Laika and One-Legged Crow : V.J.James

Two novellas by V.J.James : Laika and One-Legged Crow.

Few excerpts from these stunning novellas…(in translation). Hope they spread their sweetness across the world.


When the year 1957-58 was declared as the International Geophysical Year, both Russia and America, without each other’s knowledge, had started working on artificial satellites. Both parties spared no effort in spying on each other too. Yet, Russian space successes were always one step ahead of the game. It caused a grave injury to American pride that we succeeded in launching Sputnik, while US failed in putting in space a satellite weighing 2 kilograms. It was this defeat of the hitherto frontliner which motivated USA to establish NASA in 1958.

In the next decade, both the countries together contributed in sending almost 5000 artificial satellites to circle the earth. The credit of the first human in space in 1961 went to Russia while America conquered the moon in 1969- all a direct result of the invisible space race.  It was during the early stages of the space feud, which extended for years on end, that Laika the pup arrived; with the historic assignment of being the first link in the space journey, and I ended up narrating her tale to Priyanka.

Though named Laika, the nomenclature was not referring a lone canine. Laika was the common name for the breed of hunting dogs in Northern forests of Russia and Scandinavian countries. Alsatian, Pomeranian, Daschund…like these divisions, we too named the pup after a specific breed. From among the mongrels caught from Moscow’s streets, after ‘interviewing’ many, did we choose Laika as the space traveller. Her kind was adept in hunting down small creatures and birds like squirrels and partridges.  Howling wildly to indicate the presence of bigger animals, they were great enthusiasts in chasing and tiring out the preys, along with the owners. Though petite in appearance, their capacity to bark fiercely was legendary. That was why the breed got the name of ‘the one who barks’. They were very faithful and loving by nature. Besides, fitting her in the payload compartment was easy, considering her small size.

We Russians have a great liking for dogs. Most citizens consider owning high pedigree canines as a status symbol. The dogs are granted prominent positions within a household. Not only inside homes, but dogs have been companions in Russia’s scientific experiments also. It was because its blood circulatory system and respiratory mechanism were similar to that of a human being, that a dog was chosen as the first space traveler.  Although, considering the resilience and fortitude to overcome extreme cold and hunger, many street dogs were trapped and some canines were purchased from owners, the cast lots was in favour of Laika, due to her light weight, obedience and her non-ambivalence towards the special space food.

Irrespective of all the tricks up their sleeves, four adroit dog catchers could not snare this super smart little pup. She eluded their ruses many times. The catchers became provoked and determined to snag her in their nets by all means. By the time she was caught by the shore of a frozen lake, the dog trappers were perspiring even in the chill. That was the artificial lake we visited often in Moscow. Made by the arduous efforts of hundreds of political prisoners over a matter of years, that lake had a major influence in Russia’s ecology.

On hearing the finer details, Priyanka shot an array of questions.

‘What food do you give her? Mutton, fish?’

‘No dear,’ I replied, ‘a dog going to space cannot take fish or meat along. We give her a special gelatinized form of food.’

‘Where does she sleep, Papa?’

‘Inside a canister! She is very smart. So smart that she does not create a ruckus or get agitated like other dogs. Do you know what we tried last week? We made her don a space suit and conducted experiments inside a plane flying at high altitudes. There are so many more experiments pending trial…’

Priyanka, adept in the world of imagination, went on visualizing a space-suit clad dog. Insisting on seeing a picture, she made me sketch the scene.

‘Huh! What’s this? A mouse?’

Since I was poor in drawing, the dog I depicted was pathetically resembling a mouse!

Even Engineering Drawing had always been scary for me.

‘Today happens to be Sunday, right?’ To save face, I attempted a ploy. ‘See, if one sketches a dog on a Sunday, it will look like a mouse!’

‘Good that nobody sketched your picture today, Papa. Wonder which creature it would have resembled!’

When the guile, tried to deceive the innocence of childhood, was returned with its edge broken, I was rendered answerless. Yet, Priyanka did not abandon my dog belonging to the mouse species.

That night the child slept after listening to many more stories related to Laika.


