The Scent of a Bird- Part 1 – ( Pakshiyude Manam by Madhavi Kutty ; Translation from Malayalam)

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Pakshiyude Manam : Madhavi Kutty, Short Story, 1961.

The Scent of a Bird

**

It was after one week of their return from Calcutta that she had seen the advertisement in the newspaper.

‘Needed:  A smart, intelligent woman to be Incharge of our wholesale business. She should have basic knowledge about the designs and colours of clothes in vogue. Visit our office with  a self written application.’

The office building was situated on a bustling street. It was eleven in the morning when she reached the place. She was dressed in a pale yellow silk sari and was holding a white vanity bag. The building was monstrous: it had around seven storeys, innumerable verandahs and more than two hundred rooms. It had four lifts. Before each lift, there was a throng of fat business men, and executives holding leather suitcases. She could see no woman in the vicinity. Her confidence started waning. She regretted that she had ignored her husband’s objections to try for the job.

There was a peon standing near-by. She queried, ‘..Textile Industries. Do you know on which floor it is located?’

‘ I think it is on the first floor,’ he answered.

She felt that all eyes were focussed on her. She was mortified. Why was she standing amidst this milling crowd of sweaty men? Even if they paid a thousand rupees, would she like to  come and work in that building on a daily basis? Yet, she could not easily go back from there.

It was her turn. Trying assiduously not to touch another body, she cowered in a corner.When she emerged at the first floor, she took a look around. The verandah seemed to spread out in all four directions and had huge doors opening into different rooms. ‘ Export and Import’, ‘Wine Business’ and such were written on these boards. However, even after checking multiple name boards, she failed to trace the one she was seeking.

Her palms had started sweating profusely by then. A person came out from a room nearby, and she stopped him with a question.

‘..Textile company…where is it located?’

He looked her all over with his shrewd, narrow, red tinged eyes. Then he said, ‘ I do not know. But if you come with me, I will check with the peon and guide you.’

He was a rather short, middle aged man. His finger nails were filthy. Perhaps due to that, she decided against following him.

She said, ‘ Thank you. I shall find out myself.’

Hurriedly she walked away and turned a corner. There was a new verandah with  many closed doors. Over one  closed door was written, ‘Dying.’

She smirked on seeing the wrong spelling. Instead of colouring the clothes, did they manufacture death over there? She pushed open the door, determined to get some clarification about her destination. Inside was a huge, vacant space akin to an inner courtyard; a glass topped table  and a few chairs could be seen. There was no one around.

She called out, ‘ Is anyone in here ?’

The curtains hanging over the entrance of the inner room swayed a bit. Nothing else. Gathering courage, she moved towards the chair at  the centre of the room and seated herself. She felt that unless she rested, she would not be able to move an inch further. A fan twirled above her in a desultory manner.

‘ What sort of an office is this?’ She  was left wondering. Leaving the door unlocked, switching the fan on, where had all the inmates gone? Since they were in the dyeing business, they would surely know the company that she was searching for.

Opening her vanity bag, she retrieved her hand mirror and checked her face. She reassured herself that she was well qualified for the job. Should she demand eight hundred rupees? They would be lucky to hire  someone like her. She was educated, came from a privileged background, had travelled the world…

She woke up on hearing the popping sound of a cork being pulled from a bottle. What sort of a fool was she! She had dozed off in a strange place! Rubbing her eyes, she stared around. A young man was busy pouring whiskey into a glass  containing soda. He was seated in a chair right opposite to her. His shirt was made of white terelene. Thick bristles of hair grew over the upper portions of his fingers. Seeing those strong fingers, a tremor of fear ran through her. Why had she come to this devil’s home?

He lifted his head and looked at her. He had a long face, it was reminiscent of a horse. He asked, ‘ Did you sleep well?’ Without waiting for her response, he lifted the glass and gulped down the drink.

‘ Are you thirsty?’ He asked.

She shook her head in negation. ‘ Do you know  where the Textile company is situated? After all, you are into dyeing business,’ she said, with a polite smile.

He did not smile back; instead poured himself another drink. His demeanour was as if there was infinite time for casual conversations.

‘ Don’t you know?’ She asked impatiently. If only she could get out of that place and go back home!

Suddenly he broke into a grin. He had very thin lips. That made his smile ugly.

‘ What is your hurry? The time is only eleven fourth five now,’ he said.

She got up and walked towards the door. ‘ I hoped that you would know. You are familiar with the cloth business.’

‘What familiarity? We are not into dyeing clothes. Did you not read the board? It is written Dying…’

‘ That means…?’

‘ What is written. Haven’t you heard of death? We arrange for easy dying.’ He leaned back into his chair lazily and winked at her. He was grinning broadly. She felt that the white smile had  completely enveloped  her eyes. Her feet became unsteady. She raced to the door. But her sweaty hands could not open the door knob. Helpless tears filled her eyes.

