A short story written by Kovilan

Keeps on reciting this number since receiving the authorisation letter and the voter's list from the Tahsildar's office. One thousand two hundred and fortythree voters in ward number one. Based on census nine years ago. Newly added names, deleted names, corrected names. Names mean voters. Voters mean people.
People mean names!
Is it so?
Doubts also began from the office.
Where is ward number one?
How many?
How to find out?
How many days should he wander?
He walked carrying one thousand two hundred forty three people with him. The straight line G-P. Straight lines from T and V reach to the point K on the straight line G-P. Angles on point K.
How many angles?
Did you draw?
A traffic control post on the point K. Straight lines, roads, streets, markets, town, people, vehicles. People in the vehicles.
Are they voters?
They are with him in the file. He walked carrying the people in the file.
The straight line T descends straight. Did you draw? Three dimensional geometry! Can't draw. Imagine? It descends straight. On the descent, a hospital on the left. On the right, an industrial school. What a fancy name? It was an industrial school. Closed down because of poor maintenance. Tramps occupied the verandah of the abandoned building.
Are tramps voters?
Should he consult the file?
The Tahsildar's speech was booming in his ear. You should go to each and every house. You did not meet the voters on the first visit. Try again. No succes on the second trip. Go for a third attempt. It doesn't matter how many times. You should know how many voters are there, precisely . Exactly.
Every citizen who is not insane has the right to vote.
What about the tramps?
Is a tramp not a citizen?
Serial Number.
House Number.
Family Name.
The voters live in houses. Not on the verandah of an abandoned building, not on temple grounds, not on the footpath. No. They are not voters.
Indians. Revising India's voters list!
The vehicle which came roaring from behind rushed down screaming. Quickly stepping aside, climbed on to the footpath. On the right side, Police Station, Car Park, the straight line V-K, creeping on to K. On the left, the market begins. A descent on the beginning. Speed. Accleration. Great accleration. The brakes failed. The fish van came roaring.
It reached the market, crammed with people. Luckily, there were no children. The school had resumed after lunch. Unaware of anything, children sitting in the class. Those who managed, ran and climbed on to the steps of shops. Poor Rahel, Vincent's mother. Vincent is called to the hospital. He is sitting in the class room unaware of anything. Idiot! The van knocked off his mother, into the drain. She hit against one of the granite stones kept over the drain. The van went straight down and reached the point K and turned towards P. Where to turn? The storming van twisted and turned down. The bus station is below the point K. The bus station is jammed with passengers, salesmen, beggars and porters. The van ran above them, among them and hit. The bricks crumbled. The driver along with iced sardines thrown out.
Vincent rushed to see his mother. While running, he cried aloud. No one was able to stop him. Rahel is dead.
Deleted names!
Rahel should be deleted. Reason, death.
Ward number one.
Before turning from K to P, he looked back several times. Radar. All are friendly faces. You do not know from where the enemy will come roaring. Walking through the jammed market, he climbed on to the doorsteps of the shops and searched for the number.
Couldn't find two hundred and one.
How many houses are there from two hundred and one to four hundred and five?
He should catch hold of two hundred and one.
The needle fell into the well.
Will you get it if you hmm...?
Felt like laughing.
One thousand two hundred and forty three voters. They are inside the file. Are they? Yes, they are. These markets, hardware shops, vegetable market, utensil shops, jewellery shops, the people in them, travellers, conversations, vehicles, the din of the vehicles, this town, world - Everything is within him.
He sees.
What is the vision?
The voters are with him.
Who are they?
Where are they?
In which houses?
The faces of schoolchildren surfaced in his mind. How many children he taught in twenty four years? A Thousand? Does he know this thousand today? Does he remember? Their serial number, family name, name, guardian's name - Is this enough to know them?
Melavil Pappachan Uthuppuru.
Uthuppuru - Guardian - Father.
Cherukulangara Narayanan Nair Madhavi Amma. Madhavi Amma- Guardian - Mother.
