Short Stories

Short Story: AN END AND A BEGINNING! -V.N.Giritharan | Translation By Latha Ramakrishnan

woman_face5Slowly it was turning dark. The Sun who was overwhelmed by the crimson color of the twilight horizon was embracing the horizon with swelling love and was losing his senses in a blissful communion. Widespread, the pond bank remained all still. Birds were returning home in groups. Even at this time some kingfishers were greedily looking for their prey, lying in wait in a closeby tree- branch. Calm, the wind was soothingly blowing.

With eyes on the water-surface and hand on the child that was wandering here and there on the lawn that lay spread on the pond-bank, there was Yamuna. Clear sharp look… broad forehead… she had made her thick dense hair into a bun. In an ordinary cotton saree her rose skin and shapely figure glowed splendidly. In those eyes which would be forever dreaming … that tinge of sadness…

‘Such a gloom should not have come over her’ – So I told myself. Anger and frustration against this damned and cursed society swelled in me.

For, it is the diabolic viewpoints and ugly bent of mind of this society that have turned her so.

I, who was working in Colombo and had come back to my native village after the exit of foreign battalions was so much disturbed by this sight of Yamuna. In our childhood she had been always with me, eating and playing together. My beloved childhood companion. She is older than me by two years. Her astonishing beauty and brains… it is two years since she has got married. I couldn’t attend her marriage at all. It was during that time when our country was full of war and bloodshed that the marriage took place and on that day many youths were taken into custody on suspicion and I was one among them. So much had happened in these two years….

So many changes have taken place. Our very life is but a warfare. A constant struggle to escape, to save our life… as like a warfare within a warfare and a run within the run for life… all those that have taken place… all those unwanted happenings… Today, even after the rains have stopped there is still some drizzling…

Thiayagarajah – Yamuna’s husband. Tying the sacred yellow thread around her neck and taking oath in the presence of the God of Fire that he would look after her as his very life and then not keeping his word and punishing her for no fault of her. Treating her with utmost disdain and contempt at a time when his support and companionship were needed by her the most. At a time when he should be treating her with utmost care and concern, he had discarded her with no second thought and left her, thereby losing his very manliness, to put it mildly.

Decrying her as unchaste and immoral he had gone his way. The condition of Yamuna as the mother of a child caused a deep pain in me. Already she had suffered a cruel assault at the hands of an inhuman scoundrel… and adding to that all-time anguish and agony, this unbearable treatment by her better-half…. God, what is Chastity..? It is something more linked with the mind and heart and it is indeed unfair to use it as a whip to inflict capital punishment on women.

Why did Thiagarajah behave so?

“Ragendran, I’m no Bharathi to discourse on being progressive. The very thought that someone else had enjoyed my wife… kills me. How can I continue living with her..? the very thought is unbearably repulsive…”

“Thiayagu… was it her choice? Please think it over..Did she willingly go to bed with that fellow? At a time when you should be treating her

with utmost care and concern, instilling in her confidence, giving her assurance that everything is fine…how can you speak in this manner?

Think of your child for a moment… Please…”

“Ragendra…. I’m prepared to undertake the responsibility of looking after my child and bringing it up. But, I heard that Yamuna wouldn’t agree to it. Please, place yourself in my shoes and think over… while going out with Yamuna what all catcalls would confront me. Bearing with all those and continue my life with her would prove a shame on my very manhood.. Can’t you realize that…?”

“A shame on your manhood…. God,.. Manliness is not that, my friend… it is your deed of deserting her and leaving her in the lurch that is a blot on your manhood…”

In a way… the society is also responsible for Thiayagarajah’s bent of mind. This society and it’s goddamn rules and regulations… customs, taboos and what not. Caught in the web of all these Thiayagarah behaves so. He is unable to go past the social barriers and he is unable to free himself from their hold…

Faraway, the Sun has already lost half of himself. Darkness has turned more dense than before. Even those few Kingfishers who had been keeping vigil for their prospective prey had left the place long before. Throwing small, little stones on the pond yamuna went on looking at the surface of the water. In my heart too which was in a confused state, a clarity of thought came to be. I too arrived at a decision. And I told her of my decision. She was shocked. For a while she remained deeply plunged in silence, dumb-struck.

“Ragendra…” tears swelled in her eyes. She couldn’t talk further. What can she say. The social- structure into which she is born is such. She is a married woman. Having a child too. In this young age undergoing the trauma of rape at the hands of a cruel, two-legged animal she now

stands all alone, deserted by her husband.But, she is also a woman. And, her heart will also crave for love… and like any other woman she too would long to have the feeling of being wanted. But,will this society give a thought to all these and more, before passing a verdict on her…

‘If they come to know that such a relationship exists between Yamuna and myself won’t my people, my mother and my kith and kin, spit at us? ‘A man-eater, luscious female.. she has caught hold of an innocent youth by her feminine tricks…’ Won’t they tear her to pieces with such heartless observations..? None bothers if a man marries a number of times. A sixty year old man is free to marry a sixteen year old girl. Not one but he can as well have three or four secret marriages. No one questions him. But,a woman.. that too a woman in a hapless state like Yamuna should live this ‘only once born’ life all alone, in a companionless state of exile, killing all her natural feelings and desires, and just behave she has been born a female sans physical and emotional needs. Sainthood is forced on her by the society.

