Google+ Badge

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Soolamedu- Short story

If I say my village Soolamedu is not in India map, that’s not a big deal, because I know our map misses a lot. But if I say my village is not even in our Salem district map, it requires some attention. It is sad, but true. The two hundred odd families spread in that small village make life cheerful over there. It is neglected by anybody and everybody except the host villagers. Before every election, we have jeeps and cars in our village with men promising funds for development. The promised funds are also allotted properly. But the first allotted fund went to local M.P’s swimming pool construction in the seventh floor of his house, the second fund allotment went to M.L.A’ s new club development and the third went to the collector’s garden. Frustrated, we did not bother about funds and knew not what happened to further funds. So, the village remained as it was thirty years ago. Unmetalled muddy roads, shabby huts on both sides, paddy fields around, it don’t attract people; yet I love my village. My father, who passed two years ago, was an ayurvedic doctor. His clinic is big enough to accommodate five people. He had a thatched hut behind. We are supposed to call it as the clinic’s ward.

I go to the clinic by two wheeler (Hercules cycle). Though I travel the same route, the same paddy fields, the same banyan tree under which I fell down and broke my chin at eight years, the same pond which supplies water to the villagers and their buffaloes, the same thatched roof school which had, has and will have only primary classes; I enjoy my village everyday. I don’t know what craze I have for the useless village. If it is called craze, yes, then it is. I see same faces every day, even the school master. My son, Ramu is also studying under Mr.Chakravarthy under whom I studied. Bus comes thrice a day and where people are crowded is the bus stop; till now it is the only possible identification, even for the bus driver. Not only the atmosphere, but also the people’s hearts are not polluted. Even my wife kaveri told me the same. When kaveri, I and my only son go for a walk, everyone enquires and talk to us. The people here work hard. Whenever I talk about hard work, I just can’t stop thinking about kamalamma. Kamalamma is crossing her fifties now. The short, stout, dark kamalamma whose white teeth is coated with betel juice, grey hairs, near her ears and in top of her head, gets up early in the morning, pluck jasmine and sell it; then she works in paddy field; evening she sells vegetables. She strain so much for her daughter to get married. Like a pigeon’s nest, she also builds her assets slowly for a promising future of her daughter. She cares a lot about her daughter because she has no one else to take care of now. Her husband left her at a very early age. No one knows whether he lives or not. But kamalamma has his memories alive and her one inch dia kumkum on her forehead betrays that. One specialty about kamalamma is her constant smile evergreen as the mango trees of our village. I haven’t seen her sleeping, for I want to check whether she smiles even while sleeping or not. Though I respect kamalamma, I usually have no or very less words with kamalamma as I bother much about my white shirt which gets easily spoiled especially with kamalamma whose mouth is a perennial nozzle of betel juices.

Oh! I haven’t introduced myself. Of course, I have hardly introduced me as I’m known to everyone as doctor’s son. My father, an efficient ayurvedic doctor with no degree was the only degree he had. To follow his line, I too did diploma in ayurvedic medicine after my schooling, thus claiming a qualification for my father’s post. People believe that my father is more efficient. That’s true too. He had made the village healthy leaving no business for me. When I see my rusted name board reading “Hariharan, Diploma in ayurveda”, I sometimes feel why people don’t feel to call me ‘doctor’. But I have never bothered too much for it.

That Monday morning I reached my clinic. The muddy front portion witnessed the previous day’s rain. My cycle is full of mud. I came to the back yard. It was wonderful. It is always nice to look at the village after a rain. The trees and shrubs were happy. I saw the ground. A few mushrooms have come to our earth. And with it, patches of Riccia and some ferns also. I still could see the raindrops sticking to the clit of the Riccia’s doublet leaves. The gymnosperm is a frequent visitor to my clinic. The mushroom beside it brought back my good old childhood days memories. I used to pluck the mushroom and count the flaps in its bottom. Then keeping it over mud made fort, I claim it as my kingdom.

By concern over mushrooms and riccia, please don’t think that I’m a member of some green club working for the protection of the environment. I call them visitors because they are the only visitors to my clinic other than two lousy dogs which lie opposite to my clinic.

When I started my day with no work as usual, Kamala amma about whom I was telling came with a boy who must be around 12 years. That must be her grandson. The broad, short nose, huge eyes, joint eyebrows, in a perfect round black face which are exactly duplicate of Kamalamma’s supported my thought.

I understand that the boy is my patient. I tried my level best to show that I am very busy. I don’t know how far I succeeded. I asked the boy, “What happened?” Kamalamma interrupted, “he is dumb”. I asked sorry and asked Kamalamma. Kamalamma told, “He fell from the top of a building and have broken his hands”. Verifying the boy I understood and diagnosed it as a multiple fracture. Suddenly something flashed in my mind. The previous day when I went to market with my son Ramu, he was looking a kid’s cycle without taking his eyes. I asked him whether he liked it. He nodded his head with infinite expectations.

