Friday, April 14, 2006


The Tomb:

Chinmay didnt have many friends in Bangalore. As it goes, it never did have many friends anywhere in the world. Presently, he lived alone in an outhouse hidden behind the owners' towering building of 3 stories. Scarcely did sunlight enter the house--he never called it one, he called it "The Tomb". Every night, after spending a cheerful wonderful day outside in his office and an extremely forgettable dinner, he crawled back to his tomb to die for the night. The next morning he would again rise to life and get going. He wryly remarked to himself that he seemed between the Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu (for whom the greatest of the tombs, 'The Great Pyramid of Giza' was built) and Phoenix.

The Curse:

He had not eaten anything since the late breakfast, in a nearby 'Sagar', a 'stand-and-eat' joint. On that Sunday, it had been raining heavily, as it had been every single day since the last 10 days, and his cold was only getting worse. There was no electricity, so there was nothing to do. It was almost dinner time and he wanted something hot to eat, perhaps some rasam. But no, he cant have rasam. His dysentery had come back. Anyway, he couldnt think of a restaurant that served rasam as he liked it. Some soothing like curd-rice may be? But no-- the cold, remember? Some hot soup perhaps? The bad memories of arthropods making their presence felt in that soup he had at the only other restaurant in the vicinity precipitated themselves again. The only alternative left was idli. He loved idli. In fact, he used to say that idli is one of the greatest culinary inventions ever. But the proposition that he was forced to eat idli made him feel heavy of heart and helpless. He had idli the afternoon before,the night before, and that day morning. His tastebuds yearned for something else. He had been cursed to eat only idli, as if providence was bent upon making him detest that lovely dish. He was very ill, and felt forlorn and forgotten in that tomb.

The rain abated. Chinmay slowly came out and started instinctively creeping towards the Sagar. Exactly on top of this Sagar was that restaurant where he had to undergo that ordeal of learning how arthropods swim in soup. He reached the joint and prepared himself for the impending torture. He looked at the eating joint and asked himself what had life come to! He wondered if there was somebody called God and whether that God was listening to his intellections, but then he realised that the Guy-Up-There,if there was one, had no other choice. He had to listen to every thought of every being in the universe. He wondered that when they said 'God made man in his image', what they really meant was that man was born into a life of compulsions just as God is bound by them. Perhaps He doesnt know any other way it would work.

The Mutiny:

"The greatest of the greatest lies in the smallest of the smallest" said an Indian ('dots, not feathers!') philosopher. He couldnt have been more right, for something within this weakend and burdened heart stirred. He remembered how every moment of the life had to be enjoyed. He looked at the bright points which suddenly started revealing themselves as the nebula of melancholy began to blown away by the strong breeze of elation and optimism-- he was still young, he had travelled a lot and seen much worse times, he was drawing a more than decent starting salary of 6.25 lacs p.a. It called for a celebration. He was visibly elated and... 'happy'!. None of that idli now-- perhaps some other time. He went for fried rice. He was ready to face the cruel world and let the nemesis know that he wasnt going down without a fight.

Very soon, he got his order ready-- there lay a gaudy plate full of grotesque looking fried rice in front of him, contrived no doubt by the sagar owner so that it looks like "rich-man's food" to those who have never even seen the rich eat. He still remembered how, at home, the simpler food was admired and respected on the contrary. After the first two spoonfuls, he realised that his verve that had reached its zenith was fast plummetting with the same speed. The great black cloud of lachrymosity was once again beginning to envelope him, though he tried fighting it... he kept uttering 6.25 forcefully from time to time to pep his spirits up, but it was plainly not working. The helplessness was becoming too much... he could not see any hope anywhere to hang on to, and in a wild impulse, he lifted his hand to fling the plate aside, but then he saw another man, having the same dish with a look of devouring passion. He even had that veg-manchuria for a side-dish. How can any person enjoy such food? There appeared a wild look in Chinmay's reddened eyes and a feeling of disgust in his heart. His face became grim with determination. He thrusted the spoon into the hill of rice, hauled it up, and shoved it right into his mouth, and started vigourously chewing and swallowing the food.. and then another load of rice, and then one more... He was laughing, cursing himself, wiping off tears, chewing and swallowing, cursing himself again , neglecting the gag-reflexes and the violent spasms of his body protesting against its violation, but he didnt stop till he finished what he paid for.

