Monthly Archives: October 2014

FREE TO FLY AWAY By Yeddanapudi Sulochanarani

“Rajita, Rajita!”

Prabhakar’s closed fist was banging on the closed door fiercely. His voice resounded like a thunder.

The closed doors had not opened.

“Rajita, open the door,” He shouted like a military officer. There was no response.

“Rajita, Open the door. Or else, I’d set fire to the room. You’ll burn to ashes.”

This threat did not work either.

“What a nerve! You know what’s going to happen when I am angry.”

Yet there was no answer.

“Open the door. Are you going to do it or not?”

“Do you think I can’t break this door and come in?”

Prabhakar wiped the sweat on his forehead. His nostrils were exhaling breath like a train engine. He was exhausted for all the banging on the door, screaming, and shouting threats. A sudden wave of powerlessness took over. Rage is like a lava, ready to explode any second; and if it does not find a way out, it escalates.

Prabhakar’s brain was like that at the moment. His anger was telling him to jump on Rajita. But the closed doors stood in his way.

Rajita is his wife. She wore the tali he had tied around her neck like a rope on a cow’s neck, and followed him to his house, like the mother cow. Now, she left the house without even telling him that she was leaving him, not even so much as a little note, and walked away.

Her departure without a word is driving him crazy; his blood is boiling. His male ego is hissing like a frightening thousand-hooded cobra.

He stood there for a while, leaning feebly on the doors; and then a huge wave of fury shot up in his head. He rose like a tornado. His fists banged on the door; his feet kicked it; and the door broke open, giving way to his fury.

He walked in.

Rajita was sitting, holding an embroidery frame. She saw him and stood up. Her hand was up in the air, as if she pulled the needle and the thread in order to tighten the stitch, and remained in the same position. He walked closer to her.

“Did you think you can really walk away from me?”

She did not reply.

“Did you think you could walk away as you please?” he repeated the question.

Still, no answer.

“Why aren’t you talking?” he snapped.

Her response was silence.

“I’m talking to you,” He noticed the embroidery work in her hands.

“Here I am yelling at you, and you are creating art work as if nothing happened?” he approached her like lightning and snatched away the frame from her hands; and he tossed them away with all his might. The frame and the materials fell into the basket at a distance.

Rajita walked to the basket and kneeled down to pick them up. He came, stood behind her and seized her braid and shook her up fiercely.

She screamed abbha, turned toward him and looked straight into his face. There was no sign of fear on her face. She was helpless but not shivering. She was not worried that she was alone and there was no one to support her. There was only defiance in her eyes.

He raised his hand again in an attempt to hit her.

Suddenly there was a noise outside. He turned around and saw the policemen walk in. He was stunned at the sight of them.

“Are the woman who phoned us?” the police officer asked her.

“Yes,” Rajita said without any trace of fumbling in her tone.

“Mister, we heard about your atrocities. You broke the doors and attacked her physically. Let’s go to the police station,” the police officer said, holding Prabhakar’s collar.

Prabhakar was feeling humiliated; he opened his mouth to say something.

The police officer yelled, “shut up.”

“I am her husband,” Prabhakar retorted angrily.

“Is this the way a husband enters his wife’s room?” the police officer asked him, pointing to the broken door, and referring to the scene he had seen earlier, the way Prabhakar was standing with her hair in his grip. The sarcasm in his voice hit Prabhakar on the chest, as if he were hit with a baton.

Rajita went and picked up the embroidery frame as if nothing happened. She said, “Thank you, Sir,” to the police officer, as Prabhakar was escorted out of the room. At the sound of her voice, Prabhakar turned around and gawked at her like a wounded lion. The police officer turned toward the door.


It was eight in the evening. Rajita was watching the TV. The phone rang. She turned down the volume and picked up the phone.

Her father-in-law was screaming from the other end. He said, “I went to the police station, and got him out on bail and brought him home. He was humiliated because of your action and swallowed poison. He is in the hospital now, fighting for his life. Are you satisfied now?”

Rajita hung up. She returned to the TV and turned up the volume again. After about 15 minutes, the doorbell rang. She turned down the volume again, went to the door and opened it.

Rajita’s uncle was standing at the doorway. He said, “Rajita, did you know that Prabhakar ate sleeping pills.”

Rajita did not reply. Her uncle walked into the room and sat down on the sofa. Rajita turned up the TV again.

Her uncle shouted, “Turn off that stupid TV.” Rajita turned the volume way down. The picture was visible but the sound was barely audible. A Chinese woman was performing gymnastics; it was breathtaking. Rajita was watching as if she was totally unaware of her surroundings.

“I am talking to YOU.” Babayi shouted at her.

“Ha?” she turned toward him with a twinge.

“Are you deaf? What do you think I am ranting about all this time?”

“What, babayi?”

“Prabhakar tried to commit suicide.”

“I know.” She turned to the TV. It was a show on family planning. She went to the TV and turned it off.

“You know? How can you be so calm still?”

“So many people are committing suicide in the world every day. Have you ever felt sorry for them, babayi?”

“What? How can you compare that to Prabhakar’s situation?”

“What’s important to you is not important to me. The thing that upsets you does not bother me.” She replied unambiguously.

“It doesn’t bother you if something happened to Prabhakar?”

She shook her head implying it would not.

“I am the one who had performed your wedding with him.”

Rajita was taking out the milk carton from the fridge to make tea for him. She stopped and looked at him. “True you had performed our marriage. But we are the two people, Prabhakar and me, who had to make a life together. We need to understand each other.”

“Well, when two people live as husband and wife …”

“They two will have the right not only to live together but also the right to break up too.”

“Oh, god. Rajita, you’ve gotten real smart. Are you the same little girl who was born in Narsaraopet and raised by me?” babayi said, surprised.

“Why stop there. Go ahead, open up and start the usual volley of insults. You can blame my education, my friends and my books too. Also you can include all my colleagues at work while you are on it as well.”

“First tell me why you left him and walked away.”

Rajita was busy making tea.

“Come on, Rajita, tell me.”

Rajita kept quiet.

“What did Prabhakar do?”

Rajita did not respond at once. Babayi sipped the tea and coaxed her into talking. Finally, Rajita started narrating her story.

“You are getting old and I don’t want to bother you. We two are incompatible.”

“How come?”

“He does not have the common decency which makes people respect others. You arranged our marriage. I also liked the qualities in him—his education, job, his family and his character—the same you did. Arranged by senior family members means only bringing the couple to the shore, put them on a boat and let them follow their course. After that, we two have to continue our journey on our own. In that journey, if the two people failed to understand each other, the ensuing loneliness is terrible, babayi. You cannot understand this even after I explained to you. I too like Prabhakar very much. When he said he did not want me to go for a job, I agreed despite my higher education and qualifications. I understood that he liked me to stay home as a housewife, and waiting for him. So, I stayed home without being told what his wishes were. I let go of my friend because he did not like me having friends. I dropped even my best friend Suseela, our Panduranga Rao’s daughter, because he said she was not right for our status. I was dying to maintain my own identity, “I”, yet I changed myself, hoping to blend the lives of the two of us.

“Yet, during the past eight years of my wedded life, what did I get, babayi? All I got is unlimited loneliness. He took me for a machine he could play anyway he pleased. Anytime I told him that I did not like his actions, it resulted in huge fights and obnoxious language. All that education, politeness and personality are just a cover. Is that the language a man should use for a wife? Why should I take it? Doesn’t he have the least bit of responsibility to understand how much I had given him without asking, how much I struggled to give it to him, and how much I lost in the process? You say these are small things. So also the bricks. Yet, the same small bricks are used to build such huge buildings, right! I like small beliefs and little pleasures. They are my life-breath. They are my measure for happiness. I have never asked him for big things.

“As I changed for his sake, I had no address, my individuality has disappeared. I got nothing out of it. He let me take up the job only because he had to go abroad on business; he saw that I would be bored, sitting at home. That’s the only good thing he did for me and it turned out to be a bad thing. Up until now, I lived for him, without a life of my own. All his likes and pleasures went past by me. Finally, I have come to realize that it is a mistake to devote my entire life for another person.

“Now I have corrected my mistake. I started trying to live my life the way I am. He did not like it. He told me to quit my job. I said I will not. That’s when it started—the fights. Why should I live with a person who did not pay attention to my likes and my problems. That’s the reason I came away.

“Babayi, whom do we tell before we go? We tell people whom we like, and the people who want us to come back. He on the other hand is the kind of person who would ignore the wife sitting next to him and gloat over some other pleasure. If you order me to go back to that kind of person, I will not. I am not a kid anymore to be scared of you and to follow your orders. I have no desire to hang around a place where I could not get what I wanted. That’s why I did not leave my job.

“I’ve got a house of my own. Prabhakar came and tried to smash this nest of mine. I am not letting him do that. That in reality is his problem. He is not paying attention to my hurt. But the moment he was hurt even a tiny bit, he is raising a rumpus all over town. So be it. How much and how long can he go on like that? You all there for him, to comfort him. If that’s what he is looking for, well, that is what makes him happy. What else is there one would want?”

“I agree, Rajita, he has made a mistake. I am not denying it. But, he is basically a good person.”

“No need for you to recommend him to me. Recommendations cannot fix families. Tragedies cannot keep love alive.”

Rajita took the empty tea cups into the kitchen.

“Okay, see you later,” babayi said and got up to leave.

“Alright,” Rajita replied curtly.

As babayi walked through the front door, he noticed that Prabhakar was standing outside the door. He looked sick and run down. There was a considerable difference between the man he was yesterday and the way looked now.

“You? What’s this? Aren’t you supposed to be in the hospital?”

“Hush,” he said in a feeble voice, with his finger on his lips. “I ran away from the hospital. I need to talk to Rajita.”

“Come, let’s talk to her,” babayi said.

Prabhakar signed with his index finger, suggesting he leave. “I have to talk to her alone. Please, you go, quick.”

“Did you hear the entire conversation?” babayi asked him.

He nodded and told him to go. Babayi left.


Rajita shut the kitchen door and stopped with a sudden jerk; she could not speak a word.

Prabhakar was sitting in the sofa, slumped. He looked as if he was truly hanging between life and death. His face turned dark; cheeks pulled in, and eyes sunk. His legs were hanging flaccidly as if lost all the strength.

“Rajita,” he called. There was no command in that tone, only yearning. “Raji, I am sorry. I must apologize to you. I was afraid that I might die before tendering my apologies to you. That’s why I came away. I am sorry. I should have given you happiness doubly for all the love you have given me. Instead, I robbed you of all your happiness, like a thief. My stupor did not clear until after you had left. I am not here now to ask you to come back to me. I came to tell you that I have understood now that it was my mistake that pushed you away. I am sorry,” he said, and stood up to leave. He was wobbly. Rajita quickly stepped in and stopped him from falling.

“Thank you, thank you,” he said and broke into sobs.

Rajita walked him to the sofa and helped him sit down. She brought a pillow and put it under his head.

“Rajita, I love you,” he held her hands and said sincerely. “Please, don’t leave me. Please. The indifference in your eyes is piercing through me like a sword. Your eyes are filled with so much love for me and yet there is so much indifference! That’s when I understood my mistake. I just could not come back to you.”

Rajita caressed his head. He clung to her. Rajita helped him lie down on the sofa, went to the next room and phoned her father-in-law. She told him, “Prabhakar came to see me. He’s here. Don’t worry about him.” Then she called the doctor, gave him her address and asked him to come at once.

“Rajita,” Prabhakar called her out with renewed vigor and extended his hand. Rajita came to him, “The doctor will be here in a few minutes. Don’t you worry,” she told him.

“Rajita, you have forgiven me, have you not?” he held her hands and hid his face in them.

She did not respond. “Tell me,” he asked her.

Complete silence.

“Tell me, please.”

“Apologies may bring two lives closer but they don’t unite them,” she said.

The words were straight as arrow. It looked like she was holding up the bare truth she believed in for him to see. He was about leave her hands but did not. He pressed her hand even harder to his cheek.

“Yes, but, it can happen. We can try to be united if we stayed close,” he said.

Rajita did not reply. Her heart was very peaceful at that moment. She felt like a huge burden, which she could not carry anymore, was lifted off her chest. In her heart, a kind of happiness which she had never known before started opening up its wings.


Translated by Nidadavolu Malathi and published on, March 2005.