One Legged-Crow

At the very bottom of the letter, there was an underlined reminder to Amma about feeding the One-legged Crow.

Though Amma fed all the crows, she had a special care for the one-legged one. Especially because Simon and his father had nurtured it until the little fledgling could spread its wings. It could neither land in places where other crows frequented nor maneuver itself and snatch a morsel of food. The leftovers were its sole hope. But chances for such crumbs were very small in a village. And so, Amma would always put aside something for the One-legged Crow. The bird too was aware of the routine. Without being the part of the raucous crowd, it would wait patiently in the anointed place, for its turn.

Apart from the crow, there was a squirrel too in the yard, that Amma fed regularly. There was a story behind the squirrel becoming a frequent guest. Once as it was relishing the rice drying on the palm-frond mattress, a cat had pounced on it. It was a smart aleck of a feline! If any dog wandered into the yard when it had given birth to its litter, the cat would unleash a terrible assault on the invader. It would scratch, hiss and yowl terribly. Due to the unexpected and ferocious nature of the attack, any mighty dog would lose its equanimity and flee for its life! The squirrel had been caught in the jaws of that canny cat!

Amma had somehow managed to salvage the squirrel from the fangs of the feline. The squirrel had bitten Amma desperately as it thrashed around for its life. A squirrel’s bite caused an intense, stinging pain. In spite of the agony, Amma was adamant on her life saving mission. The squirrel was on the verge of death, its neck mangled and bleeding. Ensuring water for the wretched creature, applying butter on the wounds, she murmured prayers while it lay on her palm and caressed it tenderly. Like a dead person resurrecting, the squirrel regained its life.

For a fortnight, the squirrel stayed close to Amma. On being able to climb trees, it scampered back but returned every day to eat cooked rice directly from Amma’s hands. One would be wonderstruck at the intimacy between animals and humans observing such interactions. Amma looked after the One-legged Crow and squirrel with the same dedication with which she cared for Simon. The pristine goodness of the village did not envisage distances between humans, animals or trees.

After writing the letter to his mother, Simon wrote in his daily diary with his black pen. It was a habit instilled in him from the ‘moral studies’ class at school. Then he scrawled a crow’s picture on the diary page too. There were many pictures scattered across the diary. Unconsciously, each picture would encapsulate the day’s poignancy. The last picture he sketched depicted the pang of separation in a dry, desolate background. His moral studies teacher at school had intoned that regular habits of writing and drawing helped to overcome inhibitions and even gain a mastery over both. Simon had used his golden pen for diary writing until now.

Now that Simon had to use the black pen, he was vexed at the start, but slowly the heavy burden seemed to move away. The humungous fears turned to be deceptive. It was easy to write with the black pen. There was an allure and elegance about the alphabets it crafted. Simon decided to use the pen for his immediate requirements until he visited home.

Simon’s hostel room was in the third floor. Intermittently, the resounding boom marking time from the tall tower could be heard. Especially during the nights, when all other sounds died down and nature stilled, the chime of the clock rang out louder and clearer. Since Simon was in the floor whose window opened out to the clock-tower, it was probably he who heard the time ring out first, feeling it most powerfully. Every time the clock tolled the time, Simon stared at it through the window. He saw the divine form standing with the hands spread over time.

Simon imagined sprouting two wings and taking a single flight from the hostel and landing at the zenith of the monument. In a way, it was predestined that he lived in such close proximity with the structure. The tower lured him to the days he spent with his Appan. It brought to mind Mesthiri, Outha and the village. Ruminating that Outha will be watching the same tower, which he watched at close distance, through his binoculars back in the village, Simon felt the distance between him and his home dwindling fast to become nullified. He visualized a hanging bridge connecting the acme of the clock-tower to the porch of his village home.

അജ്ഞാന തിമിരാന്ധസ്യ…

ഇന്നത്തെ ചില ചിന്താ വിഷയങ്ങൾ…അട്ടകളെ പറ്റി !

