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. 



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.


Like the deciduous leaf

To keep its promise to the Fall,

One can drop down dead


With untiring faith on the Earth.


Ravi Verelly

Telugu, Indian




నాకు ఆప్తమిత్రుడే కావొచ్చు


పగిలి దారిస్తాడన్న

నమ్మకం లేదు.


నాకు బ్రతుకునేర్పిన గురువే కావొచ్చు


ఎప్పటికీ తోడుంటాడన్న

భరోసా లేదు.


శిశిరానికిచ్చిన  మాటకోసం

చెట్టు చెయ్యిని విడిచిన ఆకులా,

భూమ్మిదున్న భరోసాతో


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.



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.




(చక్రాల వెంటక సుబ్బు మహేశ్వర్‍)




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




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?”


“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?”


“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





నిన్ను కలవకముందు

అంతా కృత్రిమమే

రెండురెళ్ళు నాలుగే

నువ్వు కలిసావు

రెండు రెళ్ళు రెండు లక్షలయిపోయాయి

లెక్కలు బుర్రకెక్కాయి

నేల ఆకాశాన్ని తాకింది

చీకటి సప్తవర్ణాల్లో మెరిసింది.

గుండె గులాబీ పూచింది


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.





A Small Chest… Vijay Chandra Rokkam, Telugu Poet

Long long ago
I stashed
a star
in a small chest
And in my
heart’s glasscase
my mother’s

In my childhood
the extra digit
of my last brother

the tooth, recovered
from the accident site,
of Venkatarao…
our male servant
in my childhood.

A sapphire-studded
ring my mother
bought me in an exhibition

A cowry I gleaned
on the sands of Gopalapuram
seashore know not when

A glass globule
I played with
my street friends
in the military lines.

The notes of Kalman
rendered by the Maulana
from Bhapur Bazaar Masjid.

The sound of hammer
as father tried to bend
the galvanized iron sheet

Oh! I collected a lot more.
But now the chest is restive.
Did it fledge, by any chance?
Vijay Chandra Rokkam

Telugu Poet, Berhampur


చాలాకాలం క్రిందట
కుంకుమ భరిణలో
నక్షత్రం ఒకటి
మనస్సు సీసాలో
తల్లి అశ్రువొకటి

మా ఆఖరితమ్ముడి

బాల్యంలో ఎత్తుకుతిప్పిన
ప్రమాదంలో చనిపోతే
రోడ్డుమీద దొరికిన

ఎగ్జిబిషన్ లో
అమ్మ కొనిచ్చిన
నీలిపొడి ఉంగరమొకటి

ఎప్పుడో గోపాలపురం
దొరికిన గవ్వ ఒకటి

మిలట్రీ లైనులో
గోళీకాయ ఒకటి

భాపూర్ బజార్
మస్జీద్ లో
మౌలానా అరిచే
కల్మాన్ స్వరమొకటి

రేకును వంచుతూ
సుత్తి శబ్దం ఒకటి

చాలా చాలా దాచాను.
ఇప్పుడు భరణి కదులుతోంది

తెలుగు కవి

Make Your Voice Count… Abd Wahed, Telugu, Indian Poet

The foot falls of a black ant

On the black marble

On an Ebony night

Is too faint to hear.

The sound of the canon

Aimed at the heart of a city

Of, course is better audible.

The explosive sound of a bomb

That annihilates the innocent people

Is of a moderate pitch.

The unleashed agony of the head

Separating from torso on the gallows

Is of a higher order.

The cursive sound of the letters

On a white paper

Is considerably high.

The thumping of the heart

Of an injured Poet

Is of a higher order.

The collective cries of

Crows and common Swallows

Is of the highest order.

The ruffle of scared pigeons

Unnerves us more than the

The twang of a hunter’s bowstring.

Once you make your voice count

Even the guts of an arrow shall shake.


Wahed Abd



From “Dhuuli Chettu” Anthology

Abd Wahed
Photo Courtesy: Abd Wahed

గొంతు విప్పు                                                  



నల్ల చీమ అడుగుల సవ్వడి

చాలా చిన్నది.

నగరం గుండెలపై

పేలే ఫిరంగి చప్పుడు

కాస్త పెద్దదే

అమాయకజనాన్ని హతమార్చే

బాంబు పేలుడు శబ్దం

ఇంకొంచెం పెద్దది


విరిగిన మెడచేసే ఆర్తనాదం

ఇంకా పెద్దది.

