Dec 08, 2023
Dec 08, 2023
As Esikapatrala Gopanna is going to the southern side farm with a shaft in hand and the saddimoota  hanging around his shoulder, intercepting him consciously, Sinaramasandrudu of red-wetland , asked: “Yeraa , Gopuu! You are running down badly?”
Gopanna was about to say, “No mavaa (uncle), nothing of that sort…”, but his throat was choked, struggled for words; lips trembled, reddened; shivering lips stammered indistinct words. Slipping out of his shoulder, saddimoota has fallen on the ground. But his eyes have spoken… the tears that streamed down commenced replying Ramasandrudu, the old man.
“Arey, my dear fool! Will the dead wife return if you cry? Forgetting the past… you have to start afresh marital life … …”
Well before Ramasandrudu’s comforting words came to an end, as Gopanna sauntered ahead, bending down Ramasandrudu handed over the saddimoota.
Today, it is in Gopanna’s very tears that his ‘life’ is. It is from the tears that his soul is speaking. His heart is wriggling. Two unknown elements of that innocent fellow are fighting with each other. There, in his tears, it is not sorrow alone! No. Many problems—the problems of material and ethereal world that teased seers, philosophers, devotees, philanthropists, warriors alike. Like Yogi Vemana, Gopanna, there in the southern- field … on the bund, under the shade of babul tree… tucked himself on the thorns ….
Involuntarily, touching his cheek with his fingers, he felt, “Yes”, what red-wetland maava said is right. Now, there are many similarities between his cheeks and that of Ramasandrudu maavaa’s cheeks.
Ploughed the land till sunset. Yet, Gopanna didn’t feel hungry. Having slid into the water from the canal bank, the saddimoota drifted along the flowing water.
Ever since Gopanna joined Peddareddi’s house as an annual labor, marriage proposals and conversations about the proposals have gone up. All those like Aariga Lachamma who had written him off earlier, Parandhamayya, who scolded him, “Lazy he-buffalo”, Muttala Narayya, who acquired an acre and odd farm, Sivaramsandraiah, who recently got admitted in the list of ‘people to be reckoned with’ in the village, have all come forward offering their daughters as bride for him. Though wavered in multiple directions at the beginning, finally Gopanna settled down for marrying his sister Chitaram’s daughter, Hanumayi. In fact, right from the beginning he had his mind on Ademma, daughter of Ramasandrudu maava but he doesn’t know … something happened… whoever might have advised him whatever… finally, he said: “Appa! (way of addressing elder sister) I will marry Hanumayi”.
Hanumayi looks pretty slim… a lass glistering in black. Quite active, a rocket—
* * *
Because of marriage he has fallen into debts—perhaps more out of the fellow laborers’ provocations.
“Arey, it is Peddareddygari’s esteem that would be at stake! How could a marriage be a marriage without silk-robes?”, questioned Bhadraiah.
Echwariah, the annual laborer of Peramma, said: “I don’t know if you have said … but your sister is saying that you promised a gold coin and a silk sari as marriage gift”.
Many taunted, “Arey, having promised, if you pull out, you are sure to lose your prestige!”
Gopanna didn’t, of course, care for their words…simply dusted them off… For, his mind was fixed more on the recently formed band troop in the village by the sons of Nancharu, the barber. Even… the fellow Venkatratnam too rejoiced … engaging that band troop for his marriage. Wondered, how come, that fellow had the wherewithal which I didn’t have?!
The two bags of paddy that Reddy garu gave, the annual wage of 20 rupees that he had already collected on the Eruvaka punnami plus the 30 rupees that he had with him, all have simply vanished… didn’t suffice even to meet an iota of the marriage expenses.
Finally, it is with the 100 rupees that Seerala Venkataswamy, the moneylender of the village, given as debt against his putting the thumb impression on the pro note, Gopanna—the resident of Kottapalem and the annual laborer of Peddareddy… the young prince from Esikapatarla dynasty… could up keep the honour of his dynasty—could meet the challenges of the fellow wage-earners at the marriage along with satisfying his own desire too. At the end of the marriage, listening to the band music, Gopanna proudly stirred Eeswaraiah paddling him on the back.
