Cold. It was biting cold. The wicked chill of that dark night seemed to crawl in through every gap of that linen tent. An oil lamp, made of solid gold burned endlessly on the ivory table like a lone warrior fighting the darkness in that tent. He hated luxuries, but there seemed to be no end to richness showered up on him by Suyodhana even in the middle of this great war. Yes,the great WAR. The 16th day had ended. And for Karna it had ended well in style, with Pandavas squealing and running away like bunch of scared dogs. And mother Kunti, who kept Karna at her arms length, who turned her head whenever she saw him, came and begged for the Pandava lives. He did not expect her to be standing in his way while coming after a swim in Parusni river. In the end, she acknowledged the fact that Karna was more chivalrous than Arjuna or any other Pandava for that reason. This was the acceptance he craved for all his life. But for Karna, friendship and commitment was more important than sentiments that would ruin Suyodhana’s war efforts. Except for Bhima who played the spoil sport by killing Dushasana, the day was glorious for him. Anyway, Karna did not care for Dushasana . He fought for glory. Those who marginalised him as charioteers son, felt the heat of his rage. Though he had entered the battle field only on the 11th day, Drona was the one who commanded the Kaurava army. Their planning for each day lacked in sharpness and vigour. But Suyodhana went on trusting his old hands for victory and also there were very few takers for Karna’s words. Karna felt humiliated during strategic meetings since Drona overrode his every opinion. Now that the old man was slain the command was completely in his hands, Karna struck. Like a zillion thunderbolts ripping the virgin earth, he fell upon the Pandavas who ran hither thither for their precious lives. He knew that there was nothing more powerful than speed and intimidation. He did not know about respect for he hardly received any from anyone, but definitely saw fear in the Pandava eyes.The 16th day of the great war was HIS day. Karna’s eyes looked tired and strained reading the Danurveda (a book on science of warfare that lord Shiva handed over to Parasuram) under the lamp. The shlokas engraved in those dried palm leaves seemed to slip away into the oblivion of sleep. Without Parasurama’s (his master) knowledge Karna had secretly made a copy of the original Danurveda scroll. There were mistakes in some crucial places ‘coz he had scribbled them in a haste when his teacher went out or was busy with some other students.
Karna was a perfectionist and he always feared of something going wrong. There was always this problem with memory and it left him completely naked when it was needed the most. But he would close his eyes and take a deep breath and things would flow back to his mind and body like a thunder. Then he would get back his unstoppable self. The light of the oil lamp cast a huge,flickering shadow of the handsome Karna on the linen sheet of the tent. His angular face, with a strong jaws and a grizzling moustache, looked pale yet handsome under the grim light of the lamp. His tanned body, chiselled and grilled in the great embers of battles he fought for Suyodhana during the Digvijaya Yaga, made him look more like a weapon than a human being. Pandavas were in exile then, and he had peace of mind. So Karna personally crowned Suyodhana as King. And when Karna got bored after sometime, he rode out and conquered every kingdom in every direction. And till date he is only warrior to do so. After this jolly outing, he crowned and promoted Suyodhana as the Emperor Of The World culminating in the Vaishnava sacrifice. Karna was on top of the world since his best friend was the emperor and glory with respect befell Karna once again. Or that was what he thought. Unfortunately that was all short lived. The Pandavas, like pests in the milk, came back to Hastinapur and Suyodhana summoned him from Anga. Again those teasing eyes of Krishna, those hate seething tongue of Bheema, those unsympathetic eyes of his mother that seemed to look through him, making him feel completely non-existent and transparent, disturbed his mind to great lengths. But the one he hated the most was the sarcasm, scorn and contempt for him that seemed to emanate from every inch of Arjuna. He did not understand why even Kauravas did not recognise his valour or strength even after universal conquests. Was it all because of his lower birth? Was it because people found it hard to see a mortal scale godly heights? Anyways, his mind lost its cool with the Pandu brats around him. Now destiny had given a golden opportunity to prove his mettle. Karna knew that the war was coming to an end. The air itself had a pungency of Pandava loss and fragrance of Kaurava victory.
From the beginning of that day, since he was spear heading the attack, Pandava moral was down.
“Yudi knows that I can wipe out his entire army in a single day. But what is the fun in that…?” Karna thought with a gratifying smile over his lips. He made them squirm, squeal and run for their lives for the first time since the commencement of the war. He wondered what Arjuna would be thinking at the moment. He was sure Krishna would be in his tent, flashing that fake reassuring smile telling him that everything is going to be fine. But Karna had seen a flash of fear in Krishna’s eyes for his beloved Arjuna. Had he not turned the chariot at the right moment, Arjuna would have been history by now. Lost in these thoughts, Karna lost interest in reading the shlokas. He knew all of them by-heart but still he wanted to revise them. Just in case… But Karna decided to close Dhanurveda and tied it into a compact deck of leaflets with a string. He covered the same using bundles of purple silk and shoved it among his cloths kept on his bedside which was just an arms length away from where he sat. It looked perfectly inconspicuous among the cloths.
“Good ..” he thought with grim satisfaction.
Karna pushed back the rosewood stool as he got up. He stretched his arms and yawned. He scratched the matted thatch on his chest. He tightened the cotton around his waist and pulled back his oiled lush black mane with both hands. He then walked towards his bed and from underneath he pulled out a big rectangular wooden box. And it was heavy. The nerves that ran down his neck bulged, his shoulders and arms strained equally under its tremendous weight. Karna placed the box on the ivory table. He placed his right palm over the centre of the box that had a simple ‘AUM‘ inscribed on it. He closed his eyes and gave a silent prayer to Lord Siva, Indra and Parasuram who chronologically possessed that box and it’s powerfully divine content.
Slowly, opening his eyes Karna unlatched the wooden box and opened it. A smile more glorious than a billion suns gleamed across his handsome face. From what he saw inside, he knew that the great war would end tomorrow.
“The black skinned, beef eating pervert Mallus have again proved that- not only their skin is dark but their hearts are darker still. By killing the innocent stray dogs on the streets the people of Kerala have exposed their real face and their true colours. These lunatics claim 100% literacy but I would say they are 100% ill- literate. Lets shove hot iron rods up their asses my fellow Indians. Like parasites they have inflicted every nook and corner of this country…Not only this country…the entire world.Let us give them back in their own coin my friends!!! Let’s hit them where it hurts the most. I urge you all to make as many bookings in as many rooms as possible in all the resorts and hotels in Kerala and then make last minute cancellations. Also let us throw them out of our properties… Do not rent a single flat to anyone from Kerala… Also these job-begging morons should not be given any job, anywhere and I also request my fellow citizens to push the Mallus out of running trains whenever they get a chance to do so…Piss on their cloths and the canned water we deliver them. Screw them up guys for killing innocent animals..yesss lets do it!!!” #BoycottKerala, #StopKillingDogs
After typing the above, Kishan Chakraborthy, a fair skinned and handsome 28 year old software engineer from Kolkata re-read his own words with relish. He had injected enough hatred against the Mallus just like he had done in his previous posts. He sipped whiskey from the glass kept by the side of his laptop. He then clicked “post” and lo…the status was updated on his timeline. Kishan lived in a dirty 2BHK flat along with his father Niranjan Chakraborthy and mother Suhasini Chakraborthy.
He could see the encroaching evening fog creeping in through his window. He looked at the fragments of the Sun cut into odd angles by the steel trusses of the Howrah bridge. Like a mother singing lullaby for her child, the Hooghly river sang for the city as she flowed in rhythm. But Kishan could hear the cacophony of a Kolkata that hardly slept to her watery song.
“Kishan we need to go to the temple… are you ready…?” he heard his mom shout.
“Yeah mom…gimme 5 minutes…lemme get ready…” Kishan drowned the whiskey as he replied. He put on his Dhoti and Kurtha for the evening prayers and emptied the left overs of Pan Parag into his mouth. He searched for ghutka, but could not find it. There was nothing more intoxicating than a mix of Ghutka and Whiskey. He shut down his laptop, took his bike’s key and opened the door.
His Father, a 60 year old war veteran was watching the local news whereas his mother was anxiously waiting for him.
“Come Mom.. let’s go…” Kishan patted her shoulders as he climbed down the sairs of the flat. As he reached the basement, he spat on the pillar, like he always did. The white pillar wore the red and brown stains of Pan and Ghutka spits like a dirty skirt . But a good spit after a yummy chew gave Kishan some kind of divine satisfaction… a kind of orgasm.
He started the bike and his mother sat behind him. That is when Suhasini Chakraborthy, who was into her early fifties noticed the garbage bag hanging by the side of her son’s red Bajaj Pulsar.
“Beta… you did not throw away the garbage bag today morning… it is still handing by the side of the bike…”
That’s when Kishan cursed his folly. A whole day the stinking bag was hanging there by his bike, and he did not notice. Well, life was too busy to notice anything worthy.
“It’s Ok mom.. will throw it on the way…”
As they went to the Krishna Temple, Kishan threw the garbage carelessly on the roadside.
They finished pooja and aarthi from the temple and the mother-son duo were quick on their way back home.The darkness of the approaching night was catching up with them.
Kishan was whistling the latest Bengali hit. His mom was sitting behind, holding his shoulder with her one hand and temple prasad with her other. He could see his mom’s beautiful face in the rear view mirror. Even though she had grey hair; her skin was milky white, spotless and wrinkle free. As they neared the place where Kishan had dumped the garbage earlier, a few drops of water trickled over his nose. Instinctively Kishan looked up in search of the source and saw dark clouds gathering above in the sky.
“Holy shit… it is going to rain…” he cursed and accelerated his bike.
As he speed down the road and reached the exact place where he had dumped the waste from his household, he noticed the stray dog by the roadside. It was chewing the wastes from the garbage bag he had thrown there. It’s head was completely into the garbage bag as if it was having a feast. But Kishan neither stopped nor did he slow down. He went full throttle. Suddenly the dog looked up from the garbage bag. It growled in anger showing all its vicious teeth as if it felt Kishan was coming for a share of it’s meal. Then in a flash of a second, the dog jumped towards the approaching bike.
Kishen was totally taken by surprise and made a sharp right turn, but the dog came after him. And the bike ran over the dog. The slimy skin and flesh lifted the bike off it’s grip from the road. As the front wheel rolled over the dog’s body, it made a violent motion under the bike, sending Kishan and his mother flying off the bike.
Kishan’s head hit the gravel by the roadside as he fell. But, a fraction of a second before that, he heard something crack. Like the sound of a coconut shell cracking over a stone. A truck laden with boulders screeched to a sudden halt 100 meters ahead of where they had fallen.