This is the social norm. It is this that the society expects and demands of its female members. I have realized all these. And that is why I stood very much firm in my decision. But,Yamuna turned to look at her child playing on the lawns closeby. And then she looked at me miserably.

Again I continued. “Yamuna, marriage is mainly a union of two persons. who understand each other well and decide to travel together through thick and thin. But Thaiyagarajah’s bent of mind and behaviour has proved that he is no match for you. As for as I am concerned you need a companion, a support in this hour of crisis; the closeness of one who can instil in you the feeling of security and sense of belonging. Why can’t that be me who has been with you right from our childhood days?”

“Ragendra, you have said it all so easily. But, do you know how much of an enmity and hatred it would generate. Your mother, kith and kin… your people.. All would curse me only, you know. Won’t they say that it was right on the part of my man to have left me? Why should you waste your precious life for my sake…? Please leave my worries in my hands alone…”

Saying so, Yamuna remained silent for a while. It is the discourse of womanhood that is so used to bearing all its sufferings in silence… But, I remained firm in my decision.

“Yamuna, I’m sure that I can pacify my mother in course of time. All I want is your consent. Please say yes. That’s enough for me. And, I care a twopence about those social norms that have brought you to this miserable state of being. Suffice it is if we understand each other.”

Uttering these words I looked into her eyes intently. But, she looked into my eyes in all silence. And, I could interpret her silence all too well. I well could realize those pure feelings, love, affection, hope and gratitude that swelled in her eyes and her voiceless words.

“Yamuna…” I took her in a tight embrace. And, she who gave her whole to me finding solace and shelter in my hands went into a blissful amnesia wherein the world outside ceased to be. Faraway, the horizon was turning crimson all over with the Sun losing itself completely in the wholesome communion.

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THE HOMELESS! – V.N.Giritharan | Translation By: Latha Ramakrishnan

(Published in the E- Magazine PATHIVUKAL dated May 2003. issue: 47)

Saturday Night. The time was well past midnight. The region called Richmond/ Duncan Area which is the merry making and recreation locality in the downtown of Toronto city was still bustling with activities. In every corner there was a club overflowing with youth and their dance and music. The street-vendors of ‘Hot Talk’ were going round and round, busily looking after their business. Those at the steering wheels of call-taxis were also busy with their passengers boarding and alighting. Some were returning home, not delaying the process .Some others were just then arriving in taxis and cars. In the street-corners,in the midst of all these chaos the ‘homeless’ were deep in sleep with the ‘man-hole’ lids providing the warmth.I was returning from work, retiring for the day, observing all that was happening around me. Observing my surroundings and my fellow-beings have always been my favourite past-time.

While I was standing there, waiting for the signal to change, “Can you spare some coins, my friend?” _so a voice reached me. I turned around. At my side there was a middle aged man, a black Canadian, standing. A beard with slightly grayish tinge. Bushy moustache. A face glowing with happiness and a half-smile. In his hand there was a plastic container. On that it was written ‘Clarke for Toronto Mayor’ in English. Above all that which surprised me was his appearance of a gentleman, sporting suit and coat. I dumped a two dollar coin into the plastic container extended towards me. At that, with the word ‘Thanks’ he conveyed his gratitude to me. This great city, despite all these years spent here, has never failed to supply provide new, different experiences to me every day. Its mysterious self seems something that can never be fully apprehended. So much so, it drove me to coin a new proverb that the real depth of this city indeed be deeper than the great grand sea itself!

The man continued. Taking hold of my hands in a warm handshake he introduced himself: “Friend, my name is Clarke, I am standing for the election of Toronto Mayorship. I am homeless”. His words surprised me further. For the election of Toronto Mayorship many are in the fray and I had already known it. But, as I didn’t know beforehand that such a person, a homeless, dwelling on the streets was also one of the contestants, I was, kind of, taken aback. With my sense of surprise writ large on my face I told him, “Its news to me”. His response was “It is not surprising, for, the journals here would’ve thought why waste time writing about a person like me”. I was reminded of a story narrated to me when I was a boy. Once the then President of Srilanka, J.R., paid a visit to Ankodai. Ankodai is the famous mental asylum in Srilanka. And, one of the inmates of Ankodai addressed the prestigious visitor thus: “Greetings. May I know who you are?” J.R.responded with a smile, saying, “I am the all powerful legally – elected President of this country”. Hearing that the patient who threw at him the query, laughed aloud and then advised J.R with these words: “Sir, I too had uttered those words and as a result had been trapped here ever since. Don’t you dare tell that again to others, that which you have told me now. Then, you will also suffer the same fate”.

A thought crossed my mind. ‘This man is also saying that he is one of the candidates for the Mayor Election. He is a homeless one. And, he is wearing coat and suit in the manner of a gentleman. Could it be that he is also one like the person who welcomed J.R.? Or else why should he say in one breath and in all seriousness that he is homeless and also that he is standing for the election of Toronto Mayorship?’ But, his voice was clear and confidant. There was no conflict or stammer in his words. From his voice no one would think of doubting his sanity. Not even a semblance of such suspicion could confront them. He conversed in such a balanced, down-to-earth manner.

