అనువాదలహరి

The Lost Case… Sriraj Ginne, Telugu, Indian

Sriraj Ginne

(Born: November 22, 1946)

********

 

“A lawyer shouldn’t discriminate between one case and the other. Doing justice to one’s clients is true dispensation of justice,” is what lawyer Sundara Ramayya always told his colleagues.

Everybody knew that only Sundara Ramayya had the knack of distancing ‘in’ from ‘justice’ jumbling with words and provisions of law to win cases for his clients. He argued every case with a blend of professional skill and artistic finesse to gain the winning edge. Anybody who had entered the Court premises anytime during the last fifteen years must have known that!

Not a single case he had taken up so far was lost. None of his clients was ever convicted. He never refused a case nor turned away his client.

He argued impetuously the love affairs of minor college girls; got many couple divorced; helped drunkards evade conviction; saved prostitutes from penalties and imprisonment. In one word, he took up every kind of case and won every one of them hands down! Of course, he collected fabulous amount as fee.

The Public Prosecutors quivered when they were to argue against his defence. He could even flummox the judges with his arguments. Many a criminal escaped the noose. Many an innocent was awarded rigorous imprisonment.

Sundara Ramayya was notorious for his sharp tongue. ‘your mother must have given some special brew in your childhood; otherwise, how could you argue with such ease?’ his friends used to compliment him bitterly.

‘Lord Brahma must have put his tongue one point up. That’s why he’s able to win any case so effortlessly,’ his senior colleagues at the bar used to say grudgingly.

‘He must have had the good omen of a beautiful dame coming in front on the very first day of his practice. He is still riding that Dame Luck to this day! That’s why he wins every damned case in a trice,’ the young crop of advocates thought, with a touch of envy.

Sundara Ramayya just laughed away all their remarks.

In the last fifteen years, he took up thousands of cases, collected lakhs od rupees in fees, constructed a palatial bungalow, bought an Impala, bought as much wet land as permissible by law and registered in his name and opened accounts in many prestigious banks.

You could sum-up his character thus:

He had ambitions with sky as the limit!

He had ideas as expansive as a desert!

He was all love for his queenly wife!

And, he had ‘polished popularity’ in the society.

*

One fine morning…

When the dew drops on the roses were melting away,

When the leaves of grass were smiling happily in the lawn,

Sundara Ramayya was looking at himself in the mirror tying his bow.

His wife, Lakshmi, was standing behind with a cup of coffee in one hand and a black coat in the other.

“So, what man! You say that we should go to Leela Mahal this evening!” he asked his wife, looking mischievously into her face in the mirror.

She was a fan of Richard Burton. He had been teasing her with promise to take her to “Where Eagles Dare”.

“Forget it! You shouldn’t be believed. You never stand on your word,” she said in mock annoyance.

Courts… Clients… and Cases!!! How could he find time?

“You are mistaken dear! Ask any of my clients how powerful my word is!” he said receiving the cup out of her hand.

He wins cases in courts with his arguments.

But wins the heart of his wife humoring her with his words!

“Lakshmi! Do you know how beautiful you look?… like a string of white clouds… a smooth rose… a glistening water drop! I don’t feel like looking at those palling faces on the silver screen after looking at this divine beauty!”

She was over thirty-five. But she blushed like a chrysanthemum knowing the import of his words.

“Sir! Someone has come for you,” announced his servant.

Sundara Ramayya put on his black coat and walked into the hall. The two visitors waiting in the hall stood up and greeted him. One of them was old.  The second one was on the first rung of his chewing-gum-like youth.  Looking at his chequered lungi, the red vest and the black belt round his waist and the sabre-sharp moustache, Sundara Ramayya smelt a first-rate villain in him.

“Picked a pocket, is it?” he asked the chequered lungi.

“No Sir!” His voice has the grating sound of an overused gramophone record.

“Severed a head, then?”

The chequered lungi  bent his head down silently. The older man demurred.

“remember! Never hide the disease from the doctor  and truth from the lawyer! If you do, you are out, and your case is lost! Come on… tell me the truth!”

“This is Simhadri… my som. I got him out… on bail. We belong to Yendada village…” the old man was speaking in broken words.

“Come to the point.”

