Translated by Latha Ramakrishnan
Any novel can be briefly written in just two pages – (including Tolstoy’s War and Peace) – This is the philosophy of Borges. Seems like, same is the case with short-story. A six-page short-story can be easily said in a matter of two paragraphs. And, that holds good to this short-story also. This story is about Nigaamaa and her grandpa. Those who are interested in reading this, can continue reading from the next paragraph. Those who have no interest can read the final two paragraphs alone. They can ignore other paragraphs. Indeed, nothing wrong.
That Nigaamaa’s tale is told here is accidental. There is nothing pre-planned or pre-conditioned in this. Taking the volume which contains the names of those who have citizenship rights, with eyes closed, I, the Story-Teller, open a page randomly. The page seen below is wide-opened right before my eyes.
2203451, Nigazh , Male, 2030, I Street, Aagaaya Nagar.
2203452, Nigar, Female, 7080, 8th Street, , Bodhisathva Nagar.
2203453, Nigalika, Female, 3080, 27th Avenue , , Punidha Nagar.
2203454, Nigazhavan, Male, 30608, 37th Road, Marx Square.
2203455, Nigaai, Male, 78401, 107th Rd , Derrida Square.
2203456, Nigaam, Male, 37460, 10th Cross St, Nietzsche Square
2203457, Nigaamaa, Female, 12384, I Avenue, Rainbow square.
2203458, Nigaami, Female, 8889, Yuang Tsuang Rd, Zen Square
2203459, Nigoayath, Male, 30, 8th Road , Meteor Nagar.
2203460, Nigaar, Female, 121, 20th Street , Engels Square.
In the list of names found in the above page I wanted to touch one. And, when I did the same with eyes closed, my index-finger came to stand on the name of Nigaamaa. And, Nigaamaa’s form appeared in front of my eyes.
Nigaamaa who was very busy doing the calculations on the computer-screen suddenly remembered her grandpa. In the morning she made him sit in front of the dining table and pushed the Daily into his hands. Conversing with him she prepared the breakfast. Sitting on the other side, facing him, she ate. Then, in her haste to leave for office she left him as he was and went out. She should have made him lie on the cot. Grandpa shouldn’t be allowed to sit at a stretch for more than three hours. If so, sweat would start overflowing from all the pores of his body. Then, handling him would become the most difficult affair.
The very thought of it made Nigaamaa feel miserable. Feeling intensely agitated she looked at her wrist-watch. The time was 7 p.m. The Office would be over by 5 o’ clock. Those who could leave the office by 5 o’ clock are indeed blessed souls; successful lovers; those leading a happy-go-lucky life; those who won’t bury themselves in their work just the way the ostrich buries its face inside the sand. Nigaamaa is not one such fortunate being. She is one, scornfully thrown into the Universe. One who lives in constant fear and apprehension. One who is destined to live with people who are always hostile. And, one who is damned to be at the office till 7 p.m., working non-stop.
She should go home at once. Hurriedly she arranged the official documents, registers, files, important papers etc., and kept them safely. She piled them up neatly and made the table look clean and tidy. Pushed the chair backwards with a kick and when it moved aside with a screech, she stood up and began to walk with her footwear producing a rhythmic thud.
The office was almost empty. Here and there some ostriches had their heads buried deep in their respective jobs.
In her thirty-two years of age Nigaamaa had fallen in love with some seven guys. And, she is still in search of a genuine, solid love. No chap befitting such an expectation has come her way. These men show not even half the interest and eagerness that they show for getting familiar with a woman with the ultimate aim of going to bed with her, in sharing their hearts and feelings. Nigaamaa is afflicted with the doubt whether such emotions as Love, Affection, Melting Moments etc., are foolish and meaningless. Just like most of the men, majority of women too are of the same mould.
That a man’s body, once experienced in an intercourse resembles a sanitary napkin- Vaathsalyaa had so told once. That the woman looks like a ‘condom’ – Ursavan had commented once. This is an era which makes people feel as but lonely individuals. An era which provides one nothing to hold on to or lean against. This is a curse. And the fact that she is not aware of the curse can well be another added curse in Nigaamaa’s case.
