Excepts from Colonial Knowledge and Literary Representations: Construction of Gender Identity in Colonial Andhra by Madan Mohan Rao V:
"In the Telugu writings of the 19th century, we find three recurrent women characters – chaste Hindu wife, bounded widow and the vicious nautch girl. The ‘lot of women’ was, sought to be ‘improved’ through education. They were to be taught child-care, cooking, health care, house keeping, sewing etc. In the literature, marital relationship was glorified, sanctified and it was conveyed in subtle to women to be virtuous, self-denying, sacrificing and serving. Panuganti in an essay titled “Mahapativrata” writes that “the man with brahmaznanamu (knowledge of universal truth) may get moksha (liberation) after fourteen births, but the woman with devotion to her husband and in anticipation of no returns (nishphalapekshamina patibhakti) from her husband could definitely get mukti (attainment) in one birth/life. Further it was stressed that only such a grihini (housewife) was sure of attaining mukti”.
For Kandukuri Viresalingam, the husband was a socially necessary master and without them women had no life. “The husband is to be held as God, since he provides all comforts and caters to the pleasures of the wife; hence she should dedicate herself to his service: if need be, tolerate his anger, abuse and patiently endure even beating and physical violence … the wife should not wear flowers and jewels and should not laugh loudly when the husband is away”. To shape the ‘ideal Hindu patni’ on these lines he started the journal ‘Strihita Bodhini’ and wrote ‘Satyavati Charitramu’, ‘Chandramati Charitramu’, ‘Satya Sanjeevani Patni’ and ‘Hita Suchani’. “At night after entire work was complete, she had to clean up the kitchen, take bath, touch husband’s feet and then mangalsutra and finally to bed” writes Viresalingam. The impact of this idealization was such that a young girl wept after reading ‘Hita Suchani’ for failing in her callings. This took place in 1887 and was narrated by Viresalingam himself in his ‘Sweeya Charitra Sangrahamu’.
But an attempt at altering this discourse can be seen in the writings of Gurajada. Well positioned both in traditional learning and western education, with a vast reading and wide travel, being an active participant in the ongoing spoken language movement, enjoying the liberal patronage of a reformist raja and surrounded by forward looking writer friends and sensible to the contemporary theatre, Gurajada for himself could see the shallowness of the ongoing reform activity and writings. He problematised the whole reformist discourse in –Kanyasulkam- a satirical play. His works are marked with pun, rare sensitivity and deep insights. In a poem a male partner narrates:
“Husband is an old word.
I am your friend,
poor without your love.
But if I have it, I’m
richer than the kings of gods”.
No wonder, his partner was perplexed at this. In essence it’s a double-edged sword. While advocating the relation between partners, it exposes the emptiness of the reformist ideas in practice.
The society in which Gurajada lived could not capture the subtleties of his writings. Moreover his short span of life and meager literary output could not create an influential literary legacy. As a result the subsequent writers could not take this discourse to its logical conclusion. Efforts of Unnava Lakshmi Narayana, Kallakuri Narayana Rao, Jashua and a host of other writers were swamped by the larger discourse that was outlined above. Chalam’s writings created an outburst of violent criticism rather than meaningful debate, which would have set the ball rolling. Writers like Kodavatiganti and Sri Sri who were heavily influenced by the Marxist thought could not address the issue."