Being the wife of a real Communist is synonymous with walking through the fire. Savitry Aryan, an 80 year old Brahmin lady from Kerala, talks with Ajitha Jeevan, about her life of endurance after being wedded to the fire-brand Communist leader of Kerala, Mr.A.V.Aryan . This narration brings about what is the significance of being a wife and being a real Communist at a time when India really needed a Communist Manifesto.
The very name Savitri brings in an illumination of silent flame of purity and divinity to an Indian’s mind. Indian Myths elucidates the story of the vestal wife-hood Savitry had been undergone as an epitome of love, dedication and piety towards husband, which at least in a pinch is still followed by Indian women, though globalization has its own impact in their mindset also.
This is the story of another Savitry – Savitry Aryan, also known (less known) for her persistence, love, dedication and everything similar to what Mythical Savitry had with her husband. Savitry Aryan also had to undergo the ravages of debunking realities after her marriage to a fire brand revolutionary A.V.Aryan, one among a few who can be saluted as a real Communist, a Comrade in the political history of Kerala.
Savitry Aryan recently created a wave in the political scenario of the democratic Kerala State, with the publication of her auto biography titled ‘Sahanathinte Kanal Vazhiyil’ (Through the Burning Terrains of Endurance’). Unlike a Taslima Nasreen or a Kamala Suraiyya, her words did harm to any religion, any community, any individual or any belief. Still it could instigate guilty conscience for some who possess such a thing – conscience. If it could blow at least a breeze over the narrow routes covered by ashes to unveil the cinders under, on which she had burnt her feet all through her journey of about 80 years, we can say, it has created vibrant waves.
Born to a Somayaji (one who has honored for being conducted Somayaga), her child hood was rhythmic with the chanting of Vedas and Japas. It was far before Independence and at a high time when Kerala had been grappled under the Caste and Creed disparities. And the Kerala Brahmin (Namboodiri) community, had all the more strong citadels within their Illams(homes). Namboodiri women had no rights for schooling, no freedom beyond their palm umbrellas. From such an ambit young Savitry directly came into the life of A.V.Aryan, a born Communist, ‘a perverse son’ as termed by his own illam.
Their marriage was also a small revolt as it was without dowry a common custom among the Namboodiri community at that time. Savitry remembers her wedding day as 1948 january 30, the day Gandhiji was shot dead. Marriage ceremony was simple and without any celebrations or customary festivities. For a real Communist, such things are not simple customs, but ‘unwanted and need-to-be-removed carcinoma affected the society’.
A.V.Aryan had been chucked out from his home prior to his marriage for being against the landlordism since his father himself was a landlord. But Aryan was always by the side of the tenants and for their rights he always rebelled with his own family and had been ousted for ever. So after marriage, Savitry Aryan could not enter into her groom’s house but directly went to a rented single room where the life alone was horrible for a young girl who came from a rich familial bond.
But the life has been playing golf with her here after. Being the wife of an atheist who believed only in deeds, she also has transformed into an atheist. Party Office became her in-law house, where party members from all castes and creeds became her in laws. She as the ‘great sis in law’ (In Indian family system, the eldest sister-in-law is equaled to mother) began to feast all the party members of the State with whatever she had with in her kitchen. Her husband A.V.Aryan was always by the side of the poor and destitute. So young Savitry reinstated the graceful faces of Gods and Goddesses and installed her husband there. Savitry Aryan became a communist; she forgot the well learned Slokas and Mantras.
Savitry was well aware that her in-laws are very rich and affluent but they never accepted her. One day, subdued to the pressure by Aryan’s friends when she along with her husband went to the home, but they protested terming her as non-Brahmin. As the daughter of a known Somayaji, she could not tolerate it. Then she also became obstinate and that was her first revolt after becoming a Communist. She could enter into the house but no one uttered anything, no one gave her anything, she was denied of food and water there, still she could sustain there for one month!
