Prasad Chodavarapu (chprasad@hotmail.com)
Tue, 02 Sep 1997 06:40:28 PDT

[Forwarded from SCIT]

Title: [AP Times, Literary]: Cherabandaraju - Questioning the accepted
Author: srinivas@hpaneqb4.an.hp.com (Chukka Srinivas)
Date: 28 Aug 1997 18:38:22 GMT

[Andhra Pradesh Times]

Questioning the accepted

   The day I do not spell out
   The betrayal of August 15
   I don't feel I earned my meal
said Cherabandaraju, a revolutionary poet, some twenty years ago. Though 
did not live to see the current euphoria of golden jubilee celebrations 
independent India, he was very much in the thick of the affairs and
expressed his anger against the silver jubilee celebrations in 1972. In 
satirical lyric on the silver jubilee celebrations he wrote:

   It is a silver jubilee, they say,
   Of execution ground?
   Jails are the property of masses, isn't it?

In a serious poem after some time, he said:

  I was 25 in 47
  That day my mind was a
  full blossomed lake with slogans of freedom
  I was the edge for a generation
  A ray that cannot be humbled by any weapon
  I was the dawn that walked through
  Upright over the history
  But, now you know what is my age
  This senility is not mine
  But a symbol of failure of
  Parliamentary democracy that
  Destroyed me and my generation No, this legacy should not continue

Cherabandaraju was an unmistakable powerful rustic voice who started
composing free verse during the mid 1960s. He began as a poet while he 
in the group of six poets who called themselves Digambara Kavulu (Naked
Poets). The poets’ group, was in fact, a shock treatment, like a 
reaction to
the stagnation and hypocrisy existing in society and literature at that
time. They questioned every accepted value in society and literary

A number of parallels could be drawn between them and angry young men 
Beatniks, Black Panthers, Bhooki Peedi, etc., who raised their voice all
over the world during the same period. The poets started as nihilists 
publicised their poetry through sensational means. Starting from a 
philosophical nucleus, four of them moved slowly towards Marxism and
Naxalite politics.

During the transformation, Cherabandaraju wrote a memorable and
controversial poem `Vandemataram' in 1968:

  O my dear motherland
 You are the mother, the father and the god
 Yours is the chastity that flirts with thugs
 Yours is the beauty whose every limb is
 pawned in the world market
 Yours is the forgotten youth that sleeps in the rich man's embrace,
 Your intoxication is unruffled though spat at or denounced
 You, dear mother, are the Bharati who
 stands resigned
 To rats and bandicoots that burrow in the ripe fields
 You are the lush prosperous land that feeds no mouth
 Vandemataram Vandemataram
 Yours is the courage that has got flags stitched
 Out of the cloth on your body
 and goes naked
 Yours is the wretchedness that
 moves restless
 In the mansions built with borrowed money
 Yours is the woe that fails to comfort
 Children crawling over your milkless breasts
 Yours is the famished coquetry that has taken
 To the streets, decked in borrowed trinkets
 Mother Bharati! What is your destination?
 Vandemataram Vandemataram

The poem stands at the cross roads of Cherabandaraju's life in letters. 
contains both the hangover from Digambara diction and sensationalist
elements as well as an anguish for motherland and a hoarse cry in search 
a way out from the predicament. That search led Cherabandaraju to 
his sympathy openly for Naxalite politics. He became one of the key 
in the formation of Viplava Rachayithala Sangham (Virasam - 
Writers' Association) in July 1970 and he served as its secretary for
sometime as well as on its executive body. Cherabandaraju was one of the
first few who realised the need to popularise the message in the form of 
song. With a reed-like voice he used to sing the songs written based on
lyrical metre and folk tunes. One of his early songs, ‘Kolimantukunnadi/
Thithi ninda gali pothamga vunnadi/ Nippari poniku Ramanna/ Poddekki 
levanna/ (The furnace is lit and the bellows are full with air, let not 
fire go off, let not the time slip off) was an instant success in the 
when Gaddar and Jana Natya Mandali had not entered the scene. People 
ask Cherabandaraju to sing again and again his satirical song on Indira
Gandhi : Ammamma Indiramma/ sesindi saalu pomma/ nee nakili socialism
maakasale vaddamma (Enough is enough, we do not want your fake
socialism)-Indira, Indira,/Began you Though very soft spoken, gregarious 
emotional Cherabandaraju became the source of wrath for the powers that 
as he wrote:
 They erase with swords
 The wetness on the children's cheeks
 When I kiss them

His opposition to the establishment led him to prosecution and 
detentions, legal and illegal, implications and dismissal from his 
job. Due to continuous imprisonment for more than three years between 
to 77 his health started deteriorating. But his determination was

 I will sprinkle my blood drop by drop
 As the seed for the liberation of this land
 Though I am in prison, I am not a slave
 If I am shaken or slashed
 I will rise like a wave again and again

What began as a chronic headache when he was in the prison turned into 
cancer. Cherabandaraju had to undergo surgery thrice between 1977 and 
Even as he was on his death bed, the government dismissed him from 
which, however, was revoked latter after a wide spread protest.

Two years before his death, in 1982, he wrote

 I'll ridicule death
 And defy the enemy
 I suffer from a disease
 A warrior I am nevertheless
 Even if the hand is cut
 My fist will not let loose the sword
Of course, his sword was not a sword of a blood-thirsty person. As he
himself admitted:

 This soil fostered me by feeding my daily morsel
 I will repay the debt by
 Delivering her from the demoniac
 feudal oppression.



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