Certain books call out to you. They have your destiny entwined in their pages. Back in 2017, when I read ‘Purappadinte Pustakam’, something in its sparkling originality touched my heart. I reached out to the author and offered to translate it to English. I felt that the world deserved to meet the wonderful characters; laugh and cry along with them. The author, V.J.James, always affable and humble, erudite and kind, responded encouragingly. The journey began there. As the famous quote from Dao De Jing goes, ‘ A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’
Today, we have translated six books together. Three novels : Anti-Clock, Nireeswaran and Dattapaharam have been released by Penguin Random House India. Next year, we hope to see ‘Purappadinte Pustakam’ or ‘ The Book of Exodus’ published. James had to struggle for more than a decade to see his debut novel in print. It evolved over the years, stained with sweat and tears.
Ironically, though it was the first book we completed together in the year 2018, the book took its own time to come to fruition. It has made me believe again in the subtle magic of words. We control nothing; only the effort is our portion. And when the results arrive, we have to humbly bow before the occurrence.
In an interview, long back, James was asked:
‘When do you think your books will get to a global audience?’
‘I believe in Akshara Shakti : the power of words.’
That makes me pause. And I reflect on the somber truth behind it all.
For words to grace us, we have to deserve their benedictions. To read and write more, to make the receiving vessel sparkle and shine, that choice alone is left to us. When and how the blessings pour, that is still under veils.
Every day gives us an opportunity to ready ourselves for the unseen grace. Though the mood is dark and apprehensive, or cheerful and sunny, or stoic and serene, we have to focus on the work at hand. The toil itself is the canticle. When raised to the heavens, by singing with a pure heart, the answer surely comes.
May the Lord guide us all into more and more fruitful endeavors; while staying detached and committed.
(Note: Vaastuhara ; Baastuhara in Bangla means those deprived forcibly of their possessions. The story runs in the background of Calcutta, 1953-71)
This short story was adapted into a multiple award-winning movie in 1991, by the great director Aravindan. Starring Mohanlal, Neena Gupta, et al.
He was staying in the Sardarji Hotel at Benedict Street. Probably because he returned early that day, or that he had nothing else to do, the man felt like having lunch from the Madrasi Hotel near the metro. When he was on the verge of unbolting the door, someone knocked from outside. When he hurriedly opened the door, the waiter announced, ‘Sahib, aapse milne keliye ek aurat khadi hai’. A woman was waiting to meet him. As he stepped forward, the waiter added, ‘ Ek Bengali aurat hai.’
A Bengali woman. The waiter had not said ‘ Ek Bengali memsahib’. Aurat. Though the words meant essentially the same, from the waiter’s perspective there was an ocean of difference between them both.
There was a woman sitting in the lounge. She was dusky, slim and short in build. There was no streak of sindhoor on her hair parting either. She wore no ornaments, not even the ubiquitous conch shell bangles. Perhaps a widow. There was a smattering of grey on her hair. Two blazing eyes captivated him from inside the cheap glass framed spectacles.
The woman got up and wished him.
‘Writers Building dhekke Haldar Babu diyecchan apnar dikhana…’ It was Haldar Babu from the secretariat who had given his address to her.
‘Ki vyapar…apnar…bolon.’ (Please tell me the matter.)
‘Amar kodha maane…maane…’(My story, er…well…)
She flinched slightly, unsure of the way ahead.
‘Boyre bosle bhalo’. Noticing the Punjabi receptionist eavesdropping, the woman spoke up. She wished to move outside and then share her story.
They sat in the foyer outside. Then the woman started speaking in English. Though she was very fluent, the accent made him request her to speak in the native tongue.
‘Is it true that you are handing over thirty bighas of land to refugees going to the islands?’
‘Yes, many more incentives like a house, cattle, furniture…’
‘I am a refugee. Though born in Hal Dibunia village, I grew up in Dacca. After the partition, we came to Calcutta. Please do me a favour. Can you please select me for migrating to the Andamans too?’
‘How can that be possible? Our scheme is exclusively for farmers. Besides, what caste do you belong to?’
‘Our scheme is meant only for Nomoshudra category.’
It was a scheme meant exclusively for farmers belonging to scheduled caste category.
The look on the woman’s face became dull.
‘Babu, I wish to escape from this wretched Calcutta somehow. Or else both my children…’
Why was she telling him all that? But the woman was not in the mood for stopping.
‘Never have I known happiness in my life. I wish to have at least one day of peace before my death.’
Due to the palpable sincerity resounding in every word of hers, the man could not help listening. Yet, he was perturbed. How could he persuade her to return?
‘Let me ask you…is there a chance for securing some jobs for my children in the island?’
‘Are they educated?’
‘Daughter completed her M.A… But she has not passed the exams. My son finished his studies in the polytechnic. But he has not attempted the final exams.’