Kishan sprawled by the roadside with his body totally numb and paralysed. He saw his own pool of blood spreading around his head. The pool of blood felt warm against his facial skin. He saw the dog that caused the accident running towards the other end of the road, barking and chasing some other dogs as if nothing had happened. Kishan’s dying vision searched for his mother. There…right in the middle of the road, she was lying motionless. Her body was intact… everything looked fine…except for her head. In fact, there was no head at all. Kishan’s eyes could not distinguish between his mother’s head from the surface of the road. They both looked fused and gelled together.
Kishan saw the truck driver, his helper and some people running in his direction. But before he closed his eyes forever, he saw Lord Krishna in all his majesty and splendour come down and lovingly lift his mother’s soul to the heavens above. And Lord Krishna’s skin colour was nothing but dark…dark like the gathering black clouds above him.
Well, unaware of this great great tragedy, Kishan’s post started taking baby steps towards fame. In the cyber world now it had 50 likes,15 shares and 25 comments. A battle ensued online, but little did anyone know that the commander was lying dead by the roadside.
One of our beloved teachers left us after a brave fight with death when the auto-rickshaw she was travelling fell off a steep road trying to evade a stray dog.
My best friend’s father met with an accident a few months back when a stray dog got strangled in his bike. He had 14 stitches on his face and a broken leg. He could have died, but fortunately he survived.
Both the above incidents could have been avoided if food-wastes from hotels or households were properly disposed off. But people keep dumping wastes which in turn feeds stray dogs that gets multiplied in to generations. We deserve to be bitten and we deserve to be dead as well if we are the root cause. Why blame the poor dogs??
My intention here is not to criticise anyone or any state. But Boycott Kerala has been doing the rounds and has garnered considerable support across various fraternities across the globe.
I doubt the compassion of people who cannot respect their own brothers and sisters but have their heart bursting with sympathy for street dogs. Remember your pledge?? “All Indians are my brothers and sisters…”?? yes that’s it…that is the one.
You will never understand the reality until something really goes wrong with you or your family members. Till then it’s all fine on Facebook or pen and paper. Try standing in the shoes of a daughter who lost a mother…place yourself in a situation where you have been bitten by a rabid dog and there is no medicine available.Things look good as long as something does not go wrong with you. Some people are saying they are against killing dogs whatsoever…even after reading this story… if their father, mother or brother would be hurt or even dead would they say the same thing? I doubt that.
I’m not saying killing dogs or any animal for any reason whatsoever is right, but we need to correct ourselves at the roots. We as human beings not only have responsibility towards our species, but for the remaining bio-diversity as well.
My dear friends… today you will boycott Kerala for culling dogs. Tomorrow we will boycott Goa for land Mafia or drugs…then latter TN for some other issue…after that it will be J&K’s turn…then…we may end up boycotting India itself?? Let us not showcase our country as a land with no unity. We are much more than just Kerala or TN or West-Bengal..we are one and we are Indians.
Here are some FB updates that would hurt us a lot… but wait…the last one is the best:
A visionary who taught us to dream…dream and dream has flown away flapping his wings of fire. Maybe he has glided towards an unknown dimension. There is even a possibility that he still out there in the dark sky watching over us with the same innocent smile he always carries with him. We know you cannot just leave us like that dear Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. You are too precious to be lost and no Indian can ever forget you till time’s end.
What Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam has left behind is an unparalleled legacy. He is not just a person to be defined in mortal terms…he is a sensation and an immortal pride of every Indian. He had set an all new benchmark for how a President should be when he was in office. Dr. APJ awed the world a million times over with his scientific genius, management capabilities and most important of all- his down to earth attitude and humble life style. Guess we all remember how years after his retirement from President’s office, people used to think that Dr. APJ was still the President of India. We just could not let go of him then as a president. And we cannot let go of him even now as a national treasure.That is the kind of impact he had on the minds of people. He made us feel that someone is out THERE, who cared for us, who strived to make India a better place for all of us. He always strived for excellence and toiled hard every moment of his life to project India as a super power on the world stage. A hero and a true motivator in every sense not only for the young, but for every generation.
I still remember reading the amazing story of a news paper boy and his journey from a remote fishing village in Rameshwaram to the office of President Of India. Guys, “Wings of Fire” became an instant national sensation. He was the 11th President of India. Dr. A.P.J has laid down his own life in front of us to show that nothing is impossible. After making DRDO and ISRO proud with his PSLV and SLV projects (both successful), his signature ballistic missile projects Agni or Prithvi earned him the name Missile Man Of India. He truly dreamed of making India a superpower and not only that, he made the entire nation envision his dream. He played a key political and technological role in Pokhran-II. When many considered the development of Thermo-Nuclear bomb by India as a frizzle, he went ahead with the project taking complete responsibility. The rest we know is history. The world made way for the arrival of a new India…a mighty India and at the helm of the ship was a man with long hair and twinkling small eyes full of dreams.
This is not the only reason why millions like us love Dr.APJ Abdul Kalam. He came out of the air-conditioned luxury of Rashtrapathi Bhavan, bridging the gap between the common man and the President’s Office. He walked, played, sang, dined, danced and spoke amongst us in terms of Aam Aadmi’s dreams and aspirations. When a generation started loosing hope in the future of this nation, he marched ahead, teaching us to take pride in what we are and what we were. Slowly over a period of 5 years i.e. from 2002 to 2007, he instilled a kind of confidence and optimist in the youth of this country like no other leader. Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam is thus hailed as the ‘People’s President’. I still remember a set of students from my school who were lucky enough to meet him. And guess where they met Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam?? In Attapadi, a tribal settlement in Silent Valley, almost 2000 feet above sea level. He had landed there to interact with the tribal population from almost 135 hamlets. That is kind of reach he had. I have always known him through his writings. Through his ‘Wings of Fire’ and ‘India-2020’ (fond memories of how eagerly we students waited to grab that single copy in the school library flashes in front of my eyes).
A loss of this magnitude would be too much to for a country to bear. Especially for those citizens who were lucky enough to meet/ interact with him. But we need to stay on and work towards his dream of India-2020 where India is a knowledge-super power.
I submit this blog as a tribute to the great visionary who inspired us to dream beyond dimensions… Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam…we miss you…
Let this be the words that reverberate across the country at this moment and let us take one step forward towards realizing his dream…
“A developed India by 2020, or even earlier, is not a dream. It need not be a mere vision in the minds of many Indians. It is a mission we can all take up – and succeed.” – Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam
It was a rainy morning. The Palakkad-Ernakulam passenger (MEMU) was moving like a lazy snail over the wet tracks. The week so far was very dry and no one expected a rain of this magnitude. The monsoon after playing hide and seek for almost a month, had finally surrendered in Kerala. The air was now a mix of mist and fragrance of the earth; a fragrance sweeter than any perfume brewed by man or god. The nature itself looked like a wet seductress covered in green silk.
Arya, a 23 year old MA literature student from Govt. Victoria College Palakkad, was sitting by the window seat. She was in a compartment immediately behind the cabin of the loco pilot. There were not many in that bogie. A man in his mid-thirties sitting next to her was sleeping open mouthed. He had curly salt and pepper hair and was really unkempt. He was wearing a dirty white shirt and a blue lungi with white checks. To Arya’s distaste the man smelled of liquor and sweat. He looked as if he did not have a wash for over a week. Arya did not like the man. Even though he did not speak to her or stare at her, there was something spooky about him. She despised the man from the very first sight. Sitting opposite to Arya was a rich looking, well built handsome corporate manager. He had a handsome face and a smart moustache. He was working over his IBM Thinkpad with whatever charge was left. Arya looked admiringly at him. She gathered that he was working as the manager of some pharmaceutical company since he kept making calls over his iPhone asking sales report from medical stores and hospitals. She liked his dressing sense, the elegant dark-blue Allen Solly shirt and Black trousers. His leather shoes shone as if one could comb his/ her hair looking at it. An expensive looking silver Rado watch was clinging around his left wrist.
“If at all I will marry someone, the person should look like him…” Arya thought, admiringly looking at the man.
A shadow of a smile crossed her lips as she looked at the guy. But he was so submerged in his laptop and sales figures that he hardly noticed Arya. She was puzzled, even disappointed, since she looked quite attractive and most of the men always gave her a second glance. There were some other passengers (a mix of all age groups and gender) scattered here and there in that compartment.
Arya went back to enjoying nature. She looked out of the window and consumed the beauty of Bharathapuzha (river), the thick green tops of the coconut trees swinging happily and beautiful sight of green hills kissing the clouds. Everything was getting drenched under the mystic rain. Arya felt her heart was too small to bear such beauty and would burst anytime if she kept looking at the enchanting Valuvanadan sights that flowed past her. Every living thing from a lone farmer walking with an umbrella to the numerous people over vehicles waiting beside the railway level cross seemed to whisper unknown stories into her ears. Arya always considered her lucky to be born here in Kerala.
Arya was on her way to attend her friend Nadisha’s engagement in Fort Kochi. She was dressed up well in a pretty black full sleeve salwar. She had spent a considerable time in getting her makeup done. This made look even more gorgeous. With hair cascading over her left shoulder and big drawn eyes full of life, she looked nothing short of a movie star. Arya did not like jewelry but had a thin gold chain, not more than the thickness of a human hair hanging around her neck. There was the locket with the alphabet ‘A’ written over it. On her lap was a sky blue Fasttrack bag. As the rain clattered over the windowsill and iron bars of that train, Arya thought about the mutton Biriyani she was going to have that afternoon and her mouth watered.
But all of a sudden, she shuddered at the disaster of getting drenched in rain. She did not have an umbrella. Arya had no clue as to how she would manage her expensive costume and makeup in that rain. Arya immediately Whatsapped her friend Riyaz who was working in Kochi:
“ Da Kochil mazha indo…(is it raining in Kochi?)?”
“Yes… There is heavy rain here…”
“Eda njan kuda eduthilla (I did not take umbrella.. )”
As though this was least of his concerns, Riyaz replied:
“Nannayi poyi… (Serves you right… 😛 )”
“Idiot…” she thought and stuffed her mobile back into her purse. As she looked down in desperation, she saw it. There, just beneath the handsome manager’s seat, was an orphaned, pink three-fold umbrella smiling at her.
Arya looked at the umbrella, then the heavy rain outside and then back to the umbrella. The guy with the laptop was unaware of umbrella’s existence beneath his feet. He was stamping it without his knowledge and already the cloth of the umbrella was smeared with dirt from his shoes.
She wondered if the umbrella belonged to the guy. She wanted to ask him, and then decided otherwise. In case there were no owners for that cute expensive umbrella, she made a mental note to take it. The umbrella was pink in colour and pink was her favourite.