‘Please open the door for me. I have to go home. My children are waiting for me!’ She hoped that on hearing her plea, he would discard his cruel intentions and help her out. ‘ Please, please…open the door,’ she begged yet again. He continued to drink his whiskey and kept on grinning at her.

She started knocking desperately at the door. ‘ Don’t you dare harm me! What have I ever done to you?’ After some time, her sobs subsided. Exhausted, she collapsed near the unopened door.

He was murmuring in a soft voice. She could make out a few words…

***

To continue…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 those 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 on a 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.’

***

 

 

 

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- 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

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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

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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)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read and Bless…

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The Meat Of The Moon : Madhavi Kutty ( Story Translation From Malayalam)

Chandrante Irrachi ( The Meat of the Moon): Madhavi Kutty,1969

**

Her lover continued to sleep even when it turned eleven in the night. She felt no inclination to wake him up and send him to his home. Whenever he removed his glasses, the natural intensity of his face seemed to diminish. As he slept, she noticed the loneliness of a little boy on his face. A lost soul- no, a soul who had forgotten the way-a lonely little boy, was  tied inside the forest of mortality in that  aging body. She knew that she was deeply in love with him: the one who had witnessed his father’s death, the one who used to go to school in a bullock cart- wearing a sailor’s costume.

Outside that house- situated on the outskirts of the town- the rain was pouring down heavily. Through the ventilators, a breeze from yonder- crossing  the thorny plants and trees on a hillside-entered the room, moaning like a wounded creature.

‘Beloved,’ she called bending low, ‘ It is past eleven- should you  not be getting up?’

He woke up startled: with a wide eyed gaze. ‘ Eleven? Why didn’t you wake me up earlier?’

‘Don’t go tonight. Stay with me,’ she said.

He got up and wearily sat down at the edge of the cot.

‘I am so groggy. How will I drive all that distance?’

Gazing at his body- gleaming like a flame in the light- she gently closed her eyes. Her heart sang: ‘Your body has reached my pyre- no, bed-carrying its secret destiny…I cannot escape now, Your body is like a golden harvest of  ripe grains. It has been created from the meat of the full moon…’

‘Now it will be past midnight when I reach home. What excuse shall I give today?’ He asked her.

‘Why don’t you stay the night with me? Won’t you give me one night?’ She asked him.

‘You know very well that it is impossible. I cannot act so irresponsibly.’ He said.

Seated on the stool before the mirror, he wore his socks. Tied  the laces of his shoes. His hair- a mix of steel and black  curls- reflected on the mirror.

‘Don’t you feel any obligation toward me?’ She asked.’ I am your kept woman, your slave: do you feel no obligation towards this unfortunate woman?’

‘I love you,’ he said mechanically, ‘ I love you even when you tell me about your colleague. I will love you even if you marry him. You know that very well.’

‘What is the cost of such a love?’ She asked.

‘I don’t know,’ he replied.

‘Shall I marry him? Shall I become his wife with your permission? Tell me, do you have no objection at all?’

‘Why should I stop it?’ He asked,’I am a man who is aging fast. A married man. He is young and handsome.Your colleague. I do not think that you will stop even if I were to object.’

He moved towards the door, while she lay on the bed.

She called out to him: ‘ I will give him an answer tomorrow itself. I am greatly relieved that you have no issues with it.I will have to stop seeing you. But eventually I shall forget that pain. My dear, you are so compassionate.’

‘I will see you next week. Call me tomorrow afternoon,’ he said.

At the  sound of  the door banging  shut, she felt that she had been shattered to bits. She was a woman, she was a fragile piece of  glass. She felt that every tiny shard of glass wanted to hurt her, make her bleed..

She picked up the phone from the table, and woke up the young man who was in love with her. ‘Hello’, he said: ‘ Hello!’

‘Hello’

‘Who is it? Mini, you?’ He asked.’ How come you are awake at this time?’

‘ Today, you asked me if I wanted to be your wife. I thought I will give you an answer now. That is all.’

‘What is the answer?’

‘ It is not possible.’ Putting the phone back into its cradle, she snuggled under the covers and closed her eyes.

She was convinced that for her- who was accustomed to the arms of a man who was successful in all aspects of life-there was no satisfaction  to be gained from  marrying  an ordinary man.

**

Note: For the sheer power of the narrative from the other woman’s perspective: not a whiny, complaining tone, mind you- but  that of a woman in control of her destiny- I found this gem of a short story written by Madhavi Kutty in 1969, an iconic piece of feminist writing.

It was when I read Telugu writer Volga’s interview ( She won the  Kendra Sahitya Academy award in 2016 for her book Vimukta:  Translated as The Liberation of Sita, Harper Collins )that I realised  again that the mind’s freedom to question  everything was the greatest gift of existence.

