Ramanamma’s Grand daughter

English Translation: Dr. K.Meera Bai

Telugu original: “Ramanamma’s Grand daughter” by Dr K. Meerabai

Cold wind lashed at the window panes, which in their turn, struck the wall with a thud.
   Ramanamma  shivered in her sleep and covered herself with the comforter.
        She was dreaming of taking bath in River Tungabhadra at the shore of Sankalbagh during the holy season called pushkaram.
    She felt the water coming up to her waist making her legs float and with a shudder caught hold of the wooden pole by her side.
       Ramanamma  woke up with a jerk and realised what she was holding was not the pole in the river arranged for the safety of the pilgrims, but the side plank of the cot on which she was sleeping . She could not understand how there was water up to her waist and jumped down.
    The front door of the house opened  with a thud as if somebody pushed it with all the force. Water gushed into the house from the street. The house was full of water. She could not step forward in that water.  The electricity supply went  off  and everywhere there was darkness .
 Ramanamma’s legs started shivering.
 ‘ Where is this girl? Is she swept away by water? What is the old man doing? Still snoring?’
As  questions  which could not get answers filled her mind , with increasing fear and anxiety, she stretched her hands in an effort to go forward.
    “ Why are you going  that way? If you go into the house you would be drowned. Let us get out of the house.”  Ramanamma’s husband, came from the inner room,  dashed her, was about to fall down but checked himself and  held her hand  .
      Though Ramanamma could not see him in the darkness she could sense his fear.
In the meanwhile a ten year old girl rushed  out fearfully,  making  incoherent sounds and clutched the old woman.
  Holding one another as support,   all three of them  came to the front door. Then they  heard the mowing of the cattle from the cattle shed.  Ramanamma’s heart missed a beat.
‘ Lakshmi , the she buffalo, was about to deliver her calf. Would she be able to survive this night?  Oh God you have to save her’ . Ramanamma prayed .
      “ Wait a minute “ Ramanamma made her way into the house, found the shelf  on which she kept the idols of her gods, found the money she kept in a plastic cover by the side of the earthenware in which they put their offerings to God ( money) and took it and placed it in her blouse.
     “ Is there any other money in the house?” She asked her husband.
“   Where do we  get extra money?  Your son spent all the money to buy groceries to feed the guests at the approaching marriage.of his daughter.” He said.
      “Oh my God!  All those food grains, millets and tamarind  would be drowned and gone.”Ramanamma wailed.
 And then she remembered her son’s family that visited the neighbourhood town. to buy new clothes for the grand occasion.
    “God!   Will there be floods in Adoni too? What would be the fate of the three of them?”  How can we perform the marriage after everything is swept away by the floods?” She let out  a mournful cry.
       “ What is the use of crying? First we have to get out to save our lives.” Holding his wife’s arm, Krishnayya  waded through the water as the crying little girl clung to  the other arm of  Ramanamma.
        Just as they exited the house, one of the front doors came loose and was carried away by the water. 
      The animals in the cowshed were mowing fearfully, trying to free themselves from the ropes which held them to the poll.
      As people from neighbouring houses were running out, there was a commotion. They were heading towards houses situated on higher levels.
    When Ramanamma slipped forward, krishnayya held her firmly. The girl was following them silently taking the support of the old lady’s shoulder.
      Ramanamma was heartbroken thinking of her son who borrowed money  and bought food grains and other things to celebrate his daughter’s marriage .
      ‘All three of them have gone to Adoni to buy new clothes for the marriage. What would be their fate?”Thinking of her son Ramanamma was shedding tears.
     Then she thought of the cattle. “  Poor animals. They might die there. Let me  free them “ she told her husband and went into the cattle shed  along with the girl.
           The water level  was increasing gradually. Ramanamma stepped into the pitch dark cattle shed  making way with her outstretched hands and freed the animals. The pregnant buffalo was going round and round at her place.
     Somebody from a distance shouted “ Come on guys .” Some one else was running with a lighted torch in his hands and shouting at others to follow.
      Ramanamma, Krishnayya and the girl  followed the light wading through the water, balancing themselves with great difficulty.
       When they could not walk further they stopped at a house,  climbed up the gate and sat on the compound wall breathlessly.
     The owners of that house seemed to have left already. Except darkness no one was visible. Though they were sitting on the wall, the  rushing water level was rising , almost touching their feet. The gushing  sound of the water was in consonance with  the sound of their heartbeats.
       As the flood water rushed through the town, submerging streets and communities, They sat in the darkness for five hours hung between life and death . Then it was dawn .
       The water level reached to the top of the six feet high wall on which they were sitting.
Krishnayya saw a ladder by the side of the wall and sent the little girl and his wife up,  before he himself climbed up.
        As icy winds were lashing at them, the old people and the little one were shivering.
Ramanamma embraced the little girl as if to provide warmth.
        There was a school building situated on higher level at  hundred yards distance . One could go there if one could swim, but none of the three could swim.
