Easwaran Sundaram

Mr.Sundaram paced the floor of the main hall in tight circles, like a bull tethered about the imaginary post in the ground. The phone call from a stranger in the morning kept going on and on in equally tight circles in Sundaram’s head.

He kept muttering to himself, and on alternate Circumambulations anxiously pausing to look at the main entrance.

It was about time his son whom he sent on some errand to the village returned home. The boy’s mobile phone was languishing in “Aandal mobile reappearing kadai” for the past two days.

Finally, his son Easwaran made an appearance, Why so late da? and without waiting for an answer he launched into the ordeal he had to face in the morning on account of a phone call from a stranger.

 

Some strange guy from an equally strange place called in the morning. He paused a while scratching his scalp with his forefinger trying to recall the names. The action eased the passage of the difficult names from his memory… like the “isabgol” that helped him with his difficult bowel moments.

Aan…This guy… some  Mr. Ben Aiyyachamy I think, called from this city Addada Abbaba. He first congratulated me for joining the family of “Jio log”. These Reliance people also come up with strange schemes for their mobile phones da… I told him “not interested” I am happy with my own “Idea”.

This guy only laughing and saying, Please keep your passport and other documents ready, you must come to  Addada Abbaba city for a three-day training.  “For what,” I asked. He is saying it is part of the company policy, it is kampalsarry to attend training before starting to work in Jhonsonburger. No, no, no… you are mistaken Saar I told him, I am already retired from Madurai municipal corporation two years back…. After some,  I got angry and offed my phone da. You must go and give a complaint in the police station da.

 

It took a minute for Easwaran to understand what transpired. First things first. he borrowed his father’s phone and made a long distance call.

Hello, good afternoon Mr. Benaichi Sami. I understand you called me on my mobile and finding it unreachable you called on the alternate number I gave you that belongs to my father Mr. Sundaram.

“……..””yes Sir …yes Sir …I understand Sir,  sorry about that misunderstanding with my father….

Yes, Sir, I will be ready with the paperwork and will await for the e-ticket to Addis Ababa for the training and for my first assignment in Johannesburg sir. of course I am very happy to join the Geolog family…Ok Sir see you soon sir”

It took fifteen minutes for Mr. Eeswaran Sundaram S/O Mr. Sundaram Selvam to suppress his laughter and another fifteen minutes more to explain to the father, the faux pas committed by him. It took a sleepless night for Mr. Sundaram to understand the strange names and the stranger nature of his son’s nature of work.

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Bovine bonhomie of Barmer

The first thing I Noticed on alighting from the bus in Barmer (a sleepy oil town in Rajasthan) was the massive bull standing in the middle of the road deeply lost in meditation. I was perplexed to see that the bus driver patiently waiting for the bull to finish his prayers and move on. (no Sir, he did not even dare to honk).

You will find entire families of the cattle-class casually loitering about on the roads, from the calves to the cows to the majestic bulls, be it, the Highways or the by-lanes. It is but obvious, that the roads were primarily built for them, to loiter about, lay down right in the middle, lazily chewing the cud, giving each other tongue-massages and occasionally indulging in friendly jostles. Bless their souls, they absolutely don’t mind sharing the road with the restless two-legged creatures going about in their metal vahanas.

One night I had a surreal experience and got to know exactly what a young college going girl endures often.

It was a half-moon-lit night when I decided to walk down to the nearest hotel for dinner. The first half kilometer of the road was deserted. A little ahead was the only street lamp on the stretch of road. As I approached it, I suddenly realised my path was blocked by a group of cows. A couple of them stood up and kept staring intently at me. My heart missed a beat (or a dozen maybe I was in no mood to count). Sweat beads were threatening to run down my bald head. I faced the classic dilemma of ‘fight or flee.’  Either I beat a retreat and forgo my dinner or brazen it out and walk through at the risk of being molested. Clever me, I found a third way around. I took a detour around them, through the thicket, a few nicks and cuts from the bushes was a small price to pay. I hurried on my way expecting whistles and cow-calls from behind, which thankfully never came. Probably they got bored with the sissy man. Later I actually took an auto back to the guest house.