“Friend, may I ask you something?” said I. “Sure”, he responded atonce and waited for my questions. (Here, greeting one another with the words “Hey Man” or ‘My Friend’ is very common).

“You look like a perfect gentleman. At the same time you call youself ‘Homeless’… Who has given you all these dresses!” So I asked, my voice expressing surprise. For that he said “Friend, to tell you the truth, all these have come to me on their own, given to me voluntarily by those who have care and concern for my welfare. The pathway at the spot where Adelaide and Bay meet is where I live. If ever you feel like seeing me, come there ”

With a faint smile I said, “You are a mysterious man”. He too responded with such a smile. I continued. “If you have no objection about revealing, please let me know what gave you the itch to stand in the Mayor Election?” Remaining silent for a while he then said, “You don’t

know about my past. If you come to know of it you would turn shell-shocked”.

My excitement increased. “But, if you don’t tell me about your past my head would go splinters, as like the Vikramadhithya-Vethalam tale”, said I. “Vethalam’? Who is that?”, asked he, “Oh, that’s not important. You can begin narrating your story”, said I. Responding, he continued:”Once upon a time I was engaged in a million-dollar foul play. I distributed drugs.I worked as a pimp with a bunch of girls. Then only I came to realize that life is not just money.. Now, my one and only aim in life is to love all my fellow-beings. Love them all sincerely and in all seriousness. You don’t know. Moreover_”. He stopped.

“Why did you stop?” asked I eagerly. “If I am to go past, crossing this signal I will be stopped. And, advices would be handed over to me, unasked. If I were to be seen by the policemen they won’t leave me. They won’t leave you too. But, do you think that such a situation would befall a white-man? The immigrants, minorities are the ones so much affected and suffer a lot. I should help them all. And that’s why I am going to stand in this Election”, So he replied to my query

. In the end, the story turned in another direction. “Friend! I am a writer. I am bringing out a Monthly. What should I do to have you interviewed for that?” asked I. He responded saying, “My pleasure. You can come to my place, that is, the Adelaide-Bay junction. We can meet there”. And then,he asked me “‘Do you have children? “Oh yes, two real good girl children”, said I. When he listened to that he gave me two ‘twenty-five cent’ coins and also offered the advice given below:

“If ever your children go out, give them these coins. Tell them to inform you wherever they are”.

After that he took leave of me and went away. I stood looking at his departing frame, till it went out of sight. Just like this mysterious city, a mysterious man, – felt I.

Translated into English by Latha Ramakrishnan

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MANHOLE – V.N.Giritharan | Translation By: Latha Ramakrishnan

Like the Rajaraman of Jeyakanthan’s rishimoolam he has grown beard and moustache, keeping one of the legs in squatting posture and keeping the other in a raised and folded fashion he was holding his knee with his right hand. And, he had placed his left hand firmly on the floor at his back. His hair had grown long. In the mouth there remained half of a still burning cigarette. Only his eyes were filled with a kind of abnormal glow. The man sitting on the manhole resembled the appearance of a seer seated on a sheet of deerskin. If he was one of the wayside heroes I was a small wayside vendor. And, selling hot dog was my business.

Faraway, in the north the Ontario parliament building could be seen. At my back stood the famous child care medical institution Sick Kids Hospital. For a while the seer kept staring at the Parliament of Ontario then he laughed.

“Why are you laughing?” asked I.

“See, the weird game of time…”

“Time’s game..?”

“What else but that?”

He looked at the sky for some time. He enjoyed the full moon’s cool presence there. Darkness had come to set in. Still the city was full of life. Everybody was hurrying at great speed. In the meantime some customers came my way too. One of my customers, a Nigerian taxi driver came after parking his taxi in a corner of the road.

“Hi, how are you chief?” asked I.

“Pretty good man… how are you?”

“What of me… I’m always ok,” saying so he laughed. The person standing next to him also laughed. He was a real chief. In his motherland Nigeria there were some three thousand persons under him relying on him for their very livelihood. He belonged to one of those ancient clans of Nigeria. Every time they would send documents for his approval. He had received a degree in one of the Universities here. During winter he would drive taxi here. As soon as summer sets in he would go running to Nigeria. His people not know of his taxi driving here. If they know they wouldn’t leave him here. So he would say. He had said once that so many other chiefs were also driving cabs.

Only then he saw the man standing next to him.

“Hi, chief…..How are you?” Asked he. An African chief was enquiring after the welfare of a Canadian chief. The tribes of Sami were once the rulers of the entire continent of America. One of the heir-apparents to a clan that reigned supreme. Today they live a marginalised existence of minority within the minority.

Sami smiled in reply. The African chief gave a cigarette to the Canadian chief, and left. “Good soul” said Sami and lighted the cigarette, and inhaling, released the smoke. “He, an African driving cabs in the middle of the road and so living his life,”-saying so he pointed at the Parliament building. “From there they are formulating laws….what else is this but the satanic dance of fate.” Following this observation he sang a small verse melodiously.

