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The other side of the story - Story without a name

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A story without a name

 

Devaraju Maharaju

If you want to look at Hotel Akash, you should have to bend your neck back and bring your face parellel to the ground, and have to stretch your looks over little balconies before the hotel rooms, and the glass windows therein, and the expensive curtains behind those glasses, and over the turkish towels and VIP underwear left there carelessly.

 

Mallayya was looking like that. Now his name is Mallesh.

 

It is difficult to tell how old Mallesh is. Where from he has come and to whom he belongs, even he himself does not know.He is wearing torn knickers and a banian with holes, given by somebody sometime. Baninan was dark competing with his body. Skin showing crack scars due to cold, wounds on the knees, and ulcers on the heels.

 

He started developing some wishes these days. That he should get on top of Hotel Akash and reach those balconies and look from there. When you look from there it looks vehicles and the people appear like ants. How would that be….wants to see that. If you cross the gate and get in, a huge yard. Looks like big cars stop there. There would be a weighing machine with blinking red and green lights. Get on to it and drop a fifty paise coin, one’s weight would be known in a stroke! All this is information that Kishtayya gave. Kishtayya is a cleaner boy in Hotel akash. Kishtayya is one among those who gives shine to the soft marble.He wanted to see all that Kishtayya told. When once he tried to go in the Goorkha shouted and drove him out. When told to Kishtayya, he roared in merry – and said “ OK, I will take you tomorrow.” That is why for an hour Mallesh was waiting for Kishtayya. His lean legs resembling sticks were starting to tremble. Unable to stand, he sat down. Hunger started. He was worried. He was anxious. That time he had two rupees with him.

 

*                                                                      *                                                          *

 

As he was waking up heard the sound of an auto. There was noise in the garbage bin next to the compound wall of the Masjid where he daily sleeps. It was an ugly laughter. He opened the eyes at once and saw. A tall man was scooping out garbage , pouring it on his own head and laughing. There were rags hanging from his body. He wound them on the feet also. Tied some to the hair on the head too. There was a pack of old clothes in the left hand. He had no nose. Instead were two horrible holes. Saliva was dripping from his thick lips. He moved slowly. Went to another side casually. There were cycles passing on the road now and then. Day broke completely. He woke up. But eyes were heavy. No sleep lost night. There was heavy crowd. Even after the second show was over, he was serving tea in the thatched hotel.

 

Everyday Laskar Mama used to come for tea. He drives a lorry. Sometime he should ask him for a ride. Sometime long back when told “ Father, mother, nobody is there” he looked pitifully.He stroked  the head and took me near. “ Don’t worry my boy. I will look after you. You can be on my lorry. First I should get an aunt. Afterwards I wll take you.” He said.”Where is the aunt?”When asked he roared in laughter. “Look. Here. Here.” He showed the fore head. “ Wherever she is” he threw his hands in the air, lit the beedi and went away. That’s all, many days and he is not coming.

 

Eyes were burning when opened. Not feeling like getting up. But he has to. Moreover Kishtayya asked him to come. Told he would take into the big hotel. Suddenly he got up and stood. Looked this way and that. Without thinking he reached the garbage bin and started urinating.He stood observing the garbage scooped out a little while ago, the grass, rags and papers. A big empty bottle was there in that. If cleaned and sold it would fetch money. With that he could weigh himself like Kishtayya told. There was flash in the brain. Blood in the body rushed. He tucked the knickers under the waist thread, and picked the bottle up. Jumped up. Made sounds with the tongue. Looked this way and that to see if anybody was watching.Nobody was worried. Bottle under the arm, when passing past the Masjid, dogs were fighting in a small ditch. Were pulling a bundle of rags. Were driving away each other. Were biting each other. Barking. Flesh appeared to be there in the bundle. He stood and watched keenly. There were small face , eyes, nose in that lump of flesh. Little hands and feet also appeared from the bundle. Doubted it could be a little baby. Nobody was coming that way. Was terrified to look at the mouths of the dogs. Lifted a stone and hit the dogs. Wounded dog turned furious. He started running. Never looked back. Bottle was sold in an hour.

 

He didn’t see the episode of Karna’s birth on the days TV Mahabharatam.

 

*                                              *                                              *

 

Like the enthusiasm of one hour back receeded, he felt weak. There was heat in the stomach and the eyes. Head felt heavy. He looked at the hotel’s height four times. Eyes started reeling. He stopped the effort. Kistayya may not come, if he himself  tries and enters in? He was scared. Still he thought of trying. Looked for a chance. Goorkha was talking to somebody, and kept puffing his cigarette. Was not looking at him. One dash……..a moments courage and he would be in. Should run. One dash. That’s all.

 

Wonder!!!

