Skip to main content

More or less of a man

From istockphoto

Fiction

It was after many years Ramesh visited a beach. He had just retired from his lecturer’s job in a college and suddenly felt too free. All those countless research papers he wrote for academic journals seemed to mock him now. The short stories he wrote for his blog made more sense. His only published novel, Sarayu’s Sorrows, was a better consolation. Nevertheless, a sense of emptiness loomed like a mocking monster before him. That was when he decided to sit in contemplation on a beach.

The sea has a peculiar charm, he knew, though he hardly got the time to visit the beach that was just a few kilometres from his college. He was always engaged. Reading, teaching, and writing research papers in adherence to the university’s norms. He hadn’t found time even to marry in that hectic schedule. Ambitious schedule, he smiled wryly to himself. If he had a wife and children life wouldn’t have been so empty now in the retired life, he thought. He was not sure, though. He had never found human company interesting enough.

The sea is more interesting. There is a kind of monotony about the motion of its waves and yet no two waves are similar. You can sit and watch the sea for hours trying to identify two similar waves. The heart of contemplation is identifying the relationship between one wave and the next.

“Ramesh sir!” A woman’s voice came as a surprise and Ramesh looked up to see a face that seemed familiar once upon a time. Yes, he knew her.

“Devika?” He asked hesitantly.

She squatted beside him promptly. “My God! You recognise me!”

“After how many years?” He hazarded a guess. “Thirty?”

“Almost,” she said. “And I’m as surprised as honoured.”

He looked at her greying hairs. She was still pretty in spite of those few strands. In fact, the grey seemed to add a unique charm to her face which showed no sign of aging. She must be nearly fifty now.

“You were one of my first students,” he said.

“You were one of my best teachers,” she said. “I still remember your lectures on Antony and Cleopatra.”

He smiled. “I remember your poem on them.”

“Really!” She couldn’t believe it. “It wasn’t much of a poem.”

“Well, what I remember is the fundamental question it raised: Did Antony become more of a man when he abandoned soldiering and started loving a woman? Or less of one?

She gasped. “Sir! You astound me!”

“That question has bothered me again and again after I read your poem. Who was more of a man actually: Caesar who killed other men in order to win – win what, one wonders – or Antony who killed himself in love?”

“I didn’t know my poem had such an impact on you! Did you find an answer to that question?”

“I relied on Shaw rather than Shakespeare for the answer.”

“Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra?” she asked.

“Hmm. Shaw’s Caesar is humane and disciplined in spite of being a conqueror.”

“History is not so reliably certain,” she said to herself.

“Not at all,” he said like a teacher. “Fiction is more reliable. Poetry is more reliable.”

“Literature has heart,” she said. She was repeating what he had said once in the class.

That made him silent. Did he, professor of literature, have a heart? Wasn’t he just another version of Caesar, the conqueror? Caesar conquered lands and Ramesh conquered books. It was all a conquest. And conquests leave you alone in the end.

“What are you doing now?” He wanted to know more about her. The waves in the sea were becoming more restless as the sun began to descend in the western horizon.

“Nothing,” she said with a laugh and a shrug of shoulders. “I’m alone at home. Cook, eat, watch TV, read… I read your blog too. I liked your Rama on Sarayu's bank wondering whether he was less of a man and more of a god.”

“You were quite a bright student. Didn’t you take up any job?”

“As soon as I graduated, father got me a rich husband. A jeweller. He kept me busy at home serving food to his countless business acquaintances.”

Her husband – Jeweller, as she called him – died in 2017 soon after the Prime Minister’s demonetisation wizardry of ridding the country of black money. “My Jeweller had a lot of black money,” she said. “Gold business is essentially about smuggling and black money, as I understand. He did all that he could to save at least some of all that. Nothing much could be saved.”

 Demonetisation was a better war strategy than what any Caesar could imagine, Ramesh thought. It laid the axe at the very roots of political parties and many others who were not necessarily political opponents of the ruling party.

“My Jeweller had to send bags full of demonetised currency notes to the incinerator. And soon he suffered from a fatal cardiac arrest. He had lost a lot of what he had really loved. His ambition was to get into the Forbes list of world’s billionaires.” Her sigh was palpable despite the rage of the sea.

The waves were becoming more ferocious. “Today is full moon,” she said breaking the long silence that had fallen between them.

“What about your children?” Ramesh asked.

“Two sons. Both in America. Working there. They were not interested in smuggling and black money without which no business flourishes in this country even after demonetisation.”

She chose to sell the jewellery and live with white money, she said.

She has her sons to love, at least, Ramesh thought.

“They have their girls in America to love,” she chuckled. “One lives-in with a Pakistani and the other with an Egyptian.”

“So you’ve got a Cleopatra in family now.”

She laughed.

“You know something?” She asked.

“What?”

“I had written a few other poems that I wanted to show you.”

“Then?”

“I was scared.”

“Why?”

“They were love poems.”

He felt an arrow passing through his heart. “Do you know why I still remember you and your poem on Antony and Cleopatra?” He asked.

“Tell me.”

They were both looking at the sinking sun in the western horizon. It looked crimson. Fiery crimson.

“You used to disturb my sleep at night. You appeared as Cleopatra in my dreams.”

