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RANGANAYAKAMMA: A LITERARY AND PERSONAL PORTRAYAL
(The following portrayal of RN is mainly for the benefit of the Non-Telugu readers who may have read the translations of her works in English, Hindi, Tamil, Marathi and other languages and might be interested in knowing more about her.)
Ranganayakamma was born on 21 September 1939 in Bommidi village, Tadepalligudem taluq, West Godavari district, Andhra Pradesh. Her mother was Lakshmi Narasamma and father was Lakshmi Satyanarayanayya. Her father published a caste-oriented small-scale magazine titled Padma Nayaka at a small printing press that he owned in Tadepalligudem, a proximal rural town in Andhra Pradesh. Ranganayakamma has an elder brother, an elder sister and four younger sisters.
Ranganayakamma (hereafter referred to as RN) studied at the Board High School in Tadepalligudem and passed Secondary School Leaving Certificate (S.S.L.C.) examination in 1956. Her family, living in Tadepalligudem town until then, moved back to Bommidi village due to financial problems. She could not continue her education due to both financial reasons as well as conventional ideas and practical difficulties in sending a girl to a far off places for higher studies. RN went on a hunger strike for a few days and then reconciled. She started to prepare for examinations in the Hindi language conducted by Dakshin Bharath Hindi Prachar Sabha. She taught herself Hindi using bilingual dictionaries and books and passed four levels of the examination.
In the very early phase, RN wrote for a magazine edited by her father. The themes of her fiction revolved around the folklore fantasies involving princes, princesses, demons and the like. Her first story to use a social theme was Parvathamma (the name of the principal character in the story) published in 1955 in the then popular magazine called Telugu Swatantra. Before her marriage, she wrote a couple of short stories and a long story Palleturu (The Village). The basic theme of Palleturu was to oppose a popular tradition prevalent in the Telugu community and the other southern Indian states of arranging marriages between close relatives such as the cousins. RN’s first and most popular novel Krishnaveni (name of the principal character in the novel) appeared in the then popular weekly magazine called Andhra Prabha for several months.
Marriage and separation
RN’s parents arranged for a traditional marriage for her in 1959. The marriage was a failure, and she moved out of the marriage in 1970. She had two sons and a daughter out of that marriage.
Before marriage, RN used her maiden surname ‘Daddanaala Ranganayakamma’ in her works, and after the marriage, she adopted the surname ‘Muppala’ as was the convention. After the separation, she stopped using the adopted surname and began to write without any surname: simply as ‘Ranganayakamma’.
In an article several years later in 1986, she proposed a logical way of naming children (How to give names logically?). She proposed the following: A given name could be shared by many. Hence, every person needs a second name (surname) for the unambiguous social identity. The current patriarchal system of naming the children after the family name of the father or naming the wife after the family name of the husband is not acceptable. She proposed a new system of naming where the surname of the child will be the first name of the mother followed by that of the father. For example, a boy called Ravi having a mother Vimala and a father Buchibabu will have a name ‘VB Ravi’. Given the biological significance of the mother, carrying the fetus for nine months and nursing the child for several years after that, the name of the mother should be given priority over that of the father.
Though several readers requested her to write an autobiography, RN was not inclined to write one. There, however, have been many references in some of her writings to her personal life. In response to a controversy in the late 1980s, RN devoted a chapter to her personal life in a book she wrote (tiiga laagaaru, Donkantaa kadilindi). Additionally, in a novel (kaLLu trichina siita) based on a real story of a girl whom RN, her friends, and family members helped to walk out of a difficult marriage, RN portrayed the events of her recent life. A few years ago, a friend of RN retrieved a collection of her letters which RN wrote previously to the friend on various occasions before and after leaving the first marriage. RN published those letters under the title ‘Letters containing Autobiographical elements’.
Literary legal battles
The case of Balipeetham:
A popular novel Balipeeitham (Sacrificial Altar) of RN appeared as a serial in 1962-63 in Andhra Prabha.
