ദേവിയുടെ കലി

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എൺപതുകളിൽ , ഫൂലൻ ദേവിയുടെ ശൗര്യം ബുന്ദേൽഖണ്ഡിലെ ഗ്രാമങ്ങളിൽ കുപ്രസിദ്ധമായിരുന്നു. ‘ബിഹാഡ്’ എന്നാൽ നദിയും, ദുരൂഹത നിറഞ്ഞ വനാന്തരങ്ങളും , കൊക്കയും, കാടും എന്നർത്ഥമാണ്(ravines) . DACOITS അഥവാ കൊള്ളക്കാരുടെ, വാസസ്ഥലങ്ങൾ, നമ്മൾ ചമ്പൽ (chambal) കഥകൾ എന്ന രീതിയിൽ കേരളത്തിൽ ഇരുന്നു വായിച്ചപ്പോൾ, ഫൂലൻ ദേവി പകയോടെ നാടുവാഴികളായ മേലാളരെ നിരത്തി നിർത്തി വെടിയുണ്ട ഉതിർത്ത കാഴ്ച നേരിട്ടു കണ്ട വൃദ്ധനായ ചൗക്കിദാർ എന്നോട് പറഞ്ഞു: ‘ശബ്ദിച്ചാൽ കൊന്നേനെ സാഹിബ് !’

കൊടിയ ക്രൂരതകൾ നേരിട്ട ഫൂലൻ, പിന്നീട് പോലീസിന് സ്വയം സമർപ്പണം ചെയ്തതും, അതിനു ശേഷം   എംപിയുമായ കാര്യങ്ങൾ ചിലർ കൂട്ടി ചേർത്തു. ഞാൻ കൗതുകത്തോടെ അവരുടെ കുടുംബത്തെ കുറിച്ച് ചോദിച്ചു.
‘മാഡം , ഇതാ, അവരുടെ അമ്മയുടെ ചിത്രം. ഇന്നലെ എന്നെ കാണാൻ വന്നിരുന്നു.’ പോലീസ് ഓഫീസർ എന്നെ മൊബൈലിൽ ഒരു പടം കാണിച്ചു.
മെലിഞ്ഞു, കതിര് പോലെ, ഒരു സ്ത്രീ! പക്ഷെ നല്ല മിന്നൽ പോലെ ഒരു ജ്വാലാ പ്രതീതി! എൺപതു വയസ്സ് കാണും. ഫൂലൻ എന്ന പെൺകുട്ടിയുടെ അമ്മയെ കണ്ടപ്പോൾ, എല്ലാ കഥകളും അവരുടെ പടത്തിലുണ്ട് എന്ന് തോന്നി പോയി, ഒരു നിമിഷം!
‘ഇവരുടെ ഗ്രാമത്തിന്റെ പേരാണ് ദേവകലി ‘, പോലീസ് ഉദ്യോഗസ്ഥൻ പറഞ്ഞു. ‘തൊട്ടടുത്താണ്!’

‘കലി’: പൂമൊട്ട് എന്നും, പിന്നെ നമ്മുടെ ഭാഷയിൽ, ‘ക്ഷോഭം’ എന്നും മനസ്സിൽ കണ്ട ഞാൻ, മോഹനചന്ദ്രന്റെ ‘കലിക’ യിലെ ചെറിയ   പെൺകുട്ടി നേരിട്ട നെറികേടും, ദേവരൂപത്തിലെ പൂമൊട്ടിന്റെ നാട്ടിൽ, കൊടും പീഢനങ്ങൾ അനുഭവിച്ച മറ്റൊരു കൊച്ചു പെൺകുട്ടിയുടെ ഏകദേശം ഒരു പോലെയുള്ള പകയുടെ കഥയും ഓർത്തു സ്തബ്ധയായി ! ഈശ്വരാ, സ്ത്രീകൾക്ക് എല്ലാ നാട്ടിലും, ഒരേ അനുഭവം തന്നെയോ ?
ദേവിയുടെ കലിയോ അതോ ദേവ രൂപത്തിലുള്ള പുഷ്പമോ?

