Sunday, January 24, 2021

If Education Has To Happen?

(Directly based on a short story called ‘Yuddham avasanikkanamenkil?’ or ‘If war has to end’ by Vaikkom Muhammad Basheer. I have changed ‘If war has to end’ to ‘If education has to happen’ and made some trivial changes to get this story in this format. The original story is in Malayalam and it is translated into English by my son Srikant and is available here)

"If education has to happen!" - with his teeth clenched, the left corner of his lips twisted and giving out a "shh" sound, happily scratching his eczema, lying spread out on a deck chair, the deep-thinker, the mighty man, the one with the terrible rage, the outstanding author, answered the young journalist's question with his own:

"You mean, what should I do to make education happen?"

"You don't have to do anything," explained the journalist, "What we would like to know is your opinion about all of this. What should people do to make education happen once and for all?"

"Nothing! It's enough if you go away from here: fool!"

"You must say something. The world is suffering very much. Terrible destruction is occurring in the world. All of this must stop. Calm and peace must rule in the world now. Your valuable advice in this regard is asked for. If education has to happen?"

"You dimwit, you idiot, did the non-education happen after consulting me? Non-education has been existing since time immemorial; when this one here is over, a different one will immediately start! If only two people were left in the world, they would not educate each other. If after that just one is left, then there would be a fight between his right and left hand. Finally he will also die- and then peace! Now get lost!"

"Aiyo, that isn't enough! Education should happen! If education has to happen?"

"Go and ask the other idiotic thinkers; don’t trouble me!

“We already asked them”, said the journalist sheepishly, “Don’t we all know of your rage? It’s only that you were the last in line. Of course we know that your opinion is more important than the opinions of the others.”

“Well, what did the others say; if education has to happen ... ?”

“The world should accept Krishnamurti, the world should accept Waldorf, the world should listen to the tune of Rabindranath, the world should follow Gandhiji, the world should follow Sri Aurobindo, the world should believe in Montessori, the world should follow Ramakrishna… and so on and so forth.”

“Is that it!”, that one with the terrible rage asked while scratching his eczema furiously, “Didn’t the other set say anything?”

“They did. If education has to happen, the world should accept communism; so said one person. Others said, anarchism should be accepted. Another thinker said that fascism should come. Yet another person said that the principle of non-violence should be accepted. And what do you say- if education has to happen?”

“You must agree that I am the greatest prophet of this age!”

“I agree. And what about the rest of the world.. ?”

“The rest also you will have to convince of this. Let it be printed in your newspaper! Declare that you are my first follower!”

“But, have you seen a vision? Some kind of enlightenment?”

“Yes, halfwit!”, and saying this he turned his eyes away with a twisted smile, and accompanied by “krrkrr” sounds, continued scratching at his eczema with great pleasure.

Looking at him in such a position, it seemed to the journalist that he had forgotten about the world. The journalist moved slightly. That one with the terrible rage turned and said:

“What, buffoon, haven’t you gone yet?”

“No. You still haven’t shared that message. If education has to happen?”

“You probably are aware of the secret, that one should teach one’s wife and children. Listen here, I haven’t taught my wife or children in more than one and a half years. I forget… this amnesia!”

“What! You mean that forgetfulness has been troubling you for the past one and a half years?”

“Blockhead! No, joy! Joy!”

“I don’t understand!”

“Look here, in these past one and a half years, have I thrashed any journalists, critics or publishers to a pulp?”


“In the last one and a half years, have I written and published a new book?”


“In the last one and a half years, have any police cases been registered in my name?”

“I haven’t heard!”

“Why? Blockhead, why?”

“I do not know.”

“Why don’t you find out? Am I not “news” for you?”

“You are. That was a mistake on the part of my newspaper. You must forgive us for that. If education has to happen?”

“Oh go and pray!”

“Aiyo, people have been praying for many years now. It has been totally useless. You must tell us your wisdom, if education has to happen?”

“Has eyes, but doesn’t see. Has ears, but doesn’t hear… blockhead. The biggest possible blockhead! Get lost!”

“Aiyo, that’s not enough! You must give us that teaching! If education has to happen?”

“Whom does it harm if this education doesn’t happen? Is your paper being circulated less?”


“Are my books being circulated less?”


“Then, you go now!”

“Aiyo, you must teach something. All the peace and tranquility of this great world is forever anchored in you. If education has to happen?”

“If education has to happen!” That one with the terrible rage, with a “krrkrr” scratching and scraping and clawing his eczema with immense pleasure, then proclaimed:

“All the national leaders, all the ministers, all the thinkers, all policemen, magistrates, judges, lawyers, editors, teachers- every single person on this earth- should get as itchy, biting and wonderful an eczema as mine!”

Friday, November 25, 2011

About Premalekhanam

I translated this fourteen years ago for my wife Kanti because at that time she did not read Malayalam and didn’t understand it too well. The story is very simple but it is told with great joy by Basheer and my intent was to transmit this joy to Kanti. The device I used was to translate it into a Malayalam-like very unEnglish-like English and to use Hindi in the really difficult parts.

Rereading it today I find the language forced and I realize that there is a good chance that you may get irritated with it. My request is that you read it as if it is not in English at all. That you are reading it in the original, which you can somehow miraculously understand.

Premalekhanam Chapter 1

Dearest Saramma,
In these difficult times when life is yearningly youthful and the heart brimming over with love, how do you, my dearest friend reconcile yourself to it all?