The principal female character in the novel is an ailing young woman, a former child widow, who desired to die as a married woman (Sumangali). The principal male character in the novel is a Harijan, a scheduled caste person. Driven by idealism, he sacrifices his own interests and takes the hand of the woman who was on the death bed but recovers eventually. The marriage, however, is a failure due to the superiority complex of the upper caste wife towards the lower caste husband. Around the main theme, the writer created many additional characters and narrations. The novel depicts a successful inter-religious marriage between a Brahmin woman and a Christian husband to counterpoise the failed alliance of the protagonist characters of the novel. The couple of the inter-religious marriage lead a harmonious life respecting each other’s religious sentiments and practices. Further, the writer also created a female character who fails to marry the principal male character, despite a mutual interest, due to his commitment towards social reform of marrying the widow. Parts of the novel, spanning about a 100 pages, depict the life of the migrant Telugu-speaking families in Burma (Myanmar) during the Second World War. This novel secured RN an Andhra Pradesh Sahitya Academy Prize for the best novel in the year 1965.
There was a background history behind the novel. By 1962, RN had published several short stories and a couple of novels and was considered a popular novelist. In the early part of 1962, a reader came to see her and during the conversation found that RN was thinking of writing a novel with the inter-caste marriage as the main theme. He then narrated a story of a failed inter-caste marriage: the wife hailing from the upper (Brahmin) caste and the husband from a lower (Barber) community. He subsequently discloses that the story was his own personal life. As an evidence, he produced legal documents of a case pending in a court as well as the clippings from the press that published the news of the proceedings of the divorce.
He claimed that the marriage was a failure because of his wife mistreating him and his relatives due to the caste difference. Although his story largely inspired the main theme of Balipeeitham, the novel contained many additional components of creativity. The circumstances that lead to the marriage between the protagonists of the novel were very different; the other main characters of the novel were a complete creation of the writer.
In the year 1972, a Telugu film producer Y. Sunil Chowdary persuaded RN to sell the rights of the novel to make a movie based on the novel. RN was reluctant initially as she did not have a favorable opinion on the creative abilities of the filmmakers. However, due to financial compulsions at that time, she sold the rights. As the producers prepared to start to shoot the movie, the person who narrated his story to RN approached the producers with several demands that a full-length photograph of his must be displayed at the beginning of the movie and that the film must be shot at places of his choice. When the unlawful interference of the ‘real protagonist’ was brought to her notice, RN advised the person not to interfere with the filmmaking since she had already transferred the rights. The ‘real protagonist’ remained silent until the completion of the film. In early 1975, just a week before the release of the movie, he filed a criminal case in a court in Hyderabad alleging that the movie damaged his reputation.
A few months before all this, RN published part one of Ramayana Vishavruksham (‘Ramayana, the poisonous tree’ – a critique from a Marxist perspective of the Hindu epic). This work of hers turned out to be a ‘sensation’ (to use the journalist jargon) in the literary and cultural circles and became very popular among Telugu readers. The work has infuriated the traditionalists who owed a retribution. The Magistrate who was already prejudiced against RN (as evident from his many verbal comments in the open court during the trial) sentenced RN to imprisonment of one month accompanied by a fine. A Sessions Court, however, suspended the order of the magisterial court and after a subsequent trial passed a judgment in RN’s favor. The ‘real protagonist’ appealed to the Higher Court. RN’s lawyer argued in the High Court that unlike the protagonist of the novel, the 'real protagonist' married three times and in all the marriages, the wives abandoned him owing to his cruelty towards them. The judgment of the High Court went again in RN’s favor.
Meanwhile, ‘the real protagonist’ filed a civil suit seeking damages for defamation and special copyright over the novel. The Lower Court at Vijayawada dismissed his claim for damages but allowed his claim for special copy rights over the novel as a joint author. Following this judgment, both the parties filed separate appeals in higher courts. The courts abandoned the cases after the demise of ‘the real protagonist' a few months later.
The defamation case of Tulasi Dalam:
In 1981-82, RN produced a sharp critique of a novel called Tulasi Dalam (Basil leaf) written by one Yandamuri Veerendranath, a commercial writer of that time. The novel glorified superstitions of all kinds including witchcraft, sorcery, black magic and mystified these harmful notions under the veil of scientific justification. Kommuri Venugopala Rao (hereafter KVR) another Telugu writer, who happened to be a clinician, wrote a eulogizing preface exalting the writer and the novel without any reservation. In her uncompromising criticism of the novel that appeared in the Sunday supplement of a daily Andhra Prabha for several weeks, RN unleashed a scathing attack on the harmful theme of the novel. She leveled her criticism also against KVR, the writer of the sleazy preface, who being a clinician behaved irresponsibly by glorifying superstition, thus contributing to harming the gullible reader. In her critique, she used humor and sarcasm typical of her powerful style in exposing the writer and the accomplice.
