అనువాదలహరి

2 poems of Dasarathi Krishnamacharya , Telugu Poet, Indian

Today is Dr. Dasarathi’s 95th  Birth Anniversary

My life, a garden that reaches out its hands for few jasmines,

My mind, a babe that pricks out its ears for a sonorous song,

My heart, a lotus that is all eyes for a streak of light

My age, an innocence that carts heels over head for a small tribute

I laughed when you laughed, and when

you cried your eyes out, was swept away

to the bourns of the worlds by the tears,

never able to swim through the oceans of grief. 

ఒక కొన్ని జాజిపూవులకు కేలుసాచెడి వనము వోలినది జీవనము నాది

     ఒక కొంత గానమ్మునకు వీను నిక్కించు నిసువు బోలినది మానసము నాది

     ఒక చిన్ని వెల్గురేకకు నేత్రపుటినిచ్చు తమ్మివోలినది యంతరము నాది

      ఒక కొద్ది తీపి మాటలకు ఉబ్బి తబ్బిబ్బులయిపోవు చిరుతప్రాయమ్ము నాది

      నీవు నవ్విన నవ్వితి, నీవు కంట

      నీరు వెట్టిన ఆ నీటి ధారలందు

      కొట్టుకొనిపోతి లోకాల కొట్ట కొసకు

      తిరిగి రానైతి దుఃఖసాగరము నుండి.

No quilts are there to keep warm the new-born baby-bud,

Asleep in the lap of its just-labored mother, being drenched

In rain in the tamarind grove; let me strum on my ‘Fiery Lyre’

Lays of fire to keep the tad cozy, lest it should freeze in the cold.

చింతలతోపులో కురియు చిన్కులకున్ తడిముద్దయైన బా

లింత యొడిన్ శయించు పసిరెక్కల మొగ్గనువోని బిడ్డకున్

బొంతలు లేవు కప్పుటకు; బొంది హిమం బయిపోవునేమొ సా

గింతును రుద్రవీణపయి నించుక వెచ్చని అగ్నిగీతముల్

Dasarathi Krishnamacharya

(22 July 1925 – 5 Nov 1987) 

Telugu Poet, Indian 

Poems Courtesy: Facebook page of Sri Parimi Sri Ramanath  https://www.facebook.com/itisivam/posts/1001565506928457?notif_id=1595383570193179&notif_t=close_friend_activity

When it was Dark… Koduri Vijaya Kumar, Telugu, Indian Poet

That night…

When failure streamed down as a tear from lashes,

And, the contused body groaned in seething pain

Into that dark room entered Death taking storm for escort

And said:

“Look here, my friend! Your grief is as enduring as this rain

… there is nothing left in life…but grief!

Come! Embrace me!…

It is the balm that soothes your wounds.”

Breaking through the wounds, these words came out harshly:

“This soil has been bathed with their blood by martyrs!

I am a child of the land where even ploughs were turned to arms.

I am a fighter and love the fighting spirit in man

I can’t disgrace the sacrifices of my immortal lineage.  

A rolling of thunder was heard in the distance

And the doors opened all of a sudden.

Lo! There was neither storm… nor Death.

The room was flooded with effulgent radiance .

.

Koduri Vijaya Kumar

Telugu, Indian Poet

చీకటి గదిలో

.

ఓటమి కంటి చివరి చినుకై జారిన రాత్రి

దేహం గాయాల కూడలిగా మారి అలమటించిన రాత్రి

తలుపులు మూసి వున్న చీకటిగదిలో వర్షాన్ని వెంటేసుకు వొచ్చిన

మృత్యువు యిలా అంది:

 “… మిత్రుడా… యిటు చూడు! ఎడతెగని ఈ వర్షం నీ దుఃఖం!

… జీవితంలో దుఃఖం తప్ప మరేమీ లేదు.

రా! నన్ను ప్రేమించు…

నా కౌగిలి నీ గాయాలకు లేపనం!!”

దేహపు గాయాలను చీల్చుకుని, మాటలు కొన్ని యిలా కర్కశంగా వెలువడినాయి:

‘ వీరుల రక్తంతో తడిసిన మట్టి నా దేశం! నాగళ్ళు సైతం

ఆయుధాలుగా మారిన నేలనా చిరునామా! మనుషుల

పోరాటాల్ని ప్రేమించే మనిషినిమృత్యువును ప్రేమించలేను

అమరవీరుల త్యాగాలను అవమానించలేను 

బయటెక్కడో వురిమిన శబ్దం

గది తలుపులు తెరుచుకున్నాయి

వర్షమూ లేదు… మృత్యువూ లేదు

గదినిండా గొప్ప వెలుగు!

.

కోడూరి విజయ కుమార్

వార్త ఆదివారం 16 జూన్ 1997.

Munny… Ganapathiraju Atchutarama Raju, Telugu Indian

Kalaprapoorna Ganapathiraju Atchyutarama Raju

( 5th March 1924 -10th  June 2004)

Poet, Short story writer, Dramatist, Lawyer and Educationalist

About the Author:

Sri Ganapathiraju Atchyutarama Raju (5.3.2024 – 10.6.2004) ) was a versicolored genius born in Kolimeru Village of East Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh. A Graduate in Arts from the Andhra University(1945) and Law from the Madras University (1948), he practised law at Visakhapatnam. He was a dramatist, classical poet, short story writer, translator, actor, director, novelist and above all an orator of consummate ease. He was the Founder of Visakha Nataka Kala Mandali, Nominated Member, AP Sangeeth Natak Academy (1957-61), Member, AP Legislative Council (1968-74) and President, Lalita Kala Parishat. He was also on the advisory board for Telugu, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi (1988-92). He was on the Senate of Andhra University (1964 – 72) and Sri Venkateswara University (1969-72). He was conferred “Kalaprapoorna” by the Andhra University in 1993. 

He had to his credit Vinayakudi Pelli (1951) and Brahma Mudi (1952) (plays), Maharajashree (1952), a playlet, and Ananda Hela (1982) and Amaram (1997) (Poetry).

***

 

MUNNY

       

***

 

With the thin wispy clouds spreading across the town and taking different shapes, like Kamadhenu, Kalpatharu, and Iravat,  the sky was looking like the proverbial ‘Milky Ocean’. It looks as if the abundance of good was heaped over there.

It is said that the color of ‘virtue’ is white, and that of ‘evil’ is black.  If it were true, why should my mommy call Aunty who looks an incarnation of virtue, an ‘evil woman’ every day? Why did innocent Aunty ceaselessly weep her heart out these two days and went away? She did not say a word against me although she knew that I was squarely responsible for Munny’s death! How gracious and magnanimous was Aunty compared to my mom!

