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Archive for September, 2009

The Judgement

They rained kicks on his groin and stamped his face with boots. He did not make a sound. He did not move.

“Oi Maari! Stay here. Inside the jeep.  No coming out, ok? Veera you stay here with him. You can go for tea after we come back. Yena??

He sat crouching inside the jeep. His arms were wound tight around his knees. The skin around his clenched fists was paler than the dark brown skin of his hands. His eyes were red as he watched the Inspector pull up his pants to rest on his paunch and walk away. He thought of Shanthi and Viji. Shanthi would have created a ruckus by now, sitting in the hut entrance, near the tin door and open sewer, surrounded by women folk. She would be wailing and heaping curses on him, his parents and forefathers.  Avan kai kaal velangaama poga. Andha padupaavi paya nallaave irukka maaten. Aiyooo yen pulla saava kedakudhe… No, he thought. All that would have been over by now. She would have pawned the one or two ever silver vessels that had mostly been on Marwadi shop shelves than the hut ever since being bought 5 years ago. You didn’t buy them for me, Shanthi always used to retort. Yengamma veetu seedhanam.

Yenna pa Maari. It was a matter of 1000 rupees. Now see what happened. 2 weeks in jail. Who will look after you wife and family. That too in temple. Even if the court pardons, God won’t. Saamy kuththam aagidum pa…

He stayed silent. Who will look after your wife and family? Shanthi and Viji. His wife and his sick daughter, who would be lying on the cold General Hospital floors now. Free treatment, they said. But you need to bribe the nurses for a bed. You need to bribe ward boys for the free medicines. You need to bribe everyone from the watchman to the woman at the pharmacy counter. He couldn’t bear to think of Viji. Some mysterious sickness seemed to sponge out his little daughter’s spirit until she could do nothing but lie in a corner of the stone floor and lift her hand with a weak smile when he entered the house. It was more than a week since she fell sick. No money, take her to GH, the doctors said. 100 rupees for a bed, the nurse at GH said. He remembered the last words Viji spoke to him as laid her down on the hospital floor, the cold seeping into her body through the torn blanket. “Appa, yeppo pa varuva.. Na sethuda maaten la” The last words she spoke to him before he left to get money for her, for his little daughter. He tried asking all his friends. There were only bare hands and empty eyes. After all, where would they get the money from ? They were in the same state as he was since the strike hit them two weeks ago.

His mind wandered back to Viji. He couldn’t stop the sobs this time.

“Ada Maari, Yenna pa… Be a man. Stop crying now. Hmmm… What’s the use crying now.? You should have thought of all this before breaking into that temple..” The jeep driver took a long puff from his cigarette and looked at him. “Do you work anywhere or full time thief only?”

He sobbed louder. He had told all this to the judge in his room only ten minutes back. He had begged for mercy and had almost fallen at the man’s feet. He had told the judge that he worked as a cleaner for a private lorry company. That he had been out of work for two weeks since the lorry strike began.  His meagre savings had only lasted for one week. He had no work, no money and then his Viji fell sick. He had nowhere to go. No one to ask. Then he went to God. His last resort. He didn’t want one paisa for himself. Only for his daughter’s life. If God won’t help him save his daughter’s life, who will? He broke that hundi. He took the money. And he got caught. He was not a professional thief to do clean work. Ironically it was a group of beggars who slept in the temple entrance who rounded him up and beat him up till the police came. He had to tell everything to the judge in person. He had somehow thought that the judge would understand. He looked like a good man. He couldn’t be so insensitive to a poor man’s misery. When I tell him the reason, when I tell him about my Viji, he will understand and help me, he thought. He had begged and pleaded with the policemen to let him meet the judge once.