She mentioned about a classic Telugu short story by a famous writer in early 1920s when Sita jumped into Ravan’s pyre instead of stepping into the Agni Pareeksha.  She was speaking of how intolerance has increased in society nowadays, since Vimukta- a series of stories showcasing Sita’s bonding with Mandodari, Soorpanakha, Ahalya et al..was pilloried by some.

Inexplicably, another memory came: Of reading that great short story , ‘Sunstroke’ by Ivan Bunin. Perhaps it was the nonchalance of the women in both  stories which bemused me.

And then, I could not resist translating this gem!

😁

 

Panchagni: The Five Fires(Scenes 4-7)

Panchagni screenplay continued:

Scene 4:

Day

The Jail Superintendent’s room

The room is in the first floor of the office block in the Jail Complex.

The Superintendent is past fifty years of age. When he raises his head, after signing some papers,  the Matron, a forty five year old woman, salutes him.

Matron: Indira refuses to have food. It is the fourth day today.

Assistant Jailor and the Jail Doctor at the door.

Asst.Jailor salutes.

The Doctor pays respect in the normal way.

The Supdt is pondering deeply.

Asst.Jailor: Sir, we can charge under Section 45…

The Supdt motions with his head, negating the suggestion.

Doctor: She is very weak

Matron: If we manage to hold her for you, can you not give her glucose or some stuff?

Supdt: No, we can’t do it.

Asst.Jailor: Is her mother’s condition truly serious,  Sir? Has the verification report arrived?

The Supdt nods.

‘I have referred the matter to the IG. Let the decision be from there.’

An orderly arrives,( dressed in the Jail inmate’s dress), with tea for them on a tray

While serving, he comments sycophantically: ‘Too much freedom in the Jail nowadays! This is the result of that!  It was totally wrong to banish whipping.’

The phone rings. The Supdt picks it up,  says, ‘Yes’ , and then his face expression changes to obsequiousness.

‘Superintendent here, Sir! Yes, yes..but Sir! Yes, yes..the Doctor is observing her Sir! Ok Sir!’

He keeps the phone down.

‘The IG has referred the matter to the minister. But  it seems that some journalist has reported about the fasting incident in the Jail ! Hell!’

Scene 5

Jail. Indira’s Cell

The mercury rises in the BP apparatus.

The Doctor examines her as she lies on a bed.

The Matron and a nurse along side.

Scene 5A

Office of the IG Prisons

The IG throws a file to the police official standing in front of him.

‘Refer the matter to the Parole Board.’

Scene 6

Day

The courtyard of the Jail

Women inmates working.

A female inmate: If you get out on parole, do you have to report to the police station daily?

An ‘Expert’:

Hey, no! When I went, it was a good guy- as Inspector! He asked me to come just once a week.

The woman who had spoken on attacking her husband:

When I went on parole, I was  only apprehensive on whether I would end up before that son of a bitch!  I might have grabbed the cleaver again, forgetting  that the punishment could  get doubled  !

The Expert: No doubling ! All that is nonsense. It is not  there in the law.

A long whistle. The women stop work and return to their Cells.

Scene 7

The office of the Jail Supdt

The Supdt takes a typed sheet of  Official paper and pushes it forward

Indira stands in front of him, dressed in the convict’s uniform.

She is totally exhausted.

She signs on the paper.

Supdt: Fourteen days. Please read it.

She looks at him.

The Supdt checks the accounts and the voucher placed in front of him by a clerk.

‘You have some money as savings. You can take that. Also get your dress.’

He rings the bell.

He looks at Indira- she stands silent, emotionless. He thinks for a moment and then with great soberness:

‘ If you start acting as if the revolution has reached the next street…! Hmm..The Government can cancel the parole any time. Up to you’

It is a warning, also an advice.

*

Tarahim Bhav Sindhu Bina Jaljaan(50): You Can Cross The Worldly Ocean Without Any Other Means

IMG_1511.JPG

SreeRamCharit Manas’ Fifth Canto (Sopan)  named SundarKanda Ends:

The Ocean suggests a way

*

Nadh Neel Nal kapi dvau bhai/ larikayim rishi aasish payi//

Tinh kem paras kiyem giri bhare/tarihahim jaladhy pratap tumhare//

The Ocean said-You have Neel and Nal, two monkey brothers with you, they have obtained a boon from an ascetic in their childhood

If they touch anything, even a mountain turns light, and with your blessings, will float on the waters of the ocean

(Note: Nal and Neel were the architects and engineers of the ancient bridge connecting Rameshwaram with Lanka. They were remarkably brilliant in their field as per folk lores)

*

Mai puni ur dhari Prabhu prabhutai/karihavu bal anuman sahayi//

Ehi bidhi nadh payodhi bandhayiya/jehim yeh sujasu lok tihu gaayiya//

I will also keep Your Grace in my heart, and try to help as much as I can (  as per my capability in this task)

Hey Lord! Bind down the ocean( Build a bridge- setubandan) in such a manner that the three worlds sing praises of Your Glory!

