The students of ‘Comrades Devaraj – Ajita Political School’ got up for their lunch and filed out of the class tent. As soon as ‘MoPos’ guruji Chaitey came out of the tent, Swaroopa who was sitting on a stone nearby got up with the shout ‘Lal Salaaam didee (red salute comrade)’,  shook her hands with her and hugged her.

Smiling happily in return, Chaitey asked, “When did you arrive? You were to arrive yesterday, weren’t you?” She removed her cap, combed her short hair with her fingers and put the cap on again. Chaitey would be above fifty but surprisingly age showed only in her body and not in her face. When she wears the cap, the white hairs get hidden and her face looks more youthful. Her manner and conduct have a serene and dignified manner about them. 

Swaroopa ‘did’ Lal Salaam with all the students coming out of the class. Yes, it is ‘doing’ indeed. The entire act of shaking hands, raising the hand in a fist and uttering ‘Lal Salaam’ is called ‘doing Lal Salaam’. After all of them left for the kitchen, Swaroopa walked alongside Chaitey towards the tent of the gurujis which was nearby and answered her question.

“There was some urgent typing work and so they told me to go for the second appointment. It has been more than an hour since I arrived. I had been walking for four days, so I bathed, ate and came here. Anyway it was time for the lunch break, so I did not come inside the classroom so as not to disturb.”

“Is everything okay?”

“Yes. How much of the class did I miss didi?” asked Swaroopa with a sense of loss.

“I just introduced the Marxist Philosophy class. Not much loss for you. It’s just half a day.”

Then she saw Subhash coming from the direction of the exercise ground and asked,

“Did you go to change the direction of the solar plates?”

“Ingo didi. Otherwise the winter sun would not charge our batteries enough for the evening DVD show,” answered Subhash and made to go.

“Just a second. You had recorded the morning class, didn’t you? Would you please give it to Swaroopa didi?”

“After I finish eating?”

“No, give it to her first. She will attend the classes from the afternoon session onwards. By the time we eat and take some rest, she could listen to the morning session as much as she can. The rest she can listen at night. And also do explain to her about the schedule of the classes, in which batch she is in and all that.”

Subhash answered, “Ingo,” and went towards his tent. Subhash is not yet twenty-five. The way he carried his gun, the red star on his cap, the beautifully sewn ammunition belt and his manner of walking erect – all combined to make anybody who looked at him think the word ‘soldier’. He was dark, strong and easy on the eye. Even the worn out olive green uniform with several patches of old cloth failed miserably in reducing his attractiveness.

“Okay then, listen to the class. I will go have my lunch. Have they shown your place in the tent and your cover etc?”

Swaroopa nodded.

“And, what about the comrades who brought you here?”

“They had their lunch and are waiting for you. They have to leave immediately it seems.”

“You are telling this now so leisurely!” teased Chaitey’s guard Bhimey. Both of them had become good friends when they met last. Bhimey is generally not talkative but with Swaroopa she is playful. Swaroopa was nearly twenty-eight but she was always laughing and hopping around like an eighteen year old. As she was short, lean and with short hair, it was difficult to estimate her real age too. As she mingled freely with all, the younger PLGA comrades treated her as one of their own and behaved with her accordingly. Chaitey hurried towards the kitchen with Bhimey as if no more delay can be tolerated. By then Subhash arrived.

Swaroopa was happy beyond words. She took the class recording from Subhash, looked for a place under a tree where she could also bask in the sun, spread her small jilli and began listening to the class using ear phones. She had attended political classes ten years back when she joined the Party. But she was unsure as to how much she had grasped then with her ‘small’ brain and ‘young’ age. After working as a Platoon member for five years, she was transferred to work as a computer operator. At that juncture she got the opportunity to attend classes again but they were on Party documents. Now is her chance to listen to the Marxist fundamental classes like Philosophy, Political Economy etc once again and ‘get rid of some of the clutter that may have gathered in her brain’.

She had previously received some audio files of political classes conducted by Chaitey and other political teachers in Telugu and Koya. She copied them in her computer and tried to listen but could never listen in a satisfactory manner. She was always busy with some chore or the other. At long last she got this opportunity. And when she came to know that Chaitey was among the teachers, she was happy. Not only because she had met her before, but also because everybody remarked that she explained things in a very lucid manner.

