THE PLEASURE OF SHOPPING

THE PLEASURE OF SHOPPING

Ever since I saw, the advertisement that read ‘shop like a man’ my mind was not at rest. At first, the wordings tickled my funny bones.

What is it to shop like a man? If the word ‘man’ is replaced with its female counterpart, then it really makes sense. For in my house women did most of the shopping. When I was very young, I found myself assisting my mother by carrying for her bag loads of items she purchased in the weekends. Then when I grew up and got married, my wife took up the responsibility.  My father very rarely did the shopping and during my regime as head of the family, I strictly adhered to the policy of my father – “Man for making money and women for spending them.” In my neighbourhood too men sacrificed the pleasure of shopping to women. And so, the slogan ‘shop like a man’ began to play poser to me.

On second thoughts, I found a venue opening up before my mind’s eye. How can one find the truth of the matter, unless one plunges headlong into it? Hence, I decided to go for shopping to find out for myself how to shop like a man. Deepavali came as a good excuse for doing the shopping.

On a Saturday morning  I wore a costly white dhoti and a minister white shirt half-sleeves, slipped my legs into a pair of leather chappals, put on my reebok dark glasses and said, “see you, dear” to my wife.

“Hmm..Hmm…m…Inaugurating a literary association? Or delivering a talk in a book release function?” my wife asked.

“For shopping,” I said and started my car. She looked at me as if I were from another world for she could not believe her ears. Her only suspicion was why her husband should put on the best meant for attending functions when he wanted to go for shopping. She did not know that I wanted to shop like a man. And this is the only sort of dress that modern women have spared to men. God knows when they would snatch this too away and call it the latest in the market for women.

Driving a car in the town is a real adventure. “If you successfully drive in Pondicherry, you can drive anywhere in the world”, people say.  Even if you succeed, finding a place to park your car is like finding the mythological unicorn.

I was lucky enough to find a place in Nehru Street just opposite to a mall in which I make use of the ATM services of my bank. A push of the button and I was rich. The moment I found my shirt pocket bulging with currency notes, all of Rs. 1000 denomination, my gait had completely changed. I moved out of the ATM centre, puffing out my chest. May be, this is yet another aspect of ‘Shopping like a man’.

My next questions were what am I to shop and what shop to choose. Festivals remind us of new clothes. I decided to buy clothes for the entire family, comprising five grown-ups and two kids. That means I should shop in three places—Men’s Wear, Women’s Apparel and kids dress. It is not that I do not know that all these items are available in just one shop especially in Pondicherry, where tycoons from various parts of India are spreading their tentacles to do business. However, I felt that no man, worthy the name, would ever enter a small shop and so I searched for the biggest. In Nehru Street, almost every shop selling clothes is as big as a palace and so I chose one to do the shopping. I found a milling crowd inside and so stepped back. I tried with a second, third and fourth, and found that every shop was crowded.

I had no other option but to elbow my way in. That too befits a man, I said to myself, as I somehow managed to gain entry into the kids wear section.

I know, as a man, the children have to be satisfied first. Further, they will be happy with whatever dress material we choose and will not disappoint us with questions of a sad order.

Wow! What a wide variety! How to choose from an ocean, as the sellers call their shops? I never had experienced such a tough time in my life. Yet with great difficulty, I managed to select the best for my grand children.

Winged Time flew fast. When the goods were billed, I was so tired and exhausted. I felt a pinching in my stomach. I looked at my watch. It showed 2.30 p.m.

My God! Have I skipped my lunch? I am accustomed to taking my lunch exactly at 12.30 p.m. on all working days.

My fingers began to shiver as usual for they spoke on behalf of my empty stomach.

To navigate my way in the crowded city to reach my home some 7 kms away would take me another hour. Why should not I eat out?

I entered a nearby restaurant that boasted of multi-cuisines. I eagerly entered. I was honoured with a token. My token showed the number 77. “Token number 70 is having his lunch, Sir. You will have to wait for five to seven minutes”, someone said. I agreed.

How many seven minutes passed I did not know. Someone woke me up and said, “You can go in and have your lunch, Sir.” I realized that hunger has subsided and sleep had hugged me.

When I came out of the restaurant, after eating for the sake of eating, I said to myself— Oh! This shopping is for women. They are really patience incarnate.

P. RAJA

BE INDIAN STUDY INDIAN

BE INDIAN, STUDY INDIAN

P. RAJA

There was a time when educated Indians wishing to show off their knowledge of the English language began writing about the English countryside. Their purpose was also to reach a wider audience.

A politician poet too began to use the English language as her mode of expression. She wrote about the meadows, lawns and woods of the English countryside. She also wrote about the cuckoo, giving passing references to English myths and legends. Before she could gain complete confidence over her way of writing, an Englishman gave a rap on her head and said, “Write about the things you are familiar with”. Those words played a turning point in her poetic career. She began to write about bangle sellers and palanquin bearers. By writing about such topics she was familiar with she was able to introduce India to Indians and also to the outsiders, for her chosen medium was an international language.

The politician poet was Mrs. Sarojini Naidu. And the Englishman was Sir Edmund Gosse. Had not Mr. Gosse interfered at the right moment, Sarojini Naidu like many others would have concentrated on a different culture and would have talked more about daffodils and oaks, that we poor Indians have never seen in our lifetime. In fact, Edmund Gosse paved way for a writing that can be called truly Indian Writing in English.

Both in school and college, our students hear a lot in their classrooms about coniferous forest and Iceland, Napoleon Bonaparte and Hitler, Plato and Aristotle. Very rarely they are taught about our Chirapunji rainfalls and Tanjore Temple, Akbar and Raja Raja Chola, and Swami Vivekananda and Ramana Maharishi.