Father, mother, husband and teacher can be guardians. As per the instructions about the model by which the voter's list is to be revised, mother and teacher can be guardians. Yes. They can. India is a secular country. Because India is a land of religions, castes, clans and classes. According to his caste, religion or belief, father, mother, teacher or wife can be guardian to an Indian citizen.
Teacher means the priest of the sect.
Sect means clan.
Klu Klux Klan.
They hang the Negroes alive and skin them. Total annihilation.
Pillow talk by Mrs. goldsmith:
Only me and you on this earth.
Mr. goldsmith doubts: is that all?
Mrs. says:
And all the gold on this earth.
You will make a gold chain. I will wear it on my neck. You will make a bangle and I will wear it on my hand. You will make an anklet and I will put it.
The goldsmith doubts again: Who is there to see?
Male or Female?
All that is needed to be enquired about one thousand two hundred and forty three people are there in the file. Yet, you do not know even one of them.
How to know man?
The emperor and sultan reigned. The governor general, viceroy, diwan, adhikari and kolkaran ruled. Today, democracy rules. I, the ruler, want to know about you: your serial number, house number, family, name, Guardian's name, age, are you a Male or a Female?
Your age decides whether you are capable of ordaining me. Your ability for procreation which lasts till your death creates and ordains MLA's, ministers, black marketers, contractors, smugglers, bootleggers.
Chiramel Pavunny Thavu, Male, seventy-four.
Nine years ago, he was seventy four. Today he is no more. Why should the dead be maintained? He is deleted. Reason: death.
I do'nt know anything about your death.
How many times you died? From the beginning, till today, till now.
When is now?
The boundary of time?
How many died? How many are remembered?
Mohammed Ghazni.
Jengis Khan.
B.C. A.D. Boundaries to the time. From this border stone, from and to, how many thousands, ten thousands, millions, billions died?
From the beginning till now, how many died? Why did they live? To ordain a thousand who are remembered. Armies for Alexander and Napolean. Nazis for Hitler. Fascists for Mussolini. They were dictators. But this is democracy. Here there are voters. There are no human beings.
Those who searched for human beings ended up on the cross. For them, poison, furnace, gallows and bullet. Why should they be remembered? Feared?
Instrument. The object called human being is my instrument...
The doctor who conducted post mortem on Rahel's body said:
The spleen burst. That is why she died so suddenly.
After removing the cloth covering the body, the policeman who was searching for identification marks and external injuries, said: This is a dead body. No need to bother if it is male or female.
The children who peeped, standing at the door of the mortuary to see the body, might have been shocked. They got a holiday. Vincent's mother. The school was given holiday to honour the mother. To Vincent the dead body is mother. Just part of their job to the doctor and policeman. A curiosity to the children and teachers.
Children. Teacher.
The human being in the doctor is not needed. The human being in the policeman is also not needed. Profession alone is enough. They know each other through profession. The human being ends there.
The doctor dissecting the body.
The children wondered about his knowledge of human anatomy. The doctor came out of the mortuary with the lightness of having skinned an onion. His face blushed in the sunlight.
Archimedes. That detachment. The spleen burst.
The policeman wrote minute details:
The dead body lies in the east-west direction. The head towards the west. The feet towards the east. The head is inclined slightly to the right. The skin is darkish brown. Partly greyed hair is like coir fibres. A wound at the back of the head: length- three inch, depth-
The dress drenched in blood dries. The colour of red.
The colour of blood is red. The colour of dawn and childbirth is red. Her daughter-in-law in labour pains. Rahel, gave birth to seven children felt: It is a complication. The girl should be taken to a hospital. No medicine in the hospital. She should be given an injection immediately.
You govern a welfare country by running a hospital without medicine.
Rahel stepped on the straight line T. She rushed inside the market. The death came roaring from behind. The stunned crowd runs helter-skelter. Her ear roars, she falls down.
The visible injury is on the back of the head. The head hit a granite stone. The spleen burst. May be because someone who ran for his life stamped on her. The eyes of the dying Rahel overflowed.
Will she like to die?
All these details are not required for the voters list. Deleted names. Reason-
Heneceforth Rahel will not give birth to M.L.A.s . Vincent is a male. Will he create an M.L.A?
One cannot say.