പണ്ട് പാക്കനാരുടെ കഥ വായിച്ചപ്പോൾ അട്ടയെ പറ്റിയും വായിച്ചിരുന്നു. ആരുടെയോ കുറ്റം പറഞ്ഞ ഭാര്യയോട് ‘ ഒന്നു ബാക്കിയുണ്ടായിരുന്നു…ആ അട്ട നിന്റെയായി…’ എന്ന് പറഞ്ഞ ഒരു ഓർമ്മ. ചത്തു കഴിഞ്ഞിട്ട്, പാപങ്ങളുടെ കണക്കു തീർക്കാൻ ചിത്രഗുപ്‌തൻ അക്കൗണ്ട്സ് നോക്കുമ്പോൾ, ഒരു അട്ട അവരും തിന്നണം. അത്രേയുള്ളൂ !

ചെയുന്ന ഓരോ പ്രവൃത്തിക്കും ഒരു റെക്കോർഡ് അദ്ദേഹത്തിന്റെ കയ്യിൽ ഉണ്ട് പോലും ! ഇടിത്തീ തലയിൽ വീഴുമ്പോൾ , ശ്ശേ , അതിങ്ങനെ ആവുമെന്ന് നീ പറഞ്ഞില്ലല്ലോ എന്ന് അട്ട ഇൻ ചാർജ് നോട് കയർത്തിട്ടു കാര്യമൊന്നുമില്ല. ഷൈലോക്കിന്റെ സ്വഭാവമാണ് – നെഞ്ചിലെ ഇറച്ചി തന്നെ വേണം.

1 . അട്ട ഒന്ന്- ഒരു വിലാപം
റോഡിൽ ഒരാൾ വീണു കിടക്കുമ്പോൾ, ഞാൻ എന്തിന് പുലിവാല് പിടിക്കണം, അയാളായി, അയാളുടെ പാടായി, എന്ന് നാം വഴി മാറി പായുമ്പോൾ, ‘ ഒരു അട്ട നിനക്കുമായി’. പിന്നീട് എവിടെയോ, നമ്മുടെ പ്രിയപ്പെട്ടവർ വീഴുമ്പോൾ, തിരിഞ്ഞു നോക്കാതെ മറ്റാരോ….

മൊബൈൽ ഫോൺ എടുത്തു വീഡിയോ റെക്കോർഡ് ചെയുന്ന സമയം വേണ്ട ഒരു കൈ താങ്ങു നല്കാൻ. സഹായിക്കാൻ നിന്നാൽ പോലീസ് എനിക്ക് പണി നൽകും എന്ന ചിന്തയും വേണ്ട. ആശുപത്രിയിൽ എത്തിക്കാൻ നമുക്കാവുന്നതു ചെയ്യാം. ആ അട്ട നമുക്ക് തിന്നണ്ട.

2 . അട്ട രണ്ട് – എന്റെ ഉപ്പൂപ്പനൊരാന…

നമ്മുടെ ഉപ്പൂപ്പന്‌ ആനയോ, ആടോ, മുതലയോ ഉണ്ടാവട്ടെ. അത് അങ്ങേരുടെ കഴിവ് ! നമ്മൾ ഏതു മൃഗത്തിനെയാണ് നമ്മുടെ വീട്ടു പരിസരത്തിൽ നല്ല ഒന്നാന്തരം കരിമ്പും, മടലും ഒക്കെ കൊടുത്തു വളർത്തുന്നത് ?
വീമ്പടി മൃഗത്തിനേയോ? അത് വെരുകിനെ മാതിരി അങ്ങോട്ടുമിങ്ങോട്ടും ഓടി നടക്കും. യാതൊരു സമാധാനവും നിങ്ങൾക്കും കിട്ടില്ല, മറ്റുള്ളവർക്കും കൊടുക്കില്ല. കാരണം എല്ലാ വീട്ടിലും വെരുകുണ്ടല്ലോ !

എന്റെ വീട്, എന്റെ ജോലി , എന്റെ ശമ്പളം, എന്റെ ചക്ക പ്ലാവ്, എന്റെ വെരുക്… പറയാൻ തുടങ്ങിയത് പോലും ഇല്ല ,അപ്പോ കാണാം മറ്റവൻ അവന്റെ പൊങ്ങച്ച സഞ്ചി എടുത്തു തുറക്കുന്നു…! അതേതു ന്യായം  ?!

