Thursday, July 7, 2016

Palagummi Padmaraju - Story

These days, I am busy with writing and publishing books.
In the last six months I brought out at least 9 books, both small and big.
For some time , I have almost forgot about my blog, really!

After a long time, I am posting a translated story here.
It is by the veteran writer Palagummi Padmaraju, whose centenary was celebrated recently.

Translation of course is by yours' truly.

You may leave your remarks about the story and the translation please!

Viyyanna tata’s demise

No one ever thought that our Viyyanna tata will die like this at last.  Whatever he does,  he never does it like all the others. But he died like all the others. By the time grandfather died, our real grandfather was missing from him. Or he died a few hours before that. Infact, we all firmly believed that our tata would never die like this.

Ratti – the toddy tapper woman who is tata’s keep – got up early that morning and went to the fields for milking the cows. By the time she came back, it was nearing seven o clock. As there were no signs of tata being got up, she pushed the door and entered vexing.  At the same time I was walking towards the canal bund to answer nature’s call. From inside, Ratti’s angry voice was audible.
‘Get up! What sleep, its already late’

‘The same everyday, still  asleep….’

Ratti’s voice changed.  ‘Tata!.... Tata! Ta…’  She made a sound that never heard before. Pushing the door I also entered.

Ratti went blank on seeing me. ‘Ta….ta!”

Ratti did not cry, but she did as much as crying. In fact, Ratti never cries. She never laughed and never even cried also.  Even in very happy situations she never laughed.  Even when very important people passed away, she did not weep even. That does not mean either that our tata is not a very important person, and Ratti has no such love lost for tata.

Since I said tata, a grandfather you must have all got confused. If it comes to that he is a grandfather for everyone. Who ever imagines a tata in their own way, tata appears like that to them. He is a definition for the class of tatas or grandfathers. Everyone knows him only as a tata. No one knows with what other name one should address him. Even Rati used to call him tata.

In fact it is fifteen years, since our  tata started dying. He kept on dying at least once a year. But in order to die again the next year, he kept living. And all the villagers were disgusted that he would never die.  This time however, he died not to live again.

Vinanna tata however much did not believe in living, had never believed in death too. No one knows nothing about death. About living, everyone knows a bit or more. So instead of dying the unknown death, it’s better to live the known life was his argument. If death is better why not all this world die all at once?

It was only a few days back, that all our villagers started considering him a dangerous man.
Usually elders in the villages would keep women. Even if  all those who maintain keeps or not gentlemen, all gentlemen would have keeps. It’s a kind of status indication. But in our village, one gentleman never had a keep. Though he is not highly educated, since all his relatives in other places were all well-educated, he would know the worldly things much better than all the others. He would read the paper daily and comments for the benefit of village elders. Since he never had a keep all the village elders accepted his specialty.  About the inner purport of the rituals like widow remarriage – though he never got his widowed daughter married again- now and then he would explain in his lectures. About many other things, he would discuss and explain. Even with knowledge of all such things, that he never performed remarriage of his daughter, was the reason for the respect the entire village had in him. There is another reason - that there could be liberty to certain extent in man woman relations, that it is not a sin to keep a keep, however much sacrosanct marriage is it would not get despoiled just like that, he averred. With that all those village elders, who consider it a sinful act, and then could not put a stop to the habit were consoled and felt comfortable. In spite of all the knowledge, since he never kept a woman all of them venerated him with a lot of respect and devotion.

One day he came to our tata’s home and invited him for lunch to his place. It was the first ever time any fellow Brahmin to invite tata over for lunch. Tata felt a little funny.
‘Why?’ he asked demandingly.

‘Nothing! It’s my father’s anniversary. I did not like you being separated from among us like this….. I have been thinking of inviting you for a long time’.

‘ Then why did you stop?’

The gentleman cleared his throat and told mildly.

‘I don’t worry about such things. Each for his own likes and dislikes. Each for his habits. Just because of that …..’ he did not know what to say for that.

‘Listen to me. You came to me to invite as if doing a favour. Talking of habits, I shall tell you. I am not habituated to visiting other’s places. You are talking about Ratti. …’

‘Never! Tatagaru! Never that.  I don’t care for such things. I respect you for your courage. What! It is a big mistake?’

