The Unadorned

My literary blog to keep track of my creative mood swings with poems n short stories, book reviews n humorous prose, travelogues n photography, reflections n translations, both in English n Hindi.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

In the Interest of Justice

This is a story from my book "विरासत" and I've translated it for those who have not read it in its original version in Hindi. One of these days I'll also post the original story. While translating it I've tried to keep its basic flavour. Hope my effort has met with some success.
In the Interest of Justice

It was enough for a sensational piece of news for the day’s newspaper. A letter was delivered twenty years after it was posted in a letterbox—that was the subject matter. People would have read it, enjoyed the humour out of it, but, surely, would have rejected it as a piece of frivolous news.

But Mr Mitrabhanu Mohapatra was determined to kick up a row. It was but natural—with the empowerment of consumers everything is possible these days. They have dedicated courts and many, many laws to protect them, and oftentimes verdicts are pronounced securing them whooping reliefs.

Mitrabhanu Mohapatra was a lawyer by profession who understood pretty well the intricacies of law and legal procedures. It was a different matter that despite his knowledge he did not achieve any spectacular success in his profession. His talent did not take him either to the doors of honourable High Court of Judicature or to the Supreme Court of India, for that matter. For the last twenty years he had been wearing a black coat and was mechanically regular in attendance in the precincts of the local court but so far as practice was concerned, he used to get a case to plead only rarely. Despite such low-key profile, he used to earn something to manage his needs and that was, again, by dint of his mental prowess.

One day he had to visit the local post office in some connection. God only knew what transpired there, he began to altercate with a postal employee. As was his wont, the postmaster tried to patch up the issue then and there but to no avail. Ultimately Mr Mitrabhanu Mohapatra left the spot in a huff.

Miffed Mr Mohapatra was now determined to teach the post office a lesson but he was not in a hurry; he would rather wait for the opportune moment. Make no mistake, he was a lawyer and it was his daily chore to intrigue and inflict—victim could be anybody. On returning home he ferreted about the heap of old correspondence and got a postcard that was posted some twenty years ago. He was happy about his discovery; it exactly suited his design. The postmark was clear but only to the extent of the date of posting and, for some strange reason, its delivery date-stamp impression was missing. Mr Mohapatra rushed to the letterbox near his house and reposted it. Like other letters posted in that letterbox, that particular postcard was delivered to the addressee Mr Mohapatra the very next day. This time the date of delivery was clearly visible from the postmark.

‘Tut-tut, this is the example of a snail mail. Look! How it took twenty years to travel by post. Shame on the post,’ the ill-fated postcard in hand, Mr Mohapatra rushed to the office of the local newspaper.

The newspaper did its best, not different from what it usually would do with other sensational pieces of news, but Mr Mitrabhanu Mohapatra was not happy with it. Only a piece of critical news appearing on a small column of the day’s newspaper did not convince him that appropriate action had been taken against the post office. It should be made to pay fine—that was the minimum; and he wanted to make that happen anyhow. 

So where should he go for that? Who would vindicate his stand? Well, there was the Consumer Forum, the saviour of all the harassed consumers of the land; they are quite welcome there. And when a lawyer was himself going as the complainant, it was a different story altogether. Besides, it was not an expensive affair at all; one should be prepared to spend only a rupee and a quarter. That’s all what was needed.

A postmark says the truth and nothing but the truth, always…very much like a looking glass. When it was posted and when it got actually delivered—everything can be seen with naked eyes. So, how did the poor postcard carry the truth of twenty years? Was it not a lame piece of postal article only, with no propulsion of its own, and endowed with no muscle, no locomotion?

The honourable Consumer Forum desired to know the content of the letter that allegedly suffered so much delay in delivery. It was read out to the forum from beginning to end. It was just a reminder issued to Mr Mohapatra by his debtor to repay the loan the former had borrowed from the latter. The sender of the letter had desired that Mr Mohapatra must return the amount he had defaulted by then. There were some more critical words indicating the lawyer’s doubtful integrity and stuff. Since the postcard was not delivered to him, he could not contest the aspersion of the sender on the lawyer’s integrity. In the process he remained a defaulter with his reputation so irreparably tarnished. 

This was the reason of his mental agony. That was why he had come before the honourable Consumer Forum with a demand of fifty thousand rupees as compensation from the Postal Department. Honourable Consumer Forum saw the reasonableness of the complaint, sympathised with the lawyer-complainant Mr Mitrabhanu Mohapatra and in all fairness ordered that the post office be fined an amount of fifty thousand rupees. It further ordered that the fine so levied would first be paid to the complainant and then recovered from the salaries of the postal employees responsible for the service breach.

