Thenmavu: Basheer’s classic short story (Translation from Malayalam)

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Thenmavu : The Honey Mango Tree

‘ What you have heard is all nonsense. I adore no tree; neither do I worship nature. But I have a special affinity for this mango tree. My wife Asma has it too. This tree is a token of an exceptionally great endeavour. I shall elaborate..’

We were seated beneath that mango tree. It was resplendent with mangoes. There was white sand spread out in a big circle all around it. Roses of various hues were planted on the outlying fringes, protected by stone and cement sentinels.

His name was Rashid. He lived with his wife and son in the house nearby. The couple were teachers in the neighbourhood school. His wife sent over mango pieces- peeled and cut exquisitely- on a plate carried by their teenage son. We relished the fare : it was sweet as honey.

‘How does the mango taste?’

‘ The tree is undoubtedly Thenmavu!’

‘ That we are able to savour this mango fruit… I am awed when I reflect on it!’

‘Who planted this mango tree?’

‘ Asma and I,  we planted it at this place. I shall narrate the story of this tree. I have told it to many. But they forgot the incident, and propagated it as tree worship! There is no worship involved, just the memory of a great deed.

My younger brother is a Police Inspector. He was working in a town almost seventy five miles away from this place. I had gone to visit him. I was out strolling one day. It was the peak of summer. Even the wind that blew was hot.There was a scarcity of water at that time. It was then that I saw an old man, lying exhausted, underneath a tree, on a by-road.

He had overgrown hair and beard, and seemed around eighty years of age. He was extremely fatigued and was on the verge of death.

As soon as he saw me, he said, ‘ Alhamdulillah! Son, please give me some water.’

(*Alhamdulillah: Praise be to Allah!)

I immediately stepped into a near by house and seeing a woman reading a newspaper, requested her for some water. The beautiful woman got some water in a brass tumbler. Seeing me walk away with it, she enquired about my destination. I told her that someone had fallen by the way side, and I was taking the water for quenching his thirst. She accompanied me. I gave the water to the old man.

The old man got up slowly. Then he did something astounding!  He staggered to a dry mango sapling- drooping in the heat-on the  road side, and reciting Bismi, poured half of the water from the vessel over it.

( *Bismi: Bismillah or Basmala means ‘ In the name of God’. Usually invoked before any action soliciting the Lord’s grace)

Someone had eaten a mango and thrown away the seed carelessly on that roadside. The sapling had emerged. Most of the root was visible above the ground. The old man dragged himself back to the tree shade. He recited Bismi and drank the rest of the water. He praised the  Lord again : ‘Alhamdulillah.’

Then he said: ‘ My name is Yusuf Siddique. I am more than eighty years old. I have no relative. I was wandering the world as a fakir. I am going to die. What are your names?’

I replied, ‘My name is Rashid. I am a school teacher.’  The woman said,’ I am Asma. I am a school teacher.’

‘May Allah bless us all,’ said the old man and he lay down on the ground. Yusuf Siddique died in front of our eyes. Asma stood guard while I fetched my brother. We hired a van to carry the dead body to the mosque. After bathing the corpse, we enshrouded it with a new cloth and conducted the burial as per norm.

There was six  rupees in the old man’s bag. Asma and I pitched in with another five each. Asma was entrusted with the task of purchasing sweets for all that money and distributing it among  the school children.

In the course of time, I married Asma. She kept watering the plant. Before we shifted our residence to this house, we uprooted the mango plant carefully and shifted it into a mud filled sack. For two or three days it stayed like that- leaning against the wall- in Asma’s bed room. Then we brought it here and transplanted it; adding dry cow dung and ashes. On regular watering, it sprouted new leaves ; then we added bone meal and green compost. Thus the mango sapling turned into this tree.’

‘Absolutely marvellous! The old man  before dying gave water to a mango sapling  which could not voice its thirst. I shall remember that.’

I had just said good bye and started walking, when I was hailed from behind. I turned to look.

Rashid’s son was approaching me. He wrapped four ripe mangoes with paper and offered it to me.

‘For your wife and children.’

‘ Are you a student?’

‘ Yes, in a college.’

‘ What is your name?’

‘ Yusuf Siddique.’

‘ Yusuf Siddique?’

‘Yes, Yusuf Siddique.’

***

 

 

 

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For Rumi and other poems: Prof.VeeranKutty( Translation from Malayalam)

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1. Less and Less

Before we saw each other,

How big we thought of

Each other!

After meeting, we became a tad

Smaller

In each other’s eyes.

Now, when we start walking together,

Will we become less and less

That we render each other

Totally insignificant?

Isn’t it such a relief

That God keeps Himself

Beyond our sight?!

**

2. Opinion

My words were firm like rock,

In those times.

How many could refrain from stumbling

Over its sturdiness?

How many escaped bleeding a bit?

Later,

Like flexible, obedient

Clay,

Certain water- tricks happened;

It thinned out.