(Telugu original, vippukunna rekkalu, was published in India Today, August-September 1992.)




There is a cartoon by Bapu, the remarkable artist of our times. Probably many of you have seen it. Yet I need to articulate it in words here since I am no good at drawing and also because Bapu himself is inimitable. The cartoon was about an officer. While he was on his usual rounds one day, part of his supervision of the staff, he noticed a huge pile of files on one desk, and said to his next in command, “Clear this mess. Find the clerk underneath and send me a proposal to fire him.”
I managed to keep my position safe by staying up late and finishing the files. One time however I was caught by my manager. My chair was the reason for me being in that awkward situation. The woven plastic threads, not the back but, of the seat had a hole in the center. As the hole got bigger it became uncomfortable to sit on and so I put a cardboard on my seat. The cardboard started giving in for my weight and so I kept adding old papers, used newspapers, and the magazines my houseguests left behind. I could save the modesty of my chair in that manner for a while. I wouldn’t have gotten into trouble if I had not stood up per custom when our officer came for his usual rounds. But I did stand up and there followed a huge hullabaloo.

My manager yelled, “Why is that chair like that? What is that pile? If you throw in all the files under bottom like that, how could we get the job done?” and, he made me pick up all the papers. That’s it. I was as much stunned as he was. It was not a small hole anymore. The entire weaving broke into small bits and formed a cave in the place of my blissful seat.
“I cannot say the fact that you working in my office are shameful but having a chair like that here certainly is. Send it for repairs at once,” he said.
“Yes, sir. But we don’t have permission for repairs,” I replied politely.
“Did you apply for permission?” he asked.
“Yes, sir,” I said and showed him the file. He finished reading it in a split second even as he stood there (he is sharp). The file read as follows:
1. Sir, I respectfully submit that my chair was torn and permission may be granted for repairs (Memo dt. April 4.).
2. This request was denied since our budget for repairs of chairs for this year was used up (Maintenance Supervisor. Memo dt. April 10.).
3. Since new allocations will be made next financial year, make a note to remind me (Our Section Supervisor. Memo dt. April 12.).
4. It’s getting very uncomfortable to sit on this chair, and therefore, I am requesting to reconsider. The expense may be met from miscellaneous expense account (That’s me. Dt. April 24.).
5. It’s permitted to meet the expense under the miscellaneous expense account. However there is a rule stating that we need to call for tenders for such odd jobs also. We need the manager’s permission for calling tenders and he is currently at a camp. Therefore resubmit your request after 15 days (Assistant Manager. Memo dt. April 29).
6. I understand the Manager returned from camp and therefore I am resubmitting my request (May 16.).
7. Before calling for tenders, we must assess the total needs of all the sections—how many chairs in each section need repair, and consolidate our needs. If we arrange for repairs of only one chair now, tomorrow somebody else will raise the same question and then someone else …and thus it goes on forever. Then just reviewing all these requests by itself becomes a bigger headache for our Manager and then the real work suffers (Deputy Manager. Memo dated June 12.).

At the end we received a memo as follows:
Ladies and Gentlemen: The purpose of this memo is: Each section head is requested to submit a proposal identifying the chairs that needed repairs of backs and seats, make a list of the numbers noted on the chairs, and their users, and any other useful information; the proposals must be submitted to the undersigned within fifteen days from the date of this memo. You are requested to note that this memo has been drafted specifically to review the repairs of the damaged backs and seats of chairs as a special case regardless of budget allocation. In the case of those sections from which we have not received response within 15 days, it will be noted that those sections did not have chairs needing repairs. (From me. Dt. June 4.).

“Excellent! You have created a superb story. I must admit you have a great brain,” our manager complimented me. Then he asked me if I had received responses from all the section heads.
“We will receive their responses the 14th day from the date of this memo. Until then, this will not be considered urgent,” I told him.

Since the manager stood in front of my seat alone for nearly ten minutes, my work suffered. Since the other staff members in our section were enjoying the scene, their work also came to a standstill. Additionally, in the lobby the number of visitors waiting for the manager was growing by the minute. Therefore, he decided to leave but stopped. He called out for the peon and ordered him, “Remove this chair from here and throw it in the storage. Bring one good chair from the lobby and put it here.”

After 15 days, a sum of 504 rupees toward labor costs and a sum of 320 rupees toward the cost of plastic thread were sanctioned for repairs of 42 chairs.

I was proud that I could be instrumental in serving a social purpose—taking care of not only my problem but several others’. A proverb came to my mind—when a woman who was howling for a husband got a husband, so also the woman who did not, also got one.
(Translated by Nidadavolu Malathi and published on, January 2004)

(The Telugu original, “anagaa, anagaa, oka kurchi” was published in the anthology “Saradaa kathalu” (fun stories) by Bhamidipati Ramagopalam. Visakhapatnam: Jyeshtha Literary Trust, 1995. 2d ed. 2001.).

Kalipatnam Rama Rao

The Scheme by Kalipatnam Rama Rao

  kalipatnam Rama RaoHey! Did you hear about it, the big trial in the city court? I was so wrapped up in my sister-in-law’s wedding preparations. I haven’t been reading the newspapers lately…

Yesterday I ran into Sissy Sarma and Divodas. They were on their way home, after attending the court proceedings.


We were chatting…

Sissy Sarma mentioned that there were nearly one hundred and fifty defendants and one thousand witnesses. Bhimarao, walking by my side, cut in, “What’s it? A squabble?”

“Oh, NO. It’s a plot!” Sissy Sarma said.


The word plot cracked me up. Why wouldn’t it?

I’d call it a scheme or a plot if it had happened between two or three people, and behind the closed doors. That’s scheming. But involving some one hundred to one hundred and fifty persons? And that too, one thousand witnesses on your side alone? That clearly shows that it has happened in broad daylight. You can call it by any other name, certainly not a conspiracy. No sir*. If you ask me, I’d say calling it a conspiracy is a conspiracy in itself. What’s the matter? Are you embarrassed to call it a rebellion?


So, that’s what I told them.

“Hey, mister, couldn’t you find the two separate words–conspiracy and rebellion, in your law books? Or, are you thinking of that English phrase: You hang them first; and then, give it a name. Is that what it is?” I asked him.

“No, no. That’s not it. True it’s a crime to overthrow or even try to overthrow a government that is lawfully elected. No matter where it took place; and by how many persons, that still should be termed conspiracy,” said Sissy Sarma.


Did you notice the force in his words? I wanted to shut him up but I held my tongue. The high-brow scholar spoke in his ostentatious tone, “What do you mean? Are you saying that both the royalty and the domain are immutable?”


They are mutable all right, he replied, but that should happen in strict accordance with the constitution. Thus, Sissy Sarma continued his shabby discussion on the constitution and the fundamental rights of the civilians. That’s when I told myself ‘no use keeping my mouth shut,’ and jumped into the argument.

“Come on, sir! You don’t mean that the people who wrote the constitution are that stupid!” I said.


That was enough to shut up Sissy Sarma. Divodas couldn’t take the heat from my pedantics either, and so, slipped away quietly into a nearby store, on the pretext that he wanted to buy some betel nut.

“I can’t argue with you,” said Sissy Sarma, annoyed, and walked away in big strides.


Yes, sir. Persons like him might be knowledgeable in matters like the constitution. But I don’t think he knows how the constitution was written or why for that matter.

Let’s talk about you, for instance. Let’s say you wanted to start a cooperative society, or a housing scheme, or a small cultural club.


Are you asking me, why?

Well, probably because you are some kind of an idealist. Either you want to improve your own lot or the lot of the others: your family, friends, or even neighbors; or, may be, because someone else has accomplished something and you want to outdo him … Something like that. One must have a goal. It could be just the love of service. Secondly, you need to set some limitations. You can limit it to your caste, community, the labor-class, farmers, the oppressed ex-landlords, … something; you can figure it out yourself. There are no organizations that do not have limitations.


You may or may not openly admit it but you make sure that you have some limitations.

Next, whatever your reasons are, for starting the organization, you also need to muster the support of a few others with similar interests. You can enlist their support but make sure that they don’t run you over. They must accept your leadership, follow your instructions and carry out your orders. That determines how you should draft your bye-laws.


You do have to be meticulous and draft the rules in such way that the rules allow you to tie up the hands and the feet of the people who might turn against you down the road. And you will also include the rules that protect your interest.


Let’s say, you are including a phrase ‘any citizen of this town’ in the law you were writing. You’ll also add a clause, ‘a domicile for at least twenty years’. Why do you think that clause is necessary? Because twenty-five years back you were not in this town, and it is over twenty years since you’ve moved in. That’s why. The process is the same when you introduce amendments to the bylaws.


You know there are some dumb democrats; they don’t know the nitty gritty details of the European democracy. As long as the mob is on their side, and they are benefiting from it, they keep jumping up and down like apes and holler the worn out phrases like the voting rights, the secret ballot, and such. If, by any chance, the people turn around and cross over to the opposition party, then the same democrats swap their song and would say, “To hell with democracy; our country is not ready for democracy; we are good only for ‘mobbocracy’*; no, sir, we are not good for democracy.”


[Note: A play upon the English term, for satire]


But, a true democrat would not give himself away like that. He won’t let even a fly rest on the system.

His very approach is different. Know how?

Of course, you know and I know. The senior citizens stayed away from voting in the recent elections, unlike in the past. The younger generation is better, by comparison. Why is that? ‘Cause the seniors have seen through the game we* are playing. It takes a while for the kids to see that. That being the case, what do you think, we should do? Okay. We will suggest that the voting age should be lowered to 18. That is what I call a real democratic plot!


[Note: In Telugu culture, the all inclusive pronoun “we” does not necessarily mean that the speaker is a participant. In this reference, ‘we’ is equal to ‘they’, meaning the people in power]


Whatever you do, you should come out like a true liberal. The other person fails to see you for who you are; you should bark only when the other fellow is weak. Never allow those, who don’t appreciate your philosophy, in key positions.. Even if somebody sneaks into a key position, you should make sure that they don’t mess up the organization. That should be your main goal. Starting from the simplest of the administrative details, each bit and piece should be oriented toward that goal.


Now, you think you are smart, right? Remember that they all have scrutinized the constitution, like splitting hairs, and studied it every which way, I mean, back and forth, up and down, a million times. It is running in their blood. Tell me this. Do you think they have drafted the constitution without some notion of where to drive the nails, to avoid a rebellion by the opposition– which articles contain what loopholes and so on.


Actually the phrase, ‘in accordance with the constitution’ is enough to tell us that we can not change anything, if we follow the rules of the constitution.


In short, it is like a home without exits but for one door, and that one door has a bed frame nudged against it. Under the circumstances, there are only two ways out for anyone who wants to get the family back on track. Either he should strangle you in the middle of the night or smash the walls. There is no third way out.


Somebody said that, “butchering Hiranyakasipu like an animal’ was not fair.”

The other person, a devotee of Vishnu, snapped, “What about the boon Hiranyakasipu has asked for?”


[Note: The story from Hindu mythology states that Hiranyakasipu, a demonic king, prayed Lord Siva and obtained a unique boon. According to the boon, he could not be killed by a man or an animal, on earth or in the air, and so on, practically making it impossible to eliminate him. After that, he became increasingly evil. Lord Vishnu took the form of Narasimha, half man and half lion, and tore out his guts in a manner that was not in direct contradiction with the aforesaid boon. The narrator says, according to one person, being killed, literally mauled, by a lion is not fair; yet that was necessitated by the boon, he had sought earlier]


Hiranyakasipu, in modern times, is the same; you can’t underestimate people like him. Paltry fellows are becoming millionaires, multi-millionaires, and billionaires, in no time; and, as if that is not enough, they are planning to climb up higher. Nobody, neither the people, nor the architects of the constitution are able to control them anymore. The modern Hiranyakasipu are hiding behind the constitution. There is not a thing on earth or in the constitution to stop them. I am not going to spell it out but that part of their body that should be cut short is beyond repair. That is why, the people have assumed the form of the ferocious Narasimha* [the form the Lord Vishnu took, half man and half lion].


[Note: See the previous note on Hiranyakasipu]


Have you ever heard such extremist thoughts in our history? If you don’t trust me, look it up in the entire literature of puranas and the historical documents.


So, all I’m saying is, whatever that scheming is, it should have happened at the outset itself, at the time of writing the original constitution. It happened for sure, when the Five-Year Plans* were implemented. There is enough evidence available right in front of our eyes to prove it.