“My God!” She laughed. “I wish you embraced that Cleopatra!”

“But I was Caesar, wasn’t I?”

Was Caesar more of a man than Antony?

The sun had sunk into the sea. The full moon had begun to bathe the beach in its gentle shower though the waves were raging in the sea.

 

 

 

Comments

  1. "Was Ceasar more of a man than Antony?" - brought a big smile on my face. Happy read:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Every man seems to have his quest which makes him less of a man!

      Delete
  2. Hari OM
    Awwww, you ol' romantic you! 😉 Very nice telling... YAM xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My first attempt at romance. I know romance doesn't come naturally to me. Nevertheless 😊

      Delete
  3. Guess it's upto one's perspective, Caesar was a man to his soldiers, Antony was to her... The Jeweler was to himself and was not likely to Ramesh's Student.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of course, perspective does matter. But love is above perspectives, na? Very palpable.

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

An Aberration of Kali Yuga

Are we Indians now living in an aberrant period of history? A period that is far worse than the puranic Kali Yuga? A period in which gods decide to run away in fear of men? That’s a very provocative question, isn’t it, especially in a time when people are being arrested for raising much more innocuous questions than that? But I raise my hands in surrender because I’m not raising this question; the Malayalam movie that Maggie and I watched is. Before I go to the provocations of the movie, I am compelled to clarify a spelling problem with the title of the movie. The title is Bhramayugam [ ഭ്രമയുഗം] in Malayalam. But the movie’s records and ads write it as Bramayugam [ ബ്രമയുഗം ] which would mean the yuga of Brama. Since Brama doesn’t mean anything in Malayalam, people like me will be tempted to understand it as the yuga of Brahma . In fact, that is how I understood it until Maggie corrected me before we set off to watch the movie by drawing my attention to the Malayalam spelling

Kabir the Guru - 1

Kabirvad Kabirvad is a banyan tree in Gujarat. It is named after Kabir, the mystic poet and saint of the 15 th century. There is a legend behind the tree. Two brothers are in search of a guru. They have an intuitive feeling that the guru will appear when they are ready for it. They plant a dry banyan root at a central spot in their courtyard. Whenever a sadhu passes by, they wash his feet at this particular spot. Their conviction is that the root will sprout into a sapling when their guru appears. Years pass and there’s no sign of any sapling. No less than four decades later, the sapling rises. The man who had come the previous day was a beggarly figure whom the brothers didn’t treat particularly well though they gave him some water to drink out of courtesy. But the sapling rose, after 40 years! So the brothers went in search of that beggarly figure. Kabir, the great 15 th century mystic poet, had been their guest. The legend says that the brothers became Kabir’s disciples. The b

Karma in Gita

I bought a copy of annotated Bhagavad Gita a few months back with the intention of understanding the scripture better since I’m living in a country that has become a Hindu theocracy in all but the Constitution. After reading the first part [chapters 1 to 6] which is about Karma, I gave up. Shelving a book [literally and metaphorically] is not entirely strange to me. If a book fails to appeal to me after a reasonable number of pages, I abandon it. The Gita failed to make sense to me just like any other scripture. That’s not surprising since I’m not a religious kind of a person. I go by reason. I accept poetry which is not quite rational. Art is meaningful for me though I can’t detect any logic in it. Even mysticism is acceptable. But the kind of stuff that Krishna was telling Arjuna didn’t make any sense at all. To me. Just a sample. When Arjuna says he doesn’t want to fight the war because he can’t kill his own kith and kin, Krishna’s answer is: Fight. If you are killed, you win he

Kabir the Guru – 2

Read Part 1 of thi s here . K abir lived in the 15 th century. But his poems and songs are still valued. Being illiterate, he didn’t write them. They were passed on orally until they were collected by certain enthusiasts into books. Vipul Rikhi’s book, Drunk on Love: The Life, Vision and Songs of Kabir , not only brings the songs and poems together in one volume but also seeks to impart the very spirit of Kabir to the reader. Kabir is not just a name, the book informs us somewhere in the beginning. Kabir is a tradition. He is a legend, a philosophy, poetry and music. I would add that Kabir was a mystic. Most of his songs have something to do with spirituality. They strive to convey the deep meaning of reality. They also question the ordinary person’s practice of religion. They criticise the religious leaders such as pandits and mullahs. Though a Muslim, Kabir was immensely taken up by Ram, the Hindu god, for reasons known only to him perhaps. Most of the songs are about the gr

Raising Stars

Bringing up children is both an art and a science. The parents must have certain skills as well as qualities and value systems if the children are to grow up into good human beings. How do the Bollywood stars bring up their children? That is an interesting subject which probably no one studied seriously until Rashmi Uchil did. The result of her study is the book titled Raising Stars: The challenges and joys of being a Bollywood parent . The book brings us the examples of no less than 26 Bollywood personalities on how they brought up their children in spite of their hectic schedules and other demands of the profession. In each chapter, the author highlights one particular virtue or skill or quality from each of these stars to teach us about the importance of that aspect in bringing up children. Managing anger, for example, is the topic of the first chapter where Mahima Chowdhary is our example. We move on to gender equality, confidence, discipline, etc, and end with spirituality whi