‘Pitchi’ Rammurthy

The bogeyman of Pagadamanu street in Greamspet, during the early 80s, was none other than ‘Pitchi’ Rammurthy. Pithchi means mad in Telugu and our bogeyman was as mad as mad can get. He strutted about, perennially clad in a dirty white shirt with no buttons and a dirtier white dhoti, drawn up and tied up at knee level. His yellow, front teet jutted out and rested outside his mouth; you could drive a car through the gaps between his teeth. He was half bald. The remaining grey, frazzled hair clung to the back and sides of his head. He looked the part but that’s not what made our hearts skip beats. It was his war cry.

He walked up and down the street around lunch hour, when the sun tried in vain to fry the town. And he would scream at passers by. “Narikey. Lanjakodukuni narikkeyy!” (Hack that bastard down!). That was his war cry. But he never stopped and troubled anyone. He just walked about cursing. No one knew who or what he was cursing. But new comers peed in their pants during their first encounter with Rammurthy. Funny thing was no one had ever heard Rammurthy say anything other than the war cry. Not a single word!

Mothers told their kids – that refused to eat or do their homework- “If you don’t… well, I’ll hand you over to Pitchi Rammurthy!” It worked like a charm.

The teens in the neighbourhood teased him albeit from a safe distance. The adults steered clear, for I am sure they were scared of him but their pride didn’t allow them to admit it.

Rammurthy survived on the left-over food that the folks gave him. He never begged mind you. He was too proud I guess. He’d just make an appearance and the generous, kind-hearted housewives offered him food. He retired for the night in two or three houses. By that I mean, he’d sleep outside in the verandah or on the granite benches (“dhinna”). He was the bogeyman for the kids,  but most people knew that he was quite harmless.

Mom gave him food on and off, and during those times, I stared at him from behind the window in the bedroom. Though he never spoke a word to anyone he expressed his gratitude with a nod or a slight bow, after he ate his food.

One morning, I think it was a Sunday, I got up around seven and opened the heavy wooden door only to find Rammurthy sleeping. He got up with a start and glared at me for what seemed like ages. He had dark circles around his brown eyes. Just for a moment I thought I saw an incendiary rage in his eyes. Just for a fleeting moment. But it instantly changed to a kinder look. He clucked his tongue, adjusted his dhoti as he stood up, and said “DheergaAyushmaan bhava!” Sanskrit for ‘wish you a long life.’ Of course, no one believed me when I told them that Rammurthy spoke to me.

Years later, after we moved out of Chittoor, I heard from a friend that Rammurthy passed away. Somehow, I felt sad. After all he was probably the only benign bogeyman in the world.

1 thought on “‘Pitchi’ Rammurthy”

  1. Suman, good writing. I too grew up in a smaller town ‘Madanapalle’ in the same district and I could relate to most of the childhood experiences you narrated, though obviously I can not write as beautifully as you do. As a kid who grew up the similar small town in Chittor district, your stories hit me instant and took me to my childhood memories like a high speed time machine rocketing back in time. We also had a pitchi rammurthy version in madanapalle streets. Our bogeywoman’s name was ‘kondamayya’ (her largley unknown real name was ‘meenakshi) and as kids we were scared of forget sight of her..just the name of her. She was also giving abuses at none wandering around the street in a dirty and half clad with clothes, with hair let loose without oil for ages, with dark complextion etc.,. She was known to pelt stones at teasing teens. Even my mother exploited her name to force us to submission whenever she felt the need. When I grew up I too felt sad when I learnt she passed away and I heard the twon people saying she left behind a lot of money in her ‘buttala muta’ (clothe sack).

    Anyways, thanks for wonderful narration. Keep going. Btw, we moved from madanapalle to Chittoor (when I was studying B.Tec at Tirupati) and lived in pagadamanu street for 4 years.

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