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Thursday, December 23, 2010

പയ്യന്‍റെ മരണം - ഒരു ഫ്ലാഷ് ബാക്ക്

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 (മലയാറ്റൂരും, സി. പി. നായരും, നോനും ഒക്കെ കുഞ്ചന്‍ തന്നെ. ഈ ആദ്യം പറഞ്ഞ രണ്ടു പേരും സിവില്‍ സെര്‍പെന്റ്സ് ആണ്. നോന്‍ അതല്ല. വി. കെ. എന്‍.
ഈ വരുന്ന ജനുവരി 25നു ചിരിയുടെ തമ്പുരാന്‍റെ ഏഴാം ചരമ വാര്‍ഷികം. പ്രണാമങ്ങള്‍.)


നോം പിതാമഹന്‍ 
സഹസ്രനാംനെതി 
പയ്യന്‍സ് 
ജനറല്‍ ചാത്തന്‍സ് 
നാണുആര്‍
ഹാജിആര്‍ 
സര്‍ ചാത്തു .....
നോം ശരശയ്യയില്‍. 
ശിഖണ്ടിയെ മുന്നില്‍ നിര്‍ത്തി കുറെ ഷണ്ഡന്മാര്‍ അസ്ത്രപ്രയോഗം തുടങ്ങി നാളുകള്‍ ശ്ശി ആയി.
ശിരോമണി ആയി.
 ശ്ശി രോമമുള്ള മണി ആയി. 
ശരശയ്യയില്‍ കിടന്നു കൊണ്ട് 'പയ്യന്‍സ് ഒരു റിട്രോസ്പെക്റ്റ് പൂശി 
പോയ എഴുപതില്‍ പരം കൊല്ലങ്ങളില്‍ തീരെ ബാല്യം എന്ന് പറയാവുന്ന ഏതാനും വര്‍ഷങ്ങള്‍ ഒഴിച്ചാല്‍ " പടം ചിത്വാ, ഘടം ഭിത്വാ, മാതരം പ്രഹരന്നപി ' എന്ന പ്രമാണം ഏറെക്കുറെ പാലിച്ചു തന്നെ ആയിരുന്നു ജീവിതം. എത്രയോ അക്ബാരികളെ ഒരു കരയെത്തിച്ചു. എണ്ണ മയിലികളെ സന്തോഷിപ്പിച്ചു. നീചന്മാരെ ഹിംസിച്ചു. അങ്ങിനെ അവതാരോദ്ദേശങ്ങള്‍ ഏതാണ്ടെല്ലാം പൂര്‍ത്തിയാക്കി കഴിഞ്ഞിരിക്കുന്നു .ചുരുക്കത്തില്‍ 'സഫലമീ യാത്ര'.
 പയ്യന്‍സ് ബാലന്‍സ് ഷീറ്റ് തയ്യാറാക്കാന്‍ വര്‍മാജി ആന്ട്‌ വര്‍മാജിയെ  ചുമതലപ്പെടുത്തി. 
ഇന്റെര്‍നെറ്റ് വീശി യമനെ പിടിച്ചു ഇമെയില്‍ വിട്ടു .
വൃശ്ചികം ആദ്യത്തില്‍ , യമപയല്‍ പോത്തിനെ പടിപ്പുരയില്‍ കെട്ടി, തലേല്‍ കെട്ട് അഴിച്ചു അരയില്‍ കെട്ടി, പയ്യനെ മുഖം കാണിച്ചു.
കരുണാമയനായ പയ്യന്‍ നീചനെ നോക്കി, സ്വാഗത വാക്കുകള്‍ ചൊല്ലി. 
'ആനന്ദ കാരിണീ, അമൃത ഭാഷിണി, 
ഗാന വിമോഹിനീ  വന്നാലും '
'കല്‍പിച്ച്‌ ലിംഗ പ്രയോഗം മാറ്റി പാടണം'. യമന്‍ അപേക്ഷിച്ചു.
'സാധ്യമല്ല. താന്‍ യമനോ യമിയോ എന്നതിനു രേഖാ മൂലമുള്ള പ്രമാണം ഇല്ലെന്നിരിക്കെ, സ്ത്രീ ലിംഗ പ്രയോഗത്തിന്നു രാഷ്ട്രീയ സാധുതയുണ്ട്‌.' Politicaly correct.
'റാന്‍. ഇമെയില്‍ കിട്ടി. ഒരു കാര്യം ബോധിപ്പിക്കാന്‍ ഉണ്ടായിരുന്നു'
'ആയിക്കോട്ടെ'
'സമയമാം രഥത്തില്‍ താന്‍ സ്വര്‍ഗ്ഗ യാത്ര ചെയ്യാനായി
സമയമായി, ലുന്ഗി ചുറ്റി വേഗം തയ്യാറായി വാ '
സര്‍ ചാത്തു ഒന്ന് കൂടി നിവര്‍ന്നു കിടന്നു. ദീര്‍ഘ  ശ്വാസം വിട്ടു. പിന്നീട് ചിന്തിച്ചു.
(സോളിലോക്വി)
 നാട് നീങ്ങണോ, തീപ്പെടാണോ, കാലം ചെയ്യണോ, മയ്യത്താവാണോ, ബക്കെറ്റ് തട്ടി മറിക്കണോ അതോ ചുമ്മാ ചാവാണോ? ചിന്തനീയം. ചിന്തിക്കുന്ന തൊപ്പികള്‍ എടുത്തു അണിയണം. തത്കാലം ഒരു തത്കാല്‍ ടിക്കെറ്റില്‍ നീചനെ എങ്ങോട്ടെങ്കിലും പറഞ്ഞയക്കുക തന്നെ..
(പ്രകാശം)
'ഡേയ് യമന്‍. ദക്ഷിണയാന കാലത്ത് ഏതെങ്കിലും പടനായര്‍ ചത്തിട്ടുണ്ടോ? 
"തൂളി വെളുത്തുള്ള മീന്‍  കണ്ടാലും
തോല് വെളുത്തുള്ള പെണ്‍ കണ്ടാലും
തച്ചോളി കുറുപ്പന്മാര്‍ ഒഴിഞ്ഞിട്ടുണ്ടോ
പടനായര്‍ വല്ലോരും ചത്തിട്ടുണ്ടോ " 
യമന്‍ നായര്‍ സര്‍വ്വീസ് സൊസൈറ്റിക്ക് SMS അയച്ചു. ഉത്തരം നെഗടീവ്. പടനായന്മാര്‍ പട പേടിച്ചു പന്തളത്ത് പോയി ഉത്തരായന കാലവും, കാളേജ്, പള്ളിക്കൂടങ്ങള്‍ തുറക്കുന്ന സമയവും നോക്കിയാണ് ക്ലോസ് ആവാറ്. പയ്യന്‍സിനെ  ഉടനെ കൊണ്ടുപോയാല്‍    നായന്‍മാര്‍ പ്രതിഷേധിച്ചു ഒന്നിച്ചു ചത്താലോ? റിസര്‍വേഷന്‍ നിയമ പ്രകാരം ശുദ്രന്‍ സവര്‍ണനാണ്. സ്വര്‍ഗ്ഗ നരകാദികളില്‍ മുന്‍ ഗണനക്ക് അര്‍ഹനല്ല. ടാക്ടിക്കല്‍ റിട്രീറ്റ് ഈസ്‌ ദി വൈസ്‌ കോര്‍സ്.
' ഇല്ല. മൂത്താര് ഇപ്പൊ ചാവണ്ട. ഒരു അഡ്വാന്‍സ്‌ നോട്ടീസ് തന്നു എന്നെ ഉള്ളു.'
