ATHEISM IS A WAY OF LIFE

When I look back into my past I can not but wonder at the changes that occurred in my life. Where have I started my journey and where have I reached! I did struggle a lot all these years to reach where I am today. In my struggle for existence my parents, friends and, later, my husband, helped me tremendously. I enjoyed the warmth of my friends throughout my life and I still do. The fragrance of friendship was with me at every major turn in my life. I love people and I have immense faith and trust in them. If I need any help of any kind, I look toward my fellow human beings.

I am an atheist. Atheism is a way of life for me. I don’t believe that a supernatural power rules this world. Nature is the prime caretaker of this world. If we protect nature it will protect us.

I said that atheism is a way of life for me. It has been so for the last thirty years. You may ask how I became an atheist and who influenced me. Nobody inspired me. Rahul Sankrutyayan’s “Olga to Ganga” made a tremendous impact on me. This book changed my whole attitude. After that I read a number of other books. Premchand’s “Godan” also inspired me. Before that I used to be very religious and believe in god. I had attended Bhajans and religious meetings. I remember participating in a religious function held in a temple and getting 1st prize for my performance on Gita. We were asked to read some Sanskrit slokas of our choice from Gita and explain their meaning. That too in front of thousands of people. I read some slokas and explained their meaning. Everybody appreciated my effort and I got the 1 st prize. That happened in the 70s and I was just 19 at the time. One reason for my prize-winning Gita performance was probably my training in Sanskrit. I was schooled in the Oriental system and consequently I had studied only Sanskrit from 6th to 10th standards, i.e., Sanskrit and nothing else, no math, no social studies, no science. My Sanskrit education included studying Meghasandesam, Kumarasambhavam, Kadambari, Raghuvamsham, Champu Ramayanam, Mrichakatikam, Amarakosam and other classical texts. This background must have helped me get the 1st prize in the Gita competition.

I should tell you about my family background. I was born in an agricultural family. My grandfather had seven sons and two daughters. My father was the second child. It was a big joint family. After my father married my mother, they remained with the joint family. My mother and the other women used to cook for nearly a hundred members of the joint family every day. The lives of these women, including my mother, were miserable. After the men ate, they would have the leftovers to eat, if at all. Occasionally, they would fill their stomachs with ganji (rice liquid) spiced with onions. In my childhood I noticed all these discriminations towards women in the joint family. At that time I was too young to understand the politics of the family. In our family my grandfather was king. He made all the decisions. My father had no voice. He worked in the fields all day. He didn’t even a have a shirt on his back. All seven of the brothers together had five, six shirts. My grandfather was miserly in the extreme. He expanded his holding to a hundred acres of land, but he would not spend money even on basic necessities. My education would cost money, but whom would I ask for it? My father was a frail man, almost naked with a small piece of cloth to cover his body, sleeping on the ground after a tedious day of work in the fields. How could I fight with that man for my education? I never approached him about my education, but he took the initiative on his own and tried to enroll me in a Christian school near my village. When my father escorted me to the school one day for admission, I declined to join. The Principal of the school told me during the interview that I should not wear “bottu” from that day on. I told him then and there that I would not remove my bottu and I would not join his school. I narrate this incident just to show that I was opinionated and traditional those days.


I joined the Oriental school when I was twelve years old. This school was 4 kms away from my village and I had to walk the 8 kms every day. The name of my village was Sitaramapuram. It was a small village and I loved it. My house was situated in the middle of fruit gardens that included mango, sapota, custard apple, and cashew nut groves. On one side of the village was Godavari and on the other the Bay of Bengal. I loved Godavari and boating on the river under the light of the full moon. I am still attached to my village and enjoy its warmth whenever I visit there.

Until 2005, my mother and I were together. When I migrated to Hyderabad my mother came with me. She was about 80-years old when she left me and this world at midnight on the 14th of May, 2005. I took her loss very naturally. Everybody dies one day. I served my mother wholeheartedly and cared for her myself. Though I had two brothers, one elder to me and the other younger, and two elder sisters, I took pride in taking care of my mother all by myself and making sure she was never wanting or unhappy. In the end, she passed away with ailments common to old age and I took every care to send her away with dignity and without any mental agony. When my mother was in the hospital in a very critical condition, I never prayed anyone to save my mother. I know her condition and the doctors told me that my mother was living her last days. I accepted the reality and I never propitiated any supernatural power for my mother. My mother had lived with dignity and went away with the same dignity. We took her body to our village and burned her remains in a family plot. My mother’s memory will remain with me till I die.

My parents never forced me to get married. They understood my ambitions, aims and desires. I made it clear to them that I wanted to live independently, on my own terms and conditions. I got a job in 1979, a year after my father passed away, and I started my independent life.