తెల్లని కాగితంపై

పరుగెత్తే అక్షరాల చప్పుడు

చాలా పెద్దది

గాయపడిన కవి

గుండె చప్పుడు

అన్నింటికన్నా పెద్దది

గోలచేసి అరిచే కాకులు


ఇంకా పెద్దది.

వేటగాడి వింటితాడు చేసే ధ్వనికన్నా

పిట్టలరెక్కల చప్పుడు

గుండెలవిసేలా చేస్తుంది

గొంతు విప్పడం నేర్చుకుంటే

బాణం కూడా భయపడుతుంది.



ధూళిచెట్టు కవితా సంకలనం

Placebo… Vakati Panduranaga Rao, Telugu


Vakati Panduranga Rao (1934- 1999)

“Six- Four, game, set and match to Manohar!” announced Rayman who acted as Umpire.

“Congrats Manohar! That was a good game,” Ravindra conveyed his appreciation shaking Manohar’s hand.

Accepting his greeting he complained, ‘Somehow, you are not your self today. Otherwise, will you let me win so easily?”

They packed their Tennis racquets.

Ravindra was Hospital Superintendent at St. Bernard. Manohar was Collector, Customs. Rayman was Captain of a ship and had come to Madras on vacation.

After the match, all of them sat leisurely in the Tennis Club lawns and sipping tea.

The sky was turning grey slowly. Neon lamps lighted suddenly as if they were coming out of a reverie. The Club boy was busy roaming all around and supplying things demanded by members.

“Yes, I don’t know why, but your focus was not on the game today,” reiterated Manohar.

“Some nice new nurse?” winked Rayman mischievously.

“No. No. My friend is a Rishyasrunga,” defended Manohar.

“Who is he?” asked Rayman.

After Manohar recounted the story of Rishyasrunga, all of them had a hearty laughter.

“Then Dr. Ravindra! You must follow me to east. You must stay for a week in Bangkok… then …”

“Is Bangkok such a catalyst?” interrupted Manohar.

There you find a dozen catalysts in every building. The beauties there can transform a Rishyasrunga to Vatsayana in one night…”

“Why? Your eastern voyage is exclusive to Ravi or there is room for this poor Customs fellow?”

“What a question! Don’t the Customs people and Captains on the sea have extended relations for lives?” said Rayman.

“So you both collude to leave me alone,” spoke Ravindra at last.

“No. No. In a city like Bangkok a doctor never goes out of demand.”

The three laughed heartily once again having understood the pun.

“But once my friend takes up a case, nothing can distract his attention…” said Manohar browsing through the pages of the magazine on the table.

“Is he doing any research?”

“Nothing like that. During my stay for six years in states, I developed passion for reading books, magazines and journals relating to medical subjects. That habit is continuing. That’s all! I ruminate about what I read and try to put into practice as far as possible.  I am not doing any research as such.”

“Research is exactly what you do!”

“No. No.  Research is a kind of deep meditation. A state of unwavering yogic trance. The enzyme or the bacteria you are searching for becomes the divine and oblivious to the world around, all your attention in thought, word and deed should be diverted towards that. For such an inquirer his lab becomes the Naimisha Forest.  I don’t stand a chance….” Replied Ravindra looking deep into the horizon with a desperate air.

A Seagull passed them by with a squawk.

With his attention diverted, Manohar remarked, “My god! When you have reached Naimisha from Bangkok that means you have completed one circle.  But forget about it. Look here. This makes a very interesting reading. He started reading from the interview of Björn Borg published in Time magazine: ‘Borg says: once I step into the court and start playing, a kind of overwhelming confidence seizes me saying… so long as I am there how could anybody win? I am the superman in the court. I must be there where the ball lands… and suddenly a new idea flashes in my mind… and I play a very unconventional shot that was not there in the copybook.  People may get bewildered. But it seems so natural to me. As the idea in the brain traverses through hand and meets the ball, there is nothing comparable to the rhythm. That is my empire.  My writ rules there. My shot cannot miss its aim. It is a kind of dreamy state. A blissful state…”

Manohar took a break and said, “We care to read these words just because the person who spoke them was a dexterous Arjuna of the Tennis world. Had they been uttered by any other mortal, we would just brush them aside dubbing them as the prattle of a pervert.”

“So true! It is hard to believe.” Said Rayman.

