The Sickle & the Scalpel, translated from Gamaname Gamyam, is a novel based on the extraordinary life and times of Dr Komarraju Acchamamba (1906–1964)—one of the first doctors in the country, member of the Communist Party of India, and a pioneer for women’s emancipation in Andhra. Capturing the period of social reform in pre-independence Andhra, through the freedom struggle, it foregrounds the rise of the modern Indian woman and her struggle for rights and recognition, alongside the rise of communism and the Left in the newly formed nation.
Sharadamba, the protagonist, born into a wealthy brahmin family, Annapurna, a farmer’s daughter, and Vishalakshi, a devadasi’s daughter, are childhood friends, who grow up to perceive modernity and tradition differently. Their divergent paths crisscross and conflict as their lives are propelled and shaped by cataracts of change—social, political, historical—as the nation struggles to free itself, and each of these women strives to negotiate these changes for herself and others, and, despite everything, remain friends.
In a fast-paced narrative, punctuated by upheavals like the Satyagraha, two World Wars, the Bengal famine, Gandhi’s assassination and the Telangana people’s struggle, it is the quest for freedom, the dream of an equal and just world for all, and the end of domination across caste, class and gender that animate the real-life characters who march through history.
Vasanth Kannabiran, a loved teacher, writer, and a lifelong human rights and women’s rights activist herself, brings us Volga’s unputdownable tour de force compellingly and effortlessly, making it available to English readers for the first time.
VOLGA is the pen name of Popuri Lalitha Kumari, a leading Telugu writer, poet and one of the most influential figures in contemporary Telugu literature who introduced a feminist perspective into the literary political discourse of Andhra Pradesh. Executive Chairperson and founder member of the Asmita Resource Centre for Women, Secunderabad, she is the author of award-winning works, including the novels Sveccha (1987) and Vimuktha (2015); a short story collection Prayogam (1995); and Mahilavaranam/Womanscape (2001), a co-edited volume with Vasanth Kannabiran, Kalpana Kannabiran and Bharath Bhushan, that documents the lives of women who shaped the history of Andhra Pradesh. Her works have been widely translated and read in many Indian languages.
VASANTH KANNABIRAN is a veteran civil and women’s rights activist, and a loved and well-known teacher, writer and translator. Her recent published works include My Life is a Song: Gaddar’s Anthems for the Revolution (2021); Softly Dies a Lake (2020), a translation of Akkineni Kutumbarao’s autobiographical novel Kolleti Jadalu; Taken at the Flood: A Memoir of a Political Life (2019); and A Grief to Bury: Memories of Love, Work and Loss (2011).
The Sickle & the Scalpel