Translation of Writer Jeyamohan's Short Story -
I happen to come across this question “Do you have faith in God?” oftentimes. “I don’t know” has been the convenient answer that I have learnt from my past experiences or rather expedient answer.
Reminisce of a memorable incident rewinds me back to my adolescent years. I was 16, when a lame Kolan Appu smacked down a horrendous rowdy Deva Aaseervaatham (Aaseeraan) of my town. Like every other youth, on those days, I was in firm belief that, humanhood’s foremost achievement was physical strength. Every time, I came upon a story line like “There was a baddie!!” I was charmed into that character at once. As an indispensable destiny of the stories these characters get defeated in the end evoking a feel of remorseful satisfaction. What a golden age the erstwhile period was, starting with “Once upon a time,” the unremitting Rakshasas and Asuras (race of unrighteous mighty mythological characters) prospered the life of mankind with inundated stories. Gods were forced to prove the prevalence of Dharma. I reckon erstwhile period must had been world’s wonderful young days, because only the worlds of young filled with the fairy stories, even the illusions and fantasies turn out to be stories.
Aaseeraan was a reckless Rakshasa of our town, over six feet tall with a big moustache, elder son of Ponnumuthan Peruvattar. Being an impetuous rogue, street brawling was his chief occupation. As every common men of our town usually found in well-built physique furthermore sturdy hulks were also in legion, dispense of ground level justice was solely based on strength of fist blows. There was seldom a sunset without scuffles yet the mere news of Aaseeraan’s arrival was appalling to everyone, confronting him to straight to face caused most of them to recede at once with shudder , barring few whom used to greet him with evasive fake friendly tone “Hey, Peruvattar, long time. No see... What’s up? You see, I am running an errand, see you then”. Taking a sneak peek through the windows, watching over the sight of Aaseeraan, who walked brandishing his massive arms, tramping the ground authoritatively with his foot, rakishly swaddling the saffron dhoti (A long loincloth worn by Indian men) half up to the thigh, like an unchained elephant, the women used to curse him “Look at that wretch!!? Scoundrel!! Oh. .Dear Mother Mary, I beseech you, punish him to death!!”. ‘Sukku’ Thanapannan once told me, “These cursing, imprecations are altogether simply feigning act of these women, every women crave for a man with broad chests and curvy shoulders, Can you ever pick at least one who refrain from peeping at him? These women could deceive even the Brahma (God of creation) with their pretense.”
Now, when I look back, I could determine the reason behind the mightiness of Aaseeraan. The chief reason was, apart from holding the record of aggressively flexing his muscles in every other street scuffle, actually he went through extreme training in “Varma adi” martial art (teaches attack of pressure points of human body) for few years. The other advantage of him over others, was a shiny pricking eyes usually found in the hardened violent rogues, in a way parallel to the distinct thorny sheen typically found in the eyes of the adulteresses, which repels the common man upon seeing them. During the perilous situations, a common man suffers with rapidly agitating mind, shivering leg and with the spurted out imagination which shambles the calmness of mind entirely. The most importantly he loses control over the body. Usually we stand in a bending posture as if inclining towards the wind with stooping shoulders and slackened legs, but when you are about to fight, foremostly you have to stand firmly like “Attention” position of a military parade. The very first lesson of “Varma adi” Guru, is training the learner to stand firm. Once your stance is firm, then you just need to rein in the wavering mind.
My father’s comrade Ponnu Nadar a Guru of “Varma Adi” once told me “A resolute stand as fierce as ‘the stance of a ravenous Tiger when notices its first prey’ is crucial for a Resolute mind”. He had taught me two more techniques. While in a fighting stance, one should not vacillate the eyes, upon vigilantly observing the surroundings for few seconds, pin the eyesight in the ambiguous part of the assailant’s body as an enigmatic stare, this would be sufficient to confuse the assailant, as he would reflexively try to infer the opposite tormentor’s imminently possible action by looking into his eyes. The second technique was, one should never punch swinging the arm round horizontally because the circular movement will reduce the force of the punch instead always jab straight, sharply and quickly with pronated fists at the moment of impact. I underwent “Varma adi” training for 8 months and later I went through entirely different art of training in the weapons like Kattari (A kind of trident spear) and Silambham (Bamboo staff), which enables us to focalize the body and hand in a single point by keeping mind still, also unconsciously handle these weapons like bare hands. Despite the rigorous training, my mind could never accord with body.
