అనువాదలహరి

The Sea … Ramana GV, Telugu, Indian

That e-mail was received when I was at the mental hospital. That was sent by an editor of a magazine soliciting a story for a special issue. My wife had informed me about it.

That I was in the mental hospital she kept it a secret. Only my children knew about it. She felt it was an insult to her if it was public. It was her intention to wait for some more time before making it public if I did not get normal by then.

She looked at me. Among so many others, it also conveyed whether I would like to write a story.

“Do you?” she nodded her head questioningly.

“Yes, I will write,” I answered.

“In this state of mind?” she doubted, but changing her, “OK. OK. You better write it. It will also be a good diversion,” she acceded to it.

It was almost on the verge of confronting her by asking what she meant by “this state of mind” but refrained. For, they would again call me mad saying, ‘mad people deny that they were mad in the first place.’

“I don’t write, but shall dictate. Will you write for me then?” I asked.

She nodded her head again in acceptance.

“But you must write it with an ink pen,” I proposed.

She looked at me strangely. I could somehow contain my anger for that look.

***

It was long since I narrated my last story. I think it was during the early years of Video Cassettes that I was narrating stories to children.

One should only experience the pleasure of telling stories to children! You can shout very loudly mimicking the voice of an animal. You can make ugly faces; you can jump as you like. Nobody ever seriously noticed me those days. Perhaps they might have joined me in mental hospital in those days itself. I was able to tell stories that grippingly.

To be honest, there was nothing extraordinary in the stories I told. Just the same routine stories that everybody was telling. I used to make the children among the audience as heroes of the story; the double-headed demon who harassed people would be defeated; or the world would be saved from some gigantic animal or extra-terrestrial creatures, etc., etc. Besides the pleasure of story-telling, I expected in return, their treading over my aching feet. I used to slip into sleep as they did so.

But whenever the children either stopped treading over my feet or they missed the rhythm, I used to stop the story instantly. Sometimes the story got rewinded and started all over from the beginning or reached the climax suddenly. They would realize their mistake immediately and would make hullaballoo about it and resume their work with renewed vigor for me to continue the story.  Those were the days when I was a VVIP before the children.

But this is a story meant for elders. I must be twice careful. Elders shall not suspend their disbelief as easily as children.

***

That dream was repeating for the last one week.

He had never dreamt such a dream before.

It’s all an endless expanse of water to the limits of one’s looks! One never knows how many miles the shoreline extended, as it was lost in the mist. There were some exotic birds. Smooth sand stretched across the shore. Had that vast expanse of water had lungs, the roaring sound was very much like its breathing. It was looking as if God had made such a scintillating reflecting mirror for himself; that scene was beyond anybody’s imagination.

After consulting many pundits and after they have referred many books he came to know that it was called Sea. It was far off and on the other side of the globe, he was informed.

Once it was identified and given a name, the dream stopped.  He was waiting for that dream to repeat and in that waiting days became dull and spiritless.

The world paled before its magnificence, like a commoner before a King.  Ironically, he was a King himself. The lofty mountains, dense forests, and the black clouds passing so close to the land, the elegant waterfalls, and immense extensive reservoirs failed to please his curiosity. The image of that Sea that often repeats in his mind was making him restless.

Is a country without a Sea a country?

If there was anything he could gift to his people as a head of the state, it was only Sea. Nothing in the creation shall surpass it in value. He deliberated too long before he could come to this decision. After all, it was his duty to appraise the issue from all angles before making such decision.

So, one day he summoned his court for announcing his decision. But, before that he described the sea in eloquent words. He noticed that people listened to him holding their breath as he described the wide lofty waves rushing forward like a great army. He observed a glow in their eyes when he narrated about lakhs of birds flying high in the air like spray. At the most opportune moment when all of them were thrilled and internalizing their experience of listening about the roaring of the sea, he announced his decision.

All of them stood charged with emotion. By raising slogans they declared their support to his decision. The King already started feeling an echo of the Sea in his heart.

The time and date were fixed by the astrologers. But long before that people submitted all their gold to the treasury. They overcame the fear for the future with their yearning for the Sea.

All the gold was converted to crowbars of iron.

“We have lived all these years to amass wealth; and been living for that. But is there anything that it can give other than a sense of reassurance? But from now on, we are going to live for an experience,” the King was excited and exhorting his people, “what we are going to achieve is beyond the wildest dreams of anybody in the world.

“There is only one objective before us: digging. Let us get on with our work. It is not for us to think how long will it take. Time shall take care of it. It is also not our concern how to fill it up with water. That is in the realm of the skies.

“Our duty is just go on digging… just as the way we dared to all along to wage wars to defend us,” and with that the head of the state commenced the saga with his first strike.

Lakhs of crowbars followed suit.

