LIVE A LIFE
-Telugu Original by Dr K.Geeta
-English Translation by V.Vijaya Kumar
“Excuse me, would you please lend me your book for today, my amazon order takes one week, I’ll get you it by tomorrow,” Gouri asked the elder one in the class on the very first day.
I held out my hand to Gouri saying, “You may have this”, while that elder man held it in an offered gesture.
The three of us laughed.
The wrinkles under the ridge of his spectacles showed him as a more aged one. He couldn’t utter my name “Gouri” properly. He’s uttering it funnily like “Jouri… Jouri…”
It’s very difficult for us to follow his English in a Russian accent.
“My name is Nikolai Lewandowski, You may better call me “Lev” shortly, I tell everyone the same, I don’t love my name being improperly uttered,” He said.
“So what about my name!” Gouri muttered in Telugu.
He started saying, “I tell myself without ever asking common questions like when did you come to this country and such and such things. Only five years ago, when I crossed sixty-two, we came to America and settled here, on the lottery Green Card system, even though our son was residing here longer than before.” He introduced himself.
“Why then the lottery, when your son was working here?” I said.
” Frankly to say, If it’s through our son, we couldn’t have been here perhaps, we tried by the lottery, and so we could…What about you?” He asked.
“We aren’t as lucky as You, having any such lottery systems,” said Gauri, nodding her head in a tone of hopelessness. She added,
“We came here for studies, hoping to make money someday!”
He seems he’s just in a hurry to leave. He said, “Ok friends, It’s time for my bus, I’ll leave.”
“Isn’t it hard to get on the bus? Is your house close to the bus stop? Should I drop you, Mr. Lev?” I said.
“No, not at all! It’s not a matter of a car, but the suspicion of my wife that matters here, whether I can drive a car properly at this age or not! Of course, she drives. The mischief is that she’s the same age. What could we do!? Women domination! Of course, by the by Walking is a good exercise” He paused a while and continued, ”You people need not add any respectable labels to me, You may simply call me, “You” shedding those tags! He laughed and walked out briskly.
“How fast he walks! Wow! it’s impossible to believe that he’s running 67!” I exclaimed.
“Oooh! A grand man has made a friend at last!” said Gauri.
“We have to learn a lot from him. perseverance, the quest to achieve something at this age … aren’t all of these encouraging? “I said.
The book he gave me is in Gauri’s hands, on the first page of it something is written in good handwriting.
Perhaps his name in their language! Gauri said.
“Oh! “Overcasting weather,” sighed Lev.
“The sky is cloudy and so good!” Exclaimed Gauri.
Looking into the void he said, ” I feel lonesome here, my nostalgic memories swarm around me always”
True, He looks lost in thoughts every time.
“I forgot to ask about the book “Cleopatra a life” How far do you go with it? He looked inquiring.
“Don’t even turn on the jacket! We will have to submit a paper by this Friday!”
Why don’t you narrate it if you’ve read it? I said.
“Yeah. I haven’t read either. Why don’t you attempt it yourself?” Gauri said to him?
“What are you doing so busy without picking up the book?”
“Cooking just…no more,” said Gauri, looking at me smiling.
“What ?…cooking? Is it your job to cook and eat as long as you are at home?” He laughed at us.
What do you know about the predicament of our cooking? It’s not just cooking! From the bargaining of vegetables to the dishwasher switch on at night, “the story behind the dish” is a rather endless episode! Who does that you know? I said.
“My father used to say at home that mother need not cook ever as the Community Kitchens by that time would come when she grew up. He believed that they would come. Now our generation has no such hope. Hope, there’s no need to tell you all these things who were born and raised in the communist world” said Gauri.
Lev laughed at us strangely, shaking his head.
“Why should I take an English learning class at the age of sixty-seven? It’s a sort of bitterness! I want to speak English as well as everyone else!” He went on,
“Communal kitchens are, as far as I know, not found anywhere else except in the culture of the Kibbutzim in Israel. All of you perhaps have read books about communist countries and highly imagined all these things. Do you know how long we spent our years just in the hundred yards of space given to us by the government, waiting in the narrow lane day long, to dig for the potatoes? We never had any quality food or quality vegetables. Leftover bone pieces only served in community centers after the best part of flesh was shared by the communist officers.” He paused awhile and went on-
“You’re born in the new world, it opened new vistas up to your new generation as far as I know. Why bother with the forbidden world?” He looked at us thoughtfully.