As far as I am concerned- every moment of my life I spend in my love for you Saramma. And what about you Saramma? Requesting you to think deeply and accept my love with a sweet sweet reply.
Keshavan Nair

Having written off thus in one shot, Keshavan Nair caught himself suddenly looking back over his shoulder. A sort of vague sense of Saramma standing behind with her soft sweet smile. Oh! just a feeling. He read the letter through. Has poetry. Has Tatvagnana. Has mysticism too. Why? - Doesn’t it contain the whole great secret of Keshavan Nair’s heart? The letter now appears better than intended. He folded it in four and put it in his pocket. Getting out of the bank he turned and walked up a narrow bylane. Then a sudden thought: When given the letter will Saramma read it and poke fun at him? Or will she give a reply? And if so what will her reply be? What stands out foremost from Saramma’s character is poking fun... He recalled an incident from the past: A joyful discussion with Saramma. The jokes turned to the subject of women. Saramma told of some great poet or other having sung of women being God’s supreme creation. Keshavan Nair laughed. “Women have only moonlight inside their heads”, he said. He also told the true story of a seven times wedded gentleman as an example. That gentleman’s seventh life partner in the act of eagerly requesting for something fell downstairs and landed on the granite floor below. The gentleman was coming back after leaving her in the hospital when he met his brahmachari friend and was telling him,

“The accident is not so serious!”

“Didn’t you say that the skull cracked open?”

“Yes that’s true.”

“Can you see the brain matter?”

“Hey!” - the gentleman who has intimately known seven women is telling the nityabrahmachaari: “Just because the skull is cracked does it mean you can see the brain?- isn’t she a woman?”

“From which I infer”, Keshavan Nair told Saramma, “that the heads of women are filled with moonlight.”

Saramma had only laughed politely, a bit, at hearing that. Saramma has not talked about it afterwards. Yet wouldn’t the news that Saramma’s head was also filled with moonlight have touched her? Would she bring the topic of moonlight and make fun of him when given the premalekhanam? Isn’t she a female? Must have forgotten the whole thing. Keshavan Nair entered the hotel thinking this way. Not in the mood for coffee. Nevertheless he drank a cup and smoked a cigarette and sat in the hotel a long time thinking: When give the premalekhanam will Saramma give a sweet-beautiful reply or will she make fun of him? The thing called love has not touched Saramma! Lakhs of times Keshavan Nair has tried. But, whenever, quietly he made a move to open love’s scent bottle, she closed her nose! What is this bad smell? Doesn’t he bathe nowadays? This is the manner in which she looks at him! What way then to make her love him?

Lost in such thoughts he reached his lodging place. Looking up to the top floor where his room was- Keshavan Nair stood dumbstruck on the road!... Saramma!

She is engrossed in trying to pull something out of Keshavan Nair’s room with a very long stick, through the bars of the open window!

Keshavan Nair in his astonishment stood thus in the road without going up to his room. What is Saramma beginning to steal?... If it is a purse, that is in Keshavan Nair’s pocket... would it be some shirt or mundu?... or is it some book?... if so then what is there that she has not already read? “You didn’t have to do this Saramma! Don’t I love you more than my own life? If you had only asked me- wouldn’t I have given you anything, anything?”-Telling her with sadness when she’d be coming down with the stick, then taking the letter, “Oh, look it’s the premalekhanam I wrote you”, and then give it to her. She’d read it and cry thinking she’d killed a love like this. Then Keshavan Nair would console her:

“Oh, its all right Saramma, I’ve forgiven you all!”

Thus heart would join with heart…. daydreaming he stood when,

“Oh, I saw you, standing crouched downstairs! Did clerks in banks have work till evening today?”, Saramma’s words from upstairs.

“Oh!”, Keshavan Nair’s soul shrank a bit. He climbed up the stairs towards his room.

Saramma sweating smiling said:

“It’s one hour since I started this cursed job! Nothing I do makes it get hooked to the end of this rod! Anyway I’ve decided to make a duplicate key for this lock!”

“To open the room when I’m not there, is it?”

She stood looking down at the crowded road below and smiling gently.

Keshavan Nair asked:

“Let that be, what were you trying to hook to the end of the stick?”

“Oh, I didn’t tell you did I?” Saramma asked. “What did you think standing all crouched on the road?”

“I thought”, what can Keshavan Nair say? “I thought Saramma you were trying to take something out. What were you trying to hook with the stick?”

“The magazine that was delivered to Shri Keshavan Nair! I saw the post-sepoy putting it through the window. I got disgusted sitting idle without any work to do!”

“Then can’t you quietly fall in love with me?”, he thought, and taking the bunch of keys from his coat pocket, taking the premalekhanam gave it to Saramma with a pounding heart. Also his hand shook a little when he gave it to her. What would Saramma say? She read the premalekhanam, crumpled it and threw it downstairs: “Everything else is fine I hope.”

Keshavan Nair found himself sweating. He didn’t say anything. What to say? The hardness of the female heart. What did god create these things for?... He opened the door took the magazine gave it to Saramma, took off his coat and hung it on a nail. Saramma with the sound effects of someone having swallowed something hot and too sweet had torn the wrapper and stood flipping the pages of the magazine.

Without showing any emotion, Keshavan Nair with the air of having forgotten about the premalekhanam, hardening his heart and behaving like nothing had happened asked:

“So, Saramma what is the news? Didn’t you have any quarrel with your step-mother today?”

Saramma apparently forgetting the premalekhanam she crumpled and threw away said:

“Oh, it seems that father and step-mother may ask me to pay rent too!”

“It’s become so bad?”

“Well? They’ve given my room on rent haven’t they, and—“

“So, Saramma… to stay with me in my room?…”

“Cheey, not that! My step-mother has a notion that she can probably shift me to the kitchen.”