After a strong combat, Aryan could pull off his birth right properties from his home. That place was somewhat like a bushy forest and there was a sacred grove protected by a lower caste man. An atheist Aryan cleared out the area and tried to stay with his wife there, but was in vain. His family landlords stirred the lower castes against him for the destruction of the groves but the people with whom and for whom Aryan had been for long nothing done against him.
Then her life became an infinite journey with Aryan. Each day end up in different homes of the Comerades where she slept to awaken for another travel. The people who hosted were of different castes with which she could not adjust with in the early days. The journeys came to a halt when Aryan settled in his own place in a small house at Olari, Trichur.
She narrates in her auto biography,: “Every morning Aryan set out with some Comrades without speaking anything to me. When he returns it will be at night, may be with 10-15 Comrades. And he will call out ‘Savitry, is there anything to eat..?’. Even in the mid nights I had to prepare food for a lot.” Even she had to prepare non vegetarian curries for his friends!!!. She says “Aryan was adamant in one thing- no one should leave our home with empty stomach”.
Meanwhile Aryan asked her to continue her studies in school and she has joined in the 7the standard. People began to stare at the ‘kujathol’ (young Namboodiri girl), coming to school to sit with lower caste students that is too, after marriage. Anyways, she continued her studies, along with the other roles of a vestal wife, a host for the comrades who come daily there for food, a little land lord who guides the labourers in the fields. While Aryan was in incessant combats with the authorities in power for the rights and protection of the poor working class, Savitry Aryan was struggling with the novel forms of life with which she had to face in every minute, in aloofness. However, to the amazement of even today’s women, she could get through her 10th standard with a first class, which was a rarest of rare thing at that time.
Aryan was least bothered of the family. Even after the birth of three children, he never asked anything about them. He was always in a run to nurture the party in the State.
‘Tube light still pulls me back to 1964.” Says, a bouncy Savitry Aryan. “It was in 1964 that the Communist Partys’ first Polit Bureau Meeting was being held. That was in this premise, in front of our home. A huge ‘pandal’ (temporary shed) has erected with a lot of tube lights. I was seeing tube lights for the
first time in my life. It was like a festive ambience. A lot of people from all over India who go along with Communist ethics came here. Surjit Singh, Sundarayya, EMS Namboodirippadu, Basava Punnayya, B.T.RanaDive, and like a lot. I was busy in the kitchen. Surjit likes only Chapati. ….” .
She remembers the agenda of the meeting still. “It was about the new tendencies evolving inside the party concerning its own ethics, and the basic issues of the Soviet Communist Party”. While hot discussions were at high, Police came in battalion and they destroyed everything inside the pandal. Breaking the tube lights and everything around they created a terrific ambience there. She remembers. “All leaders including Aryan were arrested and jailed, except EMS…” She herself thinks that it might be a mark of generosity they had shown for the former CM”.
While the famous Toddy Tappers Agitation at Anthikkadu and the Agrarians Agitations at Pullazhy were going on under the vigorous leadership of A.V.Aryan, she remembers the additional duty with which she had been conferred to, was taking bail. Aryan was always in the war front and along with him a lot of laborers also were subjected to arrest at almost all the time when the agitations are at high. This was a usual phenomenon on those days of struggle. She scribbles in her book, “ How long I had waited in the narrow corridors of the Trichur Magistrate Court with the receipt of the land tax remitted. How
many times with empty stomach and dry throat, leaving three kids alone at home… to take a bail for the arrested ones including today’s’ fore-front Communist leaders.. They may not remember all these things.”
Each time when Aryan comes from the police custody, tortured horribly, with weak and blood stained physique, Savitry was there to witness and prop up, but as soon as a party worker calls him for support, gulping a bottle of water Aryan would set out of the home.
Each time after an all party conference, their land had to be sold to compensate the expenditure. When Savitry begins to complain Aryan would console her “why do you worry? These lands were actually owned by the working class, our tenants. My ancestors took it away from them by simply betraying and threatening them.”