Literature is something that one sees, feels and experiences as one reads. A poem like the ‘Lotus’ (Toru Dutt), a short story like the ‘Sparrows’ (K. A. Abbas), a novel like ‘A Tiger at Twilight’ (Manoj Das), an essay like the ‘Reluctant Guru’ (R.K.Narayan) can be easily and quickly understood by the teacher because the subject matter the Indian authors deal with are outright Indian and is embedded in their psyche. No wonder that he reads between the lines easily and quickly to grasp the meaning of the work and therefore interprets and imparts to the students who are also interested in knowing more about the familiar seen differently.

Most British, American and Irish authors prescribed by Indian Universities in their syllabi are understood, of course, with great difficulty by our students. This is also to say that teachers too try to understand such authors with the available bazaar notes, whose low standard would make any genuine scholar shy away from them. Vice-Chancellors of Universities invariably talk of the deteriorating standards of students and helpless teachers. Instead, a second thought on such mud-slinging would help Vice-Chancellors wake up to healthy situations. There is no use of simply hollering ‘Be Indian. Buy Indian.’ We should stick to that slogan we rave and recite if we want to be truly Indian. ‘Stick to our culture’ should be made a new slogan in our university campuses.

Indian writing in English has already made a mark round the globe. Shakespeare and Hardy, Shaw and Joyce, Mark Twain and James Thurber hereafter should take a back seat and watch the Indians writing in English move to the front row.

Diaspora Indian writers cry over their own problems, problems they brought on themselves by running away from their Motherland and so let them face the music and have their problems to themselves. Let them not struggle to transfer their headaches and bellyaches on to our students, who are yet to decide as to where they should start their life after college.

These days the best of awards go to Indian writing in English and the time is not very far when foreigners would stop saying, ‘India can boast of only one writer, Rabindranath Tagore, to bag the Nobel Prize for literature.

Recognition for Indian Writing in English has started coming from different corners of the globe. But it has to come from its home too.

 

Dr. P.Raja

88, Poincare Street,

Olandai-Keerapalayam,

Pondicherry-605 004

rajbusybee@gmail.com

cell: 9443617124

 

THE FUN LOVER

Short Story                                                                                                             

THE FUN LOVER

P. RAJA

(D-88, Poincare Street, Olandai-Keerapalayam, Puducherry-605 004. Cell:09443617124, e-mail: rajbusybee@gmail.com)

On a sultry afternoon, when all my family members left for a nearby temple to participate in the fun and fanfare of the festivities there, I was left alone in my house with my toddler grandson.

Like me, my grandson has taken a liking neither for the temple nor for the stone gods installed there. Neither his mother nor his grandmother, to whom he was very much attached, could ever cajole him into visiting places of worship.

For a long time, my son too strictly followed my ideals and shunned from going to temples. God knows what really happened…a dramatic change took place after his marriage. He stopped loitering around and began visiting places of worship with his wife.

I am like my father and no amount of advice from my pious better half had ever helped me in changing my views about temples and stone gods. Only the Lord in the firmament knows when my grandson would abandon his grandpa’s ideals and stick to his grandma’s.

Before I start this story, I must introduce the hero to you. He is the very same fellow, left under my care in the loneliness of the house. I registered his name as Ramana when he was born in a private hospital though very rarely others call him by that name. He has several names to his credit, all of them coined by the witnesses of his mischief. And he himself, perhaps confused with the different names he was called by, would give different names at different times when he was asked: “What is your name, child?”

Ramana’s favourites are cell phones. Almost everyone in my family has one or two cell phones to call his or her own. The child is quite familiar with all the brand names of our cell phones and so he would answer “My name is Nokia,” other times he would say, “I am Samsung,” sometimes he would club two brand names and coin one on his own, and say, “My name is LG Motorola” or Blackberry Lava,” thereby putting everyone to peals of laughter.

Ramana knows not only the several brand names of cells but also the ways of handling them. At times, he would send empty messages to friends who will call back to know what that empty message was meant for. He would press buttons of his choice and call people. And when he hears a response from the other aside, he would either howl into the machine and put the one at the receiving end to fright or sing the nursery rhymes he had learnt by heart and give a concert to the listener and carry him to dizzy heights. Sometimes he would simply keep mum and drive the listener to the verge of madness. After a while, he would put it into the refrigerator and run away to play.

Those who accidentally see the cell in that unwanted place would rush to its rescue, smiling at the mischief of the child. “Thank god, the freezer is too high for him to reach,” they would mumble and hand it over to its owner.

The double-door refrigerator served as a ‘safe’ for Ramana, and he kept only the valuables there. Sometimes we came across his playthings like tiny cars, spinning tops, half-chewed chocolates, etc. We rarely disturbed them for we were happy to know that the child was learning the value of things.

Once when I was in a hurry to go out to keep an appointment with a writer, someone handed over my house tax bill and said that the tax should be paid within fifteen days from the date mentioned. I handed it over to my wife, standing at the gate to see me off and said, “Keep it safe.”

Ramana seated on my wife’s hip – that was the seat he highly preferred for where could he find such a cozy seat – perhaps understood the value of the demand from the government.

A week or so later, when I asked for the bill, my wife became panicky for she forgot its whereabouts. A bickering ensued and a little later, Ramana prattled “Hai! Hai!” perhaps with the intention of putting an end to our quarrel and dragged his grandma to the refrigerator. He then opened the bottom door and told her to pull out the vegetable container at the bottom tray.

We were all smiles when we saw the house tax bill resting there. But poor thing! It got completely soaked. With great care, we took it out and dried it up in the sun. Thank god, we got the bill but the details of the amount to be paid were smudged and hard to decipher.

