When she went to walk in the small park that evening, Geeta did cast a careful glance around for the young woman in blue. She had been there for the first four days of the week, dot on time, and always, always, sat unmoving on the grey bench near the Gulmohar tree. Since the last three days, the slim, dusky woman, with the brooding look on her face, was missing.
The black Skechers her son had gifted her was comfortable and Geeta enjoyed her daily rounds in the park. Well, at six in the evening, the crowd was not very suffocative; and there was much to observe and learn.
Though Mrs Kripa Bannerjee lambasted them in the ladies’ club meetings, calling them, ‘ a pesky menace’, Geeta found that she was more amused than irritated by the lovey-dovey youngsters at every nook and corner; behaving as if they were the first since Adam and Eve to discover sex. The fact of the matter was that every couple in love, since the time of the devil, had thought so too; and made a fool of themselves in public generally. But if you had taught hormonally driven high schoolers for more than three decades, you sort of shrug away these human peccadilloes.
Geeta’s eyes tended to be attracted by the oddities in the crowd than the obvious. And that was how she had been drawn to the young woman on the bench, who sat staring at the blood red Gulmohar blossoms that lay crushed and splattered around; the hurried steps of many walkers crunching them as they heavily trudged past.
Just the day before, after making her laborious rounds, counting among many occurrences, the brown squirrels, the wispy white petals of the moon flower by the pathway, and the premature guava fruits which had been chewed by sharp teeth of hungry rodents, Geeta had sat down perspiring by the side of the woman.
The young woman seemed to be oblivious of her surroundings. She was staring at the crimson buds and flowers that lay scattered on the earth. Geeta noticed that there was a strained quality about the woman; though young she looked aged beyond her years- as if life had burdened her with a cross which she was struggling to cope with.
The young woman was dressed in a blue kurta and jeans; but the dress looked soiled and sweaty. Her hair was luster-less, and the features seemed pinched by some gnawing misery. Though her son, wise to his mother’s inquisitive nature often warned her against making conversations with strangers, Geeta had tried to initiate one.
But her observations on the evening being nice and cool had been met with a resolute silence and the young woman had raised a pair of penetrating black eyes at her which sent a shiver down Geeta’s spine. There was something calculated about the gaze; as if some caged animal was watching her, expecting an attack any moment.
‘Good evening,’ Geeta had croaked.
The young woman did not respond. She had simply pulled out a mobile from her jeans pocket and started fiddling with it. To add to the eeriness of the situation, it had rung then.
‘Yes, am coming back.’
The voice had been terse, bitter, laden with emotions.
This was no ordinary woman who had come to enjoy an evening in the park.
‘Has she woken up? Fine.’
Even as Geeta watched, the woman had got up and walked away. Long strides, determined, but she had slouched. And Geeta was again reminded about some unknown load weighing her down.
‘Hello Mrs.Menon, how are you?’
It was the eternally cheerful, Retired Lt. Colonel Kapoor, yearning to chat and share the umpteen tidbits of information which he had stored up the whole day. From Putin’s latest military strategies to the imminent retirement of international tennis players, the old military man was bursting at the seams with gossip. Had he been a woman, he would have been the natural choice for the Ladies Club’s most talkative old member. Fortunately for the women, he was a man, and they had no competition from his end.
‘Heard about the goings on in Kothari’s flat?’ The Colonel asked, smiling away.
Geeta smiled noncommittedly. She really did not want to clutter her mind with whatever was cooking up a storm in the Kothari household.
‘Old Mr.Kothari was caught messing with the maid. She has been banished to the forests for fourteen years! Mr.Kothari has not died due to a broken heart as yet,’ The Colonel chortled gleefully. If he were a cat, he would have been licking his whiskers with pleasurable mewing noises now.
‘Unknown depths, people have… eh, Mrs Menon? One does not know with whom one is dealing with, half the time.’
Geeta’s mind raced back to the absent woman. No, one did not know what was going on in people’s minds at all.
‘Ah, yes there was another piece of news. A child went missing. Apparently, some gypsies stole her while she was in the railway station. My nephew knows the father.’
Geeta’s skin prickled in forewarning.
‘Well, the parents are both doctors. Love marriage you see. But the girl child was born with Down’s syndrome. Also, deaf and mute. The mother has been looking after her for four years now. Poor thing, had to stop her career too. Of course, nobody can take care of a child like one’s own mother…Anyway, they went to see off someone and the child was lost.’
‘Do they stay nearby? Do I know them?’
‘Maybe, you have seen the mother around…a slim young woman.’ Mr. Kothari could not have been more helpful.
‘Have they notified the police? How dreadful for the child. Mentally retarded, cannot speak or hear…I am horrified about what can happen to her.’
‘Yes, all alerts have been given. With all these cctv cameras in the railway stations, they will surely find her soon.’
It was three days later that Geeta read a small column in the local newspaper.
‘Child recovered from train. Missing daughter of Dr.Kailash Raghupathy, aged four, was safely found in a train headed to Bombay. The child had gone missing from the railway station when the parents had gone to see off a relative. The Commissioner of Police has announced appreciation letters and cash award for the officers who traced the missing four-year-old within 24 hours. The child has been restored to her grieving parents. She was discovered seated in a compartment by passengers who had informed the railway police who coordinated with their colleagues in the local administration.
It had been six days since the woman visited the park.
A hammering began in Geeta’s head: a dread, slow and terrible started haunting her. Patterns, patterns…everything was in the pattern.
When Geeta was twelve, a little boy had gone missing from her neighbourhood. His mother had been raising hell all over the place when someone brought him back. A trader had been accused of kidnapping him. When the local police gave a good hiding to the man, he had revealed the story. It was the mother herself who had asked him to take away the child. He had bouts of fits and was always sickly. There were five more mouths to feed. Some money had exchanged hands.
‘Hello Colonel, it is me, Mrs.Geeta Menon.’
‘Yes, how are you?’
‘Fine! You see, I read something in the newspaper.’
‘Did they find the missing child? The one who went missing in the train?’
‘Oh, that child…Well, great stroke of luck, I would say. She is back. Her father was in school with the Commissioner of Police. But they say it is very strange…about how she made her way inside a Bombay bound train. Anyway, the parents are relieved.’
‘Er, can I have the number of the family. I hope I don’t sound too pushy.’
‘Of course not! Obviously, you are concerned and want to express your wishes. I shall share it with you. Ragupathy’s number, let me see…’
Dr.Kailash Raghupathy looked distraught and anxious. He stared at the middle-aged woman who had come visiting, out of the blue. It was a busy day in the hospital.
‘Yes, Mrs.Menon…Lt Colonel said that you wanted to speak to me on something important?’
Geeta did not know where to start her conversation.
‘See, doctor. Do not think I am presumptuous or want to create trouble…’
The man sat up straight. The strain and tension of the past few days was showing on his face.
‘I am nobody to advise you but…’Geeta stammered.
‘My dear madam! What are we talking about? I do not understand anything at all.’
‘Has there been mood swings? Does she behave affectionately with the child?’
‘What?’ The man looked outraged.
‘You see, I think your wife needs a break. Is there anyone to take care of your child other than her?’
Lord, it was all going horribly. Geeta knew she sounded paranoid even as she uttered those words.
‘You are wasting my time. See madam, I have much work to do today. And I know you are here to show your sympathy. Frankly, we are fine.’