‘ഫൂലൻ ദേവിയുടെ സഹോദരിയും അമ്മയും തമ്മിൽ സ്വര ചേർച്ചയില്ല…അവർ എന്നോട് പരാതി പറയാൻ വന്നതാണ് മാഡം !’
ഞാൻ ചിരിച്ചു. ‘ സമാധാനം! ഇനിയും ഗ്രാമങ്ങളിൽ ഡാക്കുവിന്റെ (Dacoit) തനിയാവർത്തനം ഉണ്ടാവില്ലല്ലോ ! അമ്മയും മകളും തമ്മിലുള്ള പോരാട്ടങ്ങൾ സാരമില്ല.’
ധാരാളം സ്ഥലങ്ങളിൽ മുൻകൂട്ടി പ്ലാൻ ചെയ്ത പരിപാടികൾ കാരണം, എനിക്ക് ആ അമ്മയെ നേരിട്ട് കാണാൻ കഴിഞ്ഞില്ല. ഇനിയൊരിക്കൽ…
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‘അനീതി കാണുമ്പോൾ ശബ്ദമുയർത്തണം!’ എത്ര നല്ല കാര്യം.
ചെയ്തു നോക്കുമ്പോൾ, ശബ്ദിച്ചു നോക്കുമ്പോൾ അറിയാം അതിന്റെ നേരനുഭവങ്ങൾ, പ്രത്യാഘാതങ്ങൾ !
‘പാട്രിയാർക്കി’ എന്ന വിളിപ്പേരിൽ പല വൃത്തിക്കേടും കാണിക്കുന്നവർക്ക് ചിലപ്പോൾ, മനസ്സിലാവുന്ന ഭാഷ ഒന്നേയുള്ളൂ : തിരിച്ചടി. അത്, പല തലങ്ങളിൽ നിന്നും വരുമ്പോൾ, ‘പൂമൊട്ടുകൾ’ കാലംതെറ്റി വാടികൊഴിയില്ല – പകരം, സുഗന്ധ വാഹിയായി, സൗന്ദര്യത്തോടെ വിടരും.
‘നേരെ വിലസീടിന നിന്നെ നോക്കിയാരാകിലെന്തു മിഴിയുള്ളവർ നിന്നിരിക്കാം!’

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This Wonderful Grace…

 

 

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When I was in school, we were taught an enchanting story in my mother tongue. I must have been eight or nine then.

I still remember the awe and wonder in me, as the teacher described in her melodious way, the cabbage soup that Martin the cobbler offered to an impoverished mother and baby. You see, Martin had been waiting for God to come to him that day. Instead of serving the Lord any food, he ended up giving whatever he had to three visitors. And then  in the end of the tale, he understands when he sees a vision, that the Lord himself had visited him…I can still feel the goosebumps of that absolutely marvellous story..

It was serendipity which ushered the story back to my life. Fascinated with Matthew 25:40,  I had requested the dear sisters to give me a photograph of the Lord. They gave me not one but two lovely framed ones.

(One, I keep at my working place and another in my living room. When life feels burdensome, all I have to do is to look up at Him. Grace flows so abundantly and kisses me with new life and vision whenever I lift my eyes to Him.)

And that very day, I happened to pick up  from the library, a collection of Tolstoy’s stories. I opened at one page randomly  which had a story : ‘Where Love is, God is..’

The first two lines made my memory buzz like a honey bee. Hey! What was this? My eight year old self screamed in joy…Martin! It is Martin and his cabbage soup! In an ecstatic five minutes, I re-read the wonderful classic, realising that it was Tolstoy’s magical story telling skills that had  been embedded in my memory all the while!

And at the end, when Martin waiting for Christ throughout the day in vain, understands that the Lord had been at his home in reality….he opens his Bible,  and he reads where it opened….

Matthew 25:40

‘In as much as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, even these least, ye did it unto me.’

It was written by Tolstoy in 1885.

It was a translation that we studied in Malayalam! The power of  the story- translated into a language  in a small land, so far away from Russia- was so enchanting that almost four decades later, I still remembered every nuance.

