Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Y Chromosome

The novel, Black Hole, continues.

Story so far:

Chapter 1 - The Original Sin:  Kailash Public School in Delhi is donated by Sitaram Rana to Nityananda Baba of Devlok Ashram.  The ashram was founded by Kailash Baba along with the material assistance of Amarjeet and Mahendra Rana.  An Anglican Pastor, Aaron Matthews, is also an integral part of the ashram.

Chapter 2 - A Gospel: Ishan Salman Panicker is one of the English teachers at Kailash Public School.  His foot is fractured the day the school's management changes.  Lying in bed he begins to write a gospel which has its roots in Shillong. He was born of Farishta Kharmawphlang and Shankara Panicker  in Shillong. Shankara disappeared the day Ishan was born; it was during Indira Gandhi's Emergency. Father Joseph Kunnel becomes Ishan's guardian.  Ishan, however, cannot accept the gospel taught by the priest. He becomes "the lost sheep" for the priest, while for Ishan the priest is a worshipper of a helpless god on the cross.   

Read on:


Graham Stuart Staines and his two little sons were burnt alive in their station wagon by some Hindu fanatics in Orissa.  Father Joseph was extremely worried about certain happenings in many parts of the country.  Christians were the targets of many recent attacks in Gujarat where churches were vandalised wantonly.  Maybe, a new leader was emerging, thought Father Joseph.  Religion has been the handmaid of political power more often than not.

The Staines couple worked among the poor tribal people neglected by their government, particularly those inflicted with leprosy.  They brought dignity to human lives.

“They corrupted the tribal culture,” explained Mahendra Hembram, one of the killers.

“How did they corrupt the tribal culture?” asked the prosecutor.

“They made the people eat beef.  They made the women wear bras.  They stuffed sanitary pads between the women’s legs.”

Father Joseph remembered his grandfather telling him when he was a young man how grandfather’s mother and other women of those days had to go around bare-breasted for the sake of culture.  

“Culture is a big comedy,” laughed grandfather after spitting out the betel juice that frothed in his mouth like the remnant of a rebellion which boiled in his blood once upon a time.  “A comedy with which the upper classes entertain themselves at the cost of the others.”

Father Joseph had not acquired the cynicism of his grandfather.  He was a pragmatist like his father.  “When you are in the land of snake charmers, learn to sway to the rhythm of the pungi,” his father used to say.

The snake that was now hissing in Father Joseph’s otherwise tranquil and practical mind was none other than Ishan. 

Ishan had completed his post-graduation in English and had found a job at Don Bosco college with the generous assistance of Father Joseph.  The young man seemed discontented with everything.  And he tried to drown his discontent in whisky and cigarette smoke.  The evenings found him sitting idly in the Bacchus Bar at Police Bazaar.  He reached home sodden with intoxication.  He took his sullenness to bed with him.  Farishta could never get a word out of him, let alone make him eat dinner.

“Let us get him married,” suggested Father Joseph. 

Jennifer was a distant relative of Father Joseph.  She had come to Shillong recently in search of a job and Father Joseph was her guardian angel and benefactor.  He helped her to get a teaching job in one of the schools.  A gentle girl who left her home in Kerala because of the financial constraints there. 

Jennifer was the youngest of Yohannan’s eight girls who were born in unfailing succession with a gap of exactly two years between them.  With the birth of each daughter Yohannan’s resolve to beget a son became more intense.  There was something in his soul that rebelled against the Eve’s race.  He had probably inherited it from his best friend at school, Benjamin, who was a Jew and with whose assistance Yohannan had composed his morning prayer: “Blessed are you, Lord, for not making me a pagan.  Blessed are you, Lord, for not making me a Communist.  And blessed are you, Lord, for not making me a woman.”

In order to beget a son, he went on pilgrimages to every Catholic religious place of some repute.  He offered novenas to whatever saints he came across.  He attended the Praise-the-Lord gatherings of the emerging fad known as Charismatic Movement where miracles were taking place with absolute disregard for natural laws and scientific facts. 

“Your seed doesn’t have the Y chromosome,” explained Dr. Abraham to Yohannan.  The doctor was also attending one of the Praise-the-Lord assemblies for the miracle of securing a seat for his son in one of the state-run medical colleges.
 
“Oh, God, grant my seed the Y chromosome” became Yohannan’s ceaseless ejaculation.
 
Mariyamma, his wife, refused to cooperate, however.
 
“Instead of praying for the Y chromosome, man, you start praying for a son to descend from the heaven,” she said and declared that her field had turned arid to receive any more seeds with or without the Y chromosome.  Every attempt of Yohannan’s to plough the field was thwarted mercilessly by the resolute aridness that Mariayamma had invoked on herself.

By the time the seventh daughter was married Yohannan had sold every bit of his land except the plot on which the house stood.   It was then that he approached Father Joseph for help. 

Jennifer was helpless when Father Joseph asked her if she would marry Ishan.  She knew the priest was trying to help her father by arranging a marriage for which he had nothing more to sell and didn’t need to either.  That’s not how Father Joseph presented the matter to her, however. 

“Ishan has a heart of diamond,” said the priest.  “It’s a bit like carbon now.  You can polish it, Jenny.  That’s the greatest service you can do in your life.”  He explained his vision and Jenny’s mission in great detail taking much pain until Jenny accepted what she understood as a challenge more adventurous than the civilising mission undertaken by David Livingstone in Africa. 