Meanwhile, Palani Sami who pretended to be snoring open mouthed was having some other plans. Palani Sami came out of Palakkad Sub-Jail only a few days back. He was remanded for petty thefts and a few pick pocket cases. He eluded the law for a quite some time, but was caught 6 months back when he tried to pick pocket a decent looking man in a cinema hall. The decent looking man turned out to be a police inspector and on the spot he lost two of his frontal tooth. With his slimy tongue, Palani Sami touched his empty gums that stood naked now in the place of his canines. But jail life was far better than his life with Muthu Lakshmi, his wife. She would beat him head to toe for pettier crimes. So 6 months in jail at tax payers’ expense was far luxurious than life in his hut with Muthu Lakshmi. He wondered why the wretched woman had not runaway with some lorry driver or petty thief like him when he was away? With a painful heart, Palani Sami swallowed the fact that there were no takers for Muthu Lakshmi other than him. She was an absolute terror. He shivered as if 1000 KV electricity had passed through him when he recollected Muthu Lakshmi’s warning the previous night:
“If you steal again and go to jail…I will break your neck and feed you to the dogs…” She always meant what she said and that made Palani Sami tremble with fear. So he had promised Muthu Lakshmi that he would never steal again in this life. This was more out of fear than out of willingness.
Palani Sami had noticed this fair girl in Black Churidhar wearing a thin gold chain around her beautiful neck the moment he entered the train. He was on his way to Kochi to find a job. But he was a thief by birth and hence he instinctively went and sat by her side. Palani Sami was tempted to steal the gold chain from the girl. But his calculations went wrong when this Macho Manager suddenly appeared from nowhere and sat opposite to him.
“Mangoose mandeyaa… (monkey head…)” , he seethed and cursed the guy in Tamil.
If this guy was not there, Palani Sami would have snatched the thin gold chain from the girl’s neck and jumped out of the train when it slowed down near Mankara railway station. It was one of the most beautiful railway stations that had thick forest on both sides of the rail track. It would be impossible for police or anybody to catch him once he ran into the thickets. But now, this guy with laptop looked very alert and meant business. He looked so broad shouldered and strong that Palani Sami feared to execute his plan.
Palani Sami looked at the guy and then his forearms.
“One smash and I will be nothing more than chutney for his idli…” He shuddered at that thought. Palani Sami noticed that it was raining heavily and regretted for not having an umbrella. Well he never needed one, ‘coz he was more habituated to stealing than buying. He wondered what he would do with no umbrella, nobody seemed to carry one.
As he secretly opened his eyelids and looked around, his eyes caught the pink, dirty three fold Umbrella staring back at him. Suddenly that Umbrella took the shape of Muthu Lakshmi and barked at him:
“You think of touching me… I will break your cock and make pickle out of it…You bastard…”
And Palani Sami shut his eyes tight. He feared that Muthu Lakshmi would jump out from under the seat and smear chilli powder in his eyes. He took a deep breath and opened his eyes again. Then he slowly looked at the space bellow were the Macho Manager sat. Miraculously the umbrella was just umbrella now and not Muthu Lakshmi. Palani Sami let out a sigh of relief.
The train by now had crossed Aluva and was heading towards Kochi. The crowd had increased to some extent. Palani Sami was happy.
“Larger the crowd better was his chance of stealing things unnoticed.”
The Macho Manager had closed his laptop and was busy with his phone now. He was sitting with his legs spread out and looked as if he had completely forgotten about the umbrella below his feet. Now stealing the gold chain was not an option, so Palani Sami decided to quench his Klepto-thirst by stealing the umbrella. And moreover, since it was raining heavily, looting it seemed to be the need of the hour.
“Something was better than nothing…”,he consoled himself.
Slowly he stretched his left leg between the Macho Manager’s legs. His intension was to pull the umbrella slowly towards him using his feet. He would then slowly push it under his seat and away from him. And when the train stopped in the next station, he would quickly grab the umbrella and jump out of the train as if nothing had happened. Anyway, it was worth a try since the umbrella looked expensive and Palani Sami had nothing to lose.
The train was passing over a bridge and he looked at the girl sitting by his side. She was looking out through the glass window enjoying the monsoon showering it’s arrows over backwaters, creating a million ripples. So Palani Sami continued with his fruitful endeavour. He had not moved the umbrella a few centimeters and that’s when an old man, with bald head and tiny eyes, stooping near them ask Macho Manager:
“Is that your umbrella son?”
Before the Macho Manager looked down, Palani Sami pulled his left leg towards himself in a flash.
“Ohh… yes… it is my umbrella sir…” he smiled back at the old man.
“I found it lying down, so asked you that’s all…” The old man smiled at the Macho Manager who returned that smile. The Macho Manager looked even more handsome when he smiled.
“I just kept it down so that it gets dried up. Else my Laptop may get wet due to the water from the umbrella… I had almost forgotten about it…Anyway thank you sir for reminding…”
“You are welcome… the old man replied…”
Both Palani Sami’s and Arya’s hearts were shattered when they heard those words. Both of them cursed the old man.
The rain was pouring down still, when the train reached Ernakullam-North Railway station. Both Arya and Palani Sami were disappointed since their mission to finding safety under the pink umbrella had failed. The Macho Manager got out first with the umbrella in his right hand. He was holding the strap of his black laptop bag hanging around his shoulders with his left. Palani Sami got down after him. His hands started itching for a pick pocket. The itching ended as quickly as it started at the sight of two RPF Jawans holding AK 47s. The last to get down was Arya. She rushed towards the entrance of the IRCTC vegetarian hotel that already had many fellow passengers lined up in front of it. The asbestos roof seemed to offer little protection from the rain, but there was nowhere else to go. So she stood there amidst the crowd. Palani Sami being one among them.
Arya looked at the Macho Manager walking away from her in that rain, holding the pink umbrella. The cloth of the umbrella now seldom looked dirty as it was cleansed completely under those heavenly showers. She expected him to turn around and give her a final glance as an acknowledgement to her gracious beauty. Almost every guy did that. But this guy was different. He never turned back and with him, the usual thing did not happen. He walked really fast, as if some serious urgent work was waiting for him to be addressed. Pertaining to the current situation, she would have cursed all the gods for trubling her with rain at the wrong time in the wrong place. But she did not do it this time. Her heart felt soft and touched.
There was a kind of romantic nostalgia in Arya’s eyes, even though she was way late for Nadisha’s engagement. She had a new respect for the man who was so unlike other guys. There was a longing in her heart to know him and befriend him. Curiosity was the name she gave for that feeling.
There was regret in Palani Sami’s face since he had failed miserably in his attempts to steal anything worthwhile during the journey. He cursed Muthu Lakshmi for threatening him. He attributed his failures to the irrational fear a Muthu Lakshmi breaking his neck.
A broad smile beamed over the face of the Macho Manager as he walked in to that rain. But nobody noticed his glee since his face was hidden behind a thick veil of rain falling from the edges of the umbrella. When he boarded the train, he had just one umbrella in his bag. Thanks to the old man, now he had two.
Some poor soul had forgotten the pink umbrella. Little did he feel sorry for that person.
Like millions running around to make a life out of the city, he too walked into the metro hustle.
The subway connecting Park station and Chennai central was unusually crowded that weekend. Preetha rushed ahead, making way through the river of population obstructing her progress.
“Excuse me… sorry there…excuse…excuse me…Opps sorry…” She kept apologizing and pleading excuses throughout her singular stampede towards the Central railway station.
As soon as she came out of the subway she ran towards platform number one. It was 8:10 PM and Chennai-Allapey was bound to start at 8:20. Her faced gleamed with perspiration as she rushed past the security checks holding her hand bag and a backpack. Preetha was wearing an elegant pink top and blue jeans. As she walked ahead fast, she took the ticket from her pocket to confirm her seat and coach number:
“S3, 52…damn it…” she increased her pace as she cursed, pocketing the ticket again.
S6…S5…S4…and the train honked its departure. That’s when she heard a familiar voice:
She was in too much of a hurry even to realize that someone was calling her name. She almost got into the train when that voice called her again.
She stood still. She doubted if she was dreaming. No. It was all too real. She turned her head and the first thing she noticed was the push cart of Higgin Bothams mobile bookstall. She looked quizzically at the handsome guy with a beard beaming at her. He was wearing a red shirt with white checks and black boot cut jeans to complement them. He was standing in front of a stacked up pile of books and magazines of every kind. It was none other than Vinay. She did not know how to respond or what she was supposed to say. She felt as if her tongue was missing. They were both in the same city and they did not know that till now.
“Preetha!!! What a surprise… how are you…?” there was so much happiness in his voice.
Somehow she regained her senses along with her posture.
“I’m fine… “
“What are you doing here in Chennai…? How is Sathyabhama teacher?”
“I’m working in Infosys Vinu… at Chengalpet…Amma is fine…What about you?” She smiled as she spoke to him. And as they kept looking at each other, Vinay noticed that train had started. He directed Preetha to get into the train before it was too late. She turned around, walked a few paces and comfortably boarded the train. Then she looked at him. But the scene shattered her. Preetha saw him push the book- cart and follow her along with the train. Her eyes welled up and she bit her lips. Vinay looked deep in her eyes as he pushed hard to keep up with the train that was gradually picking up speed.
“Where do you stay…?” Preetha shouted at him.
“You remember Jayram, our senior? He is working here in ICICI Bank near Koyambedu. I’m staying with him… Tell teacher I asked for her….”
“OK…” The train accelerating quickly now, but Vinay kept pushing hard. And he tried jostling his attention between Preetha and people on the platform.
“Will meet Ok… I will come to Chengalpet one day…” he shouted at her.
“It is my engagement this Sunday….come if you happen to be in Palakkad” and the last part she said was eaten up by the gushing wind and speeding train. Preetha regretted uttering those words even though those were true.
Vinay pulled the book-cart to a stop as if he had collided against a mountain. He stood there behind the wheels and watched Preetha moving away from him. He felt his heart being torn into bits by some kind of unknown pain. She was waving at him with a big smile on her face. He too pretended to return that smile and waved back at her. Little did he see the tears streaming down her cheeks…credits to the dim lit platforms of Indian Railway.
Preetha could not sleep that night in the train. Like a robot she kept playing Snake Xenxia again and again in her Nokia 1110. Memories of her past kept rampaging in her brain. She cursed the cruel fate for bringing Vinay in front of her, just hours before such a crucial event in her life. She melted down into a fatigued sleep only when the train reached Coimbatore. That too it was involuntary.