The drivers here, like in any other town, try to overtake, curse and grumble at fellow drivers, but what amazes me is the stoic resilience they show when it comes to encounters with the bovine kind. They never honk or show any sign of impatience. I finally ventured to ask Bhumaram the driver about the same. He was just about to answer me when he encountered a mid-sized cow relaxing about five feet away from the road median. Bhumaram made some quick calculations and hoped to squeeze through from behind her.

Just then the cow decided to flick the flies away and rest her tail behind her. Bhumaram just put the car in reverse gear and backed off and waited for a gap in the traffic and renegotiated from the front.

I did not bother to repeat my question. It’s just their divine bovine culture.

The curse of the mermaid

I was feeling all excited being a part of a team of marine geologists, on board the scientific research ship, ‘HMS Kappal’. We were on our way to carry out some very important oceanic experiments. Our team was going to verify and put an end to the controversy about the depth, of the mid oceanic marine trench.

This debate, which was raging on for quite some time now, was about the depth of the deepest point of the Earth. The American team of scientists claims it to be 10,994 meters, while the Soviet consortium claimed it to be 36,070 feet below sea level.

They finally agreed to measure it again in the presence of some third world scientists as witness. That meant that I was playing a very key factor in the history of scientific research.

We were sailing smoothly towards the rendezvous point, When suddenly, one day we were attacked by the Romalian pirates. One quiet moonless night, they stealthily managed to come overboard and strategically managed to take total control of the ship.

They held the American captain and a mixture of Europeans and Russians for ransom. As for us the Indian team, they informed us that we were not going to be held hostage for ransom. My first reaction was of extreme relief, but within seconds was taken over by the curiosity of a scientific mind. I gathered some courage and begged the leader to tell us the reason. The leader obliged by telling us thus…

“We no negotiate with India, no good no good” he said shaking his head from left to right.

“First time we capture the Indians, we say -let the India speaker speak”.

“One guy call on satellite phone, ‘I am spokesperson of the UPA government,’ he say.”

“No, no we want speak person of India government—‘Yes, yes I speak for India government.’

“But he no speaking.He only barking like a dog – we no understand, he say his nameis I think, doggy VJ sing. We angry. ’let your leader speak we say”,

“The Indian government leader come on phone, but he no speak a word– only silent.We very angry.We shoot the Indians – throw them in sea.”

“Second time we capture the Indians, we say ‘No silent speaker this time. We want good speaker.The guy come on phone and say – “I am Arknow”, I demand to know what your demands are?

“I start to say-Our demands are… He shout at me –‘I want to know, today, all of India want to know..   ‘But he no allow me to speak. We very angry. We shoot the Indians and throw them in sea.”

“Last time we capture Indians we say, ‘This time we want lady speak.’ Ok.. One lady speak very good. We say ‘We want money to release the Indians!’She say,No, no you release Indian I give you my paintings, very good painting, cost one croreeach’. We say no painting only money.”

“She become very angry, she shout and say ‘bamboo, backside,sojish’. We no understand. We very angry. We shoot the Indian throw them in sea.”

“Now we capture Indian we no talk to India, We no shoot Indians, we no waste bullets, we throw Indians in sea!”

That night they put us in their leaking rickety wooden boat, with some meager rations and abandoned us in the middle of the high seas. I had managed to smuggle with me, the most important survival tools which consisted of my compass, my measuring tape and my geological hammer, and a 6 inch utility knife.

For a week we were being buffeted about by the waves in the midst of nowhere, while our food supplies ran out. Death by starvation was looming large. On the seventh night a mild storm broke out, capsizing our boat. I managed to hold on to some wooden planks and drifted about in the wide ocean. Too tired I fell asleep on the wooden planks. When I woke up I found myself stranded on the shore of a small island.

I realized my grave predicament. I immediately set off to check for other survivors. Six hours later I concluded I was the only human on the island. Luckily for me the island had plenty of coconut trees, so food and water should not be a worry. I managed to build a make shift hut near a rock outcrop with the coconut leaves.

