THE ETERNAL COMMUNIST
- Maa Sarma (The Hans India)
I was happy to remember and recall the contribution to the nation by my leaders Putchalapalli Sundaraiah and Chandra Rajeswar Rao. On hind sight, I realised that my life was not a waste and that I contributed my mite meaningfully to the Independence and communist movement of our country
Kondapalli Koteswaramma, who reminds us of the great women of the yore, is a multi-faceted personality. She fought for the country’s in-dependence from the foreign rule and later joined revolutionary communist movement along with stalwarts of her time for the welfare of the poor and down trodden. She made a mark as a writer and revolutionary leader on her own right, coming out of the shadow her husband, Seeta Ramaiah, the founder member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) who later headed the Peoples War Group. She spoke to the The Hans India exclusively about her travails and tragedies, her joys and sorrows, above all her experiences.
You have rich experience as a freedom fighter and a revolutionary leader after in-dependence. Can you share with us some of your experiences?
I had a happy childhood. I willingly and happily participated in Independ-ence movement and later revolutionary movement. I faced many difficulties and tragedies. I came out of the revolutionary movement and raised my children. But I never gave up on my ideals. My elders like Mahidhara Rammohan Rao, Cherukuri Rama Rao and friends like Parakala Pattabhi Rama Rao and Surya-vathi told me that I should record my ex-periences for the posterity. But I could not venture then as I was overwhelmed by the tears and travails that befell me. Re-cently, my granddaughter Anuradha and her friend Vasantha Lakshmi (senior journalists) persuaded me to write my memoirs as I am in the evening of my life.
You went through many tragedies. How did you feel when you recalled it while writing?
I had mixed feelings when I recalled events in my life. I was happy to remem-ber and recall the contribution to the na-tion by my leaders Putchalapalli Sundaraiah and Chandra Rajeswar Rao. On hind sight, I realised that my life was not a waste and that I contributed my mite meaningfully to the Independence and communist movement of our coun-try. Tears welled in my eyes when I re-called the tragedies and travails I went through. I was sad that my children could not know and appreciate my role in the movements. I cried when I recalled that I could not raise my children due to my pre-occupation with the movements. I experienced poverty and could not make both ends meet. At times, I was pes-simistic and thought that it was a waste to continue to live. I tried a couple of of times unsuccessfully to end my life. Putchalapalli Sundaraiah once told me that the country needed people who would not hurt its interests - “You never did any that harmed the country.” People like you should live until death comes your way. After that pep talk, my pes-simism vanished. With the same inspira-tion I started writing my memoirs at the age of 90.
Tell us about your happiest and beautiful moments in your life.
I was nine years when Mahatma Gandhi came to our village. Many women stood in long lines to give him their gold ornaments and money. I also joined them and removed ornaments from hands and ears and gave them to the Mahatma. I cherish that moment.
H ow was your childhood?
I had doting parents and led a happy, carefree childhood. We were a well-to-do family with servants. I was never required to do any household chores. I was a child widow. My father arranged tutors to teach me music and Puranas. Nagireddy, my paternal uncle, was a freedom fighter and he advised me that I should sing songs written by freedom fighter Garimella Satyanarayana who wrote in-spiring songs about India. I faced tough times only after I entered the freedom movement. Leaders like Sundaraiah and Rajeswara Rao, who were richer than us spent their wealth for the benefit of com-munist movement. I never felt sorry for selling my property and financially help-ing the movement. I always thought so-cialist state would be established and everybody would be happy in that society.
You were very close to Sundaraiah and Rajeswar Rao?
Yes. Rajeswara Rao arranged my mar-riage with Kondapalli Sitaramaiah at his house. Maddukuri Chandrasekhar Rao (Founder Editor of Visalaandhra daily) used treat me as her own sister. He was my literary and music mentor.
Another person who inspired us in those days was Atchamabha (A physi-cian and freedom fighter in Vijayawada. She was later elected as an MP from Vi-jayawada.). She inspired us to break the shackles of social restrictions and join the freedom movement. We used to march in the Vijayawada streets wearing khaki shorts and shirts. Some rowdies used to heckle us but they knew we had the sup-port of Atchamabha and the communist party.
