Mamakaram | Agriculture | Nature

Mamakaram

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Tripuraneni Gopichand

About the Author Tripuraneni Gopichand (1910-1962), of Tenali, Andhra Pradesh, India, is a Telugu short story writer, novelist, editor, essayist, playwright and film director. His writings exhibit an exceptional interplay of values, ideas and ‘isms’—materialism, rationalism, existentialism, realism and humanism. He is wellknown among Telugu literati for his psychological novel—Asamardhuni Jeevayatra (The Incompetent’s Life Journey). He was posthumously presented the Sahitya Akademi Award for his novel, Panditha Parameshwara Sastry Veelunama (Will of Panditha Parameshwara Sastry), in 1963. Radical humanist, profound thinker, philosopher, social reformer and an inveterate votary of truth, Gopichand was a versatile genius, which reflects well in his scintillating stories that are told in crisp language. His stories pose many questions that challenge the wit of readers. His birth centenary celebrations are set to commence from September 2009. Translator GRK Murty

Personal website of GRK Murty: http://karpuramanjari.blogspot.com | E-mail: grk.murty@gmail.com

2

Mamakaram

With a staff in his hand, Jogayya mama comes over the canal bund and stands under the
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rose apple tree. Holding his hand against the sunrays he takes a look at his field. He remembers all those babul trees that are on the field bunds. They all came into existence along with him and are growing with him. During his tenure, he had to perforce cut two babul trees to make ploughs. Even today, the void left by them reminds him of their place on the bund. Whenever he looks at that emptiness, he feels disturbed as though his two grownup sons ready to take the reins have deserted him. With a deep sigh, Jogayyamama, unfolds his turban and spreading it on the soil, sits under the rose apple tree. He has three sons. His eldest son, Narasayya, looks after the farming. The second one, Darayya, runs a cloth shop and is earning a few bucks on his own. The last son, Venkata Subbayya has acquired ‘esoteric’ education—‘English education.’ Besides, he has two daughters. All his children love him very much. He too loves them; but should a need arise, he can stay without seeing them, but not his fields even for a day. His wish is that all his children should tend the farm. He believes that they are born to improve the farm. That is why he is ill at ease with his second son who has established a cloth shop. He even complains, “He is a good man, but listening to his wife, he has turned bad.” Jogayyamama now owns 100 acres. A great chunk of it has been acquired out of his own hard labor. That is precisely why for him all other relationships pale away before his property. He protects his farm as though it is his very life. To make it more productive, he is pleased to do anything. There are many occasions in which Jogayya, without caring even for his life, has removed obstructions placed by others across the canal to prevent water flowing down, and irrigated his field. If he stands on the canal bund with his long stick in hand challenging, “Come-on whoever dares to come”, the whole village gets cowed down by his stance.
[1 Mama—uncle. In the countryside, an elder person who has come up in life by dint of hard labor is often addressed fondly by adding mama to his name, more out of intimacy and at the same time respect for his accomplishments, as in the case of Jogayya.]
Personal website of GRK Murty: http://karpuramanjari.blogspot.com | E-mail: grk.murty@gmail.com

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Mamakaram

As his parched land is drinking water, he used to stand still watching the field like a mother sitting in ecstasy while the baby suckles her. Today his grown-up sons are telling him, “We being here, why are you worried of all these? Why don’t you pass your time chanting god’s name—Krishna, Rama?” He wonders, his children—who are still kids for him—cannot realize how much bliss he enjoys out of this tapatrayam, concern, for the land. A month back, Jogayyamama’s wife fell ill—an illness which endangered her life. For almost ten days she suffered from fever, moaning and groaning, yet Jogayya didn’t pay attention to her. If anyone in the family referred to it, Jogayya used to move away retorting, “If not men, do trees get fever?” Those were the days of puddling of paddy fields and he had no respite from it. However, he could not foresee that her fever would soon become grave. Though his elder son said, “Stay at home and attend to amma2, I shall irrigate the field and return”, Jogayya could not stay back at home. For, there was a mad rush for water, and who knew when someone would come in the way of his field getting irrigated. He knew his elder son was good but timid. If the other man shouted at him, he was sure to withdraw. Jogayya worried, if the field was not irrigated in time, no amount of reasoning later would matter. Realizing this, Jogayya made a local doctor give his wife a few tablets and after making her drink a little water, he started for the farm, saying, “Close your eyes and lie down, you will get sleep.” Nearing the tamarind tree outside the village, he came across the messenger sent by his son from the field. He informed Jogayya that seeing other farmers armed with sticks and spears, Narasayya had become motionless. Jogayyamama rushed to the farm taking quick strides. He removed the obstruction placed in the canal and redirected the water into his field. The other farmers who stood with sticks and spears could not but stay silent and motionless. Listening to the gurgling sound of the rushing water into his field, Jogayya stood on the bund forgetting everything else.

