Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Panda - A Short Story

Sri A N Jagannadha Sharama is a great contemporary Telugu Story Writer!
Had he been born a couple of decades earlier, he would have made a place next to all those master story tellers!
I feel that the readership for Telugu story has come down drastically!

But, writers like Sharma would sure bring people back to the reading habit!
His forceful writings are to be read by one and all!

Here is the English version of one of his stories.
This happens to be the last story in the collection printed under the title 'Pegu Kalina Vasana"

Incidentally Sharma was awarded this years Madabhushi Rangachary memorial award for a best story collection recently.

The title of the story is Panda.
This is not the chinese Panda which is an animal.
This is an Oriyan Brahmin as you can imagine.

Here is the story!


Summer night ..

Cold night ..

Rainy night ..

Any night the song of Panda would be heard. Not just the poets, even Panda would be awake at midnight.

His voice is not good. There would not by any rhyme or rhythm in it. Since he belongs to Orissa there would even be faults in his pronunciation of Telugu. Even then his singing would sound good.

“Ravoyi chandamama
Ma vinta gadha vinuma”

(A very popular old film melody in Telugu asking the moon to come and listen to a strange story)

When he sings wherever the moon is must come there! He must listen to Panda’s song! On the threshold of the thatched house, in the rickety cot woven with the thread, in the tatters of a quilt Panda would be sleeping. With his song he would make everyone awake.

From the eves of the house a hurricane lantern from one side and a parrot’s cage from the other would be hanging. In the middle Panda would be struggling with the song.

He has no father. It is long since he has gone. Mother is there. She makes leaf plates. That is her profession.

Panda was alright till he was twenty five. Like all the others with his visage he was handsome only. Later that ailment came up. It started with spots and started shedding skin and made Panda an ugly duckling. It made him a leper.

With that, no more handshakes. No embraces either. Friends are not there. Panda turned a loner.

All the while he keeps home. During the day he is in the backyard. Plants saplings. Tends them. Waters them. When a flower or a fruit appears takes them into the hands with love.

They would not slip off saying ‘Don’t!’ They settle snugly there. He touches them to his eyes. Holds them to the heart.

When it is dark ..

He stays indoors with parrot. He trains it with words. Teaches it singing.

Parrot likes him a lot. It feels as if its life is hidden in him. It goes round him in circles. It flies within and out of reach. In a moment comes and lands on the shoulder. It scratches his tattered nose. It scratches his rotten cheek.

In the night –

Panda relaxes on the threshold in the rickety thread woven cot.

At some point he goes into sleep. If he sleeps it is as if the whole vicinity slipped into sleep.

That morning the merchant of the leaf plates came. On looking Panda at the door steps he was sunk. He called out his mother and called all kinds of names. He put down the leaf plate bundles from the rickshaw and threw them.

“Do something else if unable to live. But don’t ever mix this disease in the leaf plates from which people eat” he said. He looked at Panda’s disease cautiously. He went away in a huff.

Selling of leaf plates cannot go on in the village where they stay. On seeing Panda none would buy the plates of that household. Merchant is from Ponnur. He used to pick up the plates in the shanty. Somehow he came to know that she had a son with leprosy. He was afraid of even touching the plates he bought the other day. He brought and threw them back.

No one calls Panda’s mother even for the home maid work. How else to live? How to make the son live?

She cried hoarse.

“Go and die! Why do you kill me along” she said. She was angry with Panda.

It was two in the night. Panda till then sang all pathetic songs only. Cannot tell whether with sleep or sorrow, every song was heard heavy. There were no more songs later. Everyone thought Panda was asleep.

Day broke.

Panda was not there at the door front. The parrot’s cage was not there on the awning. Both were seen floating on the village tank. The parrot flew away.

Flowers never rejected Panda.

Birds neither.

The air or water never rejected.

Who then rejected him?

You and me!!

(Life being kept in a parrot is a folklore paradigm. And the parrot flew away means the life is gone!)

Let us enjoy some great stories!

1 comment:

surya ratnam said...

That's a great story sir.thank you for the translation and posting the same.