District magistrate Nagarajan V looked impatiently at his watch first and then at the stooping man before him. Had been hit quite badly. The damn policemen never listen. They blame the public. Especially in these damn theft cases, the public almost kill the man before handing him out to the police. He had a meeting at 2.30. A very important meeting. Another five minutes. He was usually assigned the important and tricky cases but sometimes petty thefts and minor issues came up and he couldn’t help it. Like this man in front of him. Maarimuthu. Lorry Cleaner. Broke into a temple and stole from the hundi. 1000 Rupees found on person. 2000 fine or 2 weeks RI. Rigorous Imprisonment. The man had been talking nonstop for the past ten minutes. Could hardly make out what he was saying. These damn slum people and their Chennai baashai. Something about a sick daughter and God. He looked at the watch once more and cleared his throat. Such people have to be handled carefully. They could get violent sometimes. He had seen angry convicts break his colleagues’ noses and throw acid on their faces. He didn’t want to risk a broken nose when the important meeting took place. It could, after all, change his life.

“Idho paaru pa, un per yena? Ahhh Maari, Nothing is in my hands now. I may be a kind and compassionate person. I understand your difficulty. I want to help you. But I cannot overrule the law, can I? The law says that taking another person’s money is wrong. Whatever be the reason, you have stolen what was rightfully somebody else’s. If I let you go this time, Next time when you pick somebody else’s pocket or break into a house, you will think that you can justify it and walk away. And that too you have stolen from the temple. Judgement has been passed. You make sure you don’t resort to such means again. Don’t lose your integrity and honesty. Death is better than that”

He looked at the watch again and then at the constable standing next to Maari. “Take him away. I have a meeting”

He could do nothing now. He had no money to pay fine. None to bail him out. He didn’t know if his daughter was alive or dead. He didn’t know if he would ever see her again. He had nothing more to live for. He lifted his head for the first time and ran his eyes through the court compound. Black coats and khaki shirts filled the campus. A lot of people with a lot of problems. It was then that he saw the man in the ill fitting safari suit standing near the jeep. He was holding a shoulder bag that screamed Nike in bright fluorescent orange colour. The student bag looked like a mismatch in his pudgy hand. He seemed uncomfortable with it and kept shifting it from one hand to the other. His eye wandered around the building restlessly. He looked unsure about where to go. Maari kept looking at the man. There was something wrong about him but it was difficult to point out what it was. The man took out a mobile phone from his suit pocket twice but put it back inside without making a call. Now Maari couldn’t take his eyes off him. Veera, having finished his smoke, went back to sit in the driver’s seat mumbling about how long it took for the Inspector to have a coffee. That too with a convict in the jeep.  The man took the phone from his pocket again and hesitated for a second. Then he nervously punched the numbers.

“Hullo Saar? Aiyaa’s PA.. Saari for calling saar. Aiyaa is in the car. He asked me to hand over the bag to you. I didn’t know where your room is. Aiyaa will scold if I ask. 3C hot cash. Saari saar saari saar.. Ok saar I’m coming. Saari saar.. ” He put the phone hurriedly in his pocket, wiped the sweat from his shiny forehead and started walking. Maari saw him knock lightly and enter the same room he had left five minutes ago.

He had almost reached the magistrate’s door when the policemen saw him running and started behind him, pulling out pistols from their holsters and yelling loudly. When they entered the room, they saw him spitting on the magistrate’s face and slapping him repeatedly. They saw a man in an ill fitting safari suit cowering in a corner , his mouth and eyes open wide in shock. They saw a black shoulder bag with Nike written on it, a bundle of currency notes peeping out through a slightly open zip. They quickly looked away.

They rained kicks on his groin and stamped his face with boots. He did not make a sound. He did not move.

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Cobweb Clearing!

Ok I’m not dead. Dusting off the cobwebs once again like I’ve done many a times before. I wanted to be back with a bang, with some meaningful writing, a story perhaps, but no meaningful writing seems to be coming to me any time in the near future. So I’m back to the kind of writing that requires no meaning or thinking whatsoever. Rambling.