The 6.25:

On his way back,he heard some voices from a house a little way ahead. As he approached it, it was clear that a rebellious adolescent was furious with his parents for not yielding to his wishes. It seemed the kid never liked Khichdi without black pepper thrown in. In a fit of temper, the kid threw his share of Khichdi along with the plate outside the gate, right beside where Chinmay was standing. In the light of the street-lamp, Chinmay could plainly see the pristine simple home-made Khichdi, some of which rolled over the plate and into the mud. He gasped and froze. Finally, as life started returning to his body, the situation present him with a "moment of clarity". He knew what had to be done, and done quickly. He quickly got hold of a polythene cover bag lying on the road. Feigning to dust and clean it by blowing into it, he started gathering the food into the bag. He felt a sharp pain of remorse when he saw the amount of Khichdi that got thrown into the mud. Yet, whatever he got was more than enough for him.

He went on towards his house feeling triumphant at this sudden 'shift of fortunes'. Half way through, he felt something pricking his leg inside the shoe. He kept the packet down to see if anything was wrong with the shoe. Just as he had removed the shoe and was examining it under a street lamp a little way ahead, a haggard sickly pale dog sneaked up from behind and smelling the cover, took it and started running away with it. Chinmay gave out a yell of anguish. The way he saw it, that packet was his well earned booty, and there was no way he was going to give it up. There was no other option... he began running with one shoe on and the other in hand, shouting curses at the dog. The dog was gaining. He started hurling stones at it. One hit it square in the ribs and giving out a sharp yelp, the dog fell right into the flood-drain (which have actually become sewers now-a-days) on the edge of the road, along with the packet. He came to the spot and vainly saw his booty floating away from him.

At the same time, it started raining, again reminding him of his 6.25 lacs p.a. He started walking towards his Tomb, expressionless, hopefully to die for one last time, and never to wake up again.


Sketchy Self said...

brilliant piece. almost r. k. narayan. I would love to make a short film of it.

Sketchy Self said...

coming back to read it again...i find it hard to stick with pieces with a depressing tone to them, but this one is just gripping. Just love the visuals...esp
1) Chinmay repeating 6.25 to himself in the restaurant, and then getting hysterical over the fried rice
2) him chasing the dog with a shoe in one hand and pelting stones with the other in the wet night street
I can totally see the whole short film in front of my eyes! Please don't sell the rights to anyone just yet.

Gandaragolaka said...

haha!! thanks! but it seems not a lot of others empathise with our chinmay here.

The visuals were, as though from some other source, revealed to me as I went on writing it.

Pooja said...

Yes, it is quite a nice belles-lettres; some usages really stick. I might even use them without realizing m infringing on copyrights ;)

But, the character does not get entice empathy/sympathy from me. Why should one go through a misery one can avoid, all by himself? I could not see why was the character forced in the if-i-may-use-the-word 'misfortune'? And if he wasn't really forced, why was he not busy getting out of it? But those are for the characters.

The story telling, by all means is very good.

Gandaragolaka said...

I am glad that you liked my writing. In fact, I can say I am honoured that my writing made you take a stance on the character in the story.

Not all the people are like us, and not all ofthem do we like, or even empathise. Some, we think, deserve not to live. That is fine.

It is conceivable that the premise for the present predicament of Chinmay is not justifiable to some people, but I do believe that for every person, there exists a unique premise resulting in the frenzy and wildness of the brain crying to high powers to be saved from distress. If I have opted for such a plot, it may be because it is what I thought to be more tortuous and rather helpless.