When a whirlpool was looming ahead with its deadly snare, lying silently in wait for the unsuspecting wayfarer, would it help to shout a warning? Some were destined to be swallowed by its hideous depths, sucked into the waiting pits of watery hell, much like quicksand. Words were futile when there was no trust to begin with.
‘I am a teacher…I mean I spent my whole life teaching. I have seen…excuse me, it sounds weird. But can I meet your wife?’
‘She does not meet anyone. Shilpa prefers to be with our daughter. Rarely does she go out.’
‘And that is where the trouble begins…’ Geeta interjected. ‘She needs to breathe, doctor. I heard that you both studied medicine together. Don’t you understand? There will be tragedy if you do not…’
Dr.Kailash Raghupathy stood up. In an icy cold voice, he said, ‘I think you need to leave now madam. Thank you for being so concerned with people like us, whom you hardly know.’
Cringing inwardly, but feeling a great rage welling up within her, Geeta shambled out of the doctor’s room.
‘Please, please listen to me. Do not leave the child alone with your wife at least the next few days…I mean…’
Geeta had never seen eyes more baleful than his, as he stared at her. Well, there was nothing more to be said.
Lt Colonel Kapoor met her as she walked in the park the next evening.
‘What did you tell the boy? My nephew said that he complained about my lady friend talking some nonsense about his wife? Do you know the woman?’
Geeta was ruminating. Would it help to divulge her doubts to a gossipmonger like Mr.Kapoor?
But what if it could avert a tragedy?
‘ Colonel, you must be familiar with the term postpartum depression?’
‘Yes, yes, where the woman says she hates the face of the baby but adores it too!’
‘ It is not as frivolous as you make it sound…there are different aspects to that state of mind…,’ Geeta snapped.
Then realizing that emotions were not of any help, she regained her poise.
‘ This wife of the doctor…she is a doctor too, right? I think she needs help.’
‘What are you talking about Mrs Menon? Are you keeping well?’ Lt Colonel Kapoor spluttered in confusion.
‘You see, when someone feels trapped, helpless and all life grinds to a halt…then he or she tries to find a reason to blame. It ends up in unspeakable tragedy at times,’ Geeta said softly.
‘ Are you saying that Dr.Raghupathy’s wife is sick? I thought she was feeling blessed that the child was recovered safely! Are you familiar with the woman?’
‘ No, that is the worst part. I have no idea of what is going on…one can only guess and I feel very afraid, Colonel. Somebody should intervene urgently or else…’
‘My dear Mrs Menon, tell you what, you are watching too many K Dramas in OTT platforms! Time to participate in some kitty parties, I say!’ The Colonel guffawed; albeit nervously.
Geeta Menon did her best to find out about what went inside the Raghupathy household. She befriended her maid’s friend who was a part-time help there.
‘ Is your madam keeping good health? I hardly see her walking nowadays,’ Geeta pretended to be a casual acquaintance.
‘Ah, madam is always with the girl. Never lets her out of her sight. She has stopped me from giving her a bath too. Everything, she does herself.’ The girl, whose name was Maya, seemed listless when she spoke.
‘Is there nobody else who stays with them?’
‘Oh, the doctor’s old father is there. The cook comes twice a day. Apart from me, the boy who comes to clean the washrooms and do mopping and sweeping…the driver…that’s about it.’
‘Maya, can you do me a favour?’
‘Keep a watch over the child.’
Maya looked askance at the worried face of the woman. ‘Must be nuts’, she thought to herself. ‘All these oldies’, the teenager mused wryly, ‘they are going loony like that doctor madam. The way she sits silently for hours, watching the poor, wretched child.’
Three days passed. It was around nine at night. Her phone rang.
‘Mrs Menon, something terrible has happened!’ It was Lt.Colonel Kapoor and he sounded extremely agitated.
‘What?’ Something curdled her blood to chilling coldness.
‘ The child’s body was discovered on the ground. She had apparently fallen down from the balcony! The police are with the parents now!’
Geeta sat down, her hand on her heart.
‘Amma, there is a news of an arrest in a nearby flat. The cctv cameras has caught a mother…’
Geeta did not listen to the rest of what her son said.
The blood red Gulmohar flowers flashed in her mind. They lay splattered, broken, pathetic, crimson on the pathway.
(Truth is stranger than fiction. Based on a news item.)
Vritthiyum velichavumulla oridam : Short Story in Malayalam.
(All mistakes of translation are mine. Certain stories have to be translated. I am so proud of the rich literary tradition of my mother tongue. )
Two female vagrants, drunk to the hilt, were chattering raucously. They disregarded the other customers and the modest, unassuming ambience of the café. Most of the intellectuals and writers knew one of the women; the one who had carried on with her body selling when Verlaine lay dead in a room right opposite to hers. Her favourite pastimes included making obscene gestures at strangers while gabbling forever. The other woman was a gypsy singer; an acquaintance the former had made recently. Nowadays the police and the night walkers were familiar with the duo, singing loudly at night standing on the street, foyers of houses or the café steps.
‘I knew that the damned grey beard would cheat us!’ The sex-worker spat out.
Though the singer friend tried to soothe her, she continued to fume. After gulping down more than the usual, and having clenched her fingers and gestured mockingly at the faces of the onlookers, the woman moved away from the café.
When the crowd abated, the young waiter approached his older colleague.
‘Grey beard? Who on earth is that?’
The older man did not reply, and instead went to serve liquor to the man seated in a corner.
The customer was deaf and doddering. When the miasma of liquor reached him from behind, he raised his head. The waiter, familiar with the snuffling prowess of the old fellow, poured a drink into the empty glass, with a half-smile. After sending him a grateful look, the customer lowered his gaze back to the same spot on the table.
‘Sometimes I feel that the old gaffer has conked off! Damn it!’ The young waiter frowned. ‘What do you think?’
‘It will rain,’ the reply from the older colleague was simple.
The young man stared at the darkness outside.
‘How do you know that?’
‘My father taught me in my childhood.’
‘Was he a weather man?’
‘No, a humble farmer.’
On hearing the word ‘farmer’, the young man looked disdainfully at him.
‘Now you have started spouting gibberish too…no doubt due to senescence.’
At that moment, the café’ door creaked half open making the grunting noise of an animal, its life on the edge of guttering away. A well-built man, grey beard. The two waiters looked at each other. The new guest approached the seat by the window.
‘Is he the bearded man they were yammering about?’ The young man asked in a whisper.
The old waiter was focused on observing the new guest.
‘God’s spy on earth,’ he muttered.
‘What did you say?’ The young man interjected.
‘Nothing. Ask him what he wants.’
The youth went near the guest. He stood cowering nearby, as if he was petrified of surrendering to the man’s gaze.
The guest wanted the St.Jude liquor.
As he poured the drink, the young man murmured, ‘That’s the favourite of American sailors! He must be a captain!’
The older man simply smiled.
The aged customer by the corner raised his hand again for a drink.
‘That senile fool will drink himself to death…right on that wretched table!’ The young waiter spoke as if to nobody, as he returned from serving the guest by the window.
‘The man is in his declining years. Do not speak like that about him.’
‘Well, look at the other man! He is also aging, but how youthful he looks! One is terrified to gaze into his eyes!’ The young man’s voice was high pitched.
The new guest retrieved a small note book and pencil from his bag. He sharpened the pencil. The gills of the pencil, he dumped into the ash-tray.
‘He must be writing down his memoirs,’ the young waiter remarked. ‘From every shore, what splendid experiences!’
‘He is not a sailor.’
‘Then what is he?’
‘He might be a writer.’
