Bharathan - A Novel By Kovilan

Translated from Malayalam by A. Purushothaman

Chapter Seven

Bharathan, the accused, stood before the seat of justice in the crowded court. On left and right gunmen with bayonets in their fists. Holding the bayonets taken out from the covers, both gunmen stood in attention.

Bharathan should not move.

Even his eyeball should not move.

If he moves, we will stab him.

In the seat of justice, Bharathan saw an elaborate white turban, rising from a chair comparable to a throne, a neatly combed black beard and below the turban, the sharp needle tips of a mustache. Who is this? This is not the estate officer. The officer does not have a beard and turban. Bharathan doubted whether the man has to wear a mask or something while holding the court. Suddenly he got convinced that his doubt is in vain. Between the turban and the beard, Bharathan saw two eyes, rolling white stones.

Two eyes or blazing coal?

When did Ambi become a judge?

He could not understand anything.

On the seat of justice, estate officer was not present; nor his black bitch. Bharathan was also unable to peep in and find out whether the bitch was crouching behind the table.

Are the bayonets tempered in poison?

An absolutely white man -

Bharathan shuddered for thinking impulsively about man. He was afraid that he will get stabbed even for shuddering. He should not have thought about him in the common manner like a man. Should an ordinary man consider those, who have authority for murder and killing, merely as man?

An all white thin official was examining the files attentively, sitting in the next chair, adjacent to the seat of justice. Perhaps he is the prosecutor. He has not paid any attention to the gunmen escorting Bharathan in front and back through the narrow corridor of the court room and making him stand before the seat of justice.

Bharathan was glad that the official must be examining his papers. A man will not be understood by another, even who he is, by merely seeing him. Even a beggar should not be considered as a beggar. He may be a spy, On seeing his papers, everything will be understood. Is it by his nose, which is extending down and down as he reads --

Oh my God, do not put me in trouble. Let me not think about unwanted and undesirable.

Bharathan was afraid that the prosecutor was reading the papers by his nose, which was extending down and down as he was reading further and further. Perhaps that also may be true, some discoveries may have successfully taken place here, by which letters can be read by their smell.

Bharathan did not stand worrying for a long time. Below the elaborate white turban Ambi stood up.

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna.

Closing his eyes, Ambi chanted.

After he was satisfied with chanting, Ambi addressed the crowded court as he was preparing for a speech.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Suddenly Bharathan wanted to turn and find out whether ladies were also present in the court. He shuddered in his standing pose. Together, the gunmen blocked him.

Hilo Math1.

Samne Dekh2.

Bharathan was happy that his eyes escaped by a hairline. He felt hurt, where the poisoned sharp tips of the bayonets scratched his cheeks. But not serious. As if ant has bitten. But his eyeballs escaped.

Oh my God please make me behave properly. Please let me behave according to the law and justice.

Bharathan also imagined that this must be an army court. The gunmen might be soldiers. At least they must have been trained in N.C.C3.

Ambi began his speech. Sorrow was overflowing on his black beard and eyes. Taking a folded handkerchief he wiped his eyes and beard.

Let me believe humbly that all of you have understood the meaning of our assembly here. If somebody is present here, for some reason without understanding the said meaning, then, for them, I will be disclosing that at least now.

We have obtained sufficient proof that this criminal standing before us has committed two murders. Due to his unlimited strength and intelligence, once he escaped from the verandah of the bank, after committing the crime, without even a fly's notice. As the old saying goes, a thief of many days will be caught one day. Our gun men caught him redhanded second time. This people's court has now the authority to try him, pronounce judgment and kill him in a suitable manner.

As Ambi was declaring to try and punish him, the gunmen themselves ordered.

Peeche Mood!4

Both the gunmen and Bharathan in their standing pose, turned back on the heel of the right foot and toes of the left foot, lifting the left foot and banging down, stood facing the audience. Bharathan was shocked to see the poisonous smoke of hatred in the cruel faces of the audience. The audience sat straight in attention, raising their thousand serpentine hoods. Bharathan expected an old slipper or rotten egg. But the audience was perfectly disciplined. How quickly they recognized the murderer!

When Bharathan's mind was again beginning to trepidate, the gunmen announced the order again.

Peeche Mood!

Again the gunmen and Bharathan turned towards the seat of justice. Not considering that something special was taking place in front of him, Ambi was continuing his speech.

Don't you identify him now? He is the murderer. He is conductor Bharathan.

