Writers tend to portray important objects/events
as banal ones and the banal ones as something out of this world. This is a sort
of their obsession, just a technique to tell something differently, to take
recourse to sensationalism, or at least to remedy their own boredom. It is
their cleverness—well, we may call it so. In their effort to import newness to
their writing, they do not care a damn about making a god steal, an ignoramus
possess the divine wisdom, a weakling defy death and so forth. Lord Krishna
used to steal butter from the milkmaids; he used to try out his pranks by
pelting stones at the earthen pot on the head of the milkmaids. How beautiful
is the poem of the devotional poet Surdas—maiya mere mein nahin makhan khayo! (मैया मेरी मै नहीं माखन खायो) This
Bhajan of Anup Jalota is my all-time favourite. In my native district there is
a temple named Khirachora Gopinath which means lord Krishna that stole the
sweetened milk. And the legend has it that Lord Krishna, the presiding deity of
the temple once hid a bowl of sweetened milk out of those offered to him so
that he could pass it on to a devotee sleeping unfed in the town. Stealing an
object out of the ones offered to you? Illogical: yet let’s admit there is
something called the poetic licence!
Readers since time immemorial have liked
stories of Robin Hood who used loot and then distribute the loot among the
needy. Perugia stole Mona Lisa and a great mass of literature was churned out
on the event, so much so the thief was hailed as a great Italian patriot! Our
illustrious freedom fighters had looted treasuries of British India and the
daring exploits of our heroes have been extolled in the literature. The great
Oriya short story “Shikar” of Bhagawati Panigrahi that later became a film named “Mrigaya”
and won national awards can be taken as an example.
So, when big people act small or the small ones
the big, it becomes literature. Just a few days ago, I read a beautiful
sentence in the newspaper that attributed it to a judge of the Spreme Court of
India: There is no saint without a past and no sinner without a future.
[Justice Katju on Sunny Leone]
I know it is painful in real life, yet it
can be a piece of funny literature to describe the pranks of our rogue elephants
going into the kitchen and stealing rice and sugar. Even pachyderms are fond of
alcohol! I don’t know if anyone of us is really writing on this. There is no
tiger in our forests these days and so tiger stories would not come to our pen
so easily. Really, how lucky was Jim Corbett to have lived in the cusp between
nineteenth and twentieth century when there were tigers in Kumaon! Similarly, a
monkey stealing a pair of specs and a mobile phone from the hostel should supply
interesting materials to develop into stories. One can even make these animals
speak and act like human beings, say like a boy-elephant chasing an elephant girl for love or
defeating his competitors in antakshari.
Some fifteen years ago or so, it was
discovered in a certain community development block of Orissa that the numbers
of wells dug as per the records of the Block Development Officer was
substantially more than what was physically found. So an FIR was lodged that
wells have been stolen. Can wells be stolen? Even poetic license would not
allow such a fantasy. Poets can go to the extent of stealing a glance or stealing
sleep or, at best, stealing somebody’s heart! And not more than that.
Corruption has more power than poetry: only the manner of utilization differs.
And even I know (or rather I can produce
the victim) of a person whose blood was stolen. He was donating blood and it
was agreed that only one bottle of blood would be taken. But when the second
was taken and then the third one was inserted, the fellow protested. And the
rest I have forgotten. And if I have to imagine what had happened then, let me
say the victim was compensated with an offer of two ripe bananas. That is that.
A thief’s confession could be a great
story, but how to meet one? At least on two occasions people have proposed to
share their private stories with their request to fictionalize them, but ultimately
they have restrained themselves. Really, I had expected from them something authentic
and romantic, but their gestures were only too tentative. Then I felt cheated…and
that is that.
A. N. Nanda