A Short Story – The Exit
The dusk was growing darker and the roar of the sea was on the rise. High tide sent waves battling to the shore, without any mercy. The wind whistled and hooted and rain fell rampant, from all directions.
Tahira came to the door and stood looking out for her son, Aftab. The rain had subsided. Finding Goldie sitting upright on the compound wall, facing west, waiting for his master, Tahira, was convinced that Sathya too had not returned yet. She took out the fish, cleaned and got it ready to fry for supper. Aftab had asked for fish the previous night. Two more fish would do for Sathya, too, she thought. That morning, while spreading clothes to dry on the line, she had seen Rama across the compound wall picking basale for curry, proclaiming that she would not wait for fish today. Neither Sathya, nor his Goldie, could eat without fish, and this thought made her smile.
Chinnu came in mewing, wet from the rain and started rubbing against Tahira’s feet. “Go, go! Go and look for Appu”, Tahira pushed Chinnu away lovingly. He went out and returned immediately, and climbed onto Tahira’s lap, as she sat on the portico parapet and started rubbing his face on hers. Kamalakka, passing that way, stopped at the gate to collect the jasmine blooms, which shone like stars in the arch across the gate.
“I’ll pluck a few buds, Tahira. Waiting for Appu, is it? I saw him at the rock, with Sathya. Two boys from the town were also with them. I had been to the shore as the last boat had brought in a catch of sardines. Well, no more boats entering the water, for the time being now, isn’t it? I don’t think even an inch of the shore will be saved, this time. Two milestones and a few casuarina trees have been already washed away. Saiba’s compound wall has also been swallowed. And why should they build houses on the shore, I say? Okay, Tahira, see you then”, smelling the last handful of jasmines, she picked up her basket and walked off.
The electricity failed, as usual. “Can’t this boy return before dark?”, lighting the lamp, Tahira thought to herself. Lightening streaked the eastern sky. Glow worms twinkled in the dark, on the mango tree. Thunder roared and rolled along the sky, to die over the western sea. Caressing the soft, white bundle cuddled in her lap, with her eyes on the lane, outside, Tahira unknowingly hummed, “Rasik balma…” and shocked at herself, bit her tongue and looked around. Her balma, Sayyed, had died in an accident a year ago and was one with his Allah in heaven. He had taken their neighbour Maheshanna, Sathya’s father, with him, to drop him at Thokkotu, but a tanker had dashed into them at Kolya, taking away both the lives at once. After the long hard days of agony and pain passed and the relatives dispersed, Rama and Tahira found solace in each other’s company, helping the other in times of need. Rama’s daughter Rashmi came down from Mangalore often, but Tahira was alone with her son after her parents and brother left for Bantwal.
Growing desperate, Tahira walked to the compound wall to call for Sathya when, hearing a sound at the gate, she turned and saw Appu enter. “What is this Appu, so late?” Relieved, she went in, asking him to have a bath and come to the dining table. Frying the fish, she called out for her son again and asked him to go and give the fried fish to Sathya. “ Sathya has gone to the city to check something on the Internet, Umma”, replied Appu. “What? So late? Then when will he return? Have you told aunty?” “Yes, I told her as I came in”, replied Appu. He went to bed soon after food, as the lights had not returned. It had started pouring heavily again and in the heavy shower and pitch dark outside, nothing could be seen. Tahira locked the door and went to bed, wondering whether Sathya had come home.
After Rama knocked on the door, frantically at midnight, every minute passed in anguish and fear. Sathya’s mobile seemed dead. About Sathya’s friends seen at the rock, Aftab said he did not know them well and guessed that they might be college mates. When there was no sign of Sathya until next morning, Rashmi and her husband Bhaskar, arrived from the city. Rama told them about Sathya waiting for an interview call for a job. Bhaskar got annoyed, “What job without graduation? Just because he was reprimanded for lack of attendance, he thinks of a job instead of completing his education. Job hunting! My foot!” Bhaskar thought of going to the police and said so. Rashmi shuddered and begged him to wait till morn. And it was another night-long wait filled with anxiety, fear, and expectation!