As she listened, she soon understood why everyone said so. While explaining about idealism, Chaitey asked the students to recount what kind of superstitions they had before they joined the Party. As one student after another narrated, there was laughter all around. Listening to it, Swaroopa too started laughing out aloud.

***                                          ***                                          ***

After the class was over for the day, in the evening everybody ate early as per the rules. Later as part of their assigned batches, the students discussed answers to the questions of the day given to them by the teacher and decided who would answer which question from their batch in the morning session the next day. The next programme was a great attraction. Students from all the batches began arriving at the class room tent eagerly and cheerfully. Subhash arranged the DVD on a bamboo table. As a stopgap measure till Chaitey arrived, Subhash showed them a small clip of ten minutes about life in ocean. As a DVD operator, Subhash has gathered in the past few months that the younger PLGA comrades in DK liked to watch two kinds of videos mostly – one is CNM programmes and the second is videos about animal kingdom. And when they watch fish in the videos, they become as merry as children.

Chaitey handed over their teaching notes to Swaroopa, gave her the necessary instructions on typing them and hurried to the class tent as she was already a bit late.

“What film are you showing today didi?” asked Swaroopa arranging the flat stone which she kept at the back to lean on, while typing.

“Usually we show videos which are connected with the class that is currently being taught. But now the guruji team decided to show the serial Roots.”


“Did you hear the name ‘Seven Generations’?”

“I read it maybe ten or twelve years back when I was working outside the forest.”

“The original title is Roots. It was shot as a TV series in the US. We will be screening it for an hour everyday.”

Swaroopa made a face. Even before she arrived they had agreed on the deal that she would type some teaching notes of Chaitey’s MoPos team when she came to attend the classes. That was why they had even exempted her from sentry duties at night which all the students are expected to do.

Swaroopa was not much interested in watching movies or videos. She liked singing and was interested in writing songs occasionally. In her childhood, everybody in her church agreed that she was the best singer there. As that was the one talent by which everybody recognised her, her love for singing increased. Even now whatever songs she wrote, she wrote them using the tunes of those church songs. She added ‘Rela and Rilo’  to those tunes and wrote the songs in Koya language. So her songs were easily recognisable as ‘those written by Swaroopa’. Whenever she got some time, she spent it on songs. But now after Chaitey told her that she would be explaining the TV series, Swaroopa was very tempted. But she knew that if she did not type daily, she would not be able to complete the task. She was not comfortable with the thought of leaving it unfinished.

Chaitey laughed at Swaroopa’s long face and said, “Come and watch for one hour just for one day, it is okay.”

“No. If again I get malaria I will not be able to type so fast. I will copy the serial and take it with me. I will watch it when I have time later,” said Swaroopa and opened the computer.

‘I said I would watch it later. But would I get enough time? Even if I get how will I understand that English? It would have been nice to listen to Chaitey didi when she explained. I wonder how didi can understand that English. I think she also studied in Telugu medium just like me. I should ask her later.’

Though her mind was racing around, her fingers continued the mechanical task of typing. As the class tent was not far off, she could hear the laughter of the students, the exclamations of surprise like ‘Yayo!’ and also Chaitey’s voice. The oft repeated word was ‘Kunta Kinte’.

‘Kunta Kinte. Yes, now I remember. He was abducted from the forests of Africa and sold as a slave in America. He tried to escape several times and so they axed one of his feet.’ Swaroopa shuddered. The word ‘axed’ stirred some memories in her that always left heartburn in their wake – the history of her village that was narrated to her in her childhood by her mother and father. The vivid narrative etched in her memory where all her people had to run to save their lives from the upper caste people who chased them with axes. She realised that typos are increasing and stopped. It was almost one hour since she started typing. She got up, took her weapon and walked to the class tent.

The DVD screen was very small. There were about twenty students and may be five more ‘protection’ comrades. All of them were watching with interest despite the images being so small. As a computer operator, it was one of Swaroopa’s jobs to play videos of CNM programmes or some films to the PLGA comrades occasionally. Usually she would start the video, then go and attend to her work. She would return to stop the show when it was completed. She sometimes watched the show if she found it interesting. But she never watched anything twice as she felt it was a waste of time.