“And your father?”

“Except what my stepmother tells him, what other opinions does he have?”

“Before your father married your stepmother how were you treated?”

“By my stepmother?”

“No. By your father?”

“Those days he was Father! In my opinion the heads of men are filled with moonlight and nothing else!”

Keshavan Nair started a bit. He didn’t say anything. Well, well! Isn’t that something now!

Keshavan Nair as if not hearing about the moonlight after a long pause asked,

“Don’t you have any rights on this property?”

“What rights do I have?” She said: “The mortgage on the house was cleared with the dowry that stepmother brought. Father says the mortgage was because of loans taken when my mother was ill and for her funeral. If my poor mother would have stayed alive only two more years. I could have got at least a BA degree. And some job. Something….

“There are lots of women with BA’s and MA’s going around without jobs! A fat bribe has to be given.” Keshavan Nair said: “Yet in your present state not having a job is a big problem!”

Saramma raised her eyes from the magazine and asked with great humility: “Is there any vacancy in the bank you work in.”

“Its only a chotta bank!”

“Some other place, if some job for me...”

Keshavan Nair looked up, looked at Saramma’s clear eyes and beautiful neck and firm breasts and thought: What other job for women but to love men? To love and to be loved, that’s what god created women for. Not to become industrialists and walk around proudly... Yet, Keshavan Nair, seeming to have thought deeply about it said:

“I’ll try!”

“Why? Do you know of some place having an opening?”

“Yes I know!” Keshavan Nair drew a deep breath and thought: “In my heart, woman, there’s a large opening for you. No push or bribe needed.” Tapping his chest he said: “there’s an opening!”


“Tell you tomorrow.”

“The job?”

“That…”, Keshavan Nair smiled inwardly. Hmm! Crumpled up the premalekhanam and threw it away, eh? Not one word to say about it either? So I’m a person who writes premalekhanams to women everyday? You devil… Job... I’ll make a job...

Keshavan Nair felt very proud of having been born a man. He fingered his upper lip with his left hand. Will have to perfect a half moustache at the next shave! With sparkling eyes Keshavan Nair declared:

“Tell you tomorrow definitely!”

“Not enough to tell, will I get it?”


“Now my mind is finally at peace.”

Without saying a word about the premalekhanam, with her stick and the magazine she went downstairs to the courtyard below. At the door of her room she shouted up to Keshavan Nair.

“Don’t forget that other thing.”

He didn’t move. He didn’t dare to look for the crumpled premalekhanam lying somewhere there outside. He curbed his anger and with a sweet sounding cruel laugh loudly said:


Premalekhanam Chapter 2

“Here girl, my heart’s beautiful- little key just for you!”, Keshavan Nair said to himself, as he put the key to his room in Saramma’s lap before going to the bank the next morning. When Keshavan Nair came back in the evening Saramma returned him the key. He took the previous days magazine and climbed up the stairs, unlocked his room, pulled up a chair to the door and sat looking at the magazine. The happiness in the victory to be! Victory even before the battle started! The intelligent male is like this! When Saramma finds out the form of her prospective job… she’ll tear him apart? Keshavan Nair thought about it and laughed. Thought and thought and laughed. He was sitting like this when Saramma came up climbing very slowly. Although he knew that Saramma was eager to talk about the job he didn’t show anything and asked in his usual manner:

“So, what all is the news Saramma?”

“Oh, nothing.” Saramma smiled in her usual manner and asked: “Has anything been stolen from your room?”

Of course it has! Haven’t you stolen me absolutely completely dearest?  Thief girl!

Keshavan Nair in a soft low-key manner said:

“I’ve not examined it.”

“Then, examine.”

Keshavan Nair didn’t say anything. He acted like a person reading an interesting magazine and thought about his hearts sundara surabila rahasyam, which he was going to tell Saramma. It was going to jump out of that huge scent-bottle, his heart, with a ‘Boom!’: Sundara surabila hridaya rahasyam! Saramma leaned on the window-sill and looked at the glossiness of Keshavan Nair’s centrally parted curly hair and the redness of his slowly moving eyeballs and the rising and falling of his chest, one by one and asked quietly with deep humility:

“You didn’t say anything about that job?”

“But, I don’t think you’ll enjoy it very much Saramma!”

Saramma said:

“If its because the salary is low- that doesn’t matter. I’ll accept it. I’m a burden to everybody here. I’m tired of this life. To tell the truth, do you know, sometimes what all I feel like doing?”

“What all do you feel like doing? Let’s hear.”

“Oh, always making fun! I’m serious. All because of being born a woman... I’ll accept any kind of job.”

“Saramma can you do any kitchen-work?”

Saramma was surprised.

“Why do you ask?”

“Just a question.”

Saramma said:

“Ok, then I can. I can prepare rice and curry. I can prepare snacks. I can make tea. I can make coffee. I can make cocoa. I can make ovaltine…”

“In short if given a measure of rice you can cook and serve…”

“…Why, do you have any intention of keeping me as a cook somewhere?”

“Chheey! Of course not. I just asked. Educated girls usually don’t have any knowledge of kitchen related things. Their bodies and dresses cannot bear soot and smoke. They know how to dress up and put powder and spray perfume and redden lips and set their hair in some one hundred and sixty five ways! They also know how to sit meditating for hours in front of the mirror. Then all made up and dressed up and with their dunkudu sack-“

“Dunkudu sack?”



“Then they roam around like that with their dunkudu sack! She’s a lady… I just asked to find if respected Saramma is a lady like that!”

“Oh, I’m not respected or anything! I don’t have a dunkudu sack either!”