'ഫാ! നോം തീരുമാനിക്കും എപ്പോള്‍, എങ്ങിനെ, എന്നൊക്കെ. നീ പോയി വല്ലതും പൂശി ആ പടിപ്പുര തിണ്ണേല്‍ കിടന്നോ. സമയമാവുമ്പോള്‍ അറിയിക്കാം.' 
കാലന്‍ പിന്നോക്കം അടി വെച്ചടിവെച്ച് തിരു സന്നിധിയില്‍ നിന്നും പിന്‍വാങ്ങി. 
പുറത്ത്റങ്ങി ഒരഞ്ഞൂറു മില്ലി പൂശാന്‍ തീരുമാനിച്ചു. തീരുമാനത്തിന്റെ പുറത്ത് തണ്ടാരുടെ ചാരായ ഷാപ്പ്‌ മനസ്സില്‍ ധ്യാനിച്ച് നടന്നു. ചാരായ ഷാപ് നിന്നിരുന്ന സ്ഥലത്ത് ബാര്‍ ഹോട്ടല്‍. IMFL എന്ന പേരില്‍ ചാരായം പുതിയ കുപ്പിയില്‍. 
കൌണ്ടെറില്‍ നിന്നും അധികം അകലത്തല്ലാത്ത ഒരു മേശ,കസാല യില്‍ സ്വയം പ്രതിഷ്ഠിച്ചു. വലിയ താമസമില്ലാതെ കണ്ട കൌപീനം കെട്ടിയ ഒരു വേഷം അവതരിച്ചു. കൌപീനത്തിനോട് ചോദിച്ചു. 
'തണ്ടാരുടെ ഷാപ് അല്ലെ ഇത്.'
''അല്ല. ത്രിശ്ശുര്കാരന്‍ ഒരു നസ്രാണിയുടെതാണ് '
'വിളമ്പുന്ന വാറ്റോ?'  
'അത് കര്‍ണടകക്കാരന്‍ ഒരു മല്ലന്റെ'
'മല്ലന് ഇപ്പോള്‍ വാറ്റാണോ തൊഴില്‍?'
'ഹി ആള്‍സോ ഫ്ലയ്സ് എയര്‍ ക്രാഫ്റ്സ്‌'
പത്തു വെച്ച് മൂന്നാവര്‍തിച്ച ഒരു വയസ്സന്‍ പാതിരിയെ വരുത്തി. തൊട്ടു കൂട്ടാന്‍ നാരങ്ങ അച്ചാറും പൊന്‍മാന്‍ പൊരിച്ചതും ഓര്‍ഡര്‍ ചെയ്തു. പൊന്‍മാന്‍ മല്ലന്‍ സ്പെഷ്യല്‍ ആണ്..'.
'കൌപീനം ചോദിച്ചു. ' സോഡാ സര്‍?'
'തണ്ടാരുടെ വാറ്റ് കളര്‍ ചേര്‍ത്ത് കുപ്പിയിലാക്കിയാല്‍ സായിപ്പാവോ?'
ഇല്ല .'
'പിന്നെന്തിനാ സോഡാ, ശവി?'
കൌപീനം ഓടി മറഞ്ഞു 
ഈ സൈഡ് ഷോ നടന്നു കൊണ്ടിരിക്കുമ്പോള്‍ പയ്യന്‍സ് വിളിച്ചു കൂട്ടിയ വാര്‍ കൌണ്‍സില്‍ ആലോചനയില്‍ ആയിരുന്നു. പയ്യന്‍സ് ജനറല്‍ ചാത്തന്‍സ് ആയി. ചാത്തന്‍സ് കൌണ്‍സില്‍ ചീഫ് ആയി. ഇട്ടൂപ്പ് മുതലാളി, ലേഡി ഷാറ്റ്, പഞ്ചായത്ത് പ്രസിഡണ്ട്‌, കമ്പി ശിപായി, ഇല മുറിയന്‍ നായര്‍ തുടങ്ങി സ്ഥാനികളെല്ലാം വാറന്റ് ഓഫ് പ്രിസിദന്‍സ് അനുസരിച്ച് ഇരുന്നു, ചായ കുടിച്ചു ,ബീഡി വലിച്ചു, പയ്യന്‍ പറയുന്നത് കേട്ടു, കൈയടിച്ചു, വായ തുറന്നില്ല.
പയ്യന്‍സ് താക്കോലിട്ടു മനസ്സിന്‍റെ പൂട്ട്‌ തുറന്നു.
' നോം നാട് നീങ്ങാന്‍ തീരുമാനിച്ചു. ജസ്റ്റ്‌ ഫോര്‍  എ ചേഞ്ച്‌ ഓഫ് സീന്‍.'
കൌണ്‍സില്‍ സ്തബ്ധം. ഇനി യാര്‍ തുണൈ ഇന്ത എഴൈകള്‍ക്ക് എന്ന് നിശബ്ദമായി ചോദിച്ചു.
ചാത്തന്‍സ്  അത് ശ്രദ്ധിക്കാതെ തുടര്‍ന്നു. 
'നോം ഈ വരുന്ന  ഉത്തരായണ കാലത്തില്‍ നാട് നീങ്ങാനാണ് വിചാരിക്കുന്നത്. മകര വിളക്ക് കഴിഞ്ഞ്, ശബരിമല നട അടച്ച്, അയ്യപ്പന്മാര്‍ കുടികളില്‍ എത്തിയതിനു ശേഷം മഹാപ്രസ്ഥാനം ആരംഭിക്കാനാണ് തീരുമാനിച്ചിരിക്കുന്നത്. അതായതു മകരം 11 , രവിവാരത്തില്‍, ചതയം-പൂരോരുട്ടതി നക്ഷത്രങ്ങളില്‍ ഒന്നില്‍, ഇംഗ്ലീഷ് മാസം ജനുവരി 25 നു, സ്ഥലം കാലിയാക്കനാണ് തീരുമാനം'.
' ജനുവരി 26 ആയാല്‍ എന്താ? ' ഇട്ടൂപ്പ് മുതലാളി.
'പറ്റില്ല. ഒരു റിപബ്ലിക്  ഡേക്ക് കൂടി, വേഷം മാറി, യുനിഫോറം ഇട്ടു നടക്കാന്‍ പറ്റില്ല,' ജനറല്‍ ചാത്തന്‍സ് നയം വ്യക്തമാക്കി.
' ലയിംഗ് ഇന്‍ സ്റ്റേറ്റ് വീട്ടു കോലായില്‍ തന്നെ ആയിക്കോട്ടെ. ബോഡി വെള്ള മൂരികുട്ടന്മാരെ പൂട്ടിയ ഗണ്‍ ക്യാര്ര്യജില്‍ പുഴയിലേക്ക് എടുക്കണം. മങ്കര വളവു കഴിഞ്ഞ് 'കറുത്ത ചെട്ടിച്ചികള്‍' വരുന്നത് കാണാവുന്ന  ഒരു റിംഗ് സൈഡ് സീറ്റ് തരപ്പെടുത്തി അവിടെ വെച്ച് കത്തിക്കണം.'
'21 ഗണ്‍ സല്യൂട്ട്?' ലേഡി ഷാറ്റ് ചോദിച്ചു.
' സര്‍ക്കാര്‍ വക വെടി  വഴിപാട്‌ , അല്ലെ? വേണ്ടാ'
'തീര്‍ച്ച?'
'കട്ടായം.'
അക്കാദമിയില്‍ ചിത്രം?'
'വരയുടെ തമ്പുരാന്‍ വരക്കുകയാണെങ്കില്‍'
'എനി എപ്പിടാഫ്' 
“If my decomposing carcass
helps nourish the roots of a juniper tree
or the wings of a vulture
that is immortality enough for me.