Afterwards,

Like water

Which adapts to the vessel,

It shed its original form.

Today,

It is like vapour,

Wind,

Floats around: beyond my own

Control.

Like an aging body,

Yearning to merge with the earth,

Why is it systematically

Acquiring the habit of lightness?

**

3. For A While

How very stupid

Of me,

That I presumed

That the light you carried,

Traveller,

Would forever render

Bright,

My small house by the way side!

Although the truth remains

That for a while,

It sparkled too,

In your light.

**

4.  Every Leaf

We sit and count

The  total number of leaves

In all the trees

Of this earth.

The leaves do not cooperate

One bit.

They do not care the least.

Every leaf,

Ultimately

Is a single entity.

Although the realisation

Strikes,

Only when it is shed.

**

5. For Rumi

The flute sings:

What if I got hurt?

I could stay awhile

With your lips.

**

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wonder and other short Poems : Prof Veeran Kutty (Translation from Malayalam)

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1. Wonder

With the same mouth and lips

That you used for a

Careless yawn

Which devastated me

A moment ago,

You now create a smile

Which fills me with wonder!

**

2. Nourishment

God knows

How to nurture friendship.

What starts as a piece of coal

Turns sparkling, and golden

When we  give and receive between us.

Why regret  bitterly,

If it is lost somewhere in the midst?

It would have turned into a

Diamond

By the time of its retrieval.

God knows

How to turn love into something hard.

**

3.  Beauty

God created

Only your body.

When He wiped the paint off,

The rest

Of the world

Came into being.

**

4. Between Us

When it reaches

Between us,

The breeze becomes

A watchful feline.

Perhaps

The perspiration of lovers

Is redolent of milk.

**

5. Intermingled

To separate the lamps

That we had once exchanged

Distinguishing them as Yours and Mine

Is difficult, but not impossible

As we part  our ways.

But

How can we segregate

Their intermingled light?

**

6. In Your Silence

There is a warning in your silence-

As if there is a hidden tempest

In the air whirring around me.

In your smile that kills,

Hides a tantalising promise:

Like a death by drowning

Waiting in the clear deep waters.

**

7. Request

I am a lamp

Lighted up by your smile.

It  is prone  to flicker

With every sigh of yours,

And likely to die out

With your tears.

******+

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sentence and Other Poems: Professor VeeranKutty (Translation from Malayalam)

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1. Memorial

Watch the flight of the milk weed fluff,

A very humble effort indeed.

Wingless,

It is disallowed the crossing of borders,

And denied the  ownership of the skies.

Yet it flies, carrying the seed

Cradled like an infant.

‘Under the shade of the tree

It imagines-

Some one will  rest tomorrow.’

The milk weed fluff is unaware of these lines.

In the weightlessness

Of its ignorance

It flies.

In the compassion that we show

By not calling it a bird,

It might float a bit more distance.

A humble but valiant effort!

Where it falls,

Unknown to anyone,

A plant might stand

In memorium

Tomorrow.

2.  Embrace

The trees that we planted

Far apart from each other,

Terrified that their leaves would touch-

Their roots are embracing ardently

Under the earth.

3.  A Dazed Mind

That day you waited

For the ants to leave,

Before you washed the tea cup.

You stepped softly on the ground

Not wanting to harm any living thing.

You did not pluck any flower,

Instead opened the bird cage wide.

Really,

Who can  ever hide

A mind dazed with love?

4. Silent Girl

Hey girl,

You, who do not speak much!

Your undisplayed love

Is like the  splendid flowering of a tree

Unseen by anyone,

Hidden far within a deep forest.

5. Yet

Yet God does not decide to end this world.

Why?

He must be waiting for those two

Deeply in love,

Sitting in some corner of this world,

To stop their conversation.

One can safely surmise that

The world will not be ending very soon.

6.  After You Left

Some colours disappeared,

Some fragrances vanished,

The sounds stopped in entirety.

This place  here-was constructed from

All those shortcomings,

After you left.

7. The sentence

As punishment for the crime,

The sentence was to circle the world.

The plea was to request

That both should endure it together;

And circle a million times,

Not just once.

****

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shivering At Words…

The power of words! Especially the thrill of unknown words!

Celerity and preceptory

Incarnadined and groynes

Ferae nature and Exporto crede

Bourdon and repining

Cleek and objurgation

Surplice and Unwontedly

Recrudescence and Ashlar

Catarrhs and Agues

 

And then the phrases….straggling ray of moonlight, the dim and murmuring sea, the pale ribbon of sands, the black, wooden groynes, an oblong eminence, the fierce sigh of the storm, the flash of the forked-lightning, the phantoms of the sheeted-dead….

Oh Lord, how much there is to learn and wonder (shiver!)at….meanwhile, let me google the meaning of  impalpable!

Ah, the joy of classic horror tales! Everything from 18 th and 19th century.

Great Masters All!