[Note: After achieving independence, the India government drafted economic plans called Five-Year Plans, and implemented them. Most of them, as pointed out in the story, failed to accomplish their goals]


That is the real conspiracy. That is the original taproot. The rest of them are the off-shoots that grew out of that taproot. You have introduced a germ into the body called society. The body is weak, no doubt. But the body still has some immunity left in the system. In stead of being happy for having it, you are administering the medicine to kill, not the germ, but the immunity system.


Didn’t I say that the scheming has taken place at the very beginning, when the original plans were conceived. Now let me explain to you how the planning has happened. First, listen to me, and then tell me what would you call it, if not ‘scheme’, in your language,.


Have you heard of a man called P. P. Vaidyanatham? At first I didn’t realize what kind of a crook he was. It took me a long time to see him through. I thought he was somebody in the Ministry of Central Education. Just recently I’ve come to know that he had served two consecutive terms as a member on the Planning Commission.


I think, it is in nineteen hundred and seventy, I don’t remember the exact month, I was skipping pages through the Time magazine, and stumbled on his picture with his name written in huge letters in the magazine.


I got curious, wanted to see what was all that about. There was a two-and-a-half long column article written about him! Imagine an Indian being featured in the Time magazine. He wasn’t even in the position at the time. I was so impressed and decided to keep an eye on him.


It seems, he has the entire industrial network of the production in South Central India in his palm. He could wave his index finger and change the course of the entire importing and exporting business, so to speak. That is what the columnist wrote.


Eventually, I gathered lot of information on him. Here is what I’ve come to know: He was at first like anybody else only a ‘happeny tuppeny’ industrialist prior to independence. Of course, he was a kind of a freedom-fighter too. He went to London to obtain his ICS diploma. He didn’t get along with the Britishers there. Therefore he returned home, joined hands with a couple of merchants and money-lenders. Thus he started two or three businesses. He started writing articles like “Use only items produced by Indians” and grew up into writing huge books like “Indian economy under British rule”. He grew up, you know, like the bug in the cow dung that grows tentacles and expands into the level of an octopus.


[Note: Indian Civil Service diploma was a requirement to serve in high administrative positions under British rule in the early 20th century]


Now, he owns shares at least in 90 percent of the companies in the South; if not shares, partnership. If not him, his brother-in-law, or mother’s brother’s wife’s brother’s children,… somebody related to him in someway will have a partnership or shares. One person at least will be in a key position.


You know what my friend says:

If you try to find where the keyboard of the Capital is, no, you can’t find it in the city, not anywhere in that neighborhood. You are certain to find it only in the secret vault in his head office, in Tirucchi or Tirunalveli or some other place. That’s what my friend says. May be there is some exaggeration in it. But, you will agree that he is that kind of person.


That columnist in the Time magazine called him the Wizard of South India Chamber of Commerce. What do you think of that?


Some say that it takes a crook to appreciate another crook. Forget my words. He is a crook, so what? Aren’t there enough things in life, he has accomplished? Can we write them off like they mean nothing?


Here is his modus operandi. You show me the building you want to rent, in the heart of the town, if you will; and I will make sure that you got it. I will give you the principal to start the business. You pick the business after your heart. You will have five years to work on. At the end of the five-year period, you refund the principal. I am telling you, if you don’t file for bankruptcy by that time, I will bite my tongue.


People talk. So what? The tongue flaps, it has no bones. It twists and turns anyway you want. He became a crook, it is true. How do you think he became a crook? He became a crook because others let him and made him a crook. He still deserves credit for his work. You can not ignore his expertise and leadership qualities. Don’t talk as if possessing expertise and leadership qualities is a crime.


Sometime back, one of our local politicians was pointing a finger at him. Then I told him…

“Yes, sir. I agree we are a little short when it comes to national pride. If you have even an ounce of it, you wouldn’t pass him over with a cluck. It is unfortunate that he was born in this country and ended up in this setup. Could you imagine, how he could have prospered if only he were born in that great system, the great country, you call the heaven? Guess what could have happened to him?”

“He would have been the same even then,” Sarma replied.

“That is my point. So, just shut up,” I told him.


Yes, sir. If someone is blind, we have ways to get back his sight. What can we do about a person who has the sight but refuses to see?


Well, what I am saying is, in our country we have the opportunity to produce great leaders. That’s because ours is a spiritual country. That’s the reason.


We may have a Raman or a Tagore, once in a while, in the field of sciences or literature. That’s possible. I am not denying it.



When it comes to economy, it is a different story. Let’s admit it. We have the ‘primitivist’ among the primitive societies when it comes to economy. We live in a world ”where we still barter rice for curry leaves. That is our country.


So, we cannot ignore him, write him off as if he were nothing. He is such a great industrialist-cum-economist, you know. How can you snub a person who has made history! If you want, you can, but, I think one must have the pluck to make history. You’ve got to admit that.


But then again what does it matter, whether ordinary people like us, appreciate it or not? Even the greatest of the great leaders didn’t have the courage to disregard his guts.


Our leaders have decided that, after gaining the political freedom, we have to work for our economic freedom. While the Leftists and the Rightists in the country were raking their brains–wondering whether we should choose the capitalist economy or the socialist economy, this fellow introduced a new theory called mixed economy.


It is not really a new theory, except in name. The European countries have walked down that road in the past. This new theory is a kind of ruse to confuse the working class any time the working class gets smarter and starts hollering the lingo like socialism and such other nonsense. He has mastered that technique and called it mixed economy. I am not sure whether he invented the name himself, or borrowed it from others. I have my doubts about that, you know.


The political leaders, who are in power, especially those who are being beat up by the leftists and the rightists, were impressed with this new theory. They invited him to sit on his planning commission. Guess what he said in response? He said, “I am not a member of your party. You take me in now but I will walk out as and when I please. I will not take ‘no’ for an answer from you.”


The politicians accepted it, and then, he came up with another condition.


“You have the majority in the planning commission. After I got you to accept my proposal, it would be your job to get it passed. You, or the leaders of your party, must enter into a gentleman’s agreement with me, that you will make sure that my proposal is accepted, no matter what, I mean, under any circumstances.”


Such an air-tight plan. What other choice do they have? They all kept saying ‘yes, yes,’ for each and every one of his conditions and took him in.


Gandhi advised his followers to weave khadi; and also to go to jail. But, did he ask people to skim through the huge volumes on subjects like industrial organization? Did he suggest them to enter politics and study the mechanics of government? Did he ask people to enlist in the army and defend the country in war and peace?



I think, all our national leaders bypassed these crucial issues, and kept harping on every other aspect of education. Actually, they didn’t care about all other aspects either. They read history books and wrote autobiographies. Know why? So that they could make it into the pages of history books. A few others rewrote commentaries for Bhagavad Gita, or the stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Not a single person seem to give the time of the day to the most important issues, and raise questions like ‘what should we do for our country? What does the country need?’ If, somebody had tried to raise the question, probably, the other leaders had squeezed his voice and shut him up.


That’s why, when the day arrived, they had to depend on the intellectuals, at times, on the intellect of the non-party members as well, for every tiny detail, starting from drafting the constitution to planning the government organizations. They called this “the people’s rule,” a “Rama rajyam” and, have succeeded in the process to convert it into the rule of the devil.



Can we blame Vaidyantham for being one of them? He kept blabbering about a socialist plan, created two plans, and got them approved by the government in a heartbeat.


Do you know the game he’d played? He said that we don’t need the socialist economy, nor the capitalist economy.


You know, we have a way, only one way of thinking in our country- the one our leaders taught us. Here is an example. Let me ask you this: Are the British our friends? Of course, not. Then, can we call them our enemies? No way. Not at all.


Are the Hindu religious practices good or bad? They are bad, very bad. On the other hand, if you remove the foolhardiness from our convictions, I can guarantee that there is no greater principle than the Hinduism in the entire world.


Now, let us take another subject, our language. Should we commend the virtues of the scholarly language of our pundits? Or, should we pick up the language of the ordinary folks, and put it on a high pedestal? Neither the first nor the second, if you ask me. The language of the respectable class, the polite language should be preferred by any token.


He grasped this national psychology of ours fast enough. If you ask him, “should we turn left or right”, he would say, “we should go straight ahead.” That is how he led them to the old school, the Bombay plan.


What is Bombay plan? Probably, you haven’t heard of it. In 1930s, I think it is Bose.

Bose was always forward in all respects, I mean, for good or bad. Anyway, Bose and a couple of other national leaders together drafted a national plan. On the other side, all the millionaires in the country got together and drafted a plan of their own. That was the Bombay plan.


[ Here is the mischief he (Vaidyanatham) had cooked up.

You know how they pop in a piece of meat between two slices of bread to make it palatable? That is what he did. He took a piece from the 1930s plan and another from the Royalists plan, 1938–sorry I called it the nationalist plan earlier– from that one, and he made a sandwich of his Bombay plan. And, he submitted it to the Parliament.


“What is this called?” they asked him. “That is called mixed economy,” he replied.


How many of them knew what mixed economy was; or, any economy for that matter? Even the highly-educated would not understand the ins and outs of it. Besides, most of our leaders don’t know nothing. They don’t even have a clue as to what they need to know, to speak the truth.


So, all those ‘yes’ men looked up to the senior leaders, like the way they always do. The senior leaders said ‘that’s fine,’ and approved it.


They finished two courses, and were on their third, before they realized that they were chewing pure meat; some of them were out and out fanatics of non-violence you know.

“What a racket!” they screamed and looked around. The man, the critical character in the planning commission, was long gone by then. By the time they’d come to their senses and found out what has happened, he was chairing the education commission. The other members of the planning commission, chagrin, rushed to the education commission. The critical character said, “Take your position and stuff it. I quit,” and walked away.


A few of them were furious. They screamed that it was a classic case of ‘our civilization gone amiss’, and that the politicians were dishing out the same Bombay plan, a little at a time, like a serialized novel. But, who is going to listen to them?


The members in the opposition party are also cronies of the big corporations, one way or another, right? Or, crooks in their own right. Among the rest, almost 75 percent of them are landlords. When they heard that the agriculture had been given priority in the plan, they were ecstatic, although they did not express it in so many words. In other words nobody raised any objection.


I have already mentioned that Vaidyanatham started out with agriculture. He said that the first preference would be given to agriculture. Why, do you think, he did that? There is one industry that would not prosper unless the agriculture was in good shape. That is the real reason. It was not because he wanted to help the farmers. Nor did he mean it as a solution for our food problem. If the country had benefited in these two areas, I mean, the farming and the food, they were just by products. The newspapers and the national leaders can kick and scream, all they want, about these two benefits, but in reality they were not their main concern. He banged on the table and spoke the truth.


Now, let’s move on to the second plan.


The bait, attached to this is even more luscious. Who’d you call ‘the people’? The poor people. If you want to improve the lot of the poor what should you do? The employment potential must improve. How can you improve the employment potential of the country, unless you start industries, big and small?


You can’t.


Do you know the reason why the third world countries like ours can not start industries and the industries that started could not survive?


No, we don’t know the reasons.

It’s the infra-structure. If we were to import every nail we need for our machinery from abroad our country will go bankrupt in no time. We will file for chapter 13 within a quarter of the century, trying to pay off the loans, the interest and the compound interest due to delays, etc. The vipers take over the anthills. At the end, even the freedom we got after such a struggle would grow legs and walk away.



What do you think we should do under the circumstances?

Of course it is hard but we do have to take up all the industries, small and big, the easy ones and the difficult ones, all of them, we have to undertake at the same time; we have to do it ourselves.


We can’t accomplish it by just talking about it.

If there is a will, there is a way. What are the things we need for starters? First thing is the raw materials. And then we look for the man power. After getting these two in place, we will look for the investment. We will need the people who are experienced to manage these three elements.


That is correct. We do have the first two items. What about the other two?

We have them too! Let’s admit it. Some of us don’t have the foresight. May be, not all of us, most of us for sure, don’t have the foresight. If we could see ahead, we will not be issuing statements like “let’s nationalize this, let’s nationalize that”. Did you see what happened because of this nationalization mania. The moneyed people are scared away. Those who stood the test of time in the industries started asking questions. Unless these circumstances change, we are as good as not having the two powers–the investors and the experienced.


So, what should we do to change the circumstances?