അവന്റെ അമേരിക്കൻ അമ്മായി , അവന്റെ ഗൾഫ് ചിറ്റപ്പൻ, അവന്റെ ചെറുക്കന്റെ എൻട്രൻസ് പരീക്ഷ ! അവന്റെ കൊച്ചിന്റെ ജിമിക്കി കമ്മൽ …

പറ്റുമെങ്കിൽ നമുക്ക്  കൊഴു-ക്കട്ട തിന്നാതിരിക്കാം. ഈസിയാണ്. ഒരാൾ പൊങ്ങച്ചം പറയുമ്പോൾ  ( അതേതു മാധ്യമത്തിലൂടെ ആയാലും) നമുക്ക് വിനയത്തോടെ ചിരിക്കാം.

‘സർക്കാർ ശംബളം വല്ലോത്തിനും തികയുമോ? കീശയുള്ള കുപ്പായമായിരിക്കും കൂടുതൽ അല്ലയോ?’ എന്ന് നമ്മോടു ചോദിക്കുമ്പോൾ, സന്മനസുള്ളവർക്കാണല്ലോ സമാധാനം എന്നോർത്ത് നമുക്ക് പറയാം: ‘ശ്ശോ ! കറക്റ്റ് ! അതെങ്ങനെ അറിഞ്ഞു?’

യാതൊരു   പ്രകോപനം വന്നാലും സഞ്ചി തപ്പാൻ പോകരുത് ! ഈ അട്ട-എന്നെ കഴിഞ്ഞേ ലോകമുള്ളൂ എന്ന ഭാവം-അയാൾ കുറച്ചും കൂടി ഉപ്പും, മധുരവും ചേർത്ത് രുചിച്ചോട്ടെ. ആ പാപത്തിൽ നമുക്ക് പങ്കു വേണ്ട .

3 അട്ട മൂന്ന് – പാവം ക്രൂരൻ

ക്രൂരത മുഖ മുദ്രയാക്കിയ കലി യുഗമാണ് . ഇവിടെ ജീവിക്കണമെങ്കിൽ ക്രൂരതയും , സ്വാർഥതയും വേണമെന്ന് യാതൊരു ഉളുപ്പുമില്ലാതെ മൊഴിയുന്നവരെ ഞാൻ കണ്ടിട്ടുണ്ട്. പത്രമെടുത്താൽ, tv തുറന്നാൽ സഹിക്കാൻ പറ്റാത്ത രീതിയിലുള്ള മനുഷ്യ കുരുതികളുടെ കഥകളാണ്.  മനുഷ്യനോളം evil ഈ ലോകത്തിൽ ഒരു ജീവിക്കും കാണിക്കാൻ ആവില്ല. അവനൊരു മൃഗം എന്ന് പറയുന്നത് മൃഗത്തിനെ അപമാനിക്കുന്നതിനു തുല്യമാണ്.

victim നെ ക്രൂശിക്കുന്ന സമൂഹ ജീവിതത്തിൽ, പലരുടെയും നോട്ടത്തിൽ ക്രൂരനാണ് പാവം. അതെങ്ങനെ എന്നു നാം നോക്കുമ്പോൾ മറ്റൊരു അട്ട ദൃഷ്ടിയിൽ പെടും. കൈയൂക്കുള്ളവൻ കാര്യക്കാരൻ എന്ന അട്ട. പണത്തിനു മേൽ പരുന്തും പറക്കില്ല എന്ന് അരക്കിട്ടുറപ്പിച്ച വഴിയിലൂടെ ആ അട്ട നിരങ്ങി നിരങ്ങി വരുന്നു.