M.R.James, Conan Doyle, A. And C.Askew, W.F.Harvey, Bram Stoker et al…1149 pages of absolute erudition and blissful shivering!!!

I am grinning happily, thinking of my editor blinking at a description that I  might translate as, ‘ culpably curious!’

***

 

Thottu-Thottu Nadakumbol ( When they walk, Brushing against each other) : Prof Veeran Kutty (Translation from Malayalam)

 

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When two lovers walk

Brushing against each other,

God spreads all the paths

Before them-

Those that were rolled up

Till then.

They would hardly notice,

All that velvety-softness

Since they would be walking

Above the earth in those moments.

TWO

When two lovers walk

Brushing against each other,

God’s train that comes loaded

With words,

Misses its original track

Before them;

Though they would not be partaking

Any word from it at all.

They would have already mastered

The art of speaking

Without words by then.

THREE

When two lovers walk

Brushing against each other,

They would be gifted a time-book

Wherein the seasons vanish,

In the turn of a page.

They would hardly cast a glance at it,

Since their journey had started

Ages before.

FOUR

Finally,  becoming frustrated,

God might reduce the space

On earth,

For making just one of them stand.

That day, for the first time

They would be satisfied with

God’s generosity.

***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Blue Light: Basheer’s Neela Velicham ( Translation from Malayalam) Part 4

 

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One night- it must have been around ten. I had been writing for the past one hour or so. The content had intense passion in it and I was quite engrossed in my task. It was then that I felt the light dimming.

Lifting the  hurricane lamp, I shook it a bit. The kerosene was almost over. Yet I persevered- I wanted to write one more page.  I was deeply involved in my story. Then again the light flickered.I checked the oil again, and extended the wick a bit more before continuing to write.After a while the wick became  very short and flamed red: it was on its dying throes. I lighted up my torch and snuffed out the hurricane lamp.

‘What should I do for a light now?’ I wondered aloud. I needed kerosene. I decided to visit the lodgings situated in the bank building and get some kerosene from my friends. Holding the torch and the kerosene bottle, I locked the front door. I shut the gate and walked out onto the desolate street lighted by a faint moonlight. The rain clouds were heavy in the sky. I walked briskly.

When I reached the bank, I called out from the street, and one of my friends responded. We went to the lodgings in the bank building through the staircase in the back. The three had been enjoying an uproarious game of cards.

When I requested for some kerosene, one laughingly responded: ‘ Why don’t ask your sweet heart  Bhargavi, to get you some kerosene? Have you finished writing her story?’

I did not reply. I was yet to write Bhargavi’s story. While I got my bottle filled, the rain fell heavily with a lurch.

‘Give me an umbrella too!’ I requested.

‘We do not have one. Join us for a card game. When the rain abates, you can return.’

So we ended up playing a  card game. My team mate and I lost thrice . It was my fault. My mind was still on the half complete story. By one in the night, the rain stopped. I quit the game and picked up the torch and kerosene bottle. By the time I reached the street, my friends had gone to sleep. The lights were shut down.

There was utter silence on the street. There was darkness all around. I walked towards my dwelling place. In that mild moonlight, the whole world lay embraced by some misty wonder. I was unaware of the thoughts buzzing in my mind. Or perhaps I was not thinking anything at all. I walked- my torch lighting up that lonely, empty path. I met not a single creature in that journey.

I opened the front door of the house and got inside. Then I bolted it from within. I had no reason to suspect anything extraordinary happening at that juncture. Suddenly, without any reason, my mind became  overwhelmed by an ineffable sadness. I felt like crying. Usually I laugh easily; but it is very hard for me to shed tears. An ethereal feeling takes over my heart at such times.  That feeling came over me: compassion welled up in my heart. I climbed the stairs in that state of mind.

Then I saw something strange. It was like this:

When I had locked my room, the lamp had been snuffed out and the room was in utter darkness. Afterwards, a rain had fallen. Two or three hours had gone by. But now, the room was  wonderfully lighted up from within! I could see the light through the gap in the door frame.

It was this light that my eyes saw and my sub conscious mind acknowledged. But that mystery was yet to penetrate my consciousness. So, I took out my key as usual. Then I turned my torch  light on the padlock.  The lock glittered like silver…it flashed a smile at me!

I opened the door and stepped inside the room. Then  as  uneasiness crept in, I became aware of everything  around me. Each and every atom of my body knew it- yet,   I did not feel fear. My mind was flooded with a deluge of emotions: compassion, love or rather a mix of both. I stood there dumbstruck,  drenched in sweat.

Blue Light! The white walls, the room- both were luminous with blue light! The light was emitted by the hurricane lamp. There was a blue flame rising from the two inch wick!

The hurricane lamp which was snuffed out due to lack of kerosene: who had lighted it up? From where had that blue light appeared in Bhargavi Nilayam?

****

( The End)

Note: If you have read Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’s Guest’, you would appreciate the mastery needed to create dread in a reader. To create dread and a sense of calm equitably, is a skill the great Basheer had mastered!