But whenever she played videos, the one thing that she definitely did was to watch the faces of the comrades. She was fascinated and liked to watch the various reactions and feelings reflected in their faces as they watched. Now too she came just for that.

Kunta Kinte was caught by the white people and their African turncoats and he was being taken to America in a ship under horrible conditions. Swaroopa could see from the faces of most of the comrades that they were angry beyond words. Some of them looked as if they haven’t yet got over the shock and were still wondering – ‘Did all this really happen?’

Swaroopa thought maybe comrades were remembering the Salwa Judum goons when they looked at the African turncoats who were helping the white men catch their fellow African. A few comrades started commenting as if they had heard her thoughts.

“Horrible fellows. They are betraying their fellow Adivasis even though they are Adivasis too. Just like Mahendra Karma.”

“Ingo. Just look at their faces, they are just like those of Salwa Judum goons.”

“If our PLGA had been present there too, it would have given tit for tat…”

“It is the same everywhere, the biggest losses are due to these traitors, they sell themselves for money…”

“It is not even as if all of them had enjoyed the money. Many of them were made slaves by the white men just like they did others. They realised that they had been deceived only when they found themselves in chains along with others in those slave ships,” explained Chaitey.

“Exactly like when the eyes of some people opened after they went to the Salwa Judum camps here…”

In the meanwhile, class leader Rambatti blew the whistle to indicate that one hour was up and Subhash switched off the DVD. Swaroopa observed that the comrades who usually got up hurriedly and went on with their chores after the whistle, today they just sat like that for a few seconds before slowly getting up.

Even after finishing her work and lying down to sleep, Swaroopa still thought of Kunta Kinte till she slept. It was not just Swaroopa, many of the comrades talked about Kunta Kinte and his life full of pain and anguish for the entire duration of the classes when they met in the kitchen or elsewhere. Especially the fact that his foot was axed for trying to escape made them wince whenever they remembered it. ‘Axing’ reminded them of their own bitter memories as several of them were from families that were victims of the Salwa Judum.

‘Would he succeed in escaping or not?’ This was the question that bothered them in the beginning. But Chaitey flatly refused to reveal anything beforehand. But the students were rather anxious on that front. However, the other two teachers Joori and Sonu also did not succumb to the ‘pressure’ of the students. Even Bhimey and Subhash who had already watched the serial kept mum. They knew from their own experience that revealing the answer would kill the joy of watching. When did his family and other slaves attain freedom and how? These were the questions that the students posed repeatedly and they were anxious to know what would happen next. Finally the classes, Roots serial, the questions of the students and the answers for them – all came to a conclusion. They conducted a review of the classes, ‘did Lal Salaam’ and went their own ways. Sonu and Joori also separated. They both were going to meet their respective spouses and spend some days with them. All the three gurujis would be meeting only at the next classes. Swaroopa was to travel one more day with Chaitey and then disperse.

***                                          ***                                          ***

They walked the entire afternoon and reached a village by dusk. Chaitey was down with fever. So as soon as they reached she washed her face and feet, spread her jilli under a tree and sat leaning on the tree trunk nursing her feet. All others removed their kits and went about the chores decided by the commander with discipline. This meant cooking, bringing water, firewood, stones for the furnace, going for sentry and such. Except Chaitey, nobody took out their jilli because they had to go to a different place to rest for the night. So after finishing their assigned jobs, they helped in the kitchen so that cooking could be completed quickly. They were a very small team. After a few minutes, Swaroopa came to meet Chaitey. She cleaned her just washed feet with the kal kapda (cleaning cloth) in Chaitey’s jilli, leaned her weapon on a tree trunk nearby and sat near Chaitey.

“How are you feeling didi? I met Bhimey near the stream and she told me that you were down with fever.”

“Now it is evening, so the temperature is down. It’s always severe in the afternoons for me. Don’t forget to give me the files of the notes you typed. We will be separating tomorrow morning.”

“I came here for the same. I was just about to copy when the whistle to start our journey blew. So as soon as we made a stop now, I copied them and brought it to you. I copied in two chips to be on the safe side.”