Kolan Appu was a fearful soul, an invalid, with unusually round head like a big mango and a withered bow leg in a scrimpy body, used to walk grotesquely. Factorum of temple, preparer server of temple prasadam, knitting flower stitches for shrine garlands and omnipresent drudger of every other house, skivving for odd errands like scrapping coconuts, peeling the moringa green leaves for lettuce were his main occupations. Although a feeble lady, according to my town standards, his sister Sneha Prabha was sort of a dream girl. Even an anemic woman was ogled by many on those times. Aaseeraan would not usually tease the upper caste women, yet on that day he did molest Sneha prabha might be because of her being poor. When Aaseeraan intercepted her, at the 3rd corner of ‘Irumbu kaadu’ junction, while she was on her way to cashew nut mill for work, I was buying tobacco in Nesan’s petty shop. Aaseeraan’s close buddies ‘Ochchu’ Shanmugam, Paraman and Sthanishlaas were standing at the nearby Kannan barber shop. Few more women who sold yams were also standing in front of a grocery shop. Pretending as if walking towards opposite direction, unbeknownst to her, suddenly lunging forward, belting his arm acroos her stomach, scooping her, pressed her rump. “Chee!!!” she snarled at him, brazen Aaseeraan grabbing her tightly, squeezing her breasts several times, pounced down her. While the stuttering howls of Sneha prabha flickering the thoughts of everyone, followed ticks of time passed, as if a game of wrestling occurring. It came to end finally, he threw her down on ground, draping back the dhoti casually, scrapping the groin with fingers, set off straight to “Onakkai” Appadi nayar’s Manikanda vilasam Hotel and tea shop.
In past, Aaseeraan had raped many destitute women. He was even shoved away by entire slum populace pelting stones on him once. But such an incident in the middle of the road was unprecedented, which utterly and completely stunned all, “Oh, Jesus Christ!!” her terrified colleagues screaming in baffle, drew back from there. After few nervous moments a woman with basket, breaking the shackle went near Sneha prabha, taking up her in hand. “Oh . . . Jesus!! Blast him!! Perish that vermin in Cholera!! Rip off his hands!” furiously cursed Aaseeraan. “You get-up. Go home dear, God will punish every sinner.” soothed her.
I was galloping to pass this news to Appu, found the infuriated Appu who was already on his way. The enraged Appu whirling his withered leg, shapelessly quivering his body, was pacing wildly towards Aaseeran. The fellas of temple surroundings slowly thronged en masse in eager, with an unusual wonderment, began to follow Appu. Some of them were in comical look of surprise. “Hey Jeya, Come over here, Appu is going to kill Aaseeraan.” Raman Pillai called me, mirthfully winking at me. ”Appu, Listen to me, He is a ruthless beast. Go home quietly” told compounder Bhagyamuthu, holding his shoulder. “Leave me Compounder sir, Let me settle this today, either him or me” uttered Appu stridently. No one could stop Appu.
Aaseeraan with a burning beedi, was repose fully sitting along with his cohorts on a bench of a shop near “Erumbukaadu” junction. With a gaping hairdressing scissor on his right hand, upon noticing the arrival of Appu, Dhamu who work at Kannan barber shop beckoned Aaseeraan. Countenances seeming like eliciting a feel of amusement, anticipating a funny event gathered there. Appu dashed in there infuriately, his grotesquely quivering unusual physique made his arrival appeared like an entry of a clown on a play stage. When he picked up and swaddled the dhoti with his withered leg, there was indeed a snigger undulated from amidst of the congregated crowd.
“Where is that Aaseeraan? You scoundrel!! You will die in my hands today" Appu cried maniacally in rather a shrilly voice. But the intense sight of unruly Appu furiously hounding for Aaseeraan hopping across that street like a snorting raged bull, forced those who were laughing earlier, to shut their laughter.
Exhibiting a deliberately contrived heedlessness in each limb of his body, slowly risen Aaseeraan “Buddy Robert, Take away this squawking moron, otherwise I will not spare him!! “Uttered calmly. As I was being a guy who used to ruminate Aaseeraan's visage at least thousand times a day, I could perceive a seemingly new-fangled fright in his face. Encountering feisty Appu, Aaseeraan found him in an unthought-of situation, who had so far confronted only the knee-jerking, crumpling grovelers. He was forced to squash Appu like a bug.
"You low-life, I am going to chop off your head and feed your body to vultures"!!” cried Appu vociferously. Chomping on the beedi, Aaseeraan showed sign of moving towards Appu, But Appu, did not move neither towards Aaseeraan nor backwards.
Instead "Come-out you punk, you street dog, Bring it on!!" Appu threw down the gauntlet standing firmly on his right foot,
"You weakling, Go back to your backstair kitchen to peel the moringa leaves!!" uttered Aaseeraan spitting the beedi to ground, fastening his eye on Appu, neither Aaseeran did move towards Appu.
Appu provocatively taunted him once again. Aaseeraan spat few more times, restlessly squirming over both sides, scrapping the soil with legs, enunciated "Baskar, Get this lunatic lame out of my sight right now!!” That hazy junction filled with smoky dusts in the parching sun shine frozen for some time, as if, it could get disrupted at any time.
