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Tales from Jillellamudi for Children – 20

Magazine : Mother of All
Language : English
Volume Number : 7
Month : January
Issue Number : 1
Year : 2008

Dear Sweet Children,

We were with Amma last time in Guntur where she served a paralytic by the name Gundel Rao. He died after a fortnight enjoying Amma’s service. Her age was seven then. 

Mother continued to stay in Guntur for some more days with Maridamma Tatamma.

After a few days Amma was taken back to Tenali by her father Seethapathi to stay with her grandparents Janakamma and Venkata Subbayya. But Maridamma Tatamma stayed back in Guntur serving her niece Venkata Subbamma who was in the family way. Seethapathi’s ardent wish was to somehow leave Amma in the care of her grandparents in Tenali in the absence of his wife Rangamma as he was unable to bestow adequate attention on her. But Amma did not relish their company in Tenali. She would not stay with anybody else away from Maridamma Tatamma or her father.

However Seethapathi slyly left Tenali one night without informing Amma. He left one rupee with Venkata Subbayya to humor Amma in case she kicked up a row. He thought Amma would keep quiet with a rupee as a gift, and not pester him. But amma was not to be so easily appeased that way. One rupee as a gift was not the criterion. That would not placate her. She insisted on her father’s presence. Venkata Subbayya was unable to furnish a suitable reply to Amma. He however pleaded with Amma that her father was fully busy with manifold duties as Karanam of Mannava and also domestic responsibilities in the absence of her mother. Therefore he requested her grandparents to take care of her for some time. But Amma was least interested in listening to those stories. An aunt (Annapurna, an elder sister of Rangamma) intervened and reminded Venkata Subbayya to give Amma the one rupee that her father left for her. But Amma promptly shot back, “Is one rupee then a substitute for my father? In that case a rupee could as well be a replacement for my deceased mother.” Venkata Subbayya and others were stunned at Amma’s stinging pose. All were dumbfounded and unable to provide a suitable answer.

Nevertheless, Amma managed to stay on in Tenali in the company of her grandparents for nearly a month thereafter. Her father Seethapathi did not care to turn up. Amma in the meantime developed a fever. Amma was repeatedly clamoring for her father and Maridamma Tatamma. A message was therefore despatched to Seethapathi to visit Tenali. But days rolled by without any response.

The Episode of the Scavenger

One day Amma leisurely sat at the threshold of their house in Tenali along with Venkata Subbayya and other members. A scavenger was busy cleaning up the street while her three year old son ambled behind the cart. The fellow suddenly stumbled and fell. His mother who went ahead of him failed to notice the incident. Two buffaloes were meanwhile seen galloping towards the child and his life was in instant danger. Noticing the scene, Amma suddenly dashed into the street like an arrow, bodily lifted up the boy and carried him off to the threshold saving him from instant death. The other observers including Venkata Subbayya only raised a routine hue and cry, but did not choose to move an inch to save the boy, obviously forbidden by a steely custom. It was only Amma, despite fever, aged only seven, shot like an arrow and carried away the three year old boy from the scene. Amma being a brahmin, ought not to have touched a scavenger according to the established tradition. Janakamma and other relatives shouted and roundly took Amma to task for such highly objectionable behavior. But Amma stoutly defended her action. Amma declared that they were not “brahmins’ ‘ in the real sense and that whoever treated everyone around as a “brahmin” was a real”brahmin “.

Janakamma and others even planned to give Amma the traditional purificatory bath, but Amma did not yield. Janakamma had even earlier summoned the services of a purohit to conduct a traditional ritual to purify Amma, but all their attempts to fault Amma miserably failed. Her act was one of total human compassion. She promptly saved a child, though he belonged to the scavenging community, come what way. Amma did not find any difference between man and man. Her age was only seven and she very well knew that all human beings were indisputably the same. Her grandparents and other elders in the family did not know this simple truth. They therefore kept their mouths shut. That was why she never relished their company and avoided Tenali. She however wanted to teach them a lesson now, which she did, when the opportunity came, and opened their eyes.

Who is a scavenger?

A discussion next took place between Amma and her grandfather Venkata Subbayya – who is a scavenger? Why should he be subjected to thoughtless segregation from the rest of society? Is it because he cleans latrines for us? Mother argued that we very much need his services, but at the same time we totally despise his company. Ridiculous! Scandalous! Thus Amma opened their eyes while they wondered how convincingly she argued the subtle facts. The grandparents shed tears and agreed that her knowledge was due to the elevating company of the saintly Maridamma Tatamma.

As I have told you earlier, Amma’s stay in Tenali served a great purpose. She taught her ignorant relatives that all human beings are equal and “to be a true brahmin is to see a brahmin in every one”. May this fact sink into our hearts too!

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