 

Wonder like in a new world. It means he is in side the premise. Contmplated for a minute. Looked back. Within the heart it was as if the rain has stopped. Goorkha was still talking slowly. When a big car came stopped talking and saluted. As a result a currency note in the hand.

 

Mallesh went behind the tree. His eyes did not flash looking at the car. They flashed looking at the note in Goorkha’s hand. It meant Goorkha is greater than Kishtayya. One salute gets a rupee. How  many salutes and rupees for them in a day……He looked four sides around. Ashoka trees, small shrubs, flowers in colors, and soft turf.

 

As the car stopped two fair people got down from it. A woman and a man, later there was a baby. They closed the car doors and started walking into the hotel. Baby was holding the hands of both the parents and was faultering between them. They were enjoying it. Mallesh looked at them. “ Must be great people”he thought. ‘ If such people were available for him also” he thought “ how would it be?”

 

*                                              *                                              *

 

There was a Kaka for him. He never knew who he was. Kaka used to feed him. Gave him a bowl and taught begging. When he was able to recognise people two more people came to be with him. “Peddayya and Peddamma ( uncle and aunt ) for you!”Kaka told him. He told them that I was found on the foot path and he is rearing me…… At that time they were in Kajipet. They used to cook under the tree outside the railway station. Used to go for begging when the train arrives. Peddamma had a small baby. But she never allowed Peddayya to touch the baby. The baby used to wail all the while and he used to avoid her. Peddamma used to be angry. Whatever she told, Kaka one day thrashed him blue and black. There was fever. From then it was terrific even to look at Kaka. Somehow he learnt to thrash me for every small reason. Rather than those thrashings felt like running away. Also felt like finding out how it would be to run away in a train.

 

Weaving mats with palm leaves, Peddamma  used to sing with prolonged sounds. She was fat and dark. She used to scold Peddayya all the while. “ Who are you for me. Ruling over me like on a married wife. Go away if you want. What do I care where you die?” Kaka used to laugh peculiarly. On some days along with the own kid she used to take him also into the lap. But one day “ Grown like a donkey. Are you a kid or what? Go away!” She shouted. He felt like crying. Remembered the train. When slept after crying, awoke at sometime. The same slab on which daily slept. Became cold absorbing all the coldness. The scabies dog that used to always be there was vomiting. Terror to open the eyes, darkness, cold, lorry on the road appeared like passing from atop the chest. Somebody was going on the road hitting it with a staff. Felt like calling Kaka. Throat was full with cold and did not help. Slowly opened the eyes. Darkness, Yes darkness – trees in that darkness were appearing like demons. Were swaying. There were drum beats in the heart. Heavy breathing heard from behind. Groaning. ….It was peddamma.

 

Why was she groaning?  Who knows? Whisperings without words. Perhaps the goods train, there was sound of it’s fast approaching. Turned the head and looked. Who is that? Kaka? Was it Kaka? ….Looks like him. Somebody like him.It was Kaka. Kaka! Why was he creeping like that? Train sound was upon them. She was groaning in low tone. He was hissing like a snake. Was holding her like the snake holds a frog. Her voice was going lower and lower. Warm breathings were clashing. Kaka was turning Peddamma into a lump. He was breaking her hands. Biting her neck. Was sucking her blood and killing her…..

 

Snake was hissing.

 

Snake was creeping all over the body.

 

Snake was tightening around the neck.

 

He was breathless.

 

“Vammo!!” a cry came out of him without his consciousness! The same moment the train passed through the station making a big noise as if passed through the ears. For a few seconds he didn’t know anything. He fell down from the slab. Knees and elbows were bruised. Head shocked. He was unable to move.

 

“ What Malli? Terrified with the train’s noise? Get up! And sleep on the slab” It was Kaka. They were his words only. Helped me up and made me sleep. Cold was eating at my back- bone. Kaka would kill him perhaps just like that after beating heartful. He was unable to sleep again. Wherever Peddayya has gone he was not coming back. Perhaps Kaka killed him.To think of it alone makes the heart sink. Kaka removed the hand and turned to the other side. Then it appeared that breathing was easy. Never knew how many hours passed like that. There was not a moment when he wished it was morning.…

*                                              *                                              *

 

The baby who was climbing the stairs in Hotel Akash stumbled and was about to fall. Before Mallesh who was watching could say “ Ayyo!” within himself, her mummy and daddy from both sides lifted her up lightly. In the teethless laughter of the baby were the laughter of the parents mixed.

 

“ Unnecessarily that day I got into the train and came to the town” – Mallesh repented. Otherwise at least Kaka was there for him. He daily remembers the way he hid himself under the seats in the train and came to the city, and the ticket collector finding him out and hitting in the face, and asking him to get down at Moulali when the train stopped for signal. It was three years since he ran away and came here.