Nothing. We should leave alone the current investments as they are. We should let the investors know that we will not interfere in their management. We should assure them that we will give all our support, if they want, to start new industries. Then the moneyed people feel reassured. Those who have the guts will get excited. When that happens, the potential for investments goes up. There is one more thing. We are paying the damages for the ex-zamindars, right? That money also would be diverted this way, in stead of wasting on personal pleasures and material goods abroad. Otherwise, not only that money, but the entire property saved by their grandfathers and great grandfathers also disappears.



That’s the truth.


He has gotten his argument this far, and then, presented his real scheme.

You know you need a second bull to make it a pair for the yoke. If we want to start industries with the money from the public alone, we are not getting anywhere. We have to round up all the groups. There is small glitch here though. You may claim that we have one thousand cows all together, counting yours and the those that belonged to the king*. But no sir, the rich who are coughing up the solid cash will not go for it. Therefore, we need to separate the entire investment into two sectors. The public sector is the one, run by the government that is elected by the people, and with the government money. The second one, the private sector is run by the investors using their own money, or by selling shares to small investors. The success of the mixed economy relies on our ability to make sure that these two sectors are working hand in hand, like the two bulls under one yoke. We have to make sure that the two sectors do not compete with each other, would not step on each others’ toes, make sure that each support the other; and, for that purpose, we need to determine the boundaries for each. It is only then, we can channel all our resources toward production activity; and we will achieve a fifty-year production level in just 25 years. That is what I am planning to do, he said.


What is this? On one hand, you are saying socialism is your goal; and again, you are talking about the private investment, and special favors for the general public, as if they were born with a silver spoon in their mouths; it doesn’t make sense…


He said, “Sir, your government is still a baby. You have million problems on your head. You can’t have a successful industry or business unless you are totally committed to it. You must, first, focus on settling down. When you are ready to take over, we will take away the entire public sector with the stroke of a pen. Once the industry is in place, where would they go?


Isn’t that a good logic or what?

Now, let’s see which industries are to be classified under the public sector and which ones under the private sector?


He suggested that it is only fair that the government should handle all the heavy industries and let the private sector handle the minor goddesses like sugar and clothing.


That is where you see the cat started popping its head out of the bag. When we say ‘heavy industries’, we mean the iron, the steel, the heavy machinery that are needed for all the industries, big and small.


The industries that produce consumer goods like cement, bicycles, everyday clothes, and sugar are small industries. You can call them big industries, if they produce on a larger scale, and call them small industries if they are produced on a smaller scale.


Now it appears like we are talking about only numbers here. But there is a world of difference between the big and the small industries. To put it another way, the rice bag on your head is a big industry, and the sweet rice pudding that goes into your stomach is a small industry.


That’s what Vaidyanatham said. We all know that the heavy industries require millions of rupees for investment. Even if we accumulate all the tattered coats* of the millionaires in the entire country, we will not have enough, not even for one big industry. It is easy to enlist the sympathy of the foreign countries, in the name of love or interest of the poor people in our country…


That’s why I am saying the government should undertake all the big industries.


That is the truth. In any country, no matter how poor the people are, and how rich the wealthy are, when it comes to wielding power, we do have to turn to the poor.


We (ordinary people) don’t know these things. They [the people in power] don’t let us know. But, they are very well aware of such things. That is why he stated that the common folks can undertake heavy industries.


One quick look will make it clear that he was saying the right thing. We also have, in addition, the examples set by the other socialist countries.


There is one glitch, though.

Usually the socialist countries establish heavy industries with the idea of taking over the small industries eventually. What I mean is, in socialist countries, they use the people’s money only for helping the people.


On the other hand, here, you are saying that both the small and the large industries are reserved only for such investments. That is the only way they could prosper. You are making the people in the public sector get involved in the big industries, so that you could still have the chance, in case others try to sabotage your plan, to import the parts from abroad, when your machinery breaks down.


What does that mean? In simple English, you are preparing the ground the food for your baby cubs even before they were born.


This is where you can find his scam, if you look for it, and his skills in preparing the ground in the name of a plan to grow the poisonous tree in the future.


Nobody understood his plan, not the ‘yes’ men, nor those who opposed it, not even after a year and a half, after the big industries have been put in place.


In the large industries the investment is not the only problem. There are numerous other issues. Marketing is one of the major issues.


There is a considerable difference between the sales of the consumer goods and the sales of the industrial goods like the iron and the steel, as I’ve mentioned earlier.


We have millions of people to buy consumer goods. Things like soaps and daily wear are consumer goods. For many people, these are daily necessities. Such buyers do not form into organizations. Each one of them is a naive buyer. No matter how much you throw around your lingo like the production cost, the x-mill rate, and the retail power, it only adds up to their confusion.


They trust the storekeeper and accept price he quotes. If he says the rate went up, they’d say ‘okay’. On a rare occasion they may ask why or how the rate went up but they are not going to follow up on that. Ninety-percent of our people believe that the prices go up just the same way all other things grow, you know—the trees, the bugs and the humans, born as tiny things and grow up to new heights. Same way the prices go up naturally—that’s what the ordinary people believe.


That’s why, whatever the producer and the seller of the consumer goods say, is the final word.


That is not the case when it comes to selling the goods produced by the large industries. The consumers for them are the other industrialists, whether the native or foreign, doesn’t matter. I mean they are the super-crafty lions in grabbing the lion’s share of the profits. If anyone tries to confront them, unless that one is even of higher cadre, that person would be chewed up alive.


May be you know, may be you don’t, the mentality of the animals in the jungle. They don’t live like our goats and cows. Ours is group mentality. The jungle animals on the other hand are constantly on the alert. At best, the family is the biggest unit for them.

Once again, remember that they act like they are together only at the mating time. When it comes to eating time each for himself or herself. Even those who live in the same cave, when they start to bicker, they’d go for the jugular. That is the way in the families, too. Imagine how things would be, and how their relationship with other animals would be.



All these loner animals again come together solid when it comes to hunting. You can say the same thing about the jungle animals or members of any other race, for that matter. They don’t compete with each other when they are being hunted.


In some ways, the businessmen and industrialists are like that.

For all these upper class rogues there are numerous platforms for getting together. A club is one such platform. Everyone, who has money, and is interested in amassing wealth, becomes a member of some such club. There are several clubs, like the Rotary Club and the Lions Club. There are again variations in those clubs too.


Let’s take the Lions Club for instance. They all belong to one fraternity. They have branches in every little town and, lately, in cities as well. Each branch in each town has a president; each zone has a chairperson; and each district—no, not our political districts—they have their own districts; each district has a governor; and so on. They are linked together; and then, there is some world organization at the top level. Our Indian Lion’s nature is a link in that chain.


Each link will have a leader. There is one person, the Lions International President at the top, in America, or somewhere; he is the leader for all the 320 districts in 149 countries. It is the same with the Rotarians.


They are purely social service organizations in name only. “Service above self” is their motto. You can imagine the kind of selfless social service they would render when the small countries join hands with the big countries.


They, the “well and widely organized, calculatingly intelligent and ruthless, greedy people” [sic] are the buyers for a particular kind of products.


For which products? For the industrial goods that are produced by the heavy industries in the public sector, and with the money of the people. Compare these buyers with the buyers of the consumer goods, meaning the ordinary people.


Then, let’s take a look at the sellers, as opposed to the buyers, I’ve mentioned earlier.

You know the common phrase, ‘having fun at somebody else’s expense’. The government invests the money that belonged to the people, and the smart industrialists, who don’t have anything to do with the money or the government, cook up plans and draw huge amounts in the name of honoriums or compensations.


There is no ceiling or upper limit for the wealth they amass. They do have a responsibility, accountability, but they don’t pay attention to it. Usually, they belong to the upper class, those lusting for the big bucks. Either way, those wisecres negotiate the terms with those over sized tigers, and close the deals.


Once again, I leave it to your imagination, the answers to the questions like: How do they conduct their business? When do they give in, and when do they go along with the other party? How do the parties are matched, who wins, and how does all this benefit us, the common people?


That’s it. Our seniors did not seem to have paid attention to such details. Or, like somebody said, they knew about these details and chose to ignore them. Anyway, by the time we got to the second Five-Year Plan, we are stuck in the quandary up to our eyeballs.


Our government went around, scratching the dough, here a little, there a little, and, when that was not enough, by passing the hat. Finally, they managed to complete the project. The large industries were put in place and production was started.


After that they continued to produce the goods all right.

One year passed by, and then, another half-year. They kept producing goods in huge quantities, but there was no market for their products. The products were being dumped in the public yards.


None of the local industrialists would come forward to point out the problem. They acted like they had conspired and decided to keep quiet…


We can’t export these goods either since there is no market for our products abroad. There is one market, the commonwealth market but there is no demand for our goods in that market. We cannot compete with the long-established markets of the other countries, like the Great Britain and Canada. No way. We can’t. We could not.


Then they called the people who could invest and asked them for their advice.

They said, “We don’t have the money to invest. Even if we have, we’ve got to be careful. You talk big, call it socialism and nationalization and such. Ours is hard earned money. We earned it, swapping our sweat and blood. If we give our money to you now as our investment, and, later, if you nationalize it, what we can do? Where we can we turn?”


The government replied, “Where else? Us. Didn’t we say that we would pay you compensation?”


We have a general practice in our villages. When we are heading to the court, people generally pop up one question, “What kind of case? The one, ‘you got it’?” If you say ‘got it’, you mean that you have got your opponent’s hair in your fist. By the same token, this has become an issue where they’ve ‘got it’. So, they can jerk us around anyway they please.


Finally, the government got the message that they got into a mess. They have realized that they were backed to the wall. Remember the jungle life I explained earlier- they got down to that level. Even without consulting with each other, they became a team on the spot and issued instructions to their sponsors. They, the sponsors, assailed the government from all sides simultaneously.


On one hand, the party members were dumping questions like in a torrent, and on the other hand, the press were attacking ed the government like bloodhounds. Talk about the editorials. You know the way our *lady writers write serials, just like that—the editorials became a serial novel.


[Note: Sarcasm on women writing in Andhra Pradesh]


Ah, talk about the press; let me tell you a little bit about the press:

A famous political philosopher once defined the press as “a huge instrument in the hands of the politicians backstage, one of the sneaky mechanisms in the name of people’s rule.”


The Press can make the government a huge success, if it pleases; or, it can ruin the government just as easily. It’s not just about the government only. If the press pleases, it can elevate a dead mosquito into a live, gigantic elephant, and, later, if it finds the elephant was not serving their purpose, can cut it short, to the size of the mosquito.


That is the reason even the most powerful politicians and their sponsors watch their step, and behave, when it comes to dealing with the press. They call it “briefing the press”, which is a way of currying favors. They pretend to be taking them, the press, into confidence, while making major decisions. It is not only our country but all other countries, follow pretty much the same pattern.


In our country also, most of the time–ninety percent of the time the gentlemen behind the curtain control the press. During the planning period, god knows what kind of understanding they’d come to, all the newspapers wrote elaborate articles supporting the plans and the planning methods. Now, the same newspapers opened fire, printed huge headlines, blaming the public sector and the planning affairs.


Why wouldn’t they?

The well-known columnists and the so-called distinguished editors, may go against their conscience, and go along with the government, if it were a matter simple oppression or suppression. But when the money and power come into play there is certainly no question of obligations or loyalties. If they do that, they will have to let go of all their amenities like the phones, cars and their rent-free apartments.

The persons in power do understand this logic of the press. They also know their game plan. But then, what can they do? Nothing. They got caught between the rock and the hard place.


The general populace lived under the delusion all along that the government is going to make a heaven out of this earth, with their industrial revolution. They presented it like there is a bridge between the socialist economy and the mixed economy, both at home and in the country.



You dare to admit that the industries do not survive in public sector? If you say that, the people will pull out the last strand of the hair on your head. Well, the hair can stay, the hair can go. That is not the issue. How can you disregard the truth? Okay, we agree on that. We cannot disregard the truth. And then what?


If the government is willing to hand over the industries, only the major industrialists are capable of running them, and that too, only with foreign collaboration. Both the parties are ready for that. Why then is all this hollering, screaming, mud-slinging, and bad-mouthing—why all this attack? I am coming to that: If you hand it over to the small industrialists, they don’t think twice about turning this country into another Arab world.


If you don’t hand over the industries to one or the other, if you hope to continue as it is, how long can you work with the production that has no market?


