അല്പത്തം അഥവാ അല്പത്തരം അഥവാ നീചം അഥവാ വിലകുറഞ്ഞ പ്രവൃത്തി അഥവാ petty /demeaning എന്നിങ്ങനെ മനുഷ്യന്റെ പല സംസാരങ്ങളേയും , പ്രവൃത്തികളേയും ദൈനം ദിന ജീവിതത്തിൽ കാണാൻ സാധിക്കുന്നു. സോപ്പിട്ടു നില്കാത്തവർക്കാണ് സാധാരണ ഗതിയിൽ ഇത്തരം വാക്-വൃത്തികൾ നേരിടേണ്ടി വരുന്നത്.
‘അമ്പട ഞാനേ!’ എന്ന് വിചാരിക്കുന്ന, വിശ്വസിക്കുന്ന, അല്പരുടെ ആധിക്യമാണ് ഭൂമിയിൽ.
അവരില്ലെങ്കിൽ ഭൂമി അച്ചു തണ്ടിൽ നിന്നും താഴെ വീഴും, സുനാമികൾ ഉയരും, സൂര്യൻ ആകാശത്തിൽ നിന്നും മായും! അതവർ ആത്മാർഥമായി വിശ്വസിക്കുന്നു. അവർക്കു മരണമില്ല, ആരോഗ്യ പ്രശ്ങ്ങൾ ഒരിക്കലും ഉണ്ടാവുകയില്ല, അവർ ഭൂമിയിൽ നിന്നും ഒരടിപ്പൊക്കത്തിൽ സഞ്ചരിക്കുന്ന മഹത്തുക്കളത്രെ!
അങ്ങനെയുള്ള ആ മഹത്വ്യക്തികളെ നിങ്ങൾ വേണ്ട പൂർവം, ഉപചാരപൂർവ്വം മാനിക്കുന്നില്ലെങ്കിൽ, നിഴൽക്കുത്ത്, നേരിട്ടുള്ള ആക്രമണം, പിന്നിൽ നിന്നുളള അപവാദ പ്രചാരണം, പാർട്ടികളിൽ നിങ്ങളുടെ പേര് പറഞ്ഞുള്ള അട്ടഹാസവും പൊട്ടിച്ചിരിയും…അങ്ങനെ പല പല വിഭവങ്ങൾ സദ്യയിൽ വിളമ്പും.
പണ്ട് ‘അയ്യോ, നാട്ടുകാരെന്തോന്നു പറയും!’ എന്ന് ഉപദേശിച്ച ഒരു സത്സ്വഭാവിയോടു അച്ഛൻ ചിരിച്ചോണ്ട് പറഞ്ഞത് എനിക്ക് നല്ല ഓർമ്മ. ‘ചത്ത് പോയാൽ , ആരും വന്നില്ലെങ്കിലും, കോർപ്പറേഷൻ കുഴിച്ചിട്ടോളും. നിങ്ങൾ പാട് നോക്കി പോ!’
(വേറൊരു ആളുടെ അഭിപ്രായത്തെ പേടിച്ചു ജീവിക്കുന്നതിനേക്കാൾ ഭീകരമായ അവസ്ഥയുണ്ടോ? താലിബാനും അത് തന്നെയല്ലേ ചെയ്യുന്നത്? പെൺകുട്ടികൾ പഠിക്കരുത്!)
എന്തായാലും ചുറ്റും കേൾക്കാറുണ്ട് ധാരാളം : ‘ എല്ലാവരെയും ബഹുമാനിച്ചു വേണം കഴിയാൻ…പദവിയിൽ ഇരിക്കുന്നവരോട് എന്തിനാ വെറുതെ പോർവിളി?’ ബഹുമാനം അർഹിക്കുന്നത് പദവിയിൽ ഇരിക്കുന്നത് കൊണ്ടല്ല, മറിച്ചു ഒരാളുടെ വാക്കുകളും പ്രവൃത്തികളും കൊണ്ടാണ്. എന്റെ കൂടെ ജോലി ചെയുന്ന പ്യൂൺ മുപ്പതു കൊല്ലമായി സേവനത്തിൽ. എത്രയോ കമ്മീഷണറുമാരെ ആ സാധു കണ്ടിട്ടുണ്ട്. എന്നെ ‘സർ’ എന്നാണ് സംബോധന ചെയ്യുന്നത്., ആ ആത്മാർഥത, അതെന്നെ സന്തോഷിപ്പിക്കുന്നു. ആ സമർപ്പണ മനോഭാവം, ജോലിയോടുള്ള commitment അതെന്നെ വിനയാന്വിതയാക്കുന്നു. ആ മനുഷ്യനെ ഞാൻ ബഹുമാനിക്കുന്നു. കൊടും തണുപ്പിൽ, രാവിലെ പത്തിരുപതു കിലോമീറ്റർ സൈക്കിൾ ചവിട്ടി എന്റെ ഓഫീസിൽ എത്തുമ്പോൾ ഞാൻ പറയും, ‘രാംസഹായി, ഹംകൊ ആപ് സെ കാഫി പ്രേരണ മിൽത്തെ ഹൈ’.