Same was the case with Vinay. He pushed book cart carelessly around the platform. The sales were poor these days. People were totally alienated from reading and very few men or women lingered around bookstalls. The owner, a burly old man with shining bald head, used to say that before TV came, their bookstall attracted the same rush as that of Adayar Ananda Bhavan. A good section of the population depended on books as their only source of entertainment other than Cinema. Now things were different. With every passing day people were gradually losing their touch with books. But Vinay did not buy that theory.
“You write good books and good stories, there would always be takers sir” He used to debate and the owner used to look at him as if he was kidding.
After finishing his shift at around 2:00 AM, Vinay went to their one BHK flat in Koyambedu riding an old ram-shackled Hero Honda Splendour. As he drove through the wee hour traffic, Preetha’s words seemed to echo inside his skull. She was getting engaged the next day to some lucky, rich, handsome guy. She was working in Infosys… so probably she would have done engineering. He remembered her saying it was her dream to study in NSS Engineering College. He felt happy for her, but fatefully sad for himself who had nothing but troubles. He had to take care of his brother’s education. His mother was not well, but thank god his Uncle was kind enough to take care of them both. Life seemed to hang in front of him like a looming question mark, to which he had no answer. Lost in these thoughts, it was almost 3:00AM by the time he reached there. Jayaram was snoring heavily after a good days work. Without making a noise he went to the kitchen and took the bundle of cheap papers bundled up in polythene cover. He carefully pulled out the sheets. He skimmed through those dull pages and gazed in amazement at his own neatly written words. He looked at the bundle of refills used up by his Stick Easy pen, which was then worth 2 rupees a piece.
The image of Arundati Roy was still fresh in Vinay’s mind. Her face was the real motivation behind leaving his job at his Uncle’s coffee shop in Shornur and coming to Chennai. Whenever someone asked what you are doing in Chennai, he would simply tell that he was working in a big press. In real, he used the meagre salary he earned as a bookseller not only to dive into the world of books, but write a book on his own. He believed that anybody who had a story to tell needed just a pen and paper to write it down. Now that was theory, in practice it was a lot difficult. But he survived. Three long years with Higgin Bothams helped him love and appreciate literature from an intimate perspective. All this and more for free!!! That was the best part. When there were no trains, he would spend time in the stall, reading pulps and classics alike.
He regretted the way he went to the owner when he was done with the first draft and put the pile in front of the old man.
“What is this boy” he had asked.
“Sir my book…”
The old man looked as if he would spit on his face. But instead he smiled….then he laughed….and laughed till he had his heart and intestine out on the floor. Then he said:
“Poda dey… take the book cart to the third platform. Idiot. First go and pass matriculation, then will see.”
Latter he understood that publishers not only looked for grammar, but also quality literature. And what more, they take into consideration the qualifications of the author as well. Vinay was sure he had none of these. His spellings were pathetic and grammar was awful. All he had was a great story to tell and nobody seemed to be bothered about that. Moreover, if the old man had laughed at him, then there was no hope elsewhere.
But there was this great unrest in Vinay’s mind and he knew it would haunt him as long as the printed copy of his first book was not in his hand. So he set out in search of a printer instead of a publisher. And printers were expensive. Most of them asked him to write the stuff in Tamil or bring a type written copy of the draft. None of which he was capable of doing. Jayaram, his lean, intelligent looking friend saw him writing under the 100 watt bulb in the kitchen and was moved. He offered to help him but Vinay did not want to be a burden to his friend who was already working his ass out. Finally he hit bull’s eye with a Printer called ‘Nag & Sons Offset Printers’. The owner was a thin, dark young man with long curly hair, wearing spectacles. His name was Adhinarayanan Nagarajan. He had taken over the press after the demise of his father. Unlike some other printers in T-Nagar, this fellow seemed educated, sensible and most compassionate. He agreed to run an initial print of 500 copies in the cheapest possible paper, with the lightest possible ink. And for that Vinay agreed to pay him 10,000 bucks. He had no clue how to raise that kind of money. But then some his friends especially Jayaram and Nirmal (who was by now working in Canada) helped. So bit by bit he gathered enough money to make his dream come true.
“Today the sun will rise to realize my dream….today is THE day” He smiled at the thought. Vinay carefully folded back the sheets of paper back in the polythene bag, then carefully kept it over the rack. He jumped in to Jayaram’s bed and hugged him to grab a few hours of sleep.
When Preetha woke up, she had crossed Palakkad. Luckily for her, the train had a stop at Ottapalam and she got down there. She cursed herself for being so careless. Sitting in that station, sipping hot coffee and waiting for her father to come and pick her, she once again cherished the romantic hangover of seeing Vinay. Every time they met she felt it was so damn thrilling. Something that she generally seemed to lack in her routine life was suddenly rekindled. But she also felt sad about the fact that she was in a way the reason for his current plight. But he looked so happy. Preetha was really puzzled when she recollected his happy face.
“How can someone with a sick mother and dependent brother look so happy selling books on the railway platform…?” she scrambled her brain thinking about this over and over again. By the time she sipped the last drop of the coffee, her father had come to pick her in his blue Maruti 800.
He scolded her for sleeping off and causing trouble for him. Preetha turned a deaf ear towards whatever her father was saying. She looked out of the car’s window and gaped at the rising sun. Bharathapuzha(river) looked all but a dazzling beauty glowing under the orange sun. But Preetha somehow felt that the river was sad…like her. She wondered why she was disturbed all of a sudden. And as it turned out, it was the worst Saturday of her life.
Nothing she did or said went right. She was angry at everything. The engagement costume was missing the perfection, there was a pimple on her left cheek, the beautician was out of town. And finally when the beautician arrived, the Maruti 800’s tire got punctured on the way to beauty parlour. The day was bad and so was her mood. She felt so cooked up like she would burst anytime.
Meanwhile in Chennai, Nagrajan & Sons Offset printers began the type setting process of a strange book, by a strange guy with a strange title. Maari Sami, a man in his late forties wearing a torn lungi and shirt, with gray hair and semi drunkard eyes moved his dark hands with a working perfection of robot. He set the alphabet grid for the front page:
THE BOY WHO DREAMED OF BOOKER
Written By Vinay Chandran
Nag Printers T-Nagar
Little did Maari Sami realize that he was typesetting history.
Elsewhere it was 5:00 AM GMT and London was still cuddling under the cosy blanket of snow. Nandan Kishore and Anusha Gowda, a British born, newly wed Indian couple boarded a British Airways Jet-liner from Heathrow to Chennai. It was their first trip to India and they wanted to make it a really memorable one. Nandan was once an influential literary agent turned businessman and Anusha was working as Chief Program Manager of Intel- UK and Ireland. Away from their hectic schedule and far from the London snow, they wanted to spend some quality time in India.
Oblivious to everything, Vinay and Jayaram sat under the December sun enjoying the crowd and counting the waves in the Marina beach.
It was raining like hell. Five boys raced through the monstrous monsoon at lightning speed. They were pedaling their BSA SLRs as hard as their strengths allowed them to. Visibility on the Kozhikode highway was almost zero since the rain-drops slapped every eye that went naked against it. But nothing seemed to deter the boys. They kept pedaling as if ‘The Undertaker’ was following them for a smack down. Earlier when they had started from their respective homes in Parakunnam, a marginalized settlement in Palakkad town, there was no rain. But by the time they reached Govt. Victoria College, it started raining like cats and dogs. Now there was no stopping since it was the most important day for one of them. His name was Vinay and the 17 year old was the one who was riding ahead of all of them. By the time they reached Chathapuram (their intended destination), most of the students were already out of Iyyar Sir’s Maths tuition class. The pouring rain was nothing more than a subdued drizzle now. The five men army circled the vicinity as if performing a slow cycle race. Vinay’s cold brown eyes searched for her. He looked a lot more handsome than his usual self with wet hair and rain-cleansed skin. His jaw muscles tightened when he saw her and that made his face look more angular. Vinay was sure she saw him, but was pretending otherwise. That made him really angry. Vinay dismounted his bicycle and kicked in the stand, right in front of Iyyar Sir’s house. Students started staring at him from under the umbrella. With the deliberation of doing something cruel or uncertain, he walked towards the girl. She had thick black hair, pony-tailed and hanging across her shoulders that hosted a brown Duckback school bag. The bag’s zip was half open. Like a rabbit shivering at the presence of a leopard, she shivered as Vinay strode towards her. She clutched the handle of her umbrella tight (as if Poppy Umbrella was going to save her) and before she could take another step, he blocked her progress.
Preetha did not move, neither did she have the strength to glance upward, for that would mean to look in his eyes. They were classmates for ten long years and he had proposed her last month. Vinay confessed that he had a huge crush on her from 3rd standard onwards. He also confessed that the sapling of a crush was now a fully grown tree of love. Though she believed a part of this story (a tiny part), she was 100% sure that a larger part cooked up. Well each time Vinay said he loved her, she vehemently said NO. But her blunt rejections seemed to make him more persistent. Now after almost 30 days and 30 nights, even she was not sure if her NOs were good enough. Now she had her own set of doubts. Whether she loved him or hated him; Preetha’s tender heart did not have an answer in black and white. She calculated that the best way out of this wretched situation was to avoid Vinay. That strategy seemed to have completely backfired. Vinay seemed to be more infuriated and agitated by this action of hers. He was following her with his bunch of cronies everywhere she went. She looked sideways and saw them standing there. The one in the front was Srinath, the fatso, he was Vinay’s cousin. And then there was Nirmal, Prasad and Vishnu. They were all with Vinay in this. One glance and anyone could tell that they were born rowdies. The only one who seemed to have a comparatively innocent face was Nirmal, who was also happened to be their classmate. Though tall and long haired, everyone called him Kullan or Shorty (she still had no clue why they did that). Looking at his innocent, expressionless face, she could not suppress a smile.
“In the class you won’t talk to me…so I waited near the library and later near the banyan tree near the entrance of the school… “
“I left through the back gate…” she replied looking down, not looking in Vinay’s eyes. She pursed her lips to stop an erupting smile.
“I need an answer today…” there was a kind of frustrated longing in his voice.
Silence is all that he got in reply.
“Tell me… do you love me…” his voice was timid this time and she could feel his sincere love for her in those words. But she was not ready…not yet. The ever so strong boy looked all too weak now. This was her chance to capitalize on him…
“Look Vinu its board exams this time…go and study well…”
“I want to study… but I cannot. All the time I’m thinking about you…”
“Get lost…or I will tell my mother…”
“Don’t threaten me ok…if there is problem talking to me here, see I have written my heart out in this…” He took something out of his pocket. Initially Preetha thought it was a hand kerchief. But then it was a love letter, a wet and sodden one though. By the time he handed it over to her, she was laughing aloud looking at the mix of water and ink dripping from that love letter. She took it anyhow, opened the fragile, ink smeared letter. She read its contents and looked into those eager brown eyes of Vinay. Then with a smile she said:
“Good. Now I want to tell you two things…”
“Really…” there was hope in his voice and eagerness in those eyes.
