Sunday, January 31, 2016

Haiku Fest


Buddha

The Buddha smiled and
Touched his own heart for once to
Choose death o’er haikus

Christ

Deliver me, Lord,
From the cross of the preachers
Mostly blog haikus

Mahatma

Shoot me Godse dear
Save the world from the winter
of barren words drear

Haiku

Death by words without
My fate in leaves that never
Grew syllable count



Inspired a little by Umashankar Pandey and largely by blogger-haikuers

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Hitler, Kamasutra and Non-Being

The novel, Black Hole, continues.

For those who came in late, the story so far:  Kailash Public School in Delhi is donated to Devlok Ashram by Sitaram Rana.  The Ashram was founded by Kailash Baba with the generous collaboration of Aaron Matthews from London as well as Amarjeet who succeeded Kailash as the Baba and Mahendra Rana.  Ishan is one of the teachers in Kailash School whose spirituality is stirred by the new happenings. Nitin Jain is the son of Amarjeet who will succeed him as the Baba.

Read on:

*
Nitin Jain was born and brought up in the Ashram.  When he completed his graduation he was sent to England to do his Masters in philosophy.  He went on to acquire doctorate on the concept of dharma in the Mahabharata.  Ever since he returned to the ashram a couple of years back, he had devoted himself to the various spiritual as well as temporal activities in the ashram wholeheartedly.  The best thing was that he knew, like Bhishma of Mahabharata, that dharma was subtle.

Nitin was the illegitimate son of Jane Abercrombie.
 
Jane had arrived at the ashram riding the waves of Kailash Baba’s fame that had crossed the oceans even up to the Fuhrer’s Nazi Germany. 

Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, had broken not only the glass window panes of Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues but also people’s hearts.  The Fuhrer’s men and boys were intoxicated with love.  Love for their country and their race.  Intoxications have their climaxes, their own orgasms.  The Night of the Broken Glass was one such orgasm.  Standing outside her home, on the shards of her home’s windows, Jane Sara Abercrombie raised her eyes to the heavens and uttered a question, “O Yahweh!  Why don’t you choose some others as your own race for a change?”

Race was the problem of both Yahweh and the Fuhrer.  Both were extremely concerned about the purity their own race.
 
Sara was not part of her name until the race added it.  It was the Fuhrer’s order that all Jewish men with names of non-Jewish tang should add Israel to their names and women should add Sara.  Thus Jane Abercrombie became Jane Sara Abercrombie and the letter J was imposed on her passport.
 
When the Fuhrer laid siege to Poland, Jane crossed the borders of her fatherland armed with a stigmatised passport.  India was her destination.  The India of Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha and his Samanas beckoned her.  “I am going on my way,” she repeated the words of Hesse’s Siddhartha to her father, “not to seek another doctrine, for I know there is none, but to leave all doctrines and all teachers and to reach my goal alone – or die.”

Jerome Israel Abercrombie listened to his daughter helplessly.  The rattle of death was already resounding in the depth of his being.  “The Jews are bacteria that should be eradicated,” Hitler had declared time and again.  The eradication process had already begun.  “The final solution,” they called it.  Jerome’s people, Yahweh’s chosen race, had started disappearing mysteriously.  You wake up one morning and find that your neighbours have disappeared.
  
Jerome was familiar with Hesse’s Siddhartha too.  He was familiar with the concept of non-being.  His daughter was going to the land of nirvana in search of non-being though the Fuhrer was already gifting it generously to the chosen race of Yahweh.
 
“Go, my daughter,” he said.  “Maybe, the non-being in India will be less painful than the non-being which awaits us here in our fatherland.”

One of her many wanderings in search of non-being brought her to Devlok.
 
Amarjeet who hated Joseph Conrad and E. M. Forster, and all the white people through them, fell in love with Jane Sara Abercrombie.  It was love at first sight.  In spite of Jane being white.  The fact that she couldn’t speak English properly served as a good catalyst in the chemistry.

He got a hut constructed for her to stay in the ashram.  She was the first female residential devotee of Devlok.

“We should construct a separate block for female devotees,” Amarjeet told Kailash Baba.
 
“Women are as welcome in Devlok as men,” declared the Baba.  “God makes no such distinctions.  But remember one thing: the rain is holy and the soil is holy, but when they mix there can be slush.”

Kailash Baba would not have employed the slushy metaphor if it were not Amarjeet who had come with the suggestion. 