Until I saw the price as 800, I too was admiring at it. Ramu’s eyes came in front of my eyes and nothing did. I wanted to grab the opportunity for i define ‘luck’ as the same. I told Kamalamma that it requires 16 days to cure. I told her that oil per day costs Rs.75 and consultation Rs.5 totaling Rs.80 per day. Fifty rupees extra I collect every day for oil must be sufficient for me to fulfill ramu’s wish.

The treatment stared. Next day she came late and tired. When I enquired the reason, she told that to meet the oil cost every day, she has taken a part time job. I felt bad. But next jiffy, Ramu entered my mind I did not feel bad. The treatment went on smoothly.

Kamalamma loved the boy very much. Every day she enquires about his health. She ensures proper food and care for him. One day I saw her with her ear rings (the only gold ornament she owns) in a pawn broker’s shop and then bought new clothes for the boy with that money. Very soon my expected 16th day came. The cash tray completed 800. The boy is perfect now. I rushed to the market and came with the cycle which Ramu wanted. I was happy and started thinking how Ramu will react by seeing this.

Kamalamma came to me with the boy. I with the puzzled look asked, “now what?” She handed me a chit. “This boy cannot speak. So he couldn’t tell his address and he has written in this chit. Can you help me to know the same?” I was confused. “Is he not your grandson?”, I asked. Kamalamma smiled, “I have only one unmarried daughter. I saw this boy while coming from work one day “.

That was really a hard blow for me. Without my knowledge, Ramu’s cycle fell from my hands. And something ………, something else heavier fell down. Ah! That was my heart the worst thing I had ever known in the world.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A train journey- Short story

A Train journey (a short story)

The train left the station as usual after half an hour of the scheduled time. Train always has a fancy in our minds however old we are. Though I travel in electric trains everyday, I still like travelling in trains with the same spirit as I had years ago. I believe and am sure that every train traveller share similar feeling. The only possibility being the constraint of time and other mind occupying business, which is jealous of our train memories, and hence hinder our thoughts about trains. While traveling in metre gauge trains, which I can boldly claim with the reformations of railway department as yester year’s train, I always had the feeling of a cradle, which oscillates me gently (sometimes wildly). The smoke vomited from the head of the engine sometimes (many times) gifted me with nausea. Yet I have felt it with joy and pride.

Being a marketing executive in “J.K. Watches”, travelling to Tiruchirapalli from Chennai is so frequent that it has become like my daily travel. But, this is not the usual trip with a briefcase full of documents related to my business which hardly allows my shaving kit to breathe and mind preoccupied with full of data and figures; even my dreams are occupied with ‘ms excel data sheets’ swallowing the reservation for pretty ladies. This time I’m going to our family temple for the annual ceremony. The mere thought of the temple brings along with me the old memories of the temple. It is a small ‘Shiva temple’ wonderfully placed in that village. Anyone entering the village has to cross the temple. East side of the temple is full of paddy fields mostly the property of temple itself. Behind the temple is a slow running stream from which water is taken for shrine and later distributed to devotees as ‘theertham’ (holy water). The common sense when we become devotees is almost nil that we don’t even consider the fact that the holy water we take reaches us after bathing hundreds of buffalos and other cattle of village in the upstream. I remember, once when we went to the temple after my getting job through campus, Venkatachalam shastri, priest of the temple telling my father, “you people come once in a while to god and he gives job to your children and I’m coming here everyday; he doesn’t answer my prayers for my son’s job”. Very caringly, when my dad asked what his son studied, he innocently replied “eighth standard pass”. This statement is an example of the village’s vivid innocence; but my dad was little tensed when he compared an eighth standard education with a M.B.A from ‘Symbiosis business school”.

With these thoughts, I haven’t crossed the fifth page of the daily whose pages were dancing with the blowing warm wind. I saw the time. It was half past twelve. The train halted to take rest in a station before its forthcoming acceleration. An elderly man entered and seated opposite to me. Pure white dress in his dark body was contrasting. Had he not have a clean shave; his moustache would have reflected grey similar to his cotton like hair. He smiled at my co-travellers and me. He said a “hello” to everyone around and gradually started his conversation. I’m usually impressed by such characters about their ability to accost and adaptability as well as their talent to win others attention. I have not only been brought up as a reserved character, but also made least attempts to change myself for which I even faced some difficulties in my profession. The new member of the compartment introduced himself as Mr.A.K.Swaminathan . He turned to a man next to me and asked whether his sun sign is “Sagittarius”. The man with red colour T-shirt wondered lifting his long, thick eyebrows as much as possible and asked, “how do you know?”. The elderly man whom we started calling as swami sir replied, “You have a long nose and broad forehead which naturally symbolizes intelligence. Besides your palm lines show that there is a diversion from the main line and the secondary line tends to coincide with the lifeline. This is peculiar for Sagittarius people says books, and my experience also told me the same.” As soon as he finished the sentence, lots of people including me looked him with some curiosity. One of them who looked like a student came forward and asked whether swami sir knows palmistry. Swami Sir smiled very gently and told that he got interested in palmistry and later developed his knowledge through books. He also added that he is actually a journalist.

