CAME THOMAS CHAPTER –10
A Novel in Thamizh by KA.NAA.SUBRAMANIAN
Translated into English by Latha Ramakrishnan
The wall on the eastern side of the temple succumbed to the storm and rain. Thank God, none was hurt. As a tree swayed to and fro in a dangerous manner and leaned on the wall just before the wall was to give way, people had left that spot, going in search of safer shelter. So, they managed to escape. Or else, there would have been at least ten to twenty casualties comprising women and children. Should call it rebirth only.
In front of Ezekial’s mansion there stood a big crow. Inside, in the front hall there lay, writhing and moaning in pain, thirty persons, some of whom were hurt, as walls gave way and came crashing down on them, some wounded in their attempts to help and save others. Lizzath and Miriam were busy attending on them, giving them medicines and dressing their wounds and bruises, having no time even to look up for a moment. The huge door stood wide–opened. Ezekial himself stood there, supervising everything that was to be done.
It was obvious that none in the household slept even for a little while throughout the night and that the doors of the house were not for a moment shut. They, Ezekial and his family members, had come from somewhere to do business. How great is their humaneness! I felt ashamed to think of the way we kept the doors of our house tightly shut and slept through the night. At that particular moment Miriam looked up and saw me. Looked like, she must have stayed awake the whole night. How tired and exhausted she looked! But then, how beautiful and soul – stirring! The next moment her attention was drawn by the wounded leg of a man lying nearby. She became fully engrossed in her work.
I too moved on. All along the way it was full of mud. The path itself could not be seen clearly. The day–light had started coming in. Thunder and lightning had also moved away. There was no cloud at all in the sky. But then, the slippery path full of mud came in the way of looking above, at the sky, and so walking. ’Should take each step carefully looking where I place my leg’. Throughout the passage trees and plants lay which were uprooted by the storm and migrated over to this place, having been carried along by the wind.
Valluvan’s house was surrounded by dust and garbage. Luckily his dwelling suffered no damage for his house. Of those houses, at least ten or twelve huts had turned into mere heaps of sand, leaving no trace of their existence at all. No one could say where the roof–tops had vanished. The front hall of Valluvan’s house was crowded with women and children. Aadhi was preparing ‘Kanji’ for all of them in her huge hearth. (Aduppu). No man was to be seen there. Valluvan and his father must have gone around to find out who were all in need of what sort of help and assistance. Of the others, some of them too must have gone to see whether they could be of some help to those in distress. The rest would have gone with the hope of getting some of valuables which the storm would have hurled out of other houses, so it seemed to me. Can’t say that there are only good souls on Earth. Can we! Father says that their charity stands enough to prevent the sea–water from flooding the land. Valluvan, Bagavan and Ezekial are here doing noble deeds. At least, one of them can bar the entry of the sea–water felt I. One in a place is indeed enough.
‘But then, the majority of the population of the whole world are like me who neither perform noble and charitable acts nor have the courage of doing misdeeds. They contribute nothing to the world.
‘Where to go and search for Valluvan? Where could he have gone?’
Valluvan and his father went eastward. Don’t know where they had gone” – said a little girl.
It was in the eastern side the Sea stood widespread. It stood there, calm, looking exhausted, without making much of noise, as if saying, “I didn’t indulge in any such revolt at all”. I left for the sea-shore. All along the way there lay scattered, things very valuable, but now turned useless, thanks to the storm. From the corner of a fallen tree (Arasa-maram) there came a weak moan from a body that was lying lost amidst the branches. A girl baby. Must be within two years of age. God knows how long it had been lying there in that bitter cold – I yearned to take it home and entrust it in my mother’s hands. But then, who knows what caste it belongs to! Brahmanism would definitely object. It would be better for the girl baby to be taken to Exekial’s mansion instead. They would give her proper medication and tend her well.’
But, though I contemplated all those things, my legs guided me of their own free will in the direction of Valluvan’s household. No need at all to worry on that score. Whoever the child is they would definitely accept and tend it with utmost care and concern and so save the child. Further, they would also hand over the child if its people would come in search of it. If no one comes to claim they would keep the child with them and look after it lovingly.’
Vasuki was the first one to come into view. She was giving ‘Kanji’ to all those who had assembled there “Poor child, whichever household the child belonged to, god alone knows. It looks thoroughly exhausted with all that crying, hunger and fear. In another half–an–hour it would have lost its life...Alas, how hard that it was destined to suffer so. Indeed sad,” so saying, Vasuki received the child from me and gave it to Aadhi.
‘If Miriam is to bear a child that would be like this baby only – beautiful and tender like a fresh flower…’ accompanied with my thoughts wandering so irrelevantly, I went back the way I came.
