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!

Premalekhanam Chapter 6

The timepiece alarm rang.

Keshavan Nair got up with a start. The time is exactly four-o’clock! He got up, washed his feet and face and made preparations to leave. He dressed and folded and tied his bedding and put his belongings into the trunk. After that he went downstairs and out into the road and called a vehicle and transferred all his luggage into the vehicle; getting back, flashed torchlight through Saramma’s window and softly chanted “Saramma! Saramma!”, but no movement... He pushed the door a bit. Surprisingly it opened.

When he flashed the light around there’s nobody in the room... No Saramma. No Saramma’s suitcase... What a story? Where could she have gone? The light fell on a cover lying on the table. Keshavan Nair with a pounding heart opened it and read:

Dear father and respected stepmother to read together and come to know this is Saramma writing to say:

In these difficult times when life is yearningly youthful and the heart brimming over with love- I’ve got a job where every month I’m getting a very big salary and so I’m going to my place of work. I’ve also got a man who is ready to marry me in these dirty clothes of mine and without a dowry. Since he loves me and I love him, I hope that you’ll think deeply and give sweet blessings and accept our decision.

Father’s and stepmother’s

Keshavan Nair put the letter back on the table, closed the door, came out, got into the vehicle and reached the railway station in haste, and there she stood, Saramma, smiling, like a piece of heaven!

She asked:

“How did you know that I’d come here?”

“Divyagnanam! The beautiful mind of the male!”

“The treacherous mind of the male! Otherwise would you go to my room and steal and read my secret letter to my father and stepmother!”

“I shall tell you! Girl! I shall tell you everything!”

He bought two tickets. With their luggage both of them got into the train and sat down.

With a joyous great, great whistle the train moved out. They sat without speaking, close to each other. The train stopped in three places. In the end they were alone.

The train stopped in a station. Keshavan Nair ordered tea. Both of them would be having coffee Saramma said. Both of them would be having tea Keshavan Nair said. Both of them became angry. In the end Keshavan Nair drank tea and Saramma had a coffee. The sun too rose beautifully and joyously. The train was going slowly over a river flowing like gold. Forgetting the quarrel over the tea and coffee Keshavan Nair softly called out to Saramma:

“Beautiful, honey, dearest!”

Saramma sat near and asked:

“What is it Aakaashamithai’s daddy?”

“Dear madhura surabhila sundara moonlight!”

Saramma pinched Keshavan Nair.

Keshavan Nair said:

“I’ll beat you senseless!”

Saramma’s eyes filled with tears. Isn’t she a woman? Is there any dearth of tears? She just cried and cried. Seeing that the male heart of Keshavan Nair just broke! He kissed her on the eyes.

“No, don’t!” Saramma said: “Don’t touch me!”

“What is the reason?”

“Is this any way to behave after I made all these sacrifices?”

“What behavior?... What sacrifice did you make Saramma?”

“I have left behind my dear father and stepmother and am coming with you, am I not?”

“Yes, you are coming! So what?”

“For me couldn’t even drink coffee... For me even one little bit sacrifice?”

Keshavan Nair didn’t say anything. He thought of all women who had been and were and would be in the world: Fooltooshes!

“For me even one bit sacrifice...”, Saramma continued, “and now says he’ll beat me senseless!”

“About sacrifices oh Aakaashamithai’s mummy!”

“What is it?”

“Today we’ll do a registered marriage and advertise our first class husband wife status. Do you agree?”

Saramma said nothing.

Keshavan Nair very slowly on Saramma’s thigh- gave a huge pinch and asked again:

“Abbe, do you agree?”

“Didn’t I say yes before? Silence is acceptance!”

“You’ll have complete freedom in three things.”

“Only three little bitty things?”

“Yes. Food, clothing, faith.”

“Then will our house have two kitchens?”

“Just one little bitty kitchen!”

“Do I cook two types of food?”

“Just one type!”

“According to whose liking?”

“My Kitchenwalli.”

She smiled.

“That’s fair! I’ll make only coffee in the morning!”

“Oh… After that I’ll go out and drink tea!”

“I won’t allow it! The salary you get, all, all of it you give to me!”

“Dearest Abbe, how will I drink tea?”

“Sacrifice it. What all I’ve sacrificed for you!”

“And what about my standing on my head for Saramma?”

“Oh, is that a big sacrifice? Aren’t there people who renounced kingdoms for love? Aren’t there people who made war with crocodiles?”

“Dearest maayaamohini?  Abbe madhurasurabhilasundaramoonlight! Just like that, if I want, I can lean back on an easy chair and renounce ten kingdoms and fight a thousand crocodiles. But, for the love-object at least once stand on the head! Who’s done that? Is there any greater sacrifice in the history of the world? Keshavan Nair stood on his head in front of Saramma! What is a more greater sacrifice than this, girl?”

