Living her brother's dream

Living her brothers dream

Sharmila, the darling daughter of former Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy and the loving sister of YSRCP president YS Jaganmohan Reddy, has...

Sharmila, the darling daughter of former Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy and the loving sister of YSRCP president YS Jaganmohan Reddy, has created history by walking for more than 2,500 kilometres. Describing herself as "an arrow coming from the bow of her brother", Sharmila has been attracting huge crowds whom she has been addressing in a high pitch. All set to complete her journey of 3,000 kms through 23 districts of Andhra Pradesh, the young lady, born in a high profile family, convent educated, well groomed and securely sheltered housewife had to hit the road as the tragic death of her father and prolonged incarceration of her brother had altered the fortunes of the family. The gruelling journey has transformed her persona and kept her brother's dream alive. She shares her experiences in an exclusive chat with Rajeshwari Kalyanam. Flanked by lush greenery and villagers � children, women, men, young and old, Sharmila was walking briskly along with her entourage. Waving and smiling, she looked frail and tired; in stark contrast to her strength of will that keeps her going on the long padayatra. The euphoria was palpable as the villagers who were frantically waving to her, even as they were struggling to catch a glimpse of the lady, straining over the thick rope separating them were walking along her, nevertheless. Maro Praja Prasthanam - a walkathon that Sharmila embarked upon, is evoking very good response. One wonders � What if all the people who come eagerly to see and meet her; vote for YSRCP? While logically it is too early to guess the election outcome, more so, based only on the response to the walkathon, it is impressive how the famously impetuous and domineering persona, transformed into an affable people's person ,even as she is shouldering the unexpected responsibility. The progression of bizarre events after her father's tragic death that led to Jagan's arrest, compelled her to take it upon herself the mammoth task of 'padayatra'. "It was Anna's wish to walk and meet people and we were all hoping he would do that as soon as he gets bail. And when that didn't happen, we felt bad. I wanted to do something for him and it was then that I decided I shall do the padayatra." Her routine is more or less charted for all days. She is currently walking in Visakhapatnam district on her way to Ichchapuram, the final point of the walkathon. She was in Narsipatnam last Thursday, resting in one of the tents, specially erected in the open fields, before waking up at 6.30 am. She started on her walk at around 9 am and after covering four kilometers, she stopped for a while to have breakfast in her vanity van � a bowl of cut cucumber and a homemade peanut laddu all the way from Cuddapah, just enough to keep her going till the lunch time. "I am not a breakfast person," she smiles, even as she offers the delicious laddu. She is yet to complete 12 kilometers for the day, with a couple of breaks and small meetings thrown in. Living in and out tents and vanity vans, away from urban comforts, walking across remote villages and staying away from family and children for weeks together; this sister is living her brother's dream. Instead of glorifying her ordeal, she brushes it off saying, "Don't make it look so difficult. Nothing seemed like a problem. The only thing I was dreading was to speak in Telugu. We usually think in one language and for me it was English. I first had to learn to think in Telugu and it was quite a challenge to evolve as a Telugu speaker." Party affiliations aside, this woman of grit, courage and perseverance is an inspiration to many and she is only glad to share her experiences and thoughts in an exclusive chat.
You are away from family for weeks together. How are your children coping?
Raja (my father named him after his father) is 13-year-old. He is Ok. But my 11-year-old daughter Anjali complains. She calls me constantly. She has a laptop in school and she wants to chat during my breaks, which is not allowed. During summer holidays we met at least once a week, but after the school started in June, we haven't seen each other. In July I shall get a two-day break and she is counting the days before we can meet.
It is almost like a job!
Yes, they make you walk, they make you eat and they make you sleep. Almost like a machine. I get up at 6.30 am, say my prayers, do my physio, read newspapers, talk to kids, meet people and then I am ready to walk. We stop for breakfast, lunch and tea. Dad used to walk for 20 � 25 kms and sometimes he even touched 33. But Anna told me not to walk for more than 14 kms per day. But sometimes we walk a few kilometers here and there; today we will be doing 16 kms.
Didn't you ever have a problem with the rigorous schedule? What about the time when you were suffering from injury?
No, the only time I felt �Oh, God help me - was when I had fever. The injury time was very painful. I was doing my physio like mad, as I wanted to get back as soon as possible. Where do you get your courage from? Basic courage comes from Anna. He is a very faithful and courageous man. I think, because he is strong, we are all able to be strong.
Do you speak to your brother often?
I haven't spoken to him since I have come here. It is not allowed. I am here on his behalf doing his job. He is on my mind all through. I feel really bad that he is behind bars for wrong reason. But who said the world is a fair place. Before deciding to take up padayatra you led a very sheltered life! I led a simple life. I always wanted to be with children. I have been taking care or around 100 orphan and semi-orphan children. They call me 'Mummy'. If anything, I wanted to be mother to another 1000. I also used to oversee our businesses.
Considering the way your life had been, it is amazing that you took up the physically and mentally challenging task of walking 3000 kms?
A woman is a very complex being. She is incapable of thinking she is all alone. She has many strings attached, a mother, a sister, a wife, a daughter � it is everything together that makes her beautiful. And these days, career makes the juggling all the more challenging. I think, every woman has this inbuilt strength in her to face the challenges. And woman is capable and sensible enough to face them. I have always been like this. It is my life and my style. And if you have a problem with it, then it is your problem. I have made my choices and I have gone to any length to uphold them. I don't like to regret. Dad taught me to be compassionate and seeing my brother I have learnt to be courageous.
From an urban life you are transferred into a contrasting way of life. Has there been a change in the way you think?
Yes, there has been a major change in the mindset. There is so much of difference between urban and rural life. City life is a farce and we are so self-centered. In villages, if there is a water problem, power issues or drainage problem, it is common to all. They are so linked up. It is entirely different. It is society here. Here it is not about hypocrisy, fashion, glamour; life is just so plain and simple - three meals and semi proper way of living. It's not how they live, it is the standard that matters, and their soul inside and their feelings for others. The unequal distribution of opportunities and resources is definitely not fair.
Are there any memorable moments of the padayatra that you would like to share?
There have been so many. There are lots of instances when people come upto me and talk of dad. One man said, "Nannagari valla nenippudu bratukunna talli" and showed his stitches "Antaa Prabhutvame Ichchindammaa" he added with tears in his eyes. There was this man who said he set up a shop of his own with the money his son sent him. "Vuchitamgaa Engineering chadivaadammaa. Ippudu Udyogam chestunnaadu. Nannagaari valle memu manchigaa vunnaamu," he told me. It pains me to see how YSR's schemes are being diluted. Dr Rajasekhar Reddy wanted to give water to every acre and he initiated a number of projects. This government successfully put them in the attic. If he were alive, he would have given nine hours of power. Don't ask me how - there is no gas, no water, no coal. Because I know he was a visionary. He knew which region needs how much power. Which dam can give how much energy and how much can Singareni contribute, he knew all this. He was very knowledgeable and was excellent in reviewing and taking things forward. He would push people to work.
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