“But what do they carry around in that Saramma?”

“An itsy-bitsy mirror, an itsy-bitsy powder box, an itsy-bitsy comb.”

“Does it have any premalekhanams?”


“Yes; They must be saving the ones they get by the hour there. When it’s full by the evening they’d transfer it all to a big trunk!”

“I don’t know all that. I’ve not seen any premalekhanams either. What is the job that you have seen for me?”

Liar-Girl! Great grandmother of a liar-girl!

Keshavan Nair said:

“Saramma, that… You’ll not like that job!”

 “Aiyyo. I’ll like it! I’ll like it!! I’ll like it!!!”

“Are you sure?”

“A thousand times sure!”

“Ok then…” Keshavan Nair hesitated. How can one say it?

“Saramma you won’t enjoy it!”

“Aiyyo, didn’t I say, I’ll enjoy it!”

“But if you find later that you regret the decision?”

“No! I’ll bear any regret or any sacrifice! Do you know a secret? This is before you came to stay here. Last year one after the other there were three marriage proposals for me. All three times I was happy. Not because of the thought of marital life with a person I’d not seen or heard; but because of the thought that I’d escape this hell. All three didn’t work out. In our community nobody would marry and take me away without a dowry! ...Father and step-mother say that it’s all my fault! Every slight thing is my fault! If there is no rain in this land – It’s my fault. To escape this place I looked for jobs in a large number of places. But only for me there’s no vacancy anywhere!”

“There’s a vacancy!”


“I’ll tell you. What is this thing you called dowry?”

“The bribe given to the man for the safe-keeping of the woman.”

“I don’t understand!”

“Ok, suppose someone is marrying me and taking me away…”

“Right, suppose me!”

“Oh!… After I’ve been married and taken away… Isn’t money needed for my fooding and dressing up and oil-bathing and powder and spray and scent-bottle and child-bearing and funeral? Only if I pay in advance am I married and taken away!”

“That must be because nobody is in love with you Saramma! If somebody was in love...?”

“Oh, even then the dowry has to be given. Didn’t I say it’s our communities custom!”

Keshavan Nair felt very happy about this dowry business. Styleful business!

“If this kind of thing had not been! Dear god!

Saramma said:

“I hate this dowry business intensely!”

Keshavan Nair said:

“I love this dowry business!”


“I’ll tell you. This dowry custom is there in the Namboodiri community also.”

Saramma said:

“In the Muslim community too.”

Keshavan Nair said:

“The people who are burdened by dowry should marry people from other communities who are ready for marriage without dowry.”

“Hmm?… Nice innovation!”

“Yes, Nair with Christian and Christian with a Nair and Musalman with a Nair and a Namboodiri and Ezhavan and Christian…”

“Can I interrupt and ask a question?”

“Ask. Not one, ask one hundred questions. Happily this here Keshavan Nair shall give the answers!”

 “Ok then, could you tell me what is this job you have seen for me?

“Oh,… but you’ll reject it Saramma!

“Didn’t I say– I wont ever ever reject it!”

“Ok that…”, Keshavan Nair opened the cap of that big scent bottle his heart with a Thapp and let the sundara surabila rahasyam out:

“Saramma, the way I love you deeply, you also love me back deeply. That’s the important job I’ve got for you Saramma!”

Well, well what a job!

Saramma started a bit. Only for a moment. Actually, there was a rush of blood to her face and her eyes half-closed. But also, beautiful-smiling she stood; Maayaamohini!!

Kesavan Nairs hearts fetters broke. He said: “I’ve loved you a long time Saramma. More than myself. More than my heart. More than my life. More than my country. More than…”

She laughed; A new color rose to her cheeks; Her eyes sparkled more.

Keshavan Nair asked:

“Saramma, what do you say about the new job?”

Saramma with a soft smile quietly, very quietly said:

“The job seems Ok! What’s the salary you’ve decided?”

“Salary?”. Oh looking for a quarrel is it? War! Very well then. It’s the hot blood of brave warriors that flows through my veins… If it’s war then let it be war! Fight what else... Victory or death! Inquilaab! Sindaabad!… Proudly Keshavan Nair asked:

“What salary do you want?”

“You decide it!”

As a result of very deep thought Keshavan Nair decided:

“Twenty rupees!”

Saramma said:

“It’s too little!”

“But it’s not possible to increase it by even one bit. Small bank. Small salary. Understand? If I work nine hours per day thirty days and after giving the rent to your father and the hotelwala money for food and the dhobi for laundry and I drastically reduce all expenditure, that is more or less starve, then the money I save is what I plan to give you. Is there any problem with your job? You only have to love me sitting or lying or walking? Think about it.”

Saramma said:

“The job is a bitter one! Sir only works nine hours out of twenty-four. Isn’t fifteen hours total rest? And my job!…Not a moment’s rest. Night and day, eating and sleeping- I have to think of you- isn’t that right?… when Keshavan Nair cries I should cry, laughs I should laugh, eats I should not eat, sleeps I should stay awake and love Keshavan Nair!” Saramma looked at Keshavan Nair as if she’d drunk a very bitter medicine. Then she asked:

“So the job you’ve given me is it permanent or temporary?”

“Permanent! Forever! Eternal!”

Saramma was comforted, she said:

“Oh, good! So even when respected Keshavan Nair is ‘deem’ I have this job, right?”

“What’s that?”

“If sir dies, I still have the job, isn’t that right?”

“Without any doubt! Even if I beautifully pass away into the unknown, sweetly beautifully Saramma should love me!”

Saramma had a doubt:

“When thou are dead and buried then who’ll pay the salary?”