Do you think the ancient Indian literature did not reflect the reality of the society?
Manusmriti did some disservice to the women. But some literature is there which eulogised the women. One exam-ple is Kalidasa’s Shakuntalam. When Vidhyavathi asked Kalidasa to write about Dushyanta, he refused to write as he left his wife in the forests and when she came to his royal court when she was pregnant, he refused to accept her. Then Vidhyavathi told him to write on Shakun-tala, he wrote Abhinava Shakuntalam. This episode was narrated widely. Manu Charithra got prominence and literature that did justice to women was ignored.
Sundaraiah and Rajeswar Rao were your mentors. How did you feel when they went separate ways?
When the Communist Party was split Rajeswara Rao and Sundaraiah headed separate parties. When I asked them about it, they said their differences were temporary and asked me not to bother about it. When Rajeswar Rao’s wife Sav-itrimma was ailing, I went to Sundara-iah’s wife and went to her to enquire about her health. Inspite of their differ-ences, you cannot suspect the motives of Rajeswar Rao and Sundaraiah. You can-not doubt their commitment to the cause of the people. They were noble people. I think good politics started with the com-munist parties.
Do you have any happy memories with Sitaramaiah?
Sitaramaiah inspired me. However, I went through difficulties because of my marriage with him. I never wanted to see him again. Because of him I lost my chil-dren. I lost my property. When he was bed-ridden, some elders like Kalavakuri Narayana Rao, Katragadda Narayana Rao and Mahidhara Ra-mamohan Rao told me that he wanted to see me. I refused. I told them, I cannot see a person who made me undergo un-told miseries. But they said he realised his mistakes and was repenting. I relented and went to see him. He broke down when he saw me. I met him after 20 years. I asked him why he was crying and told him that the tears in my eyes dried up for what he did to me and my chil-dren. I told him he was the main cause for my miseries. He cried again. I cried and made up with him. The element of woman in me may be the reason, I have forgiven him. It might be her strength or weakness, but the instinct of mother in a woman makes her unique.
What were your best moments with him?
He got me out of my house and mar-ried me. He spent happy moments. He sold his family property and spent that for the Party. I also spent the money after selling away my 50 sovereigns of gold I brought from my home. Because he was
good, I loved him and married him. We went through difficulties due to his party work. As long as I lived with him, I un-derwent the difficulties happily for the party and my children.
What led to your break up with him?
One comrade was killed in police fir-ing. His wife was suffering from epilepsy (fits). Sitaramaiah told me that the doc-tors said if she is looked after well, she will recover. I readily agreed and invited her to live with us. Soon after, I felt that Sitaramaiah developed aversion towards me. As she did not overcome fits, he ac-cused me of not giving adequate care to her, which was not true. One day she and Sitaramaiah said I was responsible for her leaving the house. Soon he started living with her. There were rumours that she was a wealthy women and Sitaramaiah had developed relationship with her. I complained to the party. The party con-ducted an inquiry and suspended him from the membership. I finally left him and started living on my own. He left me for a woman. I left everything came to him. I underwent difficulties along with him. But he thought that woman was more important than the party and me.
Do you think Sitaramaiah is a successful leader?
When he died nobody from his party came. I think life is like that. I went through difficulties and he left me. He spent best part of his life for the party. Three fourths of his life, he spent in jails, forests and underground.
Is there any memorable occasion during your underground life?
I spent underground life in Krishna district, Maharashtra and Orissa. I en-dured difficulties because I thought we were doing it for a cause. When I trav-elled in train, they used to send some am-munition along with my luggage. Of course they never told me.
You read Gurazada and Kandukuri. Have you ever read Chalam?
I read some of it. But we never took Chalam to the people. We used to distrib-ute and sell Gurazada, Kandukuri, Prem-chand, Tagore and Gorky Amma etc., not Chalam. At that time the society was not ready to accept him.
You participated in Telangana Armed struggle. What do you think of it?
I did not go to forests for Telangana armed struggle. But I co-operated from outside. When Sitaramaiah came out from jail after Telangana struggle, I went underground along with him.
Do you support separate Telangana state demand?
If the people of Telangana want it should be given. There is nothing wrong in giving a separate state.
(Courtesy : Sunday Hans, 4 November 2012)