-Telugu Translation by Dr. k. Meera Bai
Veeraswami woke up from his sleep with these words as if it were a wake up call for him.
The beggar crawling on the ground was pleading pitifully with the hope of touching the heartS of people.
” You already started your day ! ” he looked at him with disdain and sat up on his old cot. The cot made a screeching sound as if protesting his weight . Veeraswamy brought out a cheroot from his waist, bit out the end part , spit it out and lighted it. He Got up,lifted up the cot and put it by the side of his makeshift shop. Then he opened the lock on the wooden door of the bunk and sat in his seat like king Vikramaditya.
” what is this wailing man ? Right from the morning you have been bleating like a goat . Has anybody offered a single paisa? ” he barked at the old beggar .
The beggar turned his gaze to Veerasaami , looked at him for a second with his single good eye. There was a hint of rebellion in his looks as if challenging him ” what do you know of the fire in a hungry stomach?”
Veerasaami who was looking at the ugly face of the beggar felt as if he was going to throw up. He could not bear to look at the sight of his unkempt hair, protruding eye, the unsightly wart that covered the other eye, wrinkled cheeks, the last remaining two teeth that looked like fangs , skinny legs and hands eaten away by disease, now smeared with pus and blood attracting flies. veeraswamy turned away from the ungainly sight , took out a half rotten banana and threw it at him .
By the time the day became scorching hot , more and more people started moving in that street. That street joins Anantapur town to the newly developed colony called new town.
The railway lines crossing the area provided suicidal point to the students who had failed in examinations and girls cheated by their lovers. Some times people who wished to live a full life also got killed by train accidents.
The municipality woke up and built an over bridge on the train track . The money was spent in vain but left the headache uncured. This in no way solved the problem of suicides and accidents . People cursed the government as they had to pay a lot more to cycle- rickshaws and horse drawn carts to go from one side of the bridge to another side.
Students who came to the shop to buy Charminar cigarettes waited there to ogle at the girls passing that way. Veerasaami commented to them at least a hundred and one times that ” this widow government had no brains to build an over bridge train track ” .
Some aimlessly wandering youngsters felt happy that as tank bund was to Hyderabad ,the over bridge would be to Anantapur, a place to hangout .
The unfortunate homeless people found refuge under the bridge. To the disappointment of those who looked forward to the coming up of some shops under the bridge, within no time the place was occupied by beggars, people who had neither food nor shelter and poor daily -wage earners.
some of the partitioned areas came in handy to small time wood -workers to setup shop, an old Muslim peanut seller and an old lame woman who sold fresh hot fritters .
…….. …….. ……..
The unfortunate man who could not do any work continued to beg in the utmost pitiable manner.
Veeraswamy who was driving out the flies sitting on the the ripe bananas with his upper cloth , lighted the end part of a coconut rope and hung it on one side of his bunk. Observing the youngsters coming one by one, he thought it must be time for college and yawned.
Girl students and women working in schools and colleges pass by that road. That was the reason why Veerasaami never had a dearth of customers.
Seeing three girls crossing the railway lines , a man in tight pants leaned against the bunk and started singing a Hindi film song in an effort to catch their attention.
All the three girls wore similar long, black skirts and blouses and white upper cloths. Each one had her hair made into two plaits, and arranged one plait on the front shoulder and another was left at the back, and each of them wore a red hibiscus flower in one of the plaits. They could be either sisters dressed similarly, or friends who planned to come dressed similarly.
They crossed the railway lines and were commenting among themselves about the youngster standing near the bunk.
The beggar came in their way asking ” Mother one paisa please” .
The girls speeded up adjusting their georgette upper cloths saying ” oh what a nuisance ! Wish there were another route to our college ” . Their comment was meant for both the beggar and the ogling young man.
The road-side Romio followed them with a smile.
Veeraswamy flicked the ash gathered at the end of coconut rope and lighted another cheroot with the help of it.
When the beggar got tired of repeating his plea for alms ,his wife took over the charge. Her body was so humped that her white hair almost touched the ground.
When she felt they were not going to get any alms there,she would make her husband sit on a wooden plank and drag him to the main road.