[2 Amma—mother.]
Personal website of GRK Murty: http://karpuramanjari.blogspot.com | E-mail: grk.murty@gmail.com

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Mamakaram

“How is amma?” enquired Narasayya. “She is,” said Jogayyamama. “Has the fever come down?” asked Narasayya. “It has to,” replied Jogayya nonchalantly. “Let’s go home,” said his son. At this, Jogayya was taken aback. “How do leave the field without getting it fully irrigated?” he retorted. “God forbid, nobody is around amma,” muttered Narasayya anxiously. Yet, Jogayya said: “You go home, I shall stay here.” Narasayya knew—his father would never leave work halfway. Not being able to say anything, leaving his father on the field bund, Narasayya started for home, helplessly. As the crows were cawing, a message came summoning Jogayya to home at once. Jogayya realized—his bond with his wife is about to get terminated. Yet, he could not leave the farm, for a far corner of the field was still to be watered. As the water flowed slowly over the cracks and reached the corner of the field, Jogayyamama taking long strides rushed home to see his wife. By the time he reached home, she was almost in her terminal stage. Even in that stage, she was talking about household chores. She taunted her husband: “I asked you to marry off the third son, but you haven’t cared.” She expressed her anguish at her second daughter-in-law not listening to her. She blamed Jogayya: “Rats are making holes to the silos (made of straw). I have asked you to get them closed with mud but you haven’t.” She accused the washerwoman, saying, “She is not applying starch to the clothes properly.” Even in that state, she tried to get out of the bed for ‘churning staff to churn the milk. She complained, “Elder daughter-in-law doesn’t know how to skim butter without leaving much of it in the buttermilk.” She wondered what would be the fate of her family once she was no more. “Why, all this, now? Stay quiet for a minute,” said Jogayyamama.

Personal website of GRK Murty: http://karpuramanjari.blogspot.com | E-mail: grk.murty@gmail.com

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Mamakaram

Yet, she did not stop talking. She continued to speak till the last. She kept on saying something or the other to everybody. She ordered for one or the other work. Lastly, moaning with pain —“abba, abba3”—she held Jogayyamama’s hand tightly. It was holding his hand tightly that she left this world. It is exactly a month since his wife left this world. The field that he has irrigated without caring for her sickness and his life has at last come up well with bountiful tillers. Merrily singing, both men and women labourers are weeding the field. Leaning against the rose apple tree, Jogayyamama sits on the bund. Of late, his mind is not that stable. He is unable to forget the kind of tapatrayamu, anxiety that his wife had exhibited on her deathbed. She knew that she was dying. Yet, she had spoken like a woman who is ready to wake up after sleeping a while. Why such anxiety for a dying woman? Why even for anybody? After all, all have to leave this world. Who, then, needs it at all? The song of the labourers slowly reaches his ear from the field. Opening his eyes suddenly, Jogayyamama casts a look at the field. The other day, his grandson came to the field along with him. He asked him: “Where is our field, grandpa?” “All that is before your eyes is ours,” said he. It is a single stretch of 100 acres. Showing the ocean-like far-stretching land to his grandson, when he said, “It is all ours”, he was swayed by all the joy in the world. First, he came to this village as a cattle seller. Satisfied with his behavior and his business acumen, the farmer to whom he sold his cattle gave his daughter to him in marriage and took him as his son-in-law and kept him in his own house. Since then, he has been working with his might. When he joined him, his father-in-law had five acres. With his hard labor, sweating day and night, within ten years he made it 10 acres. This made his father-in-law confident of him. While leaving this world, his father-in-law said, “For having taken you as my son-in-law, you have kept up my faith.” That simple comment from
[3 Abba, abba—usual sounds emitted by a moaning sick person.]
Personal website of GRK Murty: http://karpuramanjari.blogspot.com | E-mail: grk.murty@gmail.com