Evoking the memories about the split of the Communist party is still painful for her. After the split a lot of people with whom Aryans had also a personal rapport were shifted to CPI. But Aryan glued to the mother party upholding the party ethics more than personal relationships. “Such an Aryan when pointed out certain misdealing of the party people such as partisan attitude, nepotism and the intruding of extremism(like Naxalism at the time of Emergency) into the party, Aryan became an ‘impertinent’ inside the party. For his arguments Aryan had all the evidences and credentials to support it. But instead of making an enquiry into the reports, the party leadership asked him to quit the party. They never asked him an explanation; instead they had been threatening him using some quoted phrases like ‘party discipline, anti-party ethics’ etc.” Narrates Savitry.
After being chucked out of the party, for which Aryan had been tortured, thrown out of the family, lost all his properties, he was left alone. Though he could be elected to the Assembly twice, with the supports of the working class and the laborers of his domain, he was ousted as untouchable. That made a bold Savitry (at that time she was the President of Mahila association, may be the first Feminist Association in Kerala), weep.
But Aryan was not depressed. Along with a few Comrades, he tried to create a new political party. Working class was always along with Aryan as they themselves had experienced his generosities and empathies a lot. He started a news paper “Kahalam” to convey the party ethics and decisions to the people. Savitry says “ Kahalam has made another liability for which we had to surrender our 2.5 acre land.” But the other side, with power-haughty police suppressed the poor working class by arrests and physical tortures. Savitry recalls “ it became such a state that if anybody allies with Aryan would be arrested or beaten to death.” The scared and hapless laborers gradually withdrew from is party one by one. But Aryan went on with his fire-brand speeches, roamed about the State.
Then, it was Azheekoden Ragahavan’s (a prominent Communist leader of Kerala) murder which became the climax of their life. That startling news became a trump card at the hands of those who opposed Aryan. Aryan was arrested, connoting him as Naxalite. Savitry remembers those dark days of misery and fear. “After his arrest, no one ever came to our home, looked at us. My children had to suffer a lot as an assassin’s children. We have no way to get out of the home. In the sleepless nights I gave my all ears to the maundering of police jeeps. No one came to us. No advocate in Trichur was ready to get a bail for Aryan They all was scared. I have cooked and served food for thousands. With my children when we were pushed in to utter penury no one came to our help. My children had hardly two pairs of dress to wear….”
But the hand which had feasted a lot of political leaders (even of today) never extended for a sympathetic support. Savitry was sure that though Aryan had thrown out his ‘poonool’ (a sacred thread worn by Brahmins), he could never kill a man. At last, Aryan was released free. But unto this day, no one could trace out the real murderers. This ambiguity which pervades still in the State is but a clear vignette inside Savitry. That thing, she leaves to her readers, to browse between the lines. Because she is the only witness who perceived the life of Aryan before and after this accusation.
After the end of a revolutionary journey, when Aryan was laid on the floor of the house at Olari, which hosted thousands of Comrades, alone, it was a realization not only for Savitry and her children, but for a whole generation which does not live unto themselves. No Comerades turned to Aryan’s cremation, instead “the party channel and party news paper gave flash news as ‘A.V.Aryan, the Naxalite leader and the one of the accused in the Azheekoden murder has passed away…”. Savitry stops for a while.
Wading through the blazing penury and experiencing the Bohemian effects, her children grew. As to the father’s wish the elder one followed Law against his own will and became a District Magistrate. Daughter has been married to an athiest but a born Brahmin who is also a lawyer. Third one, to the amazement of all, became an astrologist as his queries find an answer in it when went out wildlyto debunk the ‘superstitious customs’. Savitry Aryan is living with him now.
Savitry Aryan is still lively among the books with the whole vigor and passion that she acquired from her husband while was being an unseen shadow all along his ways. But at times we hear her whispers as if a call to God. Within the collection of her books on Marxism and Leninism, we can see some Hindu classics and epics now. When the world celebrates Gandhijis’ life of forfeit, the sacrifices of Kasthurba went into oblivion. Let us give an ear to such sobs which are wrapped under the ashes of history, at least in this Centennial of Women’s’ Day.