M.L.A.is not someone's freehold.
He roamed through the market looking for two hundred and one. Book Markets. Kizhakoodan. Thazhoor. Elcy. Aradi. This is a town of books. The government published textbooks. Their expert advisors planned the curricula. The guides for school textbooks printed and published by Kizhakkodan, Thazhoor, Elcy and Aradi were all bought by the students.
Amitha studies in the second standard. She is reading the Kerala Padhavali ( Malayalam ) Standard Two. Elcy Guide.
Prayer = Request ( Begging )
Meanings of difficult words. The first difficult word whose meaning is given, is prayer. It's meaning can be either request or begging.
For the lunch she is given the uppuma made from American along with the milk made using American milk powder.
The very first word she must learn should be begging.
The beautiful trees showering light stand shoulder to shoulder; the eye-catching creepers with flowers spreading pleasant fragrance on the earth; the mighty rivers with large waves spreading good all around, the shining moon in the silvery splendor-
Amitha is six years old.
She has Elcy's Malayalam Guide, Aradi's General Science ( Prepared according to the new curriculum of Government of Kerala )
The entrance of Tower.
The door on the north.
The husband came in through the front door. The lover through the kitchen door. She does not know whose child it is.
Kizhakoodan and Thekkodan created M.L.A's. They became ministers. They governed. They talked about socialism in the public and private sector. Let foreign and country liquor rule supreme, let smuggling and hoarding flourish, they prayed. Let us hang the smugglers and hoarders, they blabbered. Then went with them to ' Eagle's Wing ', got drunk, watched the cabaret show and proceeded to the press club to issue statements about ancient Indian culture.
He pushed through the crowds, climbed on to the steps of shops and enquired. Two hundred and one is missing. He hopped across the books of Bala Bodhana Samgraham published by Kizhakkodan kept for drying. He saw the faces of children in his mind.
Two ones are two. Two twos are four.
A teacher who was revising the voter's list of ward number one in a town, was allotted houses from two hundred and one to four hundred and five. Find the total number of houses allotted to him.
How many houses?
How many voters?
He walked feeling sorry that he does not know even one of them. Do you know at least one among the crowd? Do you know that at least each one of them has a face, and that, externally, a man is only his face?
What are facial features?
What about the people sitting inside the roaring bus? With great discomfort, they stood and sat. Alone! Caring only about themselves, worrying only about themselves, they manage to live. Socialism.
Selling off the property started a finance company. A steel factory was started. An oil mill. From now on, the earth is not wealth. Wealth is industry. Capture it.
The poor man is left to fend himself.
This is called socialism. This is what is called democratic socialism.
He wandered in the market road to know about thousands, searching for two hundred and one. The meat shops, fish markets, toddy shops.
Matathottil Appu Velappayi. Velappayi is father. Male. Thirty-four.
Sells Toddy.
In the list, profession is not mentioned.
Matathottil Mathu Appu. Appu is husband. Female. Thirty.
Sells fish curry. By the side of the compound wall of the market, in front of the toddy shop, below the board of the Ex-Services Co-operative Society, which stopped all services due to lack of co-operation, by the side of the canal-
It stinks.
Ward number one.
Where is the town?
Praise the Lord, the creator of the beautiful word, town.
Two hundred and one.
Why are you here?
Where are you going, Sir?
Gopi, which is two hundred and one?
Two hundred and one?
He is going for playing stump and stick.
You come along.
They walked through the stinking road, avoiding the filth. They peeped at each door in the long line of the rented houses. Two hundred and one is missing. The printed forms of the Vistruta Bala Padhangal published by Kizhakkoodan are kept stacked on each portico. The women and children folded the forms and bound them.
The place where the ships are docked is called a port - Cochin.
The earth which is slightly higher than the surrounding land is called a hill.
The earth which is much more higher than the surrounding land is called a mountain.
The earth which is still elevated from the mountain and stand pointing is called a peak - Everest ( Ten Sing )
What did Amitha know? The earth has become pointed! The teacher teaches her that the earth is round. The earth which is higher than the land is hill and mountain.