Ravi said, “If somebody on the top of a hill hails there is a village on the other side, it is quite natural for the man at the foot of the hill this side to scoff at him saying, “You mean a village? On that side of the hill? You want me to believe? Don’t take me for a fool”.  But, Manohar, Borg is no mean mortal.  He was a Yogi, who started his career at a tender age of 15, and left no Himalayan peak in Tennis world unconquered planting his flag of authority. It is beyond our imagination what kind of devotion, unswerving determination and uncompromising practice.  Just read further, you will come to know.”

“You are correct. All through the year, Borg practices a minimum of 4 hours each day without fail.  Once he wanted to bring a slight change in his service.  They say, he practiced hat small change for two hours every day for two weeks.” Manohar read out from the magazine.

“Because he had such kind of devotion, his body could translate into action what his mind has planned about.  Didn’t our people say ‘wherever the mind hovers, the world follows suit?’  Borg has proved those very words hat world walks the way your mind thinks.  In a way, this proves the ‘bio-feedback system’ in medicine,” Ravi was going on.

Boy interrupted him and said, “Sir! There is a phone call for you.”

He went in to answer the call.


“Ravi! Are you still at the club?”

“Yes. Are you feeling better now?”

“Fine.  I thought of going out somewhere if you turn up early.”

“It is already past seven. There is an important case at the hospital. After tha…”

“Is it the same Mrs. Khambatta?”

“Yes dear! Her condition continues to be critical.”


“Hello! Hello Meena!”

“I am here only…. Where can I go? After all?”

“There again. No.  You should not get into depression… switch on TV… In another half-an-hour there is a program by your favorite singer Janaki.”

“I liked your suggestion Ravi!”


“Like Janaki in Asoka Garden I will be here; and songs of Janaki shall keep me company… very appropriate!”

“Then Mrs. Janaki! Then, am I Sri Ram or Ravan?”

“I suppose you are only Sri Ram. Even if you are a Ravan, it is OK with me.”

“What do you mean Meena?”

“I say, it is important to have love for Sita. Had he not, Ravan would not have taken her away.”

“Agreed. I will be there by 8.30. OK?”


By the time he returned taking the call, Rayman and Manohar also got up to leave. Within the next five minutes the three cars had started.

An old model Austin car of Dr. Ravi stopped at the hospital portico.

“Good evening Dr.!”

Bowing his head in response to the greeting of the Anglo-Indian nurse at the reception, he went upstairs to his room. He searched under M in the Index of the filing system for a case file.

He got it.

“Malini Khambatta… admission: 26th July…” That means 28 days had passed since she was admitted.

Ravi was going through the history of the case…


Malini Khambatta.

34 years of age. ED of a shipping co.

Her husband is a Squadron Leader undergoing training in Russia now. Her 12 years son is studying in Doon Public School.

She came to Delhi from Bombay only 2 weeks before admission. After holding consultations with government she visited Tokyo. From there she dashed to Singapore to settle the issue when the staff of a stranded ship of theirs went on strike. From there she had been to Colombo. As she got down at Madras airport she had slight fever. As night progressed she developed acute body ache. By next morning she had a peculiar sensation of her fingers.

She joined the hospital at 8 am. They conducted some preliminary clinical tests and started palliative treatment. By the fifth day she developed difficulty in moving her neck, fingers hands, and legs. Her ESR was found to be over 80.  Within the next three days it crossed 115.  Her movements gradually became difficult. She started developing lesions under the skin.

He conducted all possible tests on her. Discussed   the case with fellow experts. They found it hard to diagnose it. Ultimately, they noticed that the Collagen, which binds the cells of various tissues with one another got poisoned.  And it has reached the tissue in the backbone. Consequently, all the body tissues are disintegrating into millions and millions of cell pieces. After two-days of prolonged discussions they decided it was Ankylosing Spondylitis . And the unanimous opinion of the experts was that it was impossible for her to get out of it.

Ravi consented to their opinion but was not wholly convinced.

He locked himself alone for five to six hours and seriously brooded over that.


That evening sitting beside Malini’s bed and said, “Listen to me Mrs. Malini!  Pay attention to what I am about to say.  You are well educated, knowledgeable and have seen the world. So treating you as my friend I want to put facts before you…” He gave a brief about her disease. “Statistics say that the chances of survival for people afflicted with this disease is one in five hundred.  I don’t care about the other for hundred and ninety nine people.  I want you to be that one off chance and back to normalcy attending to your routine. But, here is the challenge. I cannot do alone nor can medicines alone bring about the turnaround. Your cooperation is absolutely necessary. At no point of time you show signs of despair.” He paused looking into her face for reactions.

