Caste is a factor that always manages to grab headlines in India. Be it the Mandal Commission and the protests the followed or the recent agitation by the Patel community spearheaded by a previously unknown Hardik Patel, caste has always been the decisive element in the political mix.
One man in a small town in Andhra Pradesh was, however, so fed up with the entire caste system that he found a novel way to shed the baggage itself.
He chose to give ‘astronomical’ names to his children.
Late Communist leader Krosuri Veera Raghava Chary of Dachepalli had five children – four sons and one daughter – from his marriage to a dalit woman named Mariyamma Bandla.
Being a staunch communist (he was introduced to politics by CPI leader and MLA Mandapati Nagireddy), Chary opposed the caste system tooth and nail.
Though he ensured that his children adopt their mother’s maiden surname, he gave them first names that stand out in every way.
His eldest son is called Spaceship. Chary’s other children are named Viking-II, Fusion, Space Shuttle and Shuttle Challenger. Viking-II is the name of his only daughter.
Forty-three-year-old Spaceship, who works as a catering attendant at the local railway canteen at Nadikude on the Guntur-Secunderabad line, told TOI that Chary never wanted the society to ascertain the caste of his children from their names.
His other son, Space Shuttle Challenger, expressed the collective pride of children in Chary’s decision. He also highlighted Chary’s powerful political connection.
“The then chief minister Bramhananda Reddy was a frequent visitor to our thatched house, enroute to his home town Narasaraopet from Hyderabad. He used to visit us and have cup of tea with my father. But my father never sought a single favour from him.”
But the children are themselves very poor. Challenger, 28, is a tea vendor in trains. Space Shuttle was driven to suicide by poverty. The 38-year-old Viking-II is a daily wage earner.
All of Chary’s surviving children have valid ID cards with space names.
Chary retired as a junior assistant in 1994 and died in August, 2004. Before his death, he gave similar names to his grandchildren. Space Shuttle’s son is named Space Shuttle Bulldozer. Two others are named Quasar and Sagan.