She handed them over to Chaitey. Chaitey had a small cloth bag which she herself had sewn recycling the discarded torn shirts. She kept in it all the important things that should never be lost in case of sudden encounters with the police. She immediately put those chips in that bag. Swaroopa had already written on the packs of the chips what they contained.

“So how will you do the proof reading?”

“DVCM Rajey is tasked with bringing out the Division magazine and was allotted four, five days to complete that work. I am going to her now. I will take a printout and do the proof reading there. We had already planned to carry on the corrections with the help of their computer operator.”

Swaroopa nodded. Bhimey brought a mug of tea for Chaitey. Chaitey told her to send for Subhash. Then she turned towards Swaroopa and said, “It would have been nice if like you I too did not have this habit of drinking tea. Usually I don’t drink in the evening, but because of the strain of the walk and the need to take the medicine, I asked her for it.” Chaitey swallowed her medicine and slowly began sipping her tea.

“I did not have the habit since my childhood. The influence of the church was huge on me didi. If they said something was bad, I just abandoned it. And in our PLGA too we don’t encourage drinking tea, so I did not get into the habit. It was good that you did not get fever during the classes; wouldn’t you have found it difficult to teach? But, having fever while walking is another kind of trouble.”

Chaitey smiled mysteriously. Swaroopa wiggled her eyebrows as if to ask ‘What?’

“Today is the third day.”

Swaroopa was aghast. “Is it true? None of us in the class room knew that you were taking the malaria dose! You did not even sit much, you were always standing and teaching.”

“It is like this most of the times because I am getting malaria almost once every two months. Sometimes, I get it even once a month. So most of the time, I would get it during the classes. Now it has become a habit for me to teach with fever. Poor thing, Joori never had fevers till recently. Even she got fever last month. We are apprehensive now if it would become regular. Our Sonu does not get fever often, which is one big relief.”

“Anyway I was lucky that I did not get fever during the classes. I am not like you didi, I find it difficult to get up.”

“Some of our comrades don’t eat properly when they get malaria. But malaria is not like typhoid. We can eat if we make some effort. We can eat even if we vomit. We just have to push the food into our mouth somehow. Once it is inside, it will do its job.  We would be able to recover quicker and then we need not stop our work completely too.”

Swaroopa smiled guiltily. “True, but due to the fear of vomiting…”

“I agree, some of the comrades are just helpless, poor things, the fever just saps their entire energy. One of the first things our comrades told me when I came to work in the forest is that one of the important battles I would have to win would be with malaria.”

“Huh, I feel I haven’t won this battle, yet.”

“How can you say you haven’t won after all these years? Even you have won it. Haven’t I seen you typing all those DVC resolutions even with such high fever last time when we met?”

“But how can I lie down when elderly comrades are working day and night even amid such illnesses?

“We are all birds of the same feather. Seeing and learning from each other…”

Both of them laughed. Bhimey came and informed them that they had cleaned the gotul and that the fire place was also made. She offered help to move their jilli there if they wanted. Chaitey and Swaroopa got up and spread their jilli near the fire. Subhash came and Chaitey gave him one of the chips given by Swaroopa after enclosing it in a paper.

“Keep them safely. They contain our teaching notes typed by didi. If I keep both the chips with me and we have an encounter with the police, both may be lost, so I am giving you one of them.”

Subhash took out a plastic cover from his pocket and put it inside carefully. He stood near the fire but then hesitated.

“Didi, are you talking of something private?”

“No, only regular things, come, sit.”

Subhash did not sit but stood near the fire enjoying the warmth. As Subhash was present, both of them instinctively shifted their conversation from Telugu to Koya.

 “Won’t you lie down didi?”

“No, I will lie down directly when we stop to rest. Tell me about you Swaroopa! How is your work? Are you ever getting time to study something or are you always going tick, tick, tick with your typing?”

Swaroopa laughed out aloud seeing Chaitey mimic her typing work teasingly. A smile appeared on Subhash’s lips too.

“No, no. I read our circulars, magazines and resolutions without fail. I don’t get time to read anything more. I am happy with my work, busy always.”

“Oh, I forgot, I kept aside the book ‘Seven Generations’ for you. Take it with you. I had read it thoroughly for explaining the serial. In fact, it is as if I have both the serial and the book etched in my mind. After you finish reading it, send it to Sirisha. She is another of us who awaits Telugu books.”