And as much as anyone deserves.”
' യാര്‍ പേച്ച്'
''Edward Abbey എന്ന പരിസ്ഥിതി വാദിയുടെ'
നാട് നീങ്ങലിന്റെ കാര്യ ക്രമങ്ങള്‍ ഏതാണ്ട് തീരുമാനിച്ച ശേഷം യമന് ആളെ അയച്ചു. അടിച്ചു ഏതാണ്ട് പൂസ് ആയ യമന്‍ വേച്ചു വേച്ചു  നടന്നു  വന്നു. 
' നീ പോയി ജനുവരി 25 നു വാ.'
' മൂത്താര് നരകത്തിലോ, സ്വര്‍ഗത്തിലോ താമസിക്കാന്‍ ഇഷ്ടപെടുന്നത്. പുനരപി ജനനം വരെ '
' നോം വര്‍ജില്‍ ആയി ഇന്‍ഫെര്‍നോ ചുറ്റി അടിച്ചിട്ടുണ്ട്.'
' ദാന്‍റെ യെ രക്ഷപെടുത്താന്‍? '
''അതെ'.
'ദാന്‍റെ , ദണ്ടിന്‍, ദന്‍ടാവതെ
തിരൂര്‍, തിരുപ്പൂര്‍, തിരുപ്പത്തൂര്‍' എന്ന് Wren & Martin.
' അപ്പോള്‍ സ്വര്‍ഗത്തില്‍ തന്നെ ഏര്‍പ്പാടാക്കാം. ഏഴു നക്ഷത്ര ബംഗ്ലാവില്‍ ഒരു സ്വീറ്റ് ആയാലോ '
'മുഷിയില്ല. ക്യാനിസ് മേജറും, ക്യാനിസ് മൈനറും നക്ഷത്രകൂട്ടത്തില്‍ ഉണ്ടാവണം. കോണ്ടിനെന്റല്‍ പ്രാതല്‍, ലക്നോ ബിരിയാണി ആന്‍ഡ്‌ ലാംബ് കറി ലഞ്ച്, പത്തിരി ആന്‍ഡ്‌ കോഴിക്കാല്‍ ഫോര്‍ ഡിന്നര്‍. നേരമ്പോക്കിന് അപ്സര, ഹൂറി, മാലാഖമാര്‍ ഒരു തരം. പിന്നെ സ്കൊട്ച് ബ്ലൂ ലേബല്‍'
യമന്‍ അതിവേഗം നോട്ട് കുറിച്ചെടുത്തു. തെറ്റ് പറ്റിയില്ലെന്നു ഉറപ്പാക്കാന്‍ മൂത്താരുമായി വീണ്ടും സംവദിച്ചു. 
'എന്നാല്‍ അടിയന്‍ 25നു പല്ലക്കുമായി വരാം. അടിയന്‍ വിട കൊള്ളട്ടെ.'
' പല്ലക്ക് ചുമക്കാന്‍ വിഷ്ണു പാര്‍ഷദന്മാര്‍ ഉണ്ടാവുമല്ലോ?'
' കമ്മിയാണ്. സംഗതി ഒറിയ, ബംഗാളികള്‍ക്ക് ഔട്ട്‌ സൊര്‍സ് ചെയ്തിരിക്കുകയാണ്.'
' നന്നായി. ഹോം, ഹോം, ഹൈ, ഹൈ എല്ലാം ഹിന്ദിയില്‍ ഉണ്ടല്ലോ.'
പയ്യന്‍സ് ഒരു അലസമായ കൈ വീശലിലൂടെ യമനെ യാത്രയാക്കി.
അരമന രഹസ്യം പെട്ടെന്ന് തന്നെ അങ്ങാടി പാട്ടായി. എ. ആര്‍. റഹ്മാന്‍ സംഗീത സംവിധാനംചെയ്തു. ഓസ്കാര്‍ നോമിനേഷന് അയച്ചു. പത്ര / ടീവീക്കാര്‍ പറന്നിറങ്ങി. തമ്പടിച്ചു. മയില്‍സ് ആന്‍ഡ്‌ മയില്‍സ് ഓഫ് ഫിലിം ചെലവാക്കി. ടി. എ./ ഡി. എ എഴുതി എടുത്തു. അവസാനം പാപ്പരാസ്സി പയ്യന്‍സിനെ കണ്ടു.
പയ്യന്‍ പറഞ്ഞു: 'ഒരു പത്ര സമ്മേളനം നടത്തുവാന്‍ ഉദ്ദേശമില്ല. പത്ര പ്രസ്താവനയുടെ ഒരു പ്രതി ഇട്ടൂപ്പ് മുതലാളി തരും. അവന്‍ അതിനും കാശ് മേടിക്കും.'


