I’m so very honored to see my mother’s brilliant work, and lifelong career recognized. Thank you to the Sirikona Group, and to all who comprise it, for this important and invaluable distinction. Many of you know her as a highly revered scholar, writer, and a woman passionate about carrying on the legacy of Telugu women writers. I know her for another role I revere equally highly, my mother. So, while I’m not qualified to speak to you as a fellow scholar, I will speak to you about her impact on me as my mother.
My mother’s journey was not an easy one. You may or may not know, she moved from India to Wisconsin at 36, having never seen snow! America from India is culture shock enough, let alone trudging through mountains of snow in a sari and boots. Regardless, snow or not, nothing ever stopped her. The word that comes to mind when I think of my mother is “resilient.” With every plot twist, turn, and curveball life threw at her, my mother found her way, and somehow, she always did so creatively as well. In fact, I don’t remember my mother ever experiencing “writer’s block.” I’m sure she did, and just didn’t talk about it. She’s never been one to spend much time wallowing.
Through the years, I’ve seen that no matter where she is, or who she’s with, people flock to my mother. Malathi Nidadavolu is revered, by not only those, like this wonderful group who recognize her talents, but also, by all she meets. When my mother speaks, people listen. And who wouldn’t? She’s thoughtful, full of wisdom, she’s charismatic, and most of all, she’s genuine. She’s very honest with her boundaries- make no mistake- but she’ll never turn a blind eye to anyone in need.
Perhaps the quality I admire the most about my mom though, is her integrity. My mother will never lie, she’ll never cheat, she is steadfast in her honesty, and her work is always impeccable. She is diligent in making sure her translations honor the writer, the story, the language. And while her translations are perfectly meticulous, her stories are heartfelt and poetic.
I’ve always known my mom to be a magnificent storyteller. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen firsthand, why- she’s relentlessly curious. On any walk, she’ll stop to appreciate a tree, to photograph a flower, she sees a shape in the clouds and it becomes a whole new world, a story. She’s also relentlessly curious about people, and why they behave the way they do. She cares passionately about humanity, and there is little that infuriates her like injustice. So much of who I am, is because of her. I hear her voice in mine when I advocate for someone’s rights. I feel her heart in mine when I get lost looking out a window, staring at the trees and daydreaming. I know the reason I became an actor was because of her. Ultimately, acting is just my version of storytelling, telling the story of whatever character I’m playing.
I’m overjoyed to see the legacy and work of my mother recognized, and while from the outside it might seem as though I have not followed in mother’s footsteps, to quote a line from E.E. Cummings’ poem, i carry your heart with me(I carry it in), “whatever is done by only me, is your doing.”
— Sarayu Blue
September 14, 2022