These were the overwhelming feelings raging in the mind of a boy, Murali, lying on a tape-cot in the backyard of a middleclass house at the centre of a town, watching the sky.

Amidst colorful Rangoli (chalky designs) in front of the sacred basil on the cemented courtyard, ‘Karteeka Deepalu (Oil Lamps of Karteeka)’, a cluster of lights of cotton wicks soaked in ghee put on banana bark were blinking like the stars on the sky, and the zari flowers on Munny’s petticoat. These very lights which twinkled like the beautiful smiles of Munny till the other day, were flickering like the dark, murky lamps of the slum dwellings. Yes. They were looking exactly like that to his eyes. Aunty, who rented in the two south-end rooms of their house, vacated them and left for her place this evening.

Aunty had left!

Six months ago when schools reopened after Summer vacation, Munny and Aunty came here. When they were alighting from the rickshaw, he was reminded of the cow and the capering baby calf at his grandfather’s place.

Aunty was arranging their belongings in the two rented rooms.  And Munny, moving briskly between the rooms helping her mother, was like a piece of butter-white baby-cloud playing with the moon. Wishing to help them, he loitered around their rooms. When he volunteered saying, “May I help you, Aunty?”, his mother overheard him and shouted at him, “Hey, Murali! Come here once!”. When he went in, “You don’t have to extend a helping hand to everyone living in the town. Go! Take out your books and read!” she said knitting her forehead.

“But mommy! We haven’t bought the new class books yet!”

“Don’t argue. Take out whatever books you have and start reading!” she reproved him.

Aunty looked more beautiful and dignified than mommy.

That night…

He was lying down on his bed, adjacent to the bedroom of his father. He couldn’t sleep for a long that night. He lost in thoughts about Aunty and Munny.

He suddenly overheard his mom…

“You let out the rooms to all and sundry paying no heed to me. See that woman. Does she look like a widow? Do you know she bought two seers of jasmines today?”

“In what way we are concerned with what she buys? Why do you poke your nose? Is it laid down in any scripture that widows should not buy flowers?” asked his father.

“Somebody visited her this evening calling her ‘Rajani! Rajani!’. He looks like a riff-raff fellow!”

“Shut up! Don’t talk rubbish without knowing what is what,” snubbed his father putting out the light.

So Aunty’s husband was not alive! Shouldn’t a widow buy flowers?

Next morning, while was brushing his teeth, he observed Aunty throwing a withered garland of Jasmines to a corner in her room. Munny was sitting on a tripod near the cement saucer round the well and taking bath. She had her back towards him and taking water from the bucket near her. She just had her petticoat and nothing else on. He could see her back which looked like a white polished marble slate. She looked round like a ball in that wet petticoat.

Somebody came out from the adjacent room. “Rajani! I have to go back as early as possible after taking Munny to school.” Murali looked at him. He wondered why his mom had commented about him like that. He did not look like a rowdy or a riffraff fellow. He did not have big side locks, dense tapering moustache, ruddy eyes, or a beedi in his mouth!

Munny dried herself with a green towel. Wrapping the towel round her waist, she let drop the wet petticoat, wrung water out and dried it on the line and then looked at him. He felt as if some current had passed through him. Shy-stricken, Munny ran in like a scared baby doe. How beautiful she looked then!

Munny was admitted to a convent school.

From the time he saw her bathing, there was some change in him, and he became more enthusiastic about studies. He started reading his class lessons loud sitting in the backyard; started singing film songs aloud; and moved around Aunty on some pretext or other. He got his new dress stitched in the latest fashion and walked elegantly wearing it. He was feeling happy and proud that Munny was taking notice of all these changes.

That was a Friday in the month of Sravana. It is said that women who observe some religious vows will be blessed. Mom got the house dusted, cleaned, washed and decorated the floor with Rangolis. She took oil bath, wore new clothes, and was busy with preparing special dishes, and inviting ladies of the neighborhood to our house and what not.

Munny and he were returning from convent that evening. It was getting dark and the traffic was thin. As they were turning round the street corner, someone stopped his bicycle, pulled Munny’s gold chain off her neck and started peddling away. He ran after him shouting ‘thief, thief’. That fellow kicked him on his face with all his strength and sped off. People heard his alarm and caught the thief.  Munny got her chain back. Then she looked at him widening her already-wide eyes with admiration. She dabbed off the blood on his mouth with her handkerchief, and dried the tears rolling down his cheeks. Someone from the neighborhood escorted them home.

When the incident was narrated at home, Aunty hugged him dearly. He forgot all the pain in her warm embrace.

“Can’t you send your girl to school without all such decorations ? Thanks to you, my boy would have lost his life today,” mommy almost shouted at Aunty.

“I am sorry. Today being Friday of Sravana, I sent the girl to school with the gold chain. I am anyway deprived of such small pleasures,” said Aunty taken aback at mommy’s onslaught. She pulled him away from Aunty’s embrace and dragged him home. Munny shrank to a corner, scared.

Mommy boasted before everybody in the street that her son was saved from death in the hands of that thief, because of her ‘virtue.’

Mommy never invited Aunty for any of her religious observances, though she invited everybody else. That hurt him very much.

Once he asked Aunty, “Why don’t you attend any religious observances in our house?”

“I am not that fortunate, my child!” she said turning her face away.

When he was alone with mommy he asked her: “Why don’t you invite Aunty to your functions, while you invite everybody else?”

“Shut up! Why do you stick your long nose in all matters?” she chided him.

He went to Aunty’s room in anger and with determination.  He said to her, “Aunty! From now on, you observe all religious vows. Munny and I will  get you whatever you need from the market.”

“No, no! Leave it! I was qualified for those things only when Munny’s father was alive. I am not fortunate enough now,” Aunty said with a tinge of pain.

“You mean, you should not perform those things now?”

“Yes,” she said wiping her tears.

Munny receded silently to a corner.

An inexplicable sadness and anguish filled him.

*

That was Janmashtami, birthday of lord Krishna. Noticing his mother was busy in her activities, he silently slipped into Aunty’s portion without his mom noticing him. On the wall, there was a photo of a gentleman in full suit. He was sitting in a chair with his legs crossed, and wore a pleasant smile. A garland of jasmines was hanging to it. Aunty removed that withered garland and replaced it with a fresh one.

There was another photo next to it. There were many women bathing in a pond. None of the women had clothes on. Some of them were waist deep in water. One lady covered her bosom with her hands. Another covered her chest with one hand and looking away. Two other women lifted their heads high in the air and making salutations. On one of the branches sat Krishna, smiling mischievously. And on another, a heap of saris of different hues was slung.