He watches and smiles….and does a  lovely magic at times, to show us the way! I can only bow in reverence before such wonderful grace!

 

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Vatsala’s Brilliant Preface:Her Favourite Stories…continued

 

img_1830Preface…….continued

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‘The stitching machine’ is  a story about my own stitching machine. It is not just a source: the whole narrative is about the different experiences that it has gifted me. I still use one. The predecessor was taken away by a trader last year. He forced the new one onto me. No woman can let go easily of an appliance that she has been using for a while. The fate of both a spoon with its  edge broken off or a dilapidated stitching machine is the same. The grief of the woman is very genuine in both the cases. It can be seen as the holy remnant of an old culture. It is not applicable to today’s throw away culture- because, nothing is allowed to reach the satiation point at all. Hence there will not be a story related to a modern day consumer good- of having touched a human heart.

There is a special episode behind the writing of ‘ Vidyadharan.’ Once DC Kizhekkemury had told me that the dirtiest place in the world was Kashi. The stain stayed in my mind till I reached there. Once I saw Kashi, my whole life perspective changed. On one evening, having seen enough of other sights, we rented a boat and went along with MahaGanga’s flow. Gangaji was resplendent : a sea which removed all the dirt of the world.The flow swallowed all the agonies and kept the river eternally pure. A school of fish played alongside the boat merrily; like toddlers in a playpen. They raced back and forth touching our boat. Then, as if that was not enough, came the floating corpse. It would have terrified me had I seen it so in my home state.

Here, it was different. First I thought that a trunk of aloewood -chopped down by someone- with four branches on its sides, was floating on the waters. Soon it came near and travelled along the boat, occasionally caressing it. The fishes played hide and seek through the ruptures on the face. They emerged as a procession at times. ‘Who was this faceless one in his just concluded birth?’From this thought came the story,  Vidyadharan.’

From that day, I  have been able to look at death with equanimity. It is a miracle. My first encounter with death had been at twenty six, when my grand mother passed away. That was a serene experience: granny’s ending was like the  natural snuffing out of a lighted lamp. Probably this incident was a part of the treasury of experiences that I relied upon while writing this story.

What we see by the light of the sun need not be the real sight. The insight gleaned by the experience of the inner eye- that would be the truth. I recognised that. That is all. Here, I am stopping.

Vatsala, 2007

 

Short and Spicy

I have been watching a lot of short films recently. Tisca Chopra’s Chutney,  for example, was absolutely delicious!

(I think  there was an inspiration: Saki’s short story – The open window – yet the adaptation was wholly Indian.Vera the tale spinner par excellence transformed her looks into a native Ghaziabadwali! ‘How does your garden grow’- a Hercule Poirot short story of Christie is also supposedly another inspiration. Lots in the audience have caught these nuances too.)

Watching a slew of Malayalam short films,  I particularly liked ( based  on The right kind of house -Alfred Hitchcock  Presents in 1958 ), the short film Grace Villa, that had Parvathy T and Rajesh Hebbar  enacting rather effortlessly.

I was left wondering on the veritable treasure house of adaptable short stories- covering everything from horror to ghosts to adventure.

‘Lamb to the slaughter’ by Roald Dahl, is one such story! Of course, it has been adapted into visual forms by Masters of the Art. Yet, we might have an Indian version of it yet! I will leave it to the reader to explore the story and then imagine the possible short film in an Indian context.

‘Witness for the Prosecution’ is another classic by Agatha Christie. I wait for the day an Indian short film creates a court scene, capturing that stunner!

We are often treated to trite stuff,  tripe,  or plain terrible fare as audience. Short films offer a welcome change.

Short film genre is pretty good opportunity for writers and adapters to showcase some of the classy works of world literature. Only request is that, they acknowledge the original with due humility. In the era of google and rather wise audience, one click can reveal the true inspiration. Better to accept gracefully than shout of originality, is it not?