The young man grinned. He was remembering the weak forms and gazes of the writers and artists who frequented the café.
‘How can a bull of a man like him be a writer? Has your father taught you to read such stuff too?’
The wind buffeted around. The open window panes, furiously moved close and with a grating noise, stood facing one another. The man near the window, as serene as the umpire among wrestlers, separated them and sent them back to their places. It started raining.
Without waiting to watch the astonishment springing up on the young man’s face, the old waiter moved towards the elderly customer by the café corner.
The man near the window beckoned for another drink. As he served liquor, the young man tried to slyly catch a glimpse of what he was writing. The script was in English.
‘Told you, didn’t I? He is a captain!’
His senior colleague did not deign to correct him.
When the café’s door made a squeak rising above the rain, all the three men, except the aged customer, looked towards it.
A beautiful young woman. She sat by the table in the middle of the room.
The young man suddenly nudged the older waiter, ‘Look! The bull has stopped writing! Now he is staring at her ankles!’
The elder waiter smiled and went towards the young lady.
‘Even though I am no farmer’s son, I can prophesy certain matters! And I won’t be wrong either! His look makes it evident that he is a lewd old captain!’
As he made his way to the woman with liquor, the elderly waiter had noticed the guest’s eyes: those were like a cat curling up near the girl’s feet. Hence, without disturbing it, he carefully stood on a side and poured the drink.
‘And I am sure of another thing too!’ The young man was adamant. ‘The whores had come searching for this bearded man!’
The old waiter looked at the guest by the window. The face brimming with memories had dived inside the papers again. He could divine a spine which transformed from a feline sprawl to a gigantic roar. That man went on writing, sharpening his pencil and raising his hand for more liquor.
‘What on earth is he greedily scribbling down?’ The young man wondered.
‘He is writing a story for everybody.’
‘Never! He is writing about all the women he had met! That’s why he is boozing so joyfully!’
The deaf customer knocked on the table with his empty glass. Both the waiters turned to look at him. The girl turned her head too.
‘Did you see? He is intoxicated with his writing! Did not even hear that sound! Lucky mongrel! Must have slept with countless women!’
The older waiter watched the quickness of the writer’s hand.
The enormous man was no longer there. He seemed to have acquired great lightness. The table seemed to be tottering under the weight of the words that were gathering life with every breath of his.
‘Well, looks like he is tired of drinking now,’ the young man griped.
The elder colleague stopped him from saying more, with a finger over his own lips. Never in his umpteen years of service in the café had he felt the presence of such a clean, bright space! The rasping sound when the tip of the pencil met the paper was redolent of the blowing of air by a goldsmith.
The young woman and the deaf old man left the café. The rain abated. The man by the window was still writing.
‘You are right,’ the old waiter murmured. ‘He is a captain. Someone who makes his way alone.’
The youngster smirked; his guess getting validated.
The giant of a man handed over a handsome tip, and thanked them both before leaving the café.
Staring at the firm footsteps of the receding man, and in the boldness wrought by his guess, the young man observed, ‘He will live past a hundred! The confidence in those eyes! Nobody can beat him ever! Comes from sleeping exclusively with young women!’
‘May he live long!’
‘Why, do you doubt it?’
As he shut the door, the old waiter said, ‘Those who determine how they live, also determine how they die.’
The young man did not understand a word. He simply said, ‘Lucky captain!’
Years passed by.
The old waiter stopped working after sometime. The youngster became middle aged. One day he saw a news in the papers. The face looked familiar to him.
‘I was wrong,’ he mumbled, staring at the news.
‘What?’ His son asked.
‘He shot himself.’
The man’s son looked askance at him.
‘My old colleague was right.’
The son scolded him for spouting gibberish.
‘Did you know this grey beard?’
His old colleague must be working in a farm somewhere, telling his children and grandchildren about rains and humans. Since he was busy ruminating, the man did not hear his son’s question.
Excerpt from the Translation of Sonia Rafeeq’s novel : Pennkkuttikalude Veedu, 2021
‘The House of Girls’
Maybe if my mother were alive, I would not have been so intimate with Rukhiyami. When I was twelve, one night, I asked my aunt whether my Ummi too narrated stories. ‘Not all mothers are alike. There are mothers different from yours and mine’, she replied. And followed it up with yet another story.
Although it was with the preface that the story was based on an Algerian folktale, I gravely suspect that it was of her own making! The very script flowed in such a way.
Once upon a time, there was a woman. Whenever the twilight set in, she would stand on her terrace and ask the moon : ‘ Hey moon, is there anyone prettier than me?’ The moon would retort : ‘You are pretty, I am pretty. No one prettier than you though!’
Meanwhile the woman became pregnant and gave birth to a daughter. She named her Lalla. The next day, she came to the terrace and repeated her question : ‘Hey moon, is there anyone prettier than me?’ The moon replied, ‘I am pretty, you are pretty. No one prettier than Lalla though!’
The woman blazed with jealousy. ‘Prettier than me? Shall I kill her then?’ The moon responded calmy, ‘Sure, but after she stops breast feeding.’ Thus one year passed. The woman repeated her query : ‘Shall I kill her then?’ The moon said, ‘Not yet. Let her learn to walk and run.’ After few years, the woman started pestering the moon again. The moon replied, ‘ Let her learn to cook first.’ After few years, the reply was , ‘Let her learn to sew clothes.’
Lalla grew into a beautiful woman. Now , when the woman asked the moon the question, it replied, ‘ Lalla is of marriageable age now, and you can kill her if you wish.’ The woman sent Lalla to the forests with a butcher after gifting him with money and ornaments. She ordered that Lalla’s blood be brought back to her in a bottle as proof of her muder. The butcher could not bring himself to kill the lovely girl. He left her inside the forest and returned to the woman with a bottle full of goat’s blood. The woman drank it and expressed her satisfaction.
Lalla, meanwhile became devastated at the loneliness, hunger and thirst which surrounded her and sought refuge in a tunnel. When she woke up, she heard seven demons howling over the prey they had killed. She hid herself in terror. After the feats, the youngest demon said, ‘I can smell human blood near.’ His brothers reprimanded him, ‘You are a fool. There’s nobody near.’ When everybody slept, Lalla sneaked in and retrieved a bit of food and water for herself. When the youngest demon woke up the next morning, he started hollering : ‘ Told you, didn’t I? A man has stolen our food and drink!’ They searched everywhere but Lalla stay hidden and safe.
‘Rukhiyami, this is the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.’
‘Can’t there be any other Snow Whites in the rest of the world? This the Snow White from Algeria. Shut up and listen. No questions in the middle of a story!’
‘The demons started howling…’If anyone is hiding , come out immediately!’ When Lalla stepped out in fear, her astounding beauty floored them. They swore that they would treat her like a younger sister. She cooked for them , made clothes, cleaned the house, looked after them…
Lalla’s wicked mother stepped out to the terrace and asked the moon : ‘So tell me, who is the prettiest of them all?’ The moon laughed, ‘I am pretty, you are pretty. But Lalla is the prettiest of them all. She lives in the forest with seven brothers.’
The woman could not bear the shock of that revelation and died then and there.
In course of time, all the seven brothers fell in love with Lalla. ‘ I will marry her; I am the eldest!’ said one. ‘No way, I will be her husband, I am the youngest,’ retorted another. Lalla found a way out of the conundrum. ‘The one whose hands reddens most with the henna paste shall become my husband.’ She slathered the henna paste on all their hands but none had red hands at dawn. Lalla had cleverly made a paste of other herbs and not of henna.