‘There are lots of Bengali medium schools there. Should not be difficult to get jobs.’
‘But..Babu, they will not listen to me. If you kindly put in a word…’
‘How will someone who doesn’t listen to her own mother heed a stranger’s advice?’
‘Calcutta happens to be like that now.’
The woman got up to leave.
‘When will you return to the island, Babu?’
‘I will be in Calcutta for another three weeks.’
‘When you get some time, do visit us. Our house is in the Dum Dum area. On the way to Sitimur papermills.’
‘Give me your address.’
As she tried to scribble down the address, the paper, resting on the cane teapoy, got torn. The man fetched a newspaper from his room so that she could use it as a base. The woman stared unblinkingly at the newspaper.
‘We used to subscribe this newspaper once. I used to read ‘Swadhinata’ and my husband used to read this paper. Now all have changed their stances…I do not know what affiliation this newspaper holds anymore.’
The woman stood up. She gave him the address, beneath which she had made a sketch of the way to the house.
‘Arati Panikkar?’ He read out wonderingly.
She looked at him, as if asking for his approval of her grand name.
‘Panikkar… from my husband’s name.’
‘Panikkar,’ the man repeated.
‘The new generation gets amused at the peccadilloes of the ancients, right?’ The woman smiled at him. ‘Come home sometime…will tell you all about it.’
The woman’s form did not disappear from his mind. Perhaps it was her intriguing name, or her unpretentious, open nature. But he continued to ruminate over the woman in the following days. Finally, he decided to meet her at home.
It was an arduous journey. He deboarded at the correct bus stop but ended up going right instead of left. He had walked quite a distance before realizing his mistake. Somehow, he reached the woman’s home.
It was a non-descript, small house. Very ancient. An insignificantly small courtyard, dilapidated boundary walls, and an iron gate eaten away by rust. The door was locked from outside. It was a Godrej lock. There was a partition of the porch made with jute. He guessed that another family was sharing a portion of the house. That part was locked too. After waiting for a while, he left the compound. When he reached the bust stop, she disembarked unexpectedly from a bus. She seemed not to recognize him. He had to introduce himself. The woman beamed with joy.
‘Asun…amar baadi…asun!’ She invited him warmly. They walked home together. He was offered a low slung armchair. The drape was not fresh. Since he had no option, he stretched his legs ahead. The woman went inside. The hissing sound of the match stick being rubbed against the box and the drone of the stove being lit could be heard.
The woman came with luchi on a steel plate and a cup of tea. The luchi , made earlier in the day, was cold. There was no curry accompanying the food. There was some sugar on the plate. The woman had hurriedly washed the plate, and it was still moist. The sugar had started melting in the droplets. As he started eating the food, the crunching noise of slippers was heard. A young Bengali woman came inside.
‘Amar mayye Damayanti’, the woman introduced her daughter.
Except for the sharp chin, there was no resemblance between the women. Damayanti was taller and fairer than her mother. She was dressed in a cheap handloom sari with blue edges. Since she wore no ornaments, there was an inexplicable emptiness about her. The young woman leaned against the wall.
Damayanti’s eyes assessed him severely.
‘The refugees are being tortured in your island. Even in Hitler’s concentration camp…’
The man was taken aback. Without any prelude, even before a proper introduction, such a remark!
‘Who said so?’
‘I read the newspapers.’
‘In which newspaper?’
‘Irrelevant. Is it true?’
‘Oh, her diatribe has begun!’ The mother intervened, ‘See, this Bhadralok is our guest…not an officer as of now.’
Damayanti pondered over something before querying again.
‘Is your home in the island or in East Bengal?’
It was the mother who asked him.
‘I hate Kerala people,’ Damayanti said.
‘They are cowards…opportunists…reactionaries!’
‘Reactionaries? See, the leaders of the revolutionary movements nowadays…’
‘And that is the singular reason why revolutions don’t succeed in India!’
‘Forget that…tell me, why did you call us opportunists?’
‘I will tell you. Keralites come to Calcutta. They become part of revolutionary movements for few days…then they secure jobs. Then everything stops! End of the revolution! Careerists!’ The young woman paused, and then as if some revelation dawned on her, she continued…
‘There is never a day in Calcutta without firing by the authorities… No day when eight or nine laborers do not die! Ever heard of a South Indian dying?’
‘Do you expect everybody to be like you?’ It was her mother who retorted now. ‘You caused a strike in college. You did not pass the M.A. degree. After begging and pleading I got you a job in a school. On the fifth day, she provoked another strike! She hit the head mistress with her chappals. A criminal case was registered in her name. What happened in all the other places where you sought jobs…all ended up the same way.’
‘I refuse to work…no, no, no…unless it is in a liberated India.’ Damayanti raised her voice and then suddenly turned to look at him.