“The first thing is that you need to go for an English tuition for sure. With this kind of English you are anyway going to fail in paper1 and paper2…”
Vinay’s face became pale.
“Second thing is your approach towards me seems as unimpressive like this letter itself… I don’t love you… so keep this letter. Go and study for tomorrow’s class test…”
She pushed the letter into his hands and walked past him. Her strides were a lot more confident this time. Vinay was speechless and felt totally numb. At that instance Vignesh Bus came, she got into that bus along with tens of other students. Vinay stood there, drenched and disappointed. He kept gazing inside the crowded bus, searching for her. Then he saw a glimpse of Preetha’s beautiful face and his heart just missed a beat.
Five cycles and five pairs of dirty feet wearing white Paragon slippers moved in parallel. Vinay and his friends pushed their BSA SLR’s at a snail-slow speed. Everyone felt so stupid about how they had raced here to enjoy some real action and how Preetha had disappointed them all. There was an India-Pakistan day-night match going on. They all had bunked their afternoon class for watching the match and they had missed a major chunk of Pakistan’s batting for Vinay’s sake. Had it been India batting first, they would have killed him. Even then Nirmal was sad. He believed that his Cricket Gods would send him to purgatory if he missed even a single ball of an Indo-Pak one dayer. Curses flowed profusely as they walked their way back home. Each of them carried out a lengthy retrospection of today’s failure and unanimously came to a conclusion that it was Vinay’s love letter in English that was the root cause. And by the time they reached home, Pakistan had finished 295/4. And Abhi Kuruvilla was smashed for a disappointing 70 runs in just 6 overs for no wickets by Inzy and Saed Anwar. Vinay understood that the day was damned…for him, his state and his country.
Doordarshan News was the greatest kill joy of all next to KSEB when it came to dampening Cricket fever. The news never seemed to end and Vinay’s father could not afford a cable TV back then. He cursed everything under the sky for missing the precious half hour of the match when Sachin and Ganguly were in such a fantastic nick. Well, there was little or even no point in complaining since there was a class test next day. So he pretended to study while eagerly waiting for the match to resume on TV. Suddenly the news reader became a bit excited:
“Ippozh kitiya vartha (News update just received)…”
The DD news readers were seldom emotional since they lacked any kind of excitement towards any kind of news. India winning the match and India loosing the match would be read with the same tone. But all of a sudden, this lady on the screen seemed all excited. The sudden surge in the energy of the otherwise bored out news reader caught Vinay’s attention:
“…Arundati Roy becomes the first Indian Woman to win Man Booker Prize for her debut novel God of Small Things …”
The news went down a few more lines explaining the details of the prize. The News Reader seemed to stress on the fact that Arundati Roy was half-malayali and half-Bangali. Vinay was mesmerized. That news touched his heart. He remembered how Preetha had asked him to go and learn better English. He gazed with wonder at the photograph of a thin, unkempt, unconventional curly haired woman in her early thirties smiling at him from over the TV screen. They showed her photograph till they were done with the news. And once done, the news gave way for action packed cricket. But even as Sachin and Ganguly trashed the Pakis all around the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, the smiling face of Arundati Roy kept playing in his mind. He did not cheer aloud as usual when India beat Pakistan by 6 wickets with three balls to spare. Some unknown force seemed to have made a profound impact in that young mind.
It was after the first hour that Vinay was summoned to the Head Mistress’s room. He was playing pen fight with Nirmal and had won two successive games as well. That was when the peon came for him. Preetha had not come to school. As Vinay walked towards the HM’s cabin, he tried to reason out why. Especially on a day when there was a class test scheduled, there was no way she would miss a class. For an instance he cursed himself for causing all the trouble. But he could not help his actions. He was damn sure he can never make it till the end of his life without her.
In that room that smelled of chart papers and chalk powder, three grim faces were huddled together waiting for Vinay. The first face was that of his class teacher Smt. Mary Thomas, next one was the HM whom they (both students and staff) all lovingly called Rakshasi (‘coz she was a devil of a woman), the third and last face belonged to none other than Preetha’s mother, Smt. Sathyabhama. She taught English in the high school section… in the same school.
“How dare you give love letter to a girl whose mother is a teacher in the same school…” the Head Mistress thundered. But Vinay felt as if a bulldog was barking at him, it was only that fearsome.
Vinay stood still, with bent head and arms stuck behind in obedience and in total submission. He felt like he was being boiled inside the blue and white uniform, under those angry stares. He cursed himself for putting the love letter back in to Preetha’s half open bag seconds before she dashed for the bus. Now nothing could be done. He had to face the music.
His class teacher beat him with the cane a few times and few drops of tears did spill off his eyes. But he held on. Finally the head mistress commanded:
“Take your bag and get lost. Come with your parents and only after that you will be allowed inside the class. Now get out…”
As he left the room he heard the head mistress say:
“You need not worry teacher…we will get rid of this nuisance…” And those words stung him like no other word had ever done. He could not believe that Preetha would hand over the letter he gave her. No. That was not her. She loved him…did she not? He knew that she was sensible. No…something had gone wrong. Vinay brushed away his tears, took a long breath and then entered the class. There was so much commotion inside the classroom that hardly anyone noticed him taking his bag and leavening the class.
Preetha came to school next day. She looked for Vinay, but she never saw him. Neither his parents came. That day evening, she expected a visit from him and his gang in front of the tuition class. But nobody came. She missed his arrogant yet protective presence. Preetha went home totally sad and dispirited. She wondered what had gotten into her. She tried to inquire her mother regarding this, but mother was not interested even to talk. She kept blaming Preetha for not telling the truths in time. Preetha felt her mother was merciless when she told that had she not accidentally found the letter from Preetha’s bag, she would have never known about this stuff.
“I will make sure that boy studies in some other school…anyway he will not continue here…” her mother had sworn.
That night she could not sleep. She liked Vinay. But was it love? She hardly knew how to define her own feelings. A few drops of tears tickled down her eyes as she tried desperately for a peacfull sleep. Next day she waited eagerly to meet Vinay. But he did not come to the class. So she pretended to go to the water cooler kept near HM’s room every hour or so as an excuse to see if Vinay or his parents were there.
But No…nobody came.
Days turned to weeks. Weeks turned to months. There was no news of Vinay. She kept asking Nirmal about his whereabouts. And every time she questioned Nirmal, he kept telling the same thing, that Vinay had left the school and went somewhere else. And when she asked where, he would say he did not know. She knew he was hiding something. Board exams were approaching and she was finding it difficult to concentrate in her studies. Even her mother looked somber. One evening when her father had gone out, Preetha finally decided to confront her mother regarding this matter:
“What happened to Vinay… ?”
“WhhWhh…why…why do you want to know…??” , her mother was totally taken aback by her daughter’s new found boldness.
“I want to know…he was my friend and classmate for 10 years. I have every right to know…” Preetha’s face was flushed red and she was almost in tears.
Mrs. Sathyabhama came and hugged Preetha tight. Preetha broke into sobs as her mom caressed her hair, comforting her.
“Nothing…nothing my dear… he is safe…somewhere…we don’t know…”
Preetha pushed herself away and there was nothing but loathing in her eyes for her mother now.
“What do you mean by safe….? What do you mean by somewhere…? Did you not enquire?” she shouted.
“Yes we did. After one week, when nobody came from his home we called his landphone…”
“The phone was dead and….”
“Tell meeeeee……Amma….what happened…”
“Me and HM went to his home… it was locked. We checked with the neighbors…and…”
“They told that Vinay and his family left…”
“Where did they go…”
“Don’t know…nobody knows…”
Preetha shrieked and her mother rushed to her and covered her mouth with both hands. But still she shrieked at the top of her voice and tears ran purple down her cheeks. Her mother tried to calm her down. And that’s when she heard father honking the car angrily urging her / mother to open the gate for him. Her mother released the grip from Preetha’s mouth. She requested her daughter not to cry anymore and study well… but all the time Preetha kept saying:
“You are lying….you are all lying….” And she fell down over the cold marble floor, her dress completely drenched in tears.
Two years latter : A cruel summer afternoon- 1999-Shornur Railway Station
The sun scorched everything under it. The train became a box of static oven for human beings sitting inside. On top of sweat and heat, none of the fans were running. It was horrible. Preetha and her mother had come for HM’s daughter’s wedding and were sitting in the Shornur-Trichy passenger.
“The paalada was so good…illemole…”
“ya it was ok…”Preetha replied totally disinterested.
She was sitting by the window seat. She looked out through the train’s window into the infinite, cloudless sky. Suddenly there appeared a set of migrating birds flying in a structured ‘V’ shaped formation. But the last two birds abruptly broke out and started flying in the middle, close to each other giving the formation a ‘<3’ shape. And suddenly Vinay’s handsome face came to her mind. Two years had passed since she last saw him. She had passed SSLC with distinction. She had prepared hard for Engineering Entrance and 10+2. But somewhere in her heart Preetha knew that she just did things for the sake of doing it. There was something missing in her life. She wondered what had happened to Vinay and where he would be right now. She found it amusing to think about him running the same thoughts as she did right now. A nostalgic, romantic smile crossed her lips as her heart pulsated a bit harder in response to her feelings.
“Are you feeling thirsty Preetha…” Her Amma asked
“Yess…it is so hot”
That’s when a voice cried at the top of its voice and walked towards where they were sitting:
“Chai chai…chaye chaye…Madam.. Chaya??”
Both mother and daughter were startled when they saw the guy selling the tea. The chaywala was also shocked.
“Teacher!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Vinay smiled lavishly as he kept the heavy tea cask with a bang on the train’s floor. Neither of the three could believe what they were seeing. Preetha was shocked…she felt like she was dead. Her heart literally stopped beating for a few moments. Sathyabhama teacher looked at Vinay with an open mouth which closed only after Vinay asked her if she wanted a cup of tea.
“Ahheemmm… No mone…no…we just had a heavy lunch…”
“Still…teacher…you both should have a cup of tea…please…for my sake…”
Preetha and her mother looked at each other and were wondering what to say when Vinay poured hot tea into two paper cups. They gave a feeble smile and sipped the tea.
“Nice tea…” Teacher said
“Mmmm…” Preetha nodded in agreement.
Silence seemed to bounce between the three. They all found it really odd being like that. Some fellow passengers were either dozing off or were busy with some magazines.