How I was looked down upon and jeered at by the cashier in the Municipality would make another interesting story. But I would better stop here and go ahead with the story I want to tell you.

Stretching myself and relaxing in the sofa, I was watching my favourite Animal Planet channel. Ramana was resting his head in the crook of my arm, his wee body close to my chest and his one leg on my tummy; he was meddling with my Blackberry, a present from my second son settled in Canada.

After a while, Ramana fed up with the digital game he was playing, gave the machine to me and said that he wanted to listen to music and songs. I switched on the FM radio and handed it over to him in order to keep him cool and away from his monkey business.

A half-hour would have passed. I was engrossed in the life and style of Amazon women they were showing on the channel. Ramana was deep asleep. I released the Blackberry from his sleeping hands and switched off the radio.

I do not know when I dozed off. Is sleep contagious? I was startled out of sleep, when my landline screamed.

I rushed to know who the caller was.

The moment I said ‘hello’ into the receiver, I heard my wife banging me from the other end.

“How many times did I call you over your cell? Where the hell have you disappeared? Is Ramana alright? Is he troubling you? I don’t think that we will be able to reach home before dark. The temple is overcrowded and we have not yet seen the Lord. To wriggle our way out through this milling crowd would be far from easy. Feed the child if he complains of hunger. All that you have to do is to boil the milk kept on the oven. Don’t forget to add a little sugar. Give him biscuits if he asks. Biscuits are in the tin kept in the kitchen cupboard. If you have to go out, take Ramana along with you. Don’t forget to handover the door key to that talkative old lady in the opposite house. Don’t forget to take your cell phone with you, when you go out.”

I heaved a sigh of relief, when she disconnected her cell phone.

My eyes began to search for my Blackberry. I couldn’t find it anywhere. And the sleeping child was also missing.

“Where the hell has this child gone along with my cell phone?” I asked myself and called out his name.

There was absolutely no response. I entered one room after another. He was not to be seen anywhere. Neither was my Blackberry.

I began to bellow out his name Ramana…Ramana…Ramana…There was no response.

I was sure that the fellow had not moved out of the house for the main door remained bolted. I rushed to the backyard of the house, entered the loo and then the bathroom. He was not found anywhere there.

Something in me said that he was involved in a bigger mischief, for he was a shrewd organizer of such things. The only place I had not yet searched for him was my study.

Yes! Ramana was there. I found him preoccupied with a big fat book. “Hei! What are you doing here?” I asked.

He smiled and said, “I am busy. Don’t disturb.” He simply aped what I used to tell him when he entered my study.

As I went nearer to him, I found that he had already pulled out a few pages of a dictionary and had torn them to shreds.

Wild with rage, I pulled out the dictionary from him, only to find out that all the pages under ‘A’ had gone and that he had started tearing the pages under ‘B’.

There was no use in howling at the child. For if he began to howl back, nothing on earth could stop him.

“You shouldn’t have done this,” I said to him showing the shreds that covered the floor, all the time maintaining my unusual calm.

Ramana continued with the work and said, “Don’t disturb. I am busy.”

I had no other option, but to okay his work. I had lost several books from my library to rats, squirrels and moths. So why not a few to a lovable biped?

“When will you be free, Sir?” I asked in all humility, with my arms across my chest and my body bent forward.

“Why?” Ramana asked, without even taking away his eyes from the book he was butchering.

I said, “Sir! I need my cell phone. Where have you kept it? Give it back to me and I will leave you to your serious work.”

“Oh! Your Blackberry? It’s safe thatha,” said he.

The word ‘safe’ reminded me of Ramana’s safest world – the refrigerator. From my study, I shuffled my way to the kitchen. I opened the big door and then the small one above…ransacked the whole machine. But there was no trace of my poor Blackberry.

I made my hunt for my Blackberry in all the favourite haunts of Ramana in the house. It was nowhere to be found.

My creative brain hit upon an idea. Why should not I try to wake up my slumbering Blackberry through my landline? Immediately I dialled my cell number. For a few seconds, there was only a beep…beep…beep response…And then a mellifluous voice said, “The cell phone number you are trying to reach is currently switched off.”

My God! Now the job of finding my cell phone has become all the more difficult. And the only one rescuer I could think of was Ramana.

I rushed back to my study. Ramana was busily engaged in shredding every page of the dictionary. My writing desk and the floor were cluttered with the broken parts of many of my pens that adorned the desk. Many of them do not write and that is another story; all the handiwork of Ramana.

“Ramana, dear! Where is my cell phone?” I cooed.

“Ramana gave an innocent look and then continued with his work. Perhaps he thought why this old man wanted to get the answer again, when he had already given it.

“Ramana, my little darling! Where did you put my cell phone? Blackberry! Blackberry?”

“Blackberry is safe thatha.” He said without even shifting his eyes from the mutilated dictionary.”

“Yes, my child! I know Blackberry is safe. But where did you keep it? It is not there in the refrigerator. And I can’t find it anywhere. Will you please help? I have to give a call to someone very urgently.”

“Who is it, thatha?” Ramana asked.

“You do not know him. Please help,” I held his chin and coaxed him.

Ramana shook his head as if he wanted to say he would not budge from the place, since I was going to give a call to someone he was not familiar with.

“Come on, Ramana! Please, please,” I said and showered his face with kisses.

Ramana smiled and said, “I will show you where it is, provided you help me in tearing this book.”

“Sure! Sure! I will give you another fat book to tear. But now help me out in getting my Blackberry,” I pleaded.

Ramana again shook his head and said, “Only after finishing my work.”