One day, all seven brothers went away hunting but did not return at eventide. When Lalla got tired waiting for them, she started eating some boiled beans. Then a cat wandered into her room. ‘ You have eaten my beans, ’it meowed accusingly at Lalla. Lalla was outraged and emptied a whole sack of beans in front of the creature. ‘ I want to eat my beans!’ It purred angrily.
‘I have eaten your beans!’ Lalla lashed out spitefully. The enraged cat pissed into the smouldering embers. Now Lalla had no fire to cook food or keep cold at bay. Lalla stepped into the forest searching for fire.
Seeing the glow of fire afar, she went closer. It was the hut of a demoness. She gave Lalla some embers in a pot. It was almost reduced to ashes. Cinders fell wherever Lalla trailed. The demoness followed that trail and reached Lalla’s home. She pummeled seven long nails into Lalla’s head. Lalla became motionless as if she had died.
When the brothers returned, they mistook Lalla to be dead and started wailing in despair. They did not wish to bury her and so tied her up on a mare and let the creature free in the forest. The mare reached in front of a palace and the crown prince ushered it inside. The King asked, ‘Why, this is a corpse!’ They entrusted the body to a woman for readying it for customary death rites. When the woman removed the seven nails during the course of readying her, Lalla regained her life. The prince insisted on marrying the pretty girl. Finally, the King obliged.
Lalla gave birth to a son. Once, when he was playing with the children of ministers, a squabble broke out amidst them. ‘Your mother is a wastrel with no clan or home!’ The young boy came crying to Lalla. She was agonized and spoke : ‘Tell your father that your mother wishes to see her seven brothers.’ After a few days’ searching the soldiers found the seven demons with bowed heads, cast down with the pain of loss. They were invited for a feast inside the palace. After the repast, the son asked Lalla to narrate a story. Lalla started speaking about her life.
The seven brothers embraced her happily at the end of the tale. They went to the house of the wicked demoness and killed her. The demoness had seven beautiful daughters. Lalla got them married to her seven brothers.’
‘Married them to demonesses?’ I protested vociferously and Rukhiyami snapped, ‘Not possible to marry off demons to human women, right?’ I felt that one’s own mother thirsting for her daughter’s blood was a bit too much of an imaginative twist. Perhaps, stepmother stories hadn’t picked up pace by then. That was something the Brothers Grimm brought into vogue later. Whenever she narrated stories, Rukhiyami’s face became rosy, her eyes sparkled and widened; the drape over her head slipping away due to the excitement.
Jay kripa kand Mukund dwand haran saran sukhprad prabho/
Khal dal bidaran param karan karunik sada bibho//
Sur suman barshahim harash sankul baaj dundhubi gahgahi//
Sangram angan Ram ang anang bahu sobha lahi//
‘Hey bud of compassion, the giver of moksha, Mukunda, the one who destroys dualities (happiness- sorrow, attachment-detachment, birth-death etc), the Lord who bestows happiness to the seekers… the one who destroys the wicked, the great reason behind reason, always kind and compassionate, the omnipresent one, may you be glorious!’ The devas were showering flowers and beating the war drums ecstatically. In the battlefield, the Lord was resplendent-as if countless Kamadevas had come together.
Sar jata mukut prasun bich bich ati Manohar rajahim/
Janu neelgiri par tadit patal samet udugan bhrajahim//
Bhujdand sar kodand pherat rudhir kan tan ati bane/
Janu raymunim tamal par baidim bipul such aapne//
The knot of hair on his forehead adorned with flowers is a wonderful sight. It was like a blue mountain, surrounded with lightning blazes and stars. He was twirling the bow and arrow in his hands and his body is spotted with drops of blood. It was as if red birds, like sages, were seated on a Tamal (Indian Bayleaf tree), deeply immersed in their meditative joys.
Kripadrishti kari brishti prabhu abhay kiye sur brindh/
Bhalu kees sab harshe jay such dham Mukund//
By raining his compassion, Sri Ramji delighted the hearts of devas and freed them from fear. The bears and monkeys were shouting the paeans of Sri Ramji, ‘Glory to Mukunda’, with great happiness.
Pati sar dekhat Mandodari/ Muruchit bikal dharini khasi pari//
‘Dear husband, you made the earth quaver due to your strength! Before you, the fire, moon and sun lost their radiance. Your body, which even Sesh Nag and the divine tortoise could not carry, today lies covered with dust on the earth!’
Barun kuber sures sameera/ Rann sanmukh dheer kahu na dheera//
Bhujbal jitehu kaal jam sayim/ Aaju parehu anadh ki nayim//
‘Varun, Kuber, Indra and Vayu, none of them could ever face you in war. With the might of your arms, you defeated Kaal (Lord of Time) and Yama (Lord of Death) both! And that same you lies orphaned on the ground now!’
Jagat bidit tumhari prabhutayi/ Sut parijan bal barni na jayi//
Ram bimukh as haal tumhara/ Raha na kovu kul rovnihara//
Your greatness is famous across the universe! The fame of your relatives and sons are known to all. Yet, by turning your face away from Sri Ramji you ended up with this fate! There is nobody left to even cry in our clan.
Tav bas bidhi prapanch sab nadha/ Sabhay disip nith navahim madha//
Ab tav sar bhuj jambuk khahim/ Ram bimukh yeh anuchit nahim//
Hey Lord! Everything destiny created was under your control. Even the digpal (Lords of Directions) shivered on sighting you and bowed before you. Now, your heads and arms are being eaten by jackals! Indeed, for the enemy of Sri Ramji, such a fate is expected.
Kaal bibas pati kaha na maana/ Ag jag nadhu manuj kari jaana//
Since you were in the clutches of Death, you ignored everybody’s wise counsel; and considered the Lord of all living and non-living beings (SriRamji ) as a mere human being!
Jaanyo manuj kari danuj kanan dahan pavak hari swayam/
Jehi namat siv brahmadi sur piya bhajehu nahim karunamayam//
Aajanma te paradroh rath papaukhamay tav tanu ayam/
You misunderstood Sri Hari, who became the fire to burn down the asuras, as a mere human. The One whom both Brahma and Shiva worship, you my beloved, never meditated on that compassionate One. All your life, you relished harming others and sins accrued on you. Yet, the One beyond all corporeal forms, Sri Ramji granted you his own abode! I bow to the Lord.
Ahah nadh raghunadh sam kripasindhu nahim aan/
Jogi brindh durlabh gati tohi deenhi bhagwan//
Oh, dear husband! There is no one like Lord Ram who is an ocean of compassion. He granted you his own abode (Vishnu Dham) which is something which even great sages pine for! (A rare fortune denied even to great saints.)
Mandodari bachan suni kaana/ Sur muni siddh sabaninh such maana//
Aj mahes narad sanakadi/ Je minibar paramaradhbadi//
Listening to Mandodari’s words, devas, siddhas and sages were happy. Brahma, Shiva, Narad, Sanaka and other sages, and all else who were aware of the eternal truth (Of the Lord’s grace and glory)…
Bhari lochan raghupatihi nihari/ Prem magan sab bhaye sukhari//
Rudan karat dekhim sab nari/ Gayavu bibheeshanu mann dukh bhari//
All of them gazed at Sri Ramji and became delirious with happiness. Seeing the women of his family lamenting and grieving, Vibheeshan was shattered and he approached them.
Vibheeshan felt agonized at the fate of his brother. Then, Sri Ramji send Lakshman to console Vibheeshan. Lakshmanji advised him in many ways and Vibheeshan returned to the Lord.
