Friday, June 6, 2008

Ente Sammaanam

‘I’m sorry’, she half whispered into the phone. Or at least that’s what he could make out of the barely audible words. He had spoken for about 20 minutes trying to explain how they could work things out. He told her it wasn’t as hard as she thought. He was desperately trying to convince her that she was being stupid with this decision. He repeated again and again that she did not have to end things so. At that point of time that was all he could think of doing and probably all he could do. She listened to all of it, not uttering a word. If it weren’t for her muffled sobs and her futile attempts to fight back the tears he would’ve thought she had hung up. She didn’t want him to know she was crying. She was always like that, always strong; or acting so, even at a moment like this. He didn’t know why she did that. He didn’t know why she was doing this. Well he partly did, but he couldn’t understand how she could do this to him, to herself. He tried his best to make her see sense, pleaded to her, praying that his words wouldn’t fail him. They never had, but now was the time when he needed them to work for him the most. It was now or never. And after listening to everything he had to say all she said was, “I’m sorry’ and after a small tear-swallowing pause added, ‘Sorry for everything’. Click. Beep. And the line went dead.
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She was born on a beautiful November morning. One look at his daughter and Keshavan knew exactly what to name her. She was bright like the sun rays on a November morning. He knew her warm smile would cut through the cold winter fog. He had thought of naming her ‘Sita’, after the greatest and most strong willed woman he had ever read of, but as he cradled this tiny new born miracle that glowed in his arms, he changed his mind and whispered into her ears, ‘Tejaswini’.
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Tejaswini didn’t know how long she had been standing there. For her, time had frozen. Everything had frozen around her. Her own thoughts were like the old broken gramophone in her grandfather’s house at Shoranur. She remembered how he would proudly show it off to anyone who would listen or not. ‘Major Sahib had gifted it to me. “A token of my undying gratitude for saving my life” he had said. Vallya manushyan. Great man. When I was in the Indian army years ago…’ and he would repeat for the umpteenth time, his favourite story of how he dodged bullets to save his superior’s life. The gramophone had only a single disc that played some foreign music she didn’t understand. And always the disc would play for two minutes and get stuck at a line that she comprehended as ‘mar-anam-te… mar-anam-te… mar-anam-te…’ Right now she thought not of the gramophone or of her grandfather who passed away years back. Right now she thought of nothing but how she could’ve messed up her life so. Right now she could only think of how stupid and reckless she had been. Right now, as she stared blankly at the vast Arabian Sea in front of her, she could only think of what a disgrace she has proven to be to her parents. And the thoughts kept coming back. Mar-anam-te … mar-anam-te… mar-anam-te…
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Tejaswini was probably what every parent’s dream daughter would be. She was what people easily labeled, ‘gifted’. Intelligent and smart, she had also acquired her father’s flair for writing. Born into a very prosperous and renowned family of a small village in Shoranur in Kerala, Tejaswini had a lot to live up to. Her grandfather had been an army man and had much more than his gramophone to be proud of. Her dad was a government employee, better known as Writer Keshavan Nair whose works of Malayalam literature had earned him many awards. But she did not have much trouble keeping up the family pride. She was after all, gifted. And no one was surprised when she aced all her exams. No one was surprised when she opted for engineering with top marks. No one was surprised when she wrote GRE and went to America. But then how long can life carry on as an expected flow of events?
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She was no stunning beauty but one couldn’t call her bad looking either. God made most of his creations to balance out the rest you’d think. Why bestow such a brilliant girl with added astounding looks and complicate her life further? She had been given what most people craved for- a loving family, high IQ, healthy life, and a little more than just about enough money. Who needed beauty? Just when you think God is a generous and benevolently calculative creator, he plays his little games.
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Like every perfect daughter, Tejaswini had perfect parents and a perfect life. When you’re a perfect daughter, your parents have nothing to complain about. And what’s more perfect than parents who don’t complain? She had always lived in Kochi. One could say she was used to city life. Of course, Kochi is no Bombay, Delhi or Bangalore, but it is as far as city has gone in Kerala. Amidst the general conservative crowd, the Kochi youth has gained its name as ‘modern’. And that is good enough for a city life. Tejaswini was the ‘modern pennu’, modern girl. Shoranur was her yearly vacationing destination. Greenery is no scarcity in Kerala. But only the ‘modern people’ from the cities know how it is slowly vanishing from God’s Own Country too. The villages however were still the green backyards. In fact, people at Tejaswini’s small village in Shoranur are so used to the lush surroundings that they find it very comical when tourists drop their mouths and gape, fascinated by the serene green beauty of a normal Malayalee neighbourhood. ‘Ayalentha, ithu vare thengu kandittille?? Komali!’ (Has he never seen a coconut tree before? Clown!). But Tejaswini understood the fascination, for she was fascinated too. There was something about her village that she never found anywhere else. Maybe it was because she was a small writer who loved nature or maybe it was because she was born here or maybe it was just one of those things you can’t explain. And there was her beloved muthassan, waiting for her, waiting with his endless stories from the army camp.
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It was grand celebrations the day she got enrolled into the American university. She had a high score after all. Getting into a good university for a course of her choice was no surprise event. Yet, she was thrilled to receive the confirmation. Calls and congratulations poured in. “Keshavan Nair’s daughter, what a gem!’ people had to say. She never stopped smiling that day. Neither did her parents. They were proud of daughter. She had achieved what she wanted. She always had. But Tejaswini knew that day her parents smiled only half heartedly. America sounded good. America sounded hip. America sounded rich prosperous and wealthy. But America sounded too far off and dangerous. And like every average Indian parent of those times, they worried a little for their daughter. But she had wanted this. She had worked hard for this. So they smiled for her. They trusted their daughter. She was wise and she was 21 now. And she smiled too. She was going to America. Two years later her smile was going to be wiped off her face. Maybe forever?