Looking at the picture, Murali smiled. But noticing that Munny observed him looking at the picture, he felt shy to look at her.

That day, Munny and Aunty worshipped garlanding that gentleman’s photo, the picture of Krishna and bathing ladies, another photo of Krishna standing by a white cow, and one more where Krishna was dancing on the hoods of a giant serpent.

He understood now. Aunty could worship singly, by herself, but could not invite to her house ladies with their husbands alive. He could not understand the reason why.

That day when Aunty and Munny were going to the movie Krishna Leelalu, he wanted to be along.  “Take the permission of your mom,” advised Aunty. He lied that he took her permission and went with them.

Aunty and Munny were enjoying the naughty pranks of little Krishna. Then followed the obscene bathing episode, the picture of which he had seen in Aunty’s room that morning. The bathing ‘Gopikas’ (dairy maids, so to speak) were begging for their saris back from Krishna, who had stolen them and was sitting perched a branch. Krishna said to them smiling mischievously, “I will return your saris if you give up your lust for bodies”. Then the maids put their hands up above their heads and prayed. Krishna returned them their saris. Of course, there were many episodes in the movie.

While returning home he asked Aunty, “Krishna advised gopikas to give up their lust for body. Aunty, what does ‘lust for body’ mean? What is the relation between this and returning the saris to gopikas?”

“Lust signifies desire for the body. If one prayed God giving up all desires, God will bestow his blessings. With his blessings human beings go to heaven after death where there will be no worries and troubles. Everyone will be happy, jolly, and cheerful there.” As Aunty was explaining, the rain which started as a fine drizzle suddenly intensified into a downpour. All of them reached home fully drenched.

As soon as they were home, mommy started lashing at them all collectively. Daddy left the scene, embarrassed.

“Don’t you have a sense of proportion and time? Don’t you ever go out with every hoi polloi to cinemas?” mommy slapped him. Munny trembled with fear.

“Forgive us. It was a mythological movie, Krishna Leelalu (playfulness). So I thought… ” Aunty was trying to explain when mommy cut her short, and stuffing her words with all her spite she said, “We have been watching all your ‘Leelas’. We are only short of Krishna’s ‘Leelas’. Who will come to our rescue if something untoward happens to my child?” and many more.

Aunty turned pale. Without speaking another word, she withdrew to her room with Munny who was already in tears.

Changing into dry clothes Murali went straight to bed. He dreamt of Krishna high on the tree branch, the nude Gopikas in the pond, advancing tongue-lashing demons,  pathetic faces of Aunty and Munny…and much more.

*

Next morning he went to Aunty’s room. Aunty paid her obeisance to the person in suit in the photo. She removed the withered garland from the photo.

“Are you cross with mom’s behaviour last night, Aunty?”  he asked.

Aunty simply laughed away the question and kept silent. How nice Aunty was!

“Who is he in that photo, Aunty?”

“Munny’s father.”

“Do you buy jasmines only to worship him, then?”

“Yes. It was his birthday yesterday. That is the only worship I am not deprived of,” she said drying her tears. Munny seemed angry, depressed and withdrawn.

Over a period of time, Aunty told him that Munny’s father was a senior officer, and she used to perform her vows and prayers on a large scale when he was alive.

Then, even to earn God’s blessings Aunty could not perform her vows and prayers! That was why neither his mom nor other ladies with their husbands alive won’t invite Aunty for any function or festival. Why couldn’t he and Munny perform vows for her benefit on her behalf? Then Munny would be well educated and become a doctor. That would be the fruition of all Aunty’s efforts. He decided to perform all religious observations with Munny in Aunty’s house only.

There is one God who removes all obstacles in the way of any good work. He is Lord Ganesha, the darling child of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. If he is worshipped  no failures happen in one’s way.  On Ganesh Chaturdhi, with the money given by Aunty, he and Munny went to market, bought all paraphernalia required to celebrate Lord Ganesha’s birthday in a befitting way.  He turned a deaf ear to his mommy’s reprimands, and he read out the text of worship himself as Aunty and Munny performed the pooja. 

Days of dark rain-threatening clouds seizing the sky had receded. Schools closed for Dasehra. Wherever Dasehra pandals were erected and programs were held, he visited them with Munny. They enjoyed the pooja holidays thoroughly.

Then came Diwali. Munni’s uncle who had accompanied her on her first day to the convent school visited them again and bought many crackers for Munny. He also gave all his crackers to her. That night, brighter than the brightest crackers, Munny sizzled like … a filigree of finest silver work, a ball of gold, and a rain of moonlight. She was the cynosure of Aunty’s eyes, and the glow of her laughter.

Strangely, in spite of  all the festivals and the contingent joy and bonhomie, there always remained some inexpressible void in Aunty’s house. Whereas, in spite of constant querulousness between mommy and daddy, there was some wholesomeness in his house. Was it really due to mommy’s ‘accumulated virtue’?  Why should not Aunty get the same ‘virtue’?  He wondered how his mommy would react after Munny got a good education, became a famous doctor, married a wealthy boy, and visited her?  

*

He heard some people were going on a picnic to a hillock at the end of the city by buses, cars, motorcycles, bicycles and even on foot.  He asked Aunty why all people went there?  She replied, “This is Karthika, the favorite month of Lord Shiva.  God showers his blessings on those who take food under an Amla tree.”

One Sunday, daddy’s office staff planned a picnic to that place with all family members. They sent a jeep for daddy. He was ready to accompany his daddy. Mommy refused. As he was thinking it would be nice if Munny also accompanied him, she came out ready in Punjabi dress. She wore a blue chunni. Daddy invited her. He did not heed mommy’s murmurs. The jeep sped off and reached the foot of the hill soon. The bungalow there was full. There were people under every Amla tree. There were people of all age groups. Some people were engaged in cooking, some were playing cards, some were gossiping, and some others were singing, laughing, making fun and frolicking. It was a colorful parade of dresses and flowers.

All the colleagues of daddy gathered under a tree. He and Munny had breakfast and washed their hands in a stream flowing nearby. The water was cold and sweet, like Aunty’s sweet smile. The stream was flowing down from atop the hillock. There was a footway along the stream and there was a steady flow of people both ways. He asked one old gentleman, with tattered clothes and unkempt beard coming down, where he was coming from.

“There is a pond atop of the hillock. As per the legend, it was made by Lord Sri Rama for his consort Sita to bathe in. People go there to get Lord’s blessings.”

