The Man who died and was reborn

(Telugu Original story “chacchi bratikina manishi” by Dr K. Meerabai)

-Dr K. Meerabai

Dasu’s eyes were bloodshot. So red that they might shed blood instead of tears. He could not close his eyes.

The severed head and the body of Ramana, his friend was lying at a distance.

When the head was severed would the legs and hands of the torso had moved up and down frantically?

How desperate one should be to lie down on the train track placing one’s head exactly at a position where the wheels would run on one ‘s neck ?

“Why did you take this drastic step Ramana? It must be because of lack of faith in me. Because of my inability.”

Dasu’ heart was beating fast like an express train. His burning eyes were shedding tears.

Unbearable pain…along with it some kind of relief….the relaxing feeling in the mind.. was it not a devilish pleasure !

In fact it should have been his severed head that should have been there on the railway tracks.

The bloodied face of Ramana eye damaged severely and the other eye protruding out .…

When he looked at the face, Dasu’s heart missed a beat feeling that Ramana was looking at him.

“ Look at my fate Dasu! Is it not because of you? “ the severed face spoke.

Dasu closed his eyes as he walked back.

“It is not my fault. I tried my best. “ Dasu’s heart murmured.

“Was it not yesterday evening he had met Ramana at the Irani hotel? “

“White pyjamas and shirt, pepper and salt hair… Ramana- a man who would remain unshaken in the face of every day challenges. What happened to that courage?

Just like Dasu, he too indulged in loans but with in the confines of office allowances. He would never take a loan from a private money lender.

Unlike him, Ramana had no sister pestering him to pay the remaining dowry lest her husband should send her back to her maternal home.

Unlike him, Ramana did not have a wife who threatened to commit suicide unless he got back the pawned wedding chain . A wife on an oath that she would not allow him to touch her till he got the chain back.

Because Ramana’s wife had died of cancer two years ago. He took all the available loans in the office, sold away the few gold ornaments of his wife, for her treatment.

Just like him, Ramana too had a precious pearl like daughter of marriageable age . He had planned to take voluntary retirement, with the benefits of which he wanted to get her married.

In the meanwhile this unforeseen death.

“ Save my daughter’s self respect.” The protruding eye of Ramana was pleading.

Dasu walked back. He felt like throwing up. He could not stomach the breakfast he ate in the morning . The enveloping sadness was causing pain in the throat…

“Why were you in a hurry to go Ramana? “ Along with the suffocating sadness, there was a strange feeling of relief from worry. As if the hand cuffs were taken off…

There was no connection between him and Ramana’s death.

Even if it were there nobody knew.

“Sorry Ramana ! Please excuse me.”

People were gathering like flies. Closing their nostrils with tissues, bending forward to get a clear view of the body… sympathising “ What a horrible death! .. looks young…must have suffered a lot before life ebbed out from his body. None would wish for such a death even for one’s enemies.”

They talked as if they had gone through such experience ..sympathy flowed.

“Ramana ! Not an enemy but a friend of mine. A friend who had sacrificed his life for my sake.” Dasu’s heart screamed.

Those who rushed forward to have a view , started moving back saying “ can’t see such a horrible sight”

Police, ambulance and lathi charge to disperse the crowd…

Ramana’s pearl- like daughter, eighteen year old Parimala, having heard of her father’s death must be coming here running .

If she saw him, she would rush to him to weep on his shoulder. He would have to face police enquiry, attend post-mortem and then cremation of Ramana.

“No, no. Escape it all “ Dasu’s mind hurried.

The dark bar was inviting him to relax.

“ Ramana! I am responsible for your death. “ Dasu sobbed while drinking.

“The last time I touched booze was when my mother died. Again today because of your death I am getting drunk. It is not because of my pleasure that the truth known only to you and me died with you Ramana!”

With a great relief enveloping his heart and mind combined with the guilty consciousness of deceiving his own self, he continued drinking.

The bearer warned him that he already had more than he could stomach.

It was getting dark outside. There was darkness both within and without.

He climbed out of the auto rickshaw and shouted for his wife “ Savitri!”

Savitri came out running.”Have you heard the news? Your friend Ramana committed suicide by going under the train. His daughter Parimala went to the hospital.” Savitri stopped talking abruptly, noticing that Dasu was in an inebriated state.

She walked him into the house.

“ Why are you interested in gossips ? Why did you go to their house? Dasu demanded.

The moment Dasu’s daughter saw him she burst out “ Daddy! Parimala’s father is no more”.

“ Why are you crying ? It is not your father who died.” Dasu harshly said as he fell on the bed.

“ You were never an addict to drink. What made you get drunk today? “ Savitri closed the door and speaking in a low tone demanded an explanation .

“ Shut up. Keep the front door closed. If you or your daughter visited Ramana’s house you are finished. Did I ask him to die?” Dasu’s angry voice deteriorated into murmurings by the impact of the alcohol .

Savitri understood that he was not going to eat that night. She skipped her dinner and went to bed.

In the middle of the night Dasu felt her soft body and caressed her. Savitri pushed him away saying “ mind that there is our daughter in the next room.”

Dasu clung to her speaking incoherently “ Ramana’s icy body would be lying in the mortuary . The doctors would have cut his body for postmortem and sued again before they dumped him there. Here I am in your warm embrace…”

Over ruling her protests, he had possessed her before he fell asleep.

He saw a severed head with one eye badly damaged and the other eye protruding out and the headless carcass . His daughter Aparna was crying “ daddy. daddy “

His wife Savitri was banging her head frantically saying “ Why did you take the extreme step?”