പയ്യന്‍ നിലപാടില്‍  ഉറച്ചു നില്‍ക്കുകയാണെന്ന് മനസ്സിലായ മീഡിയ പ്രതിനിധികള്‍ പിന്‍ വാങ്ങി. ന്യൂ യോര്‍ക്ക്‌ ടൈംസ്‌ സായ്വ് ചോദിച്ചു.
' എനി ലാസ്റ്റ്, ഫേമസ് വേര്‍ഡ്സ്?'
' ഓ യാ.  F*** O** പയ്യന്‍സ് അലറി.  


    








  









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Friday, December 17, 2010

Once Upon a Time in the North


"Uncle Judge Syndrome"


How do you narrate an actual but unsavory incident without possibly attracting charges of defamation or more importantly, without causing pain to any of the persons concerned? The usual disclaimer 'any resemblance to any person living or dead…etc.' will only strengthen one's conviction that the incident narrated did really happen. It did.
I shall therefore narrate the incident without resorting to any such subterfuge. In any case, the chance that anything that I write on this blog would hurt anyone's sentiment is a highly unlikely possibility for three reasons. Firstly, the incident happened over forty years ago and most of the actors in that real life drama are not alive now. Secondly, the incident happened in a remote village in North India and my blog does not have many followers anywhere, much less in that part of the country. Thirdly, I intend to change the names of people and places and unless someone makes a determined effort to trace my career progress, there is very little chance of my exposing the identity of the actors.
As I said, the incident took place some forty years ago. I had just started my formal career in the Bank as an Accountant, after the usual probation period. I was posted to a small branch not far from Kanpur. Although, a District Headquarters, the place was quite backward in those days. When I reported for duty, a 'considerate' branch manager offered me the options of staying in a 'dharmshala' or in the branch premises with the guards until I could find an alternative accommodation.
But there was a small hitch. There were no houses meant for renting out in that place. And there were no hotels or lodges offering accommodation either. People sometimes used to rent out a room in their nineteenth century, dilapidated houses but only after subjecting you to a detailed cross examination. "Aap kaun sa devata ko mante hai' 'Aap kaun sa jaath ka hai" "Aaap shakhahari hai kya nahi?" etc. I used to reply that "I do not really recognize any particular devata", "I may be a Shudra, but I am not very sure" etc and promptly used to be turned away. Until one R. Mishra, a Brahmin cashier of the branch, offered to help. He answered all those awkward questions for me by simply restating the obvious fact that I am a 'Madrasi'. It would appear that 'madrasis' had a religion and 'jathi' of their own and were all grass eating 'bakhras'. Anyway one Tewari, a high brow Brahmin, offered to let out a portion of his house consisting of two rooms and a bathroom to me. I took up residence there and was shortly joined by Prabhakaran, a boy from Kerala whose services I requisitioned for taking care of the cooking, washing etc. The 'babus' in the branch used to address me as "Raja saheb" and I thought a personal servant was quite in keeping with the newly acquired royal status.
It was from this house that I witnessed a murder being committed in broad day light. I was coming home for lunch and was just about to enter the house when there were sounds of a commotion behind me. Two persons coming in a cycle rickshaw were being confronted by a group of three persons armed with shot guns and lathis. One guy jumped off from the rickshaw and ran for his life. The other guy was not so fortunate and was felled by a lathi blow. He was lying prone on the road when one of the other guys shot him on the back of his head. There he lay on the 'chauraha'. Surprisingly there was hardly any trace of blood. The body was still lying there in the hot sun when I went back to the branch after lunch.
The district was notorious as a crime prone district and a murder a day was the average. Several Thakur and Pundit gangs, although not quite notorious as the Chambal dacoits, were active in the district. So much so, the District Magistrate or ADM had to be present for an on the spot inquest before the body could be removed. The local police were quite capable of recording a murder as a death due to natural causes or suicide, on caste considerations.
The body was still lying there when I came back from the bank in the evening. But this time the ADM was there and a few police personnel too. After marking the position of the body with chalk, the constables turned it over, face up. Then the blood which had collected under the body seeped through. I noticed that all the shops around the 'chauraha' had closed down and hardly anyone was around except officialdom. I gathered that this is the standard practice in that area as no one wanted to be a witness and get dragged into someone else's fight. I was later told that this was the fifth murder in a blood feud between a Brahmin and a Thakur family. The latest victim was a Pandey (Brahmin) who was returning from the Court where the underlying land dispute leading to the murders was in progress. So were the killer Thakurs.
That evening R.Mishra who brokered my accommodation turned up at my house. In appearance, he was in his late fifties with a full crop of straight white hair. His face was unlined but he had expressionless, dead eyes. He used to keep aloof from the other clerical staff of the branch which I attributed to the fact that he was earlier a watchman at the branch before his promotion as a cashier. He broached the subject of the murder earlier in the day and advised me to say that I was in the Bank at the time of the murder and did not see anything, should the Police make enquiries. He assured me that all the traders in that area would testify that they were away in Kanpur for purchase of goods or attending some religious function and there would not be a single eye witness. Mishra then told me the details of an actual murder in which he was involved.