“I’ll tell.”

She bent down and kissed both of Keshavan Nair’s feet. Keshavan Nair made her get up and embraced her. A running train. Who’s to see?

She put her hand into Keshavan Nair’s coat pocket.

He asked:

“Madhurasurabhilawalli sundaramoonlight, what are you hustling?”

“The cover I gave!”

“The premalekhanam! Aiyyo I didn’t read that!”

Keshavan Nair took the cover and opened it and took the papers and stared in wonder. Notes!... Notes!... A commotion of notes!

He counted. One thousand ninety-nine Rupees worth of notes!

“From this buy a watch and a ring- do you hear?”

Keshavan Nair although happy at the sight of the money was more interested in reading the premalekhanam. He asked:

“Where’s the other?”

“The other?”


“Oh are you in a hurry to read it?”

“Just wanted to look at it dearest!”

“Then look!” she looked at Keshavan Nair with her clear gaze: “See? Mai hoti hoon premalekhanam! Yuvati hoti hai Yuva hota hai- premalekhanam!”

Keshavan Nair liked it a lot.

“You and I!... Styleful! Where’s the other? Show!”

She took an old looking piece of paper soaked in a long time sweat, from inside her bodice and gave it to Keshavan Nair. He smoothened it and held it towards the light. A familiar looking intriguing letter. When he started reading it she put her arms around his neck and stood kissing him. And said:

“In these difficult times when life is yearningly youthful and the heart brimming over with love- Didn’t I say, It’s us that are the premalekhanam!”

“Abbe girl, understood! It’s clear now. Let me whisper something in your ear!”

“Won’t let!” She embraced him tightly and stood kissing him. The train is going very fast with a great great whistle. The letter that Saramma took from her bodice Keshavan Nair read with great difficulty:

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



About PoovanPazham

Pazham is banana and Poovan is a variety. If one is choosing Basheer stories to translate this is not one most people would select. Basheer has many other funnier, better told, wiser stories than this. A friend who read this asked me if I translated this to stop Kanti from getting uppity about my having translated 'Premalekhanam' for her. Well, you can read both these stories and judge for yourselves!

Meaning of obscure untranslated Malayalam words:

Thorthu - Very thin towel used for taking a bath, tying on the head, wearing while working in the fields and so on.
Kootaan - Curry (like saambaar)
Mundu - Dhoti
Vettukathi - Really huge local knife. Used for cutting coconuts, throats and other such like things

PoovanPazham Chapter 1

‘PoovanPazham’ this story I am not writing because I really want to. Its because of the nuisance of Abdul Khader sahib. He thinks, there’s some big moral lesson in it. The story is about his dharampatni Jameela Bibi.

Jameela Bibi is a BA waali. Abdul Khader sahib has studied upto the school final year only. As per the customs of the community should a school final waala marry a BA waali? But it’s the spoils of war is what Abdul Khader sahib proclaims. In olden times men used to steal women away. Also used to catch women by throwing long ropes with a noose at the end. Many forceful things men used to do to women. Abdul Khader sahib being a cultured gentleman did not resort to any of these. He was Town Caddy and  the secretary of the Beedi Mazdoor Union and a good football player. Abdul Khader sahib’s claim is that he was with Jameela Bibi from the fourth form to the school final year and from the fourth itself he was attracted to Jameela Bibi. Jameela Bibi’s claim is that this is a 100% lie.

Anyway Jameela Bibi passed her BA. Spending as much money from her Baapa’s beedi factory business as she needed, it was a time when she was walking around proudly as a big ‘Lady’. The youth of the place are also all in love with Jameela Bibi. Single shlokas, premakavyams many things like that the baccha poets are manufacturing about Jameela Bibi. You can say that there’s a procession of the important young men of the land for Jameela Bibi’s heart and they are all standing in some big queue. Abdul Khader sahib was not part of all that. He didn’t try to write a kavita or a premalekhanam or anything. Doesn’t know how to is what he says. Jameela Bibi claims that he has written a song about her.

That’s also a 100% lie is what Abdul Khader sahib has to say about it. What he did do was like this. One day just stepped in front of Jameela Bibi in a gali and asked:

‘Jameela Bibi is the name isn’t it?’

Jameela Bibi didn’t find that very amusing. Is there any young man in this land who doesn’t know Jameela Bibi. In her best ‘lady’ manner very proudly she asked:

‘What if it is?’

Abdul Khader sahib laughed. A very beautiful laugh. Jameela Bibi has seen that before; Likes it too. But that attitude! It bothers her that attitude. Jameela Bibi doesn’t like it.

