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The other side of the story - Dedication

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Madhurantakam Rajaram


He set the crop on his  head, and set the shirt collar once again. Clutching the leather bag very carefully Satyarao alighted from the rikshaw putting his right foot on the ground first. Compound wall was parallel to the road. Beyond was a green yard filled with trees, shrubs and croutons. Amidst stood the opulent two storied construction. The main gate was shut. But no problem. Since it is not  locked, you could always open and walk in. A little away from the gate in the yard there appeared a man, perhaps the gardener. It’s better coming after fixing an appointment over phone. If that man ever accosts, you could always tell in style “ I called half an hour back. I was asked to come. She must be waiting for me, you know!” the old fellow will be shocked. But the fellow looks like foregoing the chance of that shock all by himself. He kept quiet as if such people walking in and walking out is nothing new.


Satyarao felt bad heart of hearts. For the outward appearance even if all people look alike there would be some special people according to the things they do. This fact is very much known to Mrs Meerabai. When he called and said he writes for magazines she almost jumped and said “ Oh! Is it? Please do come. I don’t have much to do now. I will be waiting for you!” Where is the need for the old man in the garden to know all these things?


Satyarao entered the porch. Whether to press the calling bell, or to settle down in the cane chair, or to make noises announcing his arrival – Satyarao was trying to decide his next move when the door curtain moved. The bespectacled face of Meerabai was seen from within the gap therein. “So you have come! What did you say your name was? Sridhar Rao isn’t it? Wait just a minute.” Saying so she yelled and told the servant boy “ Ramu! Make the gentleman sit in my room!”


Satyarao was climbing the stairs one by one and started feeling lighter with joy. She not only told him that she would be waiting for him, but was literally doing so. He never dreamt that she has such a respect for writers. However there is one hitch. He told his name to her only half an hour back. It was not proper for her to forget it. But one thing. Whether he is a Satyarao or a Sridharrao what mattered is that he is a writer.


Satyarao remembers only till he went upstairs and entered the room there. After that for a few minutes he was lost to himself. The reason was that the room appeared to him as a part of a museum. Around a dozen pens in different sizes and shapes, a paper weight looking like a turtle, a clock looking like and in the exact size of an egg, a transistor in the size of a match box, marble statues, kondapally toys, miniatures of musical instruments…………Satyarao’s looks were jumping from one thing to the other like a rabbit in the shrubs.


After spending five minutes in that state suddenly he came into his own senses. He felt embarrassed for being wonderstruck, like a villager who arrived in the city only yesterday. He parked himself on the sofa and sat back seriously. As he was thus settling, another sight in the room attracted him and caused much more wonder than earlier. Ramu, the boy who ushered him into the room was still there in the room, and not just that, he  was standing near the table like a statue. And not even just that, he was staring at Satyarao without batting an eyelid.


Some people do look at him like that when he is introduced as a writer. Yonder in the past it looks even pillars in the house of a poet composed verses. Even the servants in this household must be admirers of literature. Apart from that there is no apparent reason for this boy to go into such a physical state.


Few more minutes passed. Satyarao stopped looking at the boy and started looking at the photos hanging on the walls. Those showing Mrs Meerabai with the councilors when she was the municipal chairperson, One with the Chief Minister when she was the MLC, those with the other ministers, those showing her giving away prizes in functions in educational institutes, those showing her alighting from the airplanes. And many more. “Meerabai in various prestigious posts” would perhaps be the right title for the series. As he was thus thinking he heard foot steps.


“ Yes Mr Sridhar rao! Come on! What is the matter? However you have not mentioned from which paper you are coming!” So saying Mrs Meerabai came in and took her seat.


“ Myself! You are asking about the magazines?” Satyarao continued fumbling for a moment. “Me! Bharati, Yuva, Jyoti, Swati, Other weeklies….. I keep writing for almost all the magazines in the language.”


“No, That is not what I am asking! Which paper do you report for?”


“No Madam!” Satyarao became unnecessarily bold. “Reporters are different. Writers are different. I am a writer. I write stories and Novels.”