If you want to shut it down temporarily, what about the millions of rupees sunk into the industry already? The borrowed funds, a fancy dinner at somebody’s cost? Will the lenders let go of you that easy? No.


But there is a way to keep the lenders quiet.

What about the workers who depend on the industries for survival? It is a different matter if the unemployment is on the rise as a matter of natural course. That’s okay. These workers are accustomed to have some kind of steady income, big or small. If you demote them to nothing, and leave them without money even for a cup of tea, will they keep quiet? No ,sir. They’ll pull together all other phantoms, and recreate Dakshayajnam one more time.


Why bother with this tap dancing? Somebody suggested, “Why not the government undertake running the small industries with the industrial goods that the major industries have produced?”


Of course, the government can, but, even the smallest industry needs some investment. All the natural resources they had so far was hardly enough for the major industries in the public sector.


That’s where the really treachery lay.

When they make a snack out of you for the devil, you see, the little devils chew you up. That is the crux of the plan.


Thus, when all other doors were closed shut, the government ended up at the only door the Wizard of the South India Chamber of Commerce kept open.


The government got hold of some poor industrialists and offered all kinds of safeguards: Arranged loans from banks to those who complained about lack of funds; offered subsidiary funds for those who complained about the high costs of the Indian goods; offered protection from foreign competition even before asking for it; offered exemptions from some kind of taxation. The government had to do lot of explaining for this exemption scam, and they managed that too. In short, you name it, they’ve got it.


Those poor industrialists thus got into business. Some of them became multimillionaires and a few became little millionaires by selling their licenses to the super millionaires. and some others grabbed whatever they could and then filed for bankruptcy. THAT is what I call “The Scheme”!


The government annexed 566 zamindaris as if they were nothing. They abolished all zamindaris, big and small. Don’t ask me about the compensation, let’s not go there. It is during this period that all the industrialists and the millionaires were worried sick–worried when and how this progressive government was going to eat them up alive.


Imagine a person’s skill in getting that very government into the fist of the millionaires! Do you know what he did? Wow! It was like selling the story of the golden eggs to the same government, making them repeat it like a mantra; getting them stuck in debts up to their eyeballs; forcing them to spend a major portion of it on useless projects; calling it a kind of “economy” and drowning them in deficit budget; rendering both the bureaucracy and the ruling party corrupt, in the process; dissipating the last vestiges of self-confidence in both the people and the opposition parties; making the entire country, politically and economically, totally chaotic; that is not an ordinary feat to put up!


Certainly this has got to be “The Scheme”. Or the leaders we have trusted must be collaborating with the high way robbers.


The gem of our country, Nehru—What did he say? He said, “I put all these plans in place for the people; and see what has happened. The millionaires became multi-millionaires and the poor became poorer.” He said it with tearful eyes.


Would he lie? We may not know all the details, all that has happened behind the curtain but wouldn’t he know? Or, should we say, he was spilling crocodile tears? I don’t think so.


That is why I am saying, there is definitely some kind of conspiracy here. My information could be wrong. As Nehru is my witness, I know I am not wrong. As for you, the proof is in the pudding, you believe your eyes. That is your proof.


Thus while millions of people are grappling with famine, unemployment, and for daily necessities, the millionaires are piling up millions on millions, and they are doing fine, on other side of the fence.


Why? ‘Cause all their activities are being conducted within the limits of the law. Or else how can we explain this, you tell me. The same government that goes out to hunt the outlaws, who were hiding underground or in the wild forests, would not touch these millionaires living amidst us?


The government can’t do anything since the very constitution they have drafted is protecting these millionaires. That is why they are doing fine.


All this looks fine for us. We are not losing anything. But those who lost everything, the poor people, would want to change things. But you won’t let them. If they try to change, you will call them traitors, or, ‘schemers’. You would call their efforts to change things a ‘scheme’.


Let me ask you this.


Wouldn’t you call it a conspiracy, if the leaders, or somebody in power, mislead the ordinary people, and cheat them? Can you call the poor “traitors” because they try to expose their scheme, rebel against it, encourage others to rebel? Is that a conspiracy?


Which one is conspiracy? Which one is betrayal?


One can bluff his way out, as long as he has the press in his hand and the platform at his disposal. But the Truth is the Truth. They may tell you to shut up your eyes, ears and mouth, like Gandhi’s three moneys, and may even try to force you to keep your eyes, ears, and mouth shut. But?…




[Translated by Nidadavolu Malathi and published on, September 2003.


Translator’s note:    The speaker, a sagacious villager, analyses the art of scheming in minute detail from the moment of its germination to the time it becomes a larger than life-size monster; and how the schemer manipulates the politicians and swallows the little people in the process. It is just about as scary as the Enron scandal.

The story is narrated in first person. The language is conversational; the tone is one of sarcasm and satire.   Author also coins some English words, ridiculing the English usage in India.]

(Published in Virasam special issue, “Nijam” [Truth], dated 15 August 1972)

The Mediator by Vivina Murthy

My grandfather was a good man, a great man. I was told that he was good and great; he could make a tiger and a goat drink from the same beach. My father told me this story frequently and he would go into raptures as he spoke. He said that I should also revel in the glory of our ancestors in the same manner.

I thought about it for a while. The Tiger has four legs. The goat also has four legs. The tiger’s blood is red and the goat’s blood also is red. The tiger breathes air and so also the goat. The tiger drinks water. And the goat drinks water too.

As long as I continued to draw similarities between the two animals, I was mesmerized even as my father hoped. I was enthralled with the thought that my grandfather and my family lived by the ideal, peaceful co-existence, which was essential for the peace and happiness of the entire world.

Then I gained my vision. Goat is food for the tiger and leaves are goat’s food. People run away at the sight of tiger. But if they see a goat, they go after her. I started noticing the differences on these lines. After that, I could not go into raptures for the things my father was rapturous ab I could not help asking myself how is it a great accomplishment—making the goat and the tiger drink water at the same beach? How is it possible? At one auspicious moment, I asked my father, “Nanna garu! Nanna garu! Thatha garu was a great man, right?”


“He could make the tiger and the goat drink at the same beach, yes?”


“How did that happen? And, why is it a great accomplishment?”

My father laughed. It was not the kind of laugh one would laugh at the other party’s ignorance. It was more like the laugh one laughs when one is happy that the other person is willing to learn.

Then he started explaining to me in detail.

Ramudu was a poor man. One day, he went to the king.

“Who’re you?” the king asked him.

“I am Ramudu.”

“Who’re you? You belong to what religion? And what caste?”

“I’m a poor man. I need a basket. I need ropes and such. Also shovels and tools, and animals.”

“Who’re you? Why do you need all these things?”

“I am a poor farmer called Ramudu. We need all these things for tilling this vast land, for farming and for feeding our families.”

“Ask Tavitayya, the basket-weaver, for a basket.”

“I did.”

“Ask Brahmayya, the rope-weaver, for ropes.”

“I did that too.”

“What did they say?”

“Oh, Mighty King, the provider for all people! They replied that I must ask you, who show work for all.”

The king was impressed with the farmer’s humility. He was pleased to note that people of all vocations would bow to his power.

The king made a note of the farmer’s needs and told him, “Farmer, farmer, I’ll have the wells dug, trees planted, wayside lodgings built; I’ll have the roads laid and castles erected; I’ll protect you from the robbers, kill the cruel animals. And, you, in return, must pay my share of the harvest. You must pay taxes.”

Ramudu nodded in assent.

Days went by and then several years.

Forests became townships.

Kings turned into stones at heart.

Farmers’ lives became desolate.

“You, farmers, farmers!”

“Yes, Rajah, Rajah!”

“New rulers have arrived. You must pay tariff.”

“Rajah, our grandfathers and their grandfathers told us that you must have the wells dug, trees planted, roads laid, wayside lodging built; you must protect us from the robbers and control the cruel animals. That’s what your grandfathers and their grandfathers did, we were told. You put an end to that tradition and you built more mansions for yourself, have more queens than any other king. You are using all these castles and the army to protect yourself. You are not taking care of people like Tavitayya, Tathayya, Brahmayya and Gopanna. You are not consulting with farmers like Ramudu. All the taxes we’ve paid are used up for your luxuries. Under the circumstances, we cannot pay the additional tariff imposed by your white rulers.”

“Oh, farmer, farmer! You are a little man and yet talking big. Foreign rulers have arrived. They measured the land, laid the boundaries, counted the birds and the beasts. They have determined the amount of taxes you’re obliged to pay—they raised the amount, lowered it and then finalized it. They said you had rented the land from me for the purpose of farming. They came up with the markers and defined the terminology. You must not tell me what I should do. You must not defy my order. That being the case, you must pay the tariff.”

Some people listened to him without argument. A few listened to him after they were beaten. And a few others listened to him only after they were beaten black and blue. At the end, they all broke up and disappeared.

Then, your great-great-grandfather gathered them all, shouted and yelled at them.

He said, “My grandfather’s grandfather stated that naa vishnuh prthvipathih.[1] Your grandfathers and great-grandfathers, all of them, had agreed, yes, yes.”

“So we heard.”

“Since the king is Lord Vishnu according to that statement, the king is obliged to attend to the needs of all his people, take care of them, and make sure they all are fed.”

“That’s what we thought.”

“Now, for our kings and us, the foreign ruler is an outsider. He is a ruler of several countries; he is extremely knowledgeable in several policies. For that very reason, he wishes to share his knowledge and power tactics with you. The bridges he is building belong to you; the railway tracks he has laid down are for your sake; the machines he is bringing are yours to keep, and the education you are receiving, thanks to him, is yours. He will show the path for those who behave, and find jobs as well. That’s why you all must cooperate with him; follow the rules he has laid for you. You must accept our kings as his representatives. You all must pay all the taxes imposed by him, dutifully.”

People did not make a sound; they did not assent to his proposal.

“You people, who’ve been battered and mangled until now, listen. This king is not a king anymore but your servant,” he said.

The people were elated at the thought that their king has become a servant.

The other kings were depressed at the notion that a king was called a servant.

Then your great-great-grandfather turned to the group of kings.

“Kings, oh, kings.”


“You, who’ve been enjoying luxuries all along, would you become servants just because somebody said so? You have the power and we have the brains. As we join the two forces, we’ll win the public applause. The white rulers are sure to shower us with compliments!”

With that argument, the tiger bowed down and the goat also bowed down.

“That’s how your great-great-grandfather mediated and made the tiger and the goat drink from the same beach.

In this manner, things kept moving smoothly for a while.

One day, a businessman had a dream. He saw the goddess, Motherland, in his dream. Her bosom was trembling. She beat her chest with her fists as she spoke, “My babies! My riches!”

“Oh, Mother, what happened?”

“My children have become slaves. A foreigner robs me of my riches. Whatever happened to your education? What has become of your brains? Evidently the kings have fallen asleep but whatever happened to your prudence? Wake up, save me, my child!”

All the businessmen gathered and whispered to each other.

They all were troubled.

They raised a commotion.

“Our wealth is slipping away, Tavitayya, Tathayya, Gopayya! They are not allowing us to arrange our own adoptions, not allowing us to farm our own land, weave our own thread, nor let us eat our own food. They’re not letting us cherish our own cultural values.”

“Sir, we did not lose our ropes.”

“We did not lose our baskets.”

“No, we did not lose our shovels, tools, nor we lost our animals. No, no, no.”

“We sustained no loss.”

So saying, people did not listen to the businessmen.

They did not see the deplorable state of affairs the country is in.

They did not feel the smell of a dying flame.

Then the native rulers went into deliberations.

“We need a mediator.”

“We need a middleman who could treat them and us impartially.”

Then they sent for your grandfather.

“Oh, Mediator! Oh, impartial man! Commentator of all Vedas! Get up, Come on, Sir, come.”

“What, Rulers! What do you want me for?”

“We need your compassionate eye.”

“We need your sweet word.”

“What’s it? Rulers, Why do you need such things now?”

“The Goddess Motherland appeared in our dreams. She stood in front of us with stifled voice. She was upset because the kings were not focused on her welfare. You need to bring them together with your kind looks and sweet words. You must scare the white rulers and drive them away from the country. For that reason, you will have to wake up urgently; you’ve to save us.”

“I will, New Ruler sir.”