Elated by the hope that he would be blessed with a son and not being able to hold back his pleasure, he said: “Hanumayi, we shall give the kid my father’s name.”
Hanumayi, smiling at it, wondered if anyone knew what is in store for the future? Time, like a jealous black cobra is hidden in the bushes…
Undergoing great strain, Hanumayi delivered a girl-child. Though the midwife could succeed in pulling out the dead child from the womb, Hanumayi, overtaken by the tetanus…within three days joined her child.
Gopanna cried and cried. No male-child. Even Hanumayi is no more with him. Cried again. Without affecting Reddygari’s farm works cried for months and months.
Wondering if Gopanna, reminiscing on Hanumayi shedding tears, Ramasandraiah who is still to perform his daughter’s marriage, attempted that morning to comfort him.
But his sadness at the death of Hanumayi is still haunting him as a nightmare, though ten months have elapsed. As the time is healing the wound, he has been carrying the burden of that sorrow; narrating the woes of his heavy heart to the mother earth while ploughing the farm alone; like trees shedding leaves and sprouting afresh after withering for a while Gopanna, sitting in the winding lane between the fields and crying out loudly—all these have now become a petty routine affair.
* * *
Now, the pain is not in the heart—it is in the soul. Sorrow, sadness—all these are not in the mind, but in the soul. Soul!
Now, he is withering. And no longer sprouting afresh.
At the turn of the farm-lane, his own shadow is haunting him. He became a Gopanna who could no longer believe his own lips. His own shadow has become an enemy of him. Wonder if there is old Gopanna at all! Right now, he became a new Gopanna—all has become a battlefield—become a battlefield for intra-conflict.
Yes. Yes. Yes. How it all happened?
Komati Venkataswami’s pressure has multiplied.
Having taken interest four times without accounting for it, Venkataswami now accuses Gopanna: “Being so an incapable fellow to repay the debt, why at all printed your thumb impression like a blind-bull?”
“Look Gopanna! Doesn’t matter if I were to even lose 10 rupees. I shall call head constable; the rest is your choice. No use saying this and that. Remember, it’s no other than head constable who imprisoned Merigela Venkanna. Be warned. When I say shell down my money, you must—that’s all.”
Gopanna never spoke to police in the past. Whenever he went to Vadarevu to fetch casuarina logs, on the return journey he used to always haul his bullock cart through interior roads just to avoid the police of Bapatla town.
Accusing Merigala Venkudu that he trespassed into munsif’s house… he had seen that scene… He might not have beaten even the dozed he-buffalo of Sayamma like that. My god! Venkadu’s whole body became a wound. Wondered if he is talking of that police? Yes, why doubt? Where is the room to doubt?
Fear has overtaken Gopanna. It chewed him. Swallowed him. Could not sleep for weeks together. Bad dreams haunted him. Got fever. Drenched in rain. The principal along with the interest had in all bec
ome 380 rupees and 13 annas. Where from he would get it? What is the way? Didn’t eat. Swallowed his fear within himself. Shivered with fear. Avoided people. Meanwhile, Peddareddygari’s elder son came home for holidays.
“Gopi, you have a fine name!” said he. Such is his heart—as soft as the butter.
“Gopi, I shall come to orchard tomorrow. Our lunch and everything there only. We shall spend merrily… with beehives, toddy palm fruits… that’s the only work for tomorrow.”
* * *
Pulling out his coat in the garden, Abbayi garu  asked him to hang it to the lemon tree. Coat was heavy. He checked the pockets. There is a watch along with chain in one pocket. In the other, there is a leather wallet full of currency notes, money!!!
That very thought drenched him in sweat. He cursed himself… He would rather die than doing such a deed!
After his returning home, the money lender sent a word for him. He went… to listen that the police head is coming tomorrow.
Gone to the canal to commit suicide … but somehow Gopanna returned home.
The elder son of Reddy garu lost his leather wallet that he used to keep his money. That very day Komati Venkataswamy received 200 rupees from Gopanna.
“Where have you stolen, Gopanna!” asked the money lender, while passing on the money to his wife for safe-keep.
Gopanna shuddered at once. He felt it’s over. Cursed himself, “Why haven’t I jumped into the canal yesterday itself?”