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America was what dreams were made of. It looked exactly like in the movies. It was exactly like she had dreamt of. All those days she had between her acceptance to college and actually leaving, she used to dream of her life to be. She was no country simpleton, but even the ‘modern pennu’ of Kochi had to drop her mouth and gape at the way things worked in America. She loved the place. She made a lot of friends. She soon forgot her lush green ‘Shoranur’ house and her Kochi. It was not intentional. But she had so much on her hands then. Work, friends, parties, music… America was no place for people who liked to sit idle. And she had so many friends. Never before had she dealt with such an assortment of nationalities. The writer in her was fascinated by the cultural harmony; the girl in her was enthralled in the excitement. She called her parents once a week. And so they knew she was fine. More than just fine actually, she was happy. Very happy.
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Tejaswini was bright and smart but she was a poor judge of character. She blindly trusted people. And that is why people say everything comes with a price. Tejaswini was ‘gifted’. But God forgot to remove the price tag from it.
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She had thought of it a hundred times before but she could not remember. She remembered the party. It was two years after she had first landed in America, the dreamland. She remembered her room mate’s friend, a strikingly attractive girl offering her a drink. She had had been to a lot of parties by then. It was one of the things she wasn’t used to back home. But she liked it. And she had had plenty of drinks before. So it was natural of her to just take it. And so she did. Next thing she remembered was getting up in the morning with a mild headache. Nothing else. Absolutely nothing else. One month later she learnt she was carrying.
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And now she was standing at the port. Staring at the water, wondering again what had happened. And she knew it was all futile. She had no memory. She wondered which was worse, that she was pregnant or that she had no idea how it happened at all. Her flowing river of thoughts was interrupted by new tributaries. What should she do now? She has scarred the family pride. How will she face amma and achan? Secretly, she felt relieved muthassan was no more. One person less whose shocked and disappointed face she did not have to endure, one person less to be pained at her cost. And almost instantly cursed herself for thinking so. Has she indeed become so ruthless? Has she changed altogether? Where was the little Malayalee girl who loved the country side of her grandfather’s house? Was she no more the loving little girl her parents had brought up with countless dreams and aspirations? And she knew she wasn’t. And that was when she decided she had to end it all. She no longer willed to live. She had disgraced her family. All these years her parents had been proud of her. And now she had smeared burnt ash on their faces. She could not face them. She couldn’t go back home. She looked at the water below, slapping against the rock pavement she was standing on now. It almost hissed a welcome. She could see the pointy rocks beneath the waters too. Tejaswini was ‘gifted’ but she didn’t know to swim. She wondered if the rocks beneath could take a life. She picked up her mobile phone and dialed her father’s number.
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She had left for India the moment she learnt of the dreadful news. She did not know whom to turn for help. And all she could think of was her parents then. She wanted to see them. Cry in their arms. Hug amma and ask her what she was to do now. She did not think of anything else. That’s how for the first time in two years she returned to Kochi.
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‘I have a small presentation and conference in Bangalore’, she explained to her parents. They weren’t fools of course and they weren’t to be convinced with one line. She had done her research before announcing this. She had to make a few ISD calls to her friends in wretched America to enquire about conference halls and universities. ‘My professor insisted on it. I’m like one of those student representatives from my university. I have to go day after’ Writer Keshavan Nair was not a fool. He said he wanted to talk to her professor the next day. Tejaswini nodded. He trusted his daughter. And the price tag gleamed.
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He could not believe what he was reading. His hands trembled and sweat was breaking on his brows despite the fan above. He could not finish the letter. He slumped onto the chair nearby as the letter fell from his hands and landed on the table next to muthassan’s framed photo.
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She did not have the courage to tell her parents. She saw their beaming faces, markedly happy to see her again but she did not miss the faint sign of anxiety at her sudden arrival. They did not make it obvious of course but she was smart and intelligent after all. Within ten minutes she knew she had made the wrong decision coming home. She could not bear smiling at her parents, putting up such a poor show when she held a truth that would shatter them. She reached home and wrote them a letter. She told them everything in it. And she put it in an envelope. By afternoon she was off to the Kochi port.
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Her father tried everything to save his daughter’s life. He didn’t know where she was. All she said was she was still in Kochi. He pleaded her not to end her life; that it was cowardice and solution to nothing. He said he loved her. He said her mother loved her. She said nothing. She loved him too. She loved her too. She loved them all. She loved her land. But she had betrayed them.
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She stood up. She was certain of what she had to do. She was leaning against the metal chains that claimed safety to the people on the safer side. There was a man reading a book 3 feet away from her. There were always so many people at this time. She closed her eyes. She thought of her lush green Shoranur for one last time. She thought of her childhood. She thought of muthassan and his stories. She thought of amma and achan. She saw them all in her eyes for the last time. Her eyes welled up with tears. And she was fighting back tears. She asked for forgiveness and leaned over.
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Well, almost leaned. That’s when the book caught her eye- her father’s book ‘Ente Sammaanam’ (my gift). The first book he had written after Tejaswini was born. The book was about a father who lived and died for his daughter. She saw the first few pages flutter in the wind. She knew what the lines on the first page read. And she couldn’t jump. She could not end her life. She owed it to the ones who loved her. She sat there, broke down and cried.
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The lines read, "For you, my gifted daughter; the light of my life. For my life’s tejjassu. For my Tejaswini, 'Ente Sammaanam’". Keshavan Nair's words had not failed him after all. Just when you think you can have it your way, God plays his little games...