Much more looks came towards him. In the mean while the topic turned towards spiritualism as one of our fellow traveller told that he is returning from “mecca”, a pilgrimage for muslims. Swami Sir told that he has great respect for Islamic religion. He told that islam is the only religion which calls its fellow men personally by its “baang” unlike other religious practices of ringing a bell. Also the cleanliness maintained by muslims is great. He explained the difference between “mosque” and “darga”. When one of the other passengers argued that Hinduism is the best, swami sir intelligently quoted verses from “bhagawat gita” and “Quran” and explained that both meant the same. When swami sir told that Hinduism principles are polluted due to age, there were none to say no as everyone knows it is not “no”. The fluency of swami sir and the way he put forward his points were so wonderful which naturally proved that he is a journalist.

Then he turned to a child named “vignesh” and asked him some basic mathematical problems with apples and mangoes instead of numbers. I don’t know how vignesh got attracted to swami sir, but after some time swami sir had a lot of children around him, playing with him. He asked questions, acted to them, taught some games; if a blind man had traveled with us, he must have thought that swami sir is also one of the children in the gang. I really thought of my parents. In fact they too are same like swami sir to veena and venkat. Veena and venkat are my children. My father takes them for an evening walk and they learnt a lot from him. The association of children with grandparents is really the initialization of their intelligence in infancy.

I had a call in my cell phone. Oh! Long lives my dad. It was my dad on line. I said hello and told him that just then I was thinking about him. He must be happy with the statement. He asked me to come to my uncle’s house in tiruchirapalli as our family has been invited there for that day’s dinner. I said “ok”. After a usual normal dialogue, I kept my mobile.

Swami Sir was then talking about “Feynman lecture series” and “Stephen hawking” in physics. He talked about music, recreation, London publishers, world business, sensex, share market, discussed some classic novels, admired H.G.Wells and Robin Cook in the hands of my co-travellers and lot and lot of things. One man very seriously asked, “How come you are so informed and knowledgeable?”, the very question I would have asked had he not.

He recalled his flashback and said that he was working as a journalist in England. He writes novels also which are usually published by British publishers. He came to India to write a novel, based on an average Indian. He stayed in his native village in Tanjore district. His short period in India after very long stay in other land created an affinity towards his motherland that he stayed back in India. His son in England admonished him for the same. It was not very abstruse to feel his patriotism and in fact the crowd around accolade him for his decision. He further added that he was getting bored in India and have started a fortnight magazine, which is not yet popular; but he was sure that he would make it soon. One of the men in the crowd whose palm was first looked by swami sir subscribed an annual subscription for the magazine. Soon swami sir won lot of subscriptions. It is a very common practice in our society which psychologist, Mr.Edward sebastin quotes as “slave attitude due to fear in self”. Yes, no one is confident of deciding him or herself but try to go behind the crowd. Only for this reason, I didn’t subscribe controlling my greatest temptation thereby creating myself an exception in the list of psychologist, Mr.Edward.

I was feeling hot inside the compartment. Discussion with swami sir was still continuing. I was not abhorrent towards such discussion, but took less interest in participation. I slipped to the door to enjoy the breeze kissing my face during its busy voyage towards an aimless destiny. After some time, train abated its speed. I was an experienced traveller who is enough informed to understand that one of the railway stations is approaching to decelerate my train’s wheels. I moved beside when I saw swami sir with another old person who is almost dressed like him in the metal slab near toilet.

The new man asked swami sir,” what about today’s collection?”. Swami sir smiled till his lips touched his ears showing a bunch of currencies,”all heads are enough thick to be fooled. I started simply, but seeing the response, I continued and everyone believes that I’m really a London returned. Don’t worry; today’s collection is enough for one week. After returning this dress to laundry, we shall enjoy. “. The new man smiled, “you are lucky as well as talented. You can fool anyone easily. My compartment people didn’t respond properly. I just could win my lunch and little money. Let me hope best in my next attempt.”

They laughed and started a cigarette. Only then I really felt, the breeze was not that comfortable and went to my seat trying to recollect whether swami left any clue for others to understand that he is actually intelligent as everyone thinks, but a Fraud.