‘Your tea has grown cold. Please drink.’
The man sipped his tea. The mother sat opposite to him.
‘Have you been to Malabar?’ He asked.
‘Where in Malabar?’
‘I do not know the exact location…but I can elaborate on the details.’
As soon as the old woman mentioned the railway station, the trepidation increased in him.
‘…then we caught a taxi…a small bazaar…there were farmlands stretching for furlongs from there…’ The description ended at the gate of a joint household.
‘I did not cross the threshold,’ the woman said.
The dizzying tempo of his drumming thoughts ceased too.
‘I was not allowed to step across,’ the woman’s voice lost its melody. The man gazed at her. Her hand was cupping her chin. A single tear drop trailed its way through the cheek and touched the forefinger and ended on her lips.
‘What was your husband’s name?’
‘Kunjunni Panikkar.’ It was Damayanti who answered.
‘Where is he now?’
‘He is not alive.’
Again, it was Damayanti who replied. There was nothing more to be asked. He stood up.
‘Let me go now.’
‘You will lose your way again. I will come with you.’
Both women accompanied him. Silently they made their way through the deserted alleys. Would the mother have wanted him to speak about a potential job for Damayanti? But his mind was far off now.
‘So, you have a daughter…nobody else.’
‘Told you that day about my son, didn’t I?’
‘Where is he?’
Mother and daughter gazed at each other.
‘Siliguri.’ It was the mother who replied.
A bus came by.
‘You can go till Shyam bazaar in this bus. Then catch either a tram or bus…’
He boarded the bus.
That night, it was when he switched off the lights and lay down to sleep, that the darkness of the woman’s grief assaulted him. The man got up and wrote a letter to his mother.
The reply came earlier than he expected. Not just his mother’s…the response of many…all in tandem.
The last few sentences in his mother’s letter dangled his ruminations from the gallows.
‘Kunjunni is your uncle by blood…If you wish to help them, you can rely on your accumulated savings. You are free to donate from your treasury.’
All through the day, he relentlessly sojourned through those lines. Unable to sit still, he started walking about restlessly.
When he arrived at his family home, there was a virtual thronging of the crowds.
‘Where are they?’
‘Kunjunni’s wife and children!’
They had all expected him to bring along Kunjunni uncle’s wife when he came. Or that she might be waiting somewhere nearby. On being told that she was not there, the crowd dwindled. The motley of relatives remained. All were at his throat.
He had become entangled in avoidable business.What would happen when the woman and children came to the family home? What would they do when ignored by everybody? Who can imagine the ruckus! After all she was the woman who had seduced Kunjunni!
The husband of the man’s elder sister stepped into the verandah then. After wiping his spectacles with the edge of his mundu, he held forth, as if delivering a sermon:
‘Supposing Kunjunni Ammavan was alive today! Naturally, he would be under the clutches of the Bengali woman now. Would he give us any slight regard? Then, why should we…?’
Everybody nodded as if he was proclaiming some holy dictum. It was then that the man got utterly incensed.
‘I am speaking of those encroaching on Kunjunni Ammavan’s properties. Those who are enjoying the benefits!’
‘ I am taking care of the compound in his name. And I am not willing to give it away to some wretched good-for-nothings!’ His mother’s voice was ten times louder than the man’s own.
‘His farmlands are with Bhavani,’ someone muttered.
‘Damned wanton! As if that miserly woman is going to give up her lands!’ It was his mother who spat out thus.
A lad came running to the foyer even before she finished speaking.
‘Venu Etta, Bhavani Chechi has asked you meet her right now.’
The boy, not knowing who was Venu, offered the invitation to everybody around.
‘And what does that evil witch want from you?’ His mother frowned angrily.
‘Is she not busy with work today?”
‘Ah, she is relishing leave now a days…two months’ leisure.’
As he got ready, his mother asked, ‘Where are you off to?’
‘To meet Bhavani Ammayi.’
‘At this time of the day? She must be stuffing beef, boozing happily and smoking a cigarette!’
His mother mock-enacted the exact posture of his aunt.
The man shrugged indifferently and walked away fast. When he crossed the threshold of the house, he saw his aunt stretched out languorously in the arm chair. She was dressed in white mundu and blouse; a Turkish bath towel covering her chest. When she supervised labourers in her farms and compounds, the towel would be wound around the head like a turban. He saw neither beef nor arrack. Instead, there were betal leaves on a chair and areca nuts in a tin nearby.Bhavani Ammayi was reading a book by Pearl S. Buck.
All fathers were once kids : P.V.Shaji Kumar ( A chapter translated from his memoirs written in Malayalam).
