Two days ago, I visited Prabhakar’s house. It has been one and a half months since his passing. After bringing the bodies from the encounter site, I had attended Comrade Bharati’s last rites ceremony in Medak. From there, I hurried to Hyderabad to attend Prabhakar’s funeral procession. I met his mother, Ratnamma then and offered my condolences. I found it challenging to talk to her about anything else. It is never easy to converse with a grieving mother, enveloped in the sorrow of her son’s departure. In fact, at such times, it is difficult for anyone to offer advice or engage in casual conversation.

The past one and a half months had been full of countless journeys and memories. I lived through many discussions and stories related to both known and unknown comrades of Bejjanki*, who had been martyred. In these memorial gatherings, there were no remembrances of individual persons. Instead, we shared a little bit more about the comrades we had known more closely. Indeed, each one of them was a unique individual, but more importantly, they had all been martyred as part of a collective struggle. Amidst condolence meetings, dharnas, and competing protest meetings by the police, the memories of martyred comrades and especially Prabhakar’s ideals and intentions did not leave our side. They continued to inspire us even after his death.

Despite being swamped with other obligations, I carved out some time to visit Prabhakar’s mother. As soon I entered their house, I was greeted with Prabhakar’s portrait hanging on the wall. In the image, he held a microphone in his hand, frozen mid-sentence. Following his passing, this picture had circulated widely. In the photo, one could see his white teeth in his dark face and an expression of intense concentration. It was difficult to tell whether he was delivering a speech or singing. It felt as if he was still alive, standing right in front of me. The very thought wore me out and I dropped down on the mat.

Just then Prabhakar’s mother entered the room. She greeted me and sat down on the chair beside me. Prabhakar’s younger sister, Sunita smiled at me in recognition, and served some water to me. Her white teeth resembled Prabhakar’s. Just then their elder sister, Suvarna came to meet me. She had the closest resemblance to Prabhakar.

“Are you alright?”, Suvarna asked, her voice heavy with sorrow as she clasped my hand.

“He had told us if something were to happen to him, Padmakka will come to inform us. I looked for you…”, Suvarna’s sentence trailed off, tears welling in her eyes. She was unable to speak further.

In such cases of harm or untoward incidents, wouldn’t the news spread like wildfire? So, why did Prabhakar give such specific instructions to his family? Why did he want me – someone tasked with conveying such news to friends and families – to deliver such painful news to his family members personally? I always regarded Prabhakar as my younger brother. Could that be why he left this instruction for his sister?

Ultimately though, on the fateful day, I could not inform Prabhakar’s sister of his passing. However, I had to inform Prabhakar’s partner, Devendra, in Malkangiri. The pain of delivering the news of death to a loved one is indescribable. Indeed, it is a strange and tragic responsibility, that can never be avoided.

My eyes were constantly drawn to Suvarna’s face. I tried to console her – “When they chose this path, they also prepared themselves for such an outcome! What can we do?”

My words aggravated the mother’s grief, casting a heavy pall of silence over the room. Breaking her silence, she lamented – “I brought up my son with such tenderness, never once did I lay a hand on him. Yet, in a moment of anger, I once pulled him by his hair. At the time he had said to me, ‘Amma! I am taller than you by at least two inches. Are you going to hit me?’ A grown son is a great support. I rejoiced thinking my son had grown taller and was an adult. May their hands be broken, and they become disabled! It takes only one bullet to end my son’s life. Then, why did they have to beat my son to a pulp? How did my son even endure those beatings? If I think about it, there is a piercing pain in my heart. If I close my eyes, all I see is my son’s battered face.”

What could I say to console her? Is it possible for anyone to console her? 

Nevertheless, I tried, “He would have probably died after the first bullet. But, they must have still beaten him out of spite”.

I didn’t like my own words.   

Prabhakar was among those who died a valiant death in battle. I had heard he was wounded in crossfire and had entrusted his weapons to his comrades, foreseeing that he might not survive. I tried to lie to his mother that her son, who showed such exemplary courage, succumbed so easily to the first bullet. Given his mother’s sorrow, it seemed undesirable to share these details with her. But at the same time was it necessary to hide the particulars of the brave acts of her son and his comrades? Ultimately, it was their courage in battle which had saved the other comrades and the leadership. This was part of a very noble communist tradition. The sacrifice of one’s life for their comrades is an extraordinary value that we see only in true revolutionaries. In acts befitting the bold and courageous, the young comrades Munna, Daniyal, Rupi, Chilaka and other adivasi comrades had fought valiantly to save their comrades, at a cost to their lives. My heart was full of sorrow for them, but it will remain an act of exemplary courage in history. The injured comrades who had been captured, tortured and killed by the enemy continue to inspire us all.