Though the husband was a lame old man nearing his end , as a holy Indian wife she still depended on him .
Now she started pleading people in an unmodulated tone like a stuck- gramophone record ” give a paisa to the lame man who can not walk “
The beggar’ s wife blocked the way of a newly married young lecturer dressed In new pants gifted by his father-in-law ,enthusiastically hurrying to teach a class full of girls .
” These fat thief widows beg for alms. What else can be expected in a country ruled by a woman? He commented to a bald-headed man walking by his side and walked away.
That bald-headed man stopped at Veeraswamy’s shop and bought a packet of beatlenut powder.
” It must be time for the lady to come” Veeraswamy thought looking towards railway lines while counting the small changes.
There came a lady in high heels walking voluptuously. Her hair was knotted high on her head adding half a feet extra height to her five feet stature . The rose flower in her hair tilted side ways as she was walking as if dancing on marble floors . She scoffed at the beggar at her feet, eyed the bald -headed man through her goggles and walked away swinging her vanity bag leaving behind a whiff of lavender perfume.
At eight o clock in the night Veerasaami was about to close his shop. The devoted wife of the lame beggar collecting the small changes thrown at him by people, was cursing him “ why not death come to take you , you old loser!”
“ Oh my God! Why do you leave me?“ veeraasaami woke up with this ear- splitting cry of the beggar’s wife. It seemed the last glow of life that kept him alive till the day before was extinct because of the cold weather . His wife was wailing at the top of her voice.
“Good riddance “ thought Veerasaami.
Within half an hour she removed the last piece of cloth covering his body, kept the naked dead body on the road-side and started begging people to help her attend to his last rites.
The ugly sight of the naked dead body with flies hovering over it, a coin covering his protruding open eye appeared to be defining the meaning of human life.
The tight- pant youngster did not stop either for Charminar cigarettes or for the college girls but walked past with a twitched face ,throwing a coin at the dead body.
The three girls who were looking for him saw the dead body and ran away like ghosts disappearing at the sight of magic wand , throwing a few coins at the old beggar’s body.
The young lecturer large- heartedly donated a ten rupee note without pondering over the point of how far the prime minister Indira Gandhi was responsible for the dead body by the side of the road.
The bald-headed man who was chewing betel nut started teaching the Bhagavad Gita to Veerasaami .
The five feet tall beauty who was doing cat-walking throwing side glances, was shocked to see the dead man, lost her balance and was about to fall, checked herself, threw a half rupee coin at the old woman and walked away hurriedly without looking at the bald-headed man.
At nightfall, when the municipal workers were taking away the dead body, his wife let out a howl like the national anthem played at the end of a film.
Later Veerasaami saw the old woman counting the day’s collection, smiled at her and asked “ how much did you make?”
“Don’t ask. Just ten rupees and odd. That’s all.“ replied the old woman blowing her nose.
“ wow! Your man earned more after his death” saying so Veerasaami put down the cot to rest for the night.
Veeraasaami who did not know that a wise man long back observed ‘ as children are afraid of darkness, men fear death‘ , fell asleep in no time.
Name: K. Meera Bai
Pen name: Tangirala. MeeraSubrahmanyam
Edu:- M.A,PhD;D.D.E; D.T.E.
Profession:- Retd. Pro. English.K. V.R Govt. College For Women, Kurnool.
Published 200 Telugu Stories in popular magazines
4 Novels ( Andhraprabha, Swathi Monthly)( manishi- Mamatha; chedirina swapnam; Samhita; siddha sankalpna )
7 volumes of short story compilations. ( Asalametlu; Kalavaramaye Madilo; Vennela Deepalu; Mangammagari America kathalu; Manasu parimalam; e desamegina; jagamanta kutumbam)
“Women voices” ( PhD thesis in English)
Poems in Telugu and English published in weeklies.
Received Best Teacher award from AP Government.
Some of my stories won prizes in Jyothi, Rachana,Andhra Bhumi, and other magazines.
Some of my stories translated into Kannada and English.
Published Literary Articles in prestigious magazines like Triveni Indian English Literature etc.
Dramas and speeches in Telugu were broadcast from Kurnool and kadapa AIR