In an evening darkened by the rain, when I was returning home after playing Kabbadi in Kalichampothy’s cemented open theatre; my knees bloodied in an interesting hammer, sickle, star design, Muraliettan ( we respectfully address older people as ettan/chettan/elder brother) called me from inside the village library on whose walls the picture of the communist leader Azhikodan Raghavan was affixed :
‘ Eda, how come you are not picking up books to read anymore?’
His voice was softer than the wind’s murmur, and I found myself shutting my umbrella, trying in vain to scrape off the mud on my shins and stepping inside the library. My trousers, bereft of any button, was on the verge of slipping down and I tightened the knot above my belly-button. My tummy ballooned into a sky skewed sidewards.
Books are the souls of those who are doomed to wander even after death. In solitariness, one can listen to the peeves and mumbles of what they were denied when alive. It is a thought which congealed within my mind at an odd hour. From the lower wooden rack, covered by cobwebs, Muraliettan pulled out a book for me. A book devoid of a cover, yellowing due to age, and of great girth due to the extraordinary texture of the paper. ‘Read this…slightly old, but you will like it.’
Like the water snake gulping down the nedumchoori fish, darkness had wolfed down down the light. There was no one in sight to accompany me. The dead Choyiyetti would be searching for lice in her hair, shaking her dangling old breasts shaped like cucumber; seated inside the desolate house on top of Palankikunnu. As I go past , she will call out from the window, ‘ Da…you brat, come and give me something to drink…’ As if a red hot iron had been pressed against it, my chest burned in fear.
Without checking the book, I wrote my name in English as neatly as I could in the register and stepped out into the rain. Chandrettan who was returning from a dip in Kannachira canal, humming a cinema song and wearing his under wear as a head gear, encountered me on the way. ‘ Da, Thangetty has sent some rice to the mill…pick it up…don’t forget to take the bran too!’ I became the proverbial dog which was waiting to howl in despair; when, to add to its woes, a coconut too fell on its head. If I did not pick up the rice and bran, Thangamani- my mother, will surely give me hell. (Especially the bran for the cows. Amma loved the cows better than her own kids.) If I wait around the mill, Choyiyetti would move out from the house and sit beneath the tree by the street.
I gathered my courage and walked to the mill.
Instead of Shashiyettan, who was commonly seen, it was Kannettan who was working there today. Nobody knew when Kannettan would turn crazy. He was nearly fifty years old. He resembled a bear in both looks and attitude. When he turned nuts, he would crouch in a place and start hooting like an owl. For some unknown reason, the man loathed me.
Ah, such lay the matters ahead.
Clutching my umbrella and the book, I gingerly edged forward. There was a crowd inside. My classmate Manjusha and her mother Savitriyetti were there. From the door, I peeped hopefully at Kanettan. As he shifted the rice grains to the platform, Kanettan stared at me harshly. His deep seated eyes reddened… “Go stand aside. Let the others finish first. I shall give you the rice only afterwards!”
I felt as if I was evaporating into smoke. As if my trousers slipped all the way down in front of all. Manjusha’s round eyes sent forth an arrow edged with mockery towards me. (You round eyed girl! Tomorrow you will come seeking my help during arithmetic. I will show you then.)
I snucked away to the corner of the rice mill where coconut shells, burned bran, and an old cycle were dumped. The rain was like the wailing of the darkness. The rustling of the leaves. The humming of the mill. Shame, fear and pain came together to enwrap me. I clambered atop the cycle, and pressed down heavily on the pedals bereft of chains.
Leaning against the wooden pillar, seated atop the cycle, I opened the book which Muraliyettan had offered me. The book’s title (in Malayalam translation) was ‘Father’s childhood’. When his little daughter Sasha was suffering from ear-pain, Sasha’s father Raskin narrates an interesting story from his own childhood to soothe her. Soon afterwards, whenever her ear ached Sasha would plead …’ Daddy, my ear is hurting! Please tell me another story when you were a little boy!’ Raskin tells her more stories of his boyhood days.
Daddy is the hero of this book. His follies, sorrows, desires fill the book. I played with Sasha’s daddy to the tune of the pouring rain. When Daddy’s precious possession, the ball which he never shared with anyone else, something more beautiful than the sun itself, burst into bits when he threw it in front of a car, I grieved along with him as his pride died. Believing what the lion-tamer said about taming any wild animal by staring at its eyes, little Daddy emulates it in front of a dog in the park. As he stares at the poor creature with his big, round eyes covered by soda-lens glasses, the annoyed dog bites him in the tummy. My grief soon turned into a laugh. As the rain drops splattered on my face, I could see Manjusha hurrying to my side to tell me she was leaving; and I royally ignored her. The pictures drawn in shades of green and black tempted me to walk along with little Daddy, with my arms around his shoulder.