Nigaamaa came to the place where the vehicles were standing in rows. The same moment when she saw the scooter, the scooter was also looking at her. She went near the scooter and fondly caressed its head. Scooters never lie; they don’t betray you; they don’t play petty politics. She sat on the seat of her scooter and pressed the starter-switch. The limbs of the vehicle came to life.
The dense traffic on the road caused her irritation. As it was late evening the road was bathing in the blinding flash of electric-lights. The buildings were scattering colourful lights on all sides. When the heart is plunged in gloom even the light outside is equivalent to darkness, Nigaamaa mused. Since the day before, her mental equilibrium had suffered a setback. For she had never thought that Ayan could be such a cheat. Despite all her precautions to be careful in her dealing with men she had somehow fallen prey to this betrayer. Of course, he was her seventh lover only. Some females have successfully gone beyond twenty-thirty lovers. It is only because she was very cautious that she didn’t go beyond seven in all these years. Ayan pursued her in a hot chase and caught hold of her and also made her lose her Self when she was a little unguarded.
Of course right from the beginning there were opportune moments to leave Ayan. It was indeed surprising that she let herself be caught unawares. In one of those days when his hand trespassed into her in-skirt taking advantage of the melting moment when she was feeling giddy with the headiness of love Nigaamaa said with great embarrassment.
“I am sorry, but it can’t be today”.
“I am having my ‘periods’. That too, second day”.
“ It would be ok, if it is the first day.. But, on the second day the bleeding would be heavy”.
At once, his face darkened. Angrily he spat out: “So ill-fated I am”.
What relevance my menstruation can have with his fate or destiny. Moreover, why should he spit venom at her for this… What wrath is this that he couldn’t wait for just two more days.. Such a luscious scoundrel… he should have been shown the doors long before….
Then, on another day_
“If we are to live together, your grandpa shouldn’t be with us”.
This she could never agree to. Isn’t it a fact that she had spent most part of her life in the company of her grandfather. Since the time her father and mother had started living separately it was her grandfather who had looked after her with all the affection in the world. When she was studying in the School he used to bring coffee in a flask to School every morning at about 11 o’ clock. And, by 1 o’ clock in the afternoon he would come again bringing her lunch. Nigaamaa would feel a great sense of shame. Her fellow-students would mock at her. In those days she was not able to realize the depth of his love for her which made him come in the hot sun with a staggering gait. She would shout at him: “Oh, Thaathaa (grandpa), why do you embarrass me thus?”. Her grandfather would merely smile affectionately. He who would never lose his composure at any time would turn terribly agitated if something befell her. His eyes would at once be filled with tears. Once, when she was playing basket-ball she suffered an ordinary injury but seeing that her grandfather turned anguish-personified.
“Your grandpa or me – decide “, said Ayan haughtily. She cannot lose her grandpa, the very embodiment of love and affection. He is very important to her. At that moment itself she could have severed her relationship with him. Not doing so was indeed her folly.
The mere recollection of what had happened yesterday made acid boil within her. In that damned evening hours Ayan had come. Yesterday Nigaamaa had made her grandpa sit on the sofa in the front room. The moment he entered inside, Ayan pushed a newspaper into the hands of her grandfather. At that instant, her grandfather’s eyes stared at the newspaper. Then, Ayan pulled her forcibly and dragged her into the bed-room. Without waiting for a moment he pushed her towards the bed and made her fall on it. And, with a vengeful passion never before experienced he fucked her.
“What has come over you?”
At first he didn’t answer. Then, after a while he said: “ I have got a job in Dubai. I have to leave tomorrow itself. Hereafter, I don’t know when I would see you again. May be, this is our last meeting”.
He said casually.
For a moment Nigaamaa turned utterly paralyzed. ‘So, he has got a new job. And, he has not disclosed it to her till that day. Even now, he didn’t tell it before the intercourse but giving the news to her all too casually, after the communion. If he had disclosed it earlier she would have become upset which might have come in the way of having sex with her. Taking into consideration all these possibilities he has kept it hidden from her till they finished having sex. Instead of this it would have been better if he had pushed her down from the top of a tall building with eighteen floors.