സമൂഹത്തിന്റെ മറ്റേക്കൊമ്പിൽ ഇരുന്നു പരദൂഷണം പറയുന്ന, വീമ്പടിക്കുന്ന, മറ്റുള്ളവരെ ഇകഴ്ത്തുന്ന, ആൾക്കാരെ കാണുമ്പോൾ ഞാൻ പണ്ട് അച്ഛൻ പറഞ്ഞതോർക്കും, രാംസഹായിയെ ഓർക്കും, പിന്നെ മിണ്ടാതെ എന്റെ പണി ചെയ്യാൻ തുടങ്ങും. അവർ അവരുടെ നേരമ്പോക്ക് നടത്തട്ടെ, നമുക്ക് ചെയ്യാൻ എന്തൊക്കെ നല്ല പ്രവൃത്തികൾ കിടക്കുന്നു.
V Shinilal is a brilliant young writer in Malayalam. My eyes welling up with tears, I couldn’t help translating few pages from his book 124: part memoir, part everything. Essential reading.
(All mistakes of translation are mine.
Dedicated to that special teacher who trusted in you when the stakes were down.)
Mallan made his appearance for the first time during my student days in the eighth standard at Poovathur Government Highschool. The class leader was a girl called Sanitha who never smiled. I was besotted with that girl flashing her dimples and nose-ring; but not having the guts to express it, had a gnawing resentment towards her too. Instinctively sensing my inner ruminations, whenever Sanitha wrote down the names of those who were boisterous in the class, she scribbled my name vindictively. When the class teacher caned me, I would throw a surreptitious glance at her. She would be beaming with satisfaction.
It was while feeling pretty depressed after those hidings, that I decided to write a story featuring a wicked female class leader. That was my first story.
The story reached Sanitha, having been read and passed over many a hand. She started sobbing bitterly after reading it. All hell broke loose. The teacher rushed in. ‘Discipline, decorum, his blasted story writing!’ Yelling at the top of his voice, he hauled me to the front of the classroom and made me stand facing the wall; my back exposed to my classmates. I had only a solitary prayer then. Please do not make me stand with my posterior facing forty children. There were two holes in my short trousers, deftly hidden by the long shirt I was wearing. The wave of humiliation submerged even my tears. As the class rocked with laughter, I beseechingly looked into my teacher’s eyes. His eyes reddened with fury, the teacher did not see the wretchedness staring at him.
His stick was raised. I felt that a mace of mortification was being aimed at me. Suddenly I grabbed his cane. It was not me who did that; verily, it was someone else. I called him Mallan (The fighter). Whenever I feel weary, Mallan would awake within. Whenever my writing stops, he would stand behind me : challenging and provoking me onward. Whenever I am humiliated, he would retaliate with a vicious hiss. Whenever attacked, he would savagely counter.
Mallan was/is my confidante, my strength. Until time whittled him down, he travelled with me.
That was how the class teacher sent me to the Head Mistress’s room.
The Head Mistress’ name was Mangalabhayee. She had taught my father too. I had seen him stand obsequiously to the side, the folds of his mundu reverentially down, on encountering her on the street.
Both the teachers and students were in awe of her. Her dignified voice and elegant attire commanded respect. The smattering of greying hairs on her upper-lips added to her authority. Sketching her picture on the school walls, brats scribbled ‘Indira Gandhi’ underneath. Our Head Mistress would hide her secret glee.