“Oh! Come on Lev! The Communist world is a great dream! How beautiful is it! No disparities of rich and poor!” I said.
“Priya! as you said, let’s think there may be the rich and the poor not there in a communist society. But worse, there are bureaucrats and non – bureaucrats. We call these bureaucrats “commoners.” Think of yourself as a person. How long will you be in life not aspiring to any higher position? Can’t you despair? Can you at least bear your husband’s authority over you to be tolerated forever?”
He became a bit emotional.
When Gauri and I stared blankly at him, he went on…
“Our mother and grandfather are Jews. One of the very few who survived after the Second World War. Our father, mother, their families, relatives, friends, all the bonds were disrupted in the war. Disappeared during the Nazi massacre. Both of them were heartbroken and wanted to live in a new world. What kind of world do they want in such a situation? What kind of society do they want? They are both doctors. If there was one happy event in their lives at all it was the one I was born with. Our mother would often say, ” My Sweet! Live in a world forever, in a world where Jews live as human beings.” That sentence is still ringing in my ears.”
With teary eyes, he continued,
“We should no longer have a religion in the communist world we live in, we needn’t have any beliefs! There is no right to choose the job of choice. No matter how much salary, or how much money you think your capabilities deserve, it will never reach you.”
“Perhaps it may be wrong to think about self profit and money in a society where equality reigns, Lev!” I said thoughtfully.
“Exactly! but it’s real in a society where social order prevailed on an equal basis. There was discrimination against Jews in the communist society. We did not have equal opportunities with others in jobs. No matter how educated you are, all the jobs available are rural jobs only. The underlying exploitation in the communist system was never brought into the limelight by the media to the outside world. Punishment was ever ready when anything in the mind revealed itself.”
Holding a disposable cup of coffee in his hands looking at the road and the whirlwind through the glass, he said coolly,
“Jouri and Priya! You are so young. Why did you lead into the past? Why should we think about all those dreadful things of the past now in a free world like America?” He said laughing suddenly.
Showing the name in his language in the textbook, Gauri asked, “Are there all these letters in your name?”
“No. It’s my mother’s name. I’ve come so far in life that I want to adapt my life to her dream. I came to Israeli immigration after school. I met Maria there. She’s a receptionist there in our company. She left the job when our son was born. She joined again now. I love one thing in this country. We can work here as long as we wish. Another thing I like here is the friendliness of the people here…” He continued,
“Do you know! Indeed I went to Israel, known to be the Jewish paradise, on migration! There’s always the fear of death. There is always a doubt whether one who goes out will return home in the evening or not! Our second son is still there in that country. We always feel distressed about it” He took some pause and went on,
“I wonder why I’m telling you all this. Do you know how nostalgic I am! When I sleep at night, I remember my mother. I recall how long we waited to meditate before the tomato plants for their fruition. My mom’s voice is heard every time I eat the first loaf of Russian bread here saying, “Don’t let drop those breadcrumbs like this my Sweet! even such small pieces somewhere will satisfy the hunger of someone,”
He stopped while choking.
Again he started,
“Isn’t it strange that I never dream in this country about life here, when I sleep at night? My wife always says it’s always your childhood dream! Do we dream that we want something? Do you know? We always dream of those past things piercing our hearts in the past. They come in patches but are coherent.”
The cool breeze dashing vehemently outside.
Like the memories of the past, the withered leaves were falling at my feet every step of my way.
The darkness looms around. Somewhere in the sky a flash of light appeared and vanished suddenly.
Gouri! Where should we live? Walking now? Walked in the Past? Or in the Future walk?
“Wherever you live, you have to walk so enthusiastically,” she said laughing and pointing to Lev, who was heading briskly towards the bus stop in the distance.
A post graduate in English literature and language and in Economics. A few of my translations were published. I translated the poems of Dr. Andesri , Denchanala, Ayila Saida Chary and Urmila from Telugu to English. I write articles and reviews to magazines and news papers. To the field of poetry I am rather a new face.