Then your grandfather rubbed on the old makeup on the new ideas; masked the old ideas with new makeup; put on sugary smiles and sansyasi robes; and, walked into the midst of the people. He felt their pulse. The people responded to his presentation.

Before the people picked up sticks and stones, the foreign rulers sent for the native rulers. “We’ve got a new kind of tigers emerging in the country now. They are cooking up a scheme against your power and our businesses. They’re rounding up the people.”

“You’re the rulers of many countries. You have been protecting our extravagant ways. What’s going to happen to our lifestyle now?”

“We’ll offer a share in our government. We’ll arrange a competition between your group and their group. We’ll support you and you support us in turn.”

“Oh, Your Highness! So be it!”

That’s how the government had been allocated. The native rulers met with your grandfather again. They begged him to show a feasible solution for them.

Then your grandfather met with the kings.

“People like Tavitayya, the basket-maker, and Tathayya, the rope-maker, are obsolete now. All the values that helped you to exercise your power over them are also gone. Hundreds of craftsmen like Tavitayya and thousands of workers like Tathayya are being rounded up in one place. They’re preventing the items produced by Tavitayya and Tathayya from reaching farmers like Ramudu. They’re also preventing the farmers’ goods from reaching the craftsmen. They are creating the circumstances in which both the craftsmen and the farmers become dependent on these middlemen. They’re also inventing new ways to keep the people under their control. You can stay alive only if you join hands with the native rulers. You will grow only if you understand the new ways. You will win only if you drive away the foreign rulers.”

Some of them listened.

A few said they’d think about it and get back to him.

Others said they’d meet separately for deliberations.

Thus your grandfather brought the new and the old tigers to a common ground. The foreign rulers left without feeling slightest pain.

After that, your grandfather lectured to the public, “They maybe tigers but they are also the watchdogs of your wealth. They’ll develop scientific knowledge for you; build bridges and several new varieties of temples. They’ll show you ways to make a living, teach you methods of devotion, and offer you redemption.”

“But they’re not giving us freedom,” one person from the crowd shouted.

A destructive element of the society, your grandfather called him. He also said to others that whipping him is patriotism. He gathered all the tigers and told them, “You’re all equal to me. However, I’m dividing you, the tigers, into two groups for the sake of convenience. I’ll give a whip to one group and sacks to the other group. Neither of you should step into the other’s area. Each of you may compete with each other within your own group. Your whips must serve to grow their sacks; and, with the help of their sacks, your whips must flourish. You all must play along with a spirit of mutual cooperation between the two groups. You may create laws accordingly. You may compete with each other as much as you please, but never let go of the man who had brought you all together under one umbrella. I’ll receive the credit due to me only if you all abide by these rules; then only my plan works. The phrase that all are created equal will live forever as the divine truth.”

Thus the tigers, wearing several varieties of masks, jumped on the people for their food while pretending to be fighting among themselves for all the appearances.

After a few days, Tathayya, Tavitayya, Brahmayya and Gopayya met and felt their thinning abdomens. They could hear their intestines groaning. They wondered how long they could live under the circumstances. They all had the same thought, the same goal. They jumped to the streets, up in arms, with their chests braced up and waistbands tightened.

Then I got the word from the rulers.

“What’s this chaos?” they asked me.

“What’s this crazy nuisance?”

“What’s this uproar about? What’s this violence for?”

I laughed. I walked up to the people, “Tavitayya, Tathayya, don’t kill, with just one blow, the goose that lays golden eggs. You poor people do have your problem, which is not having enough to eat; and the rich people have their problem, which is not having enough to spend; it is the same as yours. We’ll provide you with a voice to express your problems. Let’s discuss the issues and arrive at a solution.”

The people listened and shouted jindabad.

The rulers asked me what was that all about? They asked me if I were slipping into the equality principle the rebels were fixated on.

I stroked their backs and gave them my advice: Throw them a morsel each time they raised their voices; make it into a law; double the number of people who would shout in your behalf; you scream the equality principle louder than the rebels; put your arm on the shoulders of those who bowed to you; and eliminate those who refused to listen to you.

The Rulers listened.

Thus we brought all the workers to one place; redirected the attention of the tigers, who were getting the service, to negotiation; and we shaped the negotiation the basic principle for survival!

Whenever the tigers frowned, we pointed the goats to them. On the other hand, whenever the goats attacked us, we showed them the tigers. In our minds, they all were equal; we wanted them all to be happy; that’s the reason we forced the tigers and the goats to drink from the same beach.

Nanna garu elucidated all this to me on one auspicious moment. He coached the brahma mantra¸ sarvam brahma mayam,[2] to me repeatedly.

I however could not imbibe the spirit of that brahma mantra.

I did not see justice in it. My heart did not cooperate and let me live by that principle. I could not enjoy the role of a mediator.

I walked into the midst of the people and explained the injustice to them.

I moved forward with the belief that I can lead any group and with a determination that I can set things right.

I hoped that, with my entrance into the field, Tavitayya, Tathayya and Gopayya would walk towards light. I thought they’d stand behind me; would take my advice and fight for justice.

They eyed each other and whispered to each other; and outlined a plan in a language that is understandable only to them. They all looked at me pitifully and said, “Our pain is different! Our stories are different! Our clothes are different and our actions are different. We’ll train our own leaders! We’ll share the outcome whether it is sweet nectar or poison. We have no need for your leadership.”

So saying, the people moved forward. I could not catch up with their speed or direction. Yet I kept walking, stumbling, falling and getting up, in a desperate attempt to mingle with them, and feeling happy that I could find some room behind them, even if it were a small spot, at the least.

That was the beginning of the end of the middle man. I’m glad it’s started with me.


Translated by Nidadavolu Malathi and published on, September 2003)

(The Telugu original “Samavarti” was published in Jyoti Deepavali issue, 1981; and included in the anthology, disa, published by Kavisri pustakalu, 2002. –Malathi.)


[1] King is the Lord Vishnu.

[2] The brahma pervades all.

In the Library

By A.V. Reddy Sastry.

I spend my time mostly in the library. There is no special reason for this. There is no special reason for this. As I have no place of my own to go, I find the library a very congenial place to spend time gainfully. After the library closed I would loiter here and there. Or I go to the rooms of my acquaintances. They like me because I am quiet. Why are you silent, They would ask but I have no answer for it. I keep asking the question myself, is there anything rally worth talking about in this world? Nobody ever told anything interesting so far. My acquaintances never heard me commenting on anybody or anything. Sensing this, my indifference to the affairs of this world, they allow me to stay in their rooms. To them, I am perhaps like a piece of furniture, never talking, never intruding.

But I am not so absolutely silent as my acquaintances take me to be. I sometimes talk just a few words to Rajani, the woman I met in the library. That’s all. But she keeps talking continuously and pleasantly like the racing waters of a mountain stream. “You know what a crawling thing this time is. I try to quicken its pace with my nonstop talk,” she says by way of justifying her chattiness. I smile and keep quiet.

“By the way,” Rajani said one day, “Do you know they nicknamed you ‘silent stream of contemplation?” “Did they?” I said casually, not showing any interest in the information.

How shall I introduce Rajani? As my friend? No. I can’t call her a friend. Then who is she? That also I can’t answer. You see Rajani is perhaps there in the world for the same reason that I find myself in the world. She happens to entertain the very same whimsical ideas, which I happened to entertain about this world. That is perhaps the reason why I consider Rajani as somewhat special among my acquaintances. That’s also why I talk only with her.

“I have to talk to you today on a very important matter. Wait for me in the library.” I found on my table in the library this brief message one day. Who could have written in such an intimate tone for me? It must be Rajani? However, I am not sure of that, for, in all these years of our friendship, I had never seen her handwriting. But, assuming that the note was from Rajani, I decided to wait in the library.

Our library is a very big one but very old. “If you read the entire holdings of this library, it means you have understood the world completely.” These were the words spoken by our learned Professor Dustcoat. He used to teach us American poetry. I still remember very vividly the day when he was trying to explain John Crowe Ransom’s ‘Piazza Piece’ to our class. He read the opening line of the poem ‘I am a gentleman in a dustcoat’ with a great deal of emotion, modulation and gusto. Perhaps he wanted to inspire the class with his fine rendition of the poem. Unfortunately his endeavors fell flat on our deaf ears. But a totally unexpected thing ensued following his reading. From that day onwards the nickname Professor Dustcoat was pinned on him. In Ransom’s poem a delicate and beautiful girl was seen waiting for her lover. But she was quite unaware of the fact that death has been lurking behind flowers and creepers to pounce on her. Death was described in the poem as the ‘gentleman in a dustcoat.’

There is a striking similarity between our Professor and the death image. However great a student’s performance is in the examination, the professor invariably called it ‘trash.’ His eternal dissatisfaction with our performance in the exams spelt doom to the careers of many a student. But just like death, he also remained cool and indifferent to the feelings and sufferings of his victims, us. Hence we found the nickname, which is synonymous with death and very apt in his case.

The same professor commented on our library as the biggest and the most obsolete one in the country. He added that a total grasp of it would amount to understanding the world in its totality. However, we did not so far come across anyone who had completely read the library’s holdings. Why others? Let’s take our professor Dustcoat himself for instance. He has been trying to read all the books in the library for the last fifty years or more. But could he succeed in his efforts? No. He confessed his failure himself. Let alone all the books in the library, he couldn’t finish even the English Literature section. “Not yet,” he said. He said ‘yet’ because professor Dustcoat continues to sit in the library and read most diligently every day rain or shine. He enters the library the moment its doors re opened and buries himself in the books until the library is closed at night. He appears as if he were five hundred years old. He is bent with age but his spirit of pursuit of knowledge is not. It remained firm and unyielding. Hs vision has become dim with age and endless reading. The coat, which he continues to wear for years, looks badly soiled and threadbare. But he is absolutely unmindful of these physical manifestations of decay or his age. He says he has been reading for the last fifty years to arrive at a conclusion on a very ‘vexing question’ concerning our existence. But he says he is not able to write even the introduction so far.

Since I too spend almost all my time in the library, we two run into each other frequently. The professor-student relationship has ceased to exist between us long time ago. A new relationship has come up in its place.
We are now two scholars in relentless pursuit of ‘something’ about which we do not even have the faintest idea. If at all we know anything concrete about our subjects, it is only our failure to comprehend even the basics of our subjects. We have now grown sportive enough to poke fun at our failures. We are a couple of scholars perpetually pursuing some unknown subject – known to the world and unknown to ourselves.

I was waiting for Rajani in the library. My desk is located in a somewhat dark corner. The light bulb was burnt out sometime back. I mentioned it to the library staff. They didn’t seem to be keen taking care of such matters even after repeated requests. Then I decided to stop worrying about the light. Perhaps the library staff wanted to drive me out of the library by hook or crook. They might even be harboring a wish that I would walk out finding it difficult to read or write without light.

I can understand their position also. For how long could they allow people like me to haunt the corridors of the library? But if they thought I’d leave the library so easily, they’re mistaken for sure. I am never going to leave the place without catching hold of that ‘something’ for which I’ve been groping for the past so many years. No, that will never happen.

“Please give it in writing, the exact topic of your research.”
I received that memorandum from the library authorities a few days ago. I promptly sent my reply, “That is what I am also seriously trying to find out.”
When a person like Professor Dustcoat himself couldn’t understand what he was really working on even after fifty years of hard work, how could they expect a young man like me to say exactly the theme on which I’ve been working? How can we, people of the world, be sure what we are working for and what we are likely to achieve?

Professor Dustcoat’s work-table is located in an isolated corner of the library where also darkness reigns perpetually. It appears certain that the library personnel have plans to drive away professor Dustcoat also from there. As a first step in that direction, they removed the light bulb near his table quite unceremoniously. The professor’s reaction to this outrageous action was exceptionally cool. He remained calm and unprovoked. It seems he has concluded that his research is beyond the scope of light and darkness.
Thus we, the professor and I, became a couple of researchers on darkness in darkness.

Rajani has not come. I was waiting, the sun was going down and darkness spreading all around. How long can I sit here waiting among these musty smelling books? How long can I brood over the ‘nothingness’ of this ‘nothingness’? I must go out for a while and smoke a cigarette. So I started walking towards the lawns outside. I ran into the Professor Dustcoat wearily climbing the steps as I turned round the corner on the staircase. Of late, we stopped talking to each other. We considered all talk as a meaningless exercise. But today something prompted me to greet him. He said, “Where are you from, my boy?” as a way of returning my greeting.