Here Ambi stopped his speech, unfolded the handkerchief with both his hands and wiped his lips softly. In the joy of recovering the next sentence which was forgotten, he stood looking at the audience leisurely.

Before getting on to the holy responsibility of trial, let me introduce myself. My name is Narayanan Nair, Nambatt Nanikutty Amma Narayanan Nair. Since I am the humble owner of a Brahmin's hotel5, I am also called Ambi.

Before starting the hotel I was a driver, a heavy driver. Before my nerves and joints severed, I left the bulldozer, and as my life's calling willingly adopted the service of thousands of workers who were struggling for food and water.

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna.

I even forgot shaving. I didn't have time to care for myself. I forgot myself in the sense of service. It is years since I have slept. I sold Uutthappams, coffee, cocoa cola and liquor with same hands. I have traded charas, ganja, hashish and opium. Depending on their needs, I have served the thousands of employees, students, and researchers of IIT.

Now I have, down south, in my remote village, ten acres of coconut farms, eleven and half acres of land, a tractor, and a small five bed room cottage of my own. Every year, I do pilgrimage to Sabari Giri6 and Badrinath7.

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna.

Krishna Krishna Hare Hare.

During every visit to Sabari Giri, at least twice, I go to Guruvayur8 without fail.

Krishna!

Pilgrimage, visiting deities, and offerings give me only temporary peace of mind. What I want is eternal tranquility and permanent peace. All my savings are for me and my children to enjoy for ever. My aim is always simple. Maintain, if it has to be maintained. At least for the next fifty years or so, there should not be any major deviations in the law, order, and justice. Within our steel fists, let the justice and law be protected as two bayonets. In sleep and state of wakefulness, let these bayonets stand guard to criminals.

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna.

I have introduced myself. Now my dear friend will introduce himself.

From his lips and eyelids Ambi transferred to his handkerchief all his sweat and blood due to talking. Ambi looked on curiously, with his shining eyes towards his colleague, who was drawing his nose through the files.

Professor Kamalesh Kumar Goyal.

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna

Krishna Krishna Hare Hare.

Goyal!

Only now Bharathan recognized him. But Bharathan did not get shocked. Here goat can become a dog. Ass can become a spotted tiger. What you need is the enduring power to face anything. Otherwise both bayonets will rise together. Anyway that is not desirable. Only if the defense is perfect, you should seek the openings for attack.

Goyal stood up towering as though to touch the court's roof with his head. As if not to fall down, he held on to the corners of the table firmly. His thin long fingers entwined the table. Fingers or snakes? Those fingers are extending, their serpentine hoods are raising on the nails, and they are hissing.

Your honour.

As the head of a wind mill, Goyal's face turned towards the seat of justice.

Thank you for your kindness. I will always be grateful to you and the court for appointing me, who came as a guest to IIT, to the high offices of authority. I can expect your complete attention and the court's cooperation in the proceedings to be conducted with the quick ability of the computer.

Conductor Bharathan.

Bharathan did not realize that he was called by name. As the beginning of a sentence, Bharathan heard conductor Bharathan. Bharathan waited to hear the complete sentence beginning with him as the subject.

Raising his voice, Goyal called.

Conductor Bharathan!

Bharathan swallowed down the sudden shock. Ensuring that bayonets are not rising up, Bharathan said.

Sir.

Goyal continued.

Even after studying all the files, I could not find your name anywhere. What is your name really?

Bharathan.

Bad, very bad. Worse than the name conductor Bharathan. The honorable court wants your name, father's name, family name - like this. The complete name to be recorded in a court, heaven or hell. The question is: what is that name?

Matayil Govindan Bharathan.

Goyal chanted to himself, Matayil Govindan Bharathan. As a procedure, the court started chanting, Matayil Govindan Bharathan.

In between the unending chanting of the court, Bharathan asked.

Your honour, please permit me to say two words.

Ambi ruled.

Yes, yes. Hare Krishna. You can say upto two thousand words.

The entire court chanted.

Hare Krishna. You may say upto two thousand words.

Your honour. I guessed that the honourable court will award me death sentence itself, when I was taken around in a procession through the streets of IIT. Even a sacrificial goat knows it. Since his childhood days Matayil Govindan Bharathan had to see the sacrificial goat, with a shoeflower garland, being taken around the town in a procession, during the evening of the preceding day of the sacrifice. I have also seen Vazhakavil Bhagawati9 coming around the countryside in a procession wearing red. Lighted lamps accompany the deity everywhere. Before and after me, there were bayonets. Striking on forehead and head, the deity bleeds herself10 - why? Bhagawati is not dead even today. Many goats must have succumbed to the butcher's knife. Tomorrow's goats are taken around today. Perhaps I also may not die. I pray the court that I should not be hung till death. Here I am announcing my last wish. You should have the kindness to shoot me dead. My physical remains should be dispersed in the Vachal11, Ponnam Thodu12 and the Moonnodu13.