“ In time all independent
Or dependent
But, sure it is
So wicked, my friend…”

This Sami’s lineage looked highly mysterious. The song that he sang was that much wise and thought provoking. For me who was a lecturer in Physics in the faculty of Antiquity this native Indian appeared as highly mysterious. I knew him for the past three months. From my experience about him so far that which I had gained by way of information or knowledge could be summed up in the following manner.

Another native Indian. He appeared different from his clan of people who were seen on the pathways often with bottle and faltering steps. Except cigarette he never laid hands on drinks. He didn’t have anything like a family of his own. Was there one earlier? God alone knew. So far he had not spoken of his origin. Once when an attempt was made to probe he firmly dissuaded it. After that I had never attempted again, and he too had not spoken a word on that.

His life continued with the help of those small little coins that those who go along the way offer him. The whole day he would be smoking . He wouldn’t spend anything on cigarette. He would go collecting the small pieces of smoked cigarettes that would be strewn on the pathways in front of the very many buildings and smoke them. As for meals every now and then he would drink coffee from the nearby Donut shop. Sometimes Donut would buy and bring. At night everyday I would give Hot Dog and some juice to drink. He wouldn’t get them free of cost. He would offer whatever he would be having in his hand. Mostly he would be meditating all the time. Or else, he would chat with me. Easing himself out, washing the face, all in the nearby hospital washrooms only. Rarely sometimes he would visit a hostel sometimes and have his bath and come. Except these if there was a home and world for him that was this manhole on which he would sit. He had kept a bundle of his rags inside that only. God alone knows what at all is there in that bundle….

So far I have learnt only this much about him. Henceforth only I should fry to gather some more information about him.

Another night has come to rest a while, swaying. Business has also turned a little dull. Sami contemplated on something then, laughed.

“Why did you laugh?” asked I.

“Indians are overflowing all over the world.,” said he and laughed. A look of content has come to settle in his cantenance as if he had uttered a profound philoshopical truth.

“But, in truth, you are not an Indian. And I am also not one.”

“True, that I am no Indian. But, all those belonging to the Indian sub-continent are Indians only to them. East Indian.”

“But for many Paki” said I.

When he heard this Sami laughed aloud.

“ Here, they refer to Indian as Paki and call Pakistanis Indian. But there the two factions are always attacking each other” Said I.

For this observation of mine also, Sami laughed heartily. Only then I could observe the fatigue that could be seen widespread all over his cantenance and that if stood out despite his mouthful of laughter.

“What is ailing you?” asked I. “Nothing. Just slight fever,” said he. I always keep an aspirin strip and plaster by my side.

“Do you wan t an aspirin?” asked I.

“No need. Just slight indisposition. That’s all. It’ll be gone soon.” Said he. After that I too didn’t insist on his having some medicine.

When I spread my shop the next day I observed one thing. Sami couldn’t be seen in his place. Usually he would be the one greeting me. I could feel some sort of uneasiness within. For these three months this was the first time I was deprived of Sami’s greeting. Usually I would open my shop around 10 o’clock only. In the meantime Sami would have finished all his morning chores had his lunch and would be sitting on his throne. Those glowing eyes came to my mind. I could visualize the friendly smile. Could it be that Sami had got up rather late? It was the I remembered that he was having slight fever the previous day. ‘Has the fever intensified and he is now hospitalized?’ Wondering I. then, for a while I became involved in my business. When the business slackened night had set in. still Sami could be seen nowhere. Again I could feel some kind of heaviness within.
Around 10 p.m. Nigeria chief came. “How goes the business?” Asked he. It was then that he noticed the emptiness of the manhole.

“Where is chief?” asked he.

“The whole day he could not be seen. No idea as to where he has gone….”

“Did he tell anything last night…”

“He was with mild fever…But, he refused to take aspirin.”

“Does he stay anywhere else…?”

“As far as I know he would always lie on the man-hole cover. He would keep his few possessions too inside this man-hole only.”

“I see….” The African chief was lost in contemplation for some time and then came back to his senses.

“A thought comes to me.” Said he.

“What?”

“Can it be that he has changed his spot…. Anyway to make sure all that we have to do is to just open the manhole and look inside. If his possessions are not to be seen there, then we can be rest assured that he has moved over to another place..”

Saying so he opened the manhole cover. Opening he let out a cry. ”Oh, my God…”

He called out to me asking me to come and see. I went there and peeped inside. There, hugging his bog and baggage close to his heart Sami was lying in a crumpled and folded fashion.

“My God…he has been lying here the whole of today..”

“Yes, chief…chief..” Nigerian chief screamed.

There was no stir at all. In the mean time the passersby had gathered there. Nigerian chief jumped into the manhole and felt the pulse.

“Gone,” said he.