“So..mone…tell me what happened to you…?why you did not come to school after that day…?” Teacher asked Vinay, looking in his eyes. He hesitated a bit, but eventually decided to tell the truth.
“That day after I went from school, my father got a cardiac arrest. He was in ICU for 3 days, but we could not save him. He passed away on the fourth day. I was left with my mother and a little brother to take care of. They wanted to inform the school but I said no. My mother’s health is also not that sound. Already there were some bank loans waiting their due for long. My father was a failed businessman…so we disposed everything, settled our debts and ….shifted here…”
“Why you could have stayed there itself Vinay…?” Teacher’s voice shuddered as she spoke
Vinay looked at Preetha and then at her mom and then shrugged.
“No teacher…no…that won’t be good. Moreover I had to do a job without distraction… Palakkad is not good for that…There will be people who know me and my mother. My father has more enemies than friends. They would never let us live in peace there….so I came here….”
“What about your studies??”
“Studies and all will happen teacher… No problem…I will do some correspondence course or attend evening classes…that will happen someday…” Vinay gave a painful smile as he uttered those words.
“For that you need to get your certificates son…come to school one day…I will help you with that…” there was a sea of affection in her voice.
“So you are working as tea vendor??…How is the business….?”
“Business actually belongs to my uncle…Me and my cousin help him run it…today the guy who served tea is on leave…so I’m here as back up…”
Both Preetha and Sathyabhama Teacher seemed to have finished their tea; there seemed nothing to be said any more. Vinay looked at Preetha. She looked much more gorgeous than he had seen her two years back. She had groomed herself into a beautiful, sophisticated girl with richness sparkling out of everything she wore or held. He smiled at her and felt a little ashamed to be sitting and talking to them in shabby, grease stained jeans and T-shirt. He felt especially embarrassed about his apron that was not washed for ages. They spent a few more minutes in silence. That’s when Vinay’s fatso cousin Srinath came in shouting:
“Cool drinkseee…Cool drinkseeee…Cola, Pepsi, Thums Upeeee….”. His voice was a horrible baritone. It reminded them of coconut shell being rubbed on barren rock.
He looked even more menacing now and had put on a lot of weight in two years. Preetha got scared looking at him. But Vinay got up with a smile and introduced his cousin who looked bewildered. But Srinath looked at Preetha for a few seconds and once he recognized her face, he figured out the situation. He smiled at Vinay showing all his yellow teeth and Vinay pinched his cousin’s fat buttocks asking him to close his stupid mouth.
When all this was going on, Preetha’s mother had silently taken 500 rupees from her purse. The train’s high pitched horn blared indicating that it was going to begin its journey. Sathybhama Teacher tried to slip Rs.500 into Vinay’s dirty apron pocket.
“Keep it Vinay… this is for you…keep it”
“Teacher what are you doing…?? No way… please …keep it with you…”
Preetha’s mother struggled a lot but she could not make him take that money. Srinath looked at those 500 rupees as if he wanted to snatch it and run. But Vinay did not take it. The train started moving and was gaining speed. At that moment, Vinay took a big bottle of Miranda from Srinath’s ice bucket, tossed it onto Preetha’s lap. She looked in to his charming eyes and sat spellbound. Vinay’s tanned faced looked handsome and Preetha could see every bristle of his manly stubble. They kept looking at each other as if nothing else mattered and that moment was LIFE.
“Da come, train is moving…come Vinuuuuu….” Srinath shouted pulling at his T-shirt. The magic was broken. Vinay took the heavy Tea-cask and dashed behind Srinath. Both of them jumped off the train safely on to the platform.
Inside the train, Preetha took the Miranda bottle in her right hand and looked at it affectionately. A river of love flowed between her eyes and that bottle. It was summer and she was damn thirsty….as her mother watched her, she opened the bottle with a fuzz. She lovingly pressed the bottle against her lips and took a long lovely sip of Miranda. The chilled fluid seemed to move down like a snake within her. She felt refreshed and soothed out completely. Preetha felt like her body had finally met its soul and she took another long sip. Then she looked into the sky once again through the train’s window.
“The magic was broken, but love is still there…And he had given a lot more than he had ever taken…” her heart thumped hard against her ribs as her thoughts flew like another bunch of migrating birds flying towards an unknown destination.
Whether Preetha was Vinay’s last love, only time would tell….but for Preetha, he was definitely her first!!!!
HE went to answer the call of nature. And that is when HE saw it.
While relieving HIS bladder from its fluid, HE casually gazed around that dirty railway toilet. HE frowned at the pungent smell that seemed to choke him and wondered why railway toilets were not a part of “Swach Bharath”.
“Was it because railway toilets were not a part of Bharath at all??“ HE thought with dismay.
That’s when HIS gaze locked onto the doodle on the toilet’s wall. No it was not a doodle. It was a more deliberate, neatly written message done with a blue marker pen. The message said: “Available @ cheap rate. Call Raja 90874##219. Ask for Sajina with a mole on left breast… F!@#k her as much as you want!!!”
“Some pervert who has no work…” HE thought.
HE finished HIS business, flushed the dirty closet and came out of the toilet. HE went to HIS seat and made himself comfortable. HE opened the India Today magazine and skimmed through the pages with little interest. HE was on HIS way to Bangalore in the Intercity Express. The train was moving so fast that the hot summer wind gushed in like a storm. Even though HE pretended to be engrossed in the magazine, the reality was something else. Sitting opposite to HIM was a girl who was voluptuous, beautiful and very very sexy. She boarded from Palakkad and HE was stunned when she sat opposite to HIM. She was wearing a yellow T-shirt that was so fitting that her ample bosoms seemed to teasingly invite him for a caress. If that was what made her voluptuous; it was her magnificently full, youth fed thighs under the light blue faded jeans and skinny white toes that made her too sexy for him to bear.
But it was her face that looked most stunning. Symmetry like HE had never seen before. What skin she had. Those eyes seemed to tell some erotic love story when it brushed past HIS gaze. There was life erupting out of each and every cell of her body. Her eyebrows were threaded like perfect rainbows guarding her magical eyes. Her lips were sumptuous and full. There was a light shade of pink lipstick, but nothing was overdone. Her hair looked straightened and coloured burgundy. She was listening to music over her iPAD. HE desperately wanted to strike conversation with her, but had no clue on what pretext. The fragrance of her shampooed hair(probably she had used Sunsilk) and the perfume she wore,filled HIS lungs and fed HIS senses each time HE breathed. HIS imaginations ran wild like the speeding express train itself.
The train reached Erode and that is when the OTHER GUY came. Like in every story, the handsome hunk who plays the spoil sport for the hero. In the next 15 minutes, this OTHER GUY charmed everyone around HIM with the guy’s chocolate smile. And within half an hour the girl was giggling at this OTHER GUY’s jokes. HE became frustrated seeing them discuss music, books and movies. HE cursed himself for not striking a spontaneous conversation with this sexy babe.
Again HIS bladder seemed to cry. So HE folded the magazine and kept it where HE sat and went to the same toilet. While relieving his agonies into that stained dirty closet, HE saw that message again:
“Available @ cheap rate. Call Raja 90874##219. Ask for Sajina with a mole on left breast… F!@#k her as much as you want!!!”
This time the message seemed to lure HIM like a silent witch. There was a tingling sensation in HIS groin. For reasons unknown, HE dreamed about this Sajina and how she would look in real. What if she looked as beautiful and sexy as the girl sitting opposite to HIM? For a moment HE felt like calling this Raja (pimp) to set up an evening with Sajina. But some inner voice stopped him. No… HE was not that type. Paying money for sex was not culture. HE put aside those thoughts and went to HIS seat. By now the girl was sitting in his place, rubbing shoulders with Mr. OTHER GUY. Both of them were listening to music from her iPAD sharing the same head set. When they noticed HIS quizzical presence, both of them apologetically requested HIM to sit in the girl’s seat. There was nothing that HE could do but oblige with a fake smile. HE sat there skimming through India Today with Dallai Lama in the cover. HE strangely felt like a Tibetan monk ousted of every pleasure in life by China. HIS heart burned and boiled as the girl and Mr. OTHER GUY started having a really good time, all at HIS expense. Biggest disappointment came when HE saw them exchange mobile numbers.
HE became increasingly angry and this time HIS bladder seemed to roar. So HE got up again and went to very same toilet. This time, the message on the wall succeed in grabbing HIM. HE took HIS mobile phone. The burning sensation of jealousy and failure made HIM dial the number on the wall. HE waited for 5 -6 rings. No reply. The toilet was becoming agonizingly hot. HE was about the cut the call but at that moment a heavy voice answered on the other end. A voice that sounded elegant and far superior than any other voice HE had ever heard. HE asked for this specific girl named Sajina with a mole on her left breast. Initially the pimp seemed perplexed, but HE convincingly made a deal at an astounding 5K for that night. He could not believe HIS luck. HE asked the pimp to Whatsapp the girl’s pic as well. Then HE cut the call and went back to HIS seat.
HE waited for minutes that stretched like hours. And then HIS mobile vibrated indicating Sajina had indeed landed over HIS Whatsapp. Quickly HE downloaded the image. And HE was shocked. The girl looked like a queen in every sense. Even in a simple white salwar she looked awesome. A beauty that would put even the girl sitting opposite to HIM to shame. HE could not believe his luck.
“Wawoooo…all this for 5K…my goodness…I’m gonna enjoy tonight” HIS thoughts flew like wildfire. HE started a conversation with this pimp named Raja over Whatsapp:
“I like her…I will take her all night…is it fine?”
“OK…fine” replied Raja
“Where should I come?”
“Come near Domlur flyover and call me…”
“At what time…??”
“Any time…today we are totally free…”
HE assumed that business was down for this pimp and the call girl. Why else they would settle for such a cheap deal? Nevertheless HE relinquished his luck and fantasized enjoying the warmth of Sajina’s body. HE could not take HIS eyes off her picture. HE mused drinking that intoxicating beauty of hers. HE dreamed running HIS fingers over that beautiful face, lustrous hair, sumptuous lips and every nook and corner of her sculpture-perfect body.Only when HIS jeans felt a bit too tight around HIS groin did HE notice that HE was having an erection. HE closed his thighs instinctively to control it.
By this time Dharmapuri, Hosur and Karmelaram had all passed. It was 7:30 PM when the train arrived at Cantonment station. Luckily the girl and Mr.OTHER GUY got down there. Still HE felt a pang of regret when HE stared at her curvaceous body. Not everything one desires can be attained. HE brushed aside the rue since something better was waiting for HIM!!!
