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.

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I'm a peace-loving married Indian male on the right side of '50 with college-going children, and presently employed under government. Educationally I've a master's degree in History, and another in Computer Application. Besides, I've a post graduate diploma in Management. My published works are:- (1)"In Harness", ISBN 81-8157-183-5, a poetry collections and (2) "The Remix of Orchid", ISBN 978-81-7525-729-0, a short story collections with a foreword by Mr. Ruskin Bond, (3) "Virasat", ISBN 978-81-7525-982-9, again a short story collection but in Hindi, (4) "Ek Saal Baad," ISBN 978-81-906496-8-1, my second Story Collection in Hindi.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Salvation-II

The Salvation-II
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Milkha, the fellow from the small principality under the British rule was falsely implicated in a case of sedition and was banished to the island of the Andamans where there were only sufferings for him to endure. He was tortured by the officials and Milkha tried to escape the agony come what may. In the process, let us see, what happened to him to make him a ghost...and a patriotic ghost at that. Read on...
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Finally, Milkha had reached the limit of his endurance. Yes, for him it was his limit. He could not have continued assenting to the carnal misuse of his body. It was time he took the crucial decision of his life as a deportee.

‘Oh, the protector of my life! This humble fellow supplicates to you...have some mercy on him,’ Milkha gave his best encomiums hoping to draw the lenient attention of the Jamadar-supervisor on duty.

‘What...what’s that you rot want from me? My distinguished bone-breaking kick or what?’ the Jamadar was derisive but unusually soft in his tone. This fact encouraged Milkha to try on.

‘My benevolent saviour! This forever object of your kick has a terrible pain in his rotten belly. Kindly have some mercy,’ Milkha pleaded maintaining effectively the same subservient tone.

