A NOVEL BY
Translated into English by Latha Ramakrishnan
A NOVEL BY KA.NAA.SU
Translated into English by Latha Ramakrishnan
Even today, after very many years of all that had happened. I could find only one reason for my going to Ezekial’s mansion with Valluvan. That I could see Miriam, be near her and move closely with her, that was the only reason. Her person and the way she spoke and some of the words she uttered had a magnetic effect on me. Whether I realized that strange sensation as affection or love then, I myself was not clear about it.
Miram who welcomed us when we went to Ezekial’s mansion for the first time, could not be seen at all, afterwards. The few words that she spoke were also with Valluvan only. I just listened to them, being with Valluvan. That’s all. Those important and significant matters that Ezekial and Valluvan discussed evoked interest in me only because they were from those two and not because of anything else. I did not know then that the arrival of Jesus whom they considered important or the advent of the disciple of Jesus called Thomas would have a great impact on me and affect me in very many ways. The old gentleman felt sad that some tried hard to unsettle the age old habits and customs of his religion. Only that Valluvan felt happy at the prospect of having something a new to learn and know. That is all. I couldn’t find anything in it to feel glad or sad. Happiness or sorrow could come to me through Miriam. That’s all.
One day, when Valluvan was advising the Prince of Pallava Kingdom, Svaputhran, saying, “Dont waste the present, thinking of the Future”, I sat there listening to him. ‘What a simple but thought–provoking advise is this!– wondered myself. The future would come on in its own way. And, would be, as it would be. It can be either built by someone in some manner or built by one’s own self. It can also be compromise and adjustment to what others force upon us. Whatever that be, spending the whole of Today thinking of the Future alone... how foolish it is!
Most of the Brahmins read horoscopes to foretell the future. Mostly it is but true only that man’s destiny or course of journey is monitored and chalked out by something called planets which are moving about somewhere in the Milky – Way. Still, Valluvan would mock at the practice of depending heavily on it always, on it for death, marriage, business and journey and for many other trivial matters. As for me, I have neither faith nor disbelief in this. Seems like it can be so and it cannot be so also.
Leaving Ezekial’s mansion and after walking along the shores of the restlessly roaring sea that stood in front of the mansion for more than half – an hour, as if forgetting that Valluvan was coming along, and Valluvan too forgetting that he had also come so far in silence, asked, “Hey, what Vadhoola? What is the matter?”.
“You too didn’t say anything! And, I don’t have brains to think and say of my own, If you say something, I’ll answer,” – so I said tactfully.
Valluvan laughed, saying, “But, this meeting of the eyes do not seem to be of any help in you case. That girl is a Jew. Entirely an alien. You are a high – born citizen of our land.”
“They are rich. I’m poor.”
“That is not important. If Miriam says that she would marry you alone, Ezekial would make your rich. He has got enough wealth and magnanimity for that. But, all my worry is that your father and your people would raise great hue and cry and prevent you, and if needed, would even carry you away.”
“Do you mean that my father would object to my becoming rich?”
“None in this world sit quiet and watch a poor turning rich. That too, in you cast these ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ are more, no?”.
“May be. But I know my father. If money would come his way, he would be ready to even convert his own self into a Jew. He doesn’t seem to be having any great attachment or reverence for the tenets of Brahmanism,” said I.
“I don’t think that the hold and influence of Brahmanism would that easily give way. Also, I don’t find any of the objectives and ideals of the New Religion to be something significantly new and more powerful.” -stated Valluvan.
“All ideals are good only. All ideals are bad also. Dedication towards the ideals can be seen only in a few. Ordinary people do not have the capacity to think seriously about things called the good and the bad. They just walk along the trodden–path that they come across, this trait is commonly seen in all, be they Brahmin or non-Brahmin, amidst those who follow the ideals of Buddha or those who are like me..”
“Hear, hear! not bad I say! Vaadhoolan too has learnt to think much! Don’t know where he would go from here!” - exclaimed Valluvan and laughed innocently.