In the early dawn, much before the Venus was seen in the east, Kantha went fishing with his net and tube and returned with a horrific tale. As he had walked towards the water, something had struck against his feet and he had lit the pen-torch and bent to see what it was. “Oh, God!”, he had exclaimed and jumped back. Then, he had tried to move the crouching body sideways, and on seeing the face, had collapsed by its side. The mouth filled with sand and water was open. The red T-shirt had moved up, revealing the swollen stomach. The pant was torn at places. Shocked, Kantha had pulled the body up onto the dry sand and ran for help.
For Rama, everything was over. Consciousness returned only to bring back the heart-wrenching agony! The post-mortem declared that the death had occurred due to drowning and the body was cremated. The friendship and love nurtured for long, turned bitter, giving way to suspicion and the air was filled with enmity, hatred and revenge, spreading unrest everywhere.
Rumours spread and Tahira and Aftab’s life withered under the heat of that poisonous condition. As Aftab walked with the mourners in the funeral procession, Malinga’s harsh words and hatred filled gaze stopped and shook him. Tahira came and sat by her son’s side, silently caressing his back and Appu crouched in her lap and wept bitterly. Tahira’s tears flowed silently, with occasional sighs and an “Ya Alla!” escaping her mouth.
After the rituals were over, Bhaskar, with his brother Raghav and Malinganna, sent for Aftab. Tahira went with Aftab and stood behind him. To Bhaskar’s queries, Aftab replied that he knew nothing and repeated what he had narrated to his mother. “If you don’t come up with the truth, we will go to the police”, said Bhaskar. Tahira pleaded with them, “Sathya meant so much to him! They both had such love for each other.Why do you doubt him so? Don’t do this, Raghanna, please, we were like one family! And now…” She walked away, sobbing bitterly, and Appu caught up with her. Goldie, seeing Appu retreating, stood on his heels, wagging his tail, trying to draw Appu’s attention and got a hard blow from Bhaskar, “Will you stop or you want one more?” Tears rolled down from Aftab’s eyes as he moved away.
Tahira came to her son, who was lying on the bed with open eyes. Her voice was laden with worry, “Look Appu, Kamalakka had seen you near the rock with Sathya and his friends that day. As the evening boats came in, several others also must have seen you there. Tell me what happened at the rock. Of course, Rama won’t think that way, but I can’t say the same about Bhaskara and Malinganna. They might go to the police. So tell me everything clearly now.” “There’s nothing to tell, Umma “, Appu’s throat constricted. “Tell me the names of those two friends, who were with him, Appu. Don’t you remember?” “One was Kishen, Sathya’s college mate. The other one was a new face called Willy – perhaps his name is Wilfred. He was known to Kishen. He talked of returning to Goa the same night. He called me kid and teased Sathya, ‘Bachche ko kyonre saath laya?’ He tried to send me away, saying, “Run, run home; it is going to rain.” He was smoking. So was Kishen. Then Sathya sent me home, saying that he was going to the city, to the cyber cafe with his friends. As I returned, they started for the city. That’s all I know.”
“Okay, if they do go to the police and the police come for enquiry, say everything as you told me now. Do not be afraid; The All-Knowing One is there to protect us. Then why fear these mere human beings?”
“I am not afraid; I’m sad, that’s all”, said Appu and buried his face in his mother’s lap. Yes, that sorrow would not subside. The previous Friday, Sathya had joined him when he went to the Dargah for the noon Namaz, and then, they had climbed up to the Kote Vishnumurthy Temple. From the terrace, they had watched and wondered at the enormity of the sea to the west and the vast greenery to the east. Then, they had run down the hill, had a quick lunch and had immediately left for the movie. Sathya had said, how nice it would be if he got a chance in films and that college was nothing but boring.
Once Sathya and Appu had taken Goldie for a bath in the sea, and when the stray dogs on the beach came after Goldie, they had had a hard time saving Goldie. Malinganna, who was getting ready to get his boat into the waters, had driven the boys and Goldie back home and had strictly instructed Rama that the dog should not be sent to the beach with the boys again. Appu was dismayed to see the same Malinganna now despising him. Malinganna, who used to send him fish with Sathya’s share; Malinganna, who had promised to take them for a ride in his boat some day. Aftab now lost all craving for fish and the sea. Neither Kamalakka nor Leelamma stopped at their gate now, with their basket of fish. Hasanabba had once stopped and rung the cycle bell, in a low tone, and had moved on when there was no response.