Little Daddy, on a reading spree, makes his aunt cry in front of her bridegroom by writing a poetic line, ‘Who could have expected, Aunt Liza to get selected!’ The story told me about few classics like Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver’s Travels.
Little Daddy who bit the dentist, this boy who drank vodka thinking it was water, always pouting at anything, who left his brother- tiny uncle Vic- all by himself…he took an avatar as myself and my father. It was as if my own self played a Theyyam ( when humans don the garb of deities in festival rites in Kerala) in front of me. The friends who teased little Daddy by saying it was a ‘ wedding’ when he played with his friend Masha, reminded me of my own friends. Indeed, very recently, for our merciless teasing of Shibu for playing with Mini, Yours Truly and his coterie had received a good caning from Bhaskaran sir!
When little Daddy refuses to eat his bread, the old Nanny tells him about how her little brother died due to hunger. Little Daddy stood in front of me, drenched in rain, upset, ashamed and wordless. After changing many ships of ambition of what he wanted to be, when he grew up : night watchman, ice cream seller, sailor, Daddy decides he would rather be a dog! He barks, scoots around on all fours, and tries to approach dogs so he can train himself to scratch behind the ears with his foot! A military officer, walking on the street, who gets annoyed at his pranks, advices him to ‘become a person.’ Though little Daddy could not decipher the depths of the words at first, he absorbs it slowly, and the next time he is asked what he wishes to become, answers firmly, ‘become a person!’ By the time my mind could understand his answer, someone kicked at the cycle viciously. I fell into the heap of burnt and dried bran nearby, head first. ‘Get out with the rice. I have to lock up!’
Behind me was Kannettan, panting heavier than the rain. At the first glance I could make out that the madness had begun and his clock had sprung ten minutes behind. Soon, Kannettan sat on his haunches in the foyer. He turned his face to the rain. His hands wrapped around his neck. He turned into an owl and started hooting.
I retrieved daddy’s childhood; and collected the milled rice and bran; tying the sacks together. Fearing that it would get wet in the rain, I inserted the book inside the bran. ‘Kannetta, would you please help?’ I felt fearless on requesting the old man to heave the sacks on my head. He scratched his thighs forcefully and came near. Having hefted the sacks on my head, Kanettan returned to the owl posture once more.
As I moved in the rain and darkness, I remembered my father. He was admitted in Mangalapuram hospital then. How was his childhood? Strikes, penury, isolation…I too became lonely in the rain . The wind wriggled inside my shirt.
It was after I reached home that it struck me: Choyiyetti had not beckoned me from the hills! I could not believe that I had crossed the Palankikunnu without an inkling of fear! At home, only my grandmother-whom I called Valiyamma- was present. As soon as she saw me, Valiyamma croaked, ‘Where were you till now? Narayani’s daughter Radha threw kerosene on herself… played with death. Everybody has gone to see her.’ A tremor took hold of me. I knew the woman. An enflamed human form shuddering to death silently, became visible to my eyes. I put down the sack of rice in the kitchen and went to the verandah. The rain had abated. The enigmatic silence of the dark. After feeding grass to the cows, grandmother returned and lay down to sleep on her mattress. The house and I were left to ourselves.. The chirping of the crickets and the frogs rose together in a crescendo.
I retrieved daddy’s childhood from the bran. Laying on my stomach, I opened the book. Hiding my mind’s trepidations, I went walking with little Daddy. Snow clad white mountains could be seen. Daddy had started school wearing his coat. Due to his love of sleep-the paradise on earth- Daddy reaches late to school and becomes a laughing stock. I started loving little Daddy who withered at the least of recriminations; and who was wont to shed much tears. Daddy who could not even manage to say a fib; the one who was easily tripped up by his friends…There is a depiction of Daddy, who wished to read his poetry through telephone, to the great Russian poet Valdimir Mayakovsky (who committed suicide eventually.) Daddy’s words would dry up like a desert whenever Mayakovsky picked up the phone! The picture of Daddy’s unceasing efforts for a week, which end in failure, jumped out from the book.
I laid on my back, having finished the book, my eyes on the shadows hanging onto the attic. When Amma, my aunt, and my brother returned and narrated the story of death, I did not panic as usual.
Today, after many decades, when I opened the book, that night rains in me again. I had no idea in my childhood that it was published during the time of the Soviet Union, by Progress Publishers and that a great man called Gopalakrishnan had directly translated it from the original Russian language. Only Daddy was in my mind, just little Daddy.
Now I feel that my conclusion, that death and madness are a big child’s play, became pellucid due to that night and this great book . Probably due to the incidents which occurred parallel to reading Daddy’s childhood, the book haunts me more than any other, even today. Not probably, let me say, for sure.
This is a book to be read by fathers more than their children. ‘When Daddy was a little boy’ by Alexander Raskin, forges a third eye which will not only force anyone to re-enter one’s own childhood but also to dive deeper into their kids’ own.