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Parallel Worlds

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My elder one smirks when Mr Bennet comments on how Elizabeth Bennet will risk losing one parent whether she chose to marry or deny Mr.Collins, and  she shakes her head disbelievingly when Darcy declares that he had chosen Elizabeth against his better judgement (Really, as in really?) I grin to myself : that feeling of having a sensitive companion is ineffable. Considering that till a month before she thought “Pride and Prejudice” was “amma material”, it was a welcome change!

“Not bad, eh?” she comments after we watch all possible versions of Jane Austen’s classic as available in you-tube. Only the little girl is annoyed at why we laugh at certain places, because she does not find anything funny. I tell her that though many of her unwittingly rendered remarks are ironic by nature, her brain is  technically not developed enough to appreciate subtle irony. She snorts in response. Even Lydia could not have rendered the expression better.

“I thought you knew only boring stuff…” my daughter says, as I grin. “Try watching Jane Eyre now and revisit the book,” I opine.

Ahh, if you start me on classics my girl, we will show you that marvels exist not only in cosmos but on dear old Earth. “Sometimes it is necessary to read stuff totally unconnected with your major area of interest,” I suggest quietly.

“Yeah, amma, you try reading Roger Penrose for a change. You read too many short stories.”

I search for Anatole France’s classic short story, “The Procurator of Judea” and read the ending aloud: Pontius Pilate contracted his brows, and his hand rose to his forehead in the attitude of one who probes the deeps of memory. Then after a silence of some seconds: “Jesus?” he murmured, “Jesus—of Nazareth? I cannot call him to mind.”

My daughter raises a quizzical eyebrow. Then she says, ‘Wow!Cool!’

Indeed. And about time too. And she has not even started Faulkner.

“There are more things in heaven and earth Horatio than are dreamt  of in your philosophy

Old amma scores this time.

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Moonlight Splendour

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Chandramathy, Professor of English and bilingual writer of rare wit and verve, I admire deeply. Somewhere long ago, I read about her trying  to get an appointment with Harold Pinter,  at his residence. Apparently ‘ Moonlight’ was being dramatised in town, and she had tried to explain that her name was synonymous with Pinter’s Classic! I quite forget the denouement.

In Mathrubhumi’s July 11 issue, is her satirical short story, ” Ningal Nireekshanathillanu” aka ” You are under observation”! The irony dripping from her pen is scathing, exposing the warts of the hypocritical society- the rot, literally thrown up. I enjoyed the story and ruminated over how her style of writing has changed over the years.

In the collection of her stories, ” Chandramathyude Kathakal”, published by DC Books for the first time in 2009, the writer blooms under the loving gaze of her reader.

From stories of Devigramam, women searching for understanding, her stories of 80s have changed shape and hue as she traverses modern times. ” Bonsai”, for example is a pithy little shocker! ( 1993).

But my gaze remained on ” Kavithayude Katha” ( Story of a poem) as she beautifully portrays the dual world of men and women and their aspirations. As Sushma, the ubiquitous housewife writes a poem, daring to dream and reach out to a vital flame in her heart, the parallel world of the man is revealed.  The poem gets destroyed in the end, and  as she steps to greet her normal life, I thought that this story is timeless- across countries, across ages, across genres. It is written with remarkable ” kaiyothukkam” as we call it in my mother tongue- with exemplary word control and brevity.

I could relate it to the YouTube hit ” Moonamidam”, relate it to the present age of easy access to forbidden frontiers. ” What”, I found myself wondering, ” if Sushma were to be living today- with means to reach out? Would she still put the phone down, after listening to a voice at the other end and shut down memories of a rain filled day? ”

Now that, would make another beautiful short film.

Chandramathy , Professor and writer, is also a survivor. She battled cancer and won the fight. A perceptive story, about that time, when apparent well wishers flooded her with their false sympathies stand starkly apart in that compilation. “Negative Energy”, is full of deeply pained laughter. The reader cannot laugh, for she is choked up by the reality of it all. It happens everyday, in everyone’s life.

The simplicity of this moonlight splendour, I adore. I wish it will grace our lives, for a long, long time with its divine aura.

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