Faraway, in the darkness the parliament building of Ontario built in the style of Romanesque structure could be seen glowing in full splendor

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Short Story: Husband By V.N.Giritharan [English Translation From Tamil By Latha Ramakrishnan]

Canadian Tamil Literature
Sababathi stood there in the balcony eyeing the scenes that lay spread in front, without actually seeing them. Buildings, s far as the eyes could travel. Tall, short, wide, narrow structures. “As Desomond Morris said ‘cages where two-legged human animals live. And the cities are but Human zoo that shelter human-animals. There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong in his observation. In fact, for the basic problems that encounter the man of today, cities can also be a reason in a way. Most of the changes that come over animals when they are forced to live in cages can well be perceived in these human animals too, who suffocate within the narrow walls of these concrete jungles. It is from being in the cities only that the modern men wield power over his fellowmen. If one is to go by logical reasoning of mathematics that X=Y, Y=Z; Therefore X=Z, then city men becomes the main reason for all the problems that befalls the man of today. Isn’t so? But Sababathi was not in a mood to ponder over these things.

Cold is more than usual this year. The snowfall has not yet started. During the early days of his stay in Toronto when the winter season was on itsway itself he would start getting severe headache. And, the thought of his native place would invariably turn him nostalgic. He would be overwhelmed with the urge to take a deep plunge in Cashorina beach. The yearning to recline near the Navali sand mounds and enjoy watching the fields spread far and wide, the crownland seashore that could be seen faraway, ‘Kallundai’ space, the palm girls swaying in the wind would grip him painfully. But, as years passed he became accustomed to Toronto. Winter season and the snow do not threaten him now. They too have become familiar to him. These days darkness sets in early. By 4.30 or 5 o’clock darkness comes to shroud everywhere. In the mild darkness this concrete jungle is all ready to retire for the day. Tall and long, the CN Tower could be seen faraway and even from a great distance its outline stands out in all elegance. For the heart and mind that enjoy all these usually, today seem to be a holiday. For, the heart keeps thinking of Banu and aching for Banu alone. Bhanumathi is his better half. It would take at least an hour for the better half to reach home. Some how a solution should be found out to this problem, before the close of today. Arriving at this decision within, he goes inside. And there, taking Taquila and Marguerite and mixing them in proportion and taking out ice-cubes from the fridge and putting them also, he comes back to the balcony. While in his native place his favorite drinks were ‘Panag Kallu’ and ‘Kuranku’ (palmwine and arrack). Whoever has named it ‘Kuranku’ (Monkey), God blesses her/him soul and that blessed person should be given a mouthful of sugar for giving such a name. That monkey was powerful enough to clear the doubts of these who nurtured doubts about our ancestry. And, of the drinks of this country none is to his liking. Whatever large quantities gulped he never could get from ‘Kuranku’. It could be a symptom of his getting on in age. But, this Taquela he likes to some extent.

The very introduction of Taquila came his way only because of his going to play ‘guitar’. Please don’t break your head wondering what could be the relevance of Taquila to guitar playing. Playing guitar is the code-language for washing the dishes in the restaurant. That’s all. The first job that came his way on his arrival in Canada was this ‘playing guitar’. Greek’s restaurant. When it comes to work, as Kaundamani (Tamil comedy actor) would often say ‘ he would slog like a bull’. And, the Greeks like such human bulls very much. And, they also like to extract work that required animal strength. But, if you work to their content then they would treat you so well as none else could.

Before coming to Canada itself he was working in a Greek ship. Thus he had learnt a little about the Greeks. When he was writing G.C.E (O/L) he had studied something about such scientists as ‘Archimdedes’. The Greeks have an important role in the growth and development of human civilization. It is a human race that reigned supreme once upon a time. Just like us the Greeks too love to speak about past glory. That too, just like us they would feel extremely joyous if we were to utter the name of Archimedes or Plato. The knowledge that Sababathi had gained about the Greeks always come handy whenever he works with the Greeks. The restaurant owner Peter who was also bowled over by his ‘Greek’ knowledge, quality of work and pleasing manners would mix a drink with proportionate cocktail with his own hands, when Sababathi would be leaving for home after the day’s work. Refreshing it with the fatigue of the day’s toil leaving him the Greek would listen to his words about Aristotle all too eagerly. ‘The English alone are responsible for all the problems of the world. Not just your country alone, but they have ruined us also”, So Peter would often say. That restaurant experience helps him today

He drinks one mouthful. That is indeed soothing to the heart. Again, thoughts about Bhanumathi fill him. Problem is this. He and Bhanumathy got married just one year back. The problem that has not arisen for the whole year has come to be for the past one month. All because of a story that he heard last month. The story that was floated around in a small party thrown by a friend was the cause for the rise of a scorching tongue of flame in his mind. In drunken severely his friends were discussing about the fraudulent action committed of late by a few in the name of agents. They were shedding tears for those hapless women who are undergoing all kinds of travails and trauma in Thailand and Singapore. Among the friends one was working as an agent. He got angry and shouted at those who were speaking ill of the agent-clan. ‘There are criminals everywhere, in all fields. For that, decrying all agents and calling them all scoundrels is wrong.’ That was his line of argument. Of course, true only. ‘But for those called agents the population of our people would not have multiplied here. Aren’t our agents experts in finding a way even through the needle-hole’. Sababathi also has come to Canada through an agent only. Criminals are there at all levels and it applies in the case of agents also. This is Sabbath’s contention too. The way our men are being ruined it is all because of our country’s prevailing climate. It is this climate that forces every one of us to run hither and thither for shelter. This is the source foe all kind of problems. Therefore, if our country’s condition could improve then all the mischiefs and mismanagement would rapidly go down’, so another friend was reasoning out. Till that point there was no problem for Sababathi. It was only after that when they started discussing about an agent the problem started.