It was 8:00 PM when HE reached Majestic railway station. HE walked out of the station breathing the night air. It was refreshingly cool. HE walked through the crowded, dust filled subway and reached Kempegowda Bus Station. From there HE took a Volvo to Domlur. As the bus started off, HE dialled Raja. To HIS relief, the pimp picked the call without much delay.
“I’m on my way to Domlur… will reach there around 9:30…”
“Ok…get down below the flyover and call me…”
The remaining part of the journey, HE kept looking at Sajina’s photograph. HE wondered what all they would do to each other that night. HE felt ticklish at the thought of HIS flesh meeting hers.
Finally HE got down near Domlur flyover and called the pimp. Raja answered the call immediately.
“I’m here as you told” HE said
“In 5 minutes I will come and pick you…” Raja replied
“OK…how can I identify you…?” But before HE finished, Raja cut the call.
HE waited under the flyover watching those vivid colours of city. Bright neon lights of street lamps and never ending flow of traffic. Suddenly from nowhere a maroon Skoda Rapid stopped in front of him. The driver lowered the window and asked HIM to get in.
“Are you Raja…?” HE asked.
The driver nodded in confirmation. HE got inside the car. The car had a thick fragrance of Ambi Pure freshener that seemed to punch HIS nostrils. The car’s interiors were all plush leather. HE looked at the pimp. Raja looked too elegantly charming for a pimp. With fair skin and gelled hair he looked nothing less than a corporate executive. But HE had lived long enough to understand that looks can be deceptive. HE wondered how a pimp managed to keep a Skoda Rapid doing a 5K transaction. HE could not make sense of Raja’s business model. Well, that was none of HIS business anyway and HE was here to enjoy a great evening. They drove through the buzzing city traffic for nearly 20 minute and then suddenly Raja made a left turn in to a pocket road. Here the traffic looked amazingly thin and population on the road was almost zero.
“Where are we going…” HE asked
“Kalpalli…” Raja replied.
“Ohh… so she is there?” HE questioned
“Yes… in another 5 minutes we will be there.” Raja’s reply seemed to calm HIM
True to those words, Raja stopped the car after 5 minutes. But the place was isolated. It was completely dark and silent to its core.
“We have reached…” Raja said and got out of the car.
HE too followed the suite. Raja opened the trunk of the car and took a bag. Raja hanged it across that strong right shoulder and then closed the dickey and locked car.
“Beep”…the locking sound seemed to echo in every direction.
HE became really tensed now since there was not a soul in the vicinity and there was nothing but a street light that seemed long dead.
The moon was full and bright. So there was no problem with visibility under that cloudless sky. Raja looked at HIM and smiled. As though reading HIS mind Raja spoke:
“Don’t worry, come with me…”
HE did not trust the alluring smile of Raja any more and retorted:
“Man I need to get back…I forgot to take cash from ATM…By the by where is she…?”
“You can pay me the cash after the business Sir… please come with me…”
Some intuition told HIM that Raja could be trusted. So HE followed Raja into that night. The moon above followed them like a silent partner.
“The end of this journey could be worth all the wait and all this risk…” HE thought suppressing an urge to take HIS mobile and have a final look at Sajina before he saw her in life and blood.
After a few minutes of stroll they were standing in front of a huge concrete arch. A watchman was sitting on a steel chair in the front of it. But the guy looked drunk till neck. The watchman kept blabbering senselessly in Kannada which HE was not able to comprehend.
Then slowly HE looked up and was appaled to see the words written over the arch:
“KALPALLI CEMETERY… what the fuck…” HE shouted at Raja.
Raja thrust a palm to calm HIM down and then pointed across the cemetery, towards the other end :
“Sir do you see that flat there… across the Cemetery…that is where she is. We need to walk and silently get inside. We cannot take the car there…Sir please trust me nothing will happen”
HE really did not have a choice but to walk with Raja. Moreover Raja seemed a genuine guy. So they walked through the cemetery in the direction of the flat.
There was nothing but hundreds or even thousands of tombstones around them. Suddenly Raja stopped when they were somewhere in the middle of that cemetery. But HE kept walking ahead without noticing that. HE walked a few paces and then found that Raja was not walking alongside HIM. When HE turned back, Raja was standing still, like a statue. Raja’s head was bent. So HE walked back to Raja.
“Hey… let’s get on with the business man…Come let’s walk…”
“We are already there sir…” Raja replied without moving an inch.
“What do you mean we are already there…? Where is Sajina…Where is she?” HE looked around in confusion
“Where?” HE looked around with zero understanding of what was happening.
Raja pointed to something on the ground. It was a tomb stone. HE looked closely and and put HIS palm to HIS wide open mouth. It was horrific.
Inscribed in big English alphabets over the tombstone were these words:
“Sajina Ramanujan 22-July- 1986 to 24-June-2015”
HIS legs began to wobble and HE fell back. His head struck against a low lying branch of a tree. HE gripped HIS head with both HIS hands unable to bear the searing pain. Raja went to HIM and helped him stand up. It took HIM a few minutes to regain his posture. Then HE looked at a Raja who was sitting on a nearby marble tomb as if nothing had happened. His pale face, under moonlight, showed no emotion.
Finally HE asked:
“Who are you and what the hell do you want?”
“I’m Raja Krishnaswami… Sajina is…sorry WAS my wife… ”
HE could not believe what HE heard. HE was literally flabbergasted.
“Why the hell did you write it on the railway toilet…that…”
“I did not write it…”
“Then who did it…”
“I do not know…actually nobody knows who did that…All I know is that there are trains running the length and breadth of this country carrying the message that you saw today. That my wife is a prostitute with a mole on her left breast and if someone wanted her, they had to just call me.” There were tears rolling down Raja’s eyes.
“Then why you did not tell me earlier…”
Raja simply smiled at HIM. It was a more sarcastic grin than a humorous one.
Then there was silence. It just seemed to fill everything around HIM and Raja. HE felt that the moonlight stood no chance when the scary silence seemed to crush it under its black iron fist.
“I’m sorry Raja…” HE broke the silence with an apology.
“No there is no need to be sorry. It is not your fault. Somebody loved Sajina so much that the person could not tolerate her marrying me…or it was someone who knew both of us but simply wanted to…”
“Ruin your lives…” HE completed the sentence.
“Yes…exactly…and the person had an evil success.”
Strangely, HE felt comfortable with Raja. HIS heart went out for Raja and Raja’s dead wife. But one question kept haunting him like that silent dormitory of death in which HE was standing right now.
“Raja… I can understand your feelings…but how did she die…”
“We were just one week into our marriage when calls started coming to my number…I had a nervous breakdown when people started calling and texting me with certainty on something physically secretive about my wife… I was shattered…she was shattered…Our relationship was tormented… We both plunged into the darkness of depression…”
“There could have been some misunderstanding…”
“What misunderstanding? It was a deliberate attempt to destroy us…”
“There could have been someone with whom she had an affair with…”
Raja lost temper at that point and shouted angrily at HIM:
“Nooooo…No… that was not the case… I asked her a million times and she confessed there was nothing of that sort…She was not the kind who would lie… Now I realise she was pure…innocent…”
“Are you sure?” HE asked.
Silence was the only reply HE got. HE understood that this Raja was a lunatic and the best way to get away from here was use sympathy and compassion as a tool. But somewhere HE felt for the poor couple torn apart by cruel fate. HE churned HIS brain and thought about every possible explanation to this puzzle and use it as a an excuse to make a safe exit. An exit from a trap HE had created for HIMSELF.
“What if someone loved her…may be one of her colleagues or friends? What if she rejected them ardently…with great force? What if she was wearing a tight costume that exposed her cleavage and this pervert accidentally spotted the mole…?”
“Yes… even she speculated things on the same line. But I was blind and mad. Life became treacherous each day… Our marriage had become a hell and there were fights…At least 10 unknown calls came each day… We tried to come to terms with each other…but could not…”
“Man…you should have gone to police…or changed your number…”
“Yes… but before that everything ended… “
“What do you mean?” HE asked
“You see that flat…” Raja pointed towards the flat they were walking towards earlier. It was more than 15 storey for sure…maybe even more.
“Yes…” HE replied
“That is where we started our life. And that’s where she ended her’s. She jumped from the top floor….it all ended there…I insisted on burying her here so that I could see her whenever I wanted…from our flat…”
HE covered HIS mouth again with HIS right palm. This was turning more sinister now.
“Police arrested me initially and I told them our story… They did some kind of investigation and made a few arrests as well… most of them were juvenile teens. They had nothing to do with the crime other than dialling my number. They called because the number was written in some railway toilet…”
HE noticed that Raja was sweating even in that chillingly cold weather. Raja continued:
“But we could not catch the real culprit…The one who did all this is somewhere out there… Walking happily amongst those millions of strange faces…”
HE felt tormented and lost listening to this sad, wicked tale..
“I’m sorry Raja… I think we need to go back…”
Raja sat silently with head bent and did not move a bit. HE walked towards Raja and put HIS arms over Raja’s shoulders and said:
“Come let’s go brother…”
“Come let’s leave this place…” HE spoke a bit too loud this time.
The reply was a silence louder than the last. HIS skin crawled when Raja spoke:
“Finish off what you came here for…”
“Finish off?? What do you mean …”
Raja looked in HIS eyes, held HIM by HIS left arm and made HIM stand facing Sajina’s tomb.
“You came here to do something… DO IT…NOW…”
“Are you mad… Fuck you man…” HE shouted at Raja trying to get away from that iron grip.
Raja pushed him over Sajina’s tomb. HIS head slammed against the cold granite.
“You came here to fuck her right…remove your trousers and get it done…NOW…”
HE understood that Raja was completely nuts. HE stood up slowly and pretended to remove the buckle of HIS jeans. HIS plan was to dash towards the exit. But unbuttoning seemed difficult the buttons was stuck to some loose string. HE bent down in desperation.
Then everything happened in a fraction of a second.
HE felt Raja’s cold hand holding HIS forehead from behind. HE lifted his head up in reflex. Before HE could react, HE felt the cold edge of a steel blade slit HIS throat. HE saw HIS own blood getting sprayed over Sajina’s tomb. HE wanted to shout but the more HE strained, blood spattered with more force, like a rhythmic dance of a musical fountain. HE fell down grasping for breath over the tomb. The last thing HE saw was Raja’s face staring at him expressionlessly under the moonlight.
Raja stood there for some time looking at HIS motionless dead body. Motionless and Emotionless. HIS blood formed a warm layer over the black granite. Raja sat on Sajina’s tomb, placed the sharp edge of the imported commando knife over the left wrist. Raja, with closed eyes, live the life lived so far through memory lanes that cascaded with great force. And then Raja saw Sajina’s love filled face urging to accompany her into eternity. And then Raja cut his vein.