I stood outside the room, waiting to be called. My world would soon be reduced into a small room. I would be ushered inside a single judge court imminently; a trial conducted by a dictator who would not listen to reasons or justifications.
‘Come’, the peon beckoned. I lumbered my way in. The corridor seemed like a tunnel of darkness. With every footstep, my world became more desolate. Finally, only Mangalabhayee teacher and I were left in it.
Teacher, who was busy writing on a file, looked up from the opposite side of the table. The cloth covering the table was green in hue. I stared at the grey bristles on her upper-lip.
‘Huh?’ Teacher hummed questioningly. That moment, Mallan emerged from inside, yet again. I was possessed by an untrammeled courage. Even the loss of face due to my pathetic attire ceased.
Teacher started reading the story. Her brows corrugated. Unexpectedly a smile blossomed on her lips. When the class teacher stepped inside the room, she sent him away with a withering glance.
‘You are a smart boy!’ Teacher called me to her side. ‘You know how to write stories, don’t you?’
I stood with my head bowed.
‘Don’t stop writing stories.’
Stunned, I looked up at Mangalabhayee teacher’s face.
‘But one should never write a story, or anything, with the intention of hurting anyone, okay?’
On the same day, I had been given punishment and encouragement for writing! I could not hold on anymore. I burst into wracking sobs. Do not ask me why I cried. Teacher hugged me close and planted a kiss on my forehead.
As I moved out, my class teacher went inside the room. I could hear the Head Mistress’ resounding words echoing outside: ‘ What do you know about children? Their emotions, talents? The world belongs to those who raise their voices and not to the silent. Do you know that?’
Mallan patted me on my shoulders then. Then he murmured, ‘People are not what we think they are!’ Untucking his mundu, Mallan sauntered away.
After decades, I went to meet Mangalabhayee teacher, accompanied by my son. That day, I returned the loving kiss she had given me in my childhood.
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…
The phantasmagoric imagery was striking and intriguing. Could not help translating for other language speakers.)
By the time I had finished playing kabbadi and started back home, darkness had fallen. The birds which had returned to roost, announced to the world, that they were about to sleep. As I descended the hill, Karichiyamma, who was gathering fallen cashews beneath the Parangimanga tree *, caught sight of me.
‘Come home with me…made chakkakkoottan ( jackfruit curry) today.’
My stomach growled in response. Well, Karichiyamma had invited me…it was chakkakoottan too…might as well indulge!
As I slouched behind her, she asked me something or the other. I responded. I asked her something or the other. She responded too.
Inside the kitchen, a young girl was gobbling down the jack fruit curry ; seated near the smouldering embers. Who was she? I had never seen her before in the house. The girl smiled at me. Before I could smile back, Karichiyamma served me the chakkakkoottan. Gnawing hunger, the deepening darkness; ignoring everybody, I started wolfing down the food.
As I got ready to leave, after washing my hands, Karichiyamma extended some jackfruit curry, wrapped tight in leaves, towards me….’Give it to Thangam’. (My mother’s name is Thangam).
I received it.
‘Could you recognise the girl?’
I shook my head to negate the query. Typically, I feel very embarassed while speaking to girls of my age.
‘ She is your grandmother’s sister.’
Karichiyamma nodded in affirmation.
Grandmother’s sister would be aged, wouldn’t she? But this girl seems younger than me! Karichiyamma must have lost her marbles…
Maybe she is making fun of me.
The girl stepped out.
‘I had visited your home that day …on the feast of the dead.’
She grinned at me.
‘Weren’t you the one to apportion food to the ancestors?’
‘But I didn’t see you anywhere’, I said.
She smiled instead of replying.
Karichiyamma bent down to whisper to my ears.
‘She died at your age.. a cobra bit her when she was carrying the rice stalks .’
A lightning struck me down.
She…no, what do I call her, was still smiling at me.
I remembered my mother commenting that Karichiyamma went loony in Karkitakam: the month of the crab. Karichiyamma said that the dead visited her then. I had overheard her narrating to my mother about how she chatted with them and fed them.
So that meant, she was not loony…was it for real?
‘If you invite me, I will accompany you home. We can play together’, the girl said.
I could not bring myself to look at her.
