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)



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.


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.


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.


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




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!







The Blue Light…Basheer’s Neela Velicham, StoryTranslation Part -3


I told myself that it was my imagination. I could not swear  that I had actually seen that glimmer. Yet, how could it be possible that without seeing anything, I sensed a light? Was it a lightning bug?

I walked for a long time. I gazed from the windows for a long time. It was futile. I tried to read something. I could not concentrate.The chair was  still empty.

Deciding to sleep early, I made up my bed and snuffed down the light. Then I felt like listening to a gramophone record!

I  got up and lighted the lamp again.I fitted a new needle into the sound-box. Then I keyed up the gramophone.

Whose song shall I play? The world was eerily silent. Still, there was a rumble. The sound was emerging from my own ears. Was it terror? The hairs on my back stood on end. I wanted to shatter the horrible silence into a million bits. Whose song shall I play for that?  I searched and found a record by Paul Robson. The gramophone started singing: a sweet and magnificent baritone!

‘ Joshua fit the battle of Jericho.’

It got over. then it was Pankaj Mallick’s turn.

‘Tu darr na zara bhi…’

You please do not be scared even a bit!

Then came the enchanting, soft, dulcet female voice:

‘ Kattinile varum geetam…’

M.S.Subbalakshmy too finished singing.

Somehow, I felt at peace after these three songs. I sat like that for a while. Then I invited the revered Saigal himself. He sang in that sweet, melancholy, gentle voice:

‘ So ja  Rajkumary…’

Princess, you please sleep now; sleep dreaming beautiful dreams…!

That too soon ended.

‘Enough  for today. The rest tomorrow!’ Muttering that, I shut the light, and lighting up a beedi, lay down on my cot.

Near me was my torch, my watch and a knife. Then that empty chair.

I had shut the door which opened to the portico. The time must have been Ten at night. I was alert and listening.

Except the mild tic, tic of my watch nothing could be heard. Minutes moved, and then hours. There was no fear in my mind. Just a cold, creepy wariness. It was not a new experience to me. Across many a country, many a place, during a long time period….during a twenty year stint of loneliness…I have had many experiences whose meaning had been indecipherable to me. Hence my attention spanned across the past and the present. In between, came the doubts…will someone knock at the door? Open the pipes? Try to suffocate me? I kept on like that till three in the morning.

Nothing happened.

‘ Good Morning, Bhargavi Kutty! Thanks a lot! One thing has become clear to me! People are just spreading rumours about you! Let them! What do you say?’

Days and nights passed.I would think about Bhargavi Kutty. Her father, mother, brothers and sisters…there would be so many stories that were unknown to me…Almost every night, after I grew tired of writing, I would play the gramophone. Before every song, I would announce the singer, the meaning of the song etc..

I would say,’ Listen…the next song is by the great Bengali singer Pankaj Mallick. It evokes sadness and memories. The times past…listen carefully!’

‘Guzar Gaya woh zamana kaisa…kaisa…’

Or I would say:

‘ This is by Bing Crosby! ‘In the moonlight…’which means in the light of the…Oh I forgot! You are a B.A degree holder! Sorry!’

I would say all these…to myself. Two months passed by in this manner. I made a garden. When the flowers blossomed, I told Bhargavi Kutty that it was all meant for her. I finished a novella too in that time period. A lot of my friends came and spent the night there. Before they slept, unknown to them, I would slip downstairs and speak to the darkness.

‘ Listen, Bhargavi Kutty!  Some of my male pals have arrived  and plan to sleep here tonight. You please don’t throttle any of them. If something like that occurs, the police will catch me! Please be careful! Good Night!’

Befor leaving the house, I would say: ‘ Bhargavi Kutty! Look after the house. If some thief creeps in, feel free to throttle him. But do not leave his corpse hereabout. Drag it at least three miles from here. Else we will  both get into trouble!’

When I returned after a  film’s second- show at night, I would submit: ‘ It is me, okay?’

It all began like that. With the passage of time, I forgot Bhargavi Kutty. No intense conversations. Just an occasional remembrance, that was all.

A remembrance which I shall describe. A lot of poeple have died on this earth. Since the origin of human life, how many had passed away! They are all a part of this world-as dust, as water, as smoke. That we know. Bhargavi remained a memory like that.