Alexander Raskin in his ‘Word to the children’ concludes thus: ‘There’s more to this book! Each one of you can discover the rest for yourself, for your own daddy can tell you about things that happened to him when he was a little boy. And so can your mommy. I would love to hear their stories, too.’
Maybe every reader feels the same. The book does not end here.
Note: In the English translation, it was not a military officer who advices little Daddy. It was just a man , passing by, who asks, ‘What kind of a boy are you, if you can’t even be a dog? That’s not what a person should be.’ When little Daddy asks, ‘What should I be?’ The man replies, ‘You think about it yourself’, and walks away. Little Daddy decides to become a person…a good person.
For those who wish to read this gem for themselves or for their kids…
This is a new habit: finding interesting words everywhere and scribbling down in the pages that I am translating. Arcane and schadenfreude jostle with grimace and inimical. Imponderable and unembellished sit next to scoot and scoff. Fair enough.
Later, when we sit with the chisel and square-my mind and me- we can dip into the bounty scattered all around. Even if there is no corpse on the page, carrion has a frightfully terrible pull . Might come in useful at some intersection of explanations, where vultures are involved.
Three books look/glare/gaze/dart a look/watch/observe me as I nurture the fourth. ‘What about us?’ they ask. Life has taught me that a mother loves all her children equally. Each is special and unique. With its strengths and failings. There is a time for each to blossom. And mothers sit beside the most recalcitrant one, egging it onwards. ‘Come on, you can make it’, we say. ‘Look at your siblings, they have flown away. Time for you to flutter those wings.’
My mission now is to push these four out of the nest. Let them fly high, steely resolve in their hearts. And may the words spread far and wide.
Love, hope, work, grit, determination, will-power, relentless toil….some words are always handy.
New word: Dokkōdō (Japanese: The way of walking alone). Famous book by a great warrior by the way.
I have been searching for Malayalam or English translations of Jayamohan’s ‘Aram’ stories for such a long time. Oh, why can’t any English publisher get a translation commissioned please? (There are brilliant readers who have translated few of his stories; for the sake of those who do not read Tamil.)
Finally, I got ‘Nooru Simhasanangal’ and ‘Uravidangal’ thanks to Amazon. ‘Uravidangal’, his memoir, has many articles which I had long ago read in Malayalam.
സ്കൂളിൽ പഠിച്ചു കൊണ്ടിരുന്ന സമയം.ഇടവപ്പാതി തകർത്തു പെയ്യുന്ന സന്ധ്യയിൽ, വായിക്കാൻ പുസ്തകം തപ്പി എത്തിച്ചേർന്നത് അച്ഛന്റെ കളക്ഷനിലാണ്. ചില പേജുകൾ തുന്നൽ വിട്ട ആ പുസ്തകത്തിൽ നിന്നും തലയുന്തി എന്നെ നോക്കി. മഴയുടെ താളത്തിനൊത്തു ചുമരും ചാരിയിരുന്ന് വായിച്ച ഒരു കഥ എന്നെ നിലവിളിയിൽ കൊണ്ടെത്തിച്ചു.
ആ കഥയിൽ ‘Amarantha’ എന്ന പേരിൽ ഒരു പെൺകുട്ടി ഉണ്ടായിരുന്നു. അവൾക്കു സഹജമായ കാരുണ്യ ബോധമുണ്ടായിരുന്നു. ഒരു ദിവസം അറിവുള്ള ഒരു പാവം ഭ്രാന്തൻ അവളുടെ ജീവിതത്തിൽ കടന്നു വന്നു. അയാൾ കവിതകളിലൂടെ അവളുടെ സൗന്ദര്യത്തെ പ്രകീർത്തിച്ചു…ബൈബിളിലെ ഉത്തമ ഗീതങ്ങളിലെ വരികൾ അവൾക്കായി, അവളുടെ ചെരുപ്പുകൾക്കായി ഉപയോഗിച്ചു…വേറെ ഏതോ കവിയുടെ വരികൾ ചൊല്ലി അവളുടെ മുടിയെ പറ്റി…പക്ഷെ ഒടുവിൽ എല്ലാവരും ചേർന്ന് അയാളെ കൊന്നു. അമരാന്തയ്ക്കു മാത്രം മനസ്സിലായ ഏതോ സത്യം അവശേഷിപ്പിച്ചു കൊണ്ട് അയാൾ പോയി…
ആ പെൺകുട്ടിയുടെ പേര്, ഭ്രാന്തൻ, കവിതകൾ, സോളമെന്റെ ഉത്തമ ഗീതങ്ങൾ, കർശനമായ, സങ്കുചിതമായ മതത്തിന്റെ കാഴ്ചപ്പാടിൽ തെറ്റെന്നു ധരിക്കപ്പെട്ട ബൈബിളിലെ സുന്ദര വരികൾ…മനസ്സിലാക്കാൻ ബുദ്ധിയില്ലാത്ത ലോകത്തിൽ ഭ്രാന്തനായ, മിടുക്കനായ ഒരു യുവാവ്… ക്രൂരമായ ഒരു കൊലപാതകം, ആ പെൺകുട്ടിയുടെ കണ്ണീർ…മനസ്സിൽ വിങ്ങൽ നിറച്ച കഥ. പക്ഷെ ഞാൻ പേര് മറന്നു, വർഷങ്ങൾ കഴിഞ്ഞതും, കഥയുടെ പല നേർമ്മയുള്ള ഇഴകളും മറന്നു പോയി. എങ്കിലും…
മനസ്സിൽ മുപ്പതു വർഷങ്ങൾ കിടന്ന ആ കഥയുടെ കാതൽ സൗന്ദര്യമായിരുന്നു,കവിതയായിരുന്നു, കാരുണ്യമില്ലാത്ത ലോകം ‘ഭ്രാന്ത്’ എന്ന് വിളിക്കുന്ന, തച്ചു കൊല്ലുന്ന ക്രൂരതയായിരുന്നു.