Kripadrishti prabhu taahi biloka/ Karahu kriya parihari sab soka//
Keenhi kriya prabhu aayasu maani/ Bidhivat des kaal jiyam jaani//
Looking at him compassionately, Sri Ramji asked him to conduct all the funeral rites due to Ravan , relinquishing his sorrows. Obeying the Lord’s command, and being dutiful, Vibheeshan conducted all the rites duly.
Mandodari aadi sab deyi tilanjali taahi/
Bhawan gayim raghupathy guna gan barnat mann mahi//
After doing Tilanjali (offering sacrificial rites) for Ravan, Mandodari and the other women returned to the palace. They were singing praises of Sri Ramji’s great qualities.
Sab mili jahu bibheeshan sadha/ Sarehu tilak kahevu raghunadha//
Pita bachan main agar na aavavu/ Aapu saris kapi anuj padavavu//
Vibheeshan returned after conducting the funeral rites of Ravan. Then, Sri Ramji called Lakshmanji nearby. ‘You along with Sugreev, Angad, Nal, Neela, Jambavan and Hanuman; all well versed in the art of ruling, should go with Vibheeshan and anoint him as the next king of Lanka. Due to the promise made to my father, I cannot enter any city. Hence, I am sending my brother and learned colleagues who can conduct the rites of coronation.’
Sadar simhasan baidari/ Tilak saari asthuti anusari//
Obeying Sri Ramji’s command, the group accompanied Vibheeshan and did all the needful for the coronation. Seating him on Lanka’s throne, they conducted the rites of Rajtilak, and praised his glory.
Jori paani sabahim sar naye/ Sahit bibheeshan prabhu pahim aaye//
Tab raghubeer boli kapi leenhe/ Kahi priya bachan sukhi sab keenhe//
Folding their hands and bowing their heads, they wished the new ruler. Then they returned to Sri Ramji’s side along with Vibheeshan. Sri Ramji called all the monkey warriors near and made them happy with his sweet and wise counsel.
Kiye sukhi kahi bani sudha sam bal tumhare ripu hayo/
Mohi sahit subh keerati tumhari param preeti jo gaayahaim/
Samsar sindhu apar paar prayas binu narpayihaim//
The Lord uttered amrit like words which delighted everybody’s hearts. ‘Only because of your indomitable strength could such a powerful enemy be vanquished and Vibheeshan become king! Your fame and glory will shine in all the three worlds forever. Whoever sings the story of your victory along with my name, effortlessly they shall cross the ocean of worldly suffering.’ (Singing the saga of my victory shall enable them to cross the bhav-sagar.)
Prabhu ke bachan shravan suni nahim aghahim kapi punj/
Baar baar sir navahim sakal pad kanj//
Hearing the Lord’s words is not satisfying enough for the monkeys. They were prostrating themselves before him again and again; and clutching at Sri Ramji’s lotus feet.
Puni prabhu boli liyavu hanumana/ Lanka jahu kahevu bhagwana//
Samachar janakihi sunavahu/ Tasu kusal lai tumh chali aavahu//
Then Sri Ramji called Hanuman near him. ‘You should go to Lanka and meet Janaki. Tell her about what has happened and find out how she is faring.’
Hanumanji arrived in Lanka. Hearing the news, all of the rakshasas and their wives ran to welcome him. They honoured him greatly and took him to meet Janakiji.
Doorihi te pranam kapi keenha/ Raghupathy doot Janaki cheenha//
Kahahu taat prabhu kripaniketa/ Kusal anuj kapi sen sameta//
Hanuman ji bowed from afar seeing Janakiji. Recognising Sri Ram’jis messenger, Sita asked, ‘Son, tell me, how is my Lord, the epitome of compassion? How is my young brother? And how well does the monkey army fare?’
Sab bidhi kusal kosaladheesa/ Matu samar jeetyo dasaseesa//
Abichal raju bibheeshan payo/ Suni kapi bachan harash ur chayo//
Hanumanji replied, ‘Mata, Sri Ramji is glorious in all ways. He has defeated Ravan and anointed Vibheeshan as the king of Lanka.’ Hearing Hanuman’s words, happiness filled Janaki’s heart.
Ati harash mann tan pulak lochan sajal kah puni puni rama/
Ka devu tohi trailok mahu kapi kimapi nahim bani sama//
Sunu matu mai payo Akhil jag raju aaju na samsay/
Rann jeeti ripudal bandhu jut pasyami Ramamanamayam//
Sitaji was full of joy. Her eyes welled up with tears and her hair stood on end. She was saying, ‘Son, how do I reward you for this news? There is nothing equivalent to this in the three worlds!’ Then, Hanumanji said, ‘I feel like the conqueror of the three worlds myself because I watched Sri Ramji, detached and radiant, accompanied by his brother defeat the enemy in battle!’
Sunu sut sadaguna sakal tav hridayam basahu hanumant/
Sanukul kosalapati rahahu samet anant//
Sitaji blessed him, ‘Son, may all the good qualities grace your heart always! May Sri Ramji, along with Sesh Nag (Lakshman) remain pleased with you always!’
‘ My aunt’, said Sheela, ‘ works in a remote village as a doctor. She is around sixty three now.’ They were discussing people they knew, over a cup of tea. Those that inspired them the most.
‘And apart from the fact that she has turned her back to city life to serve the villagers, why do you admire her?’ Bhuven asked.
‘Ah, because she found herself at forty five; having spent her youth ensconsced in the luxuries of the modern living,’ Sheela smiled.
‘Really? How come?’
‘ Well, she married her distant cousin who charmed her with his top business degrees and love for ornithology. My aunt, Dr. Bhagya was among the first in her family to study in the medical college. Probably the first in that whole locality to become a doctor. But after marriage, her husband decided that he wanted a housewife.’
‘That’s retrograde! What the..?’ Bhuven bristled.
Sheela grimaced. ‘ So for the next two decades, she spent her time forgetting the pangs of a medical education gathering rust; trying to find solace in making perfect cookies for her children and playing gracious hostess in her husband’s parties. They travelled wide and settled abroad. Life had given her everything but left her with nothing.’
‘But didn’t that fellow realize her unhappiness? An educated man too, for God’s sake!’ Bhuven was finding it hard to digest.
‘She tried many times to broach the subject but the family peace was threatened seriously. So, like all good women, she learned to forget her dreams and lived to support others’ dreams.’ Sheela sighed.
‘Then, when she was forty five, they returned to their native place. The daughters were in professional colleges by then and her husband had taken voluntary retirement from his corporate job. One day, my aunt met a remarkable person.’ Sheela smiled.
‘ The new maid.’
‘You know Bhuven, guidance and support can come from the most unexpected places at times! This young woman, Lata, was young widow. She found solace in the kind hearted woman who always seemed sad, though she was well off. The maid found her crying sometimes, and hurriedly wiping her tears when someone saw her.’
‘A doctor? You are a doctor?’ Lata couldn’t believe her ears when my aunt told her one day. The naive young woman couldn’t comprehend why a doctor wouldn’t treat patients in need. ‘My native village, there is no doctor there. People trek for hours to reach the government hospital. I lost my mother due to malaria,’ said Lata. ‘Chechi, why don’t you start a hospital there?’ The question dredged dying embers and kindled them anew in my aunt’s heart.
‘ Lata, I have not touched my medical text books for twenty years. My certificates are at the bottom of some old suitcase. I never had courage to touch them all these years,’ cried my aunt.