       “ In a place like Kurnool, known for its water scarcity, how can anyone imagine  that floods would submerge the whole city ! Does God intend that they should  die by drowning In water, swallowing the water and become breathless leaving their dead bodies bloated.? My dear son Satyam where are you?” Ramanamma started crying. The little girl who could not bear the sight was crying too.
          Ramanamma began praying her God” Oh! Seven hills Lord ! Even if we die, save the life of this girl. ”
        At that moment they saw a boat at a distance and frantically waved their hands. Noticing that the boat was already full, Krishnayya felt crushed.
      As if the boatswain heard these people , a round boat turned towards them.  “ God Venkanna! Have mercy on us my Creator!” Praying God,  Ramanamma waved both her hands in desperation.
       In that small round boat called putty,  there were already two people and it could accommodate only two more.
           “ It is okay. She is a little kid” Ramanamma pleaded.
         “ You have to pay three thousand rupees per head.Do you have the money?”  The boatswain demanded.
       The old people who spent the night sitting on the ladder with their lives at risk, felt frustrated .
     “ Look my son! I don’t know how much money is there in this cover. Accept it and take us to the safe place.” Ramanamma  begged.
         “ We are not philanthropists to serve people. You pay and get into the boat. Many people are waiting. We risk our lives  to ride the boat. You have that black beads gold chain around your neck.” The young blooded man spoke sarcastically.
      Ramanamma looked at Krishnayya. When he nodded his head , she removed the chain and handed it to the boatswain.
       The man weighed it in his hand and said “ come on quick.”
First  Krishnayya and then  Ramanamma climbed down the ladder carefully and got into the boat with the help of the boatswain.
     When the  little girl who climbed down last was about to step into the boat, the man stopped her. “ Only two of you can come with the money you gave. You have to pay extra money for the girl.”
     “We are not going to live long. We are not worried about our old lives.  It is for that child that we bother more. I don’t have any thing to give you “ Ramanamma said helplessly.
    “ You go on pleading that you don’t have anything to give. You seem to value your earrings more than you value your granddaughter’s life.  “ he teased the old woman.
     Ramanamma touched her ear lobes.
The girl standing on the rung of the  ladder with one leg in the boat withdrew her leg and was waving her hands as if asking Ramanamma not to yield.
   “ What baby? Has your grand mother promised to gift  the earrings to you at your marriage?  If so you stay back.” The boatswain said.
      Ramanamma did not look at her husband. She was observing the fiery  flood water carrying things  like baskets, mats and other household articles on its way .  She was  hearing the shouts and cries  of the people  at a distance . She was looking at a man carrying his old mother; a mother wading against the water with her child on her shoulders and women crying for help. Her eyes got blurry with tears.
      Then she let out a mournful cry “ Look! The water is dragging away our Lakshmi . She should be giving birth to her calf anytime now. She is getting drowned. “ . She  stretched out her hands as if to protect  the buffalo.
         Krishnayya was looking at the sight  as if his heart had turned into a stone.
 “ Hey old woman! Are  you mad? Tell me  if you want that girl get into the boat or not , or both of you get out of it. When human beings  are losing their lives, this woman is crying for her buffalo.” Said the boatswain disdainfully.
      “ See that the child got into the boat”  One of the two men in the boat hurried her.
People who reached  roof tops were shouting at them to make it quick.
      Krishnayya helped the  girl get  into the boat.
 As if she read his mind,  Ramanamma  forcefully pulled out the gold earrings from her ear lobes. They came out along with the end part of her earlobes. She knew that it would cut her earlobes because, the earrings were fixed to her earlobes with a metal wire.
        “Take this” she threw them into the boatswain’s palms.
The gold earrings, studded with red precious stones , drenched in her blood, acquired brighter redness.
 The boatswain looked at her as if he lost his mind. His eyes  reflected the redness of her bleeding earlobes and the gold earrings soaked in blood.
       “ What a thing to do for your granddaughter?  Should you not tell me that the ear rings can not be removed?”  His tone sounded regretful as if he realised his mistake.
        The little girl shook her head  and hands as if to convey  what he was saying was wrong.
He washed his hands off the blood and shouted at the girl angrily “ Are you dumb? Why do you use  gestures  instead of words? “
      “She is really dumb my son. And she tries to say she is not my granddaughter.” Saying so , Ramanamma patted the girl lovingly not bothering about her painful ears.
       “She is the daughter of our neighbour, a Muslim man. Her mother and father went to Kadapa town to offer prayers at the Dargah there, in order to fulfil  their vows . They asked us to take care of her for a day. Even if we loose our lives, we should return her to her parents safely.” Ramanamma said in a soft voice.
        Krishnayya was looking at his wife admiringly.
The boat moved forward. While the flood water was rushing through streets, Ramanamma’s tears were getting merged with  the flowing water.
     Who could say weather the tears came  because of her anxiety about the safety of for her son,daughter-in-law and the bride to be ; or the memory of  Lakshmi, the helpless she -buffalo in full pregnancy being drowned in water ? Ramanamma’s eyes continued to shed tears while her hands went on patting the back of the dumb girl.


Written for and published in “ ugra Tungabhadra” katha sankalanam  on the unprecedented floods which devastated Kurnool  District in A.P in India.

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