Vachal originates from the center of the vast paddy field from where my charming aspirations were born during my young days. I always used to feel as if my stomach is full, whenever I look at the ripe paddy field. The Vachal used to get dry whenever the paddy was ready for reaping.

Now a dam is made and a bridge is built across the Ponnam Thodu, which I had to cross everyday while going to school. In my mind, even today, there is no bridge across the Ponnam Thodu. I was wandering in the distant lands, searching for food and work when the dam and the bridge were built.

We call the rural thriveni as Moonnodu where Vachal and Ponnam Thodu meet. The impressions of my tiny feet, on the white sand banks of Moonnodu may have gotten erased by now. But the holy feet of Vazhakavil Bhagawati dances on the white sand banks of Moonnodu even today.

I do not have any compulsion that I should immortalise my devotion and duties to my homeland and earth through triple dispersions of my physical remains14. In fact, has this land, which gave birth to me, even felt any kindness to me? Am I a son born to a Negro girl? She conceives from her master and also looks after his children. She conveniently forgets her own children, while taking care of her master and his children.

My country will not bother to shed tears and weep after the physical remains of a destitute, who went in search of food and work, being unable to make a living, in his own place of birth. There no one knows Matayil Govindan Bharathan.

Order, order!

Ambi woke up the court and restrained Bharathan.

Matayil Govindan Bharathan. Stop insulting the court by making up irrelevant stories.

Order, order.

Bharathan continued.

The respected court should please listen to my request. I had to state all this because they are relevant. In my place no one knows Matayil Govindan Bharathan. Everyone recognizes Kolambi Bharathan immediately.

Order, order.

Banging the table, Ambi restrained Bharathan.

Goyal intervened.

Your honour, the computer concludes that the statement of the accused is relevant. Kindly permit the accused to proceed with the statement.

Ambi passed the ruling.

Matayil Govindan Bharathan may please continue his statement.

As far as I know, my grandfather and great grandfather had gone to Ceylon, seeking a living. I do not know, how and where all my forefathers before my great grandfather may have wandered. In my hometown, the first person to go to Ceylon and return was my great grandfather. May be because of that my family was nicknamed Kolumbukaran.

Those days, to my people, Ceylon and Sri Lanka were all Kolumbu. They also did not know Colombo properly. My great grand father Kolumbukaran Kunjandi. My grand father is Kolumbukaran Shanku. Even after joining the army for a living and returning alive, my father is Kolumbukaran Govindan. May be because the relevance of the port capital of Colombo and Ceylon is lost, no one calls me Kolumbukaran Bharathan. I am called Kolambi Bharathan. In my native place, no one knows Matayil Govindan Bharathan. Everyone knows Kolambi Bharathan.

Below the white turban, through the black beard, Ambi smiled, softly. No one else smiled in the court. Ambi regretted that he was alone. He covered his face opening the handkerchief. This is surely insult. Through the handkerchief Ambi began an explanation.

Order, order. Perhaps the court has not understood the meaning of Kolambi. Kolambi means commode. In the place of commode, Kolambi is a common equipment used by Keralites. For spitting and vomiting, during the night to pass urine or sometimes to excrete, Kolambi is used. In Kerala, we have a kolambi flower also. The accused is not Matayil Govindan Bharathan, but Kolambi Bharathan.

Now you feel like laughing?

Please laugh, laugh.

The entire court laughed. The court started shouting together.

Kolambi, Oh Kolambi.

Ambi pacified.

Order, order.

When the laughing settled a bit, some one stood up, beating his slippers on the floor. He was panting. He started shouting, without his panting stopping.

You turn him this side, that Kolambi who is standing. Let us see the Kolambi's face. We want to spit on his face, in to his mouth. We want to spit in to his mouth.

Stamping slippers and bare feet on the floor, the entire court stood up. The entire court howled.

We want to spit in his mouth.

Ambi struggled to contain the uproar. His hands began to hurt, hitting on the table.

Order, order.

Ambi's throat became dry.

When the din settled, a little voice similar to the sweet talk of a bird was heard.

Your honour.

Like the sweet call of a swinging bird.

