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Articles: Literature
Chalam’s Maidanam
- Dr. Rajeshwar Mittapalli
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Chalam loathed the double standards practised by society and recommended the demolition of the institution of marriage itself so that women will be set free from bondages of the most crippling nature. But it has to be said that his idea of freedom, as fictionally portrayed in his novels, was largely limited to women’s sexual life. He defined life itself in terms of sexual freedom. According to R.S. Sudarsanam, if one were to ask Chalam, “What is life for?” he would reply, “For happiness, for happiness attained through sex, and for happiness attained through sex while enjoying freedom.” Therefore it is often said that the freedom advocated by Chalam for women is unbridled and to an extent anarchic. His women characters are governed by Id, to use a Freudian term, and long for unqualified satisfaction of the instinctual urges of the body, especially sex. They hardly ever give a thought to the consequences of such behaviour -- such as the instability it may cause to the institution of family. Although sexually fulfilled, neither these women nor their paramours remain above jealousy and psychological turmoil. In most cases, they ultimately embrace death, unable to go ahead any further. This underlines the fact that either Chalam did not understand the vagaries of the human mind or totally ignored such vagaries in order to give a fictional shape to his cherished ideals. Nor could he give a concrete shape to the freedom he envisaged. He did not try, for example, to comprehensively and philosophically comment on his concept of freedom. He defined freedom only as the breaking of the chains of traditions, customs and outdated value systems and living away from society, and that, in defiance of its moral, cultural and economic codes. The responsibilities which go with freedom have been completely ignored by him. This however does not in any way invalidate the contribution Chalam made to women’s liberation. To be able to think along the lines he thought and to give a fictional shape to women’s longing for freedom, even if it is only sexual freedom, itself was a significant step forward during the highly conservative nineteen twenties and thirties. Chalam left an indelible mark on the minds of the Telugu writers, intellectuals and common people alike. His influence is still felt by all those concerned with women’s issues.

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