“Rattalu runs  a country liquor shop in our village.  The boy fell in love with her daughter Varalu. But the girl did not like him. This fellow is short tempered. He asked her why she could not love him.  She replied in a very derogatory manner.  In a fit of anger he stabbed her. It’s all that had happened sir!”

“Very good! So it is a case of spirited love, then!”

Sundara Ramayya was not new to such cases. That is why it did not surprise him. For him, winning a murder case is as easy as burning a nylon thread with matchstick.

“Hmm! What is your name?” he asked the old man.

“Gangulu, Sir!”

“Listen, Gangulu! Was there any eyewitness when your son stabbed Varahalu?”

“Her mother Rattalu was there itself, sir!” Gangulu thought  it wise to place all the facts before the lawyer who gave such an assurance.

Sundara Ramayya spent thoughtfully five minutes of his invaluable time.

“Does Rattalu have any kith and kin, Gangulu?”

“No, Sir! She had only that Varalu… that too not her own… she adopted her.”

The eyebrows of Sundara Ramayya unknotted immediately.

“Gangulu, don’t worry about the boy.  We will win the case. Give all other details to my clerk… see me later,” he said stepping out.

“You are our only hope, sir! Only you can save his life.  But for his short temper, he is very innocent, sir! Take whatever fee you want, but we should win the case. He should not be convicted.” Gangulu wrung his hands in obedience. Simhadri was staring at him.  Sundara Ramayya  shot back a smile at them and got into his grey Impala.

*

Yendada is a small village about seven kilometers from the nearby town. Still, Rattalu and her country liquor shop were very famous. In fact, people believed that the success of her business  and her popularity were solely due to her daughter Varahalu. Her business picked up only after Varahalu started managing the affairs of the shop.

It is very difficult to describe her beauty.  She is whiter than the white cirrus clouds, smother than the smoothest rose, and brighter than the brightest dew drop.

Varahalu laughed seductively. Intoxicated by that, people took more and more draught. In their drinking spree, they paid all that they had on them. In a short span of time, Rattalu became one of the “Haves” of the village.

One day, Simhadri saw the aurelian hand of Varahalu as she was serving him arrack.  He looked up.  Varahalu smiled at him like a spotless full moon. His inane heart softened to a wick of wax.

“Isn’t she the daughter of aunt Rattalu? Isn’t she Varalu?”   he asked himself within.

Unable to endure anymore delay, he started loving her instantly.

“Rattalu! You are earning so much.  Why don’t you have a building of your own?” customer used to ask her every day.

“This hut brought us luck.  Why do I need another building? When Varahalu gets married, I shall construct a big building  and keep her and her husband there,” was her usual reply.

Combing his moustache and looking covetously at Varahalu, Simhadri sitting nearby used to say, “when I am here why need you to look for somebody else for Varahalu?”

Varahalu used to get furious at such remarks.

“Simhadri! You are no match for my child. She doesn’t like you in the first place.” Rattalu used to snub him.

He was unable to suffer the indignity and the insult.

Simhadri used all possible tricks at his command in his dull head to win over Varahalu. The more he tried, the more she despised him.  He wanted her at any cost and by any means. One such essay brought about Varahalu’s death and lodged Simhadri temporarily in jail.

That was summer evening. It was past eight.  Varahalu counted the collections for the day, gave money to Rattalu and sent her to town for replenishment of stocks. When Varahalu was changing into fresh clothes after a bath, Simhadri entered her room and closed it behind him.

Covering herself fully with her sari, she howled at him in uncontrollable fit of anger, “You!… will you get out of this room immediately or not?”

“Varalu! It’s me, Simhadri. Tell me why don’t you like me? Don’t I have money? Lands? Am I not handsome? Why don’t you marry me?” He was pleading and advancing towards her simultaneously.

“Ah! A handsome figure!” she sneered, “look at that face! A black polecat! Don’t you ever dream of marrying me! First get out of here!” she did not conceal her abhorrence.

Simhadri’s anger scorched him like acid. The beast in him was thoroughly aroused. With enraged eyes, he advanced towards her menacingly. Her heckling added fuel to his already volatile anger. His inebriated body leaped over her.