My mind advised sagely, ‘Listen, it is your grandmother’s sister, she has come from the land of the dead, and you can see her because of love…invite her home.’ But terror drowned all voices.
‘I am leaving‘.
I thought I would scream in fright. Remembering my mother telling that men don’t cry, I controlled myself and started walking away fast, without a backward glance.
Both of them said nothing.
The leaves rustled in the wind.
I thought the dead were following me; and that the heavy panting was not of the rain.
I shut my eyes tight and took flight….
Late at night, covered from head to toe with a sheet, as I lay, I remembered the girl.
I did not feel afraid then.
I should have brought her along.
Grandmother would have been so happy.
I could have played match-boxes with her…
I felt miserable.
The rain, which was hiding, started pouring again.
( Literally: Mango tree brought by Parangis or the Portuguese. The Cashewnut tree)
A chapter from a simple book of memoirs, of growing up, by P.V. Shaji Kumar.
Book Title: Itha Innu muthal Itha Innale vare ( Here, from today ; Here, until yesterday)
Side Note: Tongue-in-cheek nostalgic take on an iconic movie title
The Wind Blows As Yet
The wind which comes harrumphing like an intoxicated elephant raises its trunk when I recollect my MCA days in LBS College of Engineering.
The wind was everywhere: in the classrooms, canteen, boulders, side paths…It never abated in its fury. Like a lover driven mad due to a tragic affair, it wandered incessantly, unable to sit still.
When I arrived at the campus, I was like a leaf caught in the wind. My mind struggled free from my grasp and went flying. I had never been a regular student even during my pre-degree days. The proclivity to skip classes increased during my degree days. And when MCA started, the tendency went overboard. On the rare occasions when I did sit inside the class room, the wind would rip in, seize the windows and bang them against the walls. Almost as if the wind took offence at my presence inside the classroom.
Within a few days of joining the class, I came to realize that computer science was not the path meant for me. My mind resolved many a time to drop out and study some other subject. But it was all in vain. The wind took away three years. I would start from my home in the morning; spent some time inside the campus, before catching a bus to Kasargode.
I was lost amongst the mountains of self-contempt. ‘Why am I so worthless?’ I would constantly recriminate myself. While my classmates studied whatever they could, I would remain alone inside the circle of zero.
That was how Jayashankar and Rauf came to befriend me. Jayashankar, who hailed from Palakkad and studied in Coimbatore, and Rauf, who was educated at Sulli, knew the fundamentals of computers. Jayashankar was least interested in continuing his studies. He would repeatedly tell us that he would not be completing the MCA course and would take up a job in some IT company. Rauf was eager to agree; but the anxiety about procuring a job made him attend classes. I became a companion to Jayashankar who avoided going to the classroom. The tender-hearted Rauf could not resist the pleasures of our vagabond style and soon joined our tribe. Both of us affirmed that we would be taking up jobs without completing the masters course too. I had no clue about bagging an assignment since the A, B, C, D of computers remained unknown to me.
Jayashankar got a job when the first semester came to an end. I can recollect, as if yesterday, the horror with which Rauf and I stared at the examination schedule. I cannot remember what I scribbled on the answer sheets.
It was with my friends that I watched the first adult film of my life. Inside Kanyaka Talkies ( Virgin Talkies). Terrified of being espied by the locals, pretending not to be natives, we sat hidden at the very back of the theatre. It was an English movie. After watching it, when Jayashankar asked, ‘How was it?’ I replied, ‘The music was good.’ Really, it was a harmonious melody!
After many years, when I wrote the story 18+, the Kanyaka Talkies, the audience and the movies played inside my mind. The story evolved from the thought that the church and theatre were similar in looks. Afterall, men lay down their sins in both the places. The name of the theatre in my story was ‘Kanyaka Talkies.’ The theme was how a theatre, which played adult movies, transforms into a church and the hallucinations of the newly arrived priest.
The story was made into a movie called ‘Kanyaka Talkies’ later.
If I had not studied in LBS College, the story would not have been written; neither would the movie be made.
My LBS days were chaotic, to say the least. As I meandered within the rebellious chaos, the cowardly me, proclaimed himself to be brave and strong. That increased the inherent anxiety and insecurity. During the examination on ‘Pentium’ during the third semester, I sat there unable to write a word. Everything vanished from my mind. Dread swelled within like a sea at high tide. I stared through the window at the sun scalding the rocks. When depression encircled me in its entirety, without further thought, hardly five minutes after the examination began, I left the hall and walked out. I would have collapsed at a mere touch.