“My father say that I too, because of my association with you, am turning corrupt. Due to my constant proximity with you, a small drop of the down – pour that is your thinking power, is reaching me also. Remember what you said the other day –“
“What did I say?”.
“That, what a wonder indeed it is that surprisingly those who are inhuman are looking exactly like the humans...”
“What of it now?”.
“No. I just mentioned. I was about to say that those who are not Brahmins too look like Brahmins”
“Congrats! When I start a ‘hermit – school’ I will definitely accept you, who has begun to learn the issue this much, as principal disciple.” – said Valluvan.
“I have no wish for that. Knowledge is indeed a dangerous weapon. Sometimes it would even taste the blood of he who puts it to use. Further..”
“What else?” – asked Valluvan.
“All those who are called prime disciples are at appropriate time betraying their respective Gurus – so it seems to me.”
“Oh! well-said Vaadhoola! Well said!” – exclaimed Valluvan and continued.
“Seems like you have thought a lot over these things. That which are called Hindu religion. Paths of Life, Philosophy – the degeneration of all had started way back in the Vedic period itself. The Religion of Buddha preached by Gauthama Buddha had started to decay in a big way, even before the Theerthangas could finish what they were saying, that their ideals had begun to lose their hold and many other such things say, that the moment he is born Man takes his first step towards his close. Similarly, religions, principles, philosophies and all come into being ,carrying along with them their decay. As much unreal and unsettling our life on Earth is, so much temporal mortal those principles and philosophies that determine life.”
“What to say?” We go on proclaiming “The Truth” , he one and only truth ‘ and so on. What exactly is that Truth? According to one’s perception truth also changes. That which is for the welfare of humanity and mankind should be considered “The Truth, that which causes no good to humanity and that which is against the welfare of humanity is but falsehood.”
“Which would do good? Which would cause damage? Who knows for sure these things? They too can change according to the changing circumstances? Can’t they?”
“True, they can change. Because of this only there appear many paths, ways and religions amidst us. Instead of unity resulting out of them, chaos comes to prevail. Harmony is affected. Fights and quarrels are born..” But, for the time-being, we should put a full-stop to these enriching pondering.. for, see, there your father is coming..” said Valluvan.
“Just a moment ago we were talking of him, no? He would live well over a hundred year… What is it father? Coming in search of me? We were just talking of you only.. you will live a hundred years father!” – said I.
“Ah yes, your blessing would indeed become true,” – so saying mockingly, my father brought forth a sad expression on his face and said further. “The noble soul who gave you birth is lying in her death-bed. She asked me to bring you to her. Wherever you be... said she wouldn’t leave the world until she sees you.”
Though I feel no attachment towards my father, when it comes to my mother I am all love for her. Under no circumstance I could ever think of this world without my mother in it. Giving meals at the appropriate time without fail, uttering words of love when father scolds, speaking words of consolation, wishing to marry me off at the proper age and play with the grandchildren, tending them with care and affection…Oh, such a loving soul!.
“My friend Valluvan, not getting upset on hearing the news, said, “Nothing bad would happen. Your mother would definitely live long enough at least till your marriage. She would live even longer to see the birth of your off-springs. Go with your father without any worry”.
I know that, somehow, treatment to the patients is also a well-known subject to Valluvan. But, in our street where we the Brahmins live one cannot call him to treat my mother.
“I will come and tell you her health condition and what ails her, as soon as possible. You can give some medicinal herb,” – so saying I took leave of him and, with father following, returned home hurriedly.
While nearing my house in the Brahmin street in Mylapore agaraharam the differences between Ezekial’s mansion and my home came to my mind distinctly. That was mansion – where Mahalakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth has come to stay willingly. Can say that her elder sister alone (Moodevi, one who stands for the opposite of prosperity) resides in our house.
Father knows some sasthras. Has earned the name that he knows the art of making a living out rituals and ceremonies. He earned fairly well through such an orthodox life. But there are also those who earned more than him. My father who lived on, having as his philosophy desiring another man’s wife, pretends to be sad on his wife’s illness. That is what irritated me. He never thought of his wife. I think of her. And, because of that alone I wander, feeling restless at home....learning many things through conversing with Valluvan. I love my mother with all my heart. I have love for my father too. But, it has in it some amount of sorrow, a pain -that whether I too would turn into a replica of my father.
