മഴ കാണുമ്പോൾ

ചേമ്പിലക്കീഴിൽ സ്കൂളിൽ പോയ കഥകൾ അമ്മ പറയുമ്പോൾ ചിരിച്ച ഓർമയുണ്ട്. പുതിയ കുട്ടി കുടയുടെ അഹങ്കാരത്തിൽ ഗൗനിക്കാതെ ഇരുന്നപ്പോൾ, അമ്മ ഒരു പുസ്‌തകം വെച്ച് നീട്ടി. അനിയത്തിക്കായി ഒരു നല്ല കുട വാങ്ങാൻ കഷ്ടപ്പെടുന്ന ജ്യേഷ്ഠന്റെ കഥ: ‘ഒരു കുടയും കുഞ്ഞിപ്പെങ്ങളും.’
‘ആൻ എല്യൂസിവ് മെമ്മറി’ എന്നൊക്കെ പറയാറില്ലേ? അതിലൊരു നല്ല ടീച്ചറുണ്ടായിരുന്നു . വളരെ നല്ല സഹോദരനും. കണ്ണ് നനയിപ്പിക്കുന്ന ബാലസാഹിത്യം.

വീടു പടിക്കലിരുന്നാൽ ഇരുണ്ടടച്ചു വരുന്ന ഇടവപ്പാതി കാണാം. ചുറ്റും അന്ധകാരം, കാറ്റിന്റെ ഹുങ്കാരം. കടലിന്റെ ഇരമ്പൽ വരെ കേൾക്കാം. അപ്പോൾ കാളുവിന്റെ ഓർമ്മ വരും. അതൊരു പ്രിയപ്പെട്ട പുസ്‌തകത്തിന്റെ പേര്. കുട്ടികളുടെ പ്രിയ നായക്കുട്ടി. എത്ര മഴയുള്ള സന്ധ്യകളിൽ ഞങ്ങൾക്കതു കൂട്ട് തന്നിരിക്കുന്നു.

ഒരു മഴയത്തു സ്കൂൾ ബസ് കേടായി. ഇരുട്ടി കഴിഞ്ഞാണ് അടുത്ത ബസ്സിൽ വീടെത്തിയത്.  പരിഭ്രാന്തിയിലായ വീട്ടുകാർ കുട്ടികളെ കാത്തു നിൽപ്പുണ്ടായിരുന്നു. അന്ന് ഇടിയിലും മഴയിലും പേടിപ്പെടുത്തിയ ആ സന്ധ്യയിൽ, അമ്മ തന്ന ചക്കയുപ്പേരി. അതിനൊപ്പം ഒരു സ്വാദുള്ള ഓർമ്മ കൂടി. മഹിഷാസുരമർദ്ദിനിയുടെ ചിത്രകഥയുണ്ടായിരുന്ന ഒരു ബാല മാസിക.

മിന്നലുകൾ വന്നു ഞെട്ടിപ്പിക്കുന്ന രാത്രികളിൽ, അതി മനോഹരമായ പടങ്ങളുള്ള റഷ്യൻ ബാലസാഹിത്യമായിരുന്നു പഥ്യം. ഒരു കുറുക്കൻ – നല്ല റഷ്യൻ തൊപ്പിയും, ഫറിന്റെ കോട്ടും ഒക്കെയിട്ടാണ് ചിത്രങ്ങൾ-എന്തോ കടം വാങ്ങിയിരുന്നു. തിരിച്ചു കൊടുക്കാനാവാതെ കരടിയിൽ നിന്ന് രക്ഷ നേടാൻ ഒരു പൈൻ മരത്തിൽ വലിഞ്ഞു കയറി. കരടി പിറകെ കയറി. അവരുടെ സംഭാഷണമാണത്രെ ഇടിയും മിന്നലും! തുലാ മാസമഴയുടെ സഹത സഞ്ചാരികളായ മിന്നലിനെയും ഇടിയേയും നേരിടാൻ ഞാൻ പലപ്പോഴും ആ പൈൻ മരത്തിലെ കൂട്ടുകാരെ മനസ്സിൽ ആവാഹിക്കുമായിരുന്നു.

മഴയെത്താദേശമെന്നുപോലും പരിഭവിക്കാവുന്ന തരത്തിൽ ചുട്ടു നീറുന്ന ഭൂമിയിൽ, ഒടുവിൽ മഴ വീണിരിക്കുന്നു! എന്റെ നാടിൻറെ മഴ തന്നെയോ ഇത്? മഴയ്ക്ക് ദേശവ്യത്യാസങ്ങളുണ്ടോ? ഇനി വെള്ള പൊക്കത്തിന്റെ കാലം. രൗദ്ര ഭാവമായി നദികൾ താണ്ഡവമാടാൻ അധിക നാളില്ല. പുതിയ പെണ്ണിന്റെ ഭാവങ്ങളോടെ സുന്ദരമായ പാവാടയുടെ അലയടി പോലെ , ഗാഗ്ര എന്ന വിളിപ്പേരിൽ ഗംഗയുടെ ഒരു മകൾ കര കേറാൻ വളരെ കുറച്ചു നാളുകൾ മാത്രം.ഇവിടെ മഴയെ കർഷകർ ഒരൽപ്പം ഭയത്തോടെ കാണുന്നു. പ്രിയപ്പെട്ടവളേ, വരുന്നത് തന്നെ വളരെ വിരളമായി, വന്നാലോ,  കാളീശ്വരിയായി!