Raja fell down and hugged HIS lifeless head with love, as though it was Sajina’s . Blood flowed like a stream from left wrist. Their bloods got mixed over Sajina’s tomb and became one. Like brothers until death, they slept over her tombstone, deep into that night.
Hours passed in silence until a lone owl hooted somewhere.
Once upon a time in India, there lived a fierce Asura. His name was Vigyanasura. He was very strong and highly intelligent. At a very young age he discovered the secret ingredient required to conquer the Universe. The mighty Asura also acknowledged the fact that he lacked that KEY INGREDIENT that would enable him to even rule over the Gods. The ambitious Asura with this intension to conquer the Heaven, Earth and Hell, started a severe penance. During that time, our planet was just 1/3rd ocean and remaining was a huge landmass. The Asura sat under a big banyan tree inside a deep dark jungle and meditated for a 1000 years on Lord Brahma. By the end of the 1000th year, he was covered by a termite hill that was as tall as the Banyan tree itself. But Brahma did not appear. Lord Brahma during those days was reluctant to appear before the Asuras. The reckless Asuras either asked for immortality or they demanded boons that tampered the very balance of the Universe. Hence Brahma, the creator of everything, turned a blind eye towards Vigyanasura.
The Asura though disappointed, was not ready to give up. He submerged himself under the holy Ganges and meditated for another 1000 years. He was determined to attain the KEY INGREDIENT for Universal supremacy. So powerful was his meditation that the waters of Ganga ran hot. The global temperature started rising and ice caps began to melt. Dark clouds hoovered over skies and it rained non stop for a 1000 years. By the end of the 1000th year, only 1/3rd of earth’s land mass remained and rest was engulfed by water. The reverberations were already being felt in Brahmalok and Devalok. So Brahma convened with the Devas and sought counsel with Devarshi Narada.
They unanimously declared that this Asura was like no other and at any cost Brahma should abstain from going to him. They even speculated that the Asura would lose heart and give up the penance if Brahma held back for some more time.
Vigyanasura was so annoyed with the kind of negligence from Brahma that he went to the Himalayas and started meditating on Lord Brahma again, but this time standing on one leg. He stood meditating for another 1000 years, but Brahma did not appear. So powerful was his depth of penance that the earth began to crack under his feet. Deep sieves started appearing all over the surface of the earth. Even after this, Brahma went ahead with his blind eye policy towards the Asura.
But the Asura was determined. He was not the one who would give up. He decided to stand on his head and continued with his meditation of Lord Brahma. But this time, the Universe itself started shaking. There were massive earth quakes with their epicentre being the point where the Asura meditated. The Earth, which was a single land mass, started splitting and by the end of the 1000th year, there were 7 huge land masses that were scattered across the globe. The ocean seeped in through the gaps and so were born the seven continents. The Kailasa (Lord Shivas abode) and Vaikunta (Lord Vishnu’s residence) started shaking. Indralok and Brahmalok trembled and began breaking down under the power of the Asura’s penance. Every species on Earth perished and continents got crushed under hundreds of feet-thick ice due to rapid cooling of the atmosphere. Now there was no way out for Brahma, but to oblige.
The matter was very serious and was getting out of hand. Brahma knew something had to be done. Vishnu and Shiva came to Brahma. They asked him to go and ask what this Asura wanted. And thus, after four thousand years of nerve wrecking meditation, creating a flood that gulped two thirds of earth, splitting the landmass to seven big islands and creating an ice age, Vigyanasura succeeded in bringing Brahma in front of his eyes.
Lord Brahma’s heart softened the moment he saw the Asura standing on his head over a bare rock, meditating up on him. He called out softly with his third head:
“Oh mighty Asura…wake up and tell me what you seek…”
For moments that seemed to stretch like eternity, the Asura did not move. Then feeling the power of Brahma’s mystic presence, he budged. The mountains seemed to echo Brahma’s voice and those divine vibrations compelled him to break his penance. The Asura came back to his normal position and bowed before his supreme deity- Lord Brahma. Brahma was moved seeing the Asura who was nothing but a bag of bones. Brahma smiled at him and with his divine powers gave back the Asura his youth. But Vigyanasura did not seem to show any emotion. He just bowed down with closed palms.
Again Brahma asked:
“Oh mighty Asura…tell me what you seek…” and he expected the Asura to ask for immortality. But the Asura kept looking at Lord Brahma with a blank expression; like a kid who forgot his speech. And yes, after four thousand years of solitude and silence the Asura had forgot all the languages he knew. So Brahma transferred the language of the Devas (Sanskrit) to the Asura and resumed the conversation:
“Now tell me oh Asura… what is it that you seek…”
The Asura delighted that he could ask for the KEY INGREDIENT to conquer the Universe, opened his mouth to speak:
“Dear Lord Brahma….”
That’s when Brahma stopped him. With a frown Brahma spoke to him:
“If it is immortality that you seek…then I cannot grant your wish…you can ask for anything other than timeless existence….”
The expression on the face of the Asura turned from bewilderment to disappointment. But then he spoke out:
“ Oh lord of lords, only smallest of small beings would ask for immortality…what I seek is something far greater my lord…”
Brahma was shocked for a second. He did not expect this from an Asura. But he hid his feelings and replied:
“Then what do you crave oh mighty one…?”
And the Asura’s answer hit Brahma with the power of a million thunderbolts. The Asura spoke thus:
“I need the entire knowledge of the Universe at my finger tips…this is the wish I pray you grant me… Oh Lord Brahma…”
Brahma stood there paralyzed, but soon regained his composure. He replied:
“Oh mighty of all Asuras, I need some time to think about this… give me two days and two nights…”
“Oh Lord Brahma, I’m ready to wait for two thousand years for this…”
“So wait here…” Brahma said and he vanished.
“I shall wait…” The Asura bowed with closed palms and eyes.
Brahma ran with all his strength to Shiva. Lord Shiva and Brahma discussed for a whole day and finally Lord Shiva said:
“That is impossible. We cannot give all the knowledge in this Universe at his finger tip…did you try bribing him with immortality? That seems a better trade off…”
Brahma got irritated with Shiva’s indifference and ran from Kailasa to Vaikunta. Again the result was same. Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi were both of the opinion that granting immortality was a easier trade-off than granting a wish that would cater the entire knowledge of the Universe at the fingertip of an Asura. There was no way even Brahma could do that. At the end of the second day, Brahma had no clue as to how this terrible problem could be solved. But he had given word and he had to keep it. So he appeared before the Asura at the end of the second day.
“Oh mighty one…I will be able to grant you anything, even immortality. But I can never grant you a boon that will bless you with the entire knowledge of this Universe at your finger tip…This is beyond my power…”
Brahma missed a heartbeat as he finished uttering these words and it is said that the world stood still for a moment. But the Asura smiled:
“Oh Lord Brahma, with immortality I can conquer the Universe but not the darkness within me… Only with knowledge I can do that. If you grant me my wish I can conquer the universe, attain immortality and kill the darkness of ignorance in me all at once. So grant me that wish or nothing at all, Oh revered of all revered and supreme creator of this Universe…” The Asura stood bowed with closed eyes.
Brahma was impressed and smiled at him. Then he put forward a compromise:
“Oh mighty Asura… I cannot grant your boon. But I do not want to disappoint you… From this point in time, you will start acquiring knowledge of every kind. You can live till you acquire the last grain of knowledge. If it takes an eternity or even beyond, then be it. At the end of it, you will have the entire knowledge of the Universe at your finger tips…”
Brahma blessed the Asura who was completely in tears. He somehow found words and spoke thus:
“Thank you my lord…my existence has found meaning today…”
Brahma smiled and slowly melted into the misty clouds. Then a voice boomed from the skies above”
“Oh mighty Asura who sought knowledge above immortality… your name will be engraved in the history of mankind forever…”
From that day Vigyanasura started reading scriptures of every kind in his quest to gather the entire knowledge of the Universe. Maybe even today he is sitting somewhere in a remote cave in the Himalayas gathering knowledge of every kind. Did Vigyanasura succeed in his quest of assimilating the entire knowledge of the Universe at his finger tips? We do not know. But we know one thing… and that is- today we have the entire knowledge of the universe at OUR finger tips!!!
Most of you after reading this blog would simply click on Google or Mozilla browser and search if Vigyanasura exist. All you have to do is enter the key and click GO- with your fingertip. Unlike Vigyanasura, humanity today has the entire knowledge (if not the Universe, the knowledge of generations) at our fingertip. Did we undergo 4000 years of penance? NO.
But we know one thing. Without doing 4000 years of penance, even without being conscious about it, we today have the knowledge of the entire world at our fingertips. We wake up, take our smart phone and delve in to the world of knowledge and human interaction like never before in the history of evolution. The change is here.
You navigated into this blog with just a touch of finger tip on your touch screen. You have searched so many things over Google with just a click on the search button with your fingertip. And lo…the entire knowledge of the universe unfolds right in front your eyes. It takes less than half a second for Google to fetch what you seek.
If 20th Century was defined by industrial revolution, 21st Century will stand as a testimony to knowledge revolution. Without firing even a bullet, or even triggering a nuclear missile WWIII (World War III) may be fought over the cyber world. But still that war may push the world into eternal misery, a far greater loss than a billion humans bleeding to death.
Slowly human race is moving from physical to a met- physical, virtual paradigm of existence. Knowledge and information is power in today’s world. The social classes would soon be defined in terms of information rich and information poor. The one who has power of information at his finger tip will have an edge over the others who does not.
I urge every mother to tell the story of Vigyanasura to their kid. How our ancestors strived hard for knowledge and how easily we are enjoying the fruits. The quest for knowledge is greatest quest of all. The one who has it can change or even rule the world.
If you look closely, unlike the western scriptures, ancient Indian scriptures is more exploratory and knowledge oriented. Even the great Mahabharatha war that annihilated a whooping one third of male population, has this self exploration of knowledge as its pretext. The after effects of the great war that pushed the sub-continent into a miserable recession and marked the beginning of Kali Yuga can still be seen today. Well, we are recovering and recovering strong!!!
Surviving a stormy voyage through history, India has ARRIVED with a bang in the world platform. Today we go digital on almost all fronts. E-Governance initiatives would cut off red tape-ism and bribery. It would enable the common man to get all the services at his fingertip. We should be extremely proud and hopeful about reducing the digital divide among the classes through Digital India campaign.
I pray that this simple article inspires people and serves as a baby step towards Digital India.
A day will come when a Google search chip will be embedded in every human brain. Your thoughts would be the search keys and everyone will have the entire knowledge of the universe at his/her fingertip, irrespective of being rich or poor.