It was then that the following incident occurred. That is what I shall describe now.


( Will Continue)






Basheer’s Neela Velicham: The Blue Light…Translation of Story Continued…Part 2


I was aghast. ‘ Aw. And I had paid two months rent in advance too,’ I thought. Then I said,’That is irrelevant. It will just need a spell or two. You please arrange that my letters reach that address.’

I spoke bravely. I am neither a hero nor a coward. What scares others usually scares me. You might surmise that I am a coward. What would you have done in my place?

I walked very slowly. I do not chase experiences for the sake of it. But what if an experience comes running towards me? I did not even know what was going to happen!

I went to a hotel and had some tea. My hunger had died. My stomach was on fire…the turmoil of fear. I told the hotel manager about my address- where he was supposed to send my lunch. When he heard about the house he responded.

‘ I do not mind sending food during the day time. But none will go there during the night. A woman killed herself in that well. She might be hanging around there. Aren’t you afraid of ghosts, sir?’

I felt half of my trepidation vanishing. Ah, it was a woman!

I said,’ I don’t care. Besides, I know a few spells and charms.’

I had no clue about spells. But as I had said, I was relieved that it was a woman’s ghost. I guessed that she might be slightly amiable. I went to a nearby bank. A few of my pals were working as clerks there. On hearing about my new home, they became furious with me.

‘Utter foolishness! That place is haunted. The men are particularly vulnerable to attacks!’

Oh, so she hated men, was it so?

‘ Why did you not cross check with us before renting out Bhargavi Nilayam?’

‘I had no clue about such a story. By the way, why did the woman kill herself?’

‘ Love!’ One f them replied.’Her name was Bhargavi. She was twenty one years old, and had passed her B.A. Degree. She was in love with someone. Big time love. But he ditched her and married another woman. Bhargavi committed suicide by jumping inside that well.’

My fear reduced by leaps and bounds. Ah, that was the secret behind her hatred of men.

I said,’ Bhargavi will not hurt me.’

‘ Why not?’

‘ Spells! Spells!’

‘ Let us wait and see! You will end up screaming the house down at night time.’

I did not deign to reply.

I returned to my residence. After opening all the doors and windows, I went towards the well.

‘ Bhargavi Kutty!’ I called out softly.’ We are not acquainted with each other. I am a new resident. In my opinion, I am a very good human being. Eternal celibate too!  I have already heard scandalous stories about you. You do not let poeple reside here. You open the pipes at night time. You bang the doors shut. You throttle people…I heard all that about you. What am I supposed to do? I have already paid two months of rent in advance. I do not have much money with me. Besides, I like your house so much. This house is in your name, is it not? Bhargavi Nilayam.’

‘ I need to work in this place. That means I have to write stories. Let me ask, do you like stories  Bhargavi Kutty? I will read aloud all my stories to you. I have no fight to pick up with you, Bhargavi Kutty. There is no reason why we should bicker. I did drop a stone earlier inside the well. I did it absent mindedly. I shall not repeat such actions in the future. Listen, Bhargavi Kutty! I have an excellent gramophone with me. I have a collection of almost a hundred songs too! Do you like songs?’

I sat quietly after speaking all that. Who was I speaking to? To that yawning well, which seemed ready to swallow anything at all? Was I addressing the trees, the house, the atmosphere, the earth, the sky or the universe? Was I speaking to the agitation within my own mind?  I was speaking to an idea, I decided.

Bhargavi. I had never seen her. She was twenty one years old. A young woman  who was deeply in love with a man. She dreamt of being his wife, his companion for life.But that dream…yes, stayed a dream. Depression overcame her. Humiliation too…

‘ Bhargavi Kutty!’ I spoke,’ You should not have done that. Do not think that I am blaming you. The man whom you loved, did not love you enough. He loved another woman more than you. Life became bitter for you, true. But then, life is not all that bitter. Forget it. As far as you are concerned, history will not repeat itself.’