I had no other way but to help him in tearing the dictionary. It took another half-hour to tear page after page and then shred it.

The work was over. That was what I thought. But Ramana gave me the hard cover of the dictionary and motioned me to tear it. I put all my strength to action and with great difficulty managed to tear the hardboard into several bits.

Ramana clapped his hands in appreciation of my muscle power put to proper use. He let out a guffaw. I knew its meaning: “Rats too would not have done such a clean job of it.”

He then held my hand and dragged me to the kitchen.

“It’s not there in the refrigerator!” I said.

“Yes! It’s not there…I know where it is… It’s safe,” so saying he dragged me further and stood near the kitchen sink. “Here,” he said.

“Where?” I asked with all curiosity.

“Here… inside this,” he said pointing at a big bucket of dirty water.

My heart began to beat faster than ever.

“Is my Blackberry in this bucket of swill?” I asked.

“Yes, thatha! The Blackberry stopped singing songs to me. And so I punished it by throwing into this bucket.”

I titled the bucket to its left and emptied it. The little fellow, with his arms akimbo, was looking at the flowing dirty water.

“Ah! There it is,” he cried, “Ah! There it is…I told you, you know, it is safe,” Ramana said in glee.

Yes! My blackberry was safe, drenched to its sim. Without losing a second, I pulled my Blackberry out, shook off the dirty water….

“Why did you do this?” I howled at Ramana. The animal in me came up.

“It stopped singing me songs. It became useless,” he said, his eyes brimming with fear.

I remember to have told him that all useless things should go into the bucket. I never knew that he would follow every syllable of my advice.

The animal in me looked daggers at the child.

“Thatha,” Ramana called, expressing genuine fear. “Will you give me the second big fat book?” he asked.

“What for?” I asked gritting my teeth.

“To tear,” said the child laughing at the ugliness of my face.

The animal in me disappeared and the god came up.

Feb. 09, 2013.

BEARDLESS DAYS

 

Short Story                                                                                                           By P. Raja

 

 

 

BEARDLESS DAYS

 

Behind every beard, there is a story. Blessed are women.

Like a hunter in the thick of the forest searching with his vigilant eyes for a beast of prey, I have hunted down successfully many wild stories lurking behind the wilderness of beards. Pepper beard, salt and pepper beard and salt beard are real delicacies for the storyteller’s mind.

 

Most of the stories I heard from bearded men are sad and weird. The longer the beard, the sadder is the story it tells.

 

This is not to say that only beards can tell stories. Do not be surprised if I tell you the story of a beardless chin. Remember I said ‘beardless’ and not ‘shaven’ chin.

 

Stories told in first person singular are definitely appealing and I have read and enjoyed several such stories from the pens of master storytellers from several parts of the globe. Only Goddess Saraswathi and her vehicle know whether these stories really happened to those writers. That is not my concern here.

 

Having said all these in the way of a preamble let me rush now to tell you the story of a beardless chin.

 

I was seventeen when I finished school and joined aGovt.ArtsCollegeto study further. I gained admission in a Pre-University class, which in turn would fetch me a seat in a degree course of my choice after a year.

 

I was poor in mathematics. Not a day passed in school without me being graced by the cane of a dhoti and bush-coat clad teacher who found delight in seeing youngsters wriggle in pain. Since I scored above average marks in the school final exam – God does miracles – I was asked to go to the first of the three groups, meant for the pre-university class students.

 

The first group offered Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry for main subjects. Since the course was offered to me without my asking for it, I happily and readily joined. The joy did not last longer than expected. It was all due to the compulsion created by the higher-ups who believed that extra-curricular activities were necessary for beginners.

 

After a week or so, a senior student from the Naval Wing read out a list of the proposed candidates for naval force.

 

I became quite jubilant. I had a fascination for pure white clothes and the Naval Wing had only white uniforms. Beret, socks, shoes were also in white…

 

“Enjoy the pleasure of riding the seas”, I said to myself. I was already sailing an imaginary ship. And when I anchored the ship and reached the land of reality, I found that one more item was waiting for my benefit. That was swimming.

 

I was an adept at swimming inside a broad well in my village. In fact, it was the place where my playmates taught me the art of swimming. I swam with fish and non-poisonous water snakes. But I never tried this art in a lake nearby my house for fear that the woodcutters and farmers working in the woods and fields would report the matter to my father who with a wag of his finger cautioned me almost everyday. Now I would swim in the seven seas and to the delight of my father, I would get a certificate at the end of the course.

 

I was really overwhelmed by the benefits listed out but the senior… boori Kizhangu and tea at the end of the parade everyday and the amount that would be given as washing allowance at the end of the week were real attractions.

 

“Above all you are trained to guard the Nation’s seas and oceans,” said the senior before he left. That was the only point that went over my head.

 

That did not matter.

 

The next day the enlisted ‘sailors’ were asked to fall in a single file. Height, weight, chest measurements, this test and that test… wow! I was selected. My dreams became colourful.

 

Two days later, we were given uniforms with the strict instruction that before we are on parade we should stand before the life-size mirror and ask ourselves, “Am I Smart?”

 

I was Smart. My father appreciated my courage. But my mother began to shed tears for fear of losing me to the Nation and the ocean.

 

“Hei! Shut up! By joining, the Naval Wing this fellow is not going to be sent on a war ship to fight battles and conquer countries. This is part of the game the Institution plays… You don’t have to feel for this”. My father consoled my mother.

 

My mother was not ready to believe him in this matter, though she believed him in toto in all other matters.

 

My father and I kept quiet knowing that she would not stop shedding tears till she decided to do so.