It was about an agent living in Toronto with his wife and children. It was that agent who brought Bhanumathi also to Canada. The fire of suspicion started raging high. With this agent Bhanumathi had retained herself in Singapore for a month. The very thought of it all proved unbearable. Bhanumathy’s beauty would drive everyone mad. And, it drove him insane to the core, to say the least. Voluptuous body. However much loosely the dresses are worn they would never hide her shapely body, its mounds and curves that would look swelling forever. The very reason for his growing fire of suspicion is her extra-ordinary beauty. Once again he gulped one mouthful. The drink that went inside started playing its tricks.

‘Shall I ask? Shall I spell out the doubt that is eating my heart? How to ask? Won’t she spit at me? But, it is remained unasked the turmoil within would surely break his head and soul. What to do? She is also toiling hard as a two-legged animal in a factory. And how to ask her who would be returning home utterly spent out…’ The more he tried to curb it the turmoil raging in his heart grew worse.

Christina would often say: “I will marry any Tom, Dick and Harry but never an Indian. Never at all.”

“Why Christina? There are none in the world as patient as the Indian men. Do you know that?”

“Come on, don’t bluff Sababathi. I’ve seen your Ramayana. Your God Rama himself suspected his wife and forced her to undergo the test by fire. Didn’t he? “ Christina worked with him as a waitress in that Greek restaurant. Some were color fanatics. They won’t chat much. Among them she was an exception. As far as she was concerned Sri Lanka or Pakistan or Bangladesh or India… those who came from these parts were all Indians only. In this she is a little different from those who are color-fanatics. For those color fanatics all those who come from these parts are Pakis. That alone is the difference.

“Sababathi, look at your Rama. You place him on a pedestal, call him God and worship him and give him your offerings. But, he couldn’t believe even his own wife. Whatever reason he could come out for his thought and deed of doubting his wife it was wrong on his part to have subjected Seetha to test by fire.”

“In truth, Rama didn’t suspect his wife at all. He knew that his wife was blemishless, purity-personified. He subjected her to that test only to let the world know of her chastity and loyalty.”

‘That very act is what I call wrong. Lord Rama himself who is an incarnation of God doing so makes it right on the part of one and all to suspect their wives and subject them to such tests.”

‘What is wrong in that? “

“Ofcourse, it is wrong. Marriage is not an ordinary thing. It is a rare kind of relationship or togetherness where they rely on each other and believe each other all through their lives. For this mutual belief if of paramount importance. Each one should respect the right of the other person. Did Seetha go to Ravana willingly? If the Epic was written in such a way that the people suspected her chastity and fidelity but Rama accepted her back whole heartedly with no doubt whatsoever then Ramayan would’ve been my favorite story. Look us at us. Till we get married we are living as we please. After marriage we are not bothered about our past lives. But you Indians, you would go with any number of women. But, your wife should be chaste and loyal.”

Christina’s voice could be heard within. It was as if she was giving out her typical laughter from closeby. Sababathi drinks another mouthful. His heart turns lighter still, and breaks. ‘In what way I am qualified to ask Bhanu? Do I have a valid reason to confront her with such a question? As a wife, has she ever let me down? Has she ever lacked in anything? Voicing my doubt to her, oh won’t I demean my status as a husband? When it is wrongful even to suspect our wife do I have atleast the moral right to do so? Or, to put it more precisely, an I qualified to do so?’

As the kick of the liquor increases Sababathi’s mind invariably starts walking down the memory’s lane. Memories that are snakes that come out from the snake hole and dance dangerously. At that time he had just set foot on the first step of youth. It was the time when he had started working in the ship and was busy listing down the differences between the beauty of the Thailand dames and that of South America. Has she ever told Bhanumathy about his past? By chance, listening about the wayward life style of those employed in the ship and growing suspicious if she were to come and seek explanation from him how bad it would make him feel?

“Look at us. After marriage we never bother about our past. But, you Indians…”

‘The full meaning of what you said was beyond my comprehension that day. But now…. ‘ Sababathi gulps the remaining drink. What happened to the headache that was throbbing unbearably? ‘It is time for cup of coffee for her who would be returning all exhausted after the day’s work?’ Sababathi gets ready to welcome his fatigue filled wife. If only Christina had witnessed this she would have surely reviewed her viewpoint about Indian husband.