ഏതു പദവിയിലാണെങ്കിലും, ഏതു സ്ഥാനമാനങ്ങൾ ഉണ്ടെങ്കിലും, അനീതിയോടു പോരാടുമ്പോൾ ഈ അട്ട പ്ലേറ്റിൽ, കുരുമുളകും ഉപ്പും പുരട്ടി വറുത്തു, നമ്മുടെ മുൻപിൽ എത്തുന്നു.
‘ എന്തിനാണ് വെറുതെ ശബ്ദം ഉയർത്തുന്നത്? കാശും, ആൾ ബലവും അയാളുടെ കൂടെയല്ലേ?സത്യത്തിൽ അയാളുടെ വശത്തും കുറച്ചു കാര്യങ്ങളുണ്ട് …അട്ടക്കു ഇച്ചിരി കൂടെ ഉപ്പിടട്ടെ? അട്ട കഴിക്കൂ ,കാപ്പി കുടിക്കൂ…! നല്ലൊരു പദവിയിൽ ഇരിക്കണമെങ്കിൽ കുറെയൊക്കെ കണ്ടില്ലെന്നും കേട്ടില്ലെന്നും വയ്ക്കണം , ഏത് ?’

ആ അട്ടയെങ്ങാനും രുചിച്ചാൽ, പാവങ്ങളുടെ, നിശ്ശബ്ദരുടെ കണ്ണീരുപ്പു വീണ  നമ്മുടെ ശിഷ്ട ജീവിതം മുഴുവനും ഓക്കാനിക്കാനുള്ള ഓർമ്മയാകും. ഭഗവാനെ ഒറ്റി കൊടുത്തവനെ പോലെ, അത്തരത്തിലുള്ള അട്ടകൾ ചോര ഈമ്പി കുടിച്ചു കൊണ്ടിരിക്കും- നമ്മുടെ ഹൃദയങ്ങളുടെ! ക്രൂരതയ്ക്ക് ജാതി മത ദേശ ഭേദങ്ങളില്ല. ആ അട്ടയെ കൈ കൊണ്ട് തൊടരുത് – അതിന്റെ ഭവിഷ്യത്തു എന്തു തന്നെയായാലും !


അജ്ഞാന തിമിരാന്ധസ്യ ജ്ഞാനാഞ്ജന ശാലകയാ
ചക്ഷുരുന്മീലിതം യേന തസ്മൈ ശ്രീ ഗുരുവേ നമഃ





The Path To You and Other Poems (Prof.Veeran Kutty, Translation from Malayalam)

1. The Path To You

I was searching for your footsteps

By the sea shore.

Footsteps over footsteps-

A veritable ocean of footsteps!

Yet I discerned the way

To you-

By trailing the lotus buds

Blooming unseen therein.


2. Death

No words exist

In the universe

Except that one.

The rest  of the words

Are elaborations

Or opposites

Or synonyms.

Some astounded at it,

Some rueing.

Dictionaries grow thicker

Trying to describe it.

Poems fail at the task.

One day,

The word meaning


From it

Shall have to be answered

By each of us.

Who can speak it out?

So we demonstrate it.

One day,

I too shall try it out-

Wonder if it will work!


3. Wings

Have you ever watched

Girls clapping their hands


Using their hands to fan themselves?

Wringing their hands?

You can see those hands recollect

Having been Wings

Once upon a time!

When did those feathers

Start withering away?

The wing letting go, and

Cut off from flight,

Dropping on earth –

As a mere crawler?

I wish to see her

Making the festival flag

Fly high with the resounding


Emerging from her hands

Akin to bursting of crackers!

I want to see her

Turn into that ancient, magnificent

Flying creature,

Which converts every  stumble and fall

Into speed and movement.


4. A Plea

Did you know

When you were

Uprooting it

That  the Touch-me-not plant

Was pleading silently

With folded hands

‘ Please desist,’ and that

It was speaking

For the Earth herself?


5. Dance

As you thread the needle,

As you tie the laces,

When you plait your hair…

The way your fingers dance!

I swear

I have never seen anything

So beautiful till now.












Without Genre: Poems (By Prof Veeran Kutty, Translated From Malayalam)

1. Easy Cooking

One can observe

From your eyes:

Passionate love


Intense yet controlled.

Yes, that is evident

Even in your wary smile.

Consequently one can conclude

That your life

Would be getting perfectly




2.  Hope

The earth, which

We have damaged,

Is being steadily repaired:

The flowers  by their fragrance

The tender leaves by their colours,

The fruits by their sweetness.

The rain washes and

The wind wipes clean.