2013- ഇൽ, മനസ്സിലെ ഓർമ്മകൾ വയ്ച്ചു ‘ഗൂഗിൾ’ എന്ന അലാവുദീന്റെ വിളക്കിലെ ഭൂതത്തെ വിളിച്ചും കൊണ്ട് ഞാൻ ആ കഥ തപ്പിയെടുത്തു…
അച്ഛന്റെ പുസ്തക സഞ്ചയത്തിലെ എനിക്കേറ്റവും ഇഷ്ടപ്പെട്ട ആ ചെറു കഥയുടെ പേര് ‘ How Beautiful With Shoes’..എഴുതിയത് അമേരിക്കൻ സാഹിത്യകാരനായിരുന്ന Wilbur Daniel Steele …1932 ലാണു പ്രസിദ്ധീകരിച്ചത്.
സി. വി. ബാലകൃഷ്ണന്റെ “അവൻ ശരീരത്തിൽ സഹിച്ചു’ എന്ന കഥ വായിച്ചപ്പോൾ, മധുവിന്റെ കണ്ണുകൾ ഓർമ്മ വരുന്നു. കഥ ജീവിതത്തിനു മുന്നോടിയാവും എന്ന് എഴുത്തുകാരൻ തന്നെ കുറിച്ചിട്ടുമുണ്ട്. 1970 കളിൽ എഴുതിയതാണ്.
“ദൈവമേ! എന്തൊരു ദൈന്യതയാണ് ഞാനീ കാണുന്നത്!”ആ വരി എഴുതിയത് മധുവിനെ കുറിച്ചായിരുന്നോ? ഒരു പക്ഷെ, ഒരു നല്ല വ്യക്തി അവിടെ ഉണ്ടായിരുന്നെങ്കിൽ! അയാൾ ആ ദൈന്യതയിൽ ദൈവത്തെ കണ്ടിരുന്നെങ്കിൽ…രക്ഷിച്ചിരുന്നെങ്കിൽ?
Leo Tolstoy യുടെ ‘Where Love Is, God Is…’ ഇലെ Martin Avdeitch എന്ന ചെരുപ്പു കുത്തിയേയും , Matthew-25 :40നേയും ഓർമ്മ വന്നു ..
“രാജാവ് മറുപടി പറയും : സത്യമായി ഞാൻ നിങ്ങളോടു പറയുന്നു, എന്റെ ഏറ്റവും എളിയ ഈ സഹോദരന്മാരിൽ ഒരുവന് നിങ്ങൾ ഇത് ചെയ്തു കൊടുത്തപ്പോൾ, എനിക്ക് തന്നെയാണ് ചെയ്തു തന്നത്.”
ദീനരിലും, പതിതരിലും ക്രിസ്തുവിനെ കാണാൻ പഠിപ്പിക്കുന്ന എല്ലാ ഉത്തമ കഥകൾക്കുമായി സമർപ്പണം .
1. പട പേടിച്ചു പന്തളത്തെത്തുമ്പോൾ?? പന്തം കൊളുത്തി പട. ( ശരണം അയ്യപ്പാ!)
FLAMBEAU എന്ന വാക്കാണ് അർത്ഥബോധത്തിൽ ‘പന്തം’ എന്ന വാക്കിൻറെ ശരിയായ മൊഴിമാറ്റം. ചെസ്റ്റർട്ടണിന്റെ ഫാദർ ബ്രൗൺ കഥകൾ വായിച്ചിട്ടുള്ളവർ ആ കഥാപാത്രത്തെയും, ആ വാക്കിന്റെ ഉപയുക്തതയും രസത്തോടെ ഓർക്കും . പക്ഷെ ‘ദി ബ്ലൂ ക്രോസ്സ്’ വായിക്കാത്തവരും ഉണ്ടല്ലോ ദുനിയാവിൽ!