The officers at the higher level of the department examined the decision of the forum. The option of going to the higher formation of the consumer justice system was weighed and legal opinions sought. Were it to be decided to implement the orders of the forum, then the question would remain: how to recover the amount from the employee? The matter was so complicated and so time-worn that it would have been unfair to hold any particular postal employee responsible for the so-called service deficiency. Nobody really desired to push such an action which was patently unfair, not even as a piece of default action.

A state of indecision thus prevailed in the department, one that ultimately led to a situation of default. Neither an appeal could be filed against the decision nor was there a decision to pay the fine and forget. In time Mr Mitrabhanu Mohapatra the winner filed another case in the court, this time with a prayer to recover the amount from the post office. Once again the court decided in favour of the lawyer and ordered that the chairs and tables of the post office be sold and the amount recovered be defrayed to the lawyer. 

Empowered by the decision of the court, one day Mr Mohapatra, accompanied by his people, went to the post office where he was once insulted. With no loss of time he took the entire load of post office furniture away. 

The post office was to be closed down.

After he reported the entire episode to his senior officer, the postmaster decided to restart the functioning of the post office. But how? There was not a chair left by Mr Mitrabhanu Mohapatra. The postmaster had to sit on the floor but it was not possible to transact any business. People who visited the post office were shocked finding the helplessness of the postmaster. Out of their goodwill for the post office they decided to do something about this. Post office is a servant of the society, a faithful servant for generations, and nobody was willing to ignore the development where a sincere servant had been so mercilessly maltreated.

It took just half an hour for all the youth of the locality to gather in the premises of the post office. All had this thing to say: ‘The action of the lawyer is squarely disgraceful. The miser of fellow, who would not even hesitate to suck a fly picking it up from the tumbler of milk, has not contributed for the worship of Lord Ganesh which we organised this year.’ Some were so much worked up that they even took an oath, ‘What does the lawyer think of himself? Isn’t he a dacoit, out to loot a post office? We must beat him at his own game. We must deflate his ego.’

Then the crowd headed for the house of Mr Mitrabhanu Mohapatra. He was now happy, rejoicing in his victory, being seated on a chair that he snatched from the post office. Finding him smugly enjoying his booty, the anger of the crowd just flared up. Off they went and pulled the lawyer down his chair and rained their kicks and blows on him cats and dogs. 

The unanimous action of the crowd, especially its kicks and boxes, opened his eyes perfectly. His hands folded and joined in a posture of surrender, repenting bitterly of his action, the lawyer came in front of the crowd to plead for their pardon. He was then bleeding profusely, but before he could even think of visiting the hospital, he quickly called a truck and returned the entire load of furniture to the post office.

The postmaster is very happy these days. On rare occasions when he is in a mood to brag, he says, ‘It’s not easy anymore for a villain, even to cast his evil glance on a post office. Look, all the bad fellows on earth! It’s in your interest to remember that post office resides in the hearts of people!’
A N Nanda

Labels: , ,

Monday, April 14, 2014


Happy Baisakhi to all. Let the new year bring us things to rejoice.
The Silver Stream in the Emerald Valley:Tirthan Valley
The Chiaroscuro: Going down Rohtang Pass to Koksar
Honey for Your Breakfast: Kullu
The Smiling and Sweet Peaks: On way to Manikarn
The Peeping Moon:Soja
And Here Flows the Eternal Spring: Sangla Valley
Making Her Presence Felt: The Spiti River, Kaza
Cooking Made Easy: The Hot Water Stream, Manikarn
The Flow from the Heaven: Lahaul Valley
Height No Bar: A Temple at Haripurdhar
Making the Best out of Snow: Solang Nala, April, 2014
Modern Ghatotkachha about to Show his Biceps: Hadimba Temple, Manali
When Simple Walk would not Do:Run, Run

A N Nanda

Labels: ,

Thursday, April 10, 2014

My Village Barber

The caste system will go ultimately. A hundred years from now, people will find it difficult to distinguish between a brahmin and barber. When the whole thing goes into the depth of oblivion, people will forget all the negatives associated with it; only literature, paintings and other objects of art will make them stay in the memories of the future generation. I can cite the example of palanquin here. We don't use palanquin these days but this object of transport has been immortalised through innumerable paintings. It's hard to remember that this object was once instrumental in degrading the dignity of some who were made to work as the palanquin bearers. In mythology we find a king employing a monk to carry his palanquin on his shoulder! Now, as for the exact historical use of it, what one can visualise is only the romantic dimension associated with it: the newly-wed bride aboard a palanquin going to her husband's place with a lot of dreams, the bearers singing their tunes to entertain the beautiful lady sitting behind the veil.... Some day barbers and brahmins will have to be illustrated in the dictionaries for imparting the meaning of the words. 