*

Ehim sir mam uttar tat baasy/hatahu nadh khal nar agh raasy//

Suni Kripal sagar mann peera/turatahim hari Ram randheera//

Please kill off the wicked clan of human beings who reside on my northern shores with Your arrow

Hearing the agony of the Ocean, the valorous and compassionate SreeRamji killed off the wicked ones  immediatly

*

Dekhi Ram bal paurush bhary/harshy payonidhi bhayavu sukhari//

Sakal charit kahi prabhuhi sunava/charan bandi payodhi sidhava//

Seeing SreeRamji’s radiance and great strength, the Ocean was gratified and content,

He narrated the stories of those wicked ones to SreeRamji, then bowing before the Lord’s feet, the Ocean God returned to his abode

*

Nij bhavan gavanevu sindhu SreeRaghupathihi yeh mat bhayavu/

Yeh charit kali malhar jadhamati das Tulsi gayavu//

Sukh bhavan sansay saman davan bishad Raghupathy guna gana/

Taji sakal aas bharos gaavahi sunahi santat sad mana//

The ocean returned to its abode, SreeRaghunathji liked his solution

This story removes all the sins accrued in Kali Yug, TulsiDas has sung it as per his wits ( according to his intelligence)

Sree Ramji  is an incarnation of all great qualities- He gives joy absolute, removes all doubts, and vanquishes all agonies

Hey Stupid Mind ! Let go of all worldy attachments and desires, (and instead of that) sing and listen to this great story

*

Doha:

Sakal sumangal dayak Ragunayak gun gaan/

Sadar sunahim te tarahim bhav sindhu bina jaljaan//

Singing the praises of SreeRamji brings in all auspicious tidings

Those who listen to it with respect, will cross over the worldly ocean without resorting to any other means ( the Lord’s meditation acts as a safe-boat)

*

Iti Sreemadramcharitmanase sakalakliklushvidhvamsane pancham sopanah samamtah/

The Fifth Canto ( Sundar Kanda) of SreeRamcharitmanas, which removes all the sins accrued in Kali Yug ends here.

*

Personal Note: In these 50 blogs across two months, I have obtained  immense joy and peace; as I attempted  to understand the beautiful lines of Sundar Kanda of Goswami Tulsidasji’s great SreeRamcharitmanas.

May the compassionate Lord bless you all!

*

 

 

 

Karaum So Begi Jo Tumhahi Sohayi (49):Whatever You Wish, I Shall Immediately Carry Out

IMG_1509.JPG

God of Ocean (Varuna) speaks to SreeRamji (Sundar Kanda continued)

*

Sabhay sindhu gahi pad prabhu kere/cchamahu nadh sab avgun mere//

Gagan sameer anahl jal dhari/eenh kayi nadh sahaj jad karni//

The Ocean God( Varuna) caught hold of SreeRamji’s feet in fear and said- Lord! Please forgive  all my faults

The sky, air, fire, water and earth( panchbootha) are prone by nature to be indifferent in action ( not proactive)

*

Tav prerit Mayam upjaye/srishti hetu sab grandhani gaye//

Prabhu ayasu jehi kah jas ahayi/so tehi bhaanti rahe sukh lahayi//

Due to your powers, Maya has created these elements for purposes of Creation- all the ancient texts say that,

Whatever be the nature assigned  by the Lord, the element stays  contentedly within its purview

*

Prabhu bhal keenh mohi sikkh deenhi/marjada puni tumhari keenhi//

Dol gawar sudra pasu naary/sakal tadana ke adhikary//

Lord, you did the proper thing by punishing me, but the nature of things- that too has been designed by You!

The drum, the illiterate, the lowly evolved soul, the animal, the woman- they all get punished ( taught) due to their nature

(Note: One gets an insight into the socio cultural forces at work in ancient times- not much different from today-where patriarchy and lack of empathy with those marginalised existed in society)

*

Prabhu pratap mai jaab sukhayi/utarihi kataku na mori badayi//

Prabhu agya apel shruti gaayi/karaum so begi jo tumhahi sohayi//

Due to your powers, I will dry up and the army will cross over- but that will be against the nature of the ocean( as an element of nature)

Yet Your command has to be obeyed, that is the decree from the Vedas, now whatever You may suggest, I shall immediately carry out!

*

Doha:

Sunat bineet bachan ati kah kripal musukai/

Jehi bidhi utarai kapi kataku tat so kahu upayi//

Listening to the very humble words of the Ocean, the compassionate Raghunathji smiled and said-

Hey Son! Suggest a way that the army of monkeys can cross over you

*