Of a sudden, Appu shouted expletives , addressing Aaseeraan sister's breast in a profane way, calling Aaseeraan, send his sister to sleep with him. Enkindled Aaseeraan, bringing lump in his throat, with his eyes out, unleashing swear words loud and bawl, stormed towards Appu with a risen right arm as if he is going to punch. During such situations, usually he follows a unique technique. Albeit being a left hander, when Aaseeraan about enter in a duel, confronting a tormentor up in arms, always rises his right hand at first, while the tormentor absorbed in looking at the right arm, with his powerful left arm he gives a blow straight into the face mostly targeting the eyes. He would make sure the first knockout blow as ferocious as possible, so that kayoed tormentor seldom regain consciousness.
But that ruse did not work with Appu. When Aaseeraan thrust forward towards him, Appu did not move even an inch, utterly un-anticipating this audacious response from Appu, perplexed Aaseeraan got deflected in his usual flow in a jiffy. Yet quickly recovering back, he managed to deliver a punch, which was neither accurate nor a deftly one and also it did not have the distinct innate energy of his usual heavy blow punch. Appu keeping his crippled left leg floating in air unwaveringly, standing on his right foot firmly, successfully warded off the Aaseeraan’s punch dodging down on time. Aaseeraan losing balance due to the follow-up force of the futile blow attempt, fumbled for few seconds, by taking full advantage of that moment, Appu slapped resoundly on the cheek of Aaseeraan.
I was flabbergasted. That particular moment stuck with me for so long, that I lost count on the number of times I recollected that incident since then. I could construe two things at that moment, first of all, Aaseeraan never expected such a slap from an invalid even in his worst nightmare. Secondly, a sudden applaud acclaiming Appu from the surrounded crowd fumed Aaseeraan tremendously. Aaseeraan completely losing temper, hustling towards Appu, attacked him chaotically, in great confusion. But you ought to be very careful while attacking an assailant with unusual physique, there is a high chance of his subtle body movement used as a tactical maneuver. (It is common that the most of the notorious rowdies of the town are found in deformed physique, horde of them are left-handers). As his disordered pummeling mostly went in vain, extremely exasperated Aaseeraan, jumping off his feet, screaming in rage, attacked him more and more crazily.
Outburst of mindless anger ebbed out the energy, especially the breathe energy. Aaseeraan realizing himself slacked off in energy, upheaving himself forcefully, apparently indicating him completely out of mind and control, started attacking Appu with both hands and legs at the same time, very much unlike him. For a long time Appu did not respond back to Aaseeraan's attacks.
In the proceeded minutes, frenzied Aaseeraan presumptuously attacked Appu as if dead reckoning that he would never react. But at a sudden moment, once again using his unusual physique as ploy, without giving any chance for Aaseeraan to predict the direction of the blows, Appu began to assault him back with a loud snarl, mostly targeting the eyes of Aaseeraan over and again. Though it seemed like the Appu's punches and kicks were weak, it was tautly filled with heart and soul. A direct blow to Aaseeraan's nose, broke his nose, causing bleeding. Rampaged Aaseeraan while trying to thrust towards Appu, tumbled and collapsed down on the ground sprawlingly.
The moment of truth arrived. Appu exposed a chain made of cast-iron clamped with the temple fort's mighty door lock for the first time, which was hidden inside his ragged shirt around the waist, tied like a belt till then. Entire crowd stunned at that sight. 'Erumai' Thanupillai cried "Appu, Don't have that brute's blood on your hand!!” Those words must have struck on Aaseeraan like thunder of curse, he turned as though a man buckled under magical incantation. His attempts to get on the knees foiled, starring at the chained lock feebly, shaking the head and hands dissently, then onwards began to behave like a demented man. The sound of the first chain blow, smashing on dead center of Aaseeraan backbone, clacked mercilessly. Entire assemblage felt a spur on their spine. Then the sporadic screams, with interlude sounded like wordless groaning of a beast erupted. Sound of dread!! Sound of pure pain!! There was not a trace of humanness in that sound. Yes, it was sound of Jeevan. Without any sign of hostility, that clobbered Goliath, hopelessly ceded himself.
“You Dog, You Dog!!” reiterating these swear words like chanting vehement mantra over and again, Appu battered him with no pause, losing himself completely as if possessed timelessly. Any uniform motion accelerated over a period of time attains accuracy and reaches topmost speed at some point. That cold hearted lock whirling around forming exquisite circles, thrashing upon the bone with each smash, tore away Aaseeraan warm flesh luridly.