“Doesn’t the old Jackal know where I am coming from?” some inexplicable bad temper suddenly provoked me to reply him rather petulantly and I said, “From darkness, sir.” Then I decided to provoke him with a mischievous question. “Where are you heading sir?”

Pat came the reply, “Into darkness, my boy.” As he was never saucy in the replies, his repartee was like a bolt from the blue. I was mad with rage at his sardonic wit. But I cooled down almost immediately. Somewhere from the recesses of my heart came amid chiding ‘so you are still capable of getting angry in spite of your total detachment.’

I felt ashamed. After all, what is wrong with what he said? All anger left me and I smiled at myself for getting angry for such a trifling reason. So—this world is still capable of making me fly into a rage. Anyway it would not be proper standing here on the stairs and indulge in a soliloquy.

A sudden zeal for play possessed me. Since Rajani ha not come yet, why should not I continue my funny conversation with the professor and spend time a bit happily? As things stand life seems so bereft of all joy. Why should not I try to kill this boredom by playing with the old fool? I shall put him to some trouble. I make him angry and thus derive fun just for a change.

I walked straight to the dark and forgotten cavern of the library where the old professor generally loiters among unwanted and unread books. I found him there standing in front of bookracks feverishly searching for some book. Of late he started muttering his thoughts rather loudly. Seems he is unmindful of what others would think when they hear to his loud thinking. When I entered, I found him muttering that somebody must be wantonly hiding his books somewhere so that he would never complete his project.

I approached silently and addressed him a low tone: “Sir, I discuss a moral dilemma with you?”

He cast a contemplative look, studied my face for a while and then replied, “Well, let us discuss. You know discussion is the only solace we are left with now. Do discuss—but do not expect conclusions. I have come to the conclusion that we can no longer come to any conclusion on anything.”

We moved to a nearby table and sat there in comfortable chairs. I remained silent for a while. This is a calculated move to provoke curiosity in the professor. My move proved to be correct. He was not able to put up with my silence. So he impatiently demanded, “Come on, out with your moral dilemma, my boy.”

I began seriously, “Sir, today I was reading Kafka’s The Trail. His interpretation of man as a trapped creature in this prison of a world is really amazing and fascinating. While I was seriously trying to comprehend the intricacies of this profound interpretation, there emerged from under the pages a white ant. It started sauntering along the very lines of the page on which I was trying to concentrate my thought. Its zigzag movement greatly annoyed me because it was interfering with my comprehension of the lines. I felt upset and angry by the nuisance caused by this flimsy creature. I decided to teach it a lesson. So I closed the book with a thump. The poor white ant was killed instantly.”

I stopped my narration and was silent for a few seconds. The professor wa on tenterhooks of suspense. He was almost sitting on the edge of his chair to hear what I would say next but I continued my silence. He could put up with my silence anymore and blurted out, “So, what is your moral dilemma?”
“I am coming to that, sir,” I said trying to sound quite innocent and serious, “But you must first of all promise me that you would not laugh after listening to what I’m going to say.”
“Well, go ahead. You have my word. I take your account quite seriously.”
“Thank you, sir. Your word lightens my burden. As I told you, I closed the book and the ant got killed. After a while I opened to see the dead insect more closely. I found it a youngling. You might call it a child still at its mother’s breast, if ants have breasts. Perhaps it has just learnt the art of walking out of its hole. Perhaps it just wanted to have a peep at his world. An eventful career might be awaiting the insect. Growing gradually into a mighty ant, it might have had the ability to devour this entire library slowly and steadily –the same library which we were not able to chew of digest in spite of our limitless hours of labour to devour it.
“But this ant, alas, even before its hour of active life actually began, its life came to an abrupt close. It fell a victim to the book which might have been its prey in due course. Now I come to the real problem, sir, which philosophical premise will be able to explain this uncertainty of life, this stalking of death behind all life forces—this is the problem or dilemma on which I need your guidance.”

I don’t know why but I began feeling uneasy. The flimsiness of the story and its intent started making me sick. I was expecting the professor to flare up in while anger at my attempt to be funny with him. But, imagine my surprise when he got immersed in deep thoughts after listening to my stupid story. Instead of flaring up, he turned moodily towards me and said, “Yes, my boy, what you propose to dilate on is supremely relevant to the human situation. The problem is sure to give a new twist to my own research. Let me think over for a while on the various possibilities of interpretation to this really complex dilemma.”

So saying he withdrew into his dark den. I felt like tearing my hair. I braced myself up to receive a thorough dressing down for trying to fool him with my cock and bull stories. Instead the professor said he found a new possible twist to his own research. My scheme simply boomeranged. I found it impossible to sit there any longer and so I walked out.

No trace of Rajani so far. I lit a cigarette. Thoughts—hollow thoughts—clamour round the mind like mosquitoes. Was the message actually written by Rajani? Believing that it was, I kept myself waiting for her all these hours. Anyway I do not have anything more important to do than this waiting. Just like that Scholar Gipsy of Matthew Arnold, I also kept waiting. Again like the Gipsy Scholar I am also not sure what I am waiting for. As such waiting for Rajani is not a difficult job. It is part of my waiting for the unknown.

Darkness deepened further. Lights were turned on in all the buildings around. The library personnel virtually pushed professor Dustcoat out, and closed the doors of the library for the night. I was all alone in the darkness. I relaxed on the half-broken cement bench in the rose garden surrounding the library.

Where could Rajani be? Surely she might have been delayed at some cinema theater. Rajani frequently goes to the movies. I asked her once, why do you see the movies so frequently? She shot a question by way of reply, how do you want me to cope up with this boredom of life?

So, if she has not turned up so far it means only one thing—she is delayed at some theater. If she says she will come, she will certainly come. That is the nature of Rajani.
I am hungry. What shall I do? Shall I go somewhere and eat? But if Rajani comes while I was away? She may think that I took her message lightly. So, I would rather bear this hunger just for one night. Life’s clock won’t stop if I starved once in a while. The word clock makes me think of the clock tower and its tirelessly moving hands. Don’t they ever get tired, those hands? Going round and round and round all the time—how tiresome and boring!
But is there any difference between this life of ours and the movement of the hands of the clock? The clock stands glued to the tower. But its hands move. What is it they achieve through this nonstop gyration? Man also moves constantly. But does he move one inch away from his established notions of tradition and conservatism?

I am beginning to feel sleepy. I faintly remembered hearing the clock strike twelve as if from far away. I moved restlessly on the half-broken bench. I kept thinking of Rajani even in the midst of my disturbed sleep. But gradually I sank into deep slumber.

I had a nice dream. I never had such a delightful dream all my life. Confusions caused by thought, cruelties of truth, pain of decision-making —all these painful tasks were totally absent. That is why the dream was so delicious.

The dream continued for a long time. By the time I opened my eye, the rays of the sun were there straight on my face. I got up and slowly walked towards the hostels. This bloody body, which is sure to collapse someday, needs daily cleaning. That is another boredom. Animals have no such worry. How lucky they are, they have no thoughts to understand the thoughtless scheme of this world. The sweet dream was till haunting,. Abruptly I stopped and started thinking. How stupid we are all! Knowing fully well that the dreams ae but dreams, we continue to feel ecstatic or miserable ruminating over the dreams we get.

I finished shaving and bath in a leisurely way. Then I went to the canteen and had breakfast and tea enjoying their taste and aroma. When it was time til returned to my hunting in the library. It was half past ten. I was feeling restless. I sank into my chair, stretched my legs and closed my eyes. I could not steady my thoughts; they were frisking and skipping like moneys on treetops. After some time, I felt uneasy sitting in that posture. So I opened my eyes, straightened myself and glanced at the heap of books lying on the table. Suddenly my eyes detected a letter placed under the novel, The Trial.

I took it into my hands. I didn’t know why but my hands began to shake. What does that mean, this letter? It means that Rajani had been here in the library while I was taking my bath or sipping my tea in a leisurely fashion. So, she came and also left—that is evident from this letter.
What an absurd situation it all seemed to be! I have been waiting for her these twenty-four or more hours, but when she was actually there, I was busy elsewhere sipping tea or taking bath! She might have concluded that I did not take her message seriously. Now it is too late to do anything to rectify the damage done. I do not know where Rajani lives. Hence there is no question of finding her and explaining things. Once again it is proved that the hopes, which we try to realize, are but mirages that we chase. A sense of despair, loneliness and helplessness suddenly overpowered me. All my composure seemed a mere pretension as I found myself on the verge of weeping. I had great difficulty controlling myself. I had no courage even to look into the contents of the letter. So I sat still for a long time. I was not aware of the passage of time. I don’t know for how long I sat like that, but when somebody greeted me with a ‘hi’, I came into the world once gain and realized that evening was at hand. I opened the letter and started reading it.
“I said I would come yesterday. You might have waited for me. All these days we lived with the thought that our lives are quite meaningless. We believed our lives would end up sometime, somewhere, somehow without our knowledge.
“But I was told that my views needed a revision. I was invited to meet a person yesterday. The invitation promised to dispel my wrong notions on our existence on this planet. I was simply overwhelmed when somebody is ready to pull me out of the despair that surrounds us. I was simply crazy to run to you and break this good news. I was so eager to see a smile breaking on your face for once, a smile that would speak volumes about how misguided we are about the true nature of the world.
“I rushed to the airport to meet the great person who promised me deliverance from my absurd thoughts, boredom and despair and hold out a new hope. I involuntarily walked towards the glass partition to watch the great man alighting the plane and walking to the airport building to meet me.
“The plane was touching the ground. But suddenly there were flames all around the plane. It went into a thousand pieces with a deafening explosion. Broken pieces of glass, charred bodies of the passengers, their luggage—all got strewn like balls of fire in all directions. The gentleman who was coming exclusively to enlighten me should also have been consumed by the flames or thrown out in some direction. Standing there in front of that glass partition I watched this dance of death and destruction in detail. I stood there for a long time like one absolutely paralyzed.
“I went there with a mountain of hope. How earnestly and passionately did I desire to find some hope, which might have bailed us out of this monotony, boredom and despair! For all my yearning that was what I got.
“Were we not in agreement with Camus when he said that the Absurd was waiting to pounce on us at every street corner? Knowing this all along, why did I go there at all? Why did I foolishly dream of getting a meaning to the meaningless world? I really feel ashamed because I had given a chance to the absurd to play with me and establish its invincibility. As Beckett said nothing happens here and nobody comes to rescue us. I had enough meaningless waiting in this world. I cannot continue this any longer. Going.”

So … so … Rajani was gone! All these days I had at least one consolation—that Rajani was there to share with me this burden of loneliness and the monotony of the routine. But now? I have to bear it all alone. This feeling of absolute loneliness seemed beyond all my thoughts of endurance. What shall I do? What shall I do to escape this misery?

I have before me two options. Going the way Rajani has gone or wait patiently with the hope that something will happen at some future time, knowing full well that nothing will happen no matter how long we wait.
My deliberations on the two options continued for long time, but I remained undecided. I decided that it would be better if I sought the advice of Professor Dustcoat on the matter.

I found his seat vacant. I searched all the dark recesses of the library for him bu the was not to be seen anywhere. Surely he must be there in the library at this hour, feverishly scribbling his ideas on the eternal mystery of this world on the pages of his bulky notebook.

I went to the reference section where he frequently spends his time. I asked the boy at the counter whether the professor was there. He looked at me with sad eyes and said, “Don’t you know, sir?”
“Know what?”
“Professor sir is no more. He died of cardiac arrest this afternoon. The death was so sudden. We had no time even to send for a doctor.”
“What?” I almost shrieked and sank in a chair. I fainted. The boy sprinkled some water on my face and brought me back into this world. I sat staring with vacant eyes. The library staff looked really worried at my condition because they know my deep attachment to the Professor.

I got up and slowly walked back to my own dark corner. A sudden impulse made me walk to the table of the Professor. His writing pad was lying on the floor near the chair. So he must have collapsed here in this very chair a few hours ago. I picked up his writing pad and casually glanced at the page on which he scribbled something for the last time.
“I think I am arriving at a solution at last after all these years of endless toil and waiting …”

(The Telugu original, “Librarilo” was published and included in the anthology, asangatha sangataalu [the Absurd Stories] by the author.

Translated into English by the author and originally published on, September 2003.)


By Prof. Nayani Krishnakumari.