She was ears to what he was saying. Ravi continued…

“You have a long life ahead. There are many things you have to achieve. You must be determined to achieve them all. And I should convince me. Then together we can raise a war cry against the disease.”

She smiled. Though she had to struggle to say what she did, she did not relent.

“Doctor! I could bring a turnaround within three years in the loss-ridden shipping company. I could shut up the mouths of people who doubted my ability pointing out my gender. There is a project at hand.  Our country is far behind in container shipping. I have dreams to diversify my company into it and serve the nation. Even if I were confined to this bed, take it from me, I am going do it…”

Ravi raised his eyebrows in surprise. She continued…

“Last year I joined as a student under Ustad Hafiz Khan to learn Sitar. It is my dream to give at least one solo concert within the next four years.  That is a promise I made to Amar. Amar is my husband. I keep my promise. When I have such a promising life ahead, be that I have a one in five hundred chance, when I get the support of a doctor like you, I will certainly come out  of this abyss taking the support of your hand.” There was a glow of hope in her eyes and as she lifted her hand with all effort to indicate her will, Ravi took her hand and said, “That’s what self-confidence is! We have already won half-the –battle.  From tomorrow we are going to start a new treatment.”

That night Ravi did not go home.

“Will this adventurous attempt succeed?  Can I achieve what I wanted?  Can she with sheer self-confidence and I with the support of bare minimum of medicines regenerate her interior body parts which are ready to crumble to pieces any moment? Will all his assurances reduce to empty promises?”

This very common challenge every honest doctor faces in his life, stood before him assuming global proportions!

Before this body, every inch of which looks an endless stream of wonders so long as it works smoothly, years of study and decades of experience comes no nought and will be silenced once there occurs a small error in its rhythm. Is it its dismissal “Huh, what do you know after all?” or a warning that “there is a lot you should learn still”?

Be that the bio-chemistry prepares umpteen formulaic preparations, no body resembles another. We cannot say with certainty that for the same disease, the same medicine works identically on two bodies.  Even in such an enigmatic state, if medicines seem to work, perhaps it is not medicines alone that cure! There is something incomprehensible that helps the cure!

For classification sake all species of mangoes come under Mangifera Indica. But each of them has its own unique taste. So is the body, each with its own character no matter it resembles every other in broad design, shape and matter.

Yaramita vanamalinaa sakhii!” (Confidante! She who consummates with Vanamali…!) is one of the most popular Octrains that swelled from the pen of Jayadeva. When Balamurali renders, it would expound the angst behind, when Ghantasala renders it would be holistic and sweet, and while Bhanumati renders it, the melody would kindle a sweat twinge. Where lies the difference? What do you call it?  Personal identity!

There it is! There lies the secret!

It was like epiphany! The truth he randomly witnessed on different occasions elsewhere seemed to have taken form to appear before him.

He started reading the research medical journals more thoroughly. He went through the latest issue of “Lancet”, “Chemical and Biological Interact”.  He had earlier studied Walter Bradford Cannon of “Wisdom of the Body” fame, René Dubos, Blackwell, Arthur K Shapiro, but today their research, experiments and works seemed converging one end. Today when he reread them, he was seized with inexplicable inspiration. In that lone insulated meditative state he had the revelation of Placebo.

Placebo was a mystic divine damsel Mohini holding the pot of Nectar in her hand.

That which is, yet it is not, is Placebo; that which is a myth but makes its presence felt is Placebo.

If the commonest of the commoners Peri becomes a king, it is Placebo.

Placebo means “I will please” in Latin.

Placebo is an imitation medicine.

If you can manufacture a sugar tablet which looks exactly like the medicinal tablet, it is placebo.

When the patient asks for a medicine repeatedly, the medicine administered to just please him (not that it cures his disease) is placebo. Normally, in the experimental stage of a new medicine on trial, doctors give placebo.

When Ravi was in US, he read the articles and speeches of Arthur K Shapiro, Henry K. Beecher, and Louis Lasagna on Placebo Effect. They wrote that placebos not only look like real medicines, but also act like them.