“How many times would you have explained the series didi?”

“Several times – maybe seven or eight.”

Swaroopa’s mouth fell open. “Did you explain so many times? Were you not bored? When I saw you explain with such enthusiasm I thought it must have been the second time.”

Chaitey smiled. “I explain like that every time I do. I like explaining it to our comrades.”

“I too like to listen as many times as I can, if didi explains it,” laughed Subhash, teasing Chaitey lovingly.

“Do you like explaining anything or just this one?”

“Anything. When I look at the eagerness in our comrades to learn, it energizes me a lot. It is not just that. From my childhood I had this habit of narrating stories. Everybody used to ask me to narrate. It also may have been a reason. But I don’t think I narrated anything else as many times as Roots. All others are just one or two files. They are in Hindi, Telugu or Koya. This is a series and is in English. So it would take more days to explain. So others may find it tiring or boring to explain.”

Subhash who had till then stood as if he just wanted to get warmed a bit and leave, now leaned his weapon on a wooden pillar nearby. He took out a small jilli from his side pocket, spread it on the floor and sat on it opposite them. He understood that Chaitey was in a mood to speak. He had a task – cracking open a secret. He wanted to know why however long the class may prolong, whatever may be the questions that students ask and in whatever condition the classes were being conducted, the smile on Chaitey didi’s lips never disappeared. It was the first question he had asked Chaitey after he decided to become a political teacher. Chaitey asked, “Oh, is that so?” and laughed but did not answer his question. So he now listened keenly thinking, ‘Maybe I will get a clue when she talks further.’

“When I play any videos, I go only in the end to turn it off. If I had watched it once, I never ever watch it twice. It would be so boring,” said Swaroopa.

“Even I can’t say that all our gurujis enjoy explaining such things so many times. They will explain a few times but if they have to do it many more times, they feel they would be better off doing their pending work. But it has to be done, you know, that is our job. But we have a new batch of students each time and that is the only novelty. It is not like that when we teach the subjects. As we improve ourselves for every class, each and every new class is novel and a challenge.”  

“But you really have a lot of patience didi! That is why you became a good teacher.”

“You need a lot of patience to be a teacher, I agree. But tell me which other work in our revolution does not require that amount of patience. When I see you typing for hours together, even I wonder – My! How patiently she is typing. Look at our military instructors, how patiently they teach everything to the students. And then, what about those who organise people? It’s not just one thing, every work in the revolution requires loads of patience. But when we put our heart into that work, it definitely gets reflected in the work and in the results.”

Swaroopa nodded and moved the logs which were slowly getting covered with ash, to kindle the flames. Subhash went out of the gotul and returned with some firewood which he added to the fire. The cold was very severe.

“So will you be able to explain Kunta Kinte’s history many more times without getting bored, didi?”

“Ingo. There is something else. The ruling classes try to hide from us the real history of the people and that of people’s leaders as much as they can. And when they can’t do it anymore, they try to appropriate the history of struggles and the leaders of such struggles by coming forward as their fake champions. They completely hide the issues on which they fought, they destroy their essence and give us the lifeless form. So it is one of the needs of our movement to keep alive our history in its real meaning and essence. We have brought to light the history of the Bhumkal rebellion of Bastar in our DK and are trying to restore to it its true meaning. You know our Party’s crucial contribution in bringing to light the history of Komuram Bhim of Adilabad in the past. This work is also a part of the Marxist dictum that people are the real makers of history. This is in a way class struggle in the realm of history and for control over memory. It seems in Jharkhand there is not a single place where you don’t find Birsa Munda’s name, including the jail. But the issues that he fought for have not been solved. And we are striving to continue his true legacy there.”

“Look at how the BJP is trying to appropriate Ambedkar,” added Swaroopa.

Chaitey nodded. “Though Kunta Kinte is not a leader of any movement like others, he is a representative of lakhs of slaves who went through the ordeal. That is why wherever we showed the video, his name and his life leave a deep impression on our comrades.”