Munny and he started their way up along the footpath by the stream. They played with the greenery around, plucked the unknown flowers, rested under the shades. Sun was at the meridian by the time they reached the pond. There were pearls of sweat on Munny’s face. People had already left the pond for lunch. Only he and Munny were left at the pond.

He imagined Munny to be gopika in the pond and himself Lord Krishna. He was overwhelmed with joy at that thought. He told Munny about it and Munny got into the pond all smiles.

“Give up the lust for your body, I shall shower blessings on you!” he said playing Krishna.

The bashful smile on the face of Munny and her chunni were suddenly drowned in the pond.  Munny with her hands hung up high disappeared gradually.

It was all over by the time people gathered and pulled her out, now limp and lifeless.

With the Kamadhenu-, the Kalpataru– and the Iravat-like cirrus clouds standing witness, under the cold and sweet waters of the pond up the hillock, all the ‘good’ and ‘virtue’ Aunty had earned over years were dissolved once and for all!

The cluster of ‘Karteeka Deepalu’ in the backyard of his house where Murali was lying were all blinking… and were about to go out!

GANAPATHIRAJU ATCHYUTARAMA RAJU

***

(Telugu Original: Munnii, Swati Monthly, January 1974 )

 

Read the original telugu story Munni- Ganapathiraju

The story appeared in Saranga Web-Magazine:  https://magazine.saarangabooks.com/munny/

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)

  

Last Night’s Dream… Sowbhagya, Telugu, Indian

It was dark.

Up the sky, someone had dropped

a blue diaphanous veil over the earth.

buildings were asleep; hillocks were asleep

and forests were also in tranquil sleep.

The sppeding rivers slumbered

And the sea was actually snoring.

in the cradle of this somnolent world

just you and I were awake.

Even the flame on wax-wick was so drowsy

that our shadows on the wall were as somnolescent.

At the centre of an inexplicable magnetic bliss,

we were looking into one another’s eyes… awake.

As we looked like lightnings on the dark sleepy world

star-studded sky started looking at us

without battling its eyelids.

How long, or, for how many years, we were like this!

on a beautiful night spared of sunlight,

a silent night sans burden  of words

howlong had we been

pouring our hearts out!

Under that deep blue stretching to the horizon,

there was no room for gloom,

no chance of sunrise.

we were the delirious fragrances of Parijata

blossoming in the dark.

we were the secret dreams of yesternight. 

.

Sowbhagya

Telugu, Indian Poet

Untiring Faith  … Ravii Verelly, Telugu, Indian

That the Sky

Is my close pal, no doubt;

But I amn’t sure

If he would

Give me way … parting.

That the Sun

Is my master who taught me

To be pragmatic, for sure;

But, there is no assurance

That he would travel with me

Unto the last.

Yet,

Like the deciduous leaf

To keep its promise to the Fall,

One can drop down dead

Anytime

With untiring faith on the Earth.

.

Ravi Verelly

Telugu, Indian

భరోసా 

.

ఆకాశం

నాకు ఆప్తమిత్రుడే కావొచ్చు

అయినా

పగిలి దారిస్తాడన్న

నమ్మకం లేదు.

సూర్యుడు

నాకు బ్రతుకునేర్పిన గురువే కావొచ్చు

అయినా

ఎప్పటికీ తోడుంటాడన్న

భరోసా లేదు.

కానీ

శిశిరానికిచ్చిన  మాటకోసం

చెట్టు చెయ్యిని విడిచిన ఆకులా,

భూమ్మిదున్న భరోసాతో

ఎప్పుడైనా

నిర్భయంగా నేలరాలొచ్చు.

.

రవి వీరెల్లి

తెలుగు, భారతీయ కవి

A Teasing Phrase… Yakoob, Telugu Poet, India

Once a beautiful idea molds itself into a phrase,

And if you do not appropriate it instantly,

You are done. It suddenly disappears into ether!

However much you long for it, you can’t recall.

Search wherever you like, you can rarely find it.

And even in that rare unlikely chance event,

Like a depetalled rose, there will be glaring imperfections.

It’s a teasing phrase which strikes the mind

Like a fruit dropping overhead unaware through foliage;

It’s as precious a phrase as a drop of rain

That abruptly slips through the clouds;

It’s a dreamy phrase that keeps company through the night

Electrifies us, yet, in a trice slithers into oblivion;

It’s a rattling phrase, unable to hail its presence, lies

Silent among the sounds, struggling to win our approval;

It’s an indiscernible phrase, as we explore the worlds around

Spreading the paper in front and concentering our mind. 

The spider which leisurely draws geometric figures on the wall

Spares no time to turn its head this way to leave any hints of it;

And the forever chasing, vigilant and alert lizard

Makes no squeaks to reveal its whereabouts;

Neither the tolling bells on the gate,

The headlines of any newspaper

Nor the remote pages of any book

Restore that alienated phrase back to me.

And I have no idea when it would strike me again.

.

Yakoob

Telugu Poet, India

Kavi Yakoob

ఏమై ఉండొచ్చు

.

ఒకసారి వాక్యం స్ఫురించాక

దాన్ని లోపలికి తీసుకోకుండా వదిలేస్తే

చటుక్కున అదెక్కడికో మాయమౌతుంది…!

ఎంత నిరీక్షించినా మళ్ళీ వెనక్కి రాదు

వెతుకులాడినా దొరకదు, దొరికినా

రేకులు రాలిన పూవులా ఏదో కొరత…

అది ‘కొమ్మల్లోంచి తెలియకుండా

తలమీద రాలిన పండుటాకులాంటి వాక్యం!

గభాల్న మబ్బుల్లోంచి జారిపడ్డ

అపురూపమైన  వర్షపుచినుకులాంటి వాక్యం!

రాత్రంతా ప్రక్కనే ఉండి

ఉక్కిరిబిక్కిరిచేసి, మరుపులోకి జారుకున్న కల లాంటి వాక్యం!

గొంతెత్తి పలకలేక శబ్దాలుగా అణిగిమణిగి

అంగీకారంకోసం పెనుగులాడుతూ ఎగుస్తున్న వాక్యం!

కాగితం  ముందేసుకుని మనసురిక్కించి

ఎంత వెతికినా కానరాని వాక్యం!

తాపీగా గోడలమీద బొమ్మలుగీసుకుంటున్న సాలీడు

ఇటువైపునించి సంౙ్ఞలుచేయదు

అదేపనిగా అటూ ఇటూ  పరుగులుపెట్టే బల్లి

కిచకిచమని కొంచెమైనా చెప్పదు

గంటలుకట్టిన గేటు తన చప్పుళ్ళతో గుర్తుచేయదు

ఏ పత్రికలోని వార్త, పుస్తకంలోని పేజీ…

దూరమైన ఆ వాక్యాన్ని నా దాకా చేర్చదు!

