushing them down. I remember only one boy, Lingalu, who later joined a music band as his profession.
I don’t remember my sisters Vimalakka and Syamalakka going to school. But my elder sister Kamalakka studied in St.Joseph’s Convent in Guntur. I used to visit her there along with my parents, traveling in our own horse buggy. One John Saheb was in-charge of the buggy and the horse. Guntur was infested with mosquitoes those days and my sister suffered from malaria. One summer, holidays she came home and she got married when she was still very young. Her husband, Saranu Rama Kotayya of Pedapudi took care of her studies She was trained to be a Hindi teacher but she never took up a job.
Vimala akka also got married very early. Her husband Velaga Rama Koteswara Rao of Edlapalli was a Hindi teacher. Both Kamala and Vimala had learnt music on harmonium. The teacher used to come from a nearby village to teach them. After marriage, they never practiced singing and perhaps even forgot it.
All my sisters did things skillfully, which I totally lacked. I was good at spoiling things. May be I showed some spark in studies. I was loved and pampered by my sisters and brother. My brother always took special interest about my studies. He taught me the ABCDs. He taught me how to tell time from a clock. He used to cover my books neatly and write my name and class on them.
He studied in different residential schools in different places. He did his graduation from the Presidency College, Madras, but never took up a job, and I still don’t know why that was.
Most of the boys and a very few girls used to go to next village, Kuchipudi for middle and high-school studies. They used to walk two miles each way. My father did not want me to do that.
Those were the days of Indian Independence. Hindi was our national language. So my father wanted me to learn Hindi, it was a symbol of patriotism. My first Guru of Hindi was Cherukuri Venkateswarlu. Vasumathi studied along with me, as well as Kousalya, a beautiful young widow. She was related to me. Her family didn’t get her re-married. Widow marriages were not encouraged at that time and, it was a pity though.
Much later in her life, a widower with six kids married her. I knew two of her step-daughters Lakshmi Devi who practiced law in our AP High Court, and Rama Devi a beautiful lady who served as the Governor of Karnataka state in addition to holding higher posts in the central government. Mr. Gora Sastri, Editor of ‘Andhra Bhoomi newspaper’ had introduced them to us.
After I completed three levels of Hindi, our teacher took up a job elsewhere. Meanwhile Dakshin Bharath Hindi Prachar Sabha in- Madras announced a program combining 4th and 5th level of Hindi classes to be completed in 10 months. I offered to go to Madras for that program and stay in the hostel there. It was the first time I was prepared to leave my mother to pursue my studies. Ten long months- I used to cry for my mother. The older students used to console me and took care of me. I missed my mother, she had a heart of pure gold. She was a great cook. Her patience was ‘ocean deep’. Her love was unforgettable. She had a healing touch. I was 12 years old then. I endured that separation hoping for a better future as a student. She told me that she missed me with her every breath, that is how wonderful my mother was. She was a great judge of people and matters. I always hoped to be half as gentle as she was and half as kind as she was and half as strong as she was. I am proud of being her youngest daughter.
After Madras, I went to Chittoor for higher studies in Hindi-Rastra Bhasha Praveen and Pracharak. That qualified me to be a Hindi teacher. My sister, Kamala and her stepdaughter Sujatha, also studied along with me. We stayed in the ladies hostel there. I had to take an age exemption certificate because I was not 16 years old then, as required to be a trainee teacher. One paper was to be answered in Urdu language and literature. A special teacher taught us Urdu. Surprisingly, I learnt the script very fast and prepared well for the examination. But, afterward I did not pursue Urdu studies and I almost forgot that language. I can only write my name in Urdu now. It is a beautiful language and it is rich in poetry. I should not have given it up.
After successfully completing my training, I wanted to be a Hindi teacher in some school. My brother made fun of me saying that I was still a kid then, saying my desire to work as a teacher can wait and I can still study for some years. And my father was willing to spend for my English studies.
My English Studies
My brother got me admitted in an institution called ‘Vidyavanam’. It was essentially a Hindi teaching institution situated in the fields on the banks of the canal Pulleru, on the way to Machilipatnam from Vijayawada.
They started coaching for matriculation (equal to 10th class in high school). I opted for English medium. We lived in thatch-roofed rooms. Snakes and scorpions were often seen as the school was in the fields, but no harm to anyone.
In that hostel my friends were -Sakhamuri Samrajyam, Kilaru Sarojini, Prasuna and Krishna Kumari Boyapati. They were studying Hindi. I was the only one, however, to secure a first division in my batch in 1953. Mathematics was difficult for me and while – I only got 64% in math, but I felt very happy — as though I got 100%. As I did not study in a regular school, I wasn’t inclined towards science and math. I opted for social studies. I joined Tenali College for intermediate with Indian History, British History and Civics, as my major subjects, along with general English and second language Hindi. The college had Arts and Commerce sections then. Later on, it became a full-fledged college, the- V.S.R.College. I completed my studies in Andhra University in 1958.
My brother taught me map reading and map pointing (important places etc.) He encouraged me to participate in essay writing competitions in college. In the first year exams in 1954, I topped in all the subjects and also in essay writing in English and Hindi. At the annual function, I was given a number of good English books along with certificates on beautiful art paper, which I still have with me. They haven’t lost luster even after 60 years.
In the intermediate final exams, I topped my batch of 120 students. My father was extremely happy with my high percentage of marks and asked me whether I could repeat intermediate with science group so that I could study medicine. But I refused to do so. Instead I preferred to go for my graduate studies.
Komala Venigalla, wife of Sri Inniah Narisetty is a retired Assistant Professor of English from Ambedkar Open University, Hyderabad. Written on Modern Women covering various aspects of their lives in contemporary world. Traslated M.N.Roy’s Memoirs of Cat into Telugu. Contributed articles to Misimi Telugu monthly.