My shirt, which had space for two more humans, became wings in the wind. As I boarded the bus to the railway station, I could hear the hungry, greedy beckoning of death.
My mind kept whispering, ‘Death while being run over by a train is so quick…’
‘This damned world will end with death!’ Some voices rained furiously from inside.
As I stepped down determined that there was no answer but death, a rain came holding the fingers of the wind, stamping down the sun. As the other passengers took shelter in nearby places, I stood in the rain, getting drenched. It was raining within and without.
The rain danced in the wind.
‘Death is easy, it is tougher to live.’
The rain within spoke up.
‘Live…miracles are waiting for you somewhere…do not let go of your mind…let whatever happen, happen.’
I found myself jumping inside the bus to Kanjagadu.
There was no death inside me then.
Somehow, I passed the MCA course.
I am still playing football with life.
The wind blows as yet.
Like a leaf torn away from the branch, I am still flowing in the wind.
Jaan aadikabi naam pratapu/ Bhayavu suddh kari ulta japu//
Sahas naam sam suni siv bani/ Japi jeyim piya sangh bhavani//
Valmiki, the poet, knew about the powers of the Lord’s name. That’s why he recited ‘Ma Ra’, ‘Ma Ra’ and attained purity. When Lord Shiv said that one recitation of ‘Ram’ is equivalent to thousand recitations of any other god’s name, His consort, Devi Parvati started reciting ‘Ram, Ram’ along with Him.
Harshe hetu heri har hi ko/ Kiya Bhushan tiya Bhushan thee ko//
Naam prabhavu jaan Siv neeko/ Kaalkoot bhalu deenh ami ko//
Lord Shiv was thrilled by the devotion shown by Parvatiji and made her His ‘Ardhangini’. Though He drank the deadly Kaalkoot poison, it had the effect of amrit on Lord Shiv, because He knew the power of the reciting ‘Ram’.
Barsha ritu Raghupathy bhagati tulsi sali sudas/
Ram naam bar baran jug savan bhadav mas//
The devotion to Sri Ramji is the rainy season; and Tulsidas says that true devotees are like rice crop. The two beautiful syllables of ‘Ram’ are like the months of Sawan and Bhadav.
Note: Shravan and Bhadrapad months- the two months of Hindu calender stretches across late July/Aug/Sep
Aakhar madhur manohar dovu/ Baran bilochan jan jiya jovu//
Sumirat sulabh sukhad sab kahu/ Lok lahu parlok nibahu//
Both the letters/syllables of ‘Ram’ are so beautiful and sweet. They are the eyes of the varnamala; (the garland of letters); and the very life-spirit of devotees. Just remembering those causes such happiness; and they usher in prosperity in this mortal world and helps you to reach the Vishnu-dham (Abode of Vishnu).
Kahat sunat sumirat sudi neeke/Ram Lakhan sam priya tusli ke//
Barnat baran preeti bilgaati/ Brahma jeev sam sahaj samghati//
The name ‘Ram’ is extremely melodious and pleasant to recite or recollect. For Tulsidas, the name ‘Ram’ is as beloved as Sri Ramji and Lakshmanji themselves. As a ‘Bijamantra’ the enunciation, meaning and results seem different but in truth, the syllables of ‘Ram’ are like ‘jeev’ and ‘brahma’: one essence and one form.
Nar Narayan saris subhrata/ Jag palak biseshi jan trata//
Bhagati sutiya kal karan bibhushan/ Jag hit hetu bimal bidhu pushan//
The two syllables comprising ‘Ram’ are handsome brothers like Nar and Narayan. They reign over the world and specially protect the devotees. They are the lovely earrings adorning the ears of the woman called devotion (who symbolises devotion to the Lord). They are the pristine sun and moon working for the benefit of the universe.
Swad tosh sam sugati sudha ke/ Kamad sesh sam dhar basudha ke//
Jan mann manju kanj madhukar se/ Jeeh jasomati hali haldhar se//
‘Ram’ is akin to amrit which grants sweet salvation. ‘Ram’ is like the Sesh Nag and the Tortoise which support the universe. ‘Ram’ is like the blue beetles which buzz around the beautiful lotuses of the devotees’’ minds; and for the tongue called Yashodaji, ‘Ram’ is like Krishna and Balrama who delight her forever.