 

Minutes later she dried her eyes and cheeks with the hem of her sari, inhaled the air a bit noisily and said, “Whatever is destined will happen.”

“Good! It all happens for the good,” concluded my father.

 

The date and time was fixed for the first parade. That was three days away. I was on cloud nine. In my over-enthusiasm, I looked out for a senior and asked him, “Excuse me, Sir! The first parade will take place on land or on sea?”

 

The senior sneered at me. I was confused. I tried my doubt with a couple of other seniors. One went away laughing behind his sleeves. But the other answered with a sardonic grin: “Oh! You don’t know? The first parade will take place inside the sea.”

 

“Sir! My knowledge of the Naval Wing is next to nothing. Please tell me what I should understand by your words, ‘inside the sea’?” I pleaded with the senior.

 

“Inside the sea! Oh! You don’t know. Now listen, ‘inside the sea’ means ‘inside the sea’…” replied the senior in all humility.

 

“You mean in the depth of the sea’, Sir!” I asked with a stupid grin on my face.

 

“Yes! That’s right,” he said and moved away from my sight.

 

As soon as I reached home after college I put on the uniform, stood before the mirror, asked myself ‘Are you Smart?’ and got the answer, “Yes! You are smart”. I posed before my mother who started admiring my looks. Before I changed to my usual lungi and sleeveless banian, I saluted my image in the mirror. In fact, I was proud of myself.

 

The first parade, to my disappointment, took place on an untidy and unkempt ground inside the college campus.

 

Before the start of the drill, the Lieutenant in command scrutinized every one of us, as if he were doing it under a microscope. He was satisfied with our appearance. Then he gave a short talk in his stentorian voice: “Our next parade will be fifteen days hence. It will take place on our seashore behind the statue of Mahatma Gandhi. Black leather shoes for the land parade and white canvas shoes for the sea.”

 

His talk made me happy beyond words and the word ‘sea’ took me to dizzy heights.

 

“I repeat,” continued the Lieutenant, “the next parade will happen after the fifteenth day. You are given such a long time because you should sport an anchor beard, along with your well-trimmed drooping moustaches. If you can’t grow a beard within this period, then come to the parade with a clean shaven face… No beard…Then no moustache”.

 

His lost few words came like a bolt from the blue.

 

I sported a fine moustache like my father. But I was not sure of my beard. I took a close look at my chin with the help of a mirror and I could count the hairs there. And each hair seemed to be estranged from the other. What should I do?

 

My hunt for advice began. Some suggested that I should apply coconut oil to my cheeks and chin. This I should do quite often and see that my face is continuously oily. A little bottle of coconut oil became my constant companion.

 

A friend of mine who already had a thick growth of hair on his chin and cheeks advised me to shave myself daily. I shaved myself twice a day. Thanks to my father’s razors.

 

Thirteen days rolled by. But for several cuts and bruises all over my face, nothing miraculous happened. My disappointment was beyond words.

 

Since I could find no picture of any Hindu God sporting a beard, I prayed before a picture of Jesus Christ, himself praying on a mountain. Oh, what a fine beard he had! If only I could grow such a beard, I would certainly command respect. Looks matter very much. But my prayers didn’t yield any fruit.

 

The day fixed for the second parade on the seashore came. But no new hair came up in my face. “No beard… no moustache.” the Lieutenant’s words kept reverberating in my ears.

 

I had no other go but shave off my lovely moustache. The mirror said: “You look horrible”. I turned my face away from the view of the mirror. I was in tears.

 

I searched for my mother for a second opinion. I found her in the backyard of the house, sweeping aside the dead leaves in our little garden.

 

Hiding my upper-lip with the palm of my right hand, I stood before her. She was engrossed in her work.

 

“Amma!” I attracted her attention, and said, “Tell me frankly about my looks now.”

 

I lowered my hand with a jerk. My upper lip came into full view.

 

My mother, as if shocked to the core raved. “You brat! What have you done to your moustache?” Then in a fit of fury, she began to thrash me all over with the broom she had in her hand, all the time howling. “Will you do it ever again? Will you do it ever again?”

 

I was trying to dodge her blows but she was such an adept at wielding the broom that I couldn’t escape any of them. I ran from tree to tree, but she chased me like a hound and continued with her thrashings and howling.

 

My father, sensing danger, came rushing to the spot.

 

“Stop it…” he howled at my mother. “How dare you do this to a grown-up boy?”

 

My mother threw the broom to one corner of the garden, and said pointing her finger to my upper lip, “Look at what he has done… He has killed you.”

 

I was taken aback.

 

My father came nearer to me. He looked daggers at me and then slapped me twice on both my cheeks, and then gave a punch to my chin.

 

“Never again do this to your face, till I die; we are Kshatriyas,” my father said and left the scene.

 

My dream of the ocean and the Nation shattered, I stood deep-rooted to the earth. My tear glands swelled but no tear trickled out.

 

 

# # # # # # #

Dr.P.Raja

88,Poincare St,

Olandai-Keerapalayam

Pondicherry-605 004

cell: 9443617124

e-mail: rajbusybee@gmail.com

website: www.professorraja.com

NIGHT MARE

Short story

by P.Raja

NIGHT MARE

Bartruhari banged his head against a nearby stone pillar as a mark of helplessness.

On second thoughts he asked himself, “Why should I punish myself?”

Seconds later, he mumbled, “These lecherous rats… Huh! They deserve corporal punishment for their lusty act…”

Something in him said, “Who knows? You may be at fault. Who ever knows who is at fault unless one is prepared to probe into the matter?”

He stood still like a statue, in the dark, watching two silhouettes making a beast of two backs. He was sure of the woman’s voice. That was his wife’s… the right royal queen’s. And the man’s voice. He was not sure. That was a certainly a man in the royal stable.