25 comments:

MAD said...

Awesome Re... Real good read... MD Rocks...

A new philospher said...

Woah! An excellent post..Neatly depicted, and the suspense now and then, made it more intresting...wel, I had to read it twice and again to comprehend the paras.(May be...You delibrately made it tough for the readers or Was i a Bad reader.!!) Last few lines where awesome!

Cheerz.
Keep writing!

(Shes a stunning beauty..
Shes brilliant..
Shes got the flair of writing..
Shes a topper too.. :D
Uh oh..How God forgot to carve the balance on her?!?!) ;)
I'm jealous!

manthan said...

*leaves my comment* :P

Divya said...

thanks a lot madhav :) yay i rock :P i had a feeling it started dragging a bit but i couldn't omit anything in between either. im glad you enjoyed it :)

Divya said...

@ a new philospher

thank you thank you :)
lol... i hope the question was rhetoric btw!

and lol lol lol!!
stunning beauty?? brilliant topper???! ahem... okaaaaay... i don't even know what to say to that :P except for... who is this?????

Divya said...

@manthan...
err... mmm... ahem... :|

im pretty sure you got turned off by the length of the post and didn't bother reading :|
thanks anyway! :P

Yuppie said...

Actually I am out of words. Was thinking on saying awesome but since so many have said the same. I will just say, Wow !

Divya said...

:D thank you!

Wetfingers said...

Nice subject to pick upon...really good.

Divya said...

thanks! glad u liked it :)

The soul: said...

written like 'the' true daughter..and when i say 'the, i mean divya..the ideal daughter :)

The soul: said...

and u have to rate and comment on my other post as wel!!!!

Divya said...

lol.. thank you swati the soul :)
and yes i shall!

Mary Sherine said...

marvelous !!!!..u r a excellent writer :)....hope to c u as a novelist in near future..:D....u r really very gifted by God (God's "my gift")...keep writing..:)

Divya said...

:D thanks a lot babe!!! do visit again and comment! :P

amritha said...

its superb & nostalgic
one thing-it is not IYAL;itsAYAL

Divya said...

thank you kutti :)
oh! see... this is why ppl say my malayalam sucks :( will change it right away! thanks!!

shilpa said...

too mallu..but i admire your style..:)

Divya said...

mallu yis yin my bled you see :P
and thank you!

Vinay said...

divya,
never stop writing ok? u r a brilliant writer... much much better than i am as a poet... ee post kandappol thanne manasilayirunu that u r a malayalee... aathyam mudal ending vare oru suspense undayirunnu....
i am glad i added u to my bloggers list...
adutha ezhutthinu kaathirikyunnu... hope it is soon...
tc...

Divya said...

why thank you vinay :)
you are a very very good poet... that's a high compliment coming from you! thanks! will post something soon..

Sharath Kumar R said...

Maaaaaaaaaaan ... you're a talented writer!!!

You've just got yourself a BIG fan!!!

Divya said...

awwww geee... thanks! :D

ananth said...

hey !!!really nice:)awesome..
write many more like dis...
enjoyed it..tat suspence in middle was nice..

Divya said...

thanks babu :)