While the writer opted smartly to lie low, the accomplice took offense to the critique and issued a legal notice to RN, the editor, and the publisher, demanding an apology and claiming damages for causing defamation. While the editor and the publisher expressed regrets by issuing a public notice in their newspaper, RN refused to do so. She, in turn, demanded an apology for causing harm to the health of the society by recommending a pernicious book that glorified superstition.
Following the reply, KVR filed a criminal complaint and a civil suit against RN. The Magistrate and the sub-Judge in the respective courts passed orders against RN. It was evident from the observations of the Judgments that the judges were vehemently opposed to RN’s Ramayana Vishavruksham, although RN’s critique on the Hindu epic had nothing to do with the current lawsuit. The Sub-Judge remarked that RN who advocated ‘Marxism, a foreign ideology’ and was critical of Ramayana ‘cannot take shelter under the Constitution of India’. The Magistrate sentenced her to an imprisonment of one month or a fine of one thousand Rupees. RN opted to pay the fine but filed an appeal in the Sessions Court. The Sessions Judge, while agreeing with RN that the novel deserved strong condemnation, opined that RN should not have used certain expressions that damaged the reputation of KVR as a clinician and writer.
RN appealed again to the Andhra Pradesh High Court where the Judge unabashedly exhibited his personal contempt for RN as the critic of Ramayana. When the court officer called out RN’s name, the Judge rose swiftly and commented - “Is this the same Ranganayakamma who criticized Ramayana? Is it the way to treat our culture?” RN’s advocate replied, “The present case has nothing to do with Ramayana Vishavruksham. My client is a rationalist and a Revolutionary”. The High Court judge, finished the hearing untypically in less than an hour and dictated the Judgment in the open court and observed that RN wrote the criticism out of professional jealousy towards the plaintiff. His contempt for RN was so open that in the opening paragraphs, he did not even mention her name. He said, ‘There are three principal characters in this case. One: Mr. Yendamuri Veerendranath, the writer of the novel; Dr. Kommuri Venugopala Rao, the writer of the preface, and a lady’ (As if that lady did not have a name!). The Judge dismissed the criminal appeal of RN. Subsequently, on the insistence of RN’s lawyer, Mr. Movva Chandrasekhara Rao (who did not charge a fee for any of her cases out of respect for her commitments towards a certain ideology), RN filed an appeal in the Supreme Court. In the Supreme Court, Mr. V. M. Tarkunde, a former Judge of Delhi High Court and a Rationalist, appeared on behalf of RN, again without charging any fee. One of the two judges of the bench made a remark as follows: ‘It appears that this case is related to professional rivalry’. Mr. Tarkunde, as a mark of protest, stopped presenting the case and left the court. Finally, as usual, that appeal also was not admitted.
Subsequently, RN published a summary of the court proceedings in detail accompanied with her original criticism of the novel after deleting the so called ‘objectionable’ expressions. A civil suit has been pending in the Andhra Pradesh High Court since 1986. Meanwhile, the preface writer passed away. In 2008, when the appeal appeared in the list, RN’s advocate issued a notice to the wife and the son of the preface writer about the hearing of the appeal. There hasn’t been a reply from them ever since. The appeal is still pending and the court has not listed the case again.
