“Randu Atmakathakal” ; Original Poetry in Malayalam by VeraanKutty; published in Mathrubhumi Weekly, Onam Special edition, September 2014.
On reading it, I imagined the hundred rupee note mentioned in it, as money in any denomination, in any currency, in any country in the world. The stories would remain the same- its own and ours.
A torn hundred rupee
Landed in my hand.
Weary and dirty.
I had purchased Gandhiji’s autobiography,
This was handed over as the leftover gain.
I tried to lodge it in between fresh rupees
And escape from it
Keep your trick to yourself, they said.
When I left it at a busy cash counter
Someone caught my collar
I felt furious, ashamed.
Threw it inside my pocket
Wished to wash my hands
A hundred times.
It fluttered helplessly within my pocket
It leaned closer to my heart and whispered
In a voice which only I could hear:
“I have never hid inside a rich man’s pillow cover
Have been with the poor and the hard working
For a long time
With those you say, want to make you wash
A hundred times.
I had prayed that the dawn came much later
When I was inside the pocket
Of a thief who slept off.
The milk stain which spread over me
When a mother walked the street
To purchase medicines for her newborn
Is still not faded.
Within the pocket of the man who
I was there, witnessing his death
The fish scale from the fisher woman’s hands
The blood from the butcher’s hand
The crab meat curry stain from the toddy shop
Are tattooed over me
Like another skin.
In the gambler’s den and in the God’s coffers
I have lain equally calm.
Even though I disliked it
Was handed over as reward
After murders and pimping.
Through dark places
Touched by tears and sweat drops
Hit by spittle, and human waste
Subtly and Openly
The path that I have traversed
Even your Mahatma
Might not have travelled.”
I sat down stunned
Unable to hear the story
Of a discarded rupee note.
I took it out from my pocket
And bowed before it
With absolute humility
Of someone who was deeply perplexed
Of the great book which was full of
Lives, I have never lived.