Keshavan Nair kept quiet. What to say?

Keshavan Nair’s silence made Saramma laugh. Teasingly she said:

“Even if the head is full of moonlight, this job has a catch like that. Who gives the salary after thou art dead?”

What can one say? Keshavan Nair thought hard. In the end a half-way solution. He smiled.

“What if we make dying a double affair?”

“Oho, naked exhibition of selfishness? I should also kill myself when you die?”

“Are you making fun of me Saramma?”

“Never. Is stating facts making fun? Oh… But am I not a woman? Even if the skull cracks open can one see the brain matter? The heads of women are of course filled with moonlight only!”

“Forgive me, Saramma. I don’t have intelligence or wisdom or beauty like you.”

“There, now you are the one who’s teasing poor old me.”

“I can never never tease my Saramma.”

“Oh, keep teasing.”

Some nerve inside Keshavan Nair burst:

“Will I tease my Soul-mate? Will I tease my jeeviteswari? Will I tease my own heart? Will I tease my aatma? Will I tease my goddess? Will I…”

Saramma in between said:

“Stop a moment will you? Something I want to ask!”

“Ask. Bring forth.”

“Am I soul-mate?”


“Since when?”

“Since long ago.”

“How much long ago?”

“Lots of more and more long ago.”

“Then this news, why didn’t you say it before?”

“Didn’t I tell you- everyday I think of it; everyday I write a premalekhanam to Saramma.”

“And then?”

“Tear it away!”

“So its like that is it?”


“So in short, now I am thy soul-mate!”


“If it’s like that- you’ll do whatever I ask you. Right?”

Keshavan Nair became garrulous: “Do whatever you ask. Anybody to be killed, I’ll kill. Oceans to swim across, I’ll swim. Mountains to be leaped over, I’ll leap. I’m ready to even die for you Saramma!”

She said:

“Right now it’s not necessary to die and show- right now stand on your head- let’s see!”

“Really truly stand on my head?”

“Oh! ‘Really truly’ there’s that word in between eh?”

“No!” Keshavan Nair got up happily.

“Will sheershasanam do? I can show you mayurasanam too!”

“Right now sheershasanam will do.”

“Right! Here goes!”

He took off his shirt and put it on a chair. Then tied his mundu up half, spread a cloth, stood on his head on the floor, his feet firmly straight!

She looked happily at his toes, then remarked:

“First class! styleful!”

Keshavan Nair upside down asked:

“Do you love me, Saramma?”

Saramma was silent.

Keshavan Nair asked again:

“Do you accept the madhura sundara love-work?”

Silently, secretly Saramma went down the stairs and from the bottom shouted up:

“With madhura sundaram I’ll tell you tomorrow!”

Premalekhanam Chapter 3

“Saramma have you accepted the madhura sundara love-work?” Keshavan Nair asked the next day.

Saramma said:

“With madhura sundaram tell you tomorrow!”

The next day again when Keshavan Nair asked, Saramma said:

“Tell you tomorrow!”

The next day again when Keshavan Nair asked, Saramma said:

“Tell you tomorrow!”

The next day again when Keshavan Nair asked, Saramma said:

“Tell you tomorrow!”

The next day Keshavan Nair didn’t ask! He made a declaration:

“With madhura sundaram I’m going to commit suicide! What is the use of living now?”

“Very good idea! Then let someone write a sad poem. The great lover who committed madhura sundara suicide!”

Keshavan Nair kept quiet.

“So decided to commit madhura sundara suicide?”


“That mangalakarmam, when is it?”

Keshavan Nair kept quiet.

“The madhura sundara suicide. Which way will it be?”

“I’ve not come to any decision about all that. Still thinking!”

Saramma advised:

“Can die by putting head on a rail line. Or, can die by hanging from a flowering tree. Which one of these are you going to accept?”

Keshavan Nair kept quiet. Cruel-heart! The double-double-double cruel heart of women!!

Saramma again advised:

“There is another way. Nobody will come to know also. In a small boat take a large granite piece and some rope and surreptitiously row towards the middle of the lake at dusk. Then tie one end of the rope to the stone; the other end make a beautiful slip knot and put it around your neck. Then beautifully scream I’m dead and kick and sink the boat secretly.”

The thousand double cruel-heart of women!

Keshavan Nair said:

“I’ve found another way. I’ll hang myself here! While dead and hanging there would be a large piece of paper tied to the feet: World, there is no relation between my death and cruel hearted Saramma! It is true that I love Saramma and that Saramma does not love me! It is also true that she hard-heartedly crumpled and threw away the madhura sundara
premalekhanam that I gave her. Even then, my death and hard-hearted Saramma, world, have no relation to one another. Signed poor Keshavan Nair who died for Saramma.”

“No other special news?”

“No! Nothing at all!”

Saramma said:

“I took the premalekhanam and wrapped black tooth-powder in it”

“In the premalekhanam written in my hearts blood?”


The female hearts total iron iron hardness!

Keshavan Nair didn’t open his mouth. What to speak?

A number of days went by in a daze. He moved around not speaking to anybody- Sulking around.

He can’t stand women!

Bloodyfools! Hard hard hearts!

Saramma is also a bloody bloody fool, a hard hard heart! Keshavan Nair is also a bloody bloody fool, not a hard hard heart! The men and women in the world, each one is a bloodyfool! Thus Keshavan Nair’s opinions where getting stronger when- One beautiful
evening Saramma came into the front yard and stood in front of Keshavan Nair and as if expecting something, very nicely put out her hand. Keshavan Nair didn’t understand anything.