Almost a decade had passed since Amarjeet and Mahendra had arrived at the ashram.  They were totally unlike Aaron Matthews who had also arrived on the same day.  While Aaron spent his time in learning and meditation when he was not engaged in compiling the teachings of the Baba into a book which he called The Path of the Master,  Amarjeet and Mahendra immersed themselves in the development of the ashram’s infrastructure.  They had cleared a large area of the forest and attached it to the ashram.  Walls were erected all around the ashram complex.  Concrete buildings were constructed for the Baba to address his devotees, for devotees from faraway places to stay, for a library, and so on.  A lot of money was donated by the devotees and it was all handled by Amarjeet and Mahendra.  The Baba knew that something was not quite right about both of them.  But he never questioned them.  The ashram was expanding because of them.  The ashram was attracting more and more people, even eminent personalities, because of them. 

There was something that was not quite right with Amarjeet’s relationships with Jane.  The Baba did not feel like investigating that though.  He had risen above such puerile inquisitiveness.  He convinced himself so.

Amarjeet taught Jane Sara Abercrombie that the non-being which she came in quest of was an ecstasy in India.  Even the body can lead to non-being, he told her probing into the blue of her eyes.  “Have you seen our ancient sculptures in the Khajuraho temples?”  He described to her the sculptures of Khajuraho with graphic details but employing the subtleties required by the fluctuations in the blue eyes of the disciple.   He used Vatsyayana’s Kamasutra for enlightening her further on non-being.  “Kamasutra is not just about various sexual positions,” he said.  “It’s more about intimacy between man and woman.  It’s about how the woman becomes as important a partner in physical relationships as the man.  It’s about rising above differences such as the gender, rising above the ego which perceives the differences.  It’s about raising the body to the heights of ecstasy so that the body dissolves into nothingness.  Nothingness.  Non-being.  There is no ego in that state of ecstasy.  Not even the self.  Just non-being.”

Amarjeet exploited to its full potential Jane’s quest for non-being which was engendered by Hitler’s dutiful elimination of her people.  The theory classes glided eventually and gracefully to practicals.  For Jane Sara Abercrombie, Amarjeet was not just a religious instructor; he was her liberator.  He was liberating her from her quest after non-being which was not her real quest.  He was liberating her from Hitler’s phantoms.  He was liberating her even from Yahweh. 

“Yahweh was a God of non-being,” she told Amarjeet once when they were lying together in her bed after a session of the practical lessons about the ecstasy of Kamasutra’s non-being.

“I thought you were seeking non-being because your Yahweh didn’t possess it!” exclaimed Amarjeet.

“Yahweh didn’t possess it,” she explained.  “He gave it.  Gave it to his people.”

Her interactions and intercourses with Amarjeet had made her look at non-being quite differently from what it meant to her when she took leave of her family in the Fuhrer’s land.   Was the Yahweh of her father and his forefathers any different from the Fuhrer?  Didn’t he demand the non-being of so many people?  All blasphemers must be killed, Yahweh had ordered in Leviticus.  All adulterers must be killed.  All female sorcerers must be killed.

“Only female sorcerers?”  Amarjeet asked in surprise.  His surprise vanished quickly, however.  Aren’t most religions skewed against women?  His own religion was, he was sure about that.
 
“All Sabbath-breakers must be killed,” Jane continued.  “All women who have sex before marriage must be killed.”

“Ah! Women again!” interjected Amarjeet in spite of himself.

“If evidences of virginity are not found for the young woman after marriage, she should  be brought back to her father’s house and the men of the city shall stone her to death, commands Deuteronomy.”

“But how do they collect the evidence of a bride’s virginity?”  Amarjeet was curious.  He patted the soft hair on her pubic mound fondly.

 “The bed sheet is examined in the morning after the wedding night.  If it does not carry blood spots left by the broken hymen...”

Amarjeet gasped. 

“And all homosexuals must be killed,” Jane continued the list of Yahweh’s thirsts for blood ignoring Amarjeet’s gasp.  “All rude children must be killed.”

“What!”

“Anyone who dishonours father or mother must be put to death, says Leviticus.”

“Who will be left alive in your religion then?”

“The law-makers.  And their blind followers.”

Jane was surprised after she uttered that.  How much had she changed after meeting Amarjeet!

Amarjeet was cautious enough to keep a safe distance between himself and Jane.  The birth of their child proved to be a greater blessing than Amarjeet had expected.  Jane turned her attention entirely to the little boy.
 
“Nitin,” Amarjeet had named the child.  “Nitin Jane.”

“Why Jane?”  Jane was genuinely concerned.  “Doesn’t the child have a father?”

“Don’t you want to change that tradition?” asked Amarjeet.  “The tradition of the patriarchy that gifted non-being to all sorts of people.”

He didn’t want to associate his name with the child.  He had certain ambitions.  A family would be an obstacle to those ambitions.  It’s easier for a bachelor to be a Baba.

Jane was too naive to see through the future Baba’s motives.

