Amma in the portico

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


11 Responses to “Amma in the portico”

  1. July 12, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

    Wow its amazing story…I pray for amma’s good health..

  2. July 15, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

    As always it is interesting to read about communists and their struggles. I had the opportunity of staying at different places and maintain close connections with people of respective regions/districts. I came to know about Tarimela Nagi Reddy a close relative of Neelam Sanjeev Reddy who is worshiped even today irrespective of caste. Also During my brief stint at Railways( Guntakal, Mantralayam, adoni and Tirupathi) i happened to meet few communists who were very practical and encouraged every one to think rather than following a herd

    In Sum, I would be happier to learn about struggles and commitment to ideals of yesteryear leaders

  3. July 15, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

    Wish your mother recover quickly from back pain and return to normalcy.

    I would like to know about any Telugu/English book which one must not miss in his lifetime from your mother

  4. July 16, 2013 at 2:27 pm #

    I humbly bow to AMMA, who is a role model of by gone days and bold enough to go for inter caste marriage. Still with all odds, they sustained married life. The Genes of a progressive couple given birth to an intellectual Parakala Prabhakar. Once again I hail respected AMMA.

  5. July 18, 2013 at 7:10 pm #

    I do hope she recovers soon. Pl convey my best regards..

  6. August 6, 2013 at 11:36 pm #

    I would like to thank you for this article on Amma. While I’m reading the article, I felt the people’s social consciousness and also their sacrifice to make a better society. I can only say that I became coward for the sake my livelihood and the family. I’m coward in the sense of not able to express, not able to share opinions and more over struggle with the conscience. I feel the media should take the right step to make a better society. The discussions and debates in the media are more off eyewash for the TRP ratings. The anchors are not capable of handling or even able to drive the debate. I feel Media has the more power in the current century. I request you to take step towards it and before saying this to you. I will make sure my steps will be towards it. Thanks

  7. May 18, 2014 at 8:16 pm #

    While browsing net, I came across this post. Having left India four decades back to US, I am not familiar with your family or any achievements. I am a Telugu speaker. I like your aadarana and gauravam of elders and our traditional family relationships– that may appear inconvenient at that moment for many younger generations; however, only now we realize resiliency in the longer term may only be fostered when we continually adapt and be considerate together to every one; this needs to be seen every day from childhood and one has to live this mutually fostering rich lives– I guess– if one is lucky enough to be part of a joint family. Our traditional merchant families appear to adopt to this methodology. I hope you have been able to instill these innate values to your children too (please pardon me– I am assuming that you have children).

  8. July 30, 2014 at 9:48 pm #

    Ammagaru & Nannagaru Comminists and Wife Capitalist.


  9. January 20, 2015 at 1:44 am #

    Prabhakar Garu,

    Its nice to see and read about Kalikamba garu after a long time. I was blessed to stay in Narasapuram house for 3 years with Amma garu. Once I left Narasapuram, I went couple of times to Narasapuram to get blessings from her, but she moved to Hyderabad already. Please convey my regards to her. May God bless her with good health for many more years.


    • January 21, 2015 at 3:36 pm #

      Thanks a lot for your message, Pavan. Wish you all the very best.

  10. June 1, 2016 at 4:15 pm #

    According to my knowledge your father was a Minister of Andhra Pradesh Govt. in 1972 belonging from congress party & your mother also a congress M.L.A….

    May be they started their early life as a communist supporter…

    By the way its a great story.

    Someday I will meet with you….

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