I spent the next few days exploring the island, and studying the geological formations and structures. Although I was an atheist, a miracle took place and I had a revelation and now I strongly believe in the existence of god. While walking along the Eastern side of the island, I noticed something that was too wonderful to explain. There sitting on the outcrop was the most glorious and perfect specimen of the missing link between the land and marine creatures.

Yes my guess was right it was indeed the perfect preserved fossil of “Tiktaalik” a genus of extinct Sarcopterygian (lobe-finned fish) from the late Devonian period. So far the paleontologists had only managed to find some incomplete and disjointed fossils of this extinct specimen. I wiped away the tears of joy, and quickly scouted the area, made markings, and went about diligently scrapping off the top soil and set about excavating the fossil.
Days passed by, as I got set into a routine, wake up at sunrise, climb the coconut trees pluck out some coconuts drink the water eat the soft fleshy part.and save some food for the rest of the day. Then I setoff to the fossil site. It was a harsh and slow work but it kept me well occupied till sunset.

One lazy afternoon, while I was busy trying to clear out the dorsal fin of the fossil fish, I heard a mellifluous voice singing out to me. It took a while to realize there was someone else beside me on the island.

I turned back and saw this most beautiful creature. The girl was so young and her skin was glowing like gold. The seawater was dripping down her curvaceous waist like lazy concentrated mineral rich water drops rolling off a stalagmite.

As my eyes moved further away from the waist. “Oh wait” I said to myself and let my eyes linger on the waist a little longer, hmmm… What a perfect geometry it looked as if her upper part of the body and lower part of her body belonged to two different species. What the heck! They were off-course, two different creatures joined at the waist.

The lower part of the body, from below the waist, belonged to a fish. Starting from that well-rounded shapely waist, was the lazy never-ending lower part of her body. This slim silver scaled part of her body meandered off, like a shimmering lazy slow-moving river in the delta region. The numerous curves on the way and finally ended in the fan-shaped alluvial delta just before meeting the sea. The webbed fins were translucent, and dotted with multi-hued marine patterns that changed shape and color as she moved.

The way the lower part of her body moved was like a poem in motion. It was so mesmerizing that I had to pull up all my will power to shift my gaze to see what’s the top of her waist was like.

As my gaze slowly moved up wards, I noticed the enormous round hips sharply narrowed upwards again to a stomach flat as the table-top mountains of Roraima. At the centre of this flat mountain, I spied upon the most glorious navel, as beautiful as the sink holes of Missouri. As my gaze traveled further upwards I noticed the twin peaks, well-rounded and beautiful as the twin peaks of St.lucia rising out of the calm Caribbean Sea.

Further up northwards, I saw the most beautiful swan like neck that reminded me of the columnar basalts of Gilbert hills of Andheri. Further up I saw the moon like beautiful face. Her mouth was as round and circular as the caldera of Mount Kilimanjaro, The sharp pointy set of pearl white teeth within the caldera. Her pink lips, were like the polished corals from the coasts of Tunisia. Her Eyes, were shining with an inner light that shone like green cat’s-eye stones. Her long golden yellow silky hair cascaded down like the tumultuous mountain streams, that swirling into eddies along the way. Her long slender arms were like the frozen lava tubes of a volcano. In short she was a stunning conglomeration of geological features.

It gradually dawned on me that I was actually looking at the Mythical creature from the deep-sea,“a mermaid”. It was almost as exciting as discovering the “Tiktaalik” fossil.

I am a very shy person by nature. Under normal circumstances I would have waited for someone to introduce me to her. I guess the situation was not normal, so I took it on myself and ventured a shy hello and Introduced myself as Dr. Pattharwalla a marine geologist from Mumbai.

She introduced herself as…..Ahaa, got you there, I was just joking she can’t speak English though. Sigh… for that matter she could not speak in the sense as like a land dweller. All she communicated was in that peculiar low whistles and guttural sounds akin to the whales and dolphins. I swear at that moment I really regretted not joining the “how to speak fluently like the dolphins in two weeks course in Mumbai “

Any way now that the ice was broken, we started having a long conversation. Every 15 minutes she would dive off into the water to breathe and waddle back on to the boulder. I was so happy that I could talk to someone and show off my knowledge about the fossils.