‘If it is not a mistake, why did not you go for a keep? Don’t go about prancing before me. I go according to my wish. Am I worried about your approval whether it is a big mistake or not?’
Terrified, the gentleman who came, departed.

There are many people who had keeps. But usually they don’t go about it openly. It was very usual to act as if they know nothing even if the matter was known to all and sundry.  Against this usual, Viyyanna tata openly keeping Ratti right at home was not slipping down the gullets for people to talk boldly about the matter was also equally difficult. So they started considering him as a dangerous man.  Parents with children had to eschew visits to his place.

Of the real death of Viyyanna tata, one must listen only while he narrates. But he did not die really at that time.

Oraey! In fact, I am a man like a peacock’, he would once in a while keep telling.
But, that’s a simple bluff. The debauchery is not just one of his habits. He never set foot in bogam street. Even then there was intensity in him. Instances of his life have to be thought about separate from one another. One such is the first touch of Ratti.

Ratti has a lot of history behind. He and her brother are orphans. The trials of marriage did not take place in time, when she came of age. Though she was silent, stubborn and unapproachable by habit, age has established  it’s trickery. A well-built toddy tapper friend was on his way to Rangoon and she looked at him peculiarly and threw a smile. Smiling, she also went to Rangoon along. But after a few months, the youth was not to be found, even after searching, she came back home with six months of pregnancy. Brother thrashed her. She did not cry. Did not revolt. Brother got medicine administered by someone. Pregnancy fell off but she remained outside the hut, for four days struggling for life. Then she sustained and got up. She thought of all that as a natural phenomenon. She did not utter a word about anyone. But she would raise sky high and would almost beat up the youth who dare to leer at her. She never cried since that day. Never laughed even. She never looked at any male and threw that smile.

Later Ratti joined as house maid in our Viyyanna tata’s homestead. Gradually she recovered. She grew breasts shining better than the days of going to Rangoon. She grew her hands smoother than that day.  But the age could not ascertain it’s trickery. She was like a ripe lime fruit. But if you look at her face, there would be a thorn ready to take a bite. Those were the days when Viyyanna tata’s  wife and son were alive.

Naturally peacock like, our  Viyyanna tata, one day when she was sweeping the floor, looked at her in a way. She roared. Though afraid a bit, mustering courage, he went near and with a voice dying in the throat said, ‘Ratti’ .

She raised high and slapped him hard. That evening on she stopped coming to work.
Later till some time Viyyanna tata forgot about Ratti. Though there was another servant maid  in Ratti’s place, Viyyanna tata never took a slap on the cheek from her.

Cholera came in our village. O.K, it came to Viyyanna tata also. One day he lost consciousness. Before he returned to consciousness, the son contacting cholera and dying, were all over. He realized of his resurrection from death first and then also of the failure of the son’s resurrection, gradually. But then he did not feel any anger, neither sorrow. Simply felt hungry. In spite of that, doctor never allowed food for four more days. On the first day his hunger was satiated, he wept because it would not be normal not to. ‘Why it was not me to die!’ he cried. But somehow he felt satisfied a little that he was not dead himself. 

A score of days passed. All were thinking that cholera was going away from the village. May be it thought why it should leave like all of them were thinking, cholera baby returned suddenly  and caught hold of tata’s wife. After four days by the fifth evening it appeared to be on the decline. By that time Viyyanna tata was well recovered. Cooking and all that at home, he was struggling about himself. Vexing he would even give water and other things to the wife when she demanded.
To the eyes that toiled for four days, a little stupor came about. In dream his son laughed with all the teeth exposed. ‘Wait you fool!’ he wanted to say but hesitated. The Vimanam departing to the roof and the boy looking back at him, sky breaking open and a bring stream along with fish huge as whales falling on the earth, from out of it a king and his minister getting down with glittering attires and many more things appeared to him. Meanwhile, a rumbling of devils fight was heard and Viyyanna tata woke up suddenly.