“Is the impact more than that of Spartacus film?” Spartacus is Swaroopa’s most favorite people’s leader. She always compares everything with him as the touchstone. She read the book about him while she was getting attracted towards the revolutionary movement. Till then she had greatly admired Jesus and both of them had died due to crucifixion. All these factors somehow combined and earned a special place for Spartacus in her heart.

“Our comrades very much like films like Spartacus and ‘Do bigha zameen’. But they feel very close to Kunta Kinte. One of the reasons for that maybe because he is also an Adivasi like us. The Adivasi life and the imperialist plunder that are shown in the beginning of the series are something closely felt and understood by our comrades. When you watch, you will also see some similarities with our DK life. We also had the British exploiting us and the Bhumkal rebellion. Though we did not have that kind of slavery here, the exploitation and suppression were similar. There people were plundered like property, here they did not abduct people like that but they did everything else.”

“Moreover didi, we describe US imperialism as the number one enemy of the world’s people. When we watch this, we understand even more clearly how the US imperialism that discriminates black people is our common enemy, is it not so?” added Subhash.

Chaitey understood that this requires some more qualifying. But she also knew that everything need not be explained immediately and can be said during some other occasion. So she smiled encouragingly at him and nodded. After sitting that long near the fire, now they felt the heat was becoming too much. So they got up and pulled back their jilli a bit. Subhash had already moved back a bit.

“You know, my mother cried a lot when she read the book. Kunta Kinte became like a family member to us when all of us read it. Now even in our DK, he has become like a family member to many of us. How many people all over the world must have felt like that after reading Roots, eh?” Chaitey continued the conversation.

“Did your mother read too, didi?” Subhash was quite surprised. 

“When we organised among the students, we used to bring all those books home and my mother used to read them.”

Subhash opened his mouth to ask something but then did not. ‘Didi is talking with Swaroopa now, I can ask later as we would be together,’ he thought.

“I will read the novel again didi. I do not know how much I understood then, I don’t remember. Actually my dada tells me that since we are working in Chhattisgarh, we should read books that help us understand the lives of the people here and not Telugu books. But I will read this one, just for once.”

“What your dada said must not have been about books like this which explain world history to us. He must have felt that we should have a grip on the social, economic, political and cultural life of the people here. As we worked in the Telugu states previously he must have said so to divert our minds from there to here.”

“Ingo, that is what he meant, I did not express properly. But my worry is that I will not understand the series. If at any time in future our comrades ask me to play the video and explain, how would I do it? And indeed didi, how did you understand that English? I wanted to ask you but forgot.”

“Even I don’t understand that much. But when I studied, English was my second language, so I have some idea. But even I do not understand their American accent much. But their acting, being familiar with the story due to the Telugu translation of the novel, making sense of the sequences have all contributed to my understanding and I somehow make it to the mark. It is not as if we explain every dialogue. Using the family’s history, we explain how America perpetuated the slavery, where the roots for the present discrimination against African Americans are, the similarities and differences between our caste system and the racism there and the depredations of the imperialists. That is the main purpose. I used to understand Hindi movies in my childhood too in this manner though I did not know Hindi.”

“Oh, Hindi is different, we understand at least a bit of it. But English is difficult baba.”

“You read the novel and when our comrades ask you to explain the series, do it. It is not at all that difficult. The language of the toiling masses all over the world is the same – it is the language of Charlie Chaplin, the language of class struggles. The travails, tears, exploitation, suppression, discrimination, separation of family members, tragedies are the same everywhere. The struggles against these, the sacrifices, the treacheries are also the same everywhere. They are all struggles for freedom, truth and justice. Only the time and place changes, that’s all.”

“True, that is why we feel so close to Spartacus even after so many centuries!” Chaitey smiled knowingly seeing Swaroopa return to Spartacus again. 

“If Subhash learns fast it would be even more convenient. He would carry some of this burden on his shoulders. Isn’t it so Subhash? He plays those videos with some zeal, at least for now,” said Chaitey and wiggled her eyebrows at Subhash.

Subhash laughed out aloud at her last words and got up. “Have to go didis, it is sentry time,” he said showing his wrist watch. He took his weapon and walked out of the gotul. Chaitey had already observed that Subhash loses interest in things as they become old and repetitive. She knew that he is also aware of her observation.