In her scorching rage she shouted at him with intense sorrow and bitterness. Whatever she could lay her hands on she took them and threw at him. Thank god, a vessel which could have hit her grandpa’s head just brushed by and fell away. Instantly Nigaamaa stopped her war in great agitation and ran towards her beloved grandpa. She examined his head. Thank god, nothing serious. When she looked back furiously he had disappeared. Weighed down with great shame, disappointment, despair and sorrow she burst out in tears. Grandfather sat there in silence, drowned in the Daily.
On the way a cafe came into view. With the prevailing mood it would be impossible for her to cook tonight. She pondered over buying home something like Spaghetti, Burger etc. , Grandpa wouldn’t want anything. Enough if something is purchased for her. She halted her scooter and went inside. She bought Burger and Pizza. What to buy for a drink…? At home a bottle of wine is available. Damn him, when she started loving Ayan, it was bought for celebrating their togetherness. It would be appropriate to have the same bottle of wine to end their relationship. It would indeed be a logical move. And, it is evident that unless she drinks sleep wouldn’t come her way tonight.
Feeling terribly restive, Nigaamaa opened the door of her apartment. As the time was well past late evening the interior of the apartment was plunged in darkness. When she switched on the light the front-room came to life. Feeling intensely agitated she entered into the house and crossed the front- room in a moment and got into the dining hall. In front of the dining-table her grandfather remained sitting in exactly the same posture in which she had made him sit in the morning, without any movement. With her heart beating unbearably loud she moved closer to him and watched. Fortunately there was no sweat flowing out of his pores. It was due to the terrible shock caused by the great betrayal of Ayan that she had forgotten about grandpa and left him there itself.
That too, without even switching on the night-lamp. The more she thought of her lapse, the more she hated her own self with all her heart. For the last nine hours or so her grandfather was left to sit in the same place, in the same posture. He should be made to lie immediately. Without wasting any time she lifted him as if lifting a doll, without causing him any jerk, she carried him to the bedroom and made him lie on the cot. His eyes shone brightly. Looking at his face, Nigaamaa became heart-broken. She couldn’t control her tears. She wept bitterly. Her miserable life; fellow-men and women who refuse to give her love and affection; her lonely, island-like life; the betrayal of men like Ayan – she complained about all these and more to her beloved grandpa. She lamented. “Henceforth there would never be room for any man in my heart throughout my life. You are the only man whom I love with all my heart, my beloved grandpa”, cried she. Her grandfather lay there, with his eyes fixed on the ceiling.
Now-a-days “those who have stopped thinking” ( this is how the dead are referred to these days, isn’t it so?) and the dead are not buried or cremated. With the help of Formalin injections the bodies are preserved without shrinking or decaying. This is the extension of the human psychology which recollects the dead with the help of photographs and books lined up in the book-shelves. If the photograph is a single-dimension Memento, the embalmed body is multi-dimensional Memento. It is all meaningless. Nigaamaa has had her grandfather embalmed. These bodies can be made to stand; made to sit; but, most of the time they should be kept lying on the bed. If they are made to sit for long the chemical liquid would begin to seep out of their bodies. Then, it would become very difficult to bring them back to ‘normalcy’. Suddenly a thought flashed across Nigaamaa’s mind. If only Thatha were to be really alive now, would he be merely lying there, staring at the ceiling? The thought made her heart ache unbearably and when she was about to explode in tears it happened. Stopping her tears Nigaama observed her grandpa’s face intently. There were drops of tears sprouting and welling up in his eyes.
Note: The original short-story in Tamil appeared in the literary magazine ” Panmugam ”
About the author:
M.G. Suresh is a name to reckon with in modern Tamil literature. He experimented with new methods of story telling and has authored several novels and short stories. He has also authored many introductory books in Tamil on various modern literature related topics.