Ishan was indifferent when Father Joseph proposed the marriage.  It was as if the priest wanted to bring a new piece of furniture into the house.  But his eyes acquired a new sparkle when he met Jenny for the first time, a sparkle that did not escape the priest’s vigilant eyes.  He looked at Jennifer once again.  Intently.  Just to make sure that it was not Anamika Thapa.  What he saw in Jennifer’s eyes was profound melancholy that lay like two bottomless pools.

Ishan’s drinking found a temporary halt after the marriage.  He had moved out to a rented house happily leaving his mother and sister to themselves. Jenny was more surprised than pleased when Ishan showed no sign of an alcoholic.  What really pleased her was his passionate love-making.  He was the antithesis of her father who blessed his God for not making him a woman.  Ishan seemed to bless his God only for making a woman named Jenny.
 
“One lust has replaced another,” concluded Father Joseph when he could decipher the shades beneath Jenny’s blushes.  “Be on the guard, nevertheless,” counselled the priest.  “When the devil returns, he does in a legion.” 

It was a prophecy that Father Joseph could have been proud of though he was not. 

“We shall find a way,” said the priest decisively when Jenny told him about Ishan’s return to his former love.  He sent somebody or the other to Ishan’s house in the evenings just to make him feel ashamed of stinking of whisky.  They came as casual visitors.  Or to borrow a book from Ishan’s collection.  Or to invite him to some prayer service in the neighbourhood.  And they frowned at the stench that emanated from him.  They made grimaces and gestures.  Some of them condescended to counsel Ishan-the-depraved-alcoholic.  Most of them went away from Ishan’s house feeling proud about themselves in contrast to him.

Every visitor left Ishan with an aggravating feeling that he did not deserve to be there on the earth, that there was something about him which made him unworthy of existence.

“It’s that fucking priest,” mumbled Ishan when he managed to get rid of the visitor one day.  “He’s sending spies.”

Jenny didn’t know that Ishan had viewed even his mother as the priest’s spy.  She didn’t know that he believed his sister, Joan, to be the daughter of Father Joseph.  She didn’t know how much her husband hated the priest.  And through him the entire clergy and their Church.  There seemed to be nobody whom he loved. 

Except Jenny. 

Jenny was not shocked when he came home one day from the college and declared solemnly, “I have resigned.”

 “What will we do now?”  She asked after absorbing the tremor.  “What other job will you get in this place?”

“We’re leaving this place,” he said.  He explained that he wanted to live in a place where the priests wouldn’t be able to hector him. 

He had a friend in Delhi, he said.  One Abraham Jacob who was his college-mate.  He’s doing an endless research at JNU, Ishan explained.  “He has promised to help me find a job in Delhi.  Delhi is too large a city, too pagan a place, for a Catholic priest to meddle around,” declared Ishan after drowning the first peg.  “I’ll be an insubstantial needle in the proverbial haystack with no caste or creed, no identity,” he said after the second peg.  “Let the priest go and fuck somebody else,” after the third peg.

“You don’t worry,” Father Joseph said confidently and confidentially to Jenny.  “I know Abraham Jacob.”

     Ishan didn’t know that.  Ishan never knew that his job at Kailash Public School was arranged by a contact of Father Joseph Kunnel and that Abraham Jacob was a mere mediator between the priest in Shillong and another priest in Delhi.  Ishan never perceived the invisible threads that connected people across the visible barriers between religions.  

***

Here ends Chapter 2.

PREVIOUS PARTS

Chapter 1: The Original Sin


Chapter 2: A Gospel

2.2 Dkhar
     2.4 Cry from Calvary
     2.5 The Lost Sheep

8 comments:

  1. I marvel at the way you are weaving facts into a fiction! I remember that Orissa incident, where the priest was burned along with his kids. Some Dara Singh was the culprit, although I don't know what happened to him later. Possibly, he was acquitted after the matter cooled down. A shameful deed in the name of religion. Which god was pacified by that?

    Love the swing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mahendra Hembram was one of the real killers of the Staines. What he speaks in the novel is what he actually spoke during the trial. I have modified the words for literary effect, that's all.

      Dara Singh and the other killers were awarded life imprisonment although the Supreme Court verdict was controversial for certain remarks made against the Staines and religious conversions which they allegedly indulged in.

      Thanks, once again, for your loyalty as a reader of this novel :)

      Delete
  2. I like how each one of your posts (even a story for that matter) has so much research behind it. Awesome Sir.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Leena. I am a follower of Bernard Shaw who said that he never wrote anything without the purpose of 'teaching' something. I am not a propagandist. But I believe literature has certain corrective functions to fulfil.

      Delete
  3. Very different narrative style!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hope to see you again and again here, Shaivi.

      Delete
  4. Culture is a big comedy... a very profound statement - although I cannot recall like Rakesh the factual bits, I like the way you remain true to the many ironies of life. Devil returns in a legion, and so does the priest in cahoots with the 'college-mate'.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. History is more fantastic than fiction, incredibly thrilling. That's why I love to blend it with fiction.

      Abraham Jacob is the priest's student, not college-mate. One purpose of serialising this is to get this sort of responses so that I can make necessary corrections or alterations. The readers become my editors :)

      Delete