Burrakatha artiste has sad tale to tell

Kitturu Rani Chennamma awardee has no roof over her head

Burrakatha artiste has sad tale to tell

“This hut has been my home for the last thirty years. Except Burrakatha, I have no other property. I have appealed to the Panchayat several times, to build me a small house. But they in-turn ask me to show them the land for the house. From where will I show them land?”

These were the words of the Kitturu Rani Chennamma awardee, Burrakatha singer, Lakshmamma – a day after she received the award on the International Women’s Day – sitting in front of her rundown hut of a house in Karahalli of Bangarpet taluk.

The hut nestles under the shade of a big banyan tree, next to the Eeranna temple. Lakshmamma has kept the folk art form, Burrakatha alive, making a living through her songs.

But the certificate she received for her achievements as an artiste has no wall to hang from. She leads her life as a BPL card holder, with a wood fire stove, a kerosene lamp for light and without a bathroom.

When a Deccan Herald reporter approached her the morning after she received the award she was standing outside her hut seeking advice from another illiterate woman as to which bank she should deposit the Rs 10,000 cheque she received as part of the award.

“People only call me to sing Burrakatha-s in a house of death. I can only make a living if they call me to sing. What will I do if no one calls me to come and sing? If I sing all night I get a little money. Shall I give my daughter an education with that or should I treat the sick man?” said Lakshmamma, who is over 60 years old.

Her only daughter, Muniratna, is a class 10 student at the Bangarpet Government Girls’ High School and her husband Muniswamy has been under a paralysis stroke for the past three years. With the two of them depending on her, Lakshmamma garnered 20 Burrakatha artistes and has been performing not just in the district but in the Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh border villages.

Performing both in Kannada and Telugu, she supports her family.

Lakshmamma narrates stories like Balanagamma, Kambojiraja, Nallathangi, Alli Arjuna, Sasulu Chinnamma, Desaringaraju and many more, from her memory. She and the 19 other artistes from the various taluks across the district have kept the art form alive.

During the night she leaves several items from the hut at the nearby Government Primary School. When it rains the hut leaks and the school is their temporary shelter.

“Several folk artistes in the State are living in poverty. Some even beg for a living. They even feel that even begging is a part of their art. They are the ones to keep such art forms from extinction. It is a good thing that the government recognised her and gave her such an award. The government and the district administration should work towards providing a better life and facilities for artistes like her,” said the Janapada Academy President Pichchalli Srinivas, who is from the same district.

“Though we saw Lakshmamma every day, we did not know that she was such a big artiste. If she is given a roof over her head, it would appreciate the art form and the artiste truly,” said assistant teacher at the government school in the village, Murali.

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