Bharathan did not see the bird. The bird was somewhere behind. Bharathan pictured the bird in his mind. White feathers hidden in the long tail and wings. Over her small head, a black veil covering her neck and chest.

She used to come to swing on the leaves of the young coconut trees, bathing in the first rays of the morning sun.

When was that?

Where did she come from?

The swinging bird came flying to touch and wake up the young sunshine.

Your honour. Will the honourable court shoot the accused dead?

Her bodyless voice, digging nails deeply, woke up Bharathan completely. Even then he did not see the bird. He did not also wish to see the bird.

Bharathan was in penance. He was standing on thorns. If he deviates from his penance, bayonets will strike him. Bharathan stood motionless, without having any sensation.

The dried up voice of Ambi could be heard.

Right, honourable question, Miss Chaturvedi. Why are you delayed this much? The court was forever expecting you. Why are you standing behind, hesitant? Your chair is here, lying vacant. Come, adorn the seat of justice. Let you and court receive justice. If not for you, for whom the court should seek justice?

Are you crying Miss Chaturvedi? The accused has brutally murdered your harmless and innocent servant in front of you. When the court question him, it will become crystal clear and clear like daylight, how many precautions were taken by the accused for doing the horrible deed. He hoped in vain that all clues will burn with Kishanlal and become ashes. Our gunmen caught him redhanded. We have discovered his unblemished fingerprints from three places. But the court has not yet decided whether the accused should be killed or not. In this trial we do not have any pre concepts. The court is also incomplete without your presence. Come and take your seat.

The swinging bird beat her wings, slipping her nails on the green coconut leaf. But then, it is not the bird. In the narrow passage, stamping her heel, Madhu Chaturvedi walked. She will fall down. She was sad and unhappy. She cannot climb up the seat of justice.

To support her, many hands came up in the court.

Climbing on to the seat of justice, Madhu Chaturvedi sat down tired; as purity, as unattachment, as sadness. Her dress was pure white. Purity. Her pants were light yellow - unattachment. The black veil flowed like sadness over her head and neck.

Bharathan looked once.

Poor virgin.

Under the cross, the holy mother sat, with her hand on her chest. Oh my holy father.

Seeing her sorrow, the court was stunned. Loosing their speech, the court was silent, stunned.

Not to fall down, Kamalesh Kumar Goyal tightened his fingers on the corners of the table. Goyal woke up the court.

His name is Bharathan. Conductor Bharathan. Matayil Govindan Bharathan. Kolambi Bharathan.

He is murderer Bharathan.

Madhu Chaturvedi is anxious to know whether the court will punish him to death. She is a woman. Woman is the eternal lamp of the family. I visualize her as a beautiful housewife. But Madhu is unmarried. She is employed. She is the superintendent of graphic arts. We met and got introduced as such. I wanted to prepare the charts and graphs to be included in my humble thesis. In the cellars of graphic arts, I saw Madhu as a golden flame of an oil lamp. Before many ages, the beauty and the perfume of that golden flame must have got dissolved in my blood. May be the lost memories of my previous births may have awakened in my hormones, my interest started arousing in her lucky fortunes.

She stays alone in flat number four hundred and twenty, type three. But then she is not alone. Her servant Kishanlal is staying with her. He is a simple villager, poor man. While Kishanlal was sleeping after having his supper in the servant's room at the right corner of the flat-

The honourable court should specially take note of this. The accused carried out the deed while Kishanlal was sleeping. He pours five litres of petrol in the cot and room and lights it. Our investigation department has later recovered a burnt five litre tin, from the servant's room. The man shut the door of the room closed and put the latch. Kishanlal is dying of burns. He cried once or twice. Through the open window, the fire was spreading outside. Seeing the light and fire, when the guards and our gunmen ran to the flat, they saw the murderer molesting Madhu in the verandah, closed by iron bars. Our gunmen arrested the accused redhanded there itself.

The honourable court should think thoroughly here. This is the second murder committed by the accused. Looking from the woman's angle, this is the fourth crime known.

The first murder committed by the accused took place in the bank. One should also take in to account the atrocities committed by the accused against the widow of the murdered guard. This widow was the maid servant of Madhu. The accused removed her from IIT by coercing and cajoling her. The accused believes that the greatest tragedy of human existence is the flute music of the esophagus. It is not relevant here that he has prevented an orphaned widow and her two children from getting a meal.

The relevant question comes now.

Why did the accused kill Kishanlal?

The accused says - I do not know anything at all. Even after the officers of the investigation department thoroughly questioned him, the accused says, I do not know anything.