‘More than half of the houses located in the Agraharam are slowly decaying. They were built by our ancestors in those days when they were earning well. Mostly, as the earning of the family decline the resources to set right the damages and renovate the house become fewer. In all, there are only eighteen houses in both the rows that stood facing each other. Out of this, ten houses are going from bad to worse. Of the remaining eight houses, mine is also one. Standing slightly taller one should climb four steps to enter it. Outside, there stood two cement benches, vast and smooth – surfaced, which would invite one to lie and stretch oneself . Through the window that is seen there, only the wind can enter inside and not the light. That once belonged to that type of room called camera-room. Dark corridor. Beyond that, there lies a verandah with wooden pillars holding aloft the ceiling. After the verandah there is another one in the same fashion. Then there stood a hall, vast and wide enough to encompass the two verandahs together. At the other end stood a ‘more or less’ ten-foot tall granary. And, it would always be filled to the brim with grains. In the center of the hall would be the swing. Mother would always be sitting in it if she is well. But now, she is lying down on the ‘Visupalaga’ near to the swing.
Before seeing mother, I saw her. She was sitting there on the swing as if the owner of the house. “Oh what is this? Who has admitted her?’ I wondered. Thinking that it is indeed a surprise I enquired, “Who? Miriam?”
“Ah, yes. They brought my sister Lizzath here to treat your mother. I too came along” – said Miriam.
I know that there floats a rumour in the area that Ezekial’s second daughter Lizzath is a ‘Gifted Hand’ in curing the patients and that if she agrees to treat one and sets out to work on the patient, even the most complicated ailment would be cured. Further, I have also learnt that she would do it free of cost out of humaneness and that she would use effective medicines, not accepting money and spending from her own purse. That this girl Miriam would also accompany is something I didn’t know.
“I love to learn this art of curing other. Hence, I too would accompany her. For, I think that learning through one’s own eyes alone is mainly important.” – said she.
“Just as I come with Valluvan to learn through listening.”
“Lizzath said that there is nothing to worry regarding mother. She has gone to bring medicine” – so saying, when she tried to get up from the swing I gestured her to sit down and then went near mother, and, standing beside her, looked at her. “So, you have come Vaadhoo? Come,” – said she, weakly.
“What has happened to you mother? What is wrong? – I asked, in a tone that reflected the deep sorrow within.
“Suddenly I felt giddy. Seems like I fell down.Your father came and saw me and raised great hue and cry. Next door Kitta’s wife Parvatham carried me and after placing me on the Visup-palaga, sent her son to bring that Lizzath. That is all. When father came I sent him to bring you here. Now I am better”, said mother. .
Hearing her uttering the word “Thaevalai” (better) in her distinct style as “Thavalai” I felt light as if relieved of the tension. For, mother would always utter the word like that. I used to tease her on that account. Even when I mock at her she would defend herself saying that it was like that in her native place. Only after that, did I ask her and learnt which place she came from.
Mother’s native place was the land of the Chola kingdom. A small village near Mayavaram. When father was reciting Vedhas in vedha padasala in Mayavaram, for sixteen year old Venkataraman they gave away a nine year old girl by name Savithiri in marriage. Going from place to place in search of a job, when they came to “Kapali – Kshethra’ it coincided with my birth and so he stayed in Mylapore from then onwards, in the house built by my grandmother. Theirs was an average life with not many an ebb and flow.
‘My life should not become one like theirs, so routine and mechanical. There won’t be any interest in such a life.’ Thought I.
‘No matter in what way it turns out to be, I should see to it that my wife doesn’t suffer like my mother did’ – felt I. When I think of how many a blow my mother would have suffered silently, I feel great anger and wrath towards my father with the knowledge that my mother is the very embodiment of patience and my father’s philosophy of life is to go after other men’s wives. I keep struggling to go my way.
Valluvan proves to be my beacon – light.