Bharathan - A Novel By Kovilan

Translated from Malayalam by A. Purushothaman

Chapter Six

Prasad, is this you? Your voice? Did you call me?

Softly - speak softly Bharathan.

For how long, for how many days I am waiting for you! I am happy. Now that you have come and I could see you once, my mind is at peace.

Put off the light, Bharathan. Talk softly. Sushama and children will wake up. On seeing me, they will make hue and cry. The watchmen will come running, people will know. You have not understood the gravity of the situation. They will kill me again. No living being should know about my arrival. In fact, I should not have come.

You didn't know? Sushama and children have left.

Left?

Sushama received rupees two hundred as an honorarium. We don't call it an honorarium. When someone dies in a mishap, isn't there a special name for the payment made to the relative of the dead man? So happy seeing you, I just forgot that name. Whatever it may be, Sushama got rupees two hundred in your name. You need not worry at all about them. She has affixed the impression of all of her ten fingers in the statement which says that she does not have and will not have any regret or doubt regarding the death of her husband.

Walking, they left. Sushama and her two children, the goat and her two kids, stood for a long time in the bus stand with a lot of bundles and packages. Perhaps afraid of the hot sun, they took refuge in the shade of the mango tree near the bus stand. Prasad, just think over. What is the use of being afraid of sunshine and snow? Perhaps due to hunger, the goat started eating dry leaves of the mango tree. As for the children, there are not even small mangoes to fall down, the tree has only ripe fruits. There was not even a wind for at least one of them to fall down. If at all one fell down, the chowkidar is there standing guard. No one is allowed to take it.

They will not be allowed in the bus. Ambi asked for the goat and the kids for rupees three hundred and fifty. The kids may be sold, but Sushama will not sell the mother. Rupees two hundred or rupees three hundred will will soon be finished on spending. Where will you get your food, if the money is finished. Ambi will not buy the kids. Apart from exhibiting them in a glass cage, is it possible to get any income from the capital invested on the kids, Ambi wants to know. In fact there was some turmoil there. Sushama did not sell the goat and the kids. It is okay if they are not allowed in the bus. They decided to go by walking.

Prasad, are you standing? Or is it that I should specially invite you to sit down?

I am in a little hurry. People and vehicle may be waiting for me.

Prasad, there is blood on your shirt and the blood is wet.

This is the blood of a fool. This blood will not dry up in the wind and sun. The fools' blood will never dry up. If the fools' blood dry up, all the prosperity and luxury you can see will come to an end. The lucky who are blessed - for them to live, the blood of fools should keep on flowing. This is the justice of the world. This is an eternal law stated in Gita1, Manusmriti2, and Koran3.

I did not have to die. I should have handed over the bank's keys and remained silent. I don't know anything ramanarayana4. I refused the two thousand rupees offered. What not I can accomplish with two thousand? Buying four sovereigns of gold, I can get a chain made for my Sushama and two ear rings too. Poor thing, my Sushama is also a woman. A woman should have a handful of gold. You may not have read Manusmriti. If not, please read. Manu has prophesied since long time that a woman should have a handful of gold, not a handful of earth. Sushama also has seen all this, how much she must have wished to wear all these and show off?

How many shames we have suffered, how many sorrows! We have not lived like human beings. Food only is enough for man? We got married when we were quite young. We have not even seen each other face to face. Father, mother, brothers, their wives, their children, bisons, their progeny, sisters, goats, cows, grandfather, grandmother and among the crowd, we too. We were quite young. Sure we are husband and wife. We procreated children on the banks of the field. First time itself, ants bit Sushama. You can deceive people's eyes. But what can you do about ants? Hiding and fearing, we became father and mother.

I got a job and we became independent. I will ever be grateful to Prof. Gopinathan. Not because he vacated a garage at least for us to stay. Because he, at least one man, decided that he needs only one cycle in spite of having enough facilities to buy and keep two vehicles. My gratitude is on that account. What was our condition in the garage?

Man must have lived in the caves. Men, children, animals and their progeny must have lived together in caves. But, the cave man must not have suffered the humility of sleeping naked in front of his own children. You have to infer that the habit of wearing clothes may not be prevalent those days.

Are we too human beings?