The case of movie ‘Gorintaku’:
At the end of 1979, a Telugu film Gorintaku was released and had completed about 80 days of a ‘successful’ screening. Around that time, a reader-friend read an article in a film magazine called ‘Cine Herald’ in a hair-cutting saloon where film magazines are laid for the benefit of the waiting customers. The title of the article was - ‘The story of Gorintaku movie: whose story is it? Ranganayakamma’s or Ramalakshmi’s?’ The writer of the article Dr. Vasa Prabhavathi, was a Telugu lecturer working in a women’s college at that time. In her article, she drew comparisons between the many incidents of the movie and those of RN’s novel Ide, Naa Nyaayam (This is my justice!). Having drawn many similarities between the movie and the novel, the writer of the article concluded that the basic theme of the movie was a plagiarized version of RN’s novel although a few minor changes were introduced in the movie out of necessity. Some of the changes were as the following: The profession of the principal character in the novel was a lawyer, and this was changed to a clinician in the movie; in the novel the mother of the principal character was neglected and brutalized and dies as a consequence half way, in the movie the mother remains alive until the end; in the novel the principal character rejects and disowns his father in the end; in the movie, in contrast, the hero disowns the father initially but reconciles with him in the end following the insistence of his mother; despite a few cosmetic differences such as these and a few more, the movie was a clear case of theft of RN’s novel. RN decided to pursue the matter legally to protect her other novels from a similar theft and vulgarization. RN’s advocate issued a legal notice to K. Ramalakshmi, the alleged writer of the movie; Dasari Narayana Rao, Director of the movie; and the film producers. The defenders denied all the allegations leveled in the legal notice. Having no other option, RN filed a criminal case and a civil suit for the infringement of the copyrights and the payment of Rs. 1,00,000 as damages. While the legal proceedings were in progress, direct evidence emerged for the wilful fraud of Ramalakshmi, the ‘original’ writer of the story of the movie. Coincidentally, a few years before all this, in the late sixties, Ramalakshmi reviewed a few Telugu novels of that period in an article for an essay compilation of Telugu literature. In her article, Ramalakshmi briefly reviewed RN’s novel Ide Naa Nyayam and showered praises on RN for her natural prowess of writing and the skillful portrayal of the characters in the novel. Thus, unfortunate for her, Ramalakshmi providing irrefutable evidence that she was fully aware of the existence of RN’s novel. During the cross-examination, when the review article was placed in front of her, Ramalakshmi was startled and attempted to defend herself futilely. In the meanwhile, as the case was in progress, the movie producer was preparing to release the Hindi version of the movie Mehendi Rang Layegi. Following RN’s injunction petition against the Hindi version of the movie, the Andhra Pradesh High Court directed the Hindi producers to deposit One Lakh rupees subject to the final judgment. Finally, the Chief Judge of the City Civil Court at Hyderabad and the A.P. High Court passed orders in favor of RN and both Telugu and Hindi producers were asked to pay Rs. 50,000 and Rs. 30,000, respectively, along with an amount of interest for the period.
Interactions with the readers:
RN regularly received letters from the readers since the beginning of her literary career in the late 1950s. The questions encompassed a wide range of social, economic, political, and cultural issues, including the personal problems of the readers seeking RN’s advice. She frequently sent replies to the readers personally. Additionally, she maintained a regular column in popular magazines such as Prajatantra, a fortnightly during 1975-76; Praja Saahithi, a monthly magazine during 1977-79 and Andhra Jyothy, a weekly magazine during 1989-90 to provide answers to the questions of her readers. Subsequently, all the questions and her answers were compiled and appeared in two volumes initially and as a single volume eventually. In a compilation entitled ‘My acquaintance with some readers’ she recounted many different impressions with the readers who wrote her letters or visited her in person. Given her busy schedule and a few wasteful experiences, RN prefers her readers to write letters or talk to her over the phone instead of visiting her.
Affiliation with a certain political organization:
Since 1974, after coming into contact with Marxism, she started writing from that perspective. Her first work reflecting the Marxist thought was Ramayana Vishavruksham (Ramayana, The Poisonous Tree). About this time, a few people affiliated with a ‘Marxist-Leninist’ group popularly known as ‘the TN (Tarimela Nagireddy) group’ approached RN. RN and Gandhi gradually began to associate with the TN group as they found some documents of this political group reasonable and convincing. TN died in 1976 during the period of emergency (1975-1976). In 1978, when the TN group formed a literary and cultural organization Jana Saahithi, RN took an active role in the organization for a year and a half. As the differences emerged and RN experienced sectarian attempts to isolate her, and as she could not rectify the bourgeois organizational practices, RN finally decided to resign in December 1979 from Jana Saahithi. In May 1980, RN compiled her impressions with Jana Saahithi in a book entitled ‘Our Differences with Jana Saahithi’ and offered an explanation for her quitting. Later, she did not associate organizationally with any other Communist group but continued to publish works with the Marxist perspective.