Nitin Jane grew up and became Nitin Jain when he was sent to school because the school’s headmistress knew only one spelling for the syllable Jain.


*

PREVIOUS PARTS

Chapter 1: The Original Sin


Chapter 2: A Gospel

2.2 Dkhar
     2.4 Cry from Calvary
     2.5 The Lost Sheep
     2.8 The Y Chromosome
     
     Chapter 3: Heart of Darkness
     3.1 Heart of Darkness

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Hangwoman – Review

Book Review

Title: Hangwoman
Author: K R Meera
Translated from Malayalam by J Devika

The hangman’s noose is a symbol of power.  The hangman experiences a sense of power when he pulls the lever to strangle the victim: the power to allot death to a human being.  Chetna Grddha Mullick, the protagonist of K R Meera’s novel, Hangwoman, experiences the exotic sensation of that power as she sends a condemned convict to his death by enacting her duty as the hangwoman.  But there is a greater sensation awaiting her: that of the symbolic power she has acquired over all men, especially those men who have played the role of patriarchal subjugator in her life.

K R Meera
The novel is really about woman-power.  It is about how women have been subjugated in various ways through centuries by men who took pride in the power they wielded over people for centuries.  Even Phanibhushan Grddha Mullick, Chetna’s father and 88-year old hangman, is proud of his profession whose history, according to family tradition, dates back to 400 years before Christ.  Being the hangman is not a mere job, he repeats time and again, it is a noble profession, an obligation to the nation. 

If hanging is a noble profession and an obligation, so can many other forms of power wielded by men be interpreted as noble traditions or obligations.  And men do that: they justify subjugations and suppressions in the name of tradition, culture and obligation.  This is one of the fundamental messages of the novel.
Cover of the Malayalam version

The novel has a complex texture, however.  It weaves history, mythology and legends into the story of the Mullicks to show us how power manifests itself in various forms.  There is much irony in the narrative.  Quite a lot of satire too when the TV reporter, Sanjeev Kumar Mitra, enters the plot – and he enters quite frequently.  Interestingly, Sanjeev’s parentage subtly implies the shady nature of contemporary journalism.  There are a thief and a prostitute in Sanjeev’s lineage.  When Chetna mentions it, Sanjeev is infuriated.  Chetna understands his fury.  “Those who have nothing else to hang on to need the glory of their ancestors,” she mulls.  Such people also need to wield power over others.  “I want to enjoy you at least once” is what Sanjeev tells Chetna during their first encounter.  For men like Sanjeev, the woman is an object of pleasure if not a maid while a woman like Chetna is in search of a mate.  What people like Sanjeev call love is actually a form of hunting for the prey. 

The Malayalam original of the novel, which is what I read, runs into 552 pages.  There is little by way of plot in the traditional sense.  Yet the novel grips with its illuminating insights into the power structures that underlie history, myths and family legends.  Women are more likely to enjoy this novel than men.  But even men will find it interesting especially if they have a taste for the offbeat. 

Note: The quotes in this review are my translations from the Malayalam version.



Heart of Darkness

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.   Unable to bear the redemptive love of Father Joseph anymore, Ishan leaves Shillong along with his wife Jenny and takes up a teaching job at Kailash Public School without knowing that Father Joseph has links there too. 

Chapter 3, 'Heart of Darkness', begins here: 

Read on:


The horror! The horror!”

The last words whispered by the dying Kurtz in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness haunted him like a phantasmagoric voice while Amarjeet struggled with his mysterious illness.  He had given up Conrad and his colonial darkness the day he completed his post-graduation in English literature with a third division.  Why are they haunting him now three-and-a-half decades later though he had never returned to them at any time?

Amarjeet Baba had returned from Ahmedabad in Gujarat a few days back with pain all over his bruised body.  He had gone there at the invitation of Seth Pyarelal Manilal to open a branch of Devlok ashram at Maninagar in Ahmedabad.  Seth Pyarelal Manilal was a rich banker who knew not what to do with all the wealth he had amassed in his remarkably long life.
 
“Pandit ji told me that it was time to enter the spirituality stage,” the banker explained to Amarjeet Baba.  He could not control the loud fart that escaped from beneath his massive buttocks while he kept munching almond and cashew nuts with a pinch of raisins.  Sanyasa is the fourth and last stage in the life of every person, according to the Hindu dharma, Amarjeet knew.  The sanyasi renounces the world in quest of spiritual release from human bondage. 

“You are not eating anything,” said the banker to the Baba whose mind was wandering over the twenty acres of land which the banker was donating to his ashram.  The banker picked up a sweetmeat from one of the many plates arrayed on the low table between them.

“God will grant you all your wishes,” Amarjeet said as he stood up holding in his left hand all the documents related to the transfer of the land to Devlok ashram and raising the right hand in a gesture of blessing.