പറഞ്ഞു വന്നത്, പന്തത്തിന്റെ ‘അനുവാദം’ (ഹിന്ദിയിൽ ഒരു ചിരിക്കു വക നൽകി കൊണ്ട്, ഭാഷാന്തരത്തിനു ‘അനുവാദ്’ എന്നാണ് പറയുക.) തേടി ഞാൻ ഒടുവിൽ ഫ്ളയ്മിങ് ടോർച്ചിൽ എത്തി ചേർന്ന് സായൂജ്യമടഞ്ഞു. ആ യാത്രയിൽ, ഇഷ്ടപ്പെട്ട ഒരു പുസ്തകത്തിന്റെ ഓർമ്മ പുതുക്കാനായി.
2. പര്യായവാചി എന്ന ഗൂഗിൾ മഹിമ
‘നിർവികാരം’ എന്ന വാക്കെടുക്കുക,…അതിപ്പോൾ പല സ്ഥലത്തും ഒരേ വാക്ക് ഉപയോഗിച്ചാൽ, പരിഭാഷയിൽ കല്ല് കടിക്കും. synonyms എന്ന ഗൂഗിൾ മന്ത്രജാലം കാരണം പര്യായങ്ങൾ റെഡി! indifference , listlessness, lethargy…ഏതു വേണമെങ്കിലും എടുക്കാം. THESAURUS വായിക്കാതെ ഒരു കുറുക്കു വഴി…
3 മേഘമോ താമരയോ ?
പണ്ട് സിസ്റ്റർ വിമല കണിശത്തോടെ പഠിപ്പിച്ച പല പാഠങ്ങളും ഉപയോഗം വരുന്നുണ്ട്. നീരദം / നീരജം
കൊടുക്കുന്നത് ‘ദം’..അത് കൊണ്ട് നീര് കൊടുക്കുന്ന മേഘം നീരദം ജനിക്കുന്നത് ‘ജം’…അതിനാൽ നീരിൽ ജനിക്കുന്നത് താമര.
പല വാക്കുകളുടെയും ശരിക്കുള്ള സത്തു മനസ്സിലാക്കാനായി കൂടുതൽ വായിക്കുമ്പോൾ, ഒരു AHA ഫീലിംഗ്! വിവർത്തനത്തിൽ മേഘത്തെ താമരയായി കാണാൻ ആവില്ലല്ലോ !
4 കൈതേ, കൈതേരിമാക്കം…!
കൈതേരിമാക്കം കൈതപ്പൂ മുടിയിൽ ചൂടാൻ ‘കൈയുയർത്തും ദശായാം’…. ആ ഭാവനയിൽ വിരിഞ്ഞ ശൃംഗാരവും, വാക്ചാതുരിയും! പിന്നെ അന്തം വിട്ടിരിക്കുന്ന കുറേ പ്രീഡിഗ്രി പെൺപിള്ളേരും!
എന്തായാലും കൈത പൂവിന്റെ തർജ്ജമയായി, ‘ screw-pine flower’ എന്ന് ടൈപ്പ് ചെയ്തിട്ട് ദീർഘ നിശ്വാസം ( deep sigh ?) നടത്തി നമ്മൾ കൗമാരത്തോട്ടു പോയി.
ദശാബ്ദങ്ങൾക്കു പിന്നിൽ നിന്നും വെണ്മണി കുടുംബവും മറ്റും ഓർമ്മയിൽ ഓടിയെത്തുന്നു. അതൊക്കെ ഒരിക്കൽ കൂടി ഒന്ന് വായിക്കാൻ പറ്റിയെങ്കിൽ എന്നൊരു ആഗ്രഹം…
പക്ഷെ ചിന്തിച്ചിരിക്കാൻ സമയമില്ല.
ദൈവമേ, പൂവരശിന്റെ ഇംഗ്ലീഷ്…! അതോ, പൂവരശ് എന്ന് തന്നെ എഴുതിയാലോ? വിവർത്തകയുടെ വിവരക്കേട് കാരണം മരം മാറി പോകരുതല്ലോ!! അങ്ങനെയങ്ങനെ…പാഠങ്ങൾ ഇനിയും ഒത്തിരി പഠിക്കാൻ ബാക്കി… എഴുത്തുകാർക്ക് നന്ദി – നിങ്ങളുടെ ബുദ്ധിശക്തി കാരണം, എന്റെ വിവരമില്ലായ്മ എനിക്ക് വ്യക്തമാവുന്നു!