‘Because, well, your sir did not want me to work.’ It seems Lata started laughing at that. She heaved with laughter until tears streamed down her face. My aunt was disturbed.
‘Chechy, does sir think that working is something beneath one’s dignity? You know, my husband who died in the accident, he always wanted me to stand on my own feet. He did not even go to school. I pity sir! A doctor as his wife, and instead of feeling proud of her , he reins her in with his attitude?’
‘Wow,’ Bhuven breathed, ‘Fiery woman! Speaking truth to power etc…’
‘That started my aunt’s journey….At forty five she went back to her texts, and started working part-time in a nearby hospital. Her husband refused to talk to her for weeks. But she didn’t budge. Luckily, her daughters supported their mother firmly. By the time uncle passed away ten years later due to cancer, my aunt had started her own clinic near her home. To uncle’s credit, he had the grace to apologise to his wife in his later days. For locking up her joy in the dungeon of his intransigence.’
‘That’s quite a story!’
‘Now she runs that hospital in Lata’s native village and stays in a small house nearby with Lata. She is the living God to hundreds of villagers living near the forest areas. When I saw her last, she was delivering a baby at six in the morning!’
‘Aunt said that she was the happiest woman in the world…having been given a second chance. And that it is never too late to find oneself. I live by that, Bhuven.’
ശ്രീമതി സൗദാമിനിയമ്മ VIP : പകല് മുഴുവനും പറഞ്ഞും/ ചെയ്തും തീർത്ത കുനിഷ്ട്ടും കുന്നായ്മയും ഒരു ചെറിയ കുന്നിനൊപ്പം വലിപ്പം. സ്വന്തം ബന്ധത്തിലെ ഏറ്റവും പാവപ്പെട്ട സ്ത്രീയുടെ കട ബാധ്യസ്ഥത മുതലാക്കി , മുപ്പതു വെള്ളി കാശിനു തന്ത്രപൂർവ്വം അവരുടെ ലക്ഷങ്ങൾ വിലമതിക്കുന്ന സ്ഥലം സ്വന്തമാക്കാൻ കരുനീക്കം ചെയ്തു.
സ്പെഷ്യൽ കുറിപ്പ് : ഈ ആഴ്ച, ശ്വാന പ്രദർശനം അഥവാ ഷോ, ചൂല് പിടിത്തം അഥവാ വൃത്തിബോധം ആഹ്വാനം, ബഡായി പറച്ചിൽ അഥവാ എന്നേക്കാൾ മിടുക്ക് ഈ ഭൂലോകത്തിലാർക്ക് ? തുടങ്ങിയ മെഗാ പരമ്പരകൾ സ്വന്തം ജീവിതത്തിൽ ആഘോഷിക്കാൻ പരിപാടി ഇട്ടിട്ടുണ്ട്.
ഇന്നത്തെ പ്രത്യേക സംഭാവന : അൻപതിനായിരം കാണിക്കപ്പെട്ടിയിൽ. അതിന്റെ ഫോട്ടോ സെൽഫിയെടുത്തു ട്വിറ്ററിൽ/ഫേസ്ബുക്കിൽ ഇട്ടു. “എല്ലാം ഭഗവാന് ” എന്ന ശീർഷകത്തോടെ. കിട്ടിയത് 55 ലൈക്ക് , 13 കമെന്റ്., 4 റീട്വീറ്റ്
രാത്രിയിൽ ഉറക്കം കഷ്ടി.
ശ്രീമതി സരസമ്മ ബന്ധു :
കയ്യിലുള്ള ഭൂമി നിവർത്തിയില്ലാതെ ബന്ധത്തിലുള്ള ‘സൗദാമിനിയെന്ന മൂശേട്ടയ്ക്കു’ / ധനാഢ്യയ്ക്കു കൈമാറിയതിന്റെ ഒടുങ്ങാത്ത സങ്കടം. ദിവസം മുഴുവനും, ശപിച്ചും, കരഞ്ഞും, പ്രാകിയും നീക്കി. മകൻ ജോലിയും കൂലിയുമില്ലാതെ നടക്കുന്നതിനു പുറത്തുള്ള ദുഃഖം വേറെ. എങ്ങനെയെങ്കിലും അവനെയൊന്നു രക്ഷപ്പെടുത്തണം. അങ്ങനെ , ചുമതല ബോധമില്ലാത്ത മകന് ബിസിനെസ്സ് തുടങ്ങാനാണ് സ്ഥലം വിറ്റത് .
അന്ധമായുള്ള പുത്ര സ്നേഹം. ഗുണദോഷിച്ചു വളർത്തിയില്ല. അധ്വാനിച്ചും, പട്ടിണി കിടന്നും, മകന് ആഹാരം ഉണ്ടാക്കി കൊടുക്കുന്നു. ‘പോയി, ജോലിയെടുത്തു ജീവിക്കെടാ’ എന്ന് പറയാനുള്ള മനോഗുണമില്ല. ‘എന്റെ ചെറുക്കൻ വിയർപ്പൊഴുക്കാനോ ? അതിനാണോ ഞാൻ അവനെ MA വരെ പഠിപ്പിച്ചത്? അവൻ സ്വന്തമായി സർക്കാർ ജോലിയെടുക്കും. ഇല്ലെങ്കിൽ ബിസിനസ് ചെയ്യും.’ എന്ന് വലിയവായിൽ എല്ലാരോടും ഇന്നും തർക്കിച്ചു.
‘എൻറെ സരസമ്മേ ! നീയാ ഇവനെ വഷളാക്കിയത് ,’ എന്ന് പറയുന്നവരെ ചതുർത്ഥി.
ഉറക്കം : വളരെ കുറവ് .
ശ്രീമാൻ പുത്രൻ/ റിബൽ :
തന്നെക്കാൾ ബുദ്ധിയും, ശക്തിയും ആർക്കും ഇല്ല എന്ന മട്ടും ഭാവവും. തീറ്റിപ്പോറ്റാൻ അമ്മ കഷ്ടപ്പെടുന്നത് ‘അതവരുടെ ചുമതല’ എന്ന മട്ടിൽ ഇരുപത്തഞ്ചു വയസ്സിലും നിസ്സംഗത. മൊബൈൽ ഫോണിൽ ചാറ്റിങ്, കൂട്ടുകാർക്കൊപ്പം ചുറ്റിയടിക്കുക, അമ്മയെ പൈസയ്ക്ക് വേണ്ടി നിരന്തരം ശല്യപ്പെടുത്തുക, ജോലിയ്ക്ക് വേണ്ടി തീരെ ശ്രമിക്കാതിരിക്കുക തുടങ്ങിയ വിനോദപരിപാടികൾ. ചില്ലറ മോഷണവും, കഞ്ചാവും, കള്ളു കുടിയും പരീക്ഷിച്ചു പോരുന്നു. പെട്ടെന്നൊരു ദിനം താൻ ഹീറോയാവുന്നതു സ്വപ്നങ്ങളിൽ സ്ഥിരം കാണുന്നു.
ഉറക്കം : യാതൊരു ആദിയും അന്തവും ഇല്ലാതെ. പകലും, സന്ധ്യക്കും, രാത്രിയിലും എപ്പോഴും ആവാം.
കുമാരി പുത്രി : അമ്മയുടെ കണ്ണിൽ വിലയില്ലാത്തവൾ. “ഇതിനെ ഇനി കെട്ടിച്ചു കൊടുക്കണമല്ലോ,” എന്ന് കേട്ടുകേട്ട് മടുത്ത് ,എങ്ങനെയും രക്ഷപ്പെടണം എന്ന് മാത്രം വിചാരിക്കുന്നവൾ.