ജീവിക്കുന്ന ദേശമെന്തായാലും, ബാല്യകാലത്തെ മഴക്കൂട്ടിനെ  ഞാൻ തിരിച്ചു വിളിക്കുന്നു. കുറുക്കനും, കരടിയും, കുഞ്ഞിക്കുടയും കുഞ്ഞനുജത്തിയുമെല്ലാം ഓരോ മഴത്തുള്ളിക്കൊപ്പം എന്റെ ആത്മാവിനെ കുളിർപ്പിക്കാൻ സ്നേഹത്തോടെ പെയ്യുന്നു.

മഴ കാണുമ്പോൾ മനസ്സ് തണുക്കുന്നു.

Translator’s Note

Another Book is getting ready:

The Heaviness of the Rain ( Anthology of selected poems- Translated from Malayalam)

Author: Prof. Veeran Kutty

IMG_2491Prof. Veeran Kutty’s poems have a wonderful simplicity and charm about them. They remind me of Haiku and Sufi literature equally. To capture majestic ideas into few lines- soaked with beauty-is a rare skill. The poems make us better human beings- by teaching us compassion, tolerance, kindness and love.
Translating these poems has been an enjoyable experience for me. I had started off by translating a few of his published poems on my wordpress blog. Prof. Veeran Kutty read those and encouraged me warmly. That helped me to compile this collection.

I hope and pray that the readers feel the enchanting loveliness of Kerala- the state to which both of us belong to – that have inspired many of these spiritual outpourings.

😀

A Preface To Man: Manushyanu Oru Amukham, Subhash Chandran

I am at Page 155 of a 407 page best seller in Malayalam called ‘ Manushyanu Oru Amukham’ . This book has won the Kendra Sahitya Academy award along with scores of other awards. It has been translated into English by Dr E V Fatima and published by Harper Collins, India as ‘ A Preface To Man’.

The story of a few generations of a family, along with those of related social and cultural milieu, and sharp political observations: this narrative structure has been used by many brilliant writers across the world. Marquez and his One hundred years of solitude is often a favourite reference point in such a case.  How the Kerala cultural ethos changed- influenced by stalwarts in  political, intellectual and spiritual arenas-along with the clear repercussions in the lives of the many members of the Ayyattimbilly household, of the Thachannakara village, forms the binding thread of this grand novel.

The thoughts that had powered the best men and women to become  great human beings and responsible citizens, are revealed in different pages. We meet Kuttipuzha KrishnaPillai, the communist leader and poet, as a warm and unassuming guest in a chapter, who with piercing wit handles the venomous prejudice of a petty mind. The reader is forced to reflect on how various forms of prejudice continue as eternal monsters in society. They might change shapes and hues, but the underlying devils are the same. Intolerance and ignorance. Closed eyes and closed mind. Arrogance and Self centerdness. Lack of compassion and greed for power. And a way of encouraging life styles which give birth to many living dead.

In the first few chapters, we find that the protagonist Jitendran is dead. It is through snippets of his letters ( when he was a young man who thought for himself) to his loved woman, that the chapters unveil themselves. One striking paragraph which I liked earlier on went like this ( my translation:)

‘The first half of his life was one in which he ardently believed in something within: that would impart light to those coexisting with him in the world. That belief had been nurtured by certain assumptions built in his childhood about human greatness. However, unable to find a  conducive medium for that light to express itself, his inner self had been set aflame in that period.

The second half was rather simpler in nature. The job he had habitually done-in  utter disregard for misspending one’s human life- with the facade of an inappropriate severity, a marriage and marital relationship which started with debts and continued in debts, the shifting of a few houses with household materials stuffed into a mini lorry, the partitions of  anscestral property which caused much  mutual hatred between brethren and made God laugh, a few extramarital affairs  he indulged in -which had nothing to do with physical pleasure- for the exclusive and ineffable thrill of  committing a secret sin, a few bursts of hearty laughter hither and tither, a few pains extended in the form of gifts by friends and relatives, a few accusations and wrong doings-neither of  which had  any circumstantial excuses, the tonnes of medicines he swallowed for curing those diseases which would have healed by themselves, the boring scenes which occurred twice or thrice in a life time when it became imperative to  pretend that one was acting responsibly…’

**

I am at the chapter which says – ( in translation) ‘A petty man never lets go of an opportunity to showcase his inherent pettiness.’