ఎప్పుడు నా కళ్ళముందు ప్రత్యక్షమవుతుందో తెలియనే తెలియదు!

.

కవి యాకూబ్

Before you embark upon a Search… Mahesh, Telugu Poet


 

Ah! At last, I could make out.

 

I was sitting blissfully under the shade of a tree.

Lays of unseen birds

Sweet scent of flowers

A cool breeze leaves turned upon me.

A train of travellers criss-crossed

And the adventures they shared.

 

never for once my mind turned towards the paths they trod

the flowers and birds continued to flourish

and the gentle currents carrying their scent.

 

I was familiar with the beaten tracks

But knew not where to begin the journey.

And there was no dearth of luring from all ends.

 

Hum! I could realize it at last now.

Even if one cannot make out his destination

one must make the direction of his travel clear.

Before embarking upon a search,

Make sure what has been lost in the first place.

.

 

Mahesh

(చక్రాల వెంటక సుబ్బు మహేశ్వర్‍)

.

వెదికేముందు

 

ఇప్పటికి తెలిసింది.

 

చెట్టునీడలో హాయిగా కూర్చునేవాడిని

కనబడని పక్షులపాటలు.

పువ్వుల పరిమళాలు.

ఆకులు నాపైకి మళ్ళించే చల్లని గాలి.

వచ్చేపోయే బాటసారులు

వాళ్ళు చెప్పుకునే జీవితాలు.

 

ఏనాడూ బాటవైపు మనసుపోలేదు.

పక్షులూ పువ్వులూ వికసిస్తూనే ఉన్నాయి.

చల్లగాలి వీస్తూనే ఉంది పరిమళాల్ని మోసుకుంటూ

 

బాటని చూడటమే నాకు తెలుసు.

ఎక్కడ మొదలవ్వాలో ఎలా తెలుస్తుంది.

దారి రెండువైపులనుండీ ఆహ్వానాలు అందుతూనే ఉన్నాయి.

 

ఇప్పటికి తెలిసింది.

ప్రయాణానికి గమ్యం కుదరకపోయినా

దిశ అయినా నిర్దేశనం చేసుకోవాలని.

వెదికేముందు, పోగొట్టుకున్నదేదో

నిశ్చయపరచుకోవాలని.

.

 

చక్రాల వెంటక సుబ్బు మహేశ్వర్‍

Poem courtesy : దశార్ణదేశపు హంసలు . వాడ్రేవు చినవీరభద్రుడు

 

Sri Visakhapatnam Kanaka Mahalaksmi… Munipalle Raju, Telugu, Indian

On the eve of First Death Anniversary of Sri Munipalle Raju garu

I had been working in Visakhapatnam for long, but I never occasioned to walk the steps of the Simhachalam Temple or visit the village Goddess, Sri Kanaka Mahalakshmi. My aunt had changed it all that with her recent visit. 

Getting down from the train, she expressed her confusion about the name of the city and station, “What, Chinna! The board shows Waltair Station! Do you work here?”

“Waltair and Visakhapatnam are one and the same, auntie! There is no separate station for Visakhapatnam.”

“Then, when will you arrange for the Lord Narasimha’s Dashan at Simhachalam?”

“You have just arrived. Take some rest first. We shall think of that later.”

“Rest? No way. Your uncle was not well when I started. And your two sisters will be eagerly waiting for my return. Arrange some rickshaw to Simhachalam immediately,” she hurried me.

*

I took her to the Simhachalam Temple in the office jeep I came to receive her. She had a leisurely darshan of the lord. The Banana, wild Champac, Coconut, Jackfruit plantations and the Pineapple groves there had immensely pleased her. Tears streamed down when she hugged the “Kappa Stambham”.  I knew the reason:  My cousins, her two daughters, were still unmarried. I was already twenty five. They were much elder to me.

She took some coconut water before we started up the hill. She did not take anything thereafter. She was on fast almost for the whole day. 

*

By the time I returned from office next day, she had already paid a visit to Kanaka Mahalakshmi Temple taking my neighbor’s daughter for escort.

“Chinna! I made a terrible transgression!” she said with deep regrets, “Without visiting the village goddess first, I visited other deities.”

“Don’t worry auntie. Lord of Simhachalam is also the lord of Kalinga, north Andhra upto Godavari plateau. You need not entertain such worries,” I tried to pacify her.

“But no. I am not happy with the grave sin I committed. I sought for her mercy. I vowed to break coconuts on five successive Fridays if she grants me my wishes.” She broke down again recollecting her unfulfilled wish.

My aunt returned home next day. I really wonder at the spiritual strength of that generation. She started almost a month back with a group of pilgrims from Guntur, took pre-dawn cold bath in the Bay of Bengal every day, attended to seasonal rituals of Magha (lunar month) at Puri Jagannath Temple, and without taking rest for a single day dashed to Visakhapatnam and paid visits to Varaha Narasimha of Simhachalam and Kanaka Mahalaksmi. That she continued to put up with the demanding physical stress and strain, not for her own self but her family, amazed me. Though I was not part of that ‘family’ in the strict sense, her spiritual strength seemed to have touched me. I bade her goodbye. She promised to write to me no sooner than her wish was fulfilled.

Skeptics like me may not find a causal relation between taking a vow and favorable events happen thereafter in one’s life. But not people like my aunt. My aunt could find a groom for my elder cousin.  That she would not remain an old unmarried maid gave my aunt a great relief. “It is up to you to fulfil my vow,” she wrote me.

Why do you think I had started off to Kanaka Mahalakshmi Temple this Friday?

To my surprise, I found it behind the Hindu Reading Room I visited regularly. Interestingly, there was no Temple there at all. There was just a small idol sculpted in Kalinga Style … about twenty yards from me on a small platform, without any semblance of shade or shelter, and confined within grills.  

Even the street was not that wide. I strode through the narrow passage flanked by small vendors on either side. I enquired the price of coconut at a shop and felt for the purse with my hands. I was stunned. I had one or two such experiences earlier in Madras but I never expected people would pick pockets of their own ilk in Andhra Pradesh. Somehow, I reconciled to believing that it would never happen here.

I was staring blankly at the electrical pole in front of the tiled house.

“What Babuji! What are you staring at?” the shopkeeper lady asked me.

I lost my purse, I said. I searched for the purse in my hip pocket once more.

“Did you come by city (bus)?” she enquired.

