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A Film of Fog … Vamshidhar, Indian Poet

 “Oh, you are an MA?

Even those MSc’s and M. Com’s are lurching in the dark.

Want to become a teacher? Who cares for your Telugu?

The medium of instruction is only English here.

What? You want to be a government teacher?

Even the CM is ignorant when the DSC shall meet.

Till then how can you survive?

Chewing your poems? … Ha! Ha !!Ha!!!”

That was the head master of a techno school,

trudging the badge of MA M.Phil. after his name,

speaking to a poor job-seeking mendicant like me

struggling for a square meal …

.

It was a mistake…an awful mistake to cheat parents

to lay the foundation with lies, to a fragile morrow

one never knows when it would crumble.

With no pal to guide me

that a BA Telugu can’t fill my pocket

Worse still, to tell, an MA Telugu

can’t even buy a shirt with pockets,

I settled for an attendance in a speed bar

unable to beg in the land of Telugu,

after doing PG in Telugu

out of my craze for the language…

Then

 *

“Hey buddy, how long will it take?

Two Mansion House and one liver curry…”

“oy! What is the delay for, bastard?

What are you f….ing there?

Come on quick…y…o…u…”

I was just thinking whether he called

the name of my mother or sister…

He was an old customer.

But his swearing anew…

 ***

 “Hey Suri! Hello! Look here. It’s me, Mahati.

Didn’t you recognise me?

Pal, we were classmates in BA.

What are you doing here?”…Mahati

who did not care to hide her navel

in that Georgette sari.

After listening to my story…

“If you are forced here with no other option,

it is my vocation here.

Gender harassment is common everywhere.

Four years ago, I visited even Raj Bhavan.

Only one-day week…

that too, only if I like it…

at least a three-star hotel…

You see that Rhino over there in that Innova…

with him for today…

If you speak of tradition and society,

that society has long been my enemy

when it failed to find me a job for my education…

If some people can’t spend their nights without me,

it only means I am still welcome in society

My house is very near …

visit me on Sunday if you can make time…

That too if you don’t think I am a whore…

“… am a facultative Prostitute,

not an obligatory one you know”

Briefing the social transformation in just three minutes

and making my nascent respect for her

grow multifold instantly,

Mahati got into the Innova.

“Looking more beautiful than last time…

like lady nature personified…

Should I wait till Sunday to meet her…?

Getting a feel of love… for the first time…

Is this ‘that’ really?”

*

By the time I reached her home on Sunday,

There was a skirmish with a Marwari in his fifties…

“Why, aren’t you aware that should repay the loan

the day you took money from me?

If you don’t pay me by day after tomorrow

I shall collect it even by playing a pimp;

That anyway, is your way, bitch!”

He was shouting at her,

painting the walls of her house with his Zarda spittle.

“Speak civil!  Else, we complain against you to police.

Do you think she is helpless?”

I found a hitherto unknown boldness in me

coming to her rescue…

“Oy, hero! Who are you? Her customer, or her husband?

She has to pay me three lakhs. Can you pay me?

Every bastard speaks in her support.

You whore! Remember …

day after tomorrow… three lakhs… bye”

Rubbing the last trace of the spittle on the door…

the Marwari had left.

As the growing silence was distancing us

building a bridge of unfamiliarity between,

“Suri! Please get in.  I am used to these things.

To pay my sister’s college fees that day

I could not find a better source than this fellow…

Do you know what happens the day after tomorrow?

All that the oldie could do is

to stomp on the rusted tambourine…

That’s all!”

I was amazed for a while

at her display of self-confidence

and speaking with such disarmingly natural laughter;

couldn’t help admiring it with a clap,

when she held my hands.

I was gauging the house

with my dirty masculine instincts…

“I am sorry; I should have asked you earlier.

Are you married?

Ha! Ha! I know you are not.

Else, you shouldn’t have been here

no sooner I had invited.

OK, will you marry me now? I am just kidding.

I am in no need of marriage; I need a man. That’s all!

By the way, those days weren’t you writing

poems and editorials  for periodicals?

What is this bloody bar attendance

without settling for that?

Are you interested in writing for cinemas?

Don’t worry, people have all started their careers

first as ghost writers

before they could read their names in the credits.

Tell me if you are interested…

there are many producers who die for me.”