The damaged face and the headless torso were none other than his own.

Dasu woke up with a jerk.

His body was full of sweat. Savitri appeared tired in her sleep.

When Ramana, his friend was in the mortuary, he slept with his own wife Savitri…Dasu felt ashamed of himself.

He remembered the dream where in he saw his own head with one eye badly damaged and the other one protruding out.

“Ramana ! I should have been dead in your place. “ Dasu cried silently.

He had shamelessly raped his own wife who had taken an oath not to allow him to touch her until he got back the pawned wedding chain.

She surrendered to him just to save her daughter from being embarrassed .

“Sorry Savitri” he said softly before he once again succumbed to the effect of alcohol.

“ Brother! unless you pay the remaining one lakh dowry money ,my husband would drive me out of his house.” His sister was crying.

“Dasu! because I trust you, I borrowed money for you from a money lender. If I don’t pay back in time, they would kill me.” Ramana was saying.

“ Daddy these people are disrobing me. Save me. “ His daughter, Aparna was pleading.

She was hanging from the ceiling fan with her tongue and eyes protruding.

No no. It was not Aparna, his daughter. This was Parimala ,Ramana’s daughter.

“ Dasu the money lender threatened to disrobe my daughter if I fail to pay back his money. I borrowed the amount to save your sister’s marriage. You have to save my daughter’s self-respect.” Ramana was pleading.

Dasu woke up shouting “ Parimala! my dear.”

“ Enough of it. Don’t wake up everyone. Go back to sleep.” Savitri whispered in an exasperated tone.

The one hanging from the ceiling fan, was not his daughter, but Parimala, Ramana’s daughter. It was Ramana who had died in the train tracks- not him. Here he was. Fully alive. .

“ Was he really alive? He was dead the moment he felt relieved when Ramana died burying the truth that Dasu owed him one lakh.”

Dasu was crying in his sleep.

“ forgive me Ramana” Dasu was crying in his sleep.

“Ramana ! I will give you a promisory note. “

“No need Dasu. Your word is enough.”

Dasu remembered the poem his mother taught.

“Truth is the life of ones’s word. The army protecting the fort is the life of the fort. Self respect is the life of a woman and signature is the life of a note” .

“ Mother! Parimala is dying. “

“A woman’s curse will wipeout a whole family Dasu.You have a daughter too.” His mother spoke.

Dasu woke up.

There must be some silver rupee coins in his mother’s box. Along with them a gold quoted silver pendant with Godess Lalitha ‘s face carved on it.

With a face so beautiful like the face of Ramana’s daughter Parimala and his own daughter Aparna. Even silver is expensive. Only life has no value. If the pawned wedding chain is sold away. …” Dasu got up.

He dragged the box from under the bed without making noise.

His mother’s box. It contained one broken eye glasses set, two old torn out sarees, a book depicting the thousand names of Godess Lalitha, four or six silver rupee coins and the golden pendant with the face of Goddess Lalitha carved on it.

The Godess looked like his mother. His mother who taught truth was the life of one’s word.

Dasu exited from his house early in the morning.

The railway track where Ramana’s body was found, still bore the marks of blood.

“ Ramana! You died suspecting that my failure to pay back the money would cost the self-respect of your daughter. forgive me.”

He walked in the direction of gold jewellery shops and entered the shop where he had pawned his wife’ wedding chain.

The shop owner took the silver coins, threw them casually into a box and said that he would get about twelve hundred rupees for them and nothing more.

Dasu took the golden pendant into his hands and apologised to the Godess . “Forgive me. I have to sell this for the sake of Parimala.”

“How much would the jeweller give for the gold covered pendant?” He wondered .

The jeweller’s face brightened at the sight of the pendant. He checked the purity of the gold and said , ” This is pure gold sir. Weighs three Tulas( thirty three grams).

“How much would you give for this pendant and the pawned chain?” Dasu’s voice trembled as he asked this question.

Ramana would not have died if he knew that Dasu’s mother’s pendant was made of pure gold.

“ Because yours is the first bargain today, I am giving this offer. Not a rupee more than one lakh rupees. “ The jeweller said hiding his exultation thinking of the ten thousand rupees bonus he would get from the bargain.

“One lakh. Ramana ! I will pay back your loan. Nobody would dare to insult your daughter.” Dasu took the money.

He felt as if he was going to faint. He thought the pendant was a gold quoted silver one , and threw it along with the rupee coins. Ramana died because he could not face the money lender.

He himself died when he thought that with the death of Ramana he was freed from the burden of paying back the loan.

“With the help of my mother I am repaying your loan Ramana ! I have come back alive from being dead. “

Dasu’s eyes were filled with tears. He was feeling light. He went home straight away. From there he proceeded to Ramana’s house along with his wife Savitri and daughter Aparna.

Parimala came running to him “ Uncle ! The money lenders came and threatened us.” She told him sobbing.

“ I will look after the matter my child ! Be bold. I will also see to it that you people get Ramana’s dues from the office. You will get pension. They might give you a job too. Don’t worry.” He touched her head reassuringly.

He looked at Ramana’s body kept ready for his last journey.

Ramana’s eyes were closed . The doctors seemed to have cleaned him.

His face looked calm as if saying “ Dasu ! I know .You are my friend “.

Dasu felt as if the overwhelming burden of guilt was taken off his mind.

Aparna and Savitri were looking at him as if he were a new person.


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