The lamp was gone he went to the cot. The cot was mumbling. He shook the patient and called  she simply said ‘Ummmm’ and started mumbling again. ‘What’s all this funny act?’ thought Viyyanna tata. Not knowing which way the door is, he squatted next to the cot. The cot shook a little. He shuddered and lady’s hand on the patient. Patient was shivering hard. He removed the hand with a jerk. The rumbling ceased. The rattle sound of insects raised a scale. Something in the darkness was turning into knots. What’s all this, thought Viyyanna tata. Meanwhile, something stopped suddenly. That was patent’s shivering. He called out mildly. No answer came. Doubting what danger would come about, he could not call out loud. Snoring was heard softly. Like the saw cutting jerkily, Viyyanna tata’s  hearts became cold. Struggling like one drowning in water for a while, he opened the doors and came out at last.  He shuddered like someone was chasing him.
Leaving the village he proceeded towards the fields.  He walked trying to split the headache open and the pull the ideas out. Fields, trees and all were pitch dark. He walked along the field bunds without a direction. Trees appeared like village Goddesses with their hair spread wide around. Water in the streams glows once in a while like a snake slithering.  Here and there, cattle lying lazily were ruminating sleep. From atop a toddy tree sap was dripping from the slit bunch since the opening of the pot was not in place. A drop fell, sweet and fresh on  Viyyanna tata’s face. ‘Thu…’ he said.
‘ Who’s that?’ called out a woman’s voice.

‘Thu!’ said tata again.

‘Why don’t you speak? Who’s that?’

Aside on the elevated piece of land there was a sound of a grassy bed. Somebody getting up and adjusting the saree was coming near.

‘Why?’ said Viyyanna tata.

‘I am asking who that is.’

‘It’s me. ‘

‘Who? Is it tatagoru?’

But Viyyanna tata could not identify the female voice. Like injured bird, he fell to the ground and squatted. She eagerly came near and held him saying ‘ Ayya!’

The leg slipped, leave me, it’s alright. To look at the living being getting up from amidst the darkness, tata felt irritated. Her touch was unwanted for him. He thought of avoiding it immediately. He could not come equal to her questions.

‘Why did you come like this? So late in night?’

‘Nature’s call’ He felt like strangulating her. But strength in his sinews disappeared suddenly. He remained there sitting.

‘Why come this way? What’s it?’

‘Abba! Let me think I dreamt in sleep… which side is this?’

‘West side field.’

‘Did I then cross the dam?’

‘You appear to be in confusion.’

Viyyanna tata was thinking in himself. Slowly he could remember that he crossed the dam.  Gradually he could even remember the person talking to him. The voice was familiar ‘Ratti’ he said suddenly.

‘Did not you recognize till now!’ said Ratti. Tata got up and stood.

‘How is madam?’

Suddenly house came to memory. The snoring, shivering and all that. The heart jumped suddenly.
‘She is O.K. Tomorrow I shall give her food.’

It felt like life was struggling in him in that darkness.

‘Ratti!’ he said. Ratti crossed the low bund and went to the other side. Tata also crossed the bund. She was standing waiting. Tata embraced her.

‘Wait a minute.’ Saying so she was  struggling. But somehow she did not shout loud. Some animal aroused high in tata. In her the stubbornness struggled for a while. But the glow of her body, suppressed all these days established its might again another time. She surrendered panting.
Tata could not recover till morning star rose. Suddenly he felt like crying ‘Ratti!’ he said.
‘Tatagaru!’ she said.

He set his voice right and sand carelessly ‘perhaps by this time my wife might have been died’.
‘What!’ said she stunned.

‘Ayyo  tatagaru! Then let’s go’

This time tata was not afraid of home. He felt like a big weight is removed from him. Because then he was also dead!

On the two flanks of the cot, just dead, Ratti and Viyyanna tata sat till day break.
Ratti did not look at the dead body at all. She sat looking at Viyyanna tata in wonder. How brutal he turned in the night! But that night boundless respect and love arose in her for him. She appreciated him that night.

Tata died that night. But he lived because of Ratti.  On the whole, what’s to be told is that our tata’s  was a strong life. Then proved imaging that he would go without the knowledge of  anybody.
        (From Kathavahini 1954)

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