It is worth mentioning an anecdotal experience with the TN group. While she was still associated with that group, RN started to work on Marx’s ‘Capital’ to introduce ‘Capital’ to the Telugu readers in a simple and comprehensive language. The representatives of the party discouraged her initiative and asserted that such a project should be undertaken only by a committee commissioned by the party. RN could participate such a committee. RN summarily rejected this directive and decided to proceed on her own with the project as planned. The work, however, would be open for the comments of the party representatives, she offered. In fact, it was common knowledge that none of the party members, including the General Secretary of the Party, ever read Marx’s ‘Capital’ in their lives. In the mid-1978, RN published the first part of the first volume (‘Commodities and Money’) of her introduction (note that the book was not a translation) to Capital. The other parts appeared between 1986-93 as five small parts (volumes). Subsequently, all the five volumes were brought into two big volumes (Marx ‘Capital’ parichayam: reNDu sampuTaalalo).
At the end of 1979, RN disassociated herself from that party, owing to their un-Marxian handling of contradictions in the literary and cultural organization Jana Saahithi.
Awards and honors:
In 1965, the then Sahitya Academy, the literary organization of the state of Andhra Pradesh, conferred on RN a prize for the best novel for Balipeetham. Unaware at that time of the political undercurrents that govern bestowing such honors, RN accepted the award. Enlightened of the Marxist thinking, subsequently, she realized that honors are typically bestowed upon such literary works that do not upset the prevailing social norms. Later in 1974, while writing a preface to the sixth edition of Balipeetham, RN revisited the issue of the honor bestowed upon the novel and observed that the novel was chosen for the award as the primary theme of the novel consisted of ‘‘reformation’, not ‘revolution’, which would not question or rattle the interests of the ruling class and the state. Since her acquaintance with Marxism, she declined several offers of honors and awards by various organizations and individuals. In many of her writings, RN elaborated her views on awards, honors, and felicitations.
In a critique of Yagnyam (Sacrifice) a story penned by Kalipatnam Ramarao, that bagged a literary award in 1974 from the Government of Andhra Pradesh, RN highlighted how the main theme of the story misrepresented or misplaced the interests of the poor and as a consequence was not considered harmful to the state or the class that it represented.
RN penned a story Sosha (Fatigue) making a mockery of the writers who are obsessed with felicitations, honors, awards, and titles, etc.
After leaving the first marriage, since 1972, RN started to publish her books under her own banner ‘Sweet Home Publications’. Her Telugu books have always been distributed by Aruna Publishing House, Vijayawada.
Between August 1977 and May 1979, RN also edited and published a literary monthly called Praja Saahithi (People’s Literature). The production of the magazine, however, demanded a lot of her time from other more important commitments especially the introduction to Marx’s ‘Capital’ that she was working on at that time. The first volume of the introduction to ‘Capital’ appeared in 1978. As a consequence, she transferred the declaration rights of the magazine to Jana Saahithi a literary and cultural organization with which she was associated for a brief period between August 1978 and December 1979.
In 2007, some of her readers wanted to make monetary contributions to price her already low-priced books lower. She, however, politely declined that proposition as her family members were earning ‘fat’ salaries and contributing towards keeping her books priced low. On second thought, following the insistence of the readers, she struck on an idea of publishing books of Marxist perspective that went out of print. Since 2007, RN published six books of Telugu translations under the banner of Pragathi Prachuranalu that included a few titles from the Foreign Publishing House, Moscow of the former Soviet Union. These books consisted of (1) Ditavu Gundelu (The Hearts of Steel, a novel depicting the brave achievements of the Communist guerrillas of the Soviet Union during the Second World War), (2) Economics before Marx, (3) Modern History, (4) Condition of the working class in England, (5) Marx and Engels on Trade Unions by Lozovsky and ‘What is to be done’ by Lenin, and (6) Tolstoy (collection of essays by various writers including her own). Some of these books have undergone reprinting. The books have been priced so low that less than half of the amount originally spent on the printing is likely to return from the sales.