The complaint was lodged and the enquiry started in full earnest. Kishen, who was absconding from college, was fished out and interrogated. Kishen said he knew nothing, and that Sathya had got down at the cyber cafe that day, while he had gone straight home. He had met Willy – Wilfred – at the cyber café the year before and they had remained in touch over the Internet since then. They had met again when Willy was down from Goa and had been to the beach. Aftab was sent home, with a warning that he was not to leave the region.
Wilfred was sought for silently and brought to the city. He had been caught red-handed selling charas at a beach in Goa. The enquiry revealed that the drug mafia was operating in the city and the beach. And it unfolded the tragedy that struck at the Rudrashila that fatal day.
Seeing that Aftab had left for home, the group that moved away from the beach, turned back at the lane, below the Somnath temple. Bottles were brought out from the car and charas too emerged from Willy’s pocket. Sathya’s ‘no’ was drowned in the urge, ‘for friendship’s sake’. Intoxicated, Willy and Kishen climbed over the rock, as if heeding to the call of waves that sprayed the tip of the gigantic Rudrashila. Sathya yelled, “No, no; it is too dangerous here! Kishen! Willy! Please come down.” When they wouldn’t listen, Sathya climbed over to bring them down, pulling at their hands. Willy shook his hand saying, “Hey! What man? Crybaby!” and Sathya, losing his balance, fell down on the rock and was carried away by the giant wave that had just lashed the rock. Kishen, not as drunk as Willy, regained his sense and stood struck and shivering. He screamed and called out for Sathya and his voice died in the clasping thunder. “Oh God, Willy!” he exclaimed and somehow succeeded in bringing him down from the rock. In the darkness, the thunder and lightning, the hooting whirlwind and Lord Somanath on the hill were the only witnesses to the tragedy that had struck in the dead of the night.
At the end of the investigation by Inspector Shabbir, it was proved that what occurred was an accidental tragedy and Aftab was declared not guilty. Wilfred was arrested and jailed for drug trafficking while Kishen was discharged with a severe warning. But the seeds of suspicion grew into a tree of enmity and hatred. Inspector Shabbir was accused of bias and processions were taken, with Sathya’s people in the lead, giving rise to waves of sympathy. Those who stood apart were accused of being secular for their own benefits. The Police Chief warned the people against disrupting communal harmony. Colleges held seminars on the drug menace, warning the student folk and trying to lead them on the right path. As time passed, the situation slowly turned normal.
Aftab, paying the bill and returning home from the Electricity Office, saw little Tanvi, picking bakula flowers at the corner compound and smiled at her. Tanvi, jumped up, delighted, and asked, “Appu anna, do you want renjekai?” She came forward and placed the green-yellow fruits in Appu’s open palm. The very next moment, as if she remembered something, that smiling face shrunk, eyes became still and there came a hesitant question, “Appu anna, Sathyanna was your friend, isn’t it? Then why did you fight with him? Why did you push him off the rock?” Aftab had no idea how he reached home. Crouching down, he wept bitterly, sobbing, “Umma, let’s go from here. I can’t stay here, any longer. No, I can’t. Let’s go somewhere, far; anywhere at all; please, Umma!” Tahira stood like a stone, watching her son, in such pain! The sunset in the west and dusk slowly advanced, and the moon on his run amidst the thin shredded clouds, gained colour and shone like gold. As the night advanced, and Aftab Manzil was bathing in the moonlight, Tahira stepped out with her son and walked her way. Chinnu climbed over the gate and took his seat and kept waiting.
About the Author
Shyamala Madhav was born in Mangalore, had schooling at Besant National Girls’ High School and college education at St. Agnes College, Mangalore. Father Narayana Uchil, an educationist and reformist, and mother U. Vasanthi worked as P.T. and Guiding teacher at the Besant National Girls School.
Books being the passion, had ample scope for reading, from the book- treasury at home and from the libraries around, during the childhood days.
- Took to writing and my first published poetry in Kannada, “Kadalina Kare“, saw the light in “Rashtrabandhu“, at the age of eleven.
- Marital ties brought me to Mumbai and a memoir about my dear Granny, “Amritha Varshini“ was published in “Belli“ in the year, 1971.
- This was followed by a story in Kannada, also published in Belli., titled “Ashoka”.
- A detailed illustrated article on Essel World, Mumbai, was published as a cover page article in Taranga, followed by a number of articles, stories, translations and travelogues, in different magazines in Karnataka and Mumbai.