But in the present state, it seemed that if mind is the fulcrum of the body, the force that conjuncts the two is placebo. It explained body is different from the mind. Placebo is the elixir that transforms the strong desire of the patient ‘to live’ into life-giving medicine and presents it to the body.

With renewed vigor Ravi got up.

He explained to the duty doctor what he should do and instructed him to keep everything ready by nine next day.

He left for home.

Wall clock showed it was 4 am.

Before stretching out he looked at the bottle on the table. It was Gardenal!

Meenakshi might be suffering from sleeplessness. But he advised her not to use Gardenal.

Poor Meenakshi! Because of her heart trouble she took long leave from her college. He was not able to spend more time with her. Their daughter Vijaya studying medicine also looked busy with her studies, games, picnics and other activities and with her friends and did not have time for her mother.

As Meenakshi turned aside in her sleep, the vermillion on her forehead glistened red even in that scarce lighting. He kissed her on her forehead and eased on his bed.

He was fast asleep.

“Malini! You are great! Let us unite and defeat…”

Meenakshi got up from her sleep with alarm. Ravi was saying something in his sleep.

“When did he come home? When she called the hospital in the evening the duty nurse answered that he instructed them not to disturb him even if there was a call from home.

“What’s that work? Why he chants the name of Malini? What is the nature of their ‘union?’ Who do they want to defeat?”

As the tranquilizing effect of the medicine ceased, Meenakshi got suspicious and angry.

After ten minutes, it was Ravi’s turn to get up agitated.

Ravi gave injection to Meenakshi who was wriggling with chest pain. He took her into his lap and explained her everything. She heard him patiently.

“But he was not like this. He had treated so many women patients before but he never talked in sleep like this. What does it all mean? What’s happening to Ravi?

“Am I losing my attraction after having entered forties? Is there a vacuum growing because of my ill-health? Or that both of them are unable to cope up with their darling daughter Vijaya taking off to wings having come off age? Am I losing Ravi because I was seriously engaged in my teaching and college administration work, until three months before?  Or with nothing else to do, am I demanding from Ravi more than before when I was busy with my own life?”

He took her in his lap and gently caressed her locks and cheeks with fingers filled with love, compassion and concern. But that could not alleviate her pain, and the physical closeness was in stark contrast to how far she felt aloof from him.

Everything he said just remained empty words.

After a while her pain ceased and slowly slipped into sleep.

Ravi felt like a bird endowed with wings but restrained to take off. He was overwhelmed with compassion for Meenakshi but felt helpless. He caressed her locks, as wavering as her mind, once again and set her properly on the bed.  He called out the hospital and asked for a nurse to be sent home.  He got up.

“For the first time Meenakshi complained of burning sensation in her stomach. She never had such complaint before. What new complication is up for challenge?” he thought as he completed his shaving and bath. The coking maid did not turn up.  He made a bread toast for himself and put some coffee in flask for Meenakshi.

He reached hospital by nine.

He visited Malini’s room.  She greeted him with a smile, like a lightning amidst clouds.

He greeted her back with a “Good morning,” and turning towards duty doctor asked, “Is everything ready?”

“Yes, Sir!” he replied.

“Then let them bring the medicine here.”  Duty doctor went out to bring the material Ravi asked for.

“Maliniji! The journey begins… I am now going to administer you a medicine that has never been used before. Besides this, I will put on an intravenous drip. While one attacks the disease, the other gives additional strength to the body. Together they should drive off your pain forever.”

The duty doctor and the nurse returned. Ravi gave Malini injection and put on the drip.  Then sitting beside Malini’s bed he said,

“You remember what I told you the other day?  Your body constitution took a beating because of undergoing extreme stress. It is time for you relax absolutely.  You should keep a happy disposition by keep smiling and reading funny, humorous and amusing stories. You may read Wodehouse, Herriot, James Thurber, James Thorne Smith Jr., etc.  All these books are available with Sister Mary Kutty.  She will read them to you for one or two hours daily.  I will send you some collections of Jokes. Every evening you should recount the best joke you read or heard. OK?”

She expressed her consent with her eyes.

He came out of her room. As he was about to enter his room he was reminded of the Tyagaraja Kriti, “For the great man who has control over his mind, of what use are the mantras and machinations?”. And he laughed within himself rationalizing “if it is that easy for everybody to control his mind, who will remember you and us, Swamy Tyagaraja!!!”

