What is Your Name - contd
by Krishna Chaitanya
Back to page 1 of the story
We reached the front gate of the house which had been surrounded by a beautiful garden fenced all around. Vehemently I pushed the gate and both of us were in. "Act civilized," cried my uncle and deliberately closed the gate behind him.
"We are all great actors, indeed," said I through my burst of laugh.
"Shut up. Be civilized."
We were at the front door when he spoke CIVILIZED. There was no bell to ring. We had to tap at the door. My uncle smoothly tapped on the door for four times but no response from indoors. I tapped at the door like mad and cried, "Sharma garu. Sharma garu." A voice came from inside and we waited at the door. A tall, big man opened the door. His body was bare while a thick, white thread crossed across the chests. He wore a traditional lower. My uncle bowed him joining both his hands. So I did. And then, my uncle tried to stride into the house.
"Stop. Stop," screamed Mr. Sharma as if my uncle was going to step on a bomb. "What are you?"
My uncle perplexed. But I comprehended that the drama had started. A lesson to my uncle had begun.
"What am I?" exclaimed my uncle.
"Ah, man!" cried Mr. Sharma. "What are you?"
My uncle didn't understand what the prophet asked or he just appeared to be puzzled. But I started enjoying myself without being caught by anyone for my inapt entertainment.
"I'm from the nearby village," mumbled my uncle as if he misconstrue the ask of the prophet.
"Oh Shiva!" exclaimed the prophet in agitation. "I asked what are you?"
"Oh! Mr. Sharma garu!" returned my uncle with surprise, "How do you know my name?"
"Oh god!" cried the prophet. "First tell me what you are?"
I was enjoying the scene and the frustration of either fellows. But before the rage of this Brahmin burst out, I had to stop it. So I murmured into the ears of my uncle what did the prophet mean to ask. Then my uncle informed them what caste we belonged to.
"Wait outside!" said the prophet in a callous tone. Out of the blue my uncle's heart skedaddled down to the knees. "Only top casters are allowed inside. You may wait underneath that tent beside the garden I will come in a while."
My uncle's face turned into blue. Now yellow. Now orange. Now red. I could see a rainbow of emotions in his face. He was suffering with a great pain for the ill-treatment. He was crying and screaming within for the insult.
"What a dirty place to live!" exclaimed he in pain. "What's wrong with me? I am a man and he was a man. What was the difference he found? What made him higher than me? It hurt me deeply inside the heart. My nerves seemed to be squeezed. My heart appeared to be crumpled. My skin looked as if torn like a paper. My hands and legs were shivering enormously, within. Oh lord! what wrong did I do'"
"What wrong did my friend do?" inquired I through my burst of laugh. "What wrong did her family do? What wrong did the family of families living at the outskirts do?"
My uncle realized the theme. We left the place before the prophet came out. We were in lull all through the walk to my house. My uncle didn't come inside. He left in silence leaving me at my house.
It seemed the mud on his brain had been cleaned, as he came to school the next day and apologized my friend, Bharathi for his blunder earlier. He invited her to his house and my house too. He not only stopped there. He started demonstrating the villagers that all are equal and we should allow the families from outskirts everywhere like any other higher casters. Some of them agreed but most of them protested his opinions and proposals. But the most abandoned idea by the villagers, he brought to them was to allow those families into the divine village temple. A young person almost slapped him for bringing such a terrible proposal to them.
The most concerned person after the rejection of that idea was me, for I had promised Bharathi to take her to Shiva temple in our village. I seldom believed the presence of god only in temples. If he existed, he would be present everywhere. If not he would be nowhere. But what my grandmother always whispered at my ears was, "What you see is not just what exist, as there were existing things which you cannot see with your eyes." Did she mean
I had to use microscope? I was too small to comprehend her. All the nonsense. Whether exist or not, I had to take my little friend into temple. That's it.
Should I enlighten all the villagers just like the way I made clear to my uncle? It takes a lot of time.
What if I enlighten the priest who attend the temple every day? Will he listen to me? No way. He would feel it as an insult; insult despite enlightenment. And he would bring all his higher caste troops and fight against my family. I shouldn't take any chances. And never could I fulfill my friend's dream.
"Tonight I'm turning to eleven," said Bharathi.
"I remember. Tomorrow--your birthday," returned I. "Tonight I'm going to surprise you."
"You'll bring a cake for me?"
"You'll buy me a beautiful frock?"
"You'll take me to a movie?"
"You'll take me--"
"Please tell me," said Bharathi in anxiety.
"It's a surprise. I shouldn't reveal to you now."
In the evening, I was sitting on the terrace and watching the beautiful painting at the sky in the west. The sun stopped burning and slowly disappearing behind the canvas. It seemed it had changed its character. If such a giant body could change its character, why couldn't these tiniest beings change? I thought. They would, one day.
I stroke a chord, it's not the character of the sun that had changed but the way I think for it. So all that contained in mind.
It was eleven in the night when I started towards the outskirts. I reached there in fifteen minutes. Bharathi had already been waiting outside her house amid the still night. There was a dead silence around us. The sheet of darkness covered all over the village like the caste system covered the minds of the literate fools. But there was a hope that just like the dawn awakes the light over the night, the people would be enlighten one day.
I held her hand and walked towards a direction hastily.
"Where are we going Bramaramba?" puzzled Bharathi.
I brought a watch corkscrewed round my wrist. It had shown eleven fifty when we reached our destination.
"What the--" she cried, astonished. "Are you nuts?"
"I said it would be a great surprise, didn't I?"
"We are at the temple!" exclaimed she. She didn't blink her brows that minute.
"Wait! Wait!" said I. "It hasn't over yet."
I took a bunch of keys from my pocket and opened the front door of the temple with the right key. Slowly I pushed the heavy door and invited Bharathi inside as if I's inviting her to my home.
"In--Inside..." she mumbled with amazement and joy. "Are--Are you sure?"
"Come, come fast," cried I. "We got only three minutes for 12."
She entered into the premises of the temple for the first time with her trembling heart. She looked around the temple and felt it like a heaven. She moved here and there. Now touched a stone. Now hugged a GANTA STHAMBAM and rubbed her cheek against it.
"You--you are mad, dear!" fumbled she. "And made me mad too."
I didn't speak but clutched her hand and rushed towards the little room in the temple where Lord Shiva's idol was present.
"Hurry up, we got only one minute," said I.
By the time I picked up the key and unlocked the door, it was ten seconds left to change to date.
Bang. I opened the door and she entered into the room and looked at the idol of Lord Shiva. Tears rolled out of her eyes unintentionally. She held me tightly and fumbled some words. She went outside and returned in twenty minutes. She brought a coconut, flowers, DEEPAM and oil. She poured the water over the idol and did some kind of POOJA to the god. I just stared at her craziness and love towards the god. Looking at her, my greatest friend, tears rolled in my eyes.
An hour later we started back.
"How did you get the keys?" said she.
"Lord Shiva gave!" exclaimed I, giggled.
"Stop kidding and tell, dear."
"Lord Shiva gave me an idea to steal the keys from the priest of the temple.
I dropped Bharathi at her house and returned to my home safely and happily for giving the greatest gift on my best friend's eleventh birthday. But I's sure I would miss Mr. and Mrs. Naidu too, once the villagers got to know what a kind of uneven thing I had done today. I would be sent away from the village ever, and ever. So again I should find new Papa and new mamma. ***