Even then I refused the two thousand rupees offered to me. They had lot of money with them. They just wanted the bank to be opened. In fact, they are not looting the bank, they are only exchanging money for money.

Prasad, what are you saying?

What I say - I am saying.

What do you realise? Unless through banks, unless through big financial companies, how do counterfeit notes circulate?

All were counterfeit notes?

I did not say that. Since I was faithful, I will be given two thousand rupees lump sum, this is what they said. Nothing will happen to me. Only, I should not say anything outside. I don't know anything. But, then, I didn't think like that. To demand stubbornly two or five thousand rupees, to construct a house, to keep the bisons and goats in the shed, to keep the children in the swing, to share my private sorrows and happiness alone with Sushama - I did not feel like. At the crucial moment no fool can decide what he wants. The fool listens to the call of his conscience. He chatters about the sourness of the salt etc. I hoped in vain that it is my bank. I am the guard. Even on loss of life, I should not hand over the keys. Holding the keys tightly, I brushed aside the green bundle of two thousand rupees with the back of my hand.

Who was it Prasad? Who killed you?

That I also don't know. They were three persons. They came in a jeep. Two persons got down from the jeep. One person was sitting at the steering without stopping the machine.

You did not recognize them?

I did not fully recognize. A thing not fully understood, I haven't understood at all.

Moving your finger through blood, you wrote Bharathan. Did Bharathan kill you?

I don't know. All three were wearing masks.

The name of the security officer is Bharat Bhusan. Did you remember at least that?

I can't say.

Prasad, I also have doubts. In IIT only the security officer has a jeep. We can't infer that burglars must have come from outside. IIT has only one main gate and one main street. In the in-and-out register kept in the guard room there are no entries that a jeep has come from outside or it has gone out. If you agree for argument sake that the guards at the gate must have slept off, then there is the routine of closing and locking the gate. If the burglars were able to open the gate, then they should be able to open the bank also effortlessly. They may not have begged Prasad for keys and they have not killed him for the keys.

It is possible to recognize the persons even with masks if you already know them. They must have killed you because you have recognized them. As for you, you have not offered any resistance before death. If you had resisted, no one can win against you in wrestling. There is blood on your shirt. In the middle where it is soaked in blood, the shirt is torn. Other than this, there is not even a scratch on your body. Also it is said that bank was not opened. The key of the bank was inside your fist, even while you lay dying. Tell me Prasad, why did they kill you?

I don't know.

It is all right if you do not know. Let us think in another way. Anyway you are dead. Can you tell how you died?

I did not even hear the sound of the shot. In fact I did not even think that they will kill me. They were talking about two thousand rupees. I had a loaded gun with me. When I brushed aside the two thousand rupees, the gun was already in their possession. Below the right rib, lowering the barrel of the gun in my stomach, they pulled the trigger. In fact the shot was fired within my stomach, in my heart. I felt a burning sensation as though I had swallowed a burning coal. Through my nerves, veins, the sound of the shot and burning sensation raced up. I felt like falling down, still I stood leaning on the wall. How can I fall in front of the enemy? I have not learned to surrender till now. But I am unable to stand. My entire body shivers, trembles. My body weakens. How so ever I wish to stand erect, my body becomes weaker and weaker. I am drowning. Now I am unable to stand erect. In front of me, in my eyes only one person dominates. I meditate and chant:

Saheb - Saheb - Saheb.

Prasad, was it not Bharat Bhusan Saheb?

Yageswar Prasad did not say that. Yageswar Prasad will not confirm to that extent. It may be security officer or bank manager or cashier, they opened the bank. Now there is no obstacle on their way, not even a speck. I heard them opening and closing the lockers. Now they can do whatever they want. Leaning on the wall, I opened my mouth for a drop of life. I had lost my voice. I do not remember, when I fell down, or when I became dead. I remember that I was meditating only on Saheb. Suddenly I became free. Now I can enter the heaven. I can roam around like a noble man. I can also enjoy life. But at the gate of heaven, the guards stopped me.

Thum kaun ho5?

I introduced myself. Yageswar Prasad, Hindu, India, Uttar Pradesh. Was a guard at the bank in IIT. Got shot while on duty, I am coming. I want to get admitted to heaven immediately.

The guards opened the register and looked. My name has not been entered at all. I cannot get admitted to heaven.