Worked for SPARROW – Sound and Picture Archive for Research on Women – in the field of transcription and translation.
Worked in the Editorials of Mumbaivani Special issues and Nithyavani, Daily, at Mumbai.
Presented a research paper on Mumbai based Kannada Fiction, at PUKAR, in Mumbai.
Held the Post of President of Srijana, Mumbai Kannada Women Writers’ Association, for two years, successfully, holding Seminars, book-releases, and Workshops, in collaboration with the Anuvada Academy, Bangalore.
Presented Papers at the Sparrow Silver Jubilee Meet, Expressions and Experience, held at Karjat for two days, in the month of March 2015.
Presented Papers at the UGC sponsored National Seminar on ‘Multilingual Literature – the Emerging Trends’, held at the Bhandarkar’s College, Kundapur.
Presented paper at The Mumbai University Kannada Department, on the field of translation.
- “Alampanah“, translated from the Hindi version of the Urdu novel “Alampanah“, by Rafia Manzurul Amin, was published by Bhagirathi Prakashana, in the year, 1994.
- The translation of Margaret Mitchell’s, great Classic, “Gone With The Wind“, published by Ankita Pustaka, Bangalore, in the year 2004.
- Translation of Mary Shelly’s Classic, “Frankenstein“ was published by Ankita Pustaka, Bangalore, in the year 2007.
- Translation of “My Days In Police“, an Autobiography by Retd. DYSP Ramayya Rai, titled, ”Police Diary“, was serialized in Sudha, in the year, 2005.
- Parts of the Volume, “The Story of Civilization“, by Will Durant, translated for the Anuvada Academy, Kuvempu Bhasha Bharathi Pradhikara, and titled, “Nagarikatheya Kathe“, was published in the year, 20012.
- Translation of “M.R.Pai- An Uncommon Common Man“, was translated into Kannada, by the title, “Asamanya Srisamanya M.R.Pai“, and published by IBH, Bangalore, for the M.R.Pai Foundation, in the year, 2012.
- “Sathsanchaya“ – a Memoir of my father and our heritage, published by Guddemane Prakashana, in the year, 2003.
- “Aa Loka“, A collection of my short stories, published by Sumukha Prakashana, Bangalore, in the year, 2009.
- “Baduku Chithra Chittara“, A collection of my essays, published by Baraha Publications, Bangalore, in the year, 2012.
- Translation of parts of the Volume, “Ambedkar – Speeches and Writings” from Marathi, translated into Kannada, for the Kuvempu Bhasha Bharathi Pradhikara, to be published shortly.
- Translation of Charlotte Bronte’s Classic, ‘Jane Eyre’, published by Teju Publications, Bengaluru, and released Bengaluru, Mangaluru and Mumbai, in the year, 2016.
Books awaiting Publication
- Translation of Arundhati Roy’s “The God Of Small Things“ into Kannada.
- “Naale Innu Kaadide “ – Autobiography.
Awards and Felicitations
- Translation of “Gone with The Wind“ won the Sahitya Academy Award, in the year, 2005, for the best translation of 2004.
- It also won the H.V.Savithramma Dattinidhi Award, 2005, from the Karnataka Lekhakiyara Sangha, for the best translation of 2oo4.
- “Alampanah“ invited for the final rounds of the Translation Awards, by the Kendra Sahithya Academy for two consecutive years.
- “Frankenstein“ in the final round of the competition for the Translation Awards, by the Karnataka Anuvada Sahithya Academy.
- Felicitated by the Mumbai University Kannada Vibhaga Gourava Puraskar.
- Felicitated by YMBA, Mumbai. for the success of “Alampanah“.
- Felicitated by the Someshwara Sanskrithika Vedike, for the literary recognition received.
- Awarded the highest honour of Gourava Prashasthi, by the Kuvempu Bhasha Bharathi Pradhikara, the Anuvada Academy, Karnataka, for the year, 2014, presented at Manasa Gangotri, Mysore. on 30th March 2015.
- Felicitated by the Maharashtra Kannada Sahithya Parishat, in Mumbai, in the year 2015.
- Felicitated with the Nalini Vishvanath Karnad Endowment Award, by the Goregaon Karnataka Sangha, in the year, 2016.
- Felicitated by the Young Mens Bovi Association, in Mumbai, in the year, 2016.