Varahalu deftly slipped away hissing like a she-cobra.  Commanding all the strength at her disposal, she bit him on his gullet. At that very moment a dagger pierced through her heart. Rattalu who entered the house at that very moment shrieked hysterically  in fear and anguish and fell over her daughter’s body.

Life left Varahalu’s body with rocket speed. Simhadri bolted from the scene.

*

God had only ten incarnations.  But the money created by man has infinite incarnations to date; and would assume as many in future. It lifts the “Haves” further up in the society and crushes the “Have nots” further down.

Gangulu’s money transformed itself into justice. It reached Sundara Ramayya wallet, stirred many brilliant  and fertile ideas in him, and prompted to rack his brain day and night with reference books on law. And, to his own amazement Sundara Ramayya argued the case as he had never done before!

Simhadri was innocent. It was only Rattalu who committed the murder. Varahalu was not her own daughter but an adopted one.  Rattalu proposed  Simhadri to Varahalu  and she flatly refused. There were heated exchanges and in a fit of anger unable to stand Varahalu’s refusal on one side and the love she bore for Simhadri on the other, Rattalu killed her… was Sundara Ramayya’s  line of argument.

His arguments were so foolproof  that even the Public Prosecutor was not able to counter. The judge asked Rattalu if she had anything to say in this matter.

“What have I to say, Sir? Justice or no justice, my daughter  can’t be brought back to life. Then, why should I be living? I cannot live without her. Please award the maximum punishment to me. Please hang me, I pray! I plead guilty. Please hang me!” Rattalu wept.

She did not say a word more. She did not  answer the questions put forward by the judge or the Public Prosecutor. In the withered old frame of Rattalu, there was no desire to live. Neither there was any vengeance against those who perpetrated the crime on her daughter. Nor there was any anguish that a crime she had never committed was slapped on her.

She thanked Sundara Ramayya with folded hands for giving a direction to her meaningless life.

The judge awarded her life term.

The police took her to jail.

Simhadri was acquitted. There was a glow of success in Sundara Ramayya’s eyes. Simhadri ran after Sundara Ramayya’s car up to Ganjipet junction. His ocean of happiness was on a high tide.

*

Sundara Ramayya was reading newspaper sitting in the hall. He looked up to Simhadri and asked, “What is the matter?”

“Nothing in particular, sir! I just wanted to give you a small present,” Simhadri demurred.

“What’s that?” Sundara Ramayya  asked curiously, putting the newspaper aside.

“Sir! You have saved my life. Had it been anybody else, it would have been gallows for me. Sir! Please keep this chain,” he took out a gold chain from his pocket.

Sundara Ramayya looked at the chain. He suddenly turned pale.

“Simhadri!… this locket…” he minced words.

“Belonged to that dead Varalu, sir!”

“You mean…!”

“I snatched it while running away.  She used to parade with this chain.  It is with this locket they say Rattalu found that winch near Seetamadhara, Sir!”

“Get out! Get out!” He wanted to roar at Simhadri,  but the words failed him. His face lost its color.

Simhadri kept the locket on the table and left.

Calendar pages reeled back swiftly in Sundara Ramayya memory quickly. Fourteen years!

That was last week of November . He and his wife Lakshmi went out for picnic with their only daughter and few neighbours to Seetamadhara. With the Bay of Bengal in the distance and Yarada hill in the neighborhood, the city was looking like a woman at an advanced stage of pregnancy. Everything looked pleasant, he took many photos, and they all walked up the hill racing, reached the picnic spot and lost completely absorbed in conversation. It was only later that they noticed the baby missing. Lakshmi shrieked in fear. He shuddered to think. They searched the entire area.  In a garden where about three thousand people were picnicking. A three-year baby went missing … never to be seen by the parents again!

“Baby!” he cried in anguish as his eyes rained tears. Image of the three-year-old baby was hammering the ‘man’ within him. He wept his heart out. Humaneness, love and all fine sentiments engulfed him from all corners and started heckling him.

Whom did he help to win?

Whom did he get convicted?

His head fell, like one from a noose.

He never entered the premises of a court room again!

***

Telugu Original:  Last Case Sriraj Ginne

Translators: RS Krishna Moorthy & NS Murty

From : The Palette, March 1997

(The translators changed the ‘Last’ in title to ‘Lost’ keeping the story in mind)

  

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