In the past few weeks,

Was admitted into a hospital after a long time. Actually, a very long time. So long that now I don’t even remember being admitted in a hospital before. Not even a vague memory. Amma tells me often that as a child I was admitted into a hospital once at a very critical stage and after 3 days there, I pointed to my tummy and made hand signs asking for food. She says she feels like crying every time she even thinks about that incident. But I have absolutely no memories of this supposedly ‘emotional’ moment and getting to stay in a hospital now was a very exciting and new experience. I actually liked being there for a lot of reasons. For starters, everyone was doting on me like never before. All that extreme paasam made me feel like the thangachi in thangachi paasam movies. People only didn’t stand around me in a circle and sing ‘Azhagaana chinna devadhai’ while patting my head and pinching my cheeks affectionately. Everything else was done. Relatives came visiting every evening in hordes and we had to get chairs from the reception to accommodate everyone. P who usually doesn’t lift a finger at home stayed with me during the nights and was running around with water basins and medicine prescriptions. Dad had become my competitor for the hospital bed by the end of the second day and had to take medicines as well. In fact I wasn’t even dying or had some six-months-to-die kind of sickness. Just the good ol’ routine typhoid which has already struck me some four times and something the entire family is very nonchalant about.  Now I may talk cheeky but I didn’t hate it one bit when it was all happening. I was basking as much as possible under all the hospital light glory. Go away typhoid and stay away, any other sickness! It isn’t time for me to play harps in heaven already. Too many people love me here.

Watched two movies, one of which should go into history as among the best made in the country and the other should never have been made. 40 crores, Mexico, superhero, kokarako dance, pichumani, shriya… there was no end in sight to the miseries that Kanthasamy unleashed on me. I walked into the cinema hall, a full 40 minutes after the movie started wondering if it was really worthwhile going to watch a movie after missing out so much of it. I usually get the kick of having watched a film only if I watch it from the opening credits to the vanakkam at the end. But after the Kanthasamy ordeal I thanked God Almighty and Chennai traffic for having made me miss out on most of the first half. At the end of it, I was left gaping at the screen with a lot of how-could-they questions and a WTH feeling. How I wish they had made a true Superhero film minus all that fake masala! Sigh! And then there was the other one.  Kaminey. What a fantabulous movie! A true blue gangster caper that is raw, edgy, intelligent, dramatic and funny all at once. Jaw dropping screenplay, on-the-streets cinematography, mind blowing music, brilliant is the word. Ok, I’ve run out of adjectives. Vishal Bhardwaj is a rarity in the world of Indian cinema that has come to become melodrama, mindless action and songs in foreign locations. A truly well made movie pulls you into its web. It makes you relate to its characters, laugh with them, cry with them and run with them. That’s what Kaminey made me do. I’m not against the slow paced arty kind of films but give me a completely commercial but rocking Kaminey over them any day. I hate feel good happy endings but this one time I was left praying that neither Guddu nor Charlie (for all his ultra grey shades) should die. And Kanthasamy, well it made me long for the superhero to die or atleast get caught as soon as possible. Mudiyala da samy!

Caught up with a lot of pending reading. The other day I was at Odyssey when I came across a book titled ‘The 50 most influential books in the world’ It seemed to span all genres from fiction to nonfiction to history to science. Bible was on it and so was The theory of Relativity by Einstein. What caught my eye was The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger. Having seen this book on almost all ‘best books list’, I decided to find out just what was so influential about it, only to realise after reading that I was now too old to be influenced by it. The book is a slice out of a teenager’s life, how he gets chucked out of a fancy prep school, what he does enroute to going home after being dismissed, his face offs with people whose kinds he isn’t accustomed to coming across in life so far, his love for his sister, and the inherent child inside every human being irrespective of age. Teenage is that period in life when you are so vulnerable but put up a brave front to hide and mask all the bewilderment. From that point of view, this book is a teenager’s bible and it’s written in an abstract disjointed way, much like Holden Caulfield, our teenager in question is actually sitting across the table from you and having a conversation. But at the end of it, I was left wondering, ‘Now how does this INFLUENCE people in any way’. Then the ever nagging inner voice said, ‘Girl, it doesn’t influence people your age. You are way too old for this. Should have read it 6 years back. Too bad you were busy being influenced by Ayn Rand back then’ So there, Catcher in the Rye was another reminder that I was getting too old – for even some serious teenage literature.

Now I’ve reached this stage where to even ramble any more I have to start thinking, which I’m not really inclined to do (unless forced, as always). So I’ll stop here and get back when I really have something to say. Might take real long, who knows!

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