We are not considering the words of the accused at their face value. His diary comes to our help. The man writes, the easiest way to make money is counterfeit notes. The first condition for printing counterfeit notes, he writes, is the training in graphic arts.

He also writes about various models of murders. Pull the barrel of the gun below the right rib, in the stomach. Press the trigger. The sound of the shot will not be heard outside. The sound drowns in the stomach.

We shall see later whether his conclusions are right or wrong. He himself has requested that he should be shot dead. With a gun fitted with a sound recorder this can be achieved.

Between the white turban and the beard, Ambi's eyes shone like amber. Ambi chanted aloud.

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna.

The court also regained speech. The full court chanted.

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna.

Ambi said.

Order, order. This court has no pre-conceptions. The court will not kill the culprit keeping him standing. Let him stand at ease.

The gunmen ordered.

Vishram se15.

Placing his left leg away, Bharathan stood at ease. He wondered, I am alive, I can breathe.

Ambi asked Bharathan.

Do you have anything to say?

Bharathan said.

I don't know anything.

Goyal intervened.

The honourable court has not asked the murderer Bharathan whether he knows anything. The court is asking, have you anything to say?

Ambi said.

I still have sympathy and pity for you. Why did you kill Kishanlal?

I did not kill.

What did you do?

I have done nothing.

How is that? Did you not molest Madhu Chaturvedi?

No.

Will you deny the fact that your finger print has been discovered on the wrist and at the back of Madhu's neck?

No.

Then can you say that you have done nothing?

No.

Then tell us, what did you do?

Seeing the light and fire, I ran upto the flat.

Bharathan stopped there. What has he done? He had decided that he will not say anything. But he had started talking. How did his decision start wavering?

Ambi said.

Go on, go on. All the court is listening.

Bharathan looked at Ambi's face. He looked towards Goyal. Looked at Madhu. He did not see any face. He did not recognize anybody.

Whom to tell?

He remembers everything. He went to sleep after taking the coir cot outside the garage. The heat was unbearable. He was unable to sleep. He was feeling sad. What to do now? Whom should he approach for a job?

Then he heard a cry.

He saw fire and light. Getting up hurriedly, he ran to Madhu's flat.

Who will believe him?

Should he say that Madhu Chaturvedi deliberately cried out?

Oh come fast!

Running and climbing up the staircase, he reached the outside loft of the flat. He struck the door of the flat with both hands. He caught the latch and shook it violently.

The court says, your first finger print!

Madhu was still crying out, Oh come fast.

He again struck the door. The door was bolted from inside, safe. When Madhu opened the door after crying out once again, he ran to the verandah of the flat.

Where is the fire? Where is the heat?

He pushed the door of the servant's room. The door is not opening. When he pushed the latch and opened the door -

Oh!

He cannot stand at the door. He moved back quickly. His leg slipped and he fell down.

Bharathan fell down on Madhu's body. Madhu was lying on the floor of the verandah as if fainted.

It's true, when the gunmen were arresting him, he was trying to help Madhu stand up by holding on her wrist and the back of her neck.

What happened, what happened Madhu ?

Bharathan looked at the seat of justice. Madhu's dress is pure white, like purity. Her overall is light yellow, like unattachment. The black veil she worn was flowing like sadness over her head and neck.

Poor virgin!

Looking at her, can you imagine that she set fire to Kishanlal and deliberately cried, standing in the verandah?

Ambi said.

You ran up to the flat seeing the fire and light. Tell us, after running up to the flat what happened?

Perhaps Bharathan could have used this last opportunity for him. Once again, he looked at Madhu. Suddenly he remembered the Holy Mother, looking at the cross with her hands on her chest.

Oh Father!

On that cross, her son, who owned for himself all the human sins for ever, lay waiting for death.

Kolambi Bharathan heard the heavy barking of a dog. The estate officer's bitch jumped into the narrow passage of the overcrowded court.

When the court shuddered as a whole from the shock, Ambi comforted.

Order, order. This dog will not hurt the innocent. Order, order.

Jumping on to the seat of justice, the bitch crouched at Madhu's feet. The bitch licked her black slippers. Crouching at her feet the bitch growled once. Madhu was startled and her legs kicked. Getting kicked, the bitch suddenly got up and turned towards Bharathan.

In the eyes of the black bitch, ambers of anger blazed. Barking and jumping the bitch caught Bharathan's neck. Standing, Bharathan writhed. The canine teeth deeply pierced his neck to his death.


English translation 1997 A. Purushothaman