Saramma as if angry asked:

“My salary?”

“Salary? What salary?” Nothing penetrated into Keshavan Nair’s head.

Seeing his condition Saramma said: In a manner of having been deeply humiliated by Keshavan Nair not keeping a promise said:

“Oh, in the end it’s become like this also! I am the one to suffer everything. Is it for nothing that the world says that my head is full of moonlight? For twenty-thirty days I’ve taken up the difficult task of madhura sundara loving you…!”

“Oh!”, Keshavan Nair’s brow cleared. Eyes sparkled. His heart expanded like a football and pressed against his ribs.

“Dearest, then why didn’t you tell me that madhura manohara news?”

In a manner filled with regret Saramma said:

“In these difficult times when life is yearningly youthful and the heart brimming over with love- what could I do if you just sulk around saying suicide and behaving like you are not seeing or hearing me?”

“No other special news?”

“No, nothing at all!”

Keshavan Nair ordered:


He walked on, and behind him Saramma. They climbed up. Keshavan Nair entered and opened his trunk and took out two ten rupee notes and with a thundering heart put it into a cover and wrote ‘Srimati Saramma, for her’ addressed thus, put it into Saramma’s hand.

Saramma asked:

“Is it a premalekhanam?”

Keshavan Nair didn’t say anything. Premalekhanam! Let her writhe for a while. But, Saramma showed no signs of writhing.

She took the notes and like some big business-woman held them up to the light and minutely observed them:

“It’s not counterfeit-notes?”

Keshavan Nair kept quiet.

“Ok”, she proclaimed: “Henceforth don’t make it late like this. Exactly on the first I should get my salary!”

Keshavan Nair felt like tightly hugging Saramma and continuously kissing her one lakh and nine times. He came nearer to kiss her.

Saramma said:

“Stay some four feet away!”

“I want to kiss a bit!”

“What me?”


“That’s good this kissing business was not there in our contract?”

Keshavan Nair said nothing. Hey! Some contract!

That way five months passed. Hundred rupees changed hands to Saramma. What she was doing with it he didn’t ask. Even then in the third month Saramma let him know: She had won a lottery of one thousand Rupees! The luck of one Rupee from the salary he had given her! Keshavan Nair didn’t pay much attention to all that. How can one pay attention to money related soiled things? He’s in the moonlight of love. It’s not possible to grasp anything very clearly. Believe what the love-object says. Doesn’t matter even if she gives nothing. Practice fulfilling her wishes. Walk in the direction she points – more than that it is not possible for him to do anything. In this way complying with Saramma’s wishes, Keshavan Nair applied for jobs in foreign places. Why? Because Saramma said so... But, he also did things Saramma didn’t tell him. When Saramma was lying ill, calling the doctor and showing him; pay money and buy medicines for Saramma; make her drink it; try to make peace between Saramma and her step-mother; make small speeches about the responsibilities of parents to Saramma’s father- lots of things like that. But, she didn’t thank him for anything or show any submissiveness. Even then Keshavan Nair tolerated all that. What became intolerable was ‘in these difficult times when life is yearningly youthful and the heart brimming over with love-’ as a cute little start for her sentences. Hearing that Keshavan Nair goes all cold. When Saramma begins to speak he pays attention to see if she’ll start that way. If it isn’t he lets his breath out in a sigh of relief. Although it’s like this, is there any stopping love’s growth? Every day it grows more strong and courageous and lovely. Want to look at Saramma all the time! Want to embrace her; want to kiss her; there’s no end to his desires. Isn’t he a man?

And Saramma? She has shown absolutely no sign that she loves Keshavan Nair. In word or deed- she’s giving no way at all. Isn’t she a woman?

It was in such circumstances that the moment of parting came on. Keshavan Nair got a job with a company in a foreign state. A good high salary. Keshavan Nair according to Saramma’s wishes wrote back accepting the offer.

Saramma said:

“So, in that way, I’m also going to get a high salary!”

That’s all. She has nothing to else to say. Even then Saramma reminded him:

“You should positively send the money order by the first of every month. You have the address, no?”

Keshavan Nair said nothing. What to say to a female with a hard heart?

Saramma asked:

“When are you going?”

Keshavan Nair said:

“You know that within ten days I have to get there and take charge. So I’m thinking of leaving day after tomorrow. Thinking that I’ve also resigned from the bank job.”

“So finally decided to go away from here?”

“What kind of question is this?”

“Am I still your love-object?”

“What else?”

“You are ready to accept death also for me?”




Saramma said:

“Right now it’s not necessary to die and show. Will you not go for the job if I ask you?”

Not go for the job? If it comes to that it’ll become very uncomfortable. It’ll become impossible to give the rent. There’ll be trouble to eat and dress. May have to become a tramp and roam around in the bylanes! Keshavan Nair stood looking down with his hand on his chin. What to do?

Saramma got up and started walking towards the stairs. Keshavan Nair called out painfully:

“Saramma, something I want to say.”

She came back.

“If it’s something beautiful and new about love, I’ve heard and heard and I’m tired of it. Chaplaachi thing it is, your premam.”

Keshavan Nair kept quiet. Parishuddha premam- a chaplaachi thing!

She said:

“Say on, I’m the one who takes the salary isn’t it- How can I not listen?”

“Saramma for you it’s always fun!”

“Is this what you wanted to say?”



“Saramma you also come with me. I can’t go and stay there alone.”

Saramma laughed. She asked:

“Are you afraid?”

“No. Saramma I love-“

“Saramma I love! Haven’t you said it one lakh and nine times?”

Saramma asked: “this thing called love what is it?”