Half way through, Valluvan was coming in front of me, helping an old man whose leg was broken and who was groaning in pain enabling him to walk slowly with his support. He was thinking of taking the wounded man to his place only. But, when I told him that in the front hall of Ezekial’s mansion Lizzath and Miriam were attending on the hurt and the wounded, Valluvan changed his mind and turned towards Ezekial’s mansion, wondering aloud as to why he didn’t think of it and that it was something that he ought to have expected.
“Still some more must be in need of help. You go and find out from the spot where the fishermen huts were standing earlier”, said Valluvan.”
Father’s words came to my mind. “Let us first take him there safely and then let us go together. If there are two of us, things will be easier,” – said I.
Valluvan didn’t object.
‘Not that man can build temples alone. He is able to build houses too. And, if the houses give way and fall off and turn into rubble, even if the house suffers the onslaught of flood or fire–he is capable of overcoming his grief and loss and consoling himself he sets out with certainty to rebuild the house. In the fishermen–huts there lived those who had weathered so many storms, both on land and water. Of them, for many, experiences had taught that self–help is the best–help, for, none other would come forward to help them and that they alone should help themselves as well the others who were like them. Even as the storm was raging furiously with lightning and thunder, many among them had started reconstructing their huts with bamboo–sticks and coconut– branches. Also, under the supervision of an elderly member of their community, the work of treating the hurt and the wounded was also going on with many taking part in it. Two or three huts had already been reconstructed, leaving no trace of the evil designs of the storm, and in them, preparations were on to make ‘Kanji’ for one and all. Out of them, only one had gone and brought some rice from Ezekial’s mansion. That was enough to prepare kanji for morning and evening – twice a day.
The fishermen were going around, doing their work actively and happily too. Seeing them, Valluvan observed, “We should learn from them the art of being happy even amidst sorrows and suffering.”
Senkodan who was trying to lift aloft a thatched–screen made of bamboo to place it as the wall of a house, said, “Why Valluvan, it is Mother Sea who gives and she the same who takes it back. These are all very common. This Senkodan has seen many storms. Of them, this is slightly more severe.”
“Casualties?” – Valluvan began and hesitated.
“How can there be no causality? Seven have gone– to the world of nowhere. Sad, Paraman who is a friend of yours – he too is gone.”
Paraman gone? But, how?”.
“When the storm began to rage and was gathering momentum, faraway, a boat could be seen struggling in the sea. When we stayed mum deciding against, venturing into the sea to save it, realizing that it would be too risky to go swimming, Paraman, not heeding to our words, leapt into the sea. To help him, Masilamani too got into the sea. Neither of them has since returned. If we search along the Seashore this evening, their bodies can be found,” concluded Senkodan.
“Poor Paraman, what happened to that boat?”
“Who knows? That was getting severely hit amidst the rough sea– water. God knows where it has creased and who all there in it.”
The way he said those words registered sheer helplessness rather than indifference. It looked like he was voicing the futility of thinking something impossible, while not doing even that which was possible.
“Is it a vessel of our area? Or, of some other place?’
“Not of our locality. In that dim–light it looked like a boat of the Kerala region. Can’t say for sure” – answered Senkodan.
“Must have been some three or four in it. The very fact that it had come sailing in our vicinity, in that storm, shows that there were men in it. And, it was only because men could be seen in it vaguely that Paraman leapt into the Sea, venturing to do the impossible of saving those men; Masilamani too could have stayed back. But, when one’s time on Earth is over, who can stop them, Sir?” – observing thus, he went on to say humbly, “You know more than I can say on this subject, Sir.”
“It is no use feeling sorry for those who have gone. We should try to console ourselves with the satisfaction that they have lost their valuable lives for some noble cause” said Valluvan.
Knowing that Valluvan had arrived there, Paraman’s mother came near him. “My child is gone. But, I don’t feel like crying at all. I feel proud of him. Don’t know what has befallen the boat. If only the other occupants of the boat can be saved, even the loss of Paraman won’t weigh heavy on me,” – said she.
I felt like crying. Valluvan asked Senkodan: “What would have happened to the boat Senkoda?”
“What would have happened? Either it would have sunk, or it would have crashed against some land or rock and broken to pieces. The men in the boat, if they had not been drowned in the Sea and were alive, they would have reached the shore. If so, they must be lying unconscious somewhere, having drunk loads of water. If there is not work here I can go and search for them,” – said Senkodan.
“Tell me in which direction one should go and search. I will do that” – volunteered Valluvan.
“Even an entire day’s search for them southward or Northward, Tell me that”
“The wind was blowing southward only.” Paraman’s mother intervened. “Valluva, from now onwards, you are my son!”.
“How many mothers for a son?” – asked Valluvan.
“Bring me news about the boat and tell me. Till I hear of it, I won’t cry” – said Paraman’s mother.