1 Farthing - 1/2 anna
1 Penny - 1 Anna
1 shilling - 12 Anna
1 Pound - 15 Rupees
Then weeks, months, signs, favourable seasons.
The unopposed in the world. Feminine genders.
Father- Mother
Servant - Maid.
Signs, Aphorisms.
There are four mothers - The King's wife, teacher's wife, elder brother's wife and own mother.

This is democratic socialism. Here the cunning thief sells the idiots and makes money. The democracy which sustains the king, servant and the beggars each according to his ability, - Long live democracy!
Four mothers.
How many mothers for Gopi? One or four? He grows up as if he has none. His body also grows up with his age. The growth is reflected in his classmates. Gopi is becoming thin and pale. The bones on his chest are protruding. He is feeling giddy. He was sleepy when attendance was taken in the class. He said he has a head ache. When the teacher turned back after writing the maths problem on the board, Gopi was lying on the bench. Tired. His tears did not cease. He did not say what it was. The children were standing surrounding him. The children were let off for playing. Peace. Gopi is crying.
A cup of tea was ordered on credit. He had come with bus fare only.
Gopi's face was washed with water.
His father is admitted in the hospital. Driver. He was thrown out from the van, hit on the chest. His hands and legs were fractured.
Mother is in the house.
Who else are there?
Elder sister, elder brother and younger sister.
What does your elder brother do?
Working in the bakery.
Elder sister?
Sister has left.
He cried. Will anybody know the reason for crying? A family is struggling in his mind. If you hear his story can you understand his feelings? This is not Gopi, the child. He is not alone. His family, their worries, hopes, sorrows - A man is a sum of what all things?
He had uppuma and milk yesterday. He attends school, since uppuma and milk are served for lunch.
Had coffee in the morning?
Had supper?
Had lunch? Dinner? Is Dinner served at your home, club or hotel?
" As the beggars were crowding the street
waiting for the arrival of leftovers
which were not forthcoming.... "

What can you do other than throwing rava and milk powder to them?
Beggarman - feminine gender - Beggarwoman
Who is responsible for the stunted growth of this boy? The father who was delivering iced sardines in a van having no brakes? Or mother?
If one thousand contraceptives are worn for a period of half an year, the effect on the population growth for ten years ...
The effect on the thousands of tonnes of flesh which did not grow on the children of the country ...
In the market.
Meat shops
The compound wall. What a tall wall, towering in the sky! Yet, the wind blew above the wall. A disgusting smell originated from the stinking mass flowing through the drains and the canal. Flowing underneath on both sides, in the slums - nausea.
Where is the nice, lovely, enchanting town?
He stood before the slum, holding his breath.
She stood behind the stacks of forms of the PSC Guides published by Elcy.
We do not have a house number!
When did you build your hut?
My husband is working in the bus station - porter.
When did you build your hut?
During the Christmas before the last one.
Still, there is no number?
Speak aloud. She can't hear well.
Even the deaf has the right to vote.
Let people who can hear, say.
The children came forward. In front of the huts built on the gravel, walls made of printed forms. Language guides, General Knowledge, A Thousand and one love letters - let people learn. There is work even in the slums, in the town of text books - Binding, Ruling. Walls made of notebooks. Books kept for drying like papads. The children read these smelly books. The head teacher adjusts the account. He has a sumptous lunch. Rice with curd made from American milk powder. Pillow cover made out of American rava sacks.
How to make an entry?
Serial number, house number -
Newly added names. No house number.
What is the definition of a house?
Den for tiger, hole for fox, hole for rat, pen for sheep, shed for cattle, house for man.
He prevented the children from grabbing the ledger kept on the stack of unfolded guides. Let it be there. You leaked from the contraceptives. If you attain the age, the teacher who comes for enumeration will enter your names. Then you can vote, if the system of election exists then. Then the ministers created by you will visit the foreign countries. They will affix their signatures for rava and milk powder to be donated by Uncle Sam to feed your children. Eating it, the children will read with aching chest:
Prayer = Request ( Begging )
Servant = Maid
The beggar will govern unashamed with devotion and service attitude.
If you hang them, will the great country that is India, flow towards south? Will it get engulfed by the sea?