After completing his rounds and attending to other work, he visited Malini again.  She was blissfully asleep needing no sleeping pill. He immediately got the ESR tested. It was down by 9 points. In a matter of 4 hours the direction of the disease had taken definite turn.  Is the enemy beating the retreat?

He reached home.

Meenakshi was awake.

Nurse went out after seeing him.

“How are you darling?” She laughed sorrowfully.

“Do you have pain still?”

“I don’t think so. But it is dull.”

“May be it’s the side effect of the medicine. Let me get you some invigorating soup.”

He went into the kitchen and asked the maid to prepare a soup to his prescription, and brought it to her.

“Ravi! Take your dinner first…”

“You take the soup first.  I take my meal only after that.  After that the King and the Queen shall sit together and review the world situation… that is the agenda tonight…”

Meenakshi laughed.

He returned within fifteen minutes finishing off his meal.

“What’s this? You did not take even half of the soup?” he asked.

“Enough Ravi! Thank you!”

He looked at her enquiringly with his eyes as if asking “why this ‘formal’ conversation?”

Meenakshi was looking out of the window. The sky was overcast. A faint sun-less luminescence.

After five minutes she uttered, “Ravi! I want to join duty.”

“Meena!  Your heart rate has not stabilized.  You may not be able to stand the stress of teaching, administration and meetings…”

She nodded her head in disagreement and said, “No Ravi! I am unable to put up with this stress of sitting idly.  Routine is the best shield for my unrest. So, shall I join duties from Monday?”

Thinking for a while Ravi said weighing his words, “As a doctor, I can see the merit of your argument. But as a husband, I cannot accept your request Meena!”

She laughed but there was no life in it.

He waited for her to say something. But when she did not say anything for a while, he said “Come on Meena! You wanted to say something. Get it off your chest. That is good for your health.”



“You said that ‘as a husband I don’t allow you to go.” It was so pleasant to hear. As your wife I ask you one thing. Do you agree?”

“Tell me,”

“Come on. Let us go to Kulu or Manali for one week.  Can you come?”


“Tell me Ravi! Shall we?”

Ravi did not say anything for two minutes. It was raining outside.

“I know Ravi! You want to come.  But you have a compelling work. If you leave that, you won’t be peaceful even in Heaven.  I don’t blame you for that.  But that is also the case with me.  My work needs me and I need my work as badly.”

“What you said is true, Meena. But, I think it is not fair.”

“No, Ravi.  You can’t abandon your work for my sake.  And leaving my work, I can’t sit in front of you idly for what you are going to say.  We have passed that romantic age.  It is quite natural that each of us try to find a meaning for our lives. There is no need to feel guilty about it.”

“But Meena! There are two things here… The first thing is that my asking you not to join duties is not for my sake but keeping in view your health. I love to spend eons with you. What I say now is not for myself.  And the second thing… our streams of life have been flowing merged for over twenty five years. But why is this Sahara all of a sudden?  Why is this very dry logic?”

“When the magic of life has vanished, all that is left is only logic, Ravi!  Besides, I am a history Professor. I can only speak dry words, not any damp or moist words. When I made a matter-of-fact statement, you felt it like that.”

“Meena!”…  He took her into his arms. But he felt, it would have been better if she had taken him into hers.

…No… There was no response in the two bodies.

The rain stopped outside.  The clouds cleared.  But there is no trace of dawn.


Four weeks passed in the same vein. Meenakshi joined duty. But surprisingly she called him when he was at the Tennis Club.

“It’s fine even if he were a Ravana, but enough if he had love for her…” that’s what she said. What did he, then, do or not do?

As he was browsing through the case sheet, duty doctor had arrived.

“How is Malini?” he asked.

“She is able to sit up on her own, sir!”

“Good! I visit her during the rounds,” he noted his observations on the case sheet before filing.

In the last four weeks Malini’s health had improved beyond expectations. ESR had almost come to normal. Placebo had really worked wonders. Within three weeks she was relieved of all her knee pains. She was able to sit up with some minor support.  In another four to five weeks she should be able to walk on her own. That would mean he had got an answer for a teething problem.

Has mind control over body?  Now, he would be able to give a positive answer with supporting proof. He has to consolidate all his trials and results and write a detailed Paper for the journal.

He entered her room.

“Hello doctor!” Malini greeted him first.

“How are you Mrs. Malini?”

“Very fine. Am I the successful one of the one-in-five hundred odds?”