 

Who knows why was he so much afraid on that night – in another red car perhaps foriegners arrived. Cars after car were arriving. After a long time when a boy of his own age appeared he askes about Kishtayya. He was taking used plates in a plastic basket. He said he would send Kishtayya. Mallesh went to the main entrance and peeped in.

 

There were high chairs inside. ‘To lookat itself they are so soft, how soft they would be to sit’ he thought.

 

Meanwhile Kishtayya came. Happily he patted on Mallesh’s shoulder. Gifted him with the smiles. Took him to the weighing machine. “ Should finish quickly and go away. If Seth looks , he will be angry” he hurried. Mallesh climbed on to the machine as told. Lights were coming on and off, on and off from left to right. There was a wheel going round in front. The silence was very serious. He got up onto the foot board of the weighing machine. But was unable to stand steadily. He was fumbling. Costly people were moving about busily. Kishtayya laughed loudly. Then-

 

“ Why are you worried? Drop the Athaana in it” he said. Kishtayya did not like the admonishing. Why all this unnecessarily? He tried to climb down. But regained the position, thinking that all these days he was thinking of  this only. Put the fifty paise into it. Weighing machine which could not makeout whether he would remain there or would get down, made noises and doled out a card.

 

As if saying “ you your selves are unnecssary load for the country and why then weights for you” the man with rings on the fingers, shouted them away “ Aye! Chat, chat” like they do with the animals and started seeing his own weight. That dark fat man in white clothes and a gold chain in the neck does not know anything about Mallesh. Otherwise he would have said, “ you were unnecesary load for your parents, you want to know your weight, is it?” and looked at him like at an insect.

 

On one side of the card that came out of the machine, it was written you will make a lot of money, relatives will be all around you, you will live to the envy of others. This meaningless prediction was printed in  English and Telugu, so that Mallesh never understands it.

 

“I am showing you a great thing that I know of.” As if saying so, Kishtayya was watching with wonder and proudly . He snatched the card and looked at it’s sides again and again, and looked into Mallesh’s face mischievously. “ Ehe ! Neeyavva! Without any sense, numbers got on to each other.” He said. The  man with gold rings on the fingers was shocked and looked at himself.

 

Mallesh thought of it as a curse. As if the reason for the numbers being wrong was his own lack of intelligence, he turned his face. Meanwhile a waiter started shouting, hurling abuses at Kishtayya. Kishtayya looked  terrified and pretended moving away. The moment the waiter went away, he turned to Mallesh and laughed heartily. He lead him to the end of the verandah by hand and showed the staircase at the corner. He told that was the way to go up.

 

Mallesh started to climb the stairs one after the other slowly. He reached the first floor. He went into the balcony and watched. Goorkha was sitting in his place. That means he was right on top of the gate. He was happy for the new inforamation. He was able to see the faces and foreheads of the people. He got onto the next floor fast. Happiness grew. Mallesh was experienced in climbing the trees but never such buildlngs. Like reaching the pinnacle of the tree he climbed three or four floors. Without worrying about the others who were going up and down, he was going up and up in happiness. For every floor his confidence was growing. He who was begging and was a ward of some one is now independent. Tomorrow like the Goorkha and Kishtayya he would earn more. Feet were fast moving on the steps. Five, six, legs appeared to be paining. Speed receded. But should not stop. Should face all the difficulties. Should live well. Should leave the thatched hotel. Should work in a better hotel. Eight, nine, he was sweating. Breathing became heavy and fast. Legs were tired. Temples were paining.

 

Stomach unable to bear hunger was churning. Vision became blurred. Cars on the road were moving like insects. He thought he would look at the Goorkha who was down there from the edge. He wanted to see only once. For that he proceeded one step further.

 

 

The electric wires which were left equally carelessly surrounded his feet like Yama’s noose. Nerves gave way. Eyes pulled into the abyss. Blood curdled and muscles twisted. Thousands of swords cut him into pieces. Millions of vultures sucked his blood. That was loot of life and loot of the body. That changed the body of Mallesh into a corpse. Nobody taught Mallesh about thinking of pros and cons. His body was hurled from atop the hotel to the ground with a thud.

 

The meat lump rolled down from the top. There were stains of death before the gate. Goorkha was not driving away with abuses. He wanted to lift the body as if it was his heart which fell and broke. Poor news papers!! “Suicide of a boy” they wrote. Some who have the understanding would read it as a murder.

 

Hotel Akash appeared like a beast that was sticking it’s tongue out after eating a man.  Mallesh’s corpse appeared like a kid born to the irresponsible society and left uncared. Salaam Hyderabad!!

 

Dr. Maharaju, a Ph.D in Biology, is a story writer of top order and a poet par excellence.