Then I can go to hell. There are guards at the gates of the hell also, stout men. They stopped me catching my throat. You asshole, where are you going? What is your name? Your country? Home? I told everything like a parrot. The guards began to turn the pages of the register. My name is not there in the register. The guards asked: Didn't you get killed while on duty? Aren't you coming from India? karmanye vadhikaraste6. Aren't you from the land of Buddha, Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave7? In that case, you do not have a place in hell.

I told them what happened at the gate of heaven. The guards said, tell us about any sin you have committed, we shall enter your name in the register.

What sin have I committed? I have not bought ornaments for Sushama to wear and show off. I have not built a house for my children. The guards replied that all these are not sin at all. Poverty is a curse, not a sin.

Oh God! Please make me remember at least one sin I have committed, I prayed then. Immediately I remembered. In spite of being poor, I made Sushama pregnant.

The guards asked, only two?

Yes.

You asshole, any wretched can have two children. Do not waste our time.

In that case where can I go?

Go anywhere and get lost, you asshole, the guards told me.

What can I do? Am I not a human being? Am I not alive? Shouldn't I too survive?

Now I am picking up bones.

We, many fools, have gathered together.

Kochappan was a helper in a ration shop. While measuring rice using a vessel with reduced volume and carrying the balance rice bags every week up to the store room of Kochu Pappanavan, Kochappan started to have prick of conscience. In fact Kochappan started to have mental discord with Kochu Pappanavan. Kochappan had a salary of four rupees per month. In addition Kochu Pappanavan used to give one rupee as a gift and mark of love on the first day of every month. Besides these two, the helper Kochappan used to gulp down the excess rice left after measurement cooked nicely in the kitchen of Kochu Pappanavan. Aren't you gulping down the rice, you son of a bitch, that is what Kochu Pappanavan is asking out of love. But from now, Kochappan is not willing to carry the excess rice bags. By carrying out work, at least he should show the worth of rice that he has eaten till now. If he is afraid that someone may notice on the way, then he need to take out the bags only after closing the shop and the people have stopped moving around. Kochappan did not agree, even after Kochu Pappanavan agreed for many concessions. It is Kochu Pappanavan who has invested money in the business. The tremendous responsibility of earning the interest of the capital invested, the wages of labor and the nominal profit lies with Kochu Pappanavan. The helper Kochappan will continue to remain as a beggar forever and he should. Kochappan asked whether doing his work is begging. At last, saying this and that, Kochu Pappanavan's temper was lost - no, Kochappan made Kochu Pappanavan lose his temper. Kochappan died during a show of hands, hit on a vital spot. He went straight to heaven. A person who does not know how to eat and drink will not be admitted to heaven. Kochappan went to hell. A good for nothing will not be let into hell also.

Even after completing twenty one years of distinguished service, a soldier, who did not try to steal even a woolen blanket died in war. Wearing his uniform and medals, the soldier marched tip-top, to attain the brave men's heaven. At the tall towers of the brave men's heaven, soldiers who had received Victoria Crosses in previous wars were standing guard. They stopped the soldier.

Dhan, kaun atha hai8?

The guard verified the identity of the soldier. The enemy's shot entered his head because he did not implement adequate defensive measures carefully. In fact, our soldier helped the enemy purposefully in a decisive moment. He should be courtmartialled. There is no court in heaven. The soldier with nowhere to go, peeche mood gaya9. He returned. The soldier tried knocking at hell's gate also. The hell does not want a coward who could not show that much of presence of mind to steal even a blanket. At least we can console that we all are men. A girl is also in our group. Aged sixteen ... seventeen - of the prime age. She was studying for diploma in graphic arts. She has mother and father. Mother is also not that much old. What to say? The father drinks a lot. When drunk, the father gets confused between the mother and daughter. Initially the girl hoped that this could also be a dream. She was afraid whether he is a Gandharva10. When she realized who it was, she burned herself in kerosene. She is from Utter Pradesh. Even in these days, the girls wish to burn themselves. Bharathan, isn't she the real Sati11, Sita12, Savithri13? What is the use of saying? In fact, she did not get admission in heaven. She has committed suicide and also she has sinned. Will she be admitted in hell? Knowingly she has not committed any crime. She is not entitled to hell also.

We are a bunch of refugees.