“Yes, I came by city bus.” I said.

“Where did you take the bus?”

“Akkayyapalem…”

“It looks you are not from these parts. Am I right?”

“Yes, of course.”

My slang betrays that.

I have some very strong convictions in this regard.  Language is a double-edged sword. It can instantly bond people with love on one hand and can drive wedge between them inflaming hatred on the other. When I was in Madras, I read slogans like… “Edamillai… Go back Gongura.” on the walls. I heard people raising those slogans behind my back.  Similarly, “This is not place for you. Go back to Andhra,” during Andhra agitation in Hyderabad. Historians may explain that this kind of reactionary agitations would be incited by feudalistic minds to grab power or by NGO’s for securing government jobs. But I was speaking about common people. The so called “common people” that the politicians, press, news media, Assemblies and Parliament speak so ardently about every minute. Of course, it is only they that need that double-edged sword every minute. In the bonfire of hatred they inflame, they never care to think who are natives or who the migrants are, or the political and economic compulsions behind settling in different administrative set ups.

As these thoughts flashed in my memory, I rather asked impatiently to her innocent question, “Why? Is every stranger an evil person?”

“I did not mean that Babuji! I am myself a stranger to this place. I only meant how the non-natives could understand the deceptions of vizagites?”

I felt really ashamed of my unwarranted anger after listening to her cool compassionate reply.  Only then did I pay any attention to her mien and manner. I could not foresee at that moment that I was inviting some unnecessary troubles.

“Please sit down Babuji! You have been standing there all the while.”

I sat on the package box nearby rather comfortably. That being a Friday, the premises around Kanaka Mahalaksmi idol was busy and there must be hundred ladies performing Pooja.

She was arranging a coconut, few flowers, two incense sticks, packets of turmeric powder and vermillion in a bamboo tray briskly and selling to customers for an Anna less or an Anna more. My thoughts turned to her. I tried to conjecture her age… the exact number between twenty and twenty five. Why did she apply such thick line of collyrium to her eyes? She had a small gob and Champac-like nose… may be I was reconciling to such scanty description for want of better expression and ornate language at my disposal. For her well-proportioned ebony body, the dark-colored saree did not match. Hers was a prettiness that could not be grasped but from close.  

“What Babuji? You are sitting idly. Won’t you break a coconut?”

I am sure I was taken aback coming out from my reverie.

“I am not left with any money,” I said.

“Don’t worry. You may fulfil your vow today and pay me next time.”

“Nobody would believe a stranger. I don’t know what makes you believe me. I shall repay you tomorrow.”

“Why do you say that? Can’t we assess people looking at their mien? Why didn’t madam accompany you? Are you a bachelor?”

“Yes, I am a bachelor.”

“Please come back soon. I have to shut down the shop to go to the movie. By mistake you may hand over that bamboo tray in another shop. Remember my name.  I am Malles(p)ari.”

“I shall remember. Malleswari.”

However quick I tried to finish off my work, it took me around twenty minutes.

As I returned the bamboo tray I noticed a man in his shorts and a collared shirt standing at a distance behind the shop. That round-faced, moustache-less man was observing me closely puffing out smoke from a bidi. I saw him somewhere but could not place him in my mind immediately. I was not sure if it was the city bus I came by.

She returned the tray back to me, saying “Babuji, please pay me five rupees.”

To my surprise, I saw the lost purse in that tray.

My people think I am a fool. However, my friends commend my way of thinking. After a long deliberation within, I just wanted to check if I was right.

When I searched for him the hero was not there. He disappeared.

The purse however seemed as voluminous as before. “Mallespari” was winding up her shop.

Giving her a five rupee note, I asked her rather harshly, “What’s this?”

“Babuji! Take it as the miracle of Kanaka Mahalakshmi.  Please count your money. We are not from this place. Why do we need to follow the cunning ways of the locals?  I am already late…”  After taking few steps, she came back and looking into my face she asked, “Isn’t it a vow for five Fridays?”

“Yes, of course, for five Fridays without break.”

This Malleswari must be his mistress. The coconut business was only a front for these riffraff fellows.  But then, why did she return me my purse? There were almost three hundred rupees in it.  You might have read many stories about lumpens of Visakhapatnam before. I had some firsthand experiences with them as well.  I had a different kind of experience with one of them. Poorna Market is a very famous place in Visakhapatnam. It is a centre where if my your misfortune you try to bargain while buying anything like vegetables, fruits, grocery, fish, chicken, or egg, they unleash every kind of abuse on you. Last summer when I went there to purchase mangoes, the lady offered a dozen mangoes at twelve rupees. When I paid her the twelve, she started arguing that she said eighteen per dozen and I did not hear her properly. She wore at least a kilogram gold on her body and unutterable stock of taboo words on her tongue. She refused to take back the mangoes. Finally, she mediated on her own calling me a stranger who did not understand the local language properly and settled the issue for fifteen rupees.  That was a concession for the stranger. And now, this Malleswari would want me to believe it a miracle of Kanaka Mahalakshmi. Why should they bear pity a stranger? That too, a feigned one?

*

I wrote to my aunt that I was fulfilling her vow.  “Please don’t break the continuity,” she expressed her concern and conveyed her blessings. The marriage day was fixed. I must attend.

The next Friday, taking special permission I visited the temple early in the morning to avoid peak hour rush. Yet, it was very already crowded. I passed Malleswari’s shop.

“Hello Babuji! Have you forgotten Malleswari?” Malleswari called me back. Handing over the tray with Pooja material she added, “Babuji! Do you notice the Police Jawan standing there in Khaki shorts? Tell him my name and he will help you finish your job quickly.”

I had to obey. She returned twenty five paise taking five rupees from me.

What could I say? But, to tease her I said, “Malleswari, I did not take city bus today.”

“Please don’t say that,” she pleaded. But ignoring what she said, I left the place in a hurry.

*

Though I could ignore her then, I realized within two days that this uninvited acquaintance was not going to ignore me that easily. When I reached office I came to know of the training program I was waiting for long and I would not get for another two years if I missed this time. Though it was only a two-week training, it has a definite bearing on my career prospects.

That was Thursday. I should leave by night train to Hyderabad. My mind was searching for proper person to delegate the responsibility bidden to me by my aunt. She was the person who supported my college study after my father had died. I was obliged to fulfil her vow. My house owners were Brahmo Samajis. They were against every kind of idol worship. One family I knew were Christians and with another, I developed a sort of rationalist image. So, I could not ask them. I was forced by circumstances to go to Malleswari.

“Babuji! Have you forgotten the day today? It is only Thursday?” she said.