                        With a lot of initial hesitation the supervisor finally yielded to the rarest of good sense within himself. He removed the shackles from Milkha’s legs, gave him a mild kick, and asked him to proceed to hospital to consult the physician over there.
                        Milkha left that place and slowly headed for the hospital. When he was sure he had moved sufficiently away from the watchful view of the supervisor, he swerved into the jungle and thereafter towards the creek where it was negotiable. Now was time to cross the creek for liberty’s sake. With his knowledge of swimming that was only rudimentary, Milkha was out to take the last desperate gamble of his life. A burning desire to flee, a nebulous call to meet the unknown, and the blinding charm of the liberty plunged him into the water right away. The width of the creek was not much—barely a hundred metres or so. Despite his not being an expert swimmer, Milkha could have crossed it with ease; but his encounter with a man-eating shark pushed him on his way to his ultimate fate. After fighting a desperate bout with the wandering pelagian he gave in. Fatally wounded, he managed to somehow wade his way to the rocky shore. There was hardly any hope of his recovery. None came to his rescue. He died the death of a wounded boar in the deserted corner of the jungle.
                        Death could not end Milkha. It could only jettison his soul out of his ephemeral body. For a soul that was busy till a moment ago chasing its far dream of emancipation, it was not easy to give up. Milkha, the ghost lingered on. He wandered about the places in search of opportunity to punish the officers of penal settlement to satiate his psyche. He went everywhere his spectral proclivities took him—to the peak of Mt Harriet, to the beaches of Wandoor and Chidiya Tapu, and to the furthest islands of Nancowrie and Teressa. As his permanent abode of meditation he finally chose the cave near the jungle at Wandoor beach—not for its serene backdrop only, but for its special spectral ambience. It was in this colony of ghosts and goblins that he met his companion-confidant Lal Bawa who enlightened him how to conduct himself well in his new role as a phantom. But his pursuit of liberty through enlightenment came to an abrupt end on that fateful day of devastation—the earthquake of June 1941.
*         *          *          *          *
                        Liberated from the stony trap, Milkha was lost in momentary aimlessness. His incorporeal impulse in high effervescence, he just moved about the places touching the landmarks of the island. What could have been his first choice if it was not the Cellular Jail? At first glance of the place, Milkha could feel the difference. The whole place wore an entirely changed look. It had a nicely laid out lawns with meticulously manicured hedges along the cobbled paths. The lighting arrangement over there was quite elaborate. He came to observe from the signposts that the structure had been elevated to the status of a national memorial, a befitting classification for a venue of that importance. But Milkha was very unhappy to see that the awe-inspiring structure of the jail had not survived intact to the present day. A few of the wings had been demolished to give way to the modern constructions.
                        Soon after, the patriot-ghost left the place and went round the town. There had been a sea change everywhere, a change that touched and tampered almost every aspect of the topography. With roads wider and houses multiplied in their concrete incarnations, with trees cleared and swamps filled, with hillocks razed and shores walled, Port Blair surprised Milkha more than it welcomed him. Not many log houses of the past were in sight. The horse carriages of the past had given way to the fuming automobiles. There were a lot more shoppers and shopkeepers in the bazaar than Milkha was familiar with, more boats moored to the quays than it was the case in his time. There were light posts everywhere capable of inundating a flood of light in whole of the township and keeping the darkness at bay. All these made him feel ill at ease in his old habitat. It was definitely not the place Milkha wanted to visit to assuage his nostalgia. Dismayed, he was now ready to leave for his cave.
                        As he was about to move, he came to hear some music playing nearby. What was that the melody reminded him about? It sounded very much like the opening concert of the open-air plays he used to organise at his home town before misfortune overtook him. The attraction of the old music was irresistible and Milkha felt like bursting into a song. It was a feast for his psyche. To get the better feel of things, he went inside the hall gingerly, making sure he did not disturb anybody in the process.
                        And what did he find there? Inside the hall, Milkha found a dozen of souls deeply engrossed in some serious business. Quietly, he sat down on an empty bench and tried to concentrate on their activities and conversation. It did not take him any length of time to know that he was among a group of artists, rehearsing a play to be staged that night.
                        The title of the drama was a historical one, an episode that eulogised the heroic exploits of Sher Ali, the deportee who assassinated Viceroy Lord Mayo. He accomplished that when the viceroy was on his tour of the island, a place then full of the victims of colonial injustice. No topic would have excited Milkha more than the present one. The patriot-apparition was bodily alive when Sher Ali executed his plan with enviable perfection. The chained convicts, the reformed convicts, and the deportees—all were jubilant to receive the news of the success of Sher Ali. Milkha had felt deeply anguished when Sher Ali was finally executed on 11th March 1872, thirty-two days after the calamity. Repeatedly thereafter he had dreamt about it. In his dream, he used to grab the gullet of the cruel superintendent in his left hand and a dagger in his right, and sometimes he even went to a point where his victim was just a thrust away from his end. Milkha cherished to actually emulate the example of Sher Ali and give at least one more tormentors a lesson of his life. He was for setting yet another example before the perpetrators to dread. But queer was the course of history; an achievement of that magnitude was not to happen again and again. At least Milkha was not so lucky. Seated on the bench and spellbound, he watched the proceedings there with total involvement.

‘Where is that unthinking duffer called Mihir? Where is that callow youth called Mihir? My God, what’s that sin you’re punishing me for? The show is only a few hours away and where have you hidden my thespian?’ the director went on blabbering his choicest invectives. His reputation at stake, he did not even spare god.

‘We can’t wait any longer. I feel we’ve to rush through our parts and get ready for the show,’ one of the actors insisted.

‘Rushing through what? A play without a hero...what a big hassle! Okay...Okay, you guys go ahead. Let me be here waiting for the irresponsible absentee,’ the director went out in a fit of perturbation.

                        Milkha could not initially figure out the reason for the director’s worry. But in due course this too became clear to him. He came to know that a person by the name of Mihir, who was cast on the lead role of the play as Sher Ali, was missing. The director had managed the rehearsal putting a dummy in place of the absentee. But that did not solve the problem. As the afternoon wore on, they all began to feel panicky. It was now a prestige issue. Among the guests invited were the persons of national and international fame. Cancelling a show of this significance would mean getting blacklisted in the books of the Zonal Cultural Centre. It would ultimately mean cessation of all the future sponsorships and the death for the dramatic institution.

[To be concluded....]
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By
A. N. Nanda
Shimla
20-09-2014
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