Ants are small. They are very small compared to the mighty human beings. Yet the strength of human beings is useless compared to the strength of the ants. They would crunch our bodies into tiny bits ruthlessly and drag them into their abodes. There is that kind of brutality in the redness of those ants. The power of animosity is latent in their communal spirit, which could shatter the smugness of human beings. As long as one is in a state of deluge there is no stopping to their attacks.

Murali is 38-years old. He was watching the ants as they moved in a row methodically. He was struggling to keep his eyelids open to watch them. A thin veil spread in front of his eyes. Each ant turned into one thousand ants and looked like a huge expanse of the ocean. His body quivered at the thought that these ants could turn into waves and drown him. What if these ants surround him, maul his muscles into small bits and drag the pieces into their anthills. The fear made his palms turn cold like snow.

In front of him, a white bottle of cheap arrack, shining bright, was sitting on the table. The glow of the battle scared him. He heard loud sounds and felt warm fumes coming out of his ears. His heart could not accept the pleasure the body was enjoying the liquor. It was riveting. His heart was heavy as if grappling with meaningless matters. Why he had to continue to live in such a state of confusion was beyond his comprehension.

Murali exerted himself to keep his eyelids open and look at the ants. The table in front of him looked like two tables. Around the table, on the floor bits of omelet and green pepper scattered all over and made a mess. The red ants were trying to drag one of the omelet pieces. The ants besieged a piece of omelet and covered it completely, looking like a ball of pins. The piece, being dragged by the ants, was looking like a puppet in the hands of fate. Murali could not focus. His brain was filled with the thoughts of his past.

Murali has earned the reputation as a smart student during his college years. He was at the top of his class in all the subjects and extra-curricular activities. He was a happy young man, always laughing and making others laugh. At home, his brother’s children used to behave properly in his presence. His sister-n-law would say, “There is chinnaayana,” to keep the children in line. His older brother, Balaram, loved him very much and believed that Murali was born to save the family’s reputation.

Whenever Murali visited his brother’s place, he took the children to the shallow well[1] outside the village and gave them swimming lessons. Or else, he would be busy changing light bulbs, fixing ceiling fans, broken radios and such things in the entire neighborhood. Or, he would get the children together and help them with their studies. When chinnaayana was around, even the hardest math problem was solved in a snap by the children. They feared him to a point; they would not ask his permission even they had to go to the bathroom.

Murali became tense. He wondered, “Am I the same Murali? I am living like a frog in a well. People and situations are attacking me like ants and I am giving in. They are mashing me into bits and pieces and dragging me into their holes. I must fight back. I must,” and he kept beating himself up. The entire world around him was rocking like a swing. It was laughing at him in a roar and swinging briskly.


Murali earned his degree in veterinary science and a job fell into lap right away. He started his life as a veterinary doctor in a religious town on the banks of a river, away from the city. That pious town which offered solace for millions of people directed him to seek a different way of life. Well, maybe not. Poor thing. What did the town do? Not even the god could help him. The God was there lying motionless for centuries. He did nothing. But the people who pushed Murali around were different. Compared to himself, they were mean, like these ants. Murali’s body quivered in a state of stupor. The neon bulb above, which was spilling baby smiles until now, started turning gray.

A series of episodes went through his mind like in a movie.

Through the folds of that dim light, Nilayya, tall and dark, burst into a big laughter. His teeth were white but underneath that whiteness, Murali could clearly see the shades of his crookedness.

Murali said, addressing the thin air in front of him, “You, Nilayya, you brought me to this condition. You are small like these ants. Yet, when ants like you team up, even the strongest serpent has to surrender. I surrendered to you, I mean it. I threw myself at the feet of these tiny ants.”

Sangayya stood in front of Murali, “Am I not here, sir? You remembered Nilayya. What about me?” Sangayya also was laughing. He was laughing displaying his red-stained teeth. His eyes, filled with red streaks, looked frightening like a cluster of red ants. Arrack dishes and other things were hovering around him. Murali was shivering. He was filled with repulsion and panic; he could barely hold himself straight. He felt like he would fall down, if he tried to stand up. “I am being attacked by all these mean people. They are chewing me up. I must shake them off. How? How?”

Sangayya is the arrack shop owner in that town, and the sixth sense for Nilayya. It is customary in that town to auction the arrack shop each year. He, who bids the highest will have control over the shop for one year and take care of the business. Sangayya always bids the highest. He is of heavy build, dark-skinned, and has thick lips and thick eyebrows. He looked scary. If he were cast in the role of an ancient Dravidian king, he would certainly steal the audience. The arrack shop has stone slabs and a high-raised cement bench. When he sat on the cement bench and carried on his arrack business, selling huge pots of arrack, he would look like a king short of wearing a crown.

Sangayya, in addition to arrack business, also had a herd of cows. Since milk and arrack are equally welcome in our country, Sangayya fared well in both the businesses. Anytime one of his cows was afflicted with some disease or other, Murali was the Lord Krishna Himself as far as Sangayya was concerned.[2] Murali has that magic touch in his hand. Whenever somebody brought a sick animal to him, he would not stop debating whether the owner was rich or poor. His only concern was the welfare of the animal. If one could read the animal language, one could read in their eyes, “Murali is my mother, my birth mother,” no doubt in that.

In Murali’s mind, Sangayya was ready to break down as he said, “For that very reason, you are like a god to me. I listened to Nilayya and believed that drinking was good for your health. I was the reason you’ve taken to drinking. I ruined you completely.”

“Well. How can I blame you? You did not tell me to get addicted to the arrack bottle. I got myself into this mess. No, Sangayya, actually, Nilayya joined hands with that Sher Khan and dragged me into this muck.” Murali’s body was losing control but the mind was still sharp. The thoughts of past were hovering in his head, all mixed up and baffling, with no sign of taking any logical form.

Normally, the veterinary doctor has an additional responsibility, besides treating the animals. That is about the animals brought to the slaughterhouse. The veterinary doctor needs to certify which one could be slaughtered and which one is not. Without Murali’s stamp of approval, the animals were not eligible for human consumption. It is in that context, Sher Khan entered into Muali’s life. The animal nature that is part of his name[1] is also evident in his lifestyle. As far as he is concerned the entire world is a huge slaughterhouse. In that world the people whom he did not like are the animals. And the people whom he liked are the clever persons who would turn the first category people into pieces of meat and make money for themselves.

Khan understood money very well. Money is like the blood that a tiger relishes when she bites into the neck of a goat. Money is the thing that furnishes the several amenities, warmly, solidly, and strongly until one got sick of it. The humans would do anything to obtain that sick feeling. In order to accomplish his goal, he viewed the world as a goat on the butcher block, waiting to be chopped by his butcher knife. But his tiger nature did not touch Murali.


One day Sher Khan brought some animals. Murali examined them and said, “Who handed them down to you? These animals are not good for humans.”

“What can we do, babu? Nowadays even we humans don’t have enough to eat. No surprise the animals got sick, what else would you expect of them? You go ahead and approve them. I will make sure you will get something out of it.”

Murali was ticked off. He could not make out whether Sher Khan was preaching him or telling him. “What do you mean? What are you thinking? Am I working for the government or you? I am the one to decide whether the animal is fit for butchering or not. You can butcher and sell only after I say so.”

Sher Khan was stunned for a split second. So, now, after all these years this person was man enough to challenge him! His ego started out in his heart and jumped to his throat but Sher Khan stifled it right there. He begged Murali with a very sad expression on his face and both palms clasped. But Murali was stubborn. He was the kind of a man that would keep arguing even when he knew he was wrong. There is no saying what to expect of him, when he was not in the wrong. As a result, the lifespan of the animals that came to the slaughterhouse was extended for the day. That is when the consolidated strength of the ants came into play.

Did you ever watch the ants move methodically in rows and in a straight line? One ant first comes from the opposite direction and taps on the noses of the rest, one after another, in the row and thereby passing on the word. That’s it. All the ants together put the command into action. They all, together, attack the bug, overtake him and carry them to their anthill. The first one that brought the news would not join this crowd. She assumes leadership and keeps the rest of the ants in line. That is how Sher Khan acts precisely.

Nilayya and Sher Khan are good friends. Nilayya cannot go against Sher Khan’s will and survive. Nobody can survive for that matter. Nilayya is worldly-wise; he shows great humility and gets his job done. At the same time, he could be overly cruel when it comes to dealing with his inferiors. The knife in his hand is double-edged. Nilayya works for Murali. Despite his job as a lab assistant, he was also running errands for Murali. It is with that kind of service, Nilayya earned an enormous amount of trust from Murali.


The equality and social justice that the politicians lecture about are flowing in Murali blood. He would walk around on the streets with his arm around Nilayya’s shoulder openly.[3] His trust in Nilayya took him a little too far. The clinic was filled with expensive medicines and medical equipment. It was Murali’s responsibility to check the stock and sign off the register, indicating the usage each day. Yet, if Nilayya brought the stock register, Murali would sign without looking at the numbers. Sometimes he would even leave the keys with Nilayya.


The bottles in front of Murali are empty. Numerous colors were floating in his head like the fireflies and worrying him. He kept beating his head and talking to himself, “Nilayya, I must give it you. You are really something. You ruined my record. He presented me to the public as a criminal. You said it feels good and got me into this drinking habit. You tried even to implicate me in the murder of Reddy. Poor Reddy!”

Nobody can understand the atrocities of Nilayya unless they knew Reddy’s story. In that village, the hospital and the panchayat[2] office were housed in the same building. The two offices shared the same entrance. Reddy was surpanch[3] of that village. We cannot say he was like Rama simply because the first part of his name is Rama in Ramachandra Reddy. Rama of the puranas was expert politician; when his stepmother told him to go to the woods, he followed her command and took his wife and younger brother along with him.[4] This Reddy on the other hand is very well-versed in local politics. He has mastered the skills, like the moves in the game of chess, necessary to keep his chair forever. For the same reason many people in the village hated him. He also acquired some vengeful enemies who were knowingly or unknowingly wanted his guts. One day somebody murdered Reddy while he was in his office. The instrument that was used for that purpose was the scalpel from the veterinary hospital.

“Hey, Nilayya! Reddy would care for nothing except his chair. Whatever did he do to you? You, rascal, how did the murderer get our scalpel? The scalpel is intended to cut the thick skin of the animals. Human skin is no problem for it at all, right? Who is responsible for all this?” Murali was shaking like a man possessed. He was losing control of himself. The liquor and the thoughts of his past were buzzing through his head and baffling him. “When the Block Development Officer came for inspection you played a game I could not believe. Was I really responsible for all the lost medicines and the equipment? You got me into this habit of drinking, forced me to borrow money, and stole my salary from my pocket while I was under the influence of alcohol. You, you provoked him [Sher Khan] by telling that I was responsible for his buffalo’s death. You told him that I was drunk and gave the wrong medication to the buffalo, how could you? The buffalos are dumb animals and I treat them like my own life.”

Murali was choking and gasping for breath and shedding tears. He could barely hold himself. He tried to get up from the chair and stand straight. His knee hit the table in front him. In an attempt to stop himself from falling, he put his right foot to a side. In the process his foot stepped on the crowd of ants that were dragging the omelet piece. So many tiny lives were crushed softly under his foot! Suddenly he felt something—a sense of fear or goose bumps—shot down his spine like a lightning. Murali’s brain shook off the numbness in a split second like a dozing traveler jolted when a bus came to a screeching halt. Murali came to his senses.

Murali lifted his foot and saw the ants flattened into a cardboard. He yelled, “Ho, Sher Khan, Nilayya, Sangayya, you are all ants. Look at them. Take a good look at them. They are all crushed under my foot and turned into chutney.” He burst into a big laugh. The entire house exploded with his laughter.


(The Telugu original Cheemalu has been published in the anthology, “Katha mandaram” compiled by Avula Jayapradadevi. Hyderabad: Andhra Pradesh Sahitya Academy, 1979.

Translated by Nidadavolu Malathi, and originally published on, September 2003)


[1] First part of his name, Sher, means lion.

[2] Village administrative branch.

[3] Village administrator

[1] In villages, some wells will have steps so people walk down to reach the water and big enough to swim.

[2] According to legend, Lord Krishna was born in the family of cowherds and was considered the protector of cows.

[3] This is an unusual practice for people from different social strata.

[4] An episode in the epic, ramayanam.