Have you ever seen the sunshine

Rest awhile?

Always in a hurry to

Dry and store

For the morrow.


3. Exchange

You extended your hand

Towards me,


Standing deep in the night.

I was entrenched in the day


It was reminiscent of the episode-

When you offered your kiss

Standing on a mountain top,

And I received it

By a sea- shore.


4. You and Me

I bloomed forth


On hearing your words

Which was spoken in my dream.

What of it, anyway?

I shrivelled up


One word

Which you left unpsoken

When we met.

Didn’t I ?


5. The Search

‘Where are you?’

Even as I asked,

The Tree

Pointed to all four directions

And cast me into utter puzzlement.


On knowing that

I was searching for you,

The guiding stars ahead,

Resignedly let go of

Their responsibility

And trailed behind me.

The wind twirled me into bewilderment.

And finally,

When I reached the edge

Of the ocean

With a rising scream on my lips,

It snarled back:

The thousand tongues,

Asking me all at once,

Where you had gone?










Answers – A Conundrum

“Then”, said the Teacher,  “Listen carefully. Words conceal more than what they reveal. Try making sentences from the words within a word to decipher the root word. ”

The student,  who was brooding on the ANSWERS, looked up curiously.

Let me try, she said, to decipher some meaning from this conundrum of life.

She started playing with the word ANSWERS. And made up a story .

swan/ sewn/ sear/ raw/ wan /near /saw/ sea/ awe /sans/ wear/ wean/  news/ new/ swear/ war/  warn/  ran/are …

Swan it was in reality! It could not quack easily.It was ridiculed often for it.

The dress was sewn for the traditional role. It did not fit into it. The wings burst out of it.They were laid aside.

The pain of compromise was searing. The wounds  festered raw.

The face was always wan.

One day, near by, it saw the sea . It was filled with awe!

Sans any compunctions, it decided to wear the wings back.

It took a time to wean off old habits of diffidence. It took a time, fluttering rusty wings.

The news was that it was beautiful! It was all a new world! It soared real high.

Swear on  Truth, it declared War!

Warn them !!! Are you ready?

Not interested in being an also-ran.

The Teacher said, ” Keep at it every day. The ANSWERS will come.”


Photographer : Poem by Vijaya Lakshmy (Translation)

In this age, where capturing ephemeral moments means more than the moments themselves, a poem from Vijaya Lakshmy…(Mathrubhumy, 2008)


What was asked:

Shall I make the moments eternal?

Shall I mix you in shadows, light

And colours?

Shall I hallmark you

Within the borders

Of a golden frame?

Shall your closest friends

Enter into the inner portals

Of your home,

Through my eye’s signature?

I shall showcase your privacy beautifully.

In any silence, any movement,

Shall these teeth and nails

Walk with cat’s paws

Following your passions surreptitiously?

What was answered:

Eternity, I do not desire that.

What I  want, is to disappear from light

Shadows and colours.

The hallmark of gold!

I like to throw away that yellow metal.

No survey stones such as those can

Contain, the great void beyond adornments.

My privacy-

May it float as white clouds and vanish

Into the blue sky, without anyone’s  intense gaze.

My secret desire is that it dies

In the streets,

Like Victor Linus, after writing

A mere twelve stories.

Pictures? Of close ones?

No, no.

They might recover from within me

Guillotines, ditches and old forts.

Every midnight, from those pictures

Pain will emerge as spirits

Which cannot be eased by either

Medicine or magic.

Neither within my home’s portals

Nor wherever I may live,

Do I want your eye’s signature.

Like an outdated medicine

I do not want to remain

Within the glass almirahs

Of photographs.


No services of a photographer are required.



So, I tell him

‘I have become weak,

Trying to be strong all the while.

We are similar

In a different way, know that.

What’s good, in uneven proportions

Can be  actually bad for one.

I  find that I talk more to others

Whenever I listen less to myself.’

He laughs,

‘It is when you sit still for a moment

That you truly learn to fly.

It is when you reach out to Him

That He comes by his own choice.

It is when you let go of fool’s gold

That you truly find your treasure.

And that is why opposites attract:

We are within each other

All the while, you see?’