The deluge named revolution.
Will your children take part in the election?
Chirakkal Mariamma Michael. Michael is the husband.
Where is he?
He is in the cemetry.
Are you alone?
She did not reply. The wrinkles on her cheek quivered. Her tanned lips quivered.
Ettyenum came down from the adjacent hut.
I will tell you.
Can't Mariamma speak?
Mariamma is mad.
She cannot vote.
Deleted names.
Ettyenum was sad. Not that much - she was feeling sorry.
Is Mariamma alone?
She is alone during the day. In the night, the girl comes to keep company - Her daughter's girl.
Her daughter?
She is married. She is living in the market street.
She had. He is dead. He was a porter in the market. When he was carrying a load of arecanuts on his head, the van came. Without brakes. Can Kunjumon carrying a heavy load apply brake? If you are carrying a 100 kg load on your head, you should be running without your feet touching the ground. He was flying. Then the van comes straight in front, like death. Kunjumon applied sudden brake. Since then, he did not move. He fell down and vomited blood. Imagine the commotion on the day when the van overturned! There were no beds, medicines and doctors in the hospital!
Does Mariamma get pension?
Ettyenum could not understand. She does not know the theory of the welfare nation. She is binding the Vistruta Bala Vignana Kosam of Thazhoor.
From the slums he went to the streets of the market. Gopi followed like a shadow.
Vincent also came.
Why is Vincent not attending the class? Vincent's brother Pailappan came. Vincent brought tea. He felt like vomiting. Gopi had vanished from sight.
He can not drink. Vincent's mouth watered.
He added new names.
Purathookaran Pailappan Mathappan. Mathappan - Father. Male. Age Twentyfour.
He wrote sitting on the bench. In front of him, the abandoned ruling machine burned in the hot sun.
In the old list, there were four voters.
Where are the other two?
Mother is dead!
He looked at the face of Vincent, who was eyeing the ledger, leaning against the wall. Will he cry? What will he think, hearing the word " mother " ?
The mind is agitated. In the desert of each human mind, there are waves of mirage dancing up to infinity. Among these waves which can not be seen or felt, one or two reach the face.
Vincent stood there. Mother is a dead body. Dead. Both of them indifferent.
Who is Eliyamma?
He shouldn't have asked. Eliyamma Pailappan. Pailappan is the husband. Mother had taken her to the hospital.
Purathookaran Rahelamma Mathappan. Mathappan is husband.
Reason, Death.
Not the fish van. Where is Eliyamma?
Pailappan was stunned. While staring on to the stillness, could hear:
Did you not see the photo in the newspaper? They were twins. Siamese twins. Children and mother died.
He must be somewhere in the street.
He is not dead?
Pailappan laughed. Vincent stood, devastated. Pailappan asked:
What do you think?
He visited many houses. Pailappan accompanied him. Gopi followed, playing stump and stick. While going to the new buildings built on the open land behind the market, he saw the sheds where the cattle for meat are housed. When he came out after counting the voters in the new buildings, Pailappan said:
They were butchers. They made a lot of money. Did you see?
He looked back at the new buildings.
Is it envy?
You should make money by stealing, boot-legging, selling your honour and adulteration. It is not enough if you make a beedi. Keep a golden needle inside the beedi and make it.
In the outskirts of the town, the open space descends on to the fields. On the banks of the paddy field nourished by the leftovers of the town, he visited abodes, housed in palm groves. He opened the file sitting on the courtyard at the side of the kitchen in the compound where the freshly plucked coconuts were being counted.
Is it election?
The landlord smiled.
There are three families staying in this hut.
Theyyanthara Ammini Narayanan.
Have a seat, sir.
Gopi waited, spreading a mat on the half wall of the kitchen.
Is this your house?
Gopi smiled without replying. He looked at his mother's face.
The mother, Theyyanthara Ammini said:
Correct that name.
Is it wrong?
It is not wrong. Those days, Narayanan was my husband. This name was entered then. Now you should write my father's name.
Father's name will do.
Narayanan has not come?
Sir, I have work in the kitchen. Please write the name and leave me alone.