“Yes! But I came here on purpose. I have to leave by night train to another town on important work. Malleswari, you have to help me tomorrow and next week in fulfilling the vow,” I said.

“Babuji! It’s enough if you call me Malli.  We being low-class people is it alright if we perform the vows on your behalf?”

“God cares little who performs. All that is needed is one should perform it whole-heartedly.  Besides, if you change to light color saris from dark, you look as dignified as any lady from upper class,” I said patting myself for the initiative I had taken.

I saw a fleeting flash of pride at my remark in her face. I also noticed her looking at me adoringly.

“Is it so, Babu? What’s wrong with this color?”

There was an unprecedented familiarity in her tone when she called me Babu instead of Babuji.

“I don’t know. You look much better in light colours. Take this money.” 

“I don’t need money. You are going out of the city. It serves your need. You can pay me after your return.”

“Take this. I don’t have any problem.” I handed over her a ten rupee note. And to tease her further, “didn’t you see my purse the other day?  I have enough money with me.”

She seemed embarrassed.

“Did I count? After all, it’s your money. You did not even tell me your name to perform the Pooja,” she complained.

Giving the name of my aunt I walked up a few steps. I suddenly realized somebody was following me from behind. The same fellow. The pickpocket. As I was taking a turn he came in my way. Locking the scooter I turned towards Reading Room. His first warnings were directed towards me…

“Let me warn you! Don’t flirt with that gal. It is not good for your health.”

I already said that I have some firm convictions about people and their behaviour.  If we are afraid of rowdies, they would ride over us … was one of them.

“Who are you to say that?” I shot an angry look at him.

“Don’t you know? Everybody knows this Ramana, including police,” he said. He must be roaming between Berhampur to Nellore. There wasn’t any particular slang in his speech.

“So what?”

“I am from Burma. A Burma evacuee. Why do you dally with that lass?”

“I don’t care if you are a Rangoon Rowdy or a London evacuee. I know you picked my pocket? What is she to you? Are you her husband?”

It was a blind shot. My hunch worked. The result was an evasive answer from a man whose confidence took a dent.

“Should I be her husband? That gal came to me. Don’t suppose her to be a woman from the barracks. You will get a sound beating.”

He was telling me she was not a wanton woman that roam about police barracks. I wanted to give him a taste of what his threats. But with better sense prevailing, I said,

“Oy, Ramana! It is clear that you are a number one fool. Malleswari is a woman of character. I am leaving you without doing harm only for her sake. Better you know about me. I am a magistrate. Never in your life can you get into a bus. Listen. I did not come here to dally with her. I came here for a pious cause. Understand? Get lost!”

The harshness of my voice sounded strange to my own self. But, having been convinced of my opinion about people and their behaviour, I was pleased and thought I could count myself one amongst the social scientists. I started my scooter. There was a lingering concern that I should perhaps have informed Malleswari about this.

Maybe, I was not too convinced about the character of Malleswari whom I defended so strongly. That’s why neither I turned the scooter towards her nor did I remember her during training.

*

I visited my aunt on my way back. I did not want to bore her with my training matters. So I briefed her about the happenings at Visakhapatnam and how I tried to attend to her five-Fridays vow.

When she blessed me saying, “You are so innocent at heart Chinna! If you have developed faith and devotion, it is only because of the blessings of Goddess Kanaka Mahalakshmi,” I felt sure Malleswari did not break the continuity. And as for my elder cousin, what could I speak of her delight! She was happy to get an employed groom who did not insist on dowry. Marriage was to be performed soon. It’s nothing short of dreams coming true!

I reported for duty on Friday. As I was feeling happy that with the last instalment that evening was a culmination of fulfilling my aunt’s vow, Ramana and Malleswari flashed in my memory. Suddenly and I felt guilty to delegate that responsibility to such an unscrupulous woman. I wondered why I could not see through her intentions when she returned my purse.

Setting aside all my apprehensions, I got ready to go to the temple taking bath afresh in the evening. I took a rickshaw to the temple. Malleswari’s shop bore a desolate look. The person was also not there. I bought the necessary ingredients from the neighboring shopkeeper who was keenly watching me. I paid my oblation to the goddess with due confession and seeking forgiveness for the lapses.

Malleswari was standing in front of me. There were two halves of a coconut almost smelling foul and a half a rupee coin in her hands. She looked an incarnation of grief and her eyes were teeming with tears ready to break the barrier any moment.

“Babu! I looked for you in the morning. I know you will come any way in the evening. I fulfilled your vow without break.”

“What happened?” I asked her. It was then I noticed she donned a light-color saree. Her beauty was not without… it was manifesting from within. I was so overwhelmed with pity, gratitude and passion that I was tempted to embrace that unlettered girl and reassure her. But can I do so in public?

“Get into the rickshaw,” I asked her as the street lights were put on. She got in without any hesitation.

“Did you take your lunch?’ I asked.

She turned her head indicating she did not.

Sitting in the restaurant cabin on the first floor, and holding the reins of my emotions I enquired,

“Malli! Do you have any schooling?”

She looked at me bewildered and said,

“I studied up to class nine.”

“Then why do you speak like an unlettered person?”

“Babu! Do you know the kind of people I live among? If I show any superiority on that count, do you think my life will be safe?”

Very pragmatic and undecorated fact.

“Then why did you entertain such a mean fellow like Ramana?”

The way she looked at me conveyed that she pitied my innocence.

“Babu! Many creepers grow in the forest. If there is no support of a tree or stump for them to entwine, they will be mercilessly stomped and trampled by every beast and bovine. Without Ramana, my life would become wretched. Will this world allow a woman to live on her own? Babu! This is a wild … wild… forest.”

She stopped eating and started crying.

I understood Malleswari too had her own convictions about people and their behaviour.

“Why are you weeping?” I asked.

“She was thrown into a jail Babu! When he was selling tickets in black-market at the theatres, I restrained him. When he was picking pockets, I fought with him and stopped. I reasoned him out to run our business with dignity. He will agree to everything. But, no sooner the day turns to night, devil seizes him. He runs away to play “Matka”. Without playing that game he will not be at peace.  They caught him red-handed the other day thieving along with others near harbor. He is such a timid fellow that cannot do such things on his own. Only the bad company has encouraged him.”

“If he is really timid, how could he dare to challenge me that day?”

As if she wanted to explain me an esoteric truth, she pulled her chair forward.

“Babu! I came to know about that. I chided him. I censured him. When I speak with other men…” she paused…

“Yes, I can understand. He gets jealous.”

“Whatever it is. He doesn’t like anybody speaking ill of me.”

