We thank Prof K. Satyanarayana for sharing this note with Round Table India.
[Senior Advocate, Poet, Writer, Activist and Public intellectual Shri Bojja Tharakam (77) passed away last night (September 16th) around 10.45 pm in his flat in Ashok Nagar, Hyderabad. He has been under treatment for brain tumour for the last two years. He declared in an interview with us: 'I think of myself as both an Ambedkarite and a Marxist.'
The short biographical note was prepared based on our interview with Shri Bojja Tharakam in 2012. Taken from Steel Nibs Are Sprouting, 2013. After the publication of the volume, Tharakam garu read the bio note and made corrections of factual details. I incorporated all his corrections in this note.]
Bojja Tharakam's family home is in Kandikuppa, a tiny village of scheduled castes, located at a point where the Godavari joins the sea. It lies in the Konaseema area of the East Godavari district in coastal Andhra Pradesh. Between the village and the sea, there was no habitation, except for the fisher-people's shacks along the shore. His father, Bojja Appalaswamy, was a teacher and a political figure, who, as early as 1942, had set up a unit of the Ambedkar-led Scheduled Caste Federation in the area. At a time when most schoolteachers had studied only up to the third or fourth class, this SSLC-passed and trained teacher was something of a legend. He was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Madras state in 1952 and to Andhra Pradesh Assembly in 1952. Tharakam's mother, Mavullamma, had never been to school, but had learnt to read and write with the help of her husband.
Tharakam was born in 1939 in the village Pachchalanadukuda. Appalaswamy established a primary school in the village for SC children so that these children would not have to walk the ten kilometres up and down to school that he himself had been forced to trudge as a child, and this is where Tharakam studied during his early years. Later, he moved to the Pithapuram Raja's School in Kakinada, which had a hostel. 'Most of the first children to get an education in the Godavari area went to Pithapuram only because of that hostel facility. In fact, there were two hostels, one for boys and the other for girls; the girls were mostly orphans,' Tharakam observed. He continued: 'Devulapalli Krishnasastri, a noted Telugu romantic poet, was one of the honorary wardens. The attraction between him and my father was mutual. Back in the day, my father was one of the youngest students there; what is more, he could sing well and had learnt a number of kirtans from my grandfather. Krishnasastri who belonged to the "rebel" religious formation, the Brahmo Samaj, was also musical. It was a relationship that lasted for many years. My elder brother is named after Krishnasastri.' Though the school was meant for everyone, dalit students were given particular encouragement. The girls' hostel was a palatial building—it now houses the Kakinada Medical College—and when he was questioned about it grandeur, the Pithapuram Raja is said to have replied: 'These are not orphans; they are my children. Where would the children of a raja live, if not in a palace?'