amaraavati kathalu

V. Chowdary Jampala (
Fri, 5 Jan 1996 15:26:04 -0500 (EST)

This is in response to TataPrasad gaari post.

Though I know of chilakamarthi's contributions to
various forms of literature, I have only read gaNapathi
and chamatkaara manjari. I do not recall reading any of
his short stories.

But I would be overjoyed to comment about satyam
Sankaramanchi's 'amaraavati kathalu'. IMHO, it is
probably one of those few books from the 1970s that
would become part of the Telugu classics. The series of
100 (or was it 108?) stories about the life in
'amaraavati', his native place and a historically
important village on the southern bank of river
Krishna, was published from 1975 to 1977 in
aandhrajyOti weekly. Each story is roughly about a page
or two long. Some of the stories were nostalgic
recollections of the village and its people; some
reflected on the historical roots of the village; some
were subtle observations of human relationships; and
some were about the changes wrought by time. Some were
funny, some were romantic and some were poignnant.
raajaa vaasireDDi venkaTaadri naayuDu was there as well
as the pulivEshagaaDu. The ammalakkalu of the village
were there as well as the village 'aambOtu'. Despite
their title reflecting a single village, the stories
were all universal in nature, and tugged at the
heartstrings of the readers.

It was not just the content that made these
stories great. It was also how the author told these
stories. Each story seemed to have its own style
befitting the theme of that story. Sometimes, the
author told the story in a simple straight forward
fashion; sometimes an almost lyrical romantic ballad,
and at other times a torrential outpouring of
emotions. In one particular story which describes the
oppressing humidity of the summer afternoon being
relieved albeit temporarily by a mild breeze makes you
feel both that oppression as well as relief.

It is hard for me to pick a single favorite story
from this great collection, but 'renDu gangalu' may be
it. In this, a grandfather is recounting to his grand
children a rainy evening in his youth. In this story,
the author's description of the rain falling over the
overflowing Krishna river is one of the most poetic
passages I have ever read. Reading it, I could see the
tiny ripples in the river caused by the pitterpatter of
the raindrops, see the lightning, hear the thunder, and
soak in all that pouring rain rain. And then, there
is that masterly touch at the end! I still get
goosebumps reading that piece.

In 1974-75, there was a major newsprint crisis
which threatened Andhra Jyoti's survival. To deal with
it, the management decided to publish it in a size more
typical of Telugu monthlies than the weeklies. To make
sure that this change was palatable to the 'weekly'
readers, the editors started several features that they
hoped would entice the readers to stay with the
magazine. At that time puraaNam subrahmaNya Sarma
reportedly asked Sankaramanchi if he would write a
series of stories about amaraavathi. Sankaramachi, who
was thinking of such a series for years and indeed even
prepared some outlines a while back, was pleasantly
surprised by that request and immediately recited a few
stories. Thus the series was born.

After the series was completed in aandhrajyOti,
the stories were published in a single volume by
navOdaya publishers in late 1978 or early 1979. baapu
illustrated all the stories and drew a cover picture.
If the stories were great by themselves, baapu's
inspired illustrations made the book a veritable
treasure trove. muLLapooDi venkaTa ramaNa who wrote the
preface for the book spent almost as much time talking
about the illustrations as he was about the stories
themselves. (As a hanger-on at the gunToor branch of
navOdaya, I got the first copy of the book there.
Though I read all those stories before as they were
being serialized, reading all those stories in one
place was an orgasmic experience.)

Last year, Syaam benegaL made a nationally
televised telefilm series, 'amaraavati ki kahaaniya'
based on these stories. As a testament to the
universality of these Telugu stories, that Hindi
telefilm series was acclaimed both by the critics and
the public too.

Regards. --- V. Chowdary Jampala