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Short Story: MICE By V.N.Giritharan [ English Translation From Tamil By Latha Ramakrishnan ]

Troubles caused by cockroaches proved unbearable. Undertook all possible efforts. Right from the Chinese chalk, no way was left untried. But, all in vain. Cockroaches remained the victors forever. At last, attaining the grace to accept defeat and valiantly moving over to another apartment- such a move provided not the expected relief but alas, it turned out to be from the frying pan into the fire. Instead of cockroaches mice caused untold agonies. In Canada, only the buildings have risen sky-high and not the rats. For me who was so used to seeing the fleshy, fatty rats of our rural sides these mice appeared queer. In different parts of the globe, in different soils living beings do exist in different forms. My better half’s continuous grumbling and complaints were another reason for my attention to be focussed on the mice. The way our child too started enjoying the sight of those insects and mice that were running hither and thither added to our woes. “Look here, if you are not going to get rid of your mice I’m not going to stay here for another moment. We have a crawling baby at home, don’t you remember…” Within six months from setting foot in Canada the mother tongue becomes kind of alien to many. But even after six years my wife continues to speak in uncontaminated pure Jaffna Tamil. If I spoke of those who’ve forgotten tamil “that is all humbug…dirty presentation..” so, she would say.. I could bear with anything but not with her grumbling and likerings. And, till I set out to find some solution to this burning problem she wouldn’t leave me in peace. So, I decided to meet the mice in the battlefield, so to say. Of course, various strategies should be awarded for victory in warfare. The first step should be to know about our enemies, i.e., the mice. The more we gather valuable information about them the easier their capture could be. Initially we didn’t think much of the mice. It was when they started having a go at rice, flour etc that we became to the empending danger. If left unchecked, the situation could go out of control. I started realizing that my wife’s grumbling was justifiable. I decided to probe into the affairs of the mice after my better half and offspring went to bed. This investigative indulgence would prove helpful in selecting the appropriate spots for placing the newly bought mousetraps.

Bringing rice and flour and keeping them on the dining table I came away and reclining on the sofa switched on the TV Eagerly awaiting the arrival of the mice and keeping vigil in hope and expectation at random. I was watching the Letterman’s boring feats also. Time was running. In one corner of the wall there was a thin horse. I sharpened my eyes and ears. Close to that old sofa that was placed near the dining table a tiny head as that which we would call grain-sized peeped out slowly. Eyes as black tiny beads. Tiny ears. For a moment there was absolutely no movement. It was then that something stirred in my throat and a sneeze exploded. However much I tried to control it I couldn’t. Out came that with a bang. You should see the speed of the mouse. It flew away. No can even say that it had just disappeared from the scene. After a short pause when everything remained still and silent the tiny head re-appeared. And, the black beady eyes; ‘Winnowing-fan’ ears.

This time I was watching in utter quiet. Seemed like, only after searching for rice and flour in their usual places in the kitchen area and following their scent it had come by the side of the dining table. Inside me there arose a strange wish. In order not to facilitate its climb to the dining table I had already moved the chairs a little away from the table. Wondering how it would realize its climb, curbing my movements as much as possible, I was following its movements with alert and watchful eyes. I had already realizes that even a flicker of a movement was enough to warn it. After wandering hither and thither for a while, sniffing the rise it had fallen under the table. For sometime it remained calm in that position, keeping its ears all alert. Then raising its tiny head upward it looked above once looked like it had guessed the place where the food was kept. I could feel the movement of my wife inside the room, consoling our child that was crying in sleep, and slowly rolling over. Every life in the world tries and tries hard all through its existence. As like this mouse or as like me, we can say. Because war has come to be, since the day of leaving our land what all efforts in what all ways…If one turns out not ok another attempt. Even if one succeeds, one more trial. What a wonderful, great grand world. A world full of mystery. This mouse is now struggling again and again to climb up one of the steep legs of the table. Its movements spell out its intense desire to get on to the table and search the food somehow.

Scaling and falling down, scaling and falling down, the mouse was so going on trying. Sometimes it might succeed in his attempts. Sometimes it might not. But it didn’t seem to be the type which would get disheartened by failures and stop trying. Till the final victory is achieved or till it falls down utterly exhausted it would surely continue its efforts. What an awe-inspiring will power in this tiny piece of life. What grit and determination!

My wife’s grumbling and complaints to find a way to do away with mice came to mind vaquely.Oh! My foolish woman, don’t these mice to have their family, kids and such other relationships, just like us? And, who can say how many lives are there relying on this one tiny life? Just because it eats a few grains or food particles, say what at all do we lose…?

Sleep was weighing heavy on my eyes. But, that small little being didn’t seem to stop at all. In my half-asleep state also the sound of its feather touch movements could be seen.

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Short Story: A CO(W)UNTRY ISSUE By V.N.Giritharan

Canadian Tamil Literature
English Translation From Tamil By Latha Ramakrishnan
Edited by Betsy Harrell (USA)

As it was Sunday the road looked less crowded than usual. No traffic jam, either. Ponnaiya’s Honda Accord was creeping smoothly along St.Clair West. Driving a car during Sundays or holidays was Ponnaiya’s passion, so to speak. With no tension and no worry about some one honking the horn behind, he could drive leisurely, indulging in sight-seeing and so enjoying the city. A pleasure, indeed. Alas, the point arrived where Sundays were no longer a day without the honking horns. The city was growing day by day. As it swelled, the people, too, were starting to lose their patience, so at times like this Ponnaiya would tell himself , “As fast as the growth of the city, people’s standard of living should also grow. Otherwise, problems are bound to multiply”.

