Gollapudi Maruti Rao renowned for his association with Telugu film industry but made significant contributions towards Telugu literature and theater. His “Saayankalamaindi” first appeared as a weekly serial in Andhra Jyothy and later released as a novel.
“Saayankalamaindi” which translates to “It’s evening time” is a metaphorical reference to the phase of a human being. Per Hindu tradition, even human had to experience four stages in his life: Brahmacharya (Student/Bachelor), Grihastha (Householder), Vanaprastha (Retired) and Sannyasa (Renunciation). “Saayankalamaindi” is a reference to the ‘Vanaprastha’ phase of an orthodox Hindu Brahmin ‘Subhadracharyulu’.
The book is a social commentary set in the olden days where the foreign education is still a distant reality. That is the phase where western influences started to penetrate Indian households. The era where still caste based separatism was considered not only as a normalcy but as the way that the society operated.
Gollapudi Maruti Rao introduces many characters in this novel that are distinguished either by their caste, physical appearance, education, wealth or profession. Each character is written with a peculiarity that not only reflected their behavior but is also as representative of the community that has the traits associated with the system personified.
Central to this story is a family – Subhadaracharylu who is an orthodox religious Brahmin whose definition of activity is praying to the deity ‘Kunthi Madhava Swamy”, an avatar of Lord Vishnu. He is accompanied by his wife ‘Varadamma’, who knows no world other than her husband and Lord Vishnu. They are blessed with two children – ‘China Tirumalacharyulu’ (Tirumala) and ‘Andaallu”. As the years pass by, Tirumala leaves the country to work for General Electric and Andaallu is banished from the house for loving and marrying a person from the lower caste. The years pass by and a day comes when Subhadracharylu passes away almost two years after the death of his wife Varadamma.
The book treats you through some of the brilliant characters you might have read in the Indian literature – a rich kshatriya who is a dear friend to Acharyulu, a trickster who identifies the genius in Tirumula, an illicit wife, and her daughter dedicated their lives to the well-being of others, another youngster from a lower caste who believed in the education system and an orphan lawyer who helped Tirumala.
As the page’s flip, there is social commentary about the system existence in the society in those days. There are many moments where your eyes moistened by the expression of gratitude everyone lived with, by the sacrifices made and by the lifestyle one believed in. There are some moments in the novel where Mr. Maruti Rao gets carried away with the social commentary as the story progresses slowly. But, it is never out of life, sometimes it is stretched a bit too far that is all.
322 pages novel puts the principles of Karma and Dharma through the eyes of many individuals living in a co-existing society that messes up and purifies itself in its own ways. There is purity in many of the relations that exist in the book – Husband and wife, Son and Mother, Friends, Lawyer and Client, much more importantly Human and his God.
Overall, Gollapudi Maruti Rao’s “Saayankalamaindi” resurrects the nostalgia about the rural societies and makes a strong social commentary about the transformation that intimately tangled many social relations. It is a brilliant novel that needs much more self-analysis and deep dive into questioning our beliefs and practices narrated through the lives of excellent characters.