Mishra hailed from a village about 10kms from the branch. He was an armed guard at the branch at that time. I had been to the village a few times as we had a sub-office there. It takes an hour by bus to reach the place. The bus is usually crowded by villagers carrying 'lathis' and guns of all description, rifles, shotguns, muzzle loaders, side arms like revolvers, pistols etc, most of them unlicensed. In place of the usual 'No Smoking' 'Ladies only' cautions, legends like 'bhari bandook le kar gaadi me math baitna' (do not sit in the vehicle with loaded guns) used to be displayed prominently in the buses. I thought that it was a wise precaution considering the crowd and the usual level of restlessness. The cautions were ignored
In the village, any structure which could be called a house was owned by a Thakur or Brahmin and the 'Chamars' (cobbler community) and other untouchables lived in small huts. But there were more Chamars in the village than the Brahmins and the Thakurs put together. The "Gram Pradhan" used to be invariably a Thakur or a Brahmin as there was never an opposing candidate from any other community. But in that particular year one young Chamar guy filed his nomination for the post. The Thakur, who was the other candidate, was in a fix as the Chamar would win if voting took place. Such a thing never happened before and the prospect of being defeated by a chamar was quite galling for the thakur's 'izzat'. It was Mishra who came to his rescue. On the last date for withdrawal of nomination, Mishra took another chamar lad to the District Magistrate and he submitted a nomination withdrawal request impersonating the candidate. The District Magistrate wanted someone to identify the candidate which Mishra got done by a homeopathic doctor practicing in the town. So it transpired that on the day of election the Thakur was declared elected, unopposed.
For this 'selfless' service Mishra expected to be rewarded suitably. He fenced off about 20 cents of gram sabha land adjoining his property. The 'thakur' after becoming Gram Pradhan suddenly developed scruples and raised objections. Perhaps he wanted the land for himself. Soon the quarrel developed into a 'dushmani' needing atonement by blood. So one night, after the usual Police patrol party had called at the branch and recorded in the beat register 'found guard R.Mishra alert on duty', he cycled all the way to the village with the Bank's shotgun. He reached there by about 10 pm and found the Thakur sitting on a charpoy and having his dinner of dal and roti. He shot him on the stomach and cycled back to the branch and continued with his guard duties.
The Thakur didn't die immediately and was taken to the District Hospital. There he gave a death statement to an attending Magistrate implicating Mishra's younger brother. The wily Thakur may have thought that Mishra may come up with an iron clad alibi and wanted to ensure that he gets even in any case. The Thakur died immediately after recording the death statement.
Mishra's brother was charged with intentional murder and was convicted in the Sessions court to be hanged by the neck until dead. However every death sentence needs to be confirmed by the High Court, in this case the Allahabad High Court. The death sentence was also appealed against. Even in those days, the Allahabad High Court suffered from what the Supreme Court judges recently referred to as 'Uncle Judge Syndrome'. Although the Chief Justice was supposed to allocate work for his fellow judges, in practice the babus had a decisive role in deciding which case was heard by which judge. Mishra's brother's case was heard by a 'favourable' judge. Favorable meant a judge of the same caste or one amenable to influence. Anyway, Mshra's brother was let off despite the death statement recorded by a magistrate. And Mishra continued to guard the Bank branch, of course always 'alert on duty' until he was promoted as a cashier.
But there used to be a rough and ready justice of another kind prevailing in those days. News reached me a few years later that Mishra was waylaid and shot while on his way to the village. He used to take the utmost precautions but one of the 'bhari bandooks' got him finally.
That is the story of one of the loyal employee of the branch. Lest you may think that he was the only 'loyal' employee of the branch, wait till you hear the story of "Jamuna" alias Vijay Bahadur Singh, temporary 'badli' guard at the branch. With this ( tempting?) ending like one of the stories of '1001 nights' I will stop for the moment.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

"Saksharatha Academy"



Kerala Sahitya Academy has a web site in English besides one in Malayalam. I first visited the site sometime in 2007. It was incomplete and I presumed that it was under construction. I visited the site again  in 2008 and in 2009 There was absolutely no progress. The site was being developed by C Dit. Perhaps they had more important work to do like analysing whether the narco tapes of the Sr.Abhaya case were tampered with or not. Or the Academy may not have paid them for the work done. I thought eventually they will restart constructing the site. 

I visited the site again a few days ago. As they say in colloquial Malayalam "The boat is still at Thirunakkara" (വഞ്ചി തിരുനക്കര തന്നെ ) The partially developed site states the following as activities of the Academy:

Encourage or arrange translations of literacy works from Malayalam to other languages and vice versa. 

Organize or sponsor literacy conferences, seminars and symposia. 

Promote cultural and literacy exchanges with other languages and writers.

I had sent an email to the Academy in 2008 pointing out that 'literacy' may not be the apt word and perhaps they meant 'literary'. There was no response and I did not pursue the matter. I was also a bit apprehensive that perhaps a premier organisation like the Academy may not make such errors and the word 'literacy' may have dimensions beyond my understanding. Then I received their publication "Malayalam Literary Survey" for the quarter April-September, 2010. That totally eradicated from my mind any such charitable thoughts. Besides being replete with typographical errors and total absence of any editing, most writers have written English with the underlying thought process in Malayalam. Even Prof. O.N.V.Kurup's article, which is the first one,  is not free from typographical errors. Sri.K.P.Ramanunni, the Convener has apparently checked only the Foreword written by himself.