“Oh! Is that so!” This time it was for Meerabai to feel lost. “ When you said you write for magazines, I thought you must be a reporter. Have you seen that? That is the photo published along my interview in Nari Jagat. It was a two page article you know!”


Writers are de facto judges. True representatives of people. They write only for the welfare of the people. They extol the virtues, honor humanity, and condemn cliched values. These are some of the thoughts collected by Satyarao to be used whenever needed. But at that moment the biggest draw back of his life was before him. It was his not being a reporter for any magazine.


“So you write stories and all that. What stories did you write?”


It is easy to tell what kinds of vegetables are there in a basket. What can be said of the stories already written? Can we say love stories? Or those about vagaries of life? Or enumerate them as “ those stories obliterated by the darkness in the abyss called history? Or out of disgust, call them some god damned stuff?


“It’s OK. You must have written something. However what was the purpose of this visit?”


“ Yes,Madam! I am coming to the point. Recently I have written a novel. It is in print. Will be out in another ten days….”


“Very good. What then?”


“I thought…… you will……”


“ I will what?”


“I wanted to dedicate that novel to you”


“Dedicate it to me! Very good. I don’t have any objection. Please do!”


Satyarao felt for a moment as if his nerves were giving away under some unknown pressure. How nice it could have been, had this lady enquired “What was the name of the novel? What is it about? Why does he want to dedicate the novel only to her?” and so on.


While Satyarao was groping for words in order to continue the dialogue, the phone started ringing. She spoke into it for a couple of minutes and went down stairs saying she will be back in a moment. The moment she was out of the room, Ramu the boy reappeared . He resumed his position besides the same table, in the same statue like posture, looking at him without blinking….


Satyarao almost went mad. Either the host has to be there, or the boy would be there. Guests are not left alone in the room. Why so?


The question was creating a hum in Satyarao’s brain. In ten or fifteen minutes Mrs Meerabai came back into the room. Satyarao was not in his earlier spirits. The later part of the meeting was in a way quite insipid.


“ You will dedicate it to me OK! What am I expected to do then?” Meerabai resumed the talk.


“Nothing. It would be nice if a function is organised.”


“Why not? Please do! If you tell me in advance I can give you time and the day! Arrange a good programme. What is wrong in it?”


Satyarao did not lift his bent head. Taking leave of her, he came out like a sinner. However he could not make out what was the sin he has committed.


Satyarao might have walked a couple of hundred yards dragging his feet. “Babuji” he heard somebody calling him.  He lifted his head and saw that it was Ramu. With the material in his hand it appeared the boy was coming back from the post office.


Satyarao looked at him questioningly.


“Babuji! Would you give me a quarter?”


As Satyarao put his hand in the pocket for the change he remembered something. “ I would ask you one thing. Would you mind?” He asked.


Ramu looked expectantly.


“ whenever there Is a stranger in the room, and the lady of the house is not there, you are expected to be there. Isn’t it? Why so?”


“Yes Sir! If I don’t do that she would kill me. The room is full of valuable things. If anything is lost I will be held responsible…….”


As he was returning home Satyarao realised what was the sin he has committed. The way out to undo the sin also occurred to him. After a while the way appeared split into two. One of them lead to his Grandmother. The other one lead him to ‘Rajee’.


Grand mother was like the moon of his childhood days. She would wait for him before the house exactly at the time children return from their schools. She would have kept some eatable ready for him. She used to narrate many stories during the bedtime. If ever he falls sick she would forego her sleep and peace to attend to him. She would always dream that he would be a Judge or a Collector. On his birthday when he prostrates before her she would say “add my age to yours and may you live longer”


Rajee’s is a different story. Rajee can not speak. All the feelings like love and faith were evident only in the looks. Wherever he goes Rajee would follow invariably step in step. Allows nobody to reach near him. When he was a kid of three and was playing in the yard, a black cobra entered the place through the gutter perhaps. When the snake was nearing him the act Rajee put in was only to be seen to be believed. Entire vicinity was attracted there. But for Rajee, anything could have happened that day.


However, how do we know whom would Satyarao dedicate his new novel to? We only have to wait for ten more days.


Rajaram is among the best of story writers