“My driver will drop you at the railway station.”  The banker said. The driver had picked up the Baba from the railway station a few hours back.

The car did not reach the station, however.
 
A fierce communal riot was raging in Ahmedabad while the Baba was walking over the twenty acres being donated to him.  Neither he nor the banker was aware of the riot.  By the time the driver got smell of it, the car was already caught in it.

There was a lot of discontent particularly among the Muslims in Ahmedabad ever since many of the textile mills were shifted to Surat a few years ago.  The Muslims were skilled weavers but were being denied jobs in the rat race that had overtaken the remaining mills.  When the going got tough, the dominant community got going. 

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh had already sent its roots deep into the Hindu soil of the city and had vowed to reclaim all other soils.  Hindustan is for Hindus, M. S. Golwalkar had declared through the whiskers that covered his mouth totally.  “The non-Hindu people of Hindustan must either adopt Hindu culture and language, must learn and respect and hold in reverence the Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture.”  The gospel according to Golwalkar was very clear and direct unlike other gospels including the Vedas and the Upanishads.  “The non-Hindu people may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, not even citizens’ rights.”

The gospel penetrated into the psyche of the people with a feverish fervour.

In spite of the gospel, the Muslims were celebrating as usual the Urs festival at the tomb of a Sufi saint who had sung that the whole world is a marketplace for love.  By love are we all bewildered, stupefied, intoxicated...

Some Hindu sadhus were bringing their cows back home after the day’s grazing wherever the cows liked.  The Hindu cows apparently did not appreciate the Muslim music and dance.  Some of them began to run wild.  In barely a few moments, the people started punching their own gospel into each other’s bones. 
  
It was only the next morning that somebody noticed the slashes on the hides of some of the cows.  Someone had wielded a knife in order to make them run wild. 

Amarjeet Baba had come out of his car which was caught in the violent chaos.  He tried to run for safety but was knocked down by one of the cows.  How many cows with slashes on their hides, how many people with bewildered love in their hearts, ran over him?  He would never know.  He had somehow managed to creep out and hide himself in a sewage ditch until dead bodies were all that was left around him.

Hours after all signs of life had vanished from the bloody site, Pyarelal Manilal’s driver discovered the Baba crouching on the side of the ditch covered with filth all over his bruised body.  He took him back to the Seth’s mansion whose marble bathtub sponged up the stench and washed away the filth from the Baba’s body.  The Seth was generous enough not only to get the local traditional vaidya to attend to the Baba’s bruises but also to ask his driver to drive him all the way to his ashram in Delhi. 

“The horror!  The horror!”  Kurtz’ ghost appeared again and again as the Baba lay in his bed.  With each appearance the pain shifted from one part of his body to another.

“It’s time for me to leave the marketplace of love,” he mumbled.

“Pardon, Baba ji,” said Nitin straining his ears and bending down to the Baba.

Amarjeet Baba had sent for Nitin.

“Sit down,” the Baba motioned.  “You will soon take my place.  You will succeed me as Nityananda Baba.”



PREVIOUS PARTS

Chapter 1: The Original Sin


Chapter 2: A Gospel

2.2 Dkhar
     2.4 Cry from Calvary
     2.5 The Lost Sheep
     2.8 The Y Chromosome

Next: Hitler, Kamasutra and Non-Being


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Selfie



I take the liberty to bring here four reviews of my book, The Nomad Learns Morality

Amit Agarwal, blogger and poet: “Brevity is the essence of this awesome work. The language is crisp ant curt. The extraneous details have been done away with and the reader cannot find an excuse to take a breath while reading, their deep interest is maintained throughout.”

Sunaina Sharma has neatly summed up each one of the stories in her review.  “The book is a collection of 33 stories that deal with topics ranging from mythology to religion, history and politics. The themes are vivid - faith, doubt, human fallacy, God's devise, divinity, morality, sin, facticity, fantasy, truth,  illusion and deception,” says Sunaina. 

“The author has probed deeper and, asks the questions which might have stirred every logical mind. The stories not only make you mull over harder on a few things but also help to come out of parochialism,” says Maniparna Sengupta

Sreesha Divakaran sums up: “… all the stories in the book, in subtle ways, question morality as we know it, what we have been taught as “right” or “moral.” 


To buy the book from the Publisher: CLICK HERE

FLIPKART

PS. When I requested my publishers to offer discount on the book, they accused me of meddling with their professional expertise.  They seem to be very interesting people.  Wish you a nice experience with them.

PPS. It is only after I posted this my attention was drawn to Lata Subramanian's beautiful blog about my book.  With pride, I present the link to her post: A Letter to Fellow Nomads.

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

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