Karra Sujani, a fish vendor, worships Akkineni Nageswara Rao, the Telugu film industry’s icon whose mortal remains were consigned to the flames in Hyderabad on Thursday, not just as a mere movie hero but a game-changer in the economic status of her family.
A bridge which was named Akkineni Varadhi in memory of ANR’s strenuous efforts which went into the structure becoming a reality some 15 years ago, has brought about a perceptible transformation in her family. “We are able to transport the fish caught in the Budameru to the market in Eluru with little effort and earn Rs 1,000 a day, besides sending our two children to a private convent because of the bridge. Earlier, the trip to Eluru, hardly 20 km away from her village, Kumudavalli, on one side of the rivulet in Krishna district, by crossing the Budameru by boat was quite gruelling and time-consuming. We were not able to return home before midnight in those days,” recalls Ms Sujani.
Safe drinking water was something which was unheard of in her village until Akkineni contributed to the construction of a water tank. “We used to collect water from the Budameru and consume it regardless of its quality and their health. Now the situation has changed for which every one of us should remember him (ANR),” Ms Sujani says.
The joy, which the bridge extending to half a km, was no less among the people of Koniki on the banks of the Budameru on the other side of West Godavari district. Kota Raja Rao, a septuagenarian from Koniki, recollected the days when the patients were literally carried on cots through the Budameru to nearby hospitals in emergencies for want of motorable roads and the bridge. “We have it all now only because of ANR,” he adds.
Road connectivity from his native place, Ramapuram, 5 km from the Budameru in Krishna district, to his in-law’s place at Denduluru in West Godavari district, was a dream for ANR for long. He strove hard to realise it under the Janmabhoomi programme during the TDP regime. He used his good offices with then Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu and got Rs 8 crore sanctioned from the National Bank for Rurual Development and Agriculture (NABARD) for its construction.
He took time off from his busy shooting schedule to be present at the inaugural of the bridge in 1998. Therefore, the bridge acquired the name ‘Akkineni Varadhi.’ Gampa Rambramham, sarpanch of Kiniki village, credits the prosperity of his village in aquaculture and dairy to the efforts of ANR to get a road and bridge built, connecting the two districts.