The ever graceful & warm queen of Telugu short fiction

The long odyssey from the Godavari at Rajahmundry where she was born on 13 Oct 1933 came to an abrupt stop in the Deccan plateau, to be precise in the home-for-the-aged at Chandra Rajeswara Rao Foundation, Hyderabad on 28 Jun 2019, leaving many an oldie at the home orphaned where she had been staying for many years.

Born in an illustrious and progressive family she had the fortune of marrying too into an equally reputed family. Her father, Maddali Narayana Murty, was a leading lawyer with a reformist mind. Her brother Maddali Gopalakrishna was a Padma Shri awardee for civil service (1973) and his wife Rukmini was also a storywriter.

Her husband Abburi Varada Rajeswara Rao and she were a made-for-each other couple and they had no children but they never felt it, treating everyone as their children. That cheerful attitude led her on to pen "Anaganaga," a collection of folk stories for children. An ebullient personality and chairman of the AP Official Languages Commission, her husband inspired many progressive writers including Sri Sri. Chaya Devi's father-in-law Abburi Ramakrishna too strode the same literary school.

A librarian at JNU, Delhi in her early stage of life, Chaya Devi later on turned into a full-time writer with a healthy sensitivity and won the central Sahitya Akademi award (2005) for her "Tana Margam," a collection of short stories. Her diadem shone with many other rewards including the Telugu University Award (1996). She has two more significant works to her credit "Abburi Chaya Devi Kathalu" a collection of short stories and "Mana Jeevithalu: Jiddu Krishnamurti Vyakhyanalu" a translation into Telugu.

The latter is a product of the influence the famous philosopher wielded on her. Even her father was a follower of Krishnamurti's philosophy. A lady of equable temperament, she was equally influenced by Gudipati Venkata Chalam's works and philosophy.

Many of the people who had a close association with Chaya Devi fondly recall her simple, open, helpful and selfless disposition. Differences in ideological perceptions didn't come in the way of her friendship with anyone. Hamstrung by no mental blocks, she never ever hurt anyone in her entire life. In this aspect, she resembled Achanta Janakiram and Dasarathi Rangacharya.

She believed in shedding the dead past and living in the present, at best with a blend of both. Unassuming and good enough in handicraft, she would make the greeting cards herself for the people around her. An eclectic and a non-pareil humanist at heart, she was a slim and lissom beauty till the last minute though she never dyed her hair. She was always truthful and pleasant, living the adage: Satyam brooyat, priyam brooyat.

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