After initial nerve-racking moments, the beast resided in the assembled crowd, awakened and began to relish the gruesome sight soundlessly. The clandestine reeky smell of the blood, capable of inducing the libidinous dreams beyond bounds and resurrecting the suppressed grudges of young days, hemorrhaged from Aaseeraan body, rolled on the dust like red pearls. Ah, look at the soil of earth! How lustrously sucks the blood as though a thirsty vampire. The same blood, when it was rapidly flowing inside the human body, what an abundant ideas, conceptions and glorious fancies outpoured!! Human blood is the most unparalleled holy offertory for god. Only this venerable blood can salvage the human from the conceit of life and bring him back to pure primeval state.
The pounding hearts of assemblage’s, insistently ululating “Gimme more, Gimme more”, attaining acme of fatigue, when it seemed like frozen forever timelessly, Appu ended finally on a sudden moment. Leaving Aaseeran in the pool of blood, Appu began to clean the lock wiping away the blood stinks in the nearby stream. Assemblages gave a loud sigh of relief and dispersed like tumbleweeds strewn over by a fresh wind.
The fresh water stream turning crimson whirled away. Stream aside grasses besmirched with sludge and sprays of blood appeared like bloody mouth of a wild predator. By the ruby droplets trickling down slowly, from his dampened shirt and began to clot, Appu in trance washed the lock for a long time, over and again in unusual slow motion. Only after, Velupillai poked his shoulder by saying “Appu, Appu what have you done, boy?” he convulsively startled as though awakened from a dream just realizing that he was falling from a precipice. Appu glanced the tormented Aaseeran in bloodshed whose eye appeared like the eye of a plaintive fish caught in a fishing net and uttered “God prevails Velu Anna!!” in an exotic voice followed by a spasmodic sob emitted from his deep.
After six months of hospitalization, Aaseeran was discharged. But the blows on his head, causing permanent damage to his nervous system, traumatized him mentally and physically. Bedridden Aaseeran spending rest of his life at a prostitute’s abode died in two years. Since no eye-witnesses turned up, the trial was dismissed for the lack of evidence. Appu then ran a petty shop, registering himself as a member of Marxist communist party, embarked in political activities zealously, won the local panchayat election and eventually became “Member Appu”.
Everyone echoed in chorus “Grace of God”. The myriads of garlands he knitted with fervent spirit in serving the god, bestowed the virtue of this talismanic power. “You see, the illustration of God almighty’s might. He will never let go sinners unpunished.” told Erumbukannan. Since then I had been asking these perennial questions to myself. What is God? How does he manifest on soil of earth?
Appu’s every action was meticulously planned and timely executed. To begin with the first plan of, his ireful kickoff from the temple and crowds huddling by on the way, he made sure the news of him about arrive reached Aaseeran. The news of an irate enemy on his way for a duel could perturb any brave. When I recollect back the countenance of Aaseeran, news of arriving furious Appu with a surrounded crowd apparently recoiled some frail part of deep him. That’s why he exaggerated the indifferentness.
Had Appu thrust towards to set on Aaseeran at first, just a single punch from Aaseeran could well have finished him. Instead his provocation enraged Aaseeran to hustle him towards Appu. Usually in a duel, the legs of the one who stands firmly is more inviolable than the one who is on the move. Also stable one has an advantage of better visibility of the tormentor’s body than the opponent. His crafty use of his deformed body, when he got a slight opportunity the way he grabbed to jab targeting the eyes over and again, tricked Aaseeran furthermore. The foremost of all the techniques was, the way he managed to disguise the weapon till the last stand. Aaseeran would had been more attentive, had he knew about the weapon at first. The dramatic way he took the weapon out once Aaseeran was fallen on ground; shut all the resistance of clueless Aaseeran.
I had often noticed Appu hysterically conversing with the local “Varma adi” martial art Gurus at temple. His zealousness towards listening and reacting to the famous duel stories of the town was well known. I thought he was merely exposing his vent of incapability being a scrawny lame. But now it is evidently clear that these carried out techniques were the dribbling details he absorbed earlier. Then, what is God? Are those unfathomable mind caves of Appu which stashed in the martial art proficiency for these right moments, is god? Is the unanticipated outburst of moral indignation from Appu putting his life at stake, is god? Or during the duel, the righteousness which set the previously incongruous crowd entirely to his side, is god? Perhaps the divinely force emerged virtuously from the sling unbeknownst to David must be god.
I reckon Appu cited the collection of all the above virtues together as God. But one thing is sure. The lofty godliness is exalted far away from the mere mundane matters. Like sudden outpouring of fountain stream, godliness manifests itself only at very special crucial junctures. Those are the moments gets registered as turning points in histories, remembered and venerated forever. Undoubtedly it is the fountainhead of Art. Art can portray the realness, outline the darker side, re-examine the morality or improvise by metaphorically fabricating scraps of those moments. There are innumerable ways Art can interact. The most fascinating challenge is, how to translate the moments of illustration of god, in literature and Arts, tugging reader’s heartstrings.
Yes. Every Art and Literature reiterates Appu’s words “God prevails”.