***

I opened my eyes. Along with my wife and children, two nurses and attenders were also listening to the story keenly. There was that attendant among them whom I hit the other day. But then, why did he stop me from tearing the currency?

I continued the story closing my eyes once again.

***

Years rolled. Digging was continuing relentlessly. Many people died in the endeavor. But new people were taking their positions. The King had grown old.

They were growing crops just enough for their survival; rearing animals to meet their basic needs. Rest of the time they devoted to digging. That’s all!

When the news reached neighboring kingdoms, they started laughing at these people. They thought these people were all crazy. From emaciated bovine to outdated machinery… they had all become matters of laughter and derision.

Some neighboring states even entertained to attack and annex this country. But was there to gain from? There was no dairy; there were no crops; not even gold. All that was there is only iron!

Somehow the news steadily circulated and reached that far off Sea. She did not believe it first. But as the news reached her ears time and again through several sources, she had but to believe it.

She was surprised. And then was enraged at the crazy adventure of those mad people.

Making another Sea? After eons of existence, even she herself was not able to figure out how she had come to being. She could not even identify the great aquatic animals living deep under the bed until they were caught and laid ashore. Wasn’t her’s a legend of possessing abysmal depths, and mountains beyond the reach of Sun, and a story of containing great volcanic eruptions within? How dare they to make her replica? And for that very crazy idea, she should overwhelm those fools without leaving a trace.

She gauged the distance of this crazy country from her place. She generated enough energy by working up vortices within and transferred it its shoulders and leapt high and jumped forward. She rose to double the height of a Palm and coursed forward engulfing the coastal areas.

With lakhs of birds and dense dark clouds in its entourage, it looked from a distance like an enormous wild animal ready to ambush shaking its mane.  Her way was continually cleared by violent stormy winds.  And all beings ran helter skelter frightened that the doomsday had dawned. That was the first time for the Sea to enter the habitat of people and their flock.

She was really amazed at the human societies. All through her journey, She abhorred noticing how congested the people lived. She was even afraid of the beings who domesticated elephants at the thought if they would leave her free without riding over her, should time favor them. Riding over is a small thing, she could smell the arcane powers in those human bodies that can annihilate her lock stock and barrel. After witnessing the piles of ballistic missiles, she grieved how many unfair wars man was going to wage in future.  All along her run, She was constantly debating within God’s intentions behind creating such a selfish creature as man.

After watching man’s idols of god, she really pitied their gods were as gnomish as them.

After sweeping away many countries, forests, rivers and creatures, the Sea had neared the country of the crazy people at last.

It was not flourishing with farm and fruit, like the rest of the countries. The crops were few and scattered along the hill slopes. Bushes and creepers laced the paths. Watch towers up the cove remained unmanned and had an abandoned look. There was no trace of people. It was like a forsaken country.  There was no evidence of army. No house was locked. As if they were mocking at the absence of governance, some petty animals were roaming around freely.

But in that grave silence, it could hear sounds from a distance.

On the other side of the hill, lakhs of people like a colony of ants were deeply engrossed in digging. “Oh! It is here they want to dig the Sea,” the Sea shook its head. Turning towards her pals and gesturing them to be silent, it silently approached towards those mad people.

They were so seriously engaged as though they were collectively carving out a sculpture. As they had no idea other than the Sea that their King had described, their hearts were as open as their houses.

Looking at those half-clad emaciated people toiling hard she was aghast for a while.  After all, these are the people who can replicate her!

She thundered as if she was reprimanding.

It resounded as if the world was breaking into two.

All of them looked back bewildered. The crowbars in their hands dropped down. Their eyes widened with wonder. They stood motionless before that amazing scene.

Enraptured looking at the Sea, which was like a thousand-hooded snake, lakhs of birds which seemed its expansive turban, and the clouds and the icy coasts extending to unknown lengths, they fell on their knees and prostrated before her.

She seriously looked at the old, the young, the children and women.

They might not be donning costly apparel; they might not be having any jewelry on; but a sweet aromatic smell from their warted palms, hardened with labor for a devoted mission, pervaded all around. And looking at her lofty image reflected through their eyes, the Sea was immensely pleased. Until then, she had only seen people running away from her.

She noticed her heart, which forgot to beat for long, beating once more.

She was touched by the looks of wonder in their eyes. She also felt something melting within and flowing out.

The place was bathed in the new spring that shot out of her and without her concern.

It did not take long for the Sea to recognize that it was her own tears. She left the place with a heavy heart.

That tears remained as sea in that country of crazy people. That is why the sea water is salty in that country.

***

I concluded. All the people were looking at me, including the doctor that had come for rounds. Each eye in that room appeared a sea for my looks.

***

Ramana GV

Telugu Original:

Samudram_Ramana GV

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