CONCH

A Story by Kovilan

Bride, Miss Rema.
Bridegroom?
Could not remember the Bridegroom's name. It is not possible to check the Invitation Letter. Above the colourful decorations of the invitation letter, the installation of the paper weight makes a chitrakootam. But, not the paper weight!
" Two of us, on the seashore . "
Professor Vasudev does not read the inscription on the paper weight. He, himself is the chitrakootam meditating on the Invitation Letter. This Conch(1) is my heart. Rema said, it is heart. This conch is Rema's ... . No, No. This conch is Rema's nothing. Vasudev will not be reborn through this conch. But, Professor can see : ' Two of us..' Dancing coloureds rides on the waves. Waves of sea-surf shatter on the beach. Professor sits, watching. Still it is not shattered, still it did not cease, the sea, the bullock-play of the sea.
Look Rema!
Oh! You are in the Marriage Pavilion!
But, the Pavilion. Above the coral reef, thousands of colours swam and bathed in the blue sea. The students, wandering along the beach, picking up the twinning legs of crabs and oyster shells, searched for the remains and broken pieces of shellfish, in the black sand. The white sand beach, sliding on to the black sea shore parched in the cactus bushes, in the thorn bushes like the discontent of a barren woman. The lessons of a study tour do not confine to the outer shells of the earth's crust. The age of the sea and earth is not engraved on the sand. But the Zoology Professor who took them along wanted to discover the horoscope. Sumathy Teacher asked: You morons, how many thousands of years it took for these outer crusts to crumble, decay and die? Still you see, the sea who gave birth to the earth has not yet finished bathing her child! While walking looking for the facts that do not clarify on the lines of the palms, Rema stepped on the foam, beaten and spread by a wave.
" Look here, I got a Conch."
" Conch or a doubt ? "
" Just like Dev's heart. "
Did not understand what she said! He always doubts. Knowing that, she mocks.
Vasudev attempted to return the comment:
" Or , is it your ... ."
But, he did not. The Banyan Leaf (2) is an ancient symbol! He butchered the truth with the embarrassment of a lover.
" The heart does not have thorns and twists! "
Like a sea holding back, Rema just wailed :
"Who knows?"
That Conch.
A fossilized memory.
Turning to a piece of bone worth worshiping, turning to a paperweight, incubated on the Invitation Letter.
Professor had decided to keep alarm for the Muhurtam (3). The alarm did not sound. Maybe it had. He does not remember hearing it. May be he forgot to wind it up.
Forgetting the key of memories, Professor is searching. He does not remember whether he had milk or bournvita (4) with his breakfast. Feeling sleepy, he remembers. May be he did not drink tea. But the canteen boy has not forgotten.
The black tea kept by him has become cold.But, the Professor has not even written a single line. The pen is lying dead on the stack of white sheets. In the infinity of space and time ... .