Going past Old Weston road and also Keele’s intersection, the car meandered along. On the left side, the Beef Packers slaughterhouse has spread, occupying a vast space. A great, grand butcher house stood there where hundreds of cows were put to death and cut to pieces every day. By nature, Ponnaiya was kind -hearted. He would prefer to love one and all living beings. As long as he was in his native place he had remained a strict Vegetarian. But after coming here, he gradually changed. Yet for the kind of climate prevailing here, if man is not to eat meat he would be gone in no time!

Suddenly, the creeping traffic was disrupted. Ponnaiya looked at his watch. It was well past eleven o’clock. The Punjabiwallah had asked him to come by ten. The one garage that Ponnaiya knew to be fair was the Punjabiwala’s. There was a slight jerk in the steering of the car and ever since yesterday Ponnaiya had been anxious to take it in. But What is this untimely traffic jam? Wondering, he looked in front to find out what was the matter.

A crowd had gathered as if for a carnival. Ponnaiya reflected how in their bent for curiosity all men are one and the same. As there stood a huge Beef Packers’ truck blocking his view, he couldn’t see clearly. Looking at a chinese man who was standing at the road side watching what was happening, Ponnaiya called out. “Hi man, what is the matter? What’s going on?”

The Chinese with the help of the little English that he knew , said, “Beef..escape…slaughter.” A White man who was standing next to him laughed at his broken English. Ponnaiya also felt like laughing. Both had understood though. A cow had escaped from the slaughterhouse.

There arose in Ponnaiya some sympathy for the poor unknown cow that had a narrow escape from the jaws of death. Turning the car off the road and parking it in a corner, Ponnaiya got out to mingle among the crowd, which was watching the proceedings.

The cow stood on the street car rails, glaring at those who were standing around and happily watching it. Ponnaiya could feel the fear of death lurking in its eyes. Its pathetic sight touched his inner chord of human kindness and saddened him. Ponnaiya started worrying. “How long can you poor animal of five senses hold out? My dear, stupid cow. Can you compete with man and come out unscathed and successful?”

Another thought struck him. ‘What would this cow be feelings now? What had this lone creature suffered to escape and come this far?” He couldn’t help picturing the rest of the cows inside the slaughterhouse waiting for their turn to be butchered.

“‘Poor cow, it is not able to realize the tenuous nature of the freedom it has won, and that is why it is struggling with all its might to protect this freedom”. And he couldn’t help thinking of those in his native land. “How many are there who are exactly in the same situation as this cow? There are those who escape in a haphazard manner and then are caught again, and those who, unable to find any way, die where they are.”

Again his attention was drawn to the cow. Still it was vehemently challenging all those trying to go closer. Yet, when nobody was moving in its direction, it stood silently with a kind of helpless fear, looking like sorrow personified. From it eyes, slowly, drop by drop, tears were rolling down. ” What is the cause for those tears? What is it thinking about now, that makes it cry? Is it crying for its helpless condition? Or is it thinking of the way those villainous men lie in wait for its flesh and hide, and how its life to come to a standstill, trapped and soon to be guillotined? Why is the poor animal is shedding tears..?’

Suddenly a new thought rose in Ponnaiya . “What if I pay for the cow and so save its life? At home in Jaffna we could at least tie it in the backyard. But where could I keep it here? In the apartment? And even if I am able to save it, will saving just this one cow alone solve the problem of all the rest of the cows who are in the exactly same situation as this one.?”

Meanwhile, someone must have informed the police about the cow causing a traffic jam. With emergency light flashing and ever-wailing siren a police car rushed to the commotion. Two policemen alighted from it. Making a lasso with a rope, they struggled for some time. But could not move the bovine, which stood its ground determination. A large crowd of reporters and T.V.crews had gathered with cameras.

‘The cow is involving in a life or death struggle, fighting to save its life. There’s one part of the crowd to overpower it and do away with it, another part to enjoy watching the excitement, another to photograph it, and also fourth that is indifferent or impotent to do anything!” To think that he was also one among this crowd Ponnaiya couldn’t help hating himself. Seeing that their efforts were not bearing fruit, the policemen assembled together and discussed different ways and means of capturing the cow now. Meanwhile, a large number of vehicles had come to a standstill on both sides of the road, causing an enormous traffic jam. The drivers who were far away and unable to know the reason for the traffic jam began to sound their horns one after another. The policemen realized that the situation was going out of control.

At last the cow problem came to an end. The poor beast’s love for freedom was cruelly crushed by a the two-legged animal who shot it with a tranquilizer. It fell on the ground and was carried off to the slaughterhouse.

The traffic began to flow again. One by one the crowd began to move away. Thinking that the Punjabiwala was sure to scold him for being late , Ponniah leapt inside his car. The recollection of cow’s love and zest and heroic fight for freedom made him feel a kind of respect and reverence for it. You won’t believe this, but from that day onwards Ponnaiya once again turned into a strict Vegetarian.

[Editor’s notes: “You make a very nice contrast between the serenity of Ponnaiya ‘s Sunday drive & the dreadful episode which follows. You make a wonderful, moving comparison between the doomed cow’s plight & the situation of your own Tamil people in Sri Lanka. You often express powerfully, e.g., ” a great, grand butcherhouse where hundreds of cows are done to death and cut to pieces every day. Your final sentence is perfect!”-Respectfully,Betsy Harrell (USA)]

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