The stable keeper! The stable keeper’s assistant! The stable watch! The stable cleaner! The stable feeder! He was not quite sure. But certainly a man from the royal stable.

“Oh! My mare! My mare! What a wonderful body you have my lovely mare!” Bartruhari heard the man tell the queen, who was naked to the skin.

“My king! My king! I am all yours. Allow your sturdy hands to move over every bit of my territory, which is all yours,” Bartruhari heard his queen tell the stableman who was also naked but for his headgear.

Bartruhari’s nerves burned as an upshot of his royal blood running very hot. His hand quickly reached for the hilt of his sharp sword. It was the very same sword that had feasted on the blood and flesh of his enemies who obstructed his path of progress. How many heads of warriors it had rolled off their bodies in all these years!

As he was about to draw the sword, something in him said, “Who ever knows who is at fault unless one is prepared to probe into the matter?” He withdrew his hand as if he had touched live coal. He folded his hands against his chest, as if his hands were tied with an invisible rope. He kept his eyes and ears open.

“What if the king sees us now, while, we make love?” said the stableman in a hushed voice as the tip of his tongue began to slide down to her earlobe.

“Ha! Great! Don’t ever make any mention of the king paralyzed in his loins,” the queen snorted and slapping him familiarly upon his rump, she giggled.

The stableman winced before he began to make his attempts to draw the first of the several breathless cries from her throat.

“Paralysed in the loins!” King Bartruhari expressed his doubt by a gesture of surprise. “I have lost count of beauties in my harem… Must be in thousands. My enemies too envy me and call me a connoisseur of fair sex. But this queen of mine…Who ever knows who is at fault unless one is prepared to probe into the matter?”

The queen slightly turned her voluptuous body to offer the stableman a full view of those twin ornaments. They were full, rotund, meaty bubbling with youth. They looked like good grenadiers at attention.

They caught Bartruhari’s eyes too. “Spiked helmets – spikes standing up like pointed thimbles,” the king said in glee as if he were seeing them for the first time. He heaved a sigh.

“Wah! Wah! What are these? Horse horns! Horse horns! A rarity indeed.” The stableman whispered. “They make me dizzy,” so saying he rested his dizzy head on the soft buxom pillows.

After a moment, he lowered himself to such a position as to be able to plant a solid kiss upon those juicy jugs and mammoth melons which were so receptive that the queen could not suppress a cry of pleasure at the emotion his tongue provoked as he began an assiduous probing.

As the stableman’s eager and brisk hands began to move over the queen’s limbs and breasts with natured grace and instinctive fervour Bartruhari shut his eyes tightly.

Realization dawned upon him. Thanks to his enquiring mind. In spite of the innumerable beauties in his harem that was under his service for all the twenty-four hours, he was the most inexperienced lover.

A couple of hot tears trickled out of his closed eyes, and soon disappeared into his well-trimmed beard.

“The vast number of minutes that you take every morning to trim your beard…Ho! Ho! Ho! Had you spent half of those minutes with the queen every night in her bed… Ha! Ha! Ha!…”

The voice he heard was shaky as if disguised. It came quite nearby. He allowed his eyes to roam but in the dark his eyes were powerless. Hence he wanted his ears to be attentive, that he might recognize the voice.

There was a long silence after those words.

As if to break the frightening silence, there was laughter in the air, a lax, spangled, spiralling laughter. “Is the queen more beautiful than those charming beauties brought home as booty from many conquered lands?”

The voice he heard was quite youthful and vigorous, as if disguised. It too came from quite a nearby quarter. Bartruhari felt a shrinking of his whole body. He felt it would be futile to search for the black cat in a pitch dark alley. He was sure that he was confronting with himself. He had no other go but to stand still and listen to the arguments and counter-arguments of his soul. He smiled so swiftly that he was not even certain it had been a smile.

“Aren’t inner chaos secret volcanoes in search of a fissure through which to explode?” Bartruhari reopened his eyes to find his queen lean over the stableman and joyously impaling herself on the man’s sensual mast.

“Wah! Wah! Nothing like a ride on a man of one’s choice. A hundred or so husbands cannot equal a stallion like you,” the queen said in delight.

“I know all the trickeries in this war of love,” the stableman’s voice was higher and thinner.

“Trickeries in this war of love… Ha! Ha..Ha! How many of these you are familiar with?” The king heard the shaky voice again.

Bartruhari turned his head slightly and allowed his chin to rest on his left shoulder. But quickly his chin switched over to his right when the youthful voice came from that direction: “Women are very much offended if you are not always ready and in the mood to play the romantic lover.”

“You were in the queen’s bed only when you were not in a mood to go to your harem… In the queen’s bed you were a door mat…funny, fowl-smelling, dormant like an exhausted warrior. Exhausted warriors have no place by the side of woman longing for the war of love,” That was the shaky voice.

“The queen gets lost in the endless deserts of insomnia almost every night. Pity her. Your presence made no difference to her. Blessed is the man who quenches her thirst. Adore him.” That was the youthful voice.

Bartruhari was startled by the appearance of a young man at his left who exactly resembled himself. It took no time for him to realize that he had been confronted with himself.

“Tired, my lady?” The stableman’s voice distracted Bartruhari and brought him to the world of reality.

The queen, her eyes still closed, cooed: “I felt a warm joy permeate my entire body. It never before happened in my life. You have awakened the woman in me. I can’t understand why I have not met you before.”

