Rural life of Andhra Muslims

Book: Tunes of Life (Telugu short stories) Author: Sasisree (pen name) English version : Swati Sripada Publisher: Nethram Publications, Kadapa (A.P.) Price: Rs. 75 Pages: 68 Year: 2009

Thomas Hardy immortalized the region by depicting the lives of people belonging to Wessex (an imaginary place like Narayana's Malgudi). While the Telangana agitation has brought the political aspirations of the Rayalseema region to the forefront; "Sasisree" makes alive the agony and sufferings of people of Kadapa, Siddavatam, Kamalapuram, Penna River, Coastal area of Andhra.

Muhammad Bashir, N.P. Muhammad wrote in Malayalam and earned recognition as well as won awards for their literary works. A few of their works were also made into popular movies a few decades ago. Among Muslim writers of Andhra J.S. Murthy "Vihari" enumerates Afsar, Sky Baba, Khadeer Babu, Khaju Moiuddin, Haneef, Saleem, Satyagani Sasisree who are bringing about marvellous stories. They reflect the contemporary contrasts, diversity, broad thinking and stretch of Muslim social life style. He emphasizes the point that under present conditions with umpteen number of problems the necessity of stories like Modesty is too great. He considers it as a line of "lightning". (p.xiii)

 In a lengthy introduction Dr. K. Vishwanatha Reddy entitled "The portrait of life anguish with humanistic approach." He informs that Sassisree is the first Muslim story writer (in addition to Shaikh Hussain)." He does not confine, however, to Muslim lives only; he does not lose sight of total social life. As he examined and practically experienced the troubles of Muslim life style in his stories (vii) Because of his broad mindedness the stories in the collection "Tunes of Life" have a social outlook.

 In the story "Clatter" a person commits suicide when he is found stealing muskmelon from the fields of his earlier employee. Unable to bear the humiliation but refusing to beg, the farmer who had fallen victim to circumstances and becomes poor finds no other alternative but to consume pesticide.

There has been a lot of hue and cry over selling Muslim girls to rich Arab Shaikhs under the camouflage of "marriage". Quite a good number of Muslim girls unable to find Muslim husbands have been marrying outside the faith because their parents cannot afford huge dowry. In his story "Dowry" Sasisree brings this agonizing reality very poignantly:

 If my daughter dies when husband is alive use this red coffin cloth. If she dies after her husband use this white cloth, please. This .. This only I forgot in the dowry. Every girl's father please remember this. Give coffin cloth in dowry ….. without forgetting give it. "Suleman fell down unconscious".

 Dr. Reddy concludes : "these stories are the examples of Indian cosmopolitan culture that has been inherited from centuries together. Read! And think!"

 Bridegroom is teased:

"Is the sugar cube sweet or the bride?" A lady teased

"Tell that the three lakh dowry is sweet" in a low voice said a naughty girl.

 …. Some body from the bride's side scolded her.

Bridegroom Rahman too heard but remained as if unheard.

"say both the sugar cube and the bride are sweet" someone from bride groom's side advised.

"How can he say so? He should tell my bride is sweeter" a lady from bride's side said. "Sugar cube sweetens my tongue but my bride sweetens my life" Rahman said.

 As a master craftsman the writer has full control on plot. His ends like Adgar Allen Poe's are sudden and surprising (also shocking). He knows how to deal with a tragedy e.g. River bed "which begins with promise of fortune ends with tragic death. While "Arena" is melodramatic." Reception" is quite surprisingly happy. "Clatter" reminds us of the craftsmanship of renowned Malayalam writer V. Muhammad Bashir.

 Having Several prestigious literary awards to his credit "Sasisree" is a versatile writer, poet, critic, essayist, orator and senior journalist and has been editing "Sahitya Nethram" sine 1995. His Telugu stories depict multifaceted moods emotions and lives of people belonging to Rayalseema region. The stories pulsate with life and portray the predicaments of the poor pitted against an unrelenting destiny.

 We don't see any justification for "Sasisree" to conceal his Muslim identity from the English readers. His Telugu readers have accepted it but he does not disclose the fact to English readers. Through introductory articles we know that "Sasisree" is his pen name and his real name is ???........

 Swati Sripada, the translator, teaches English at Kendriya Vidyala, Hyderabad and claims to know seven Indian languages. However, her translation is not satisfactory. So is the proof reading.

 In spite of such shortcomings the book has an appeal. One would like to finish it in one sitting.

 Here is another ritual bearing the stamp of local customs. Ladies and young girls from both the sides applied sandalwood paste on the necks of the bride and bride groom performed verapheri tradition - they asked him to carry the bride on his shoulders.

 Rahman hesitated a bit to lift his bride on to his shoulders.

 "If you lift the bride on to our shoulders - you'll carry the load of the family easily-

Oh, do it. Lift her-

Filling his lungs to full at a stretch he took his bride Sultana on to his shoulders.

Every one's eyes shone with happiness-

Meanwhile a woman brought wet sandalwood plate.

-with your left palm and right palm imprint your hands on either side of the threshold my dear."