We also want to survive. We also have to earn our food. We are gathering bones. The abandoned dead bodies which are collected on the banks of the river Ganges - We wash the abandoned dead bodies accumulating on the banks on the river Ganges, in the holy water before they decay and dry them. Whether the death is due to sinking of boat, or by drowning, or a human sacrifice - we do not bother. The dead body in Ganges is always holy, pure, and blessed. But tigers, vultures and hyenas hunt and pursue us. We help to gather animals to the slaughterhouse. Then the untouchables looking for work in the leather conditioning companies oppose us.

Why do they hate us?

In the greed for food, why equal sufferers should compete with each other?

Fools!

We collect the material by digging up pits. We take them to Sindri and sell at fifty paise per kilogram. It is supposed to be for the manufacture of fertilizer. The skeleton of any animal with a back bone can be sold over there. Through manufacture of fertilizer it gets proven that all living beings are equal and that there is a relation between earth and life.

Let fertilizer be made, let buildings be constructed, we get fifty paise per kilogram. Remember. From what we get, overheads have to be accounted for also. We have to pay the lorry rent, we have to appease the gate keeper, and purchase officer. But then the price of the material is fixed. There is no scope for adulteration. No scope for hoarding or black market. We cannot expect a single paise more. Fifty paise per kilogram.

If we spend an entire life gathering bones, we cannot possibly earn even two thousand rupees.

Bharathan, at least you should live like a human being. Somebody's garage is not enough to stay. Let your vehicles stay in the garages without getting exposed to sun and snow. The food in Ambi's hotel is not enough. How many five star hotels are rising up in the sky in our cities? Can't we also enjoy all these? Are these only for wealthy people? You need wealth - you should also earn wealth. Aren't you are a graduate? Why don't you also print counterfeit notes?

Me?

Don't make any sound. People will hear. Let this be a secret. Didn't I mention a girl? She will help you out, she will cooperate with you. Only, you have to marry her.

Me?

Listen fully. You should marry her. She will be totally faithful, like Sathi, like Savithri. You two will make a perfect pair. Handsome to look at, you will get food also. National integration will also take place, and also the churning of the milky sea. What is more important is that she has obtained training in graphic arts. She will prepare the design of the currency notes. You can become a millionaire instantly. Then even God won't pass urine without your permission. What do you say? Agreed? You can exchange all the counterfeit notes by either depositing in the bank by influencing the cashier or by taking large amounts as loans from financial companies and repaying lump sum. Everything will happen quickly if you please all the concerned people by entertaining them in five star hotels. If required, you may shoot and kill the guard by pressing the gun in his stomach. You will not hear the sound of gun shot. As you wish, if you pay two hundred rupees to the widow of the guard as compensation she will salute you with all her ten fingers.

Prasad, you told me that the girl has committed suicide.

Sure.

Then to marry her, I should also die.

Definitely.

Prasad, the charge sheet on my name is already prepared. Only the trial has not taken place. It is said that the bitch that belongs to the estate officer is sick. It is heard that the bitch has wisdom about the past, present and future. But this bitch is unable to hold the feather and write the judgment. The judgment has to be written by the officer. When the officer arrives to conduct the trial and pronounce the judgment, the bitch will be seated in the adjacent chair. The bitch recognizes the accused appearing for trial. The bitch may either bark or growl or lick the lips. While licking the lips, if the bitch's tail is about to move a little, then the accused is innocent, a fool. If the bitch growls, the accused has taken part in the crime. A minor punishment may be awarded. If the bitch barks, the person is the culprit. Just see how fast and simple the whole affair can be. But the bitch is suffering from cold. It is told that the officer has taken leave, seeing his bitch's predicament. All circumstantial evidence have been collected indicating that I have killed you. Now if I have to escape, the officer's bitch should die and Prasad should be present in person during the trial.

Bharathan, how can I come?

Prasad, you should come and help me.

I told you about marriage only to help you.

Why do you condemn me to death?

Am I condemning you to death? I have brought the girl with me. We are going to Sindri after loading the material. While parking the lorry for filling the petrol at the Grant Trunk Road, I thought of coming and seeing you. Are you coming? She is waiting in the vehicle.

Prasad?

Have you gone Prasad?

I am coming, I am coming with you Prasad.


English translation 1997 A. Purushothaman >