Professor stands, holding the chalk piece raised to the board. Losing its wing, his shirt sleeve fell down. Sorry, Gentlemen! His other hand, extended up to button the cuff also loses the cover of the sleeve! He forgot to button the cuffs! The students laugh at the Professor who is searching for cuff buttons lost somewhere in his memories. Forget it, Gentlemen! What were we discussing?
Indeed, the snail and tortoise are shell creatures. The penance of achievement of acceleration, which began from the journey of a snail ... .
The ideas cherished by the words, were sunk somewhere. Professor is searching among the scrapes of an accident. He sneezes while eating. The dreams amassed by him are lost for ever. The professor was coughing, clearing his throat. Eyes overflowing with tears. Patting himself on the head, trying to control himself. The servant boy sympathised:
Take care!
The professor looked at the servant, with an annoyed discomfort of his childhood. Appukuttan, you are not my mother! And I am not your cry baby.
Mother asked:
Vasutta, what are you upto?
The son said:
Nothing.
Mother began to cry:
I want you to marry ... .
The servant left. No problem. He can prepare two slices of bread and milk. You don't need a servant to put oats in the boiling milk kept on the hot plate. But there is no one to wake you up and make you get ready at the proper time.
Is the meaning of life single or double?
Professor is lost in the memory of a joke.
Tell me, it is in which hand?
But, not in this one!
See, there is nothing inside!
Inside her little palm, is it single or double?
She, Kali. His opponents call him pestle, since he plays the game of Single and Double with Kali. When she could understand the meaning of the symbol of pestle, the girl named Kali stopped playing with Vasu. A pestle has a band and a ring. Vasu plays with Kali and Kali goes with a ring and thus Vasu became a pestle! When the professor was sinking in the depths of his memory, searching for Kali, the boy enters:
Hot water for shaving.
He went away.
The alarm clock forgot to remind him about the Muhurtam. If it had struck, he could have got up and stood facing the West.
Guruvayurappa! (5)
Your Panchajanyam , (6) devoid of its booming sound, is doing penance on my table. On the blunt thorns of this dead body, the rays of a dead star extinguish. Is this Vasudev's heart? The top unwinding from its thread, loses its orbit in the twists of the conch. Is it Vasudev's mind? Professor sat down, his mind losing the track. He took the conch. He cannot blow it.
My sound and its reverberations,
to wake up
Whom?
Rema!
Tell me, Dev, I am listening.
A little boy wearing trousers, without buttons. He is called Vasu. He plays with Ammini, the daughter of the horseman Nottan, sitting in front of her with his legs spread apart, his hands kept on the top of the sand heap. Then he searched for Pootharulli (7) inside the sand heap. Even though he knew where he hid it, his fingers touched her groin.
chekka!
Even though the horseman's daughter berated, the boy gaped like an idiot.
Hey, I am taking my time out. I got tickled a lot!
Rema!
I am listening. I do not have any time out for this entire night..
Selling the horse, father bought a car. The horseman is dead. You know Rema, what happened to Ammini, the horseman's daughter?
Do I know?
She is selling illicit liquor, keeping able bodied men as guards. Still, no one dares to marry her!
Not needed!
Shall I marry her?
What for?
With childlike curiosity, the boy is watching the hen incubating over her eggs. You little girl, Your babies. One is Mani, the other is Kini. Mani and Kini are my babies. Then you tell me, I do not know, from where they came? But he cannot go anywhere near her! The hen fumed and hissed, spreading her wings. The mother is angry. Vasutty, what are you doing with the hen?
What was it Rema?
Are you not ashamed to say this?
Rema, have you read Nat Turner? The prophet who lusted the dove. Losing celibacy, the strength of his penance was destroyed. In the boldness of candor which bares open the animal inside you, the masks of false gods ... .
Rema, are you asleep?
Mother asked: Vasutta, did you promise anyone?
Whom, mother?
That girl talked a lot about you!
Mother, who doesn't talk a lot?
But Vasudev was always faithful. The Warden of the Ladies Hostel wants Vasudev. Right now, at this late hour, this very moment.
Rema's mother expired. Don't say anything. Just accompany the girl.
What was ailing Rema's mother to cremate her in such a haste?
In spite of being a research scholar, the daughter does not say anything about her mother's cancer of uterus.
Rema, I am an idiot.
What is this, Dev?
My Panchajanyam is dirty, announcing all secrets.
Sumathy teacher says for a joke: Sex and love is common for all animals. I can send my daughter with anyone who loves her. He will protect her like a faithful dog. He will not touch her. He will not let any one touch her.
Vasudev asked:
Does your daughter stink?
Professor retorted:
There is no love affair which does not stink.
When the teacher and student confronted each other, Rema sat crying; the ungrateful thorns, singling out the symptoms of mother's disease. The memories of a crime can not be erased just like that. The memories are not sand grains. The cancer which the daughter earned from her mother cannot be covered up by the shell of a creature, dead long ago.
Rema!
Tell me.
Let us continue like this only.
How?
Like this same way.
I do not want to argue with you.
The life is wasted in the torn sack of celibacy. The yaga is spoiled with inverted mantras. No marriage, love will do. No law and order, murder will do ... . But who is killed? This mind,the horse ... where is the horseman, Nottan?
Where is your daughter?
But Professor Vasudev, Head of the Department of Zoology, Gentleman, Respected person in the contemporary society-
Who are you?
A blue sea of roaring waves, draped in a saree waded in glowing coloureds gushed through the push door. Professor Vasudev got drenched in sweat. Rema beams like monsoon. Vasudev got drenched in the beaming waves of the waterfall. Vasudev lost his balance. Grasping unknowingly at last the hands extended by her like rain clouds shredding the last drops