To be doubly sure, I checked the meaning of 'literacy' once again.

Oxford Dictionary


literacy 

noun

[mass noun]
  • the ability to read and write.
  • competence or knowledge in a specified area:computer literacy is essential


Cambridge Dictionary

literacy noun 

Click to hear the UK pronunciation of this wordClick to hear the US pronunciation of this word/ˈlɪt.ər.ə.si//ˈlɪt ̬.ɚ-/ [U]
the ability to read and write
Far more resources are needed to improve adult literacy.
knowledge of a particular subject, or a particular type of knowledge
Computer literacy is becoming as essential as the ability to drive a car.




Literacy has traditionally been described as the ability to read and write (Wikepaedia)



 Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary online (www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary)

literacy is "the quality or state of being literate."
Literate, according to this same source, derives from Middle English and Latin terms meaning "marked with letters" and "letters, literature." Two definitions are provided:
1) "able to read and write," and 2) "versed in literature or creative writing...having knowledge or competence

 So literacy would then include understanding what complicated messages (which can be understanding of any sort – math, fiction, etc) mean, and how they can be understood in different ways, and the best way to structure and order it so understanding is maximized. That is even more important if you are the writer. 

Should we grant that the Academy had in mind the vastly enlarged meaning detailed in the  link cited above or the second definition in Websters. I think not. I think some of the Academy members can do with a little bit of ' literacy' while they are so busy playing politics and conferring awards after awards on one another. Or perhaps the much publicised 100% literacy of the State may be because a premier institution like the Academy took upon itself the task of promoting literacy! All the while Malayalam 'literature' was being promoted by poets like Ayyappan in the Bevco Madhushalas. 



Friday, December 10, 2010

Finding One’s ‘Bus legs’


"The trauma of retirement could be as severe as the trauma on the loss of one's spouse".
The course co-coordinator and his wife, who were professionals from outside the Bank, were emphasizing the great trauma we were all expected to experience shortly. He warned us that at several points in our retired life, we will have to relinquish our self image built up over three and a half decades of service in the Bank. Also, quite a few of us may have to cope with a less than robust health.

The Bank conducts a two day seminar for senior officers about to retire from the Bank.The seminar is an initiative of the HR department to prepare the officers for the impending change in circumstances and thereby lessen the trauma of retirement. Besides telling you how to prevent or cope with ailments like hypertension, diabetes etc which are expected to give company to most of the retired souls and how to manage your retirement package to take care of the risk of your surviving for too long a period, there are also sessions meant to prepare you to accept stoically, perceived assaults on one's self esteem. Also, some of us may not know what to do with our time as "there are no circular instructions on the subject"!

I didn't need any such preparation. I had learned to cope with diabetes and hypertension while still in the Bank. Having actively colluded and abetted in the process of acquisition of these two lifelong companions by a bohemian life style and inherited genes, it was a bit too late for thinking of prevention. Fortunately, the new Medical Reimbursement scheme was in place just in time and I did not perceive any risk of undue longevity. A very considerate Bank had helped me in further toning down whatever little self-esteem I had by posting me to the Zonal Inspection Office. There I presided over a bunch of officers who churned out Reports which nobody bothered to read much less take any notice of. Hardly anyone ever visited the office and you had to find ways of whiling away your time. Time management from a different perspective! No union or association leader ever approached you for anything, not even for a transfer. The quarterly structured meeting was merely an outing or an opportunity for a darshan of Balaji or 'Simhachalamurthi' for earning merits for smoothening the passage to heaven. Power Point took care of the rest.

So I decided to appear for all the Certificate examinations for which Bank offered to reimburse tuition fee and pay honorarium. There was plenty of time even after reading the half-a-dozen papers and magazines the office was getting for going through the course materials. I appeared for and completed successfully CISA, CIA, CFE and AMFI (Advisor) and claimed the honorariums on offer. I had to reluctantly stop as there were no further courses for which Bank paid any honorarium. I do not know how the Bank benefitted by my acquiring these certifications when I had less than six months for retirement. It did encourage some of the mobile staff to appear for the courses though.

With such advance preparations, I just slid into retirement without making even a ripple in my placid life style. There was the Sahitya Academy, the District Library, Lalith Kala Academy, Regional Theatre, Chethana film Institute…. After a long time I felt that there was not enough time. And not even one silly circular to read! I steered clear of the SBI branches to the extent possible. ATM and Internet were a great help for avoiding the 'Encounters of the Unpleasant Kind'. I attended only one meeting of the pensioners which aged me by at least two years and thereafter never repeated the mistake.

Everything was picture perfect. God was in Heaven, Chairman on the 17th.floor, and all was well with the world and SBI. So it seemed. Except for a minor hitch. By choice I decided to depend on buses for my travel from my house to the town and back. It is only 'the minimum charge' distance and generally the travel is not tedious if you avoided the peak hours. But occasionally you may have to travel during peak hours and it was during such trips that I was forced to learn about the Fundamental Rights of the standing passengers and Directive Principles governing bus travel. 

The first principle is that all sitting passengers are the class enemies of those standing. The standing passenger has a particular lien on the shoulder of the passenger sitting in the aisle seat nearest to him and can rest part of his buttocks there. The bus conductor has a general lien on the shoulders of all the passengers sitting on the aisle seats on the left side of the bus. He can rest the whole of his rear on the shoulders of such passengers as he goes about collecting the fares. They say an average human being farts a dozen times in a day and you can pray that your journey will be over in between the farting period of the guy who has a claim on your shoulder.

I now prefer to stand. Initially it was difficult to sway with the jerks and jolts and swerves of the bus. Quite a few of the muscles had wasted away while grappling with the debits and credits. There was a time long ago when the crook of one of your fingers on the handrail and a big toe on the floor would have been adequate for maintaining your balance for a journey lasting over an hour. A reenactment of Arjuna's penance standing on the big toes was a daily affair for most of us commuting to the college and back. The college and school boys still do it without any effort. I have got back some of my bus legs though. I can manage without much of a problem if I can plant both feet firmly on the floor and get a firm grip on the handrail. The roll of the roughest sea has nothing compared to the rattling and shaking and jerking and swerving of the bus actively assisted by the numerous potholes and a driver who appears to be on  training for a Formula 1 race. Like a sailor getting his sea legs, getting bus legs too need practice.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

For whom the ‘karnikaram’ blooms.