A retelling of select English novels in Telugu:
Starting with the first issue of Praja Saahithi (August 1977) that she edited, RN rendered three English novels: Spartacus (Howard Faust), Freedom Road (Howard Faust), and Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Harriet Beecher Stowe) in Telugu. Howard Faust, an American leftist writer wrote the first two novels originally. Visalandhra Publishing House, an affiliate of the then united Communist Party of India, published the Telugu translations of these books. Harriet Beecher Stove was the author of the third novel. A Telugu translation of this work did not appear until then. The Telugu readers received the retold versions of all the three novels with great enthusiasm. RN also wanted to introduce Honore De Balzac’s novel ‘The Peasants’ which Marx cited in ‘Capital’ but could not do so as the English translation of that French novel (Les Peysans) was not available.
Translation of Charles Bettelheim’s works:
In collaboration with two others, RN translated into Telugu two important books by Charles Bettelheim, a French Marxist economist: (1) China since Mao, and (2) Cultural Revolution and Industrial Organization. Udaykumar, her eldest son, prepared the first draft of the literal translation of the books while Gandhi prepared the second draft. RN edited these translations to improvise the flow and make the books easily understandable. Apart from writing a preface and a postscript, RN compiled a total of 120 footnotes in the book, at various places, without the help of which a general Telugu reader would have failed to appreciate the political, economic and theoretical context. Unlike several Marxist books or translations of other publishers, these two books underwent a reprinting a couple of times.
When informed of the translation of his works, Bettelheim was quite pleased and considered the endeavor ‘an excellent initiative’. RN corresponded with Bettelheim on several occasions while the translation work was in progress. Bettelheim acknowledged a couple of critical observations of RN regarding his analysis - such as regarding his understanding of Engels’ essay on ‘Authority’.
Of the four volumes of ‘Class Struggles in the USSR’, RN read the English translation of the first two volumes. The translated versions of the other two volumes were not available in the market although volume three was translated into English. Subsequently, with a financial help of a reader-friend (M. Srihari Rao, a general surgeon working in the USA), RN purchased the English translation of volume 3, got volume 4 translated into English, and published both the volumes in 1995-96.
Critique of Bourgeois Feminism:
In the late 1980s, a bourgeois Feminist group called ‘Hyderabad Feminist Circle’ published the Telugu translation of a long story ‘Three Generations’ originally written by Alexandra Kollantai, a Russian Feminist (titled ‘Loves of Three Generations’). The basic theme of the story is abounding in bourgeois feminist ideas from the beginning to the end. The feminist circle penned a lengthy preface glorifying the bourgeois feminist values and morals advocated in the story. RN wrote a detailed criticism of the story remarking that the bourgeois feminist morals do not contribute to gender equality, but only lead the women from one form of inequality to another form. RN’s critique appeared as a serial in Andhra Jyothy. When a few bourgeois feminists penned a counter to the critique, RN wrote a rejoinder. Later in 1989, she published the critique of the bourgeois feminist morality accompanied by the rejoinder in the form of a book titled ‘From inequality to Inequality’.
Addressing the question of the domestic work, RN wrote an article ‘Housework and Outside work’ from a Marxist perspective. Conforming to the basic Marxist concepts of the use value, exchange value, productive labor, unproductive labor, independent labor, and family labor RN efficiently countered the erroneous perceptions of the bourgeois feminists regarding the economic contributions of women to the society. Concerning the ‘value of women’s reproductive labor’ and ‘value of domestic labor’, RN placed the economic contributions of women in a proper perspective.
On Ambedkar and the ‘caste’ question:
Given the politically independent stand and critical outlook of B. R. Ambedkar against M. K. Gandhi over about 40 years of the former’s political career, RN cultivated a great admiration for Ambedkar. Towards the end of 1999, RN began to study Ambedkar with a special reference to the caste question. Moreover, many of her readers, who inclined towards Marxism after reading her books, requested her to write on the caste question taking Ambedkar as a point of reference. A critique of RN on the caste question and Ambedkar appeared in Andhra Jyothy over several weeks (December 1999 to November 2000). She subsequently published the critique in the form of a book in November 2000 which underwent 13 reprints since then. An English translation of the book appeared in August 2001, and a Hindi translation appeared later and underwent three reprints. The Tamil translation came out in 2016 and underwent three reprints within a span of two months. The Marathi translation is currently underway.
