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Friday Review » History & Culture

Updated: March 13, 2014 21:14 IST

Chronicles of a life well lived

P. S. Gopalakrishna
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Puchalapalli Sundarayya was known for his commitment, dedication, selflessness and simplicity. He belonged to that rare category of service-oriented, honest, upright, pragmatic and patriotic politicians. Born on May 1, 1913, at Alagaanipaadu village in the present Potti Sriramulu Nellore district, he was influenced by reformist and nationalist ideals even as a young boy. While he was 14, he attended the Congress conference at Chennai, drawn by Mahatma Gandhi.

In response to the Mahatma’s call, he gave up studies in 1930 and plunged into the freedom struggle. He was imprisoned for two years for his Satyagraha. On his release, he took up the cause of rural labour and relentlessly campaigned against untouchability. With time, he began to feel that freedom would be meaningful only when poverty is eliminated and exploitation of the poor ended. This outlook got him closer to the Communist ideology and he joined the party guided by Amir Hyder Khan. Those were the days when the then British government banned communist activity terming it illegal.

Despite the ban, Sundarayya took up the responsibility of strengthening the party in South India, in association with S.V.Ghate and brought stalwarts like E.M.S. Namboodiripad, A.K.Gopalan and P.Krishnapillai into the Communist party. The party was ‘legalised’ in 1942 and he got elected to the central committee of the party. He married Leila in 1943. His role in the Telangana armed struggle (1947-1951) was unique. He was elected to Rajya Sabha in 1952. He used to attend Parliament riding a bicycle! He became a member of the state Legislative Assembly between 1955 and 1967 and later between 1978 and 1983. Sundarayya passed away on May 19, 1985.

Sundarayya’s autobiography offers a ring-side view of his life, his evolution as a leader and his thought process. He provided a detailed account of the struggle in Telangana, and a thorough analysis of the history of leftist parties in the country. Irrespective of his ideological standpoint, the work has enough to offer for people in politics and the public in general. Sundarayya narrated an incident between him and the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, in Parliament, when both lost their cool and shouted at each other. When they met the following day, Sundarayya apologised for his behaviour and Nehru reciprocated. Both hugged each other. Recalling the incident, Sundarayya compliments Nehru for his dignified attitude.

Sundarayya’s autobiography came into being at the behest of the Andhra Pradesh wing of the CPM, which persuaded him to record his life on tapes. The recordings were mostly in English with a few portions in Telugu. Atlury Murali took up the task of editing the transcripts and abridging the text. A.P. Vithal, who recorded the proceedings, translated the English version into Telugu in two parts. It was published in 1986 in separate volumes and later as a single volume. The present edition is a new translation into Telugu by Telakapalli Ravi. The translator seems to have had a problem at a few places when translating the term ‘we’ from English to Telugu, for Telugu has an inclusive plural ‘manamu’ and an exclusive plural ‘memu’ unlike English. As such, ‘memu’ and ‘manam’ coexist in some pages. In some places, the expression ‘you’ has been translated as ‘meeru’; perhaps it was intended to denote the pronoun ‘one’. Sundarayya’s wife’s name has been mentioned as ‘Laila’ while referring to their marriage and as ‘Leela’ elsewhere.

It is sad that Sundarayya’s recordings relate to his life up to mid-1970s. A chronological table giving highlights of his life in general, could have been a welcome addition.

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