Swaroopa looked at his retreating back affectionately and said, “Did they allot him fully to your team didi? I observed him during the entire classes and liked his attitude on the whole. He was very responsible with the solar plate maintenance, charging and all. If he hadn’t given attention, the computer would not have charged properly and I would not have finished typing your notes.”

“I know. He is from Gadchiroli. He finished his high school at home. Then he was trained in our BCTS. Some time back he attended our classes. Sonu, Joori and I, all three of us observed that he is interested in teaching and also that he is good at it. So we informed our comrades. They considered our proposal and allotted him to us. At present he is with us and learning. He already conducted classes for squad members one or two times. He was good.”

“Excellent! No number of teachers would be enough for our requirements. And didi, you can ask him to learn computers too. He asked me and learnt some things. He is very interested in learning.”

Bhimey arrived just then and heard what she said and teased, “O Swaroopa didi! You are thinking your work burden would become less if he learns. But remember we allowed you to come to our classes because you typed for us, otherwise we wouldn’t have let you in.” And all three burst out laughing.

Before the laughter subsided, comrades blew the whistle indicating that all should come to eat. Bhimey had come to tell Chaitey that she would bring her rotis to eat. Actually Chaitey was feeling very weak but was conversing with Swaroopa mustering the little energy that was left in her, because they were separating and may not meet soon. She did not want to eat. But she had to, so she meekly nodded to Bhimey. Swaroopa wanted to spend some more time with Chaitey.

“I will go get my food to eat here, in a jiffy, is it okay? I do not know when we would be meeting again…”


The kitchen was inside the gotul compound and not far. So Swaroopa filled her plate with rice and curry and came back within a minute. These were the last minutes that they would be together. Then they would change the dera and rest. And then it would be ‘Lal Salaam’ in the morning.

“Don’t you ever feel dissatisfied in your work didi?”

“I am not dissatisfied in my work, but am dissatisfied with some circumstances which I encounter in my work. I mean, I feel like spending some more time with the students and asking them about the conditions in their area of work and the problems they face there. But it is never possible during the classes. At night they have their sentries and we have the class preparation. Immediately after the classes are over, we leave for our respective appointments. Nobody can change this, everything is fixed beforehand. That is why during journeys like this or when I am free I try to learn as much as I can from the comrades I meet. I also make the students talk in the classes by asking them questions. If not, the examples we use in classes would not be lively. If we give examples from our practice, then they would find it easier to apply the theory in their lives when they really need it.”

“You have been conducting classes since several years. Did anybody ever tell you that your classes have helped them in their lives during any specific instances, didi?”

Chaitey kept pushing the food in her plate to the sides without eating while thinking of Swaroopa’s question. Her capacity to forcefully eat is now over. Swaroopa finished eating silently and perceived Chaitey’s condition.

“Just leave the rest of food if you cannot eat anymore didi, it would be even more difficult if you had to vomit.”

“Ingo.” Chaitey’s voice betrayed her gratitude. Sometimes we are aware of certain things but would like others to point it out. Chaitey felt so now.

Both of them went to the washing place and washed their plates. They came back and stood near the fire and held their plates over it to dry them. Then it would be convenient to keep in the kits. Chaitey started speaking as if she had been thinking of it all along.

“Till date in every class that we conducted students had always said that the classes were very useful to them. They say the same in the reviews. So it is usually not as if there would be any specific instances where the classes had been useful to them in their life. The impact is on our entire practice. You too know this.”

“Ingo. Though I had asked you that question, when I look back in my life even I do not remember any one specific situation like that. But of one thing I am sure, without classes several things tend to get unclear.”

“I agree. However there is one instance in my teacher life that I remember vividly. He was a Maad comrade. They had an encounter with the police. Our comrades countered and retreated. This comrade got separated. The police chased him and he hid behind a boulder. He let the police come nearer and then shot at them. Thus he escaped. When he hid behind the boulder, he felt they were the last minutes of his life. He had only two paths in front of him. Either give up the gun and surrender or fight. It seems he remembered my classes in those moments. The entire time would not be more than two or three minutes. But it seems he remembered what he listened to in the classes and felt courageous. All this was narrated to me by none other than him when we met later.”

Swaroopa stood staring at the fire and tried to imagine the scenario.