She kissed the stableman with gratitude. She caressed his arm, kissing the nook between the elbows, the shoulders. “The beauty of your arm is exactly like that of your body. If I didn’t know your body I would want it, just from seeing the shape of your arm.” She fondly looked at his arm as if everything she had experienced were but ordeals and this the shelter, the place of happiness.

King Bartruhari envied the man who had charmed his queen. He saw both of them drying their bodies with each other’s clothes.

“Moon baths do not make people sweat. Yet these two are profusely sweating. That is the sign of good love making.” Bartruhari heard the shaky voice once again.

“If you ever want to be with a man who will readily make love to you, come to me. My service to you, my mare, will be kept as a secret…a secret that will become ashes with me,” the stableman said.

The queen, who had experienced the avalanches of the body’s tremors, hugged the stableman tight and planted on him kisses wherever her lips could reach. Finally she arched her body and reached for the thing that penetrated the deepest of her body and planted a long and hearty kiss.

“Think of the night the queen has done that to you, you master of men, women and children. To extract such act from a woman, all that you need is passion and patience. But you have never found these in your place, be it the palace or the harem,” said the shaky voice.

Bartruhari could see the life size image so far standing behind his shrunk inner self walk into him. He then turned to his right. The life size image of the youthful Bartruhari smiled indulgently and before he walked into him said: “Women are what they are. You have to believe them. They are chaste to their chosen man. They can’t help being faithful to themselves…to their feelings.”

King Bartruhari’s mind began to wander between two worlds: one—the world of his queen’s feelings; two—the world of internal truth.

His mind began to oscillate like a pendulum, gathering momentum at each swing…faster…faster…and faster.

And as if the pendulum stopped all on a sudden, his mind began to be at peace with himself. Perhaps Truth, the funniest joke in the world, dawned upon him.

He turned back and found no life size image of himself standing anywhere near.

“Truth should be silent”, King Bartruhari said to himself, and began walking back to the palace. It was not mad rush, but unperturbed calmness brought him wisdom.

Fathered by pain and mothered by love, wisdom taught him the art of seeing all other’s faults and feel his own.

Bartruhari turned wise in time. By dawn he donned a saffron robe. In the place of his crown,  a saffron headgear. His body has disowned all pieces of silver and gold that were hanging on to him till yester night.

He had no sword or sabre for a sanyasi needs neither of them.

Bartruhari began to trot out of the palace.

“Who is it in the palace at this hour?” The voice was quite familiar to Bartruhari.

He stopped and turned back. The queen’s sari was soiled and turds of pressed horse shit showed up here and there. She stank of stable.

The queen smiled and said: “I know…I know this will happen one day. I never knew this would happen so soon.”

Bartruhari spoke no word. He maintained a yogic silence.

“I am happy,” the queen said and continued, “I am happy that I am instrumental in making an emperor a sanyasi,”

“It’s not you,” retorted Bartruhari. “The credit goes to the stableman”.

The queen stared at him full and round. She turned to walk back to her empty bed.

“Wait a minute,” Bartruhari said. “When do you intend to make the stableman another sanyasi?”

#$#$#$#$#$#

P. Raja

D-88, Poincare street,

Olandai-Keerapalayam,

Pondicherry-605 004

Cell: 9443617124

e-mail: rajbusybee@gmail.com

AHALYA’S CURSE

Short Story

by P.RAJA

 

AHALYA’S CURSE

 

Before you decide to curse me, let me have your audience. Cursed be me if I fail to convince you. If you feel convinced then leave me to myself. To live with you or go with Lord Indran is my concern.

 

O Sage! You brought me up. You sincerely and whole-heartedly fulfilled the wishes of Brahma, who entrusted me with you. I am grateful to you as a daughter would to her father. You were a mother too to me, for I have learnt to distinguish between affection and love. You taught me everything that an impartial guru would to his illustrious disciple.

 

You should have stopped there, O Sage! You should have stopped there. It is out of greed you played the fourth role. It is unexpected of you. All calamities in life are caused by greed. Greed is the offspring of overconfidence. We develop this sort of confidence once we fail to understand our limitations.

 

Not knowing one’s limitations is a sin… an unpardonable one at that. You married me.

 

What if Brahma had given me as your bride? You could have easily rejected the offer had you put your common sense to use. Why do you men lose all your senses when it comes to woman?

 

Sages like you are revered everywhere. People pedestal you in their hearts and worship you. They consider you as an intermediary between God and Men. They think you are wise. Yet how shamelessly you fall for women!

 

Brahma created me. You nourished me. What are you both to me if not fathers? None of you ever seemed to have any respect for the woman in me. To both of you I should have looked like a commodity. A commodity can never have any opinion of its own. And so both of you never bothered about my wishes. And your decisions were final.

 

Brahma if asked would have given a slippery answer: where can I find for you a better being than Gowthama? You for your turn would have said: you will be safe in my hands.

 

I became your wife. Rather I was made your wife even before I could ask myself whether I liked it or not. Such a thing happens to ninety percent of women in our country. It is destined so perhaps. Or is it a curse on our motherland?

 

Brahma made you happy by advising you to marry me. You made Brahma happy by obeying him. To you he is the Guru. And Guru’s words are law. To him you are the best among Sages. He had two birds by flinging a single stone. You had two mangoes in a single shot.

 

Neither of you seemed to care a hay for me. The butcher made the eater happy. The eater made the butcher happy. But where did the lamb disappear?

 

The poor lamb has lost its identity. From lovely lamb to meat, from mutton to food, from delectable dish to faeces and from foul smelling faeces to earth again.

 

In the case of the helpless lamb, it had the satisfaction of becoming food for someone who appreciated it as it melted on one’s tongue. But me? Sage Gowthama’s wife… That’s how the world began to identify me. I was Ahalya no more. From childhood to girlhood, from girlhood to wifehood, from wifehood to motherhood, from motherhood to … Oh! The several hoods of women, they are destined to pass before they become dust with dust.

