While many are indifferent to what is happening around them, Kondapalli Koteswaramma, who will turn 100 shortly, keeps herself abreast of the happenings in the State and the country. She is a worried person and feels the need for a strong civil society and a civil rights movement to bring things back on track.
Ms. Koteswaramma, wife of the late Kondapalli Seetharamiah, founder of People’s War Group (a naxalite group), is a warrior in her own right, and she has fought most of the battles of her life almost on her own and the fire still burns in her, though age has left its scars.
A communist of the old order, she has fought for the rights of women and the marginalised sections of society, leading an active political life for over eight decades. She will be celebrating her 100th birthday on August 5, with her grandchildren and great grandchildren.
She is the author of four books and the last one
was penned by her at the ripe age of 94. She, along with her husband, was part of the communist and civil rights movement that was led by stalwarts such as Puchalapalli Sundarayya and Chandra Rajeshwara Rao. She was an active underground member of the Communist-led peasant movement that started in Telangana in 1946 and lasted until 1951. She later married Kondapalli Seetharamaiah who founded the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) People’s War Group, which merged with the CPI (Maoist).
Fragile but still quick on the uptake, her eyes still hold the fire that she exhibited when she surreptitiously supplied arms to her comrades in Dandakaranya forest, hidden in beddings evading the eyes of the police.
In an exclusive interview to
, she talks about her baptism into communist movement and underground days, her penchant for writing and her relationship with her late husband.
Congress woman at first
She was at first a Congress woman. She recollects, “I initially joined the Congress party at the age of 10 by placing all my jewellery at the feet of Mahatma Gandhi when he visited Vijayawada, but was soon disillusioned with the party’s stand against Bhagat Singh and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. I was young and motivated by leaders such as Bhagat Singh, and that was the time when the communist movement was gathering steam and the ideology appealed to me.”
But it was her singing talent that made Puchalapalli Sundarayya to ask her to join the party. “I began as a singer for the party at the age of 16,” she said.
A child widow, hailing from a progressive family, she was married to Kondapalli Seetharamaiah at the age of 19, but was left by him after some time, as he had to lead an underground life for over three decades.
“He returned to me after 36 years, but by that time I had weathered all the storms and was an active communist. His absence did not matter much to me, as I was embedded into the movement and my mentor was Sundarayya,” she said.
Supplying arms to her comrades and staying underground for years, she brought up her two children. “I studied up to the eight standard before marriage, but wrote the Matriculation examination with my daughter Karuna, who was writing her MBBS examination,” she said.
An avid reader from childhood, she had developed love for the language and words.
“I wrote my first book
Amma Cheppina Kadhalu
(Tales Told By mother) after I lost my only daughter Karuna in the early 1980s. I was inspired to write this book, after I realised that I was not able to give time to my children, staying underground most of the time, and because of that I felt that I had deprived them of mother’s love,” she recalls.
Her second book
(A Tearful Re-look At The Past) was a compilation of poems, which she had written after her only son Chandrasekhar (Chandu), who also was involved in the movement, had gone missing after the police had picked him up from home in the early 1970s. With tears welling up her eyes, she said: “He is yet to return and there is no trace of him. Sometimes I feel that the earth has gobbled him up.”
While her third book
(Tales of Comrades) talks about the tales of the suffering of women comrades while in underground and the last book
which was translated into four south Indian languages and English (The Sharp Knife of Memory), a biographical account that gives a first-hand account of the arrival of women in political independence in India.
“I am still eager to write a book. Though my mind supports, my hands do not. The spirit is willing but I am afraid the flesh is weak,” she said.
Still hopeful that her son would return and India would be free from casteism and religious politics, she signs off by reciting a line from Sri Sri’s famous book
Yevi talli nirudu kurisina hima samuhamulu
(Where are the snows of yesteryear? ).