My Village Barber

 Sitting folded his rickety legs
Knees projecting to shoulder height
With his dirty loin clothe sans undergarment
On the ancient bricks seasoned and hardened,
The old man did his brisk business
Month after month, year after year
My village barber.

Blunt razors honed umpteenth over
On the broken slate, the precious vintage
Stiff scissors for cutting hair
Of heads smooth or soiled, grey or bald
Thinned alum smeared with soap dried
Belonged to him as possessions dear
My village barber.

He could silence the juvenile impatience
Clasping tiny heads between his knees
Passing foul wind in cunning stealth
Straight into the nostrils of the hapless child
Raising dreadful screams to intimidate and scare
Yapping garrulous hour after hour
My village barber.

Broken English to impose his judgement
He feigned ignorance of dirty secrets
Shared gossips withholding their source
Agreed and cheered the rich and the famous
Had little time for his poor patrons
Treating their heads with disdain for ever
My village barber.

He took care of everybody's head
In every nook of my tiny village
They took care of his belly in exchange
Doling out each a mound of grains
A due for the hand that did care
A share for the hair- just and fair
My village barber.

Sons and daughters groomed unlettered
For schools modern would make them wayward
The leather and iron, the glass and alum
Stacked inside the box wooden
Had all the answers to his problems mundane
His present was vital, future misnomer
My village barber.

Age withered away his witty existence
A family of five left bereaved
With fashion flew his all customers
To the town saloons at dingy corners
His new generation with their fumbling future
Scrambled the soil as marginal farmer
My village barber.



A N Nanda


Tuesday, April 08, 2014

A New Poem

Photo credit: Shefali
Today we had a wonderful poetic evening amidst talented poets, a kavi sammelan. I had my contribution too. This time my poem did not come out of the cauldron of translation. It is a direct composition in Hindi. I enjoyed writing it and then reciting it amidst applause; but I must say the more soul-stirring experience to me was to listen to others. Dr Nandkishore Nandan, the revered chief guest was at his best, as always. He was transformed into a 70-year young, the captain of the street cricket team playing at Ridge Shimla stirring his muse to produce the freshest poem in his repertoire. He had romantic and rebellious poems too, his heart weeping in pain seeing mother Nature disregarded, over-exploited and fast heading towards an ominous future; the condition of deprived sections of the society going from bad to worse every passing day. Dr Saraswat had the grace of a poet in all his gestures, not only restricted to the words and expressions he used in his nice poems of spiritual theme. Dr Usha Bande had an English poem to render--so full of sensitivity, struggle and hope! Dr Pankaj Kapoor had a awesome simile to depict the trivialisation in human relationship: there's no iron in our blood so that the magnet of human warmth can attract us each other. How true! Mr Ratiram Sharma had his muse drawn from the herdsman of Himalayas who have hard lives to live but leaving the footprints of wisdom behind them everywhere they moved. Madam Sangeeta recited a poem that sparked in her mind finding winter this year so obstinately prolonging even up to the end of March, one that slightly matched my last post, not in words but in spirit. Poets of Shimla feel and think alike! it was a wonderful evening at the end of the day. 

Here is what I recited.

             नंगे पाँव 

देखा तो नहीं, फिर भी जानता हूँ मैं भली-भाँति   
मेरे अपने जन्म का वृतांत, निहायत कोरा-सा
निर्बल, निर्वस्त्र, परन्तु निसंकोच, निधड़क, गुमनाम
ऐसे क्यों ?
मालिक से मिले आदेश, शायद भुलना कठिन था   
बस, चलना तो था, और चलता ही रहा ।
जूतों के बगैर मैंने काम तो बड़ा किया  
बड़ी-सी छलांग लगाई, इस धरती पर आ टपका,  
कोई फरक न पड़ा, एक भी अंग न टूटा
माँ का दुलार मिला, चलने का हक मिला
नदी में तैरना हुआ, और पेड़ों पर चढ़ता गया
आखिर जूतों के वगैर मैंने सब कुछ तो कर ही लिया !
वाह! जूतों के वगैर मैंने सब कुछ तो कर ही लिया!

