Short story in Malayalam by Surendran P
Translated into English by Annie George
He was an uninvited guest at the poets meet.
‘I too want to recite a poem,’ he said.
The grey-haired poets were in a fix.
Someone tried to resist him as he forcibly tried to snatch the mike. That was when Edassery* rose from his seat. The darkness cleared up.
‘Give him a chance. One must taste the flavour of the new generation too.’
In a tone of forcibly sought permission, he began to recite. His words resounded of bloody rebellion. Full of the power of raw iron ore. In an alloy of a language trampling all tradition.
The poem ended on an elegiac note. The poem had the effect of a curse in his mother tongue about seeds that would no more flower on this earth.
The raving in the audience seemed ceaseless.
The arrogant fellow left without thanking anyone.
When Edassery reached the bus-stop after the meet, he was already there for his return journey. They were to travel in the same direction. He turned to look as a palm tapped his shoulder.
‘The poem was good. You must all continue to tread the path as sycophants. We old men can hardly walk these days.”
Taking a look at his flashy kurta Edassery asked: ‘Why such an attire in such searing heat?.’
‘Indian clothes are not worth wearing.’
‘So this is the product compounded of the flesh and blood of the tree, isn’t it?
Mine is coarse. Woven by the kind word of nature. It hasn’t been daubed in paint. We’re obeying the old man who taught us about its purity. We bow our heads as we pass by trees and we’d like to kiss the earth we walk upon.’
Edassery also noticed the sparkling footwear he’d been wearing.
‘You’re scared of walking barefoot, aren’t you? As for me, walking barefoot on soil is the most relaxing exercise.’
Then a rumble of a bus could be heard.
‘My bus has arrived,’ he said.
‘Wait, I’m travelling in the same route.’
Edassery boarded the bus by the rear door. Unable to bear the burning presence of the old man, he boarded the bus by the front door and stood looking in the opposite direction.
Edassery alighted at the same point that the young man did.
‘You’ll have to walk quite a distance in the dark, won’t you? Do you have a light with you?’ Edassery enquired.
‘No, there’ll be moonlight after some time,’ he replied.
Edassery was amused.
‘So I believe, you’ve no idea that it is new moon night, right? Has your sycophancy made you blind to realities of the earth and sky? Do you have any idea when our monsoon begins? Any idea when to plant pepper saplings? Where to fix the pole while sailing in a boat in a swollen stream, and the wind happens to be blowing from the South? You know nothing, do you? A poet is a farmer too. Knowledge does not rain on him in the form of hailstones. It is paddy that must be cultivated in one’s own field. Anyway don’t walk alone. I’ll walk with you a mile. Those lanes should be familiar to me.’
In pitch darkness, they moved ahead with the help of Edassery’s candlelight, without conversing much. After a while the young chap paused at a point in the path where the road forked. From there onwards, he had to take the narrow alley. The path narrowed like a cave in the dark.
‘I must move on from here.’
‘How will you move in the dark? These are bad times as we ol’ men say. A night when the venomous snakes roam the place.’
‘That statement finally scared him. He froze at the thought.’
Edassery extended his candle.
He accepted it.
Edassery stood and watched as the candlelight faintly disappeared in the distance.
*Edassery - Poet who lived from 1906-1974. Renowned for his Gandhian principles.