The English and Hindi translations of RN’s other essays on the caste question, especially of polemical nature, were published by Jan Chetna of Rahul Foundation, Lucknow.
Writings on the simplicity of the language:
RN’s style of writing, as both foes and friends would agree, is so lucid that she can effectively and effortlessly connect with the average reader irrespective of whether or not the reader agrees with her ideas. For writers to communicate effectively with their readers, they must follow the basic principles of the spoken language while writing – she insists. This is regardless of the fact that the spoken and written forms of a language differ from each other in the selection of the vocabulary, length of the sentence, and the type of the sentence.
From her attempts at understanding Marxism through Telugu books, she found that the language of these books was impossible to understand even for a highly enlightened reader. These books typically carry an abundance of communication load in terms of difficult jargon, long sentences, characterized by unnatural constructions such as the use of the passive voice, non-observance of case suffixes, the absence of natural coordination markers and the like. In this backdrop, RN penned a great satire titled Kutra (The conspiracy). In the satire, she implicates the communist revolutionaries to have conspired against the people by writing in the most difficult form that the people fail to grasp the revolutionary ideas.
RN compiled samples of language from several newspapers and books published by Communists as well as the mainstream non-Communist individuals and organizations over a period of 10 years. Based on the data so collected, RN wrote a long essay titled ‘Are we writing the colloquial language?’ A few journalists opined that this work is likely to reorient the journalistic writing towards a reader-friendly style.
RN made a detailed evaluation of Telugu primers for the first standard of primary education spanning the period of 1935 to 1996. Besides, she also analyzed the adult literacy primers in Telugu. This endeavor resulted in a book titled ‘How to teach Telugu: An Analysis of First Class Primers and Adult Literacy Primers in Telugu’. A few years later, RN prepared a first class primer based on her study of the earlier primers and amended many of their limitations. Seeing the difficulties of Telugu students to learn and use English, RN wrote a book of English Grammar ‘Enter the thick forest of English: English grammar lessons for Telugu students’ In this book of teaching, the verb remains the focal point of learning. The subheading of the book is as follows: ‘Every foreign language is a dense forest; grammar is the only means to enter the forest’. The book underwent 15 editions between 2002 and 2017. RN also wrote an article proposing a few reforms related to the Telugu script.
Critiques of Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Vedas:
RN remained an unyielding critic of the religious scriptures of any form as these dogmas only propagate ignorance and division. RN, however, was not an atheist from the beginning. In the early days of her childhood, before penning anything, she first inscribed the word ‘SriRama’ on her palm with the index finger and touched both the eyes with that palm in reverence. As she grew up and read social reformers such as Veeresalingam, she developed a certain rationalist perspective abandoning the notions of divinity. Ironically, Veeresalingam was not an atheist himself but a believer in a single god (Ekeswaropasana).
In 1968, in part two of her novel ‘Sweet Home’, RN made her principal character of the novel Vimala speak critically of Rama. In 1973, after her acquaintance with Marxism, she read the Telugu translation of Sanskrit Ramayana by reputed traditional Telugu pundits. Following this, she wrote an elaborate critique Ramayana Vishavruksham during 1974-76 in three volumes; which subsequently were clubbed into a single volume. The English translation of this critique appeared in 2004.
In 2015, when she found some free time, RN started to read Mahabharata in Telugu. Following this, RN read the Telugu versions of Mahabharata by the poet-trio: Nannaya, Tikkana and Errana of 11th, 13th and 14th centuries, respectively. She also read the prose version of Mahabharata by another scholar Puripanda Appalaswamy. In addition, she referred to Ganguly’s English translation of Mahabharata, published in the late 19th century. All this reading resulted in an extensive critique of Mahabharata with the title ‘This is Mahabharata: another Poisonous Tree’. The readers received RN’s critique of Mahabharata with great enthusiasm, and the book underwent five reprints within a span of three years.
Around May 2016, RN read a news item regarding the Government introducing the Vedas as a subject of study for the school students and allotting several hundreds of acres of land for a Vedic University. Following this, she read the Telugu translations of all the four Vedas written by traditional Vedic scholars. She wrote a brief critique of the Vedas between June and August 2016. While the first print came out in September 2016, the second print appeared in November 2016.
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