‘ Bhargavi Kutty, please do not think that I am pointing out your fault. Tell me, did you actually die for love? Love is the  golden dawn of an eternal life…You were a naive donkey who did not know about anything! That is what your hatred for men proves! You had known only one man. For argument’s sake let us suppose that he hurt you really bad. But then, is it proper to look at all the men through that lens? If you had not committed suicide and had lived your life a bit longer, you would have realised how wrong your assumption was. There would have been a man who would have loved you and adored you . He would have addressed you as ‘My goddess!’

‘ But then…as I said, for you, history cannot be repeated. What is the way to know about your history, Bhargavi Kutty? But you please do not attack me. I am not throwing down a gauntlet. It is an earnest submission. If you throttle me to death tonight, no one will wreak vengeance on my behalf. Because, I have no one at all.’

‘ Bhargavi Kutty, you must have understood my situation. We are going to live here. That means I intend to stay here. Legally speaking , the house and the well now  belong to me. Let that be! You use the well and the four rooms on the ground floor. We will share the kitchen and the bathroom. Are you agreeable to that ?’

Night fell. Having had my dinner, I came in with a thermos flask full of tea. Lighting up my electric torch, I kept it to a side. Then I lit the hurricane lamp. The room was replete with yellow light.

I went down with my torch. I stood still in the darkness. I intended to lock the pipes. I opened the windows wide. Then I went to the well and then proceeded to the kitchen. Then I felt that I should not lock the pipes.

Having locked the doors, I climbed up the staircase and had some tea. Lighting up a beedi, I started to write. Suddenly I felt that Bhargavi was standing behind my chair.

‘ I do not like anyone looking when I write!’ I objected.

I turned to look. There was no one.

Somehow, I did not feel like writing again. I pulled a chair near me.

‘ Bhargavi Kutty, you may please take your seat.’

Empty chair! I started strolling through two rooms. There was no wind. Not even a leaf stirred  on the trees outside. As I stared through the window, I noticed a light!

Was it blue, red or yellow? I had no clue. I had glimpsed it only for a moment.


(Will Continue)









Neela Velicham : Vaikom Muhammad Basheer ( Story: The Blue Light) Translation From Malayalam Part1


This story,’ The Blue Light’, is one among the inexplicable experiences of my life. Perhaps ‘experience ‘ is not the apt word; a ‘soap bubble of  phantasmagoria’  might better describe it.  I have oft tried to poke it  with the needle of Scientific approach. However, I could never succeed in that endeavour. You might be able to do that-analyse it, and interpret it too. I have no other recourse than to depict it as an inexplicable experience… indeed I have none.

The experience ran like this:

There is no need to tell the year, the month or the day. I was searching for a house. That was nothing new- I had always been in that  singular quest. I was never satisfied with a house or room; and would end up finding endless faults  with my place of residence. But to whom could I gripe about it? ‘Let go if you did not like it!’ But then where was I supposed to go?

I would typically stay in  a rented house, and then complain about the place. There were so many rooms and houses that thus fell victim to my grievances. It was of course, no one’s fault. I would  then leave the house due to my dislike and some one else who liked it would  soon replace me. ‘The saga of the rented house’ went on in that manner.

It was a time when houses were scarce to find. It was quite expensive to get a decent accommodation. As I searched high and low, I found it-a house!

It was a small bungalow. Bhargavi Nilayam. Far from the madding crowd of the town . Almost on the border of the municipality. There was an old board hanging on th gate: ‘To Let’.

I took a fancy to that house. It was rather ancient. At a first glance, it was intriguing. That was alright with me. I decided that I could stay in that place. There was a portico and two rooms on the first floor. There were four rooms on the ground floor. There was also a kitchen and a bathroom. There was a pipe connection too. However, there was no electricity.

There was a well near the kitchen. It was made of stone and was very old. The compound was full of trees. At a corner stood a toilet. There was a wall enclosing all the four sides of the house; which was near the public road.

I was delightfully surprised! How come no one had rented that place till then; I wondered. On looking at that old mansion, I felt that it was akin to a gorgeous woman who should be hidden from prying eyes! I should cover her with a purdah!

I ran about frantically arranging funds. After offering two months’ rent in advance, I took over the key of the house. I shifted my residence to the top floor immediately. I purchased a hurricane lamp and kerosene that day. The labourers who came to shift my luggage seemed frightened of the place- they refused to step inside; and left my household goods outside the gate.

