Friday, April 18, 2008


By Prabha Shankar

Translated from the Malayalam by Sunil K Poolani

I used to call her Spade, the girl I loved. It was long, long ago, when my fiancée used to lie down looking at the stars through the glass pane of the tiled roof. Awake.

In fact, I wanted to call her Selfish. Reason: ignoring her younger sister and brother, she used to bring me sugar-toffees and laddus without anyone’s knowledge. Instead of taking her siblings for a stroll or playing with them, she loved to spend her evenings with me.

I wrote about all this: short stories, poems, and in the end — for money — even essays. Still, I vividly remember even now, I was left with a mere eighty rupees.

All this is for those who are born with a silver spoon in their mouths — this love and literature.

Then, there were roaming-arounds, searches…

Shouldn’t I too survive?

With time, I, a jobless youth, became a drunkard, drug addict, murderer, womaniser…

Moreover, I grew into a useless moron.

The village and the villagers believed I would be all right if I was locked up in a room.

When it became unbearable, I had to leave my village and bid goodbye to the loving (hating) villagers.

I swayed in the wind, floated in the water. At last, in a city, a metropolis, I had to calm down myself. Shadowless.

Shouldn’t I too survive? Wasn’t I born minus a silver spoon in my mouth?

For the time being, I sat in a cane chair in an advertising company and typed A-B-C-D. I gave colour and smell to the virgin lies about products. I earned a name, but the pay was little.

Isn’t it a shameful thing to tell four people that I am at the mercy of forty people? So, I didn’t complain. Didn’t crib.

Nevertheless, my all-time friends, who poke their noses into and learn all the nitty-gritties of my life, poked their noses once again and perceived the quandary I was in.

The prescribed the usual medicine: advice.

To borrow means to surrender oneself to the hands of a wild bear. Don’t go for all this. Get lost, man, get lost: try to live on your own. Sell whatever is allotted to you, sell your self-esteem (sorry, I had sold that a long time ago), and then earn more money and get whatever you can lay your hands on. There was a way out, a way to the Arab land along with Air India’s Maharaja.

I didn’t delay. I learnt that sunshine, rain, mist, everything, is part of nature’s immortal wealth. I realised them as much as I could. I sloughed off the knowledge (or, as I realise now, was it ignorance?) I had gained in my last twenty-eight years. I did the packing in twenty-eight hours.

At last, after spending four-and-a-half hours in a serpentine queue, I appeared before a fair-skinned Arab. Also, in front of an Indian, who was keenly observing whether any dust had accumulated on the Arab’s footwear.

What all do you know? — the Arab’s query, translated by the Indian who doesn’t allow dust to gather.

Dissection to dissemination.


Very little, but I can improve.

Agreed. But you have to love the flora, especially the flowers. And that’s not all. Love the spade, too. As a dividend, you can love the whizz of the air-conditioner. Also, the dirhams, which you can save and send home.

I was startled. Thinking about the impediments and losses I had to endure, and with tears trickling down my eyes, I started searching out for Gardener.

At last I met Gardner, the guru, and told him about my venture. I received a spade, accepted blessings and shoved the spade into the ground with all my strength. My first training!

I shoved the spade very hard and looked at the earth on it. Suddenly, I thought about the girl who loved me. Oh! this was the same thing she had told me once: “Give me, give me…”

This is so uncharacteristic of a spade. If the substance you collect is not deposited somewhere, it will get accumulated somewhere else.

My god, why did I take so long to know this?

Now what?

(Oh, girl, who is the perfume of my dreams, forgive me.)

It is ridiculous to waste thinking about mundane things. I want to be trained. Somewhere, in some corner of the world. Somehow, I have to live.

I ferociously started shoving the spade into the soil. Whatever I got on it, I deposited on one place. At last, there was a three-foot-deep, six-and-half-foot-long, two-foot-wide trench. With the mud taken from it I made a four-foot-long mound.

Now, I can live! This training is more than I had expected.

Or, I will relax. Isn’t the spade which made this trench and prattles “give me, give me” enough for that?

1 comment:

Laju K. said...

Wow! I loved it. Sometimes we all have to leave jobs even if they are high paying, simply because.
Thanks, Laju K.