I tried to assess the situation she was in.

“Malli! You sold out all your ware and spent for Ramana. Isn’t it?”

She kept mum.

After a while she said, “I thought I could bail him out. But it did not work out.”

“Do one thing. Don’t you think you need to take care of yourself?”

“Babu! I trusted you will come to my rescue. Goddess Kanaka Mahalaksmi never failed me.”

I pulled out three notes from my purse.

“How much it costs to start your business all over again?”

She made some calculations and said, “one hundred and fifty rupees, Babu!”

I gave her the money. And added, “I make enquiries how to bail out Ramana. I can inform you the progress only after two days.”

As I was about to leave, she stopped me and said, “Didn’t he brag about that he was from Burma and an evacuee?”

“Yes.”

“But it was all a white lie. He was conceited. He comes from a small village near Vizianagaram. I am from Anakapalle. We eloped in the style of cinemas.”

“And yet, you did not stop seeing cinemas.”

“What can we do?” 

She answered the root-cause of all problems, helplessness, in a matter-of-fact way.

“I changed to light colors on your advice.”

I noticed it before. Amidst all her engulfing grief and helplessness, she did not lose hope of life. Can I cultivate that urge? Never.

Unable to say anything in return, I said, “I don’t like you speaking in that slang.”

*

I got my promotion and with it my transfer. I had a week’s time to report at the new place. And my sister’s marriage was few days thereafter.

*

I was busy for the next three days. Malleswari was attending to her business as usual when I went there. She tried to give me a coconut.

“Let me come to it later. But first listen. I arranged for Ramana’s bail. But he will get two months sentence for sure. Go to this address. The pleader will identify you. They release Ramana on bail either tomorrow or the day after. Put him under your control at least from now on.”

She was awe-struck. “You… you…” she was searching for words to say something.

“I got my transfer and I am leaving.”

Taking coconut from her, I expressed my lingering doubt, “by the way, he will not run away during bail period. Isn’t it?”

Perhaps she was trying to regroup herself to speak, she answered standing in the shade of the pillar,

“No, Babu! He cannot leave me!”

“Good! Bye!”

“But Babu, shall I return your money by money order?”

“You can do it later. Not now.  Besides, I may turn up at Visakhapatnam in future.”

I did not look back.

Possibly, she might not have understood the import of my words. Yet, I was happy for what I did.

*

Next day, I booked my scooter by railway parcel and reached my room very late. Malleswari was sitting at the doorstep. It was late in the night. Almost ten o’ clock.

“What happened? Did they release Ramana on bail?”

“They said they would release him tomorrow afternoon.”

As I entered the room, she followed me.

“Why did you trouble yourself coming all the way to inform this? And that too, at this late hour?”

“Babu! How much did you pay to the lawyer?”

“Don’t bother about it. Take a rickshaw and go home. It is late already.”

She did not leave. She was standing. She donned a light blue sari and the jasmines in her tresses were wafting sweet scents around.

“I want to sleep here tonight.” She said in her natural sonorous tone looking at me. She was looking at me through the silence. She was manifesting her beauty under the electrical lights. It was a prolonged silence where I was recovering myself.

“You wanted to repay your debt with your youth. Isn’t it?” I asked.

She did not reply.

“You owe me nothing. There was no debt or obligation between us. In fact, it is us who are beholden to people like you. Malli! I am not sure if you can understand what I say. But, ours is an irredeemable debt. It grows with interest every day. When did I take you to the hotel? Yesterday or the day before? I would have brought you to my room thinking mean of you. But your view of life, and your trust in me reopened my eyes. You taught me a great moral, standing on the high pedestal of a Guru! Please come. Let me arrange a safe passage home!”

As she tried to touch my feet before getting into a rickshaw, I refrained her.

“Don’t you allow me even to pay my respects? Goddess Kanaka Mahalakshmi put me to a severe test.  It is you who passed the test, not me!”

They did not sound cinematic. They touched my ears like the subtle ripplings from a grief-stricken heart. 

Rickshaw-puller intervened saying, “the days when due respect was accorded to elders were gone. There is nothing wrong in her paying respects to you. Let her!”

The rickshaw melted into the night leaving the silence behind.

I left Visakhapatnam soon.

But, how can I forget the Visakhapatnam Kanaka Mahalakshmi who restored my pride of being a human being!

Never! Never ever!    

*

Munipalle Raju

(16th Mar 1925 – 24th Feb 2018)

Telugu, Indian

First Published Swati (June 1987)

Hallucination… Wahed, Telugu Poet 

Before I met you

Everything was so unnatural.

And, “Two Two’s” were just Four!  

 

 

I met you

‘Two Two’s ‘ had become Two Lakhs. 

I could understand the logic behind Maths. 

And my feet floated in the seventh Heaven

Even Darkness had appeared in its splendid Spectral hues.

The Rosebud-Heart blossomed.

And the fatigued life

Comforted under the shades of eyelids

And the yearning Jasmine-looks

Wafted their incense all around.

I could get you.

Again, like the ox of an oil ghanni 

‘Two Two’s are Four’ started ringing in my mind.

 

My feet were firm on the ground;

The sky was beyond my reach.

While blood streams through my veins

It fails to swell in my eyes as tears

Nor burns sweating through my pores.

.

 

Abd Wahed.

 

Telugu Poet

From “Dhuli Chettu” Anthology

 

 

Abd Wahed
Photo Courtesy: Abd Wahed

 

 

హాల్యూసినేషన్

 

నిన్ను కలవకముందు

అంతా కృత్రిమమే

రెండురెళ్ళు నాలుగే

నువ్వు కలిసావు

రెండు రెళ్ళు రెండు లక్షలయిపోయాయి

లెక్కలు బుర్రకెక్కాయి

నేల ఆకాశాన్ని తాకింది

చీకటి సప్తవర్ణాల్లో మెరిసింది.

గుండె గులాబీ పూచింది

కనురెప్పనీడలో

ప్రాణం సేదదీరింది.

కనుచూపుల సన్నజాజులు

హాయిపరిమళాలు పరిచాయి

నువ్వు నాకు దక్కావు

బుర్రలో మళ్ళీ

రెండురెళ్ళు నాలుగే తిరుగుతుంది గానుగెద్దులా.

 

నేల నేలమీదే ఉంది, ఆకాశం అందడం లేదు.

రక్తం శరీరంలో ప్రవహిస్తానంటోందేకాని

కంటినీరుగా ఉబకటంలేదు

వంటి చమటగా మండడం లేదు.

.

వాహెద్

 

ధూళిచెట్టునుండి

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