EMANCIPATION THROUGH REVOLUTION
Ranganayakamma has a unique place in Telugu literary scene. She represents neither an existing trend, nor can she be truly termed a trendsetter, for there is no writer who has attempted to recreate the magic of her style. Yet, Ranganayakamma has earned a name for herself in the world of novelists in Telugu. Hers was a household name amongst the literate women in sixties and seventies, who found an echo of their trials and tribulations in her powerful social novels. Her early novels dealt with the existing social problems reflecting oppression of women in family as well as in society. Starting out with a broad humanistic outlook in her early novels like Krishnaveni, Andalamma Garu, Chaduvukunna Kamala, Peka Medalu, Balipitham etc., she gradually shifted focus to the problems faced by women in an imperfect society such as ours. This preoccupation with emancipation of women ultimately led her towards Marxist philosophy.
Andhakaramlo, Sweet Home and Stree, her novels during the second phase of her literary career, stand testimony to her strong commitment to the feminist cause.
Janaki Vimukti, her best novel todate, expounds her belief in Marxist philosophy, in which she states categorically that women's emancipation is firmly linked with total social revolution, leading to a classless society.
Another very important work of hers, which set off a virtual storm of protest from traditionalists, is Ramayana Visha Vruksham. Here she has analytically shown, on the basis of original texts, the various situations and events in the epic typically showing rampant exploitation and oppression of women, lower classes and original inhabitants of the country, and demolished the popular concept of Rama as the ideal husband and the ideal being.
She is now concentrating all her efforts on introducing Marx's Das Capital to Telugu readers. Ranganayakamma was talking to K. Nagamani recently.
During your long career of creative writing, you have touched a number of social problems concerning women. Have you written any novel about dowry and increasing dowry deaths?
I did not write any story or novel specifically dealing with dowry problem, though many of my novels highlight incidents of dowry harassment also as one of the oppressive factors that a woman has to contend. I have recently written a collection of essays on the problem called Katnam Hathyalni Aapalma? (Dowry Deaths: Can't we stop them?) where I have discussed in detail the causes and factors leading to the obnoxious problem of dowry. These are the evils one has to face in feudalistic and capitalist societies. The problem of dowry can be rooted out only in a socialist society. So, unless there is a radical and structural change in the society, these atrocities cannot be eradicated.
What remedies would you suggest to prevent such misfortune in the existing conditions?
There is no recourse except to fight for one's rights even in the existing society, and ultimately a total revolution is the only solution.
What is your opinion about giving equal property rights to women? Do you feel that if women have a better financial support the incidence of dowry deaths will decrease?
Even in a capitalistic society, where men are enjoying the right to property, I think even women should have an equal right to property. This would, in a way, give them confidence to stand on their own. But whether or not women have property rights, women in present society will continue to be oppressed, as the present society is based on the very foundation of inequality exploitation and class structure. Real change can only come with a change in this structure.
Do you firmly believe that the emancipation of women is only possible through communism?
Yes. It is only through a fundamental structural change in the society that all deep-rooted social evils can be rooted out. But achieve this, we must struggle and fight for the cause with a clear understanding Marxist philosophy. Each individual's struggle for a better life should reflect and represent a class struggle towards a classless society.
In my novel Janaki Vimukti I have shown how an individual's struggle for a better life is part of a larger struggle for a better society. Janaki, an ordinary housewife, suffers mutely the harassment of her husband and mother-in-law, but ultimately rebels when she finds that a coexistence with her husband is not possible, and she walks out on him, to retain her self-respect and individuality. In her struggle against injustice, she draws tremendous strength from her understanding of basic Marxist philosophy.
In my opinion, all human relations being based on equality and mutual respect is fundamental to Marxism. In a capitalistic society, all relationships are based on money.
You say that in a capitalistic society all relations are based on money. Is it your opinion that it is not possible to have a successful partnership between husband and wife without having an ideological enlightenment? Are there not many couples who are leading a happy married life even without any ideological influences?
I do not say that all marriages and family relations are negative and unsuccessful. There may be a number of couples leading a happy life. But then, it is only due to the basic good nature and adjustability between the two persons involved. These are definitely not partnership based on equality. It is not by recognizing their equality, but through goodwill and understanding that such marriages are a success.
In my novel Sweet Home, Vimala and Butchi Babu are a happy couple, but their relationship is still based on traditional norms.
Many people seem to feel that feminism means an attitude of antipathy towards men. What is your comment on this?
No, I do not agree with this attitude. I only say that man-woman relationship can be truly successful only in an atmosphere of equality and mutual understanding. In my novel Janaki Vimukti I have developed the character of Satyam to illustrate my views in this regard.
In your book, 'Ramayana Visha Vrusksham' you have dealt a blow to the upholders of traditional values and have, questioned the traditional interpretations of the epic in a daring manner. What inspired you to write such a book.
Marxism was the inspiration.
Have you written any new novels dealing with women's issues after 'Janaki Vimukti'? What is your current project?
After writing Ramayana Visha Vruksham and Janaki Vimukthi, the two books I wrote after coming under the influence of Marxism, I have subsequently been devoting all my attention to introduce Das Kapital to Telugu readers.
Now a days the younger generation is not able to face the pressures of life and are resorting to suicide as an easy way out. What is your comment on this?
Though it is very sad, in a way it shows that they would rather end their lives than face repression of any kind. But of course, suicide is no solution and such tendencies must not be encouraged.
Is it not possible for writers like you to educate them and create self-confidence in them?
Yes, literature should serve that purpose. But as I said, it is not enough to create awareness. They should be shown an alternative.
You have used your surname in your earlier works. But have dropped it in later books. Is it that you do not believe in surnames, or do you prefer an individual identity?
In our traditional society, surnames come from paternal lineage. However, ideally speaking children should carry the names of both the parents as surnames. For instance, if Vimala and Butchi Babu have children named Ravi and Shashi, they should be called V.B.Ravi and V.B.Shashi.
Your books reflect your ideas and philosophy which are definitely radical and oppose the existing traditional pattern. Could you please, tell me something about the influence of your family and background and other influences on your personality?
I grew up in a normal middle class family, where my father was an educated person and my mother was not. We were six sisters and one brother, but I never faced any restriction or was shown any difference because I was a girl. A number of incidents written in my works to reflect, to some extent, personal experiences of my later life.
While at one level we are advocating equality of men and women we are transferring the same traditional status quo to our younger generations, by teaching them about the same traditional morals at the fundamental stages of their education. What is your comment on this?
It is sheer hypocrisy on the part of the ruling classes. They do not really want equality of men and women. They want it only in words. That is why they continue teaching traditional morals through education.
(Appeared in 'Deccan Chronicle', dated June 9, 1988, page 4.)