Alungal Ammini Apputty. Father- Apputty.
I am Thirtyseven.
You have children of voting age?
Mother, what about Sister!
Get lost, you dog!
Gopi was not taken aback. He says:
Sir, I am not a dog.
How old is your son who is working in the bakery?
Mother looked at Gopi's face. He must have felt like pissing. He jumped to the courtyard and walked.
Ammini asked as though she was cornered:
Are you Gopi's teacher?
You gave him tea?
She smiled enticingly.
So what?
I am lucky to see you.
There was nothing to say! Hence he looked on with curiosity. Ammini said:
He is nineteen.
All of a sudden, he did not understand. Ammini's face vanished. His mind became empty. In the emptiness, Gopi's brother was born. Formless!
He is not of age!
He looked at the long line drawn by the black eyes, when Ammini turned towards the kitchen.
Pailappan said:
The other family is on the other side.
What he heard was the sound of bangles.
Sitting on the portico, Joseph Xavier is playing with the naked baby. Joseph has a long beard. A big bandage on his knee. Sitting between his stretched legs, the baby played.
What happened?
Fish van. Joseph is the cleaner. He was trapped inside the van which turned turtle, striking against the wall of the running room. The knee cap was smashed. He can not bend his knees.
He wrote Joseph's name.
The baby's mother has gone for bathing. It is not Joseph's baby. It is Theyyanthara Ramani's baby. There are two voters in Joseph's family. His wife is cutting vegetables in the kitchen.
Kitchen means inside the house. In the house number 23/16, Joseph is living inside. Ramani lives on the west, where an extension is built. Ammini lives in the kitchen and verandah.
Each door has a number.
Is it a play or a story?
When Ramani came in after bathing, the baby extended its arms. Is it a male or a female? Opening the door, Ramani rushed inside.
The baby cried. Joseph patted the crying baby.
Thresiamma rushed out from inside to the portico.
I will stab all of you, see?
She showed the knife.
Bending one knee and not bending the other and supporting himself on his hand, Joseph tried to stand up. The baby fell down and started bawling. Thresiamma screamed:
You sit here patting the baby! I will show you. Now, if I talk, people might overhear ...
It is enough. Better to leave now. If watch this drama, will miss the bus.
Thresiamma continued chattering.
Is it election? Will you build a hospital in this area after the election? My husband's kneecap has to be replaced. Without it he can not work and earn food. He will sit here patting the baby. We can survive if you build a hospital.
Ramani flew out without changing her dress.
You bitch, stop bawling.
She again flew inside. Again, Thressiamma addressed her husband who was struggling to stand up.
Pat the baby. Pat it again.
She walked inside, backwards. Ramani hesitated inside.
Can you please come out?
What for?
Are you of voting age?
I am of age for anything. Let me change my dress. Oh! I can't find it. Has someone stolen it? My God! People who plunder the souls in sleep!
How old are you?
Twenty one. Have patience. Men have no commonsense! I can not come out in front of you without dressing. That also might be stolen.
You have horoscope?
I don't have.
Are you the daughter of Theyyanthara Ammini?
Yes. No one is mistaken about the mother.
What is your husband's name?
Thresiamma jumped out. She shouted while jumping: You write : Narayanan, Joseph, Pailappan.
On looking back, Pailappan is missing. Joseph who was sitting stretching his legs, put his hands backwards. The baby touched his bandage.
Male or female?
Is not Narayanan your father?
Ramani came out flying in her wet clothes and stood as erect as she can.
Why not? Can't a father become a husband? Sir, I gave birth to a baby!
Father, mother, husband and teacher can become a guardian. Father can also be a husband!
Where is Narayanan?
Do you want that also? He is in the hospital. Wretched! He did not die. The van was destroyed completely. Narayanan did not die. He will come again. Bastard! He will not be in his senses. He lives in the liquor shop. When he comes home, who is mother, who is daughter?
Looking at the column, male or female, in the form, eyes are blinded. The baby cries stretching its hands.
Thinks: My child, who are you?
What is your fate?

Translated from Malayalam by A.Purushothaman
(20th July 2000)