“Yes.  You have proved it. What is that? A letter from Amar?” he asked.  He remembered her entreaty not to disclose her condition to her husband.

“Yes… the same routine stuff… that Vodka is nauseating.  By the way, when can I get up and walk, doctor?”

“Whenever you feel you can. Whenever you feel motivated to walk.”

“Is it?” he eyes widened in surprise. “Then let me get off this throne tomorrow itself,” she mimed a queenly posture.

“Who is there?” Ravi extended the mime with a clap of hands as if calling somebody at the door.

They both laughed.

“By the way, shall I recount today’s joke?  This is vintage wit… of Charles Dickens. A male character created by Dickens says like this to others: ‘look here boys!  I always follow my wife’s advice on all matters related to home.  She has that sharp wit.  But, I refuse to admit it in her presence.  You ask me why? It’s a matter of discipline!  Don’t you think there must be discipline at home? For that!’”

He joined her laughter.

“The acronym MCP was created exactly for such people. Isn’t it?”

“She looked at him questioningly what MCP meant.

“Male Chauvinistic Pig”

She laughed again.

“Doctor! Doctor!!  Yesterday I received a surprise post.”

“What’s that?”

“My Ustadji sent a cassette of his rendering of Rag Jaijavanti.  That’s just divine! You must hear it when you can find time. That is not Sitar at play… just a replay of Cosmic Dance of Shiva by Parijata flowers… an overwhelming rain of stars…

As she was speaking vivaciously Ravi thought within… Like a bird hopping from one branch to another, how many dreams, and how many goals has she! She will certainly regain complete health. Move around and would achieve what she wanted.  She would live a fruitful life of hundred years. That is the power of the mind!

Following night Ravi asked Meenakshi “About one month back you proposed to me going to Kulu. Shall we go there next week?”

“Sorry dear! Just two weeks passed since I took a long leave. It does not look nice if I go on one-week leave again. That too, being a Principal…”

Ravi nodded his head.  Life takes very strange turns… In Greek Drama … they call it Nemesis… he recalled.

That was full moon day of Sravana month.

Ravi who went out to attend a meeting in the morning, reached hospital by noon.

Staff nurse informed him that Mrs. Malini had enquired for him many times.

“I see.”

Apprehensive of some complication cropping up he went into her room with acute concern.  She was quite normal.  The vermillion in the furrow of her hairline was shining bright. She got down the bed and approached him putting her steps steadily.

When she said, “Doctor Brother! Today is Rakhi Poornima.  I am waiting to tie this Rakhi to you since morning…” she was really surprised. He held out his right fore arm.

She tied the Rakhi. She tried to touch his feet for his blessing and since she was not in full control of her body she staggered. He lent support preventing her falling down.  Malini put her hand on Ravi’s shoulder for support. And as she was walking towards her bed gasping for breath…

Exactly at that moment…

Meenakshi made a terrible shriek “R…A…V…I…!”

Ravi looked back. He saw Meenakshi desperately trying to take table for support before collapsing to the ground.

Needing Ravi’s signature on a joint account Meenakshi hurried to hospital in her car from college and not finding him in his room, she came searching for him in the ward.


Ravi was dozing in the sofa outside the ICU, struggling to keep awake.

A milk van stopped on the street outside making a lot of noise.  It shook off his sleep. He looked at the watch.  It was 5.52.  He peeped into the ICU and looked enquiringly towards nurse about Meenakshi. Her looks conveyed her condition was steady. Another 24 hours should pass.

He returned to his place and watched out through the window. Milk van was leaving. There was an artificial pond in the foreyard. The lotuses which shone bright under the full moon last night looked wan and shriveled. He looked towards the orient sky. There was a spray of crimson on the eastern horizon. Sun was readying to appear.

On the other side of the road, at the tea stall, “Suukti Muktavali” (Pearls of wisdom) commenced. He could hear clearly:

“One begets the results from Mantra (holy hymn), Tirtha (holy water), astrologer, doctor, and guru commensurate with the opinion you hold about them.”

Yes. He has to consult another specialist. When she cannot hold respect for him as a person, how could she hold respect for him as a doctor?  More than his personal feelings or his failure as a doctor, her life is more valuable.

For her to survive, her cooperation was imperative. That was fundamental.

He walked into his room and dialed Dr. Agarwal.

Elsewhere in the hospital, an attendant nurse was writing a letter to Amar as Malini was dictating her.


RS Krishna Moorthy & NS Murty

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