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Mamakaram

his father-in-law made him feel that all his labor was repaid. By the time his father-in-law died, he had made it 100 acres. But the kind of pleasure that he enjoyed while raising the holding, appears to be missing now. All that remained today is: his coming to the fields daily, taking a look at the fields, and perhaps chiding the labourers now and then-more as a mere habit; there is no anandam, bliss in it. Leaning against the rose apple tree, Jogayyamama sits ‘still’ under the tree. The sun has almost come perpendicular to him. Traversing through the leaves, the sunrays are falling on his face. Warmed-over by sunrays, he opens his eyes. There are no labourers in the field. Pulling up his senses, he at once tries to get up. Moving a bit, he sees the labourers unknotting their food packets from the trees and eating their food. Some are eating while the rest are lying on their upper-cloth spread on the ground. “Get going!” Jogayyamama shouts at them. They are amused at his concern for work even at that age. Chuckling with joy, one among them replies, “It’s hardly anytime that we are out of the field for eating.” One by one, they get down into the field again. Jogayyamama looks at the village. It has become a habit for him to eat his afternoon food under that tree. Even today, his granddaughter has to bring food to the field for him. He has seen his granddaughter coming to the field with the food packet on her head. The sky is already overcast, he wonders if it will start drizzling. It doesn’t matter if he gets wet, but not his granddaughter—she shouldn’t. If the rain gets severe, he must get into the hut under the jackfruit tree. Of what time, the hut is! It was erected when the field was bought. There it is, still—drenching in the rains and drying up under the blazing sun. Saying, “Here it is, Grandpa, food”, his granddaughter opens the food packet. There, the black gongura chutney, glowing on one side; on the other side lay mango pickle, red like blood, and in between, the white rice. Saying, “you keep eating grandpa, I shall go to the field and come back”, his granddaughter runs away. Jogayyamama pulls himself up, whisking the upper cloth and tying it around the head
Personal website of GRK Murty: http://karpuramanjari.blogspot.com | E-mail: grk.murty@gmail.com

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Mamakaram

climbs down the bund with the support of his stick. He takes a double handful of water from the canal, and rinses his mouth. Slowly, he returns to the rose apple tree again and sits under it. Putting the stick aside, he pulls the food packet before him. He takes the mango pickle with his finger and smears it on the tongue. And smacks. But there is no sound. Yet, he thinks he made the habitual sound feeling that it was good. The labourers are weeding the paddy field. Standing on the bund, Jogayyamama’s granddaughter gazes at the field for a while. A laborer teases her jokingly saying: “Chinnadorasani4 has come.” She, pulling up her skirt a little above her ankles, starts running along the bund to her grandfather. On the way, she sees her father. He asks her: “Why to field with silk skirt amma? Wouldn’t it get soiled?” “Grandfather wanted to see me draped in it,” says she. “Has he seen?” enquires her father. “No, he has forgotten.” “Has grandpa eaten the food?” “I kept there and came.” “Where is he?” “There, under the rose apple tree.” Both walk towards the tree on the main bund. The sky is overcast. Narasayya wonders, it may rain. He doesn’t like his aged father coming to the field. Still worse, he doesn’t like his getting food to the fields. After all, being the president of the local panchayat board, he desires that they should live true to the status. Alas, his father never listens to him. Instead, questions: “Would eating food on the farm bund dishonor us?” There is thunder from the distant clouds along with lightning. It starts drizzling. The kid, walking on the bund, puts out her tongue to taste the raindrops. Narasayya speeds up his stride towards the tree. His father is under the tree leaning against its trunk.
[4 Chinnadorasani—young lady.]
Personal website of GRK Murty: http://karpuramanjari.blogspot.com | E-mail: grk.murty@gmail.com

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Mamakaram

His staff and turban are lying on one side. With closed eyes, he is thinking of somethingwhether it is essential or not, thinking has become inevitable. Holding the fist to his nose, he smells something. What is in the fist? A flower? No. A tobacco leaf? No. Soil …… mere soil! —the black cotton soil under the tree. “Ayya5”, “Ayya”, calls his son. “Abbai6”, Jogayya feebly murmurs, and as he loses grip on the fist, his hand slides to his side. Like a stream, the soil falls. Soil joins the soil. “Ayya”, “Ayya”. Ayya has not spoken again.
*****

[5 Ayya —father.] [6 Abbai—my boy (an affectionate way of calling a son by a father or mother).]
Personal website of GRK Murty: http://karpuramanjari.blogspot.com | E-mail: grk.murty@gmail.com

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