We managed to keep a conversation going. She would look into my eyes and go on in her soft sing-song whistling, and I would talk to her with my eyes fixed on the twin peaks of St.Lucia. Women or mermaids the female instinct remains intact I guess. I could feel her discomfort at my obvious staring. Next day she turned up as usual, to sit on the boulder. This time she had her bosom completely covered in a thick green garment made of the softest and pliable sea weed called “kelp”.
One fine day I managed to completely pry out the well-preserved fossil of the “Tiktaalik” and cleaned it of all debris, and placed it delicately on a mat woven from the coconut leaves and showed it to the lady. She looked at it with concentration and she suddenly startled me with a whistle that conveyed only one thing, “yes excitement”!. She suddenly became animated and started waving her arms and pointing at the Northern direction of the island, and again at the fossil alternatively. I got the message. She wanted to show me something at the Northern part of the island.

packing my life saving equipment, the coconut water and the coconut lunch I trudged off along the coast, while the fishy lady swam along the coast, towards the North of the island. At a certain place she came ashore and waddled on to a boulder. Sitting there she excitedly showed me the small Patch of land that looked like some crude cemetery.

I was perplexed to see this patch of land that was obviously worked over by external activity. Out of curiosity I started digging out a mound that seemed to be the burial-place of someone or something. All the while wondering if this island at some point of time was inhabited by humans.

A couple of hour’s latter I exhumed out a complete skeleton of a human. There was something strange here, the lower part of the skeleton seemed to be fused up to the knees and then separated out as two distinct feet from thereon. Probably the person was suffering from some defective fused lower limbs I guessed.

It was getting dark and the fishy lady slipped quietly into the sea and swam off. I trudged back to my makeshift hut.

Next day I decided to dig out a few more burial mounds, and I came across more such skeletons and some had the lower limbs fused almost to the ankles. The last skeleton I exhumed completed the picture, here the fusion was almost complete with the feet disappeared and ended in a web like structure.

Then it struck me like a lightening.  There I was standing at the doorstep of the biggest discovery of the millennium. I gradually pieced together the whole sequence of events. I was actually seeing the reverse evolution of a biped human gradually turning into a merman. This was where the ritual burial was taking place over a long period of the reverse evolution.

At the end of one of the ice-age melting the land was getting flooded by the rising sea water. This particular human race adapted itself the environmental changes by converting their physiology by acquiring the Piscean anatomy turning into a fish like creature. They developed gills, while still retaining their lungs to occasionally breathe on the land surface.

I could imagine myself being honored by the scientific community. The Press conferences, the book release, the fame, I was getting tizzy with all those wonderful thoughts. Oh my god I need to get some tailor-made suits. I need to upgrade my cell phone buy a new car. I was all excited and puffed up.

It was now almost a month since the discovery of the skeletons, I was getting restless. The presence of the mermaid was troubling me. One day while we were in conversation me in my human language and she, in her whistle and click and clucks. A very wicked thought came to my mind. I knew it was wrong, I was going to betray the trust that was built over several weeks, but then,desperate situations called for desperate measures.

I put my nefarious plan into action and started moving closer to her each day, till she was comfortable within an arms distance from me. Now it was time to move on to my second part of the plan. I brought out my compass and placed it in her hands. She was intrigued with the shining glass and the needles turning inside.

As soon I noticed her attention was drawn to the compass, I took position, hardened my heart, and before my inner conscious weakened me I did what I had planned to do.

In one swift move I took a firm grip on her kelp garment and yanked it off clean from her bosom at the same time I snatched off my compass from her hands with the other hand. The next moment I ran back a hundred yards from her, although I knew that she could not run after me.

I turned back and looked at her, she was too stunned to react to what just happened. Her perfect oval mouth was open making no sound. She slowly in a slow motion closed her mouth and her eyes welled up with tears. Probably what her people told her about the land dwellers was true after all. They could not be trusted.