That’s not difficult to say! Keshavan Nair knows very well what love is. But he’s slightly shy about saying it:

“Affection, love- what’s called all that is something like some sort of moonlight... Madhurasundarasurabhila chaandini hoti hai premam!”

“Madhurasundarasurabhila moonlight!” Saramma is astounded:

“That’s what’s inside the heads of women, isn’t that what you said?”

“Not Madhurasundarasurabhila wallah. What’s inside the heads of women is only simple ordinary useless moonlight!”

“Thank you!”

After a long time Keshavan Nair asked:

“Will you come Saramma?”

“And after coming?”

“You must live as my wife for as long as the moon and the stars are there.”

“Aren’t we of two different faiths?”

“So what? Can’t we do a ‘registered wedding’?”

“Don’t you want any dowry?”

“Saramma, you give all of you to me as dowry. That’s enough. Saramma you only are the diya of my little jhopdi. You only are-“

“Stop please! There are other doubts!”

“What are they? Let’s hear.”

With a mischievous laugh Saramma said:

“We two Shrijit Keshavan Nair and Shrimati Saramma when we live as wife and husband I foresee a lot of problems. When one person goes to the temple the other goes to the church. Two groups! Always between us the church and the temple!”

“A just thought!” Keshavan Nair said: “there’ll be lots of other thing like this. Take the case of our two lives. I’ve gone through great hardship; you too. In all this time how many troubles have you not suffered! Stepmother and father have they behaved compassionately so far! Stepmother’s evil mind! Group, Church. Think about it: Two adult independent beings. Some little education and little intelligence is there. Your group is not going to feed or take care of us. Temple and church- let them stand where they are.
There should not be walls between our hearts. Forgiveness, kindness, compassion, you should not forget these. Is that clear?”

“That’s clear.” Saramma thoughtfully said:

“If there are other doubts?”

“If there are, then this here Keshavan Nair will solve them. Speak up, let’s hear.”

“I feel shy about saying it.”

“Then shyly beautifully only say it.”

Saramma asked:

“Won’t we have children? What religion will they be? I won’t like bringing them up as Hindus. To bring them up as Christians my- my husband may not like it! When it comes to that, their religion?”

Keshavan Nair broke out in sweat. He’s not thought of it all. Isn’t it true?- What religion would the children be? Keshavan Nair thought. Thought deeply. Wracked his brains. The veins on his temple stood out. Sweat poured out of his forehead. No solution in sight. Thought is blindly groping about in half light. No answer in sight. Then a thought like lightning. A door of light opened. As if having seen a wonderful vision he declared:

“I’ve seen it!”


“I’ll tell you.” Keshavan Nair said: “we won’t bring our children up to any religion! Let them grow up religionless!”

“Like animals? Like birds? Like crocodiles?”



“There’s a way; when they grow up teach them about all religions- without any bias. Then when they are some twenty years old let them choose the one they like best!”

Saramma without looking at Keshavan Nair’s face happily said:

“That’s fair... and name? Suppose my first child is a boy. What shall we name that darling-son?”

Keshavan Nair was troubled:

“That’s true. What shall we name that darling-son? Cannot put a Hindu name. And similarly no Christian name.”

After some thought Keshavan Nair found the solution again.

“Let us”, he said: “put some earth-shattering name of some other community.”

“Then, won’t people think that my darling-son belongs to that community?”

“Right!” Keshavan Nair understood. “Putting Musalman name would make people think he’s a Musalman. Pharsee’s also the same… Chinawallah and Russiawallah also- No can’t do that, it’s a problem.”

What name to put? Need a name nobody has used before. Behind the name there should be nothing indicating beliefs or religion… what is there like that? Keshavan Nair kept thinking.

Then Saramma asked:

“This Chinese name, how would it be?”

Keshavan Nair said one sample Chinese name:


“Dunk-dinkoho.” Saramma tried out the darling-son who was to be her first born.

“Hey son, dunk-dinkoho. Where are you?- Dunk-dinkoho!”

“Does it have style?”

It didn’t appeal very much to Saramma.

“I don’t need that name for my son!”

“Then there is the Russian. You only have to add ski.”

Saramma asked:

“What ski?”


“Chaploski, Chaploski... No!”

“Ok then, I’ve got it... styleful names!” Keshavan Nair’s imagination exploded. One by one he said:

“India, Premalekhanam, Short-story, Typhoon, Sahara, Aakaasham, Moonlight, Salmon, Symbolism, Areca-palm, Mithai, Theater, Ocean, Fish-eyes, Friday, Prose-poem, Opalstone, Flame, Mysticism, Galaxy- “

“Stop please! Let me call out and see: Hey! son, Fish-eyes, Fish-eyes! Mummy’s dear Fish-eyes... No!”

She again called out and tried:

“Hey son, Prose-poem, son Short-story! Hey son Moonlight!”

He said:

“Let’s write each one on a piece of paper and select two. Let’s not quarrel. For names, a double-name is more styleful!”

Saramma also agreed about that.

They wrote the names on small slips of paper and folded them and mixed them together. Saramma picked one and Keshavan Nair also picked one. Keshavan Nair smoothened the paper piece and announced:


Saramma also opened the paper and slowly said:


Both of them looked at each other’s face.

Saramma bravely called out her son’s name:

“Mithai Aakaasham! Hey son Mithaiaakaasham!... Hey son Mithaiaakaasham!”

“Wrong!” Keshavan Nair spoke out the right one. Called out the name of his dear-boy son with pride:


Saramma also liked that very much. She lovingly called out the name of her dear son:

“Aakaashamithai... Hey son, Aakaashamithai. Where are you Aakaashamithai!”