‘Chetta’ in Malayalam has many connotations: a small hut,  a person of obnoxious meanness, a man or woman possessing aggravating pettiness….

I laughed out loud on realising the absolute truth of that statement. Oh Lord, how many times, how many times….one has witnessed that!!!

However, the author suddenly pulls the mat from under your feet. He makes you reflect on the etymology of the word and whom you are  actually rendering unworthy in the process of thoughtlessly using such words.

Beautiful book. I am so happy to have another 250 odd pages to relish!

**

Following A Goddess

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My grand mother, who died when my mother was but nineteen, and my youngest aunt a mere three,  was named after the  Goddess of Learning. Her name “Sarda” is also that of  the ancient writing script used for Sanskrit and Kashmiri. Till today, my maternal anscestral home is called, ‘Sarada Mandiram’ aka “The abode of Sarada.”

There are no pictures or photographs  left behind of this Grihlakshmy, (Goddess of the House like Vesta or Hestia in other cultures:) for her grand children or great grand children to know her.

She remains, captured however (as per my mother’s version) in my  young nephew’s smile, my cousin sister’s beautiful tresses, my daughter’s eyes et al. I am very sure, that she would continue in the future bloodlines too, when something of charm or beauty shows up suddenly, gracefully, without much hue or cry.

Almost like a mystery, the stories surround the enigma of a beautiful woman who “was adored by anyone who met her, due to her generously giving heart.” No being, animal or human, went hungry if  they ever passed by my grand mother’s kitchen door.

” She could toss a few curry leaves and a  mere touch of her hand would make the dishes so tasty,” reminisces my mother, her eyes clouded with tears.

I get to hear snippets from my aunts and uncles, their memories now mostly faded, still remembering warmth, and long,black hair cascading like a river with no grey strands ever….so lyrical that I start doubting the authenticity of it all.

” Were you happy all the time? She could not have been a paragon of virtue,” I argue, my cynical temper often aroused when I hear about angelic perfection, near or far.

” She used to be furious at times. Then I wouldn’t go near her. Especially when she was struggling with her umpteen pregnancies and child births,” my mother lets out , a sigh at a time.

Then as my mother feeds me spinach with coconut topping and curry leaves sauteed , a dish she learnt from my grandma, she tells me the tale of her parents’ marriage.

An attractive young woman , single daughter to adoring parents, who lost nine children before they had a living, healthy child. The beauty, the property – the proposals that poured in for her hand. And the tragedy of a predetermined horoscope- the fate of Chova dosham- a Manglik, so to say,..she was supposed to cause early death to her husband.

” My grandfather almost gave up hope about amma’s marriage. Such a lovely daughter, but no man daring to step across the Yama’s line of caution,” my mother whispers. (She and her grandfather had a loving relationship. Till date she swears that he was reborn into her family.  Whenever I make her smile, I am the reincarnation. When I pick up fights with her, she is absolutely sure that he is someone else. That is another story altogether.)

” And how did my grandfather come into the scene?” I ask, very interested now. Some topics are eternally fascinating.

” They say, he was almost an outsider, though his family lived very close. A rebel, tall at six feet and more, a good artist, keen on science and business alike…my father,” she pauses dramatically.

I sigh again as the devil flashes his fangs at me, provoking me.

” Amma, stop being melodramatic. He had his vices, of course. But he was handsome, I presume,” I aim at the target straight away.

” Ohhhh, yes! So one day, even as his mother threatened to hang herself from the front yard for daring to dream of Sarada, he walked away laughing and entered our ancestral home.” Amma’s voice is full of thrill now.

I see a tall young man, laconic, cool, literally asking his protective female clan members to go to hell. He walks to the forbidden house, and confronts my  great grandfather.

” Why did you come, Govinda?” my great grandfather asks. He can hear the screams and curses rising in undulating tones from across the front yard.

” I thought it was worth dying for Sarada,” says my Grandfather. ” I want to marry her.”

Thus a man married a woman.

They had seven children,losing one early. One girl grew up to be my indefatigible mother.

I do not ask the other parts of the story. The happiness, the tragedies, the loss of a merchandise filled boat over the sudden tempest, the sudden poverty….so many family lores stay quiet now, lying like a calm dog at the feet of a kind, beautiful, unseen grandmother.

” Do I have anything of her in me?” I ask finally, slowly, very slowly.

My mother smiles suddenly. Her beautiful face, lights up.

” What do you think?” she asks in return.

”  You tell me that I am your grand father. Am I also your mother?” I grin openly.

” Maybe , she lives in your heart, whenever you ask her to come in,” says my mother mysteriously.

Sarada, Goddess of Learning, Giving, Kindness…..do visit my heart more often.

I have your sudden temper, my grandfather’s obstinacy, go-to-hell stubbornness. All the vices, than the sweet niceties.

There can be too much darkness inside this abode at times.

Make it your Mandiram- your temple.

Let me see you, please.

****