For a few moments longer she was quiet then her face went red with anger, she became animated and started wailing in a series of high-pitched whistles. I did not pay attention to her distress. Now I had the right material to wrap my precious “Tiktaalik” fossil in.

She suddenly calmed down and picked up a seashell from the ground grunted something into the shell and threw the water in my direction. With a sad defeated face, the mermaid splashed back into the sea and vanished. She never again reappeared after that.

Now I was spending my time digging here and there for more fossils and eagerly waiting to be rescued. Finally a month later I noticed a tiny speck of a ship passing by. I quickly burnt some dry coconut leaves and sent out smoke signals. As my luck would hold out the signals were seen by the watch-out on the ship. A small boat was sent out to check out the smoke signal.

The few sailors who came ashore were surprised to see me. It was obvious that I was a shipwreck survivor, who was almost out of his senses. They quickly bundled me out on to the boat all the while ignoring completely what I was blubbering. Back on the ship I rambled on to the captain about the fossils and the retro evolution.

The captain looked at me with sympathy and gave me a fresh change of clothes and food to eat. I once more started off pointing to the island and tried to tell him about the treasure there. The ships medic quietly injected me with sedatives and kept me in a stupor till we reached a port a few days later.

I was soon on a plane to Mumbai, where I was admitted into the psychiatry ward of Leelavati hospital. From that day I have been trying to tell to whoever would listen about the fossils and the Mermen skeletons and the retro evolution.

Every one ignores my description as the ranting of a madman who has turned insane. Now it has finally dawned on me. The sing-song incantations and sprinkling of the water by the Mermaid. It was a curse she placed on me for the ultimate betrayal. A strong curse that no one would ever believe a word of what I say. I am writing this story hoping that someone sometime will have the patience to read and understand my pain. Who knows I could still be famous.

Jan 2015 project 52..

THE GRAFFITI

Every early morning when I wake up my first thought was about Janani Andal Laxmi . The very mention of the name sends me off in a tizzy world. J-a-n-a-n-i, I could repeat this word in my mind slowly sensuously, or fast breathlessly. My favorite song was “meri sapnon ki rani kab aayegi tu” I was totally infatuated with her. I never missed school, just to see her. I would stand at some corner of the class or corridor, throwing furtive glances at her from every now and then. I just loved to hear her laugh, her smile. In fact I loved everything about her. I was totally smitten by her. But I did not have the courage even to speak to her let alone professing my love for her. I knew I must do it fast before some other boy does it. I had seen lovers conveying through love letters, but I had no idea how to go about it. I was very distressed. My parents were caught up in their own worlds and had no inkling of what their lovelorn son was going through.

One day our class teacher announced in the class that, next Saturday our class was going on an excursion to the historical Charminar monument. That night I knew that was the day. I had to do it. I mulled over it deep into the night and came up with a plan of action. On Friday I lied to the class teacher that, since my father was passing by the Charminar he would drop me there early in the morning. The teacher agreed. On Saturday, I managed to reach Charminar by bus. I bought a ticket and was among the few tourists who entered in.

I lingered back as the tourists moved on. Making sure no one was near about; I quickly pulled out the pen knife I smuggled in hidden in the shoes. I selected a spot just at the entrance of the stairs going up to the minaret. I painstakingly carved out a huge graffiti with a heart shaped universal love symbol with an arrow passing thru. I carved out my” SKY” on the left bottom and “JAL” on the right top of the symbol. I even filled the grooves with white chalk to make it stand out against the dark back ground.

By the time I finished my vandalism, I heard the tourists coming down. I quickly dusted myself and walked out of the gate and waited for the school bus to arrive. As my classmates were climbing the stairs some one noticed the graffiti and there were a lot of giggles and whispers.

Next day In the class when no one else was about, Janani quietly approached and said “you are very good friend of mine no?” I nodded my head sweating and trembling. She furtively looked to both sides and passed on a piece of paper to me.” Please… Please can you give to your best friend, Shyam Kishore Yelurkar” she pleaded. I liked his graffiti in Charminar she blushed.