I thought I will come personally. Do We need a postbox?
Don't you have work today?
I took leave. What are you writing, Dev? Notes?
This is my ... .
I do not need law and order. Murder will do. I do not want marriage.
Sit down Rema. You do not have even a single white hair. I do not look at the mirror at all.
How does the wedding card look? Please do come-
Vasudev can't get a hold. Vasudev sinks, but he sweats. Professor Rema had other matters to think about.
We shall fly the next day. He is in Vienna. There he has a fellowship in Genetics. You must meet him. I told him everything. He knows what to do. There you have all the facilities for treatment. He understands. Sterility and Heredity are old concepts in the age of test tube baby! Perhaps…
While the cheerfulness of the sea waves gushed away through the push door, Professor Vasudev felt like calling aloud: You Nottan! But there are students around! Outside, Professor Rema's car engine, powered by six pistons, is roaring louder than him. Above everything, Professor Vasudev called out:
Nottan!!
In the infinity of space and time, the meager life goes on till the oil lasts. Man, who reached the orbital paths of infinities starting from the slow pace of snail, achieving acceleration The Professor falls down, struck by the weight of a paperweight. He thinks:
How many thorns does this heart have?
How many twists?
In spite of loathing it, he touched the Invitation Letter. He took it and read it.
The Muhurtam is over.
In the holy premises of Guruvayurappan, the first Guru of the Science of Metamorphosis, with the holy fire as witness, with the music of Nadaswaram (8) as witness, with the priest, his assistants and crowd as witness, with the queues waiting for the deliverance of a cup of coffee in front of hotels as witness, for saving my soul from the Hell of Puth (9) , for my son who is myself, seeking rebirth throgh this girl, imam kanyam sweekaromi (10).
Vasudev can not act as a witness. This is deceit. This Rema who once wiped off the stir of life ... .
The doctor said:
Impossible. Do you want to die as a young mother or do you want to live longer?
But Professor Vasudev, let your grey head speak, who is the deceiver?
Me?
Muhurtam !
Homing.
Garden Dinner.
Is there an equivalent word for Muhurtam in Vienna? But a marriage does not break up on the altar.
Meet Professor Vasudev. My sweet...
Number Seventeen! (11)
Wish you a Happy ...
Professor sat pressing his fingers on the blunted thorns of the conch. These thorns do not prick. Why should this skeleton, which has forgotten the call of a union, fear an enemy? But, that day ...,
Two of us, on the seashore.
This engraving, becoming my heartbeat, becoming my blood, becoming me, becoming us, weaving together ... - the dreams of those days.
Is it to your liking?
Who will write?
There are so many around who can write.
At the back of mind, the sound of alarm clock strikes. Becoming a piercing needle of a sewing machine, becoming many needles in the continuity of motion, becoming restless, Professor got up. The homing goes on. He can not reach Ramanattukara. Garden dinner, on the beach, in the roof garden.
He can reach Calicut.
Speed, the essence of life, extinguishes space and time. But the sound and harmony of memories, the reverberation of melodies once heard and forgotten, like a broken piece of a sugar candy, like sorrow-
Even you do not know whether you will come back or not!
For the first time, Professor felt depressed that there is no one to whom he can bid farewell. One person- to leave after bidding goodbye to one person at least ... . Doesn't matter! Taking whose consent, this cattle came here for grazing?
Professor waved his hand when the Herald started.
Ta, ta.
Till the petrol lasts.
He hesitated while leaving the house:
Did he lock the door?
Does it matter if you locked or not?
Vehicles after vehicles. They stop before reaching the shade of infinity. But he can reach Calicut. When his feet presses on the accelerator, the lost memoirs encircles him. The mind says you have reached. The biological caravan which reached man through the penance of speed will not attain the speed of mind.
In the erroneous trajectories of orbital paths, in some universal explosion, when this earth began its movement in a fraction of a second-
The burnt sparks of truth
Sparks of particles
Particles of sparks
Again to the infinity of space and time-
The Professor felt sad during the entire journey that he was unable to complete the thesis of metamorphosis of speed. Like the ultimate speed when just before your death, life becomes a completely insignificant momentary experience-
What is in store?
Becoming a fossilized memory, becoming a piece of bone worthy of worship, becoming your banyan leaf,
He forgot to take the conch!
Professor pressed the brake. But the pedal sinks. Along with the pedal, his toe sinks.
Hallucination?
On the black sands of the shore, when both of us dissolve as white spots,
That day-
The students brought by one Sumathy Teacher to estimate the age of the earth's crusts,
Then also zoology?
In the world without me, why the earth, the sky, the sea, the seashore, zoology and my thesis?
Why?
He could not remember why. The vehicle devoid of its brake, at the speed accelerating. At the top speed, at a turning, the Professor did not see ' Ramanattukara '. At the speed that woke up to embrace the essence of life, his wavering eyes did not linger on any one of the garlanded vehicles rushing across him.
In the orbital path of the acceleration of speed, in the deep embrace of an explosion:
Is it you?
Our conch?
Your banyan leaf?
Maya or illusion?


Translated by A.Purushothaman
10th January 2001

Notes:
(1) Conch : Shell of shellfish
(2) Banyan Leaf : The reference is to the female sexual organ
(3) Muhurtam: Designated time for function
(4) Bournvita : A drink with nutrients
(5) Guruvayurappan : Deity of Sri Krishna Temple, Guruvayur
(6) Panchajanyam : Conch of Lord Krishna
(7) Pootharulli:
(8) Nadaswaram : Music from a Musical Instrument
(9) Hell of Puth :
10 ) Imam Kanyam Sweekaromi : I accept this virgin.
(11) Number Seventeen : Marriage Greetings

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