I swept and mopped all the rooms; cleaned the kitchen and the bathroom. There was lot of dust and rubbish everywhere. As I cleaned every room rigorously, I found a locked one. I left it intact. I took a bath. Feeling greatly relieved, I sat on the raised stone barricade around the old well. I was ecstatic. I could dream endlessly. I could run around that verdant compound. I planned to create a lovely garden for myself. It should be full of roses, I decided. There should be jasmines too!

I wondered whether I should hire a cook and then decided against it. When I go out for my breakfast, I would get some tea in a flask. I would arrange for lunch at a hotel. Perhaps they might send my dinner over. I had to speak to the postman about my new address. I should warn him against revealing my hideaway from others. Such lovely nights and days of blissful solitude was awaiting me! I could write lots and lots! Thinking a thousand thoughts like the above, I stared into the well. I could not make out whether it had water inside or not. Too many shrubs had grown within it. I dropped a stone inside.

Blluuumm….A huge echo! There was water inside!

It was eleven in the morning then.

I had hardly slept the night before. I had settled my hotel bills and had met the house owner. I had  meticulously packed the canvas cot, my gramophone, the various records, my documents, my arm-chair, shelf: all my possessions! I had started off to my new home before dawn arose.

I locked up all the doors of my new abode and padlocked the front door. Putting the key in my pocket, I strolled onto the road, albeit preening  a bit.

I wondered with whose song I should inaugurate the new home that night. I had more than a hundred gramophone records. English, Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, Tamil, Bengali. I had no Malayalam records with me. There were lots of talented singers and their records out there; however, I was disappointed with the music direction. Now good directors and singers have started appearing. I decided to purchase some records in Malayalam too.

Whose song shall I play first? Pankaj Mallick? Dilip Kumar Roy? Saigal? Bing Crosby? Paul Robson? Abdul Kareem Khan? Kanan Devi? Kumary  Mamju Dasgupta? Khurshid? Jyoti Khare? M.S.Subbalakshmy? I started pondering over a few names. There was a song..’Door des ka rahne wallah…’ Was it a female tenor? I could not recollect…Well, will see to it when I return, I shrugged.

I met the postman. When I told him about my new residence, he started in fright.

‘ Oh Lord! Sir…there was an unnatural death in that house. No one stays there…That was the  reason no one occupied the bungalow till now.’

‘ Unnatural death?’ I too was baffled for a moment. Then I enquired about the incident.

‘ There is a well in the courtyard….Someone jumped inside it and committed suicide. There has been no peace in that house after that. So many people tried to rent it. In the nights, the doors shut with a bang by themselves…the water pipes are opened…’

The doors bang shut! The water pipes open by themselves! I had noticed the lock on the water pipes. The owner had mentioned that it was to prevent outsiders from using those. But I had not pondered on the need to lock up bathroom pipes!

The postman was running on full steam,’ Someone tries to suffocate you at night…Didn’t anyone tell you about it?’


( Will Continue)














The Master Wit


The DSC awards for South Asian Literature has announced its long list. My friend K.R.Meera’s book- The Poison of Love- is in the long list of 13 books selected by an eminent jury. I am thrilled that her  amazing talent as a writer has yet again been recognised.( I have lost count of the number of awards she has already won:) I am also happy that my role as a translator has been recognised.

My job takes me to very traumatising places at times. Like a place of suicide. A severed head  and torso- lifeless-of what once was a very brilliant young man. When you stand looking at the gory remains of a human body, you realise yet again the futility of ego. The way death beckons with a loving smile. Love can be poisonous. It can tempt people into twisted ways of paying back. I have experienced it in my own life. Is it love at all?  Isn’t that sort of love rather evil?

Perhaps as Gibran’s Prophet explained: ‘.. For what is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst.Verily when good  is hungry it seeks food even in dark caves and when it thirsts, it drinks even of dead waters…’

I see the ripples of love turned poisonous in both the lifeless body now firmly etched in my memory and in Meera’s iconic novella. Tulsi epitomises the peculiar way women can sometimes love. Men too, for that matter. The theme is universal and yet so enlivened by traditional montages and nuances. The human mind is the greatest mystery ever created by The Lord.

I think the Lord has a taste for black humour at times.He has taught me once again that He is the master wit of them all.