Eku chatru eku mukutamani sab barnani par jovu/
Tulsi Raghubar naam ke baran birajat dovu//
Tulsidasji says- The two syllables of ‘Ram’ shine resplendent. One is like the grand umbrella and the other, the crown reigning over the rest of the alphabets.
Samuchat saris naam aru nami/ Preeti paraspar prabhu anugami//
Naam roop duyi ees upadhi/ Akadh anadi susamuchi saadhi//
It appears as if the name and the form are both same; but there is a master-servant relationship between both. (Lord Ram appears when His name is taken with devotion. The Lord follows his name.) Both the name and the form are ways of accessing the Lord. They are ineffable, without origin, and can be attained only by a mind which is full of true devotion and love.
Ko bad chot kahat aparadhu/ Suni guna bhedu samuchihahim sadhu//
Dekhiahim roop naam aadheena/ Roop gyan nahim naam biheena//
To say which is superior-the name or the form- is sinful. Hearing about their merits, the enlightened devotee can perceive by himself. The ‘roop’ or ‘form’ is always a step behind the ‘name’. Without name, the form can never be!
Roop bisesh naam binu jaane/ Kartal gat na parahim pahichane//
Sumiriya naam roop binu dekhem/ Aavat hridayam saneh biseshem//
Any ‘roop’ even if placed on the palm of one’s hand is unrecognizable without its ‘naam’ or name. Even without a ‘form’, when a ‘name’ is uttered, with special love the ‘form’ rushes inside one’s heart.
Naam roop gati akadh kahani/ Samuchat sukhad na parati bakhani//
Aguna saguna bich naam susakhi/ Ubhay prabhodhak chatur dubhashi//
The saga of the name-form/naam-roop is indescribable. It is wonderful to understand, but impossible to narrate. The ‘name’ is a beautiful witness between the play of ‘Saguna’ and ‘Nirguna’ (form with attributes and form without attributes). Only an expert in both can discern the truth behind each.
Ram naam manideep dharu jeeh deharim dwar/
Tulsi bheetar baherahu jaum chahasi ujiaar//
Tulsidasji says: ‘If you wish for light within and without; in the door of your mouth, at the stepping stone of your tongue, place the sparkling gem-studded lamp called ‘Ram Naam’ or ‘The name of Ram’.
അസൂയയ്ക്കും കുശുമ്പിനും മരുന്നുണ്ട് എന്നാണ് എന്റെ ഏറ്റവും ഒടുവിലത്തെ ജീവിത നിരീക്ഷണം. എവിടെ നിന്നാണോ അവ നിങ്ങളുടെ ജീവിതത്തിൽ ബഹിർസ്ഫുരിക്കുന്നത്, ആ നല്ല മനുഷ്യരെ, ‘അടുത്ത ജന്മത്തിൽ എന്റെ പുറകേ വരല്ലേ’ എന്ന പ്രാർത്ഥനയോടെ , അല്പം കരുണയോടെ, വീക്ഷിക്കാൻ പഠിക്കുക. ‘അതെന്താ അവരെപ്പോഴും ദ്രോഹിക്കുന്നത്?’ ‘ഞാനെന്നും അവർക്കൊക്കെ നന്മ മാത്രമേ ചെയ്തിട്ടുള്ളൂ’ ‘നുണയും പൊങ്ങച്ചവും കൊണ്ട് സകല സ്ഥലങ്ങളിലും കേറി ഇറങ്ങി…പരദൂഷണം എന്ന പാഷാണം വിൽക്കുന്ന ഇവരെയൊക്കെ എന്ത് ചെയ്യണം?’ ‘ എലിയുടെ സ്വഭാവമാണ്…കണ്ണ് ഉയർത്തി നമ്മുടെ കണ്ണിൽ നോക്കാൻ കെല്പില്ല.’