“But the tragedy is, he died within two years in another encounter with the police and he was not even twenty-five. The martyr’s words would always serve as an inspiration for me in my work.”

“And they should,” asserted Swaroopa firmly still looking fixedly at the fire.

“And recently I said to comrades of another Division that maybe I would not be able to come to their Division for conducting classes in future because I got arthritis and so it may be difficult for me to climb all those mountains. Do you know what they said? If necessary we will carry you on our backs over those mountains without you having to take even one step, but you must definitely come and conduct the classes. What are my physical pains in comparison with their thirst for knowledge, I thought. Such experiences push us forward to work with double the determination, don’t you think so?”

A smile was playing on both their lips. The flames reflecting on their faces made their smiles more resplendent. It was a smile that did not need any words for expression because every revolutionary had experienced something similar in her life at one time or other and felt inspired by it, and it was a smile that reflected the affection they had for their fellow comrades.

Swaroopa felt closer to Chaitey after this conversation. She felt she now understood more clearly where Chaitey, like a tree, was sending her roots and absorbing the life giving juices that keep her going. Swaroopa safely ‘saved’ the entire conversation in a corner of her brain as if to take it out and use it some time in future when the need arose.

***                                          ***                                          ***

“Sirisha! I am sending you the book ‘Seven Generations’. This is Chaitey didi’s copy. She asked me to send you this after I read it. As you are aware, in our ‘jungle post’ sometimes things get lost, so please confirm to me if you received it or not. I will not write anything about the book. Read it and find out for yourself. I am afraid if I write, mere words would decrease the intensity of feeling.

Nearly two hundred years after his ancestor Kunta Kinte was sold off as a slave by the white men, Alex Haley was told his history near his African village by the ‘griots’ of that area. ‘Griots’ are professional oral historians who sang the histories of generations of African villagers by memorizing them hereditarily. Today I am going to explain a history for the first time to our comrades, a history that had traveled from Gambia in Africa to the USA in North America and then to our DK in Asia.

Not just this, we are also narrating, discussing and understanding the history and struggles of generations of oppressed of the world…Spartacus, the history of slaves of Africa in US, 1857, Laxmi Bai – Jhalkari Bai, Sidhu – Kanu, Birsa, our own Bhumkal, Ramji Gond, Komuram Bhim, Alluri, Bhagat Singh, China, Russia, Vietnam…the list is endless. We are trying to learn the history of all the world’s oppressed people who had fought for freedom and independence in the entire history of humankind and are taking our inspiration from them.  All this is history that we should never forget. This history is necessary for us to assess the present from the experiences of the past and to understand properly the direction in which to march in the future.

But when Chaitey didi told me that they explain these histories any number of times patiently to our comrades I thought that maybe our political teachers, who travel all over DK and tirelessly explain these histories, are also like those ‘griots’ of Africa. Maybe, they are another kind of oral historians who are blowing away the ashes that cover the histories of the oppressed to kindle them again and again. What do you say?”


MoPos – Mobile Political School, formed for conducting political classes;

PLGA – People’s Liberation Guerilla Army;

CNM – Chetana Natya Manch;

Yayo – mother;

Ingo – Yes, Okay;

DK – Dandakaranya;

Guruji – teacher;

‘Seven Generations’ – title of the Telugu translation of Roots novel written by Alex Haley;

Bhumkal – Bastar Adivasi rebellion against the British in 1910;

Protection comrades – comrades who help run a camp;

BCTS – Basic Communist Training School;

Do bigha zameen – a film in Hindi by Bimal Roy about the sad plight of the farmer in India;

Komuram Bhim – Gond leader who led a rebellion in Adilabad against the pro-British Nizam in 1940; a Telugu novel ‘Komuram Bhim’ was published by two revolutionary writers Allam Rajaiah and Sahu in 1983 by researching on his history. The inspiration was provided by the renewed struggles of the same people under the leadership of the erstwhile CPI (ML) PW;

DVC – Division Committee, a Party Committee;

Party – CPI (Maoist);

gotul – meeting place in the village, usually an open hut.

(Published in Telugu in Arunatara in April 2018. Included in the first Volume of Viyyukka. Translated by the Author)

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