On 25th June 2009 I made a posting in my blog with the title 'Karnikaram'
I had raised a doubt whether 'karnikaram' is indeed 'kani konna' (golden shower, Indian laburnum) the state flower of Kerala as assumed by so many Malayalees.
'karnikaram poothu thalirthu, kalpanakal thalameduthu…' and
'Vaalittu kannezuthum karnikaram, ninne varavelkkum shankupushpam....' are very popular film songs. And 'karnikaram; in these songs is taken to mean 'konna poo'. Perhaps, the lyricists had a different meaning in mind.
In the Malayalam translation of Shloka 5, Dashakam 67 of Narayaneeyam (Vanamala Vyakhyanam) too 'karnikara' in the line "Ha chootha, ha champaka, karnikara..' is 'konnapoo'.
Subsequent to my earlier blog post I had sent a letter to Prof.O.N.V.Kurup requesting a clarification. Unfortunately he could not find time to give any clarification. I addressed a letter to Smt. Leelavati c/o Bhaktapriya, Guruvayur. I do not know whether it reached her. There was no reply. I sent letters to Prof.Rajesh, and a few other eminent Malayalam literary figures at the addresses obtained from the Kerala Sahitya Academy publication Malayalam Literary Survey. None of them responded.
The latest use of the word 'karnikara' to mean 'konna poo' was on Metro Manorama (Thrissur) of 2nd. November 2010. The Malayala Manorama Thrissur Metro supplement reports planting of 1000 'karnikaram' (Konna) saplings by the Bharathan foundation. I sent an email to Malayala Manorama too . There was no response. As 'kani konna' is our state flower besides being an integral part of every Malayalees' nostalgia, I thought I should get authoritative information on it myself. I could get a copy of 'Amarakosha' in Malayalam lipi and with Malayalam translation from the District Library. The translator is K.K.Balakrishna Panikker with a Foreward by K.P.Narayana Pisharody.
Shloka 6 in the Chapter "Oushadhee Varga", Page 99 is as under:
"Aaragwadhe, Raajavriksha, Shamyaaka, shChathurangula:
Aarevatha, Vyadhighatha, Krthamaala, Suvarnaka:
These are the eight names in Sanskrit for 'Konna"
Shloka 42/43 in the same Chapter, Page 106 which comes after the Shlokas dealing with the names of such medicinal plants like Kadukka, (Harithaki) and 'Charala' clearly states that Dhrumotpala, Karnikara,and Parivyadho are the names of the Karnikara tree.
"Amarakosha" is the last word on Sanskrit synonyms. The jury is no longer out. 'Karnikaram' is not our state flower,'Kani konna'. It a fragrant yellow flower called 'kanak champa' which adorns the ears of Krishna. "Karnikara is the Sanskrit and Malayalam names of 'kanak champa'-Dinner plate tree (Pterospermum acerifolium'. The Tamil name of this is given as 'vennagu' and the Marathi name is 'karnikar'. The narration given in the internet is:-
'the golden hued flower has a beautiful tassel like form which makes it look very ornamental. It has an intense fragrance, perceptible from a great distance while it is on the tree. The fragrance starts fading the moment it is plucked. The golden pendant flowers of the 'karnikara' adorn the ears of Srikrishna of the Bhagavatam (karnayoh karnikaram)

Those interested in seeing a photo of Kanak Champa can visit the following site:

Monday, November 1, 2010

A song of drunkards whose throats will be cut in a moment


(Translation of Sri Balachandran Cullikkad's jottings in Face Book as reported by Malayala Manorama on 26th October 2010. The jotting was a sequel to and in response to the controversy in regard to the funeral of the deceased poet Ayyappan)
Dear Friends,
When I die, immediately give my corpse to the Medical College.
do not place my corpse for public viewing
nor display it on the Channels.
Don't disgrace flowers by placing any on my corpse,
nor ever permit State honours or a ceremonial gun salute,
please don't condole nor praise me.
Don't utter a blatant lie like my death is an irreplaceable loss
and sully memories of me,
thousands of new poets write much better than I did.
Let nobody share the grief of my wife,
that is my Holy relic for her alone.
Don't institute any award in my name,
nor hang my photo on the Academy wall
or build any memorial.
If my poems cannot sustain memories of me,
I prefer to be forgotten
by everyone…. forever.

 
There is an advantage in dying in comparative anonymity. You do not have to worry about the possible inconvenience and nuisance you may cause to others even in death. Balachandran Chullikkad is an icon and has to take precautions while still alive. Most newspapers must be ready with obituary material on him to be given to the printing section at a moment's notice and this must be constantly being updated. Only the 'shocks' 'memories' 'reactions' of the netas, cultural leaders, film and serial artists have to be collected. Balachandran meanwhile appears to be determined to spoil the show. He seems to be unaware of the extra number of copies of newspapers that can be sold and the greater number of eyeballs that can be attracted. Some people are contrary all the time.
I respect his sentiments. I commend the following lines from Czeslaw Milosz' titled "Dedication" to Chullikkad

 
They used to pour millet on graves or poppy seed
To feed the dead who would come disguised as birds
I put this book here for you, who once lived
So that you should visit us no more.

 
This is the only poem of Milosz which I have read.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Word Pictures



 

Road from Banbury
a man spilled from his crushed car
dead eyes full of rain

This was the first Haiku I came across. I do not remember exactly where. It could have been in a novel with a Japanese setting like Shibhumi or Shogun Or it could have been in an article. Anyway, I was impressed by the vividness of the word picture and it found a place in my scrap book. It was like one of Namboothiri's sketches, minimum lines with the pen or pencil but so very vivid and eloquent. Who can forget his sketches of the barrel chested Bheema with his sparse and shaggy beard or of Draupadi or the many sirens of Payyan stories. Word pictures abound in Sanskrit and Malayalam poetry, like the "sancharini deepa shikhava rathrau…." of Kalidasa or "udan mahadevi edathhu
kaiyyal,
azhinja vaarkootnthalo nnothukki; jwalichha kankondoru nokk unokki"……of Vallathhol etc. But these are not stand alone word pictures and not drawn with so minimal words.