Taking no notice of change of colors in my face,

She coursed the dry towel through her wet hair

making it damp;

picked the plastic sticker from the face of the mirror

and befriended  it to her forehead.

“Neither do I have the connections

to lobby for the poetry page in the magazines,

Nor have the mental strength

to run after the filmy people to hypothecate me.

All that I have is

the desire to do something in the present

to fill my belly for today.”

Has the world become lonely abandoning me?

Or, I became an alien to myself, forgetting about me?

Maybe, life is an enduring journey

In search of an ever eluding, invisible goal.

To my long-haunting question

Whether it was ice, or Varoodhini* that had melted

the ointment under the feet of Pravara*,

Mahati comfortingly took my hands into hers,

As though she were asserting it was only Varoodhini.

Carnal compulsions incite me

to turn this familiarity into experience…

Can anyone imagine a Platonic friendship

between a man and woman devoid of desires?

At least, can they prevent

such ideas cropping up in their mind?

Perhaps, impossible.

And can I be an exception to that?

“Ay, Suri? What are you woolgathering?

Entertaining some crazy ideas

as there is nobody around? Ha. Ha.

That is the way to wash basin.

Come on. I am so hungry.”

Drawing circles on her belly with her right hand,

Mahati reminded me of my forgotten childhood…

 “How is the food?

Definitely better than your hotel stuff.

I know you would turn up and prepared it myself.

Have that eggplant curry… Pal,

Do you know what an emaciated look you have?”

 “ Ma… Mahati! Will you marry me…

I ask you in all earnest

This moment we spend together…

Your laughter that reminds me

that I am still alive…

I want it forever…

I am so exhausted in life

that I can’t care to think about our past.”

“Suri! I am having aids.

Only the day before, I came to know of it.

Other than by sleeping with me,

you won’t get it by dining together.

That is why I invited you.

Perhaps I should have informed you before.

I am sorry. I was afraid

that you might change your opinion about me.

Now tell me if you still want to marry me?”

There was no expression  in her face.

Whether it was fear,

or the despair of the carnal appetite

that the desire can’t be fulfilled for the today,

the morsel in the mouth had become unpalatable

and the silence devoured

the words within the gullet…

“Suri! Please speak something.

Thinking about what?

To know where your stand,

or, which side you should take

to the unfathomable abyss

that divides the values and reforms

you sermonize in your poems

and your unconquerable realities of life

you run away from?

Should silence be your answer,

please see me no more.

I don’t know how I returned to my room

or how I was able to drag my feet…

that night I made a bonfire of all my work

written under the false impression

that I knew everything….

After that,

there never occasioned a compelling reason

that prompted me write again.

And that was the last time I saw Mahati…

I went up to her house any number of times,

but returned as I failed to muster enough courage…

But, that was a conversation I cherish so much….

***

“You idiot!

You served the order of this table on the next.

Has your commonsense been f…ked?”

Some new customer,

rewarding me for my absentmindedness…

I still believe

that Mahati must be watching me

from somewhere…

As the stream of consciousness whirl in my mind…

bidding to rend the films of fog

under the shade of loneliness or some isolation

to wail…  without empathy

or laugh … a casual laugh

in my wonted way,

and as simple as ever,

I abandon this world

and go all alone.

.

Vamshidhar.

Dr. Vamshidhar Reddy
Dr. Vamshidhar Reddy

(Notes: * Varoodhini : Is the   Gandharva damsel and heroine of the story “Swarochisha Manu Sambhavamu (The story about the birth of Swarochisha Manu)”a noted work by Peddana, of the Court of Sri Krishna Devaraya, of Vijayanagar .

*Pravara: Is a devout Brahmin who has a fascination to see the Himalayas and with the help of a yogi’s ointment to his feet, and the instruction to return back before it melts, visits Himalayas for few hours.  He fails to notice it melting away having lost himself in the wonders of the Himalayas.  He stumbles upon Varoodhini while searching for some divine help to get back home before sunset. Varoodhini, who falls in love with him the moment she sees him, delays his departure. Finally with the blessings of Lord Agni he gets back home.  The twist of the story is that a Gandharva,  who  loves Varoodhini but whose love she refuses, comes to know of her affections for Pravara and consummates his love by impersonating Pravara. )

The Telugu Original:  మంచు తెర

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