मुझे याद है उस बुजुर्ग को मरते हुए देख  
अरसे बीत गए हैं पर याद मेरी अब भी ताज़ी है
बुजुर्ग लपेटे गए थे कपड़े बिलकुल नए थे
गोरे-से ललाट पर, रोड़ी-चन्दन के लेप थे  
अंगूठी चाँदी की थी और कंधे से जनेव लटके  
पर नहीं थे जूते, पैर उनके बेजान ही थे ।

स्वर्ग में जाकर उस बेचारे ने क्या-क्या किया होगा.
खुदा ही जाने क्या-क्या किया होगा
इतनी दूरी थी फिर भी उन्हें पैदल वहाँ जाना था  
स्वर्ग है, कोई मामूली इलाका तो नहीं
आड़े-तिरछे हाईवे, ट्रैफ़िक लाईटें बेसुमार होंगे  
वहाँ के रास्ते पर क्या गद्दे सब फैलाए गए हैं?

बड़े धार्मिक स्वभाव के थे वे फिर भी
मान लो सिर्फ एक मिनट के लिए
अगर रास्ता भटक गए होंगे वे नरक की दिशा में  
वहाँ का माहौल कुछ अच्छा नहीं,
जैसा लोगों से सुना है मैंने  
जूतों के वगैर वहाँ क्या वे करते होंगे ?
स्वर्ग में जा कर या नरक की ओर भटक कर
जूतों के वगैर वहाँ क्या वे करते होंगे ?

जूते तो, ऐसा लगता है, स्वर्ग के आभूषण हैं
भरत ने सही चुना था रामजी को पूजने ।  
इस धरती पर जूतों का क्या काम है ?
सिर्फ इंसान की आदत बिगाड़ना उसे खूब आता है
जूते तो केवल लात मारने के काम आते हैं,
थप्पड़ की खड़खड़ाहट दूर-दूर तक सुनाने में 
घास, फूल-पतियों को रौंद डालने में
गले में जूतों का हार लटका कर
बड़े चोर द्वारा
छोटे चोर का बतंगड़ बनाने में
सिवाय उसके  
इस धरती पर जूतों का क्या काम है ?

आवेश में आ कर, इतने अनुराग से 
भई, जूतों की इबादत तो करते हो
दूसरों के जूते ख़ूब चमकाते हो,
दूसरों के जूते भी चाट लेते हो
कहाँ जाओगे इन्हें पहन कर?
हर जगह तो अब ट्रैफ़िक जाम है
इंसान के लिए केवल ज्ञान का धाम खुला है
वहाँ तक पहूँचने के लिए नंगे पाँव तो जाना है
फिर जूतों का क्या काम है ? 
इस धरती पर जूतों का क्या नाम है ?

जूते, चमड़े से तो बनते हैं, हम सब जानते हैं  
पर किसके थे ये चमड़े?
बेज़बान जानवर वे जो पगडण्डी चाटते हैं
सबके लिए सोचते है, ख़ामोशी से
सबकी भलाई चाहते हैं, दिल से, 
दधिची का हमारे लिए अपनी अस्थियों का त्यागना   
हम बड़ी आसानी से उसे भूल जाते हैं
जूते, चमड़े से तो बनते हैं, हम सब जानते हैं ।

कैसे विचार हैं देखो मालिक के   
घोड़ों को, गाय को—सबको पैदाइशी मिल गए जूते 
पर आते-आते इंसान की बारी, उनके स्टाक ख़त्म हो गए
कहने लगे, ‘अरे नर ! जानते नहीं, ज्यादा लालच बुरा है ?
बुद्धि, विवेक, सब कुछ तो झपट लिया झोली भर-भर कर
करोगे क्या इतना सिवाय सन्दूक में भरने के    
अब जूतों के लिए इतना हंगामा क्यों है ?
ज्ञान के बूते दो कदम फालतू चलने में तुम काबिल हो   
बस, जूतों की माँग को छोड़ उतने में खुश रहो
ज्ञान तक पहुँचने के लिए ज्ञान की पूँछ पकड़ो  
वहाँ तक जाने के लिए सूट-बूट की क्या ज़रुरत ?  
भूल जाओ है यह महज़ घटिया-सा अवसरवाद
जूतों के वगैर लिये हो जनम
और मरना ही होगा नंगे पाँव ।’
A N Nanda

Labels: ,