 

Brahma gave a body to my soul. He gave me to you. But you saw only the soul and ignored the body.

 

I am Brahma ‘s daughter. I am beauty incarnate. I am special to the great creator. He told me once that he made much use of sandal paste to mould my body.

 

O Sage! Have you ever looked at me at close quarters? Who in all the seven worlds has such a shapely and well-chiselled nose as mine?

 

It is the nose that speaks for the face. And mine is the most beautiful one. It is unique in its own way.

 

Have you ever noticed my eyes… my swimming eyes? What beauty in any part of the world has them?

 

Well? I am a stupid woman talking of beauty to you. All my words will sound nonsensical to you. When you can’t even see and admire my face, which is an open book, what use can there be if I speak of the hidden treasures that my father took pains to bless me with?

 

Devas and Asuras would have vied with each other to sing of my frame in glorifying terms. Poetasters too would have come out with genuine lines of pure poetry.

 

A good woman inspires a man; a brilliant one interests him; a beautiful one fascinates him; a sympathetic one gets him. I know I am all the four rolled into one. Yet I failed to get you.

 

I spent several days, months and then years in trying to know the root of my failure. Then one day I understood that it was not my failure. It dawned on me that you are not a man.

 

It was a late realization, of course. You have no feeling for me. Fine! But you have no feeling for any other woman too.

 

Perhaps you have outgrown all such human feelings, which you would call human weakness. This is one solid case in which body magnetism failed. One who has conquered all his senses can never be a man.

 

In all these years of married life, I’ve been living just like a stone, a dead wood. I doubt if you ever knew what a wretched life I was leading even when you are alive and kicking. It was a death in life existence.

 

I needed a saviour, who could look at me with lust filled eyes. This is what every woman worth her salt ever wants her man to do. It is only lust that leads to love, and never love to lust.

 

Lust is the essence of life… the only means of satisfying the biological urge. Without it there can be no creation. Brahma would have to sit idle only to be forgotten once and for all.

 

Indran, the lustful lad of the firmament, is really my prayer answered.

 

Just try to recollect what happened in the morning, a short while ago. I know you are not in that mood now. So I will do that for you.

 

The cock crowed. You woke up. You went out to take your morning bath. You never knew that you were tricked by a human voice. People call you sage. But how gullible are you?

 

I knew it. I knew it was not a roosters’ voice. I was also certain that my saviour had come.

 

A few days ago when I was half clad and bathing in the river, Indran speeding in his vehicle amidst the clouds eyed me and slowed down. I waved my hand smiling at him all the time. He too smiled back and disappeared.

 

The next day when I was bathing, I heard a voice from behind the bushy trees that said: no tongue can paint your beauty.

 

I was happy at heart. I jumped for joy. All because someone has seen me and found that I am a beauty beyond words. Neither a lexicographer nor a fertile poet can ever express in words the joy I experienced on that day at that hour.

 

I looked around and asked who is it? Indran showed up as if he were waiting for my words of  permission.

 

I smiled. My long tresses were hiding the front of my body and I didn’t make any attempt to hide them with my hands. Neither did I go down into the water. Instead I stood knee deep.

 

Indran came closer to me on the bank. His words told me that I am tall and graceful and that my magnificent hair cascades in profusion from my shapely head.

 

Beneath my arching eyebrows, I learnt only from him that my eyes like twin stars shine forth with a brilliancy only softened by long, black, curving lashes that veil them.

 

It is not that I do not know how delicately and finely my features are moulded. But when he continued I fell in love with myself. He spoke at length of the winning sweetness of my smile and certified that the tender lines of my lovely mouth personify the gentleness of my nature.

 

He was all praise for my complexion. Deliciously creamy, he said, with a transparent yet perfectly healthy texture that never wearies one’s eyes and becomes insipid.

 

He stopped awhile as I admired him and his words of praise. He stepped into the water and embraced me.

 

It was really a man’s touch, a touch I was craving for all along. He brushed my long tresses aside and I didn’t object to it. He saw the real me, unadulterated and uncivilized. He closed his eyes for a few seconds or so and heaved a sigh.

 

I reciprocated his sigh and expressed my longing for man’s touch. Why should I die a virgin and allow the worms to try my long preserved virginity?

 

My heart pounded for him. He was the first man to see my beautiful frame with nothing on it. My soul accepted him as my true husband. My body craved to consummate.

 

But the bank of the river can never be the right place to consummate. And we are not animals in heat. Above all my conscience, the inner voice, warned me that someone might be looking.

 

So I gave Indran the ruse. I told him to come well before dawn and park his vehicle away from your sight. It was I who told him to imitate a rooster at that odd hour. It was I who advised him to make the best use of this hour for consummation.

 

Oh God! Indran is a real man. He showed me the womanpower in me, which you allowed to slumber. But for Indran I would have died an untimely death. Thanks to my Lord.

You can never, O sage, brand me unchaste. I slept with only one man. I will sleep only with him. I would say I am made for him. If Indran happens to die I would love to jump into his funeral pyre.

 

Do not brand me faithless. There is no frailty in my act. And I am not perfidious.

 

So think twice before you curse me. A chaste woman like me can also curse and her curse is as good or as bad as any Sage’s.

 

Aren’t you listening?  Oh God! You are already a stone.

 

P. RAJA

D 88, Poincare St,

Olandai-Keerapalayam,

Pondicherry-605 004

Ph: (0413) 2357247

Cell: 9443617124

e-mail:rajbusybee@sify.com