ഡിഗ്രിയ്ക്ക് വിട്ടില്ല. തുന്നലും ബ്യൂട്ടി പാർലറും കോഴ്സുകൾ ചെയ്തു , നാട്ടിലുള്ള ‘ഐശ്വര്യ റായ് ബൗട്ടിക് ആൻഡ് ബ്യൂട്ടി ക്ലിനിക്കിൽ’ പണിയെടുക്കുന്നു. അമ്മ , തനിക്കും കൂടി അവകാശപ്പെട്ട സ്ഥലം ചേട്ടന് വേണ്ടി വിൽക്കുന്നതിന്റെ രോഷം ഫേസ്ബുക് സുഹൃത്തായ സുമുഖസുന്ദരൻ എന്ന വ്യക്തിയുമായി രാത്രി മുഴുവനും ചർച്ച ചെയ്യുന്നു.
ഇന്ന് രാവിലെ പി.ടി. കഴിഞ്ഞു, ഒരു ചായയും കുടിച്ചു കൊണ്ടാണ് ഇതെഴുതുന്നത്. കഴിഞ്ഞ രണ്ടാഴ്ചയുടെ അത്ര ബുദ്ധിമുട്ട് ഇന്ന് തോന്നിയില്ല. കുതിര സവാരിയും, ജോഗിങ്ങും ഒക്കെ പരിചയമായി കഴിഞ്ഞു. ഒരു മണിക്കൂറിനുള്ളിൽ പ്രാതലിനു ഹാജരാവണം. അത് കഴിഞ്ഞു ക്ലാസ്സുകളാണ്. വൈകിട്ട് നാലര വരെ. പിന്നെ ധാരാളം പരിപാടികളാണ്. പാട്ടും, ഡാൻസും, നാടകവും, കലാപരിപാടികളും മറ്റും… ഞാൻ എല്ലാം പരമാവധി കാണാനും, കൂടാനും നോക്കുന്നു. പല നാടുകളിലെ ധാരാളം പ്രൊബേഷണേഴ്സ് ഉള്ളതിനാൽ വളരെ ഉത്സാഹമാണ്. ഈ മാസം ശമ്പളം കിട്ടും. എന്റെ ആദ്യ ശമ്പളം.മണി ഓർഡറായി ഞാൻ അത് അയക്കും.ഒരപേക്ഷ : ഉണ്ണികൃഷ്ണന് ഒരു പാല്പായസം മതി. ധാരാളം ഊട്ടി വയറു കേടാക്കണ്ട കുസൃതിയെ!
ബാക്കി പൈസ കൊണ്ട് , എന്റെ അമ്മ ആദ്യം രാധമ്മായിയുടെ അടുക്കൽ നിന്നും ട്രെയിൻ ടിക്കറ്റിനും മറ്റും വാങ്ങിച്ച കടം കൊടുത്തു തീർക്കണം. അതിനു ശേഷവും പൈസ ഉണ്ടാവും. അത് കൊണ്ട് എന്റെ അമ്മ നല്ല കുറച്ചു ജോഡി സെറ്റും മുണ്ടും വാങ്ങിക്കണം. അടുക്കളയിലെ ചോർച്ച അടയ്ക്കാൻ മാധവൻ ചേട്ടനോട് പറയണം. ഇനി കടം പറയണ്ട. ഇപ്രാവശ്യം തുലാവർഷത്തിനു മുറിയിൽ ബക്കറ്റ് വെയ്ക്കണ്ട കേട്ടോ.
ഫാത്തിമ ടീച്ചറോട് സ്നേഹം പറയണം. ടീച്ചറുടെ അടുക്കൽ നിന്നും വാങ്ങിച്ച പുസ്തകങ്ങൾ തിരിച്ചു കൊടുക്കണം. അതെന്റെ അലമാരയിലുണ്ട്. അമ്മയ്ക്ക് കണ്ടാൽ മനസ്സിലാവും. തടിയൻ പുസ്തകങ്ങളാണ്.
നമ്മുടെ ആടുകൾക്കും, കോഴികൾക്കും, റോസാപ്പൂക്കൾക്കും, കുടമുല്ലപ്പൂക്കൾക്കും എന്റെ ഇഷ്ടം പറയണം. ട്രെയിനിങ് തീർന്നു ഞാൻ വരുമ്പോൾ എല്ലാരേയും കാണാം.
ഇനി അമ്മ ഓല മിടയാൻ പോകണ്ട. ആ വേദനയും വയ്ച്ചു കുത്തിയിരിക്കണ്ട. എല്ലാ മാസവും ഞാൻ പൈസ അയക്കും. എന്റെ അമ്മയെ നോക്കാനല്ലാതെ പിന്നെ എനിക്കെന്തിനാ ഈ ജോലി? ജനത്തെ സേവിക്കുന്നതിനു മുൻപ് എനിക്കെന്റെ അമ്മയെ നോക്കണം. അതെന്റെ സ്വാർഥതയാണ് കേട്ടോ. പിണങ്ങേണ്ട.
കളക്ടറാവണം എന്ന് എട്ടിൽ വയ്ച്ചു വായനശാലയുടെ പ്രസംഗ മത്സരത്തിൽ പറഞ്ഞപ്പോൾ, മുക്കാൽ കാശിനു ഗതിയില്ലാത്തവളുടെ സ്വപ്നം കൊള്ളാം എന്ന് കളിയാക്കി എല്ലാവരും. എത്ര പേരുടെ ആട്ടും തുപ്പും കൊണ്ടാണമ്മേ എനിക്ക് പുസ്തകങ്ങൾ വാങ്ങിച്ചു തന്നത് ? കഞ്ഞി കുടിക്കാൻ ഗതിയില്ലാത്തവളെ കോളേജിൽ വിടണോ എന്ന് പറഞ്ഞു കളിയാക്കിയില്ലേ നാട്ടുകാരും വീട്ടുകാരും?
എങ്കിലും എന്റെ അമ്മേ , ഉണ്ണി കൃഷ്ണനെയും തുണ വിളിച്ചു കൊണ്ട് , രാവിലെ അഞ്ചരയോടെ ട്രാൻസ്പോർട് ബസ്സിൽ, നഗരത്തിലെ കോളേജിലേക്കെന്നെ വിട്ടയച്ചിട്ടുണ്ട് ! നഗരത്തിലെ പബ്ലിക് ലൈബ്രറിയും, കോളേജിലെ ലൈബ്രറിയും എനിക്ക് നമ്മുടെ വീട് പോലെ സുരക്ഷിതമായ ആലയങ്ങളായി മാറി.
അമ്മയുടെ പൊതിച്ചോറുണ്ട്, ഞാൻ കുറിച്ചെടുത്ത നോട്ടുകളാണ്, മത്സര പരീക്ഷയിലും സരസ്വതീ കടാക്ഷമായി തീർന്നത്. ആ ചോറും, ചുമന്ന ചമ്മന്തിയും, മാങ്ങാ അച്ചാറും…അതിന്റെ രുചി , മുസ്സൂറിയിലെ ഡൈനിങ്ങ് ഹാളിൽ ഇല്ല.