Prabhakar’s mother and Suvarna were grieving and tears streamed down their faces, while Sunita was sobbing quietly.. The children were sitting around with a forlorn look in their eyes.

I could not console them.

Mumbling to herself, the mother said, “Wherever my son was, he came to meet me occasionally. At least seeing him filled my heart with contentment. It had been two years since I last saw him. I received a letter from him one day, explaining the reasons behind his joining the party. Since that day, news of any incident in any area, filled me with dread. Now, my son has returned to me as a lifeless mass. I bid him farewell for last rites with my own hands, yet I still feel as though my son will return to me and call out, ‘Amma! Open the door’. I wake up startled from my sleep. I rush to the door to check if it is indeed him. You must be thinking her son is gone, who is she waiting for now? But in my heart, I believe he is going to return to me and call out to me like he always did. I can’t sleep; I wait anxiously all night long”. She continued mumbling in her trance-like state.

How many such memories, anxieties and longings of mothers for their children endure indefinitely? Will their sorrows ever find resolution? It is true of Prabhakar’s mother, and the mothers of all martyred comrades. There are some mothers who still grieve for their children who passed away more than 40 years ago. 

Akka, where did they keep Prabhakar’s body on that day?” I asked hoping to distract his mother for a short while.

“On the stone where the Jana Natya Mandali* used to perform. When Prabhakar was little, he used to sing and dance with them there,” replied Suvarna.

Just then we heard Prabhakar’s voice, ‘I am a Telangana person speaking’. It was the ringtone for someone’s phone. I was shaken. Someone had recorded Prabhakar’s voice from the video ‘embers of fire’ and converted it into a ringtone. It was agonising to continue sitting there. Tears streamed down my face. Prabhakar’s voice carried a powerful resonance; a voice that honoured the martyred comrades and could make enemies tremble. He was an incredible singer. The echoes of his singing used to linger in people’s hearts. Now, I found myself in a similar state as his mother. Each passing moment grew more difficult than the last.  

How could I remain there in this state? But his mother insisted that I spend the day with them. After all, I had gone there with the intention of staying there for the entire day.

It is often said that the capacity to endure painful circumstances grows with time and experience. So, was I different than the rest? I got up and Suvarna came with me.

She took me around the village and to the stone where they laid down Prabhakar’s body. On seeing us, people gathered near the stone. Then she started sharing some old memories, “Prabhakar used to play near the school and at the corners of that street…..he used to sing and dance under that tree”.

She spent some time infusing every corner of her locality with Prabhakar’s memories. She searched for her younger brother’s traces in everyone’s conversations. One moment her eyes sparkled while recollecting his stories, and the very next moment they’d be filled with tears and sadness. She listened intently for the songs and words and echoes of Prabhakar in every corner and house of her locality. She cannot even fathom the various settlements, villages, houses and intersections that had been filled with his reverberating voice and dancing feet. His voice carried from Hyderabad, Telangana to AOB (Andhra Orissa Border) and even the jungles of Bejjanki, until he died spilling his blood. Prabhakar would live on in the flowing winds, in the chiming of anklets and in the rhythmic beats of drums.

I did not have the energy to dwell on it any longer. It was a hopeless scenario. I felt suffocated. We went back to his house. 

“Where did you go?” his mother asked.

“Suvarna showed me all the places where Prabhakar used to play, sing and dance…”, I told her.

“Look, my son used to play, sing and dance here, not somewhere out there…” she said while placing her hand on her heart, and broke down into wails.

To my ears, her lament sounded like a sorrowful song written for Prabhakar – from a loving mother for her martyred son.


Bejjanki* – A village in the Andhra-Odisha border where an alleged encounter between Maoists and security forces took place on October 24th 2016 in which a total of 20 Maoists and 11 villagers were killed.

Akka – elder sister

Amma – mother

Jana Natya Mandali – People’s Theatre Troupe

(Translation of “Payaninchina Paata”. [Initially published in, December 15- 2016] From the collection of “Viyyukka”) – Translated by Shailza Sharma

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