“No sir… borrowed it from my lord…”
Money lender hadn’t questioned further.
“Then…pro…promissory… note”, stammered Gopanna.
“Shall check the account tomorrow … go! Let me see if anything is still to be received …”
* * *
As he returned home, everything around looked pell-mell… felt disarray. Imagining that Reddy garu had beaten him commanding to get the wallet back; that, joining the scene, munsif garu tied him to the Neem tree; that villagers had spit on his face… visualizing all those scenes, Gopanna having come to Reddygaru’s cattle shed, timidly peeped in. There is however no such commotion. On the other hand, calling him, abbayi garu ordered, “arrange for toddy palm fruits tomorrow too.”
* * *
Ramanareddy ate toddy palm fruits. Laughed as usual. Played with the he-calves. Worked on yatham  for a while. But didn’t enquire him about his money purse.
With it ‘fire’ overawed Gopanna—the fire that would burn him out.
His own shadow had become an enemy to him.
War started between the gods and the devils that are within him.
Gopanna gave up eating. He is praying to gods. What? What for? Why? He himself didn’t know. The fire—that invisible fire—has slowly started burning out Gopanna mercilessly. He could not understand its meaning.
Becoming a mad chap … he roamed along the lanes between the fields. Aimlessly ran on the field bunds. Hugged Eechyarayya abruptly. But no one could explain him about the fire that is torturing his soul. Stood silently before trees, before the village deity, in front of the goddess Ganganamma, in front of the Dwajasthambham, in front of the ash of the funeral fire that burnt out Hanumayi, for hours together. Yet, no answer dawned. But then, answer for what… to which question?
If only Ramanareddy had scolded him, “You bloody cheat!” how nice it would have been? If only munsif garu had inflicted punishment, how relieved he would have felt? But not being able to put up with this benign smile, this silence, the affectionate calling of this urban youth … Gopanna spent sleepless nights … as though each night is equal to thousand days.
* * *
To see off Ramanareddy, Gopanna hawked the bullock cart to the railway station. Carrying the luggage, he came in and stood on the railway platform—stood on the long Nidamolu platform.
Train is coming … still far off…Ramanareddy patted on Gopanna’s shoulder.
“Gopi! Is that money sufficient? Next time, if you need any more, ask me.”
That’s all! Train arrived. Smilingly boarding the train and waving his hand, abbai garu went away.
Recovering from his frozen state, Gopanna ran behind the train. But by then, it had travelled far off. He strongly felt like falling at his feet. He then falling on the track and looking in the direction in which the train rolled off, he offered his pranamam (salutations) to Ramanareddy. The tears that swelled up in his eyes, that heaviness in the heart, that inferno in the soul … they all have revealed new shapes, new truths, indeed new universes.
Thereafter, Gopanna is not seen in the village.
After almost a year, one day, the red-wetland Chinarasendryya asked Peramma’s cowherd, Eechyara: “What Eechyara! People are saying that our Gopu had joined the sanyasis.”
“I don’t know Chinnayya (uncle)! He is a very tender-hearted fellow.”
“Haven’t we all thought of celebrating his marriage with our Adi?”
“In the last Sravan month, it seems Sayammagaru had seen him at Bemmamgari monastery! Still, you think of marriage for him, Chinnayya (uncle)?
This story, Divya Jyothi, originally written in Telugu by Sri Munipalle Raju, was first published in Andhra Patrika, a weekly, in August 1952. I have translated this story more out of my reverence for the writer and the values that he expounded in his stories than of my ability to translate.
 Saddimoota—Farm laborers, including farmers of yore, known to pack the leftover of the last night’s food and carry it to the farm for eating as brunch.
 In the country-side people are often identified with reference to the location of their house, or its uniqueness—say for instance the owner of the house next to the tank—or by the kind of land-holding one had, i.e., Sinaramasandrudu of red-wetland or the kind of cattle that one tends; or the referring to the peculiar features of their physique.
 Yeraa —affectionate way of calling someone younger to you about whom you are concerned about
 Abbayi garu — respective way of addressing one’s lord’s son
 Yatham—Shaduf, a water lifting device from the well that works on the principle of ‘see-saw’.
More by : Gollamudi Radha Krishna Murty