അയ്യോ, സമയം പോയതറിഞ്ഞില്ല. ഇനി അടുത്താഴ്ച എഴുതാം കേട്ടോ. അമ്മ എന്നെ പറ്റി വിഷമിക്കണ്ട. എന്നോടൊപ്പം, അമ്മയുടെ നിർത്താത്ത വിളി കേട്ട് ഇരിക്കപ്പൊറുതിയില്ലാതെ ആ ഉണ്ണികൃഷ്ണൻ സ്ഥിരം കൂടിയിട്ടുണ്ട്! പിന്നെ എനിക്കെന്തു കുറവാണ് ?
ഇതൊക്കെ സ്വപ്നമാണോ സത്യമാണോ എന്ന് ചിലപ്പോൾ വിചാരിച്ചു പോകാറുണ്ട്.
ഞാൻ പോകട്ടേ. ക്ലാസിനു പോകാൻ നേരമായി. എൻ്റെ അമ്മ വല്ലതും നിറച്ചു കഴിക്കണം കേട്ടോ.
ഇതൊക്കെ വായിച്ചു മനസ്സ് മടുത്തു പിന്നെ തിരയുമ്പോൾ, അതാ വരുന്നു വേറെ കഥകൾ: ക്രൂരത, സ്വാർത്ഥത, മരണം…
സാധാരണ മനുഷ്യർ എങ്ങോട്ടു നോക്കും? ഇതാ കിടക്കുന്നു ഇൻസ്റ്റാഗ്രാം, ഫേസ്ബുക് കഥകൾ : കണ്ണ് ചിമ്മിപ്പിക്കുന്ന സൗന്ദര്യങ്ങളുടെ, ധാർഷ്ട്യങ്ങളുടെ, മേനി പറച്ചിലുകളുടെ കഥകൾ.
ദൈവമേ, ഇതിലൊന്നും ഊർജ്ജം ലഭിക്കുന്ന തരംഗങ്ങൾ ഇല്ലല്ലോ ! അല്പം നന്മയ്ക്കായി, കനിവിനായി , ലാളിത്യത്തിനായി,സാന്ത്വനത്തിനായി എങ്ങോട്ടു തിരിയും ? നിന്നെയും പകുത്തെടുക്കുന്ന ലോകം: നീ എന്ന പ്രപഞ്ച സത്യത്തെ ഞാൻ എങ്ങനെ സ്നേഹിക്കണം എന്നും പറഞ്ഞു തരുന്ന കഥകൾ ചുറ്റിലും. അതും വയ്യ. അതെന്റെ ആത്മാവിന്റെ സ്വന്തന്ത്ര്യം തന്നെ.
നല്ല കഥകൾ എനിക്ക് കേൾക്കണം.
ഉള്ളതിൽ സന്തോഷിക്കുന്ന മനുഷ്യരുടെ കഥകൾ കേൾക്കണം : രുചിയോടെ അന്നം കഴിക്കുന്നവർ, ഹർഷത്തോടെ പ്രണയിക്കുന്നവർ, നെറ്റിയിലെ വിയർപ്പിനാൽ അപ്പം സമ്പാദിക്കുന്നവർ , നീലയും, ചുവപ്പും, മഞ്ഞയും നിറം മാറുന്ന ആകാശത്തെ നോക്കി ഒരു വരി കവിത മൂളുന്നവർ, കുസൃതിയോടെ നോക്കുന്നവർ, ഹൃദയപൂർവം ചിരിക്കുന്നവർ, തനിച്ചിരുന്നു ചിരിക്കുന്നവർ, ഒരു പുസ്തകത്തിൽ സ്വയം മറക്കുന്നവർ, ആരും അറിഞ്ഞില്ലെങ്കിലും ശാന്തരായി ജോലിയെടുക്കുന്നവർ, മറ്റുള്ളവരെ പ്രോത്സാഹിപ്പിക്കുന്നവർ, ദാഹിക്കുന്നവന് ജലം നൽകുന്നവർ, വിശക്കുന്നവന് നിറവോടെ ഭക്ഷണം കൊടുക്കുന്നവർ, സ്നേഹത്തോടെ വൈദ്യസഹായം ചെയ്യുന്നവർ, ഒന്ന് വിളിച്ചാൽ ഓടി വരുന്നവർ, കരയുമ്പോൾ വിഷമിക്കല്ലേ എന്ന് ആശ്വസിപ്പിക്കുന്നവർ, ചെടികളെ പരിചരിക്കുന്നവർ , സ്വന്തം നേട്ടങ്ങൾ വലിയവായിൽ പറഞ്ഞു നടക്കാത്തവർ, സൗന്ദര്യത്തിന് പല മുഖങ്ങളുണ്ടെന്നു തിരിച്ചറിയുന്നവർ, നല്ല ഒരു കപ്പ് കാപ്പിയിൽ സൗഹൃദം കാണുന്നവർ, നാം ജീവിച്ചിരിക്കുന്നോ എന്ന് മറക്കാത്തവർ ….
എനിക്ക് അതിജീവനങ്ങളുടെ കഥകൾ കേൾക്കണം :
പട്ടിണിയിലും വയറു മുറുക്കി കുഞ്ഞുങ്ങളെ പഠിപ്പിക്കുന്നവർ, വിശപ്പിലും തളരാതെ പഠിച്ചു മുന്നേറുന്നവർ, തന്റെ പ്രയത്നത്താൽ കുടുംബം നോക്കുന്നവർ, ഇല്ലാത്ത നാളിലും മറ്റുള്ളവരെ സഹായിക്കുന്നവർ, തളർന്ന ശരീരത്തിലും ജ്വലിക്കുന്ന ആത്മശക്തിയുള്ളവർ, തോക്കിനു മുന്നിലും പതറാത്ത ദേശസ്നേഹികൾ, സ്വപ്നങ്ങൾ മറക്കാതെ നിരന്തരം കഠിനാധ്വാനം ചെയ്യുന്നവർ, സ്നേഹസ്പർശവുമായി കാടിലും മലയിലും കാരുണ്യം ചൊരിയുന്നവർ….
In Italo Calvino’s essay ‘Why read the classics?’ he quotes Cioran.
While the hemlock was being prepared, Socrates was learning a melody on the flute.’What use will that be to you?,’ he was asked. ‘At least I will learn this melody before I die.’
Following such melodies, I ended up watching Kurosawa’s Ikiru, loosely inspired by Leo Tolstoy’s novella, ‘The death of Ivan Ilyich.’ The purpose in Watanabe’s life- to build a children’s park over an erstwhile cesspool- gave him joy in the end. I remembered Socrate’s flute lesson then.
Post script: The passing reference to Mephistopheles and the quip about not asking for Watanabe’s soul, brought Kurosawa’s brilliance home…Take a salute Goethe and Marlowe!
How many nations connected via classics, I ruminated…
I have found selfless people the most happy in my life.
Like my favourite Sister who is filled with such enthusiasm ( The etymology reveals the meaning: The God within) when she gets to serve the needy and poor. She is an active social worker and is always full of plans for the day: a self help group of poor women, coaching classes for the government school children to supplement their learning, providing creative projects to disabled children, arranging for toilets to cerebral palsy affected families…Her to-do list is endless and so is her positive energy!
I find that joy in those who take pride in their life goals: sincere teachers, sincere doctors, sincere mothers… And I find that spark missing from those who aim at pleasure as the goal of life. Perhaps it is my perspective; but I guess a lot of Harvard Business Review articles tend to substantiate my observation.
Why do we read classics? Why do we work? Why do we learn music? Why, why…happiness and meaning are surely side effects of a deeper pursuit.
May we have the courage to find worthy goals in our lives.