“Great it is!” Keshavan Nair showed the way: “Mister Aakaashamithai! Shrijit Aakaashamithai!... Comrade Aakaashamithai!”

Then Saramma has a horrible doubt:

“Is my darling-son a communist?”

Keshavan Nair said:

“Arre, let him be! Let him join any Dunkaas! His preference, what else?”

“Ok then, let it be on the liking of my son. My son can join any party!”

My son? Saramma’s son? Keshavan Nair was angered. Selfishness! He reminded her:

“Saramma, in everything you said so far you said my son, my son, my son. Understand? This much selfishness is not good. If somebody hears they’ll think I don’t have any right at all over Aakaashamithai! From now on say ‘our son’. Abbe did you understand?”

Saramma was also angered. “Abbe!” he said!

“It’s good you reminded me.” Saramma showed her manner of having drunk a bitter medicine: “Oh, I only asked about it that’s all! So don’t think I’ve become your wife!- understand Mister Keshavan Nair?”

Keshavan Nair’s face dried up. Humbly he asked:

“Then Saramma what you said before?”

“What did I say?”

“That you’ll become my wife.”

“And after becoming?”

“Oh, Saramma it’s always vinodam for you!”

“Aah!- Vinodam- you know what that is of life?”

“I don’t want to know.”

“That’s good! He doesn’t want to listen to anything I say. I am ‘Abbe’, I am soul-mate! I am ishtadaasi!”

“Tell me Saramma. What is it?”


“Vinodam jeevan ka-?”

“Ah, smile like that.” She got up and went down the stairs and said:


Vinodam jeevan ka saurabyam hota hai! That’s good! Vinodam jeevan ka saurabyam hota hai!

Premalekhanam Chapter 4

“Saramma, at dawn I have to leave this place.” When it started getting dark, Keshavan Nair said: “Is there anything you have to say in the end?”

Saramma said:

“In these difficult times when life is yearningly youthful and the heart brimming over with love- some small questions!”

Keshavan Nair went all cold.

Saramma continued:

“Question one- Have you paid off all my father’s rent?”


“Ok. Second question- the hotelwallah’s dues?”


“Third question- Do you have money for travel expenses?”


“Then one sub-question more- Where did the money come from?”

“I sold my wrist-watch and gold ring.”

“Good. So respected Keshavan Nair when he finally departs from this place, he shall for no reason whatsoever be remembered by anybody and for which I pay him my most sincere felicitations!” Saying this Saramma went away downstairs laughing softly and joyously.

Keshavan Nair called out with a breaking heart:


Who’s to hear? Kaathinyam ki paryaayam hoti hai stree! Tottal Dunkudu!! Dunkudu hoti hai stree!!!

Premalekhanam Chapter 5

Keshavan Nair sat there like a zombie. Night came. The moon rose up. For what?.... Keshavan Nair sat there like that. In the end he got up and put on the light. The timepiece shows eleven- o’clock!

He set the alarm for four, closed the door and lay down tiredly on the bed. The last night!... No hunger, no thirst. Keshavan Nair lay down with his eyes open. Not thinking about anything at all. Yet his eyes brimmed over and tears kept flowing. Krooramrigam hoti hai stree! The male is many times better! Why would god have created women? Won’t be any good intention or anything! He felt like bursting out crying loudly.

Then a sound outside... Soft-gentle and musical:

“Did you fall asleep?”

Her! Trouble! Cruelty! Toughness!

Keshavan Nair didn’t move.

Again the same sound:

“Open up, it’s me.”

Keshavan Nair got up and opened the door.

Saramma came into the room. Keshavan Nair kept standing at the door.

Saramma softly called:

“Come here a bit, something to say.”

Keshavan Nair went back and sat on the bed. Saramma went to the door and stood looking out for a long time. No special sounds. She closed the door and pulled up the chair to the bed. And when she sat with her elbows on the bed and her face supported in her palms, with her open tangled up hair, her breasts lay touching the bed.

Keshavan Nair had a desire to kiss those breasts. The neck and the lips and the eyes…. Yet trying to harden his heart, he leant back on the pillow. Even then the tears kept flowing.

She asked:

“Why are you crying?”

He kept quiet. She got up and sat on the bed. And leaning towards Keshavan Nair’s face, on his lips gave a gigantic surabhila kiss! Thapp!!

“Did you hate me?” she softly asked.

“Yes.” He lifted her up and put her on his lap. Her smell… All the complaints were forgotten. Yet with tears flowing he smiled.

She said:

“Like the full moon shining through when it’s raining-“

“Similes you will find many more... you must come with me at dawn on the four-thirty train!”


“Where I’m going.”

“And then?”

“Hah, it’s always vinodam for you Saramma.”

“Vinodam is what of life you know?”

“I know! What my dearest ‘Abbe’s’ lips and all have?”

“Hmm! Keep making fun!” she took out a fat cover from inside her bodice and reverently handed it over to Keshavan Nair “you must open it only when the train has left this place.”

“It seems heavy?” Keshavan Nair asked: “is it a premalekhanam?”

“Yes, a premalekhanam!” Saramma smiled.

“You should only open and see this after the train moves out of the station- Promise me that?”

He said:

“I promise.”

“Not enough. Promise on something you revere and have faith in.”

Keshavan Nair looked at Saramma and promised:

“On Saramma whom I revere and have faith in and love purely I promise that I’ll open this only after I board the train!”

Saramma got up and opened the door.

“You must call me when you leave in the morning. Now go to sleep peacefully!”

She left. Keshavan Nair was alone... Her smell!