ഇതൊക്കെ ജീവിതത്തിൽ നിങ്ങളും കേട്ടിട്ടുണ്ടാവും. ആദ്യം ചെയേണ്ടത് ഇവയാണ്: 1 . ഈ പാതകത്തിൽ നാം ചേരില്ല എന്നുറപ്പിക്കുക. നല്ല ചീത്ത വിളിക്കാൻ തോന്നിയാലും, അല്പം സംയമനം പാലിക്കുക. പന്നികളുമായി അടികൂടിയാൽ, ചെളി നമ്മുടെ മേൽ തെറിക്കും, പന്നി ആഹ്ളാദിക്കുമെന്നു പറയുന്നത് മനുഷ്യ സ്വഭാവം നന്നായി വിശകലനം ചെയ്ത ആരോ തന്നെയാണ്. 2 . ‘അവർക്കു കുറച്ചു കൂടി കൊതിയും നുണയും പറയാനായി, ഞാൻ കുറച്ചു കൂടി നന്നായി ജീവിച്ചു കാണിക്കും ‘ എന്ന് തീരുമാനിക്കുക. 3 . ‘അവർ നമ്മുടെ ദോഷങ്ങൾ അപഗ്രഥനം ചെയ്തു നോബൽ പ്രൈസുകൾ നേടുമ്പോൾ നമുക്ക്, സത്കർമ്മങ്ങൾ ചെയ്തു നല്ല പേര് നേടാം’ എന്ന് ഉറപ്പിക്കുക .
‘ദുഷ്ട മനസ്സുകൾ നമ്മെ താഴ്ത്തി പറയുന്നത്, എവിടെയോ നമ്മുടെ പ്രകാശം അവർക്കു ബോധിക്കാൻ പറ്റുന്നില്ല എന്ന കാരണം മൂലമാണ്’ എന്ന് സമാധാനിക്കുക. 5 . ‘കഠിനാദ്ധ്വാനം ചെയുമ്പോൾ, തളരുമ്പോൾ, നാം തോറ്റു കാണാൻ ആഗ്രഹിക്കുന്ന ശത്രുവിനെ ഒരു നിമിഷം മനസ്സിലോർത്തു സ്വയം ‘മോട്ടിവേറ്റ്’ ചെയ്യാം. (ശ്രമിച്ചു നോക്കൂ! അനുഭവത്തിന്റെ വെളിച്ചത്തിൽ നിന്ന് പറയുകയാണ്.) Turn your detractors into motivators !
Mysteries fascinate me. Whether it is ‘The curse hath come upon me’ shrieked by the luminous Lady of Shallot, which Dame Christie turned into a sumptuous fare for us; (The mirror crack’d from side to side) or Vermeer’s mysterious model, whose pearl earring continues to provoke collective imaginations till today; to Conan Doyle’s speckled band which haunts my nightmares…what is life without a juicy mystery to chew upon? Then, I chanced on a deer, a golden deer.
A deer which leaps and prounces, vanishing intermittently, to lure the Lord away. It is Mareech, devout follower of the Lord, and now subject to his imperious King’s orders, who is playing his role in the mortal drama at Panchvati. (Aranya Kanda, SriRamcharit Manas)
The poet says ‘the One whom the vedas referred as Neti, Neti, (It is not that, it is not that!) and whom even Shiva himself cannot see while meditating, that same Lord is chasing after that maya-mrig or magic deer!’
The deer’s shimmering golden hide sparkles, as if studded with gems. The Lord knows that it is an asura in a criatura guise. Now, this particular asura is unique! He is an ardent devotee, who chooses to die at His hands instead of a wicked King’s. And so the Lord blesses him with salvation.
We often read and denounce as ‘evil’ without knowing the deeper nuances in stories. Until I read the original scriptures in Awadhi and Malayalam, I had no clue that Mareecha or Mareech was a good soul. I had shrugged him off as another tricky ‘asura’. Now I read that the devas showered flowers as Mareech attained the Lord’s abode. Even as he hailed, ‘Lakshman’ in his dutiful attempt to fulfil his assigned role as a trickster, his mind was focused lovingly on the Lord. The omniscient one sees it and blesses him.
Antar prem taasu pahichana/ Muni durlabh gati deenhi sujana//
Recognising the love in Mareech’s heart towards Himself, the all-knowing Lord blesses him with his own Parampad (Divine abode), a rare grace denied even to most sages!
Things are not what they seem outwardly, are they?
And that is why I like mysteries. The greatest called ‘Love.’
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.