The man may have started his car journey from Banbury. It could have been his life journey too. The twisted metal of the wreckage, eyes wide open and filled with rain water, one arm, perhaps, flung lazily overhead, the fingers touching the road…..nature in the form of rain untouched, unconcerned.

The Japanese Haiku is a three line poem with 5-7-5 syllables. English Haiku has done away with the syllables restrictions as it is difficult to reproduce the Japanese style in a different language. There are other stipulations though. The first two lines describes/indicates the time and place. The third line expands on the situation. There are other requirements but brevity and vividness seem to be the principal concern.

a murder of crows

harsh clanging of temple bell

beat of wings in fright

A group of us frequent the 'moola sthanam of Vadakkunathan every evening. All of us are in the autumn of our lives although the hues of the fall colours differ in intensity from person to person. The years rest lightly on the physique of some of us with still supple joints and muscles. The loss of the grey cells has not been so acute in some cases. I am one of the first to reach our place of rendezvous. The security guard rings the bronze bell at the temple gopuram every hour. A group of crows flock around me to compete for the pea nuts I throw. It is six 'o clock and the bell rings six times. There is a panic flight of the crows. Years of hearing the bell ringing has not succeeded in subduing the primordial 'fight or flight 'urge. My contribution to the 'haiku' literature takes place.

It is about six months since mother died. Already the family ties have started loosening. I haven't gone to Ottapalam many times after that. It is only her many years that is leaving the door partly open. I came across this haiku recently.

mom leaves

the door partly open

her many years.

I feel the reminiscence mood catching up more often now a days. With an effort I try to recapture the present. It would be foolish to think about the coming winter years. Unnikrishnan had posted a couple of photos of Bharathapuzha in Face Book. It will take a hundred years for nature to replenish the stolen sand. But from the photographs the river appears swollen once again. This year's Vishu predictions says that the reclining sankrama purushan is accompanied by one of the seven primal clouds 'samavartha' which is a dense rain cloud with flashes of lightning. The rain predicted is 4 'paras' (aadhakam) which is indicative of excess rains or copious rains. 'samavartha' clouds are supposed to rain gems! Nothing like life giving water to wash off all your weariness and restore the green cloak for mother earth. Not surprisingly, there have been more frequent sightings of leopards, elephant and bison herds and our aerial guests. My haiku again.

dying river

freak long drawn monsoon

moulting for youth

Robin Sharma says that 'too many of us die with music still within us'. I want to ensure that not too many 'haikus' remain within me when the Fat Man on the buffalo eventually arrives. He might appreciate the consequent lessening of  load!


 


 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Interpret and Distort



There was a talk by Dr. N. Gopalakrishnan in 'Udayamrutam" in Amrita TV on Avittam day. The learned Professor, like so many others, talked about the socialism of Mahabali's days, misinterpreting the lines, "maanusharellarum onnupole" of the Onam song,  This was taken to mean that all were equal. .


The complete line from the song read " maanusharellarum onnu pole aamodathode vasikkum kaalam"  meaning that everyone was living happily and not necessarily that they were equals. This is clear from the following other lines of the song.

"ella krishikalum onnu pole, nellinnu nooru vilavathundu' meaning all type of paddy cultivation, Punja, Nanja, or Mundakan (Khariff, Rabi or Zaid} virippu or kole all yielded a hundred times. It does not mean that all cultivated variety of plants were alike. The song continues:
"valsaram onnakum chinga maasam, utsavamaakum thiruvonathhinnu.
maanusharellarum onnu pole, ullasathodangu anugrahichhu"
(New Year day will be Chingam first, thiruvonam will be a day of festivities, everyone in unison and with fervor proclaimed)
"maanusharellaurum onnu pole, manassum thelinjangullasichhu"
(Everyone without exception, celebrated with a carefree mind)

This is the risk of transposing an alien concept to a different era. Obviously all were not equal during Mahabali's period too. He was a king, Vaamanan was a mendicant without even a cent of land, Shukracharya was an honoured, royal priest. But Bali's kingdom apparently scored very high in the 'well-being index'. Well-being index has very little to do with material wealth or possessions and is evaluated under the following parameters.
Satisfaction with leisure & social life
Satisfaction with family life
Having control at work
Positive attitude to personal wellness
Solution-oriented coping rather than avoidance-coping

In a Gallup poll lowly Hawaii fared better than rich Virginia. 


That is the story of the non-existent socialism of Mahabali's time. Even the dialectical materialism of the Marxists presupposes the existance of contradictions in every society in every era which act as catalists for class struggle and revolution.

Another instance of interpretation and distortion is the interpretation of this sloka from Gita
"aparyaptham tad'asmakam balam Bhishmabhi rakshitham
paryaptham thwidamethesham balam Bheemabhi rakshitham'

'aparyaptam' 'paryaptam' in most interpretations of Gita have been stated as 'unlimited' and 'limited' instead of 'inadequate' and 'adequate'. The first interpretation confers an advantage on the Kaurava army and the second one on the Pandava army. The second interpretation appears more logical as the ensuing exhortation of Duryodhana to Drona is to protect Bhishma by surrounding him with the best warriors of the Kaurava army.

Yet another instance of transposing a relatively modern concept for interpreting  a sloka from an old scripture and grossly distorting the meaning is that oft quoted stanza from 'Manusmrithi'
"Pitha rakshathi kaumare, Bhartha rakshathi yauvvane
Puthro rakshathi vaardhakkyae, na sthree swathantrya marhathi'.

The last line 'na sthree swathanthrya marhathi' has been misinterpreted to mean that women do not deserve freedom(liberty) instead of the intended meaning that woman, who is looked after by her father, husband or son at various stages of her life, should not be left to fend for herself at any time. In an era when everyone was expected to live in strict adherence with one's 'dharma' individual freedom did not have much relevance, whether you are a man or woman. But 'swa thanthram and 'para thantram' were quite important. Her biological handicaps would have made survival difficult for a woman, left alone to fend for herself.