In 1980 I attended the International Atheist Conference held in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh. A large number of atheists from all over the world came to that conference. It was organized by the renowned atheist from Andhra Pradesh Sri Goparaju Ramachandra Rao (GORA). I participated in all the programs. I walked on fire to prove that there are no miracles and no maya manthras. If you are bold enough you can walk even on fire. My romance also stated there. It was there that I met my life partner. When I was walking fast on hot coals, at the other end of the field a man extended his hand to me to keep me from falling. He praised my courage. We remained there at the atheist conference for four days and became good friends. A year after that, on Teachers’ day, the 5th of September 1981, we registered our marriage and started living together. I did not want to wear a Mangalasutra or other symbols of a married woman. I never wore bangles.

I never lived in the home of my in-laws. Instead, my husband came to live with me. Those days we managed to live in a two-room house rented for Rs 125/ per month. In fact, we lived in that house for several years. At the time my husband was a junior lawyer earning only 500 Rupees a month. I had a government job and we managed quite well. At present I am living in a big bungalow with a beautiful garden. My husband became a Judge of the Andhra Pradesh High court. I resigned from my job to work full time on Bhumika.. Today Bhumika is a well known feminist magazine. I can say proudly that Bhumika is the best known feminist magazine not only in Andhra Pradesh but in all of South India. All these years I dedicated my whole time to Bhumika, leaving little time for anything else, though I do manage to steal a little time now and then to write a short story. But I don’t have any regrets. I fulfilled my ambition to run a serious magazine for women with a feminist point of view.

All these years I struggled for my Identity. I never changed my surname. I never added my husband’s name or his family name to mine. I am a self-made woman. I never prayed or bowed before anybody or any god for this or that. Whatever I achieved, it was entirely through my determination and hard work. That’s all. I never studied science but I developed a scientific way of living. I respect all religions and I developed a secular way of living. I don’t believe in heaven or hell. I believe there is no hell like war. I hate wars. What is there in heaven? Rambha, Urvashi and Menaka? For whom? For men to enjoy? There is nothing for women even in heaven? It is all man made. He created it for himself. We have to serve these men in heaven too? What kind of heaven is it? In India upper caste (Brahmins) men created this god, heaven, hell and so on to suppress dalits and women. Well, that is a different discussion. Ok

I tried to narrate my story and my achievements as an atheist. I never beg anybody for anything. If I have a dream, I try to fulfill it with my own effort. If I fail the whole responsibility lies with me and me only. If I succeed the sweetness of that success also belongs only to me. Yes, I am the creator of my own “destiny”. I will accept failure and success in the same way. I am always prepared to accept whatever happens to me anywhere, anytime. This is my Philosophy. Atheism gave me this courage and strength. That’s all.
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Comments

perhaps this is the first time reading about k,satyavati's personal life in her own words.thanks madam for the sharing.we all know that you are human being with integrity and commitment towards bettering the deprived sections,particularly the women folk.society needs more satyavatis these days.please accept my appreciations.
శరత్ said…
I am an athiest too. My dad (Nagam)was a close follower of Gora. I have good intimacy with Gora's family. I was a frequent visitor of Atheist center, Vijayawada. I appreciate your article. I would prefer it in Telugu.
Satyavati said…
రాజేంద్ర కుమార్ గారూ
శరత్ గారూ
మీ విలువైన కామెంట్స్ కి ధన్యవాదాలు.నేను ఈ వ్యాసం
బ్రిటీష్ కౌన్సిల్ వారి వుమన్ రైటర్స్ వెబ్సైట్ కోసం రాసింది.ఫైత్ బిలీఫ్ అనే అంశం మీద వారు కోరిక మీద ఈ వ్యాసం రాసాను.
శరత్ గారు మీరు నాస్తికవాది అని చెప్పారు.చాలా సంతోషం.
రాజేంద్ర కుమార్ గారూ మీ అభిమానానికి క్రుతజ్ఞతలు.
sujata said…
Satyavati garu..

1) Your Sanskrit education must be still helping you to write impeccable Telugu.

2) Lucky - you didnt have to struggle to achieve what you had to achieve, because, you have married the right person. Many women, transform - from what they really are, for their spouses.

3) I felt.. how it feels like, to wait for your mothers death, not praying for your mum to stay alive (may be for some more time; eventhough you knew that the end is near..) or pray god or whatever power they call it, for lessening her suffering.. How could you stay calm at that period ? May be you have closed one part of yourself.

4) Religion is actually a dharma. Atheism is also a dharma. God will not help everybody on everything. God is, for most of us, just a respite.

5) Congratulations on all your marvellous achievements. I liked your philosophy about swarga. From my childhood, I always wondered how a woman could enjoy in Heaven ? Women - beware.. there will be no TV. Thus, no serials.

Wonderful to read.
satyavati garu, Your story is really inspirational. You controlled your destiny and you worked towards your goals

After reading about you,I felt like telling about my mother. She studied only upto 9th grade. My dad who was working as Electricity board engineer died in a van accident when he was 38. Through all the hardships she raised us and made us successful persons and caring human beings.

Now she is heading a non profit organization "Bighelp For Education www.bighelp.org" . She has been working for it for last 7-8 years without getting paid a single paisa.

A testimony to her hardwork and dedication.

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