‘What do you want?’

‘Nothing important!’ Abdul Khader sahib said: ‘Jameela Bibi’s baapa’s beedi factory is there no? There are 120 beedi rolling workers there. I am their sikretary. Name Abdul Khader.’

‘Happy to know that!’ Jameela Bibi said: ‘Also a town caddy I’ve heard.’

‘Yes. The beedi workers are thinking of going on strike. We’ll get your factory closed down!’

Jameela Bibi asked:

‘Why are you telling me all this? Go and tell baapa!’

‘There’s a reason for telling you Jameela Bibi.’

‘What’s that?’

Abdul Khader sahib said:

‘I love you very deeply Jameela Bibi!’

Jameela Bibi’s hearts insides melted. But have to shame him once. She laughed a bit. A very mocking laugh.

‘I’m happy!’ Jameela Bibi said : ‘Then what all is the other local news?’

To that question if it was an ordinary queue waala young man he would have wilted. But Abdul Khader sahib like a war cry said:

‘Jameela if you don’t marry me! -’

Like a war cry only Jameela Bibi asked:

‘If I don’t what will you do?’

‘I’ll tie and hang myself to death!’ or anything like that Abdul Khader sahib didn’t say. He said:

‘Jameela I’ll break your bones!’

Jameela Bibi didn’t say anything.

Abdul Khader sahib said:

‘Jameela don’t ruin my life. I love you deep-deeply. I love your clothes. I love you inch by inch. I also love the road you walk on!’

What to say? Jameela Bibi liked it. But, is it right to show that? Jameela Bibi asked: ‘You’re in the habit of stopping young women in the road and making premaprasangams are you?’

‘No my Jameela, I’ve not even spoken to any other girl but you. Not even looked at one. Will not speak also. Will not look also. You’re the light of my eyes!’

She asked haughtily:


He said:

‘Me for you and you for me!’

‘Oh…very happy to know that!’ Jameela Bibi said and just walked away. This way the war started. Discussions and debates. The relatives opposed it. The outsiders opposed it. Chaos of the strike! In the end…why? Jameela Bibi was married to Abdul Khader sahib. Like that living happily when along comes, poovanpazham!

PoovanPazham Chapter 2

The time exactly five thirty.

Monsoon season. Sunlight is there; rain also. The water in the river nearby is rising up ‘Khoom!’. To just look at that and to take a bath  Abdul Khader sahib with no shirt and with a thorthu came out of the house when Jameela Bibi quietly came to the door and called:


Abdul Khader sahib thought: Must be to tell him to wear a shirt and go! Actually you see, after marriage as soon as they started living together there came out certain ordinances from Jameela Bibi’s side.

Abdul Khader sahib must become a gentleman! Must go out only after being properly dressed. The demeanour must be proud. Must not speak to those loafers the old friends on the streets outside. Beedi rolling workers, poets, coolies, freedom fighters, motor drivers, rickshaw wallahs- must not behave as if they were equals. Then should keep a maid for the housework. Abdul Khader sahib should not cook rice and kootaan. Should live up to some sort of status. In short he should improve! Should become Gentleman! Any woman marrying any man the main objective is to make him better isn’t it? Make the man walk the straight path, put a hand into every one of his mind and body matters and do complete golmaal with them. All this is the duty of women Jameela Bibi believes. All women believe. This beautiful woman philosophy, Abdul Khader sahib didn’t say anything about it. What to say? It’s also only a short time since the marriage isn’t it? He said soothingly:

‘My Jameela, I’m going to take a bath isn’t it. Do I need to wear a shirt and go?’

‘Oh!’ Jameela Bibi said as if her heart ached: ‘Will not listen if I ask isn’t it?’

‘Have I not-obeyed anything you said Jameela?’ He said and ran in and wore a shirt and came out. But there were no buttons on the shirt.

See, the man’s carelessness! Jameela Bibi got three buttons and put them on for him.

Abdul Khader sahib walked.

Jameela Bibi called again:


Abdul Khader sahib turned around and stood. He thought: Yarabbool Aalameen! It’s the ricecook question coming up! What to do? Can’t one live without a ricecook? Our things we should take care ourselves. A girl just because she has passed BA why can’t she cook rice? What BA even if it is a MA Phd waali should cook rice and kootaan. Don’t know how then Abdul Khader sahib will teach. Is beginning to teach. Himself knows how to make everything from biryani to tea.

‘What’s it Jameela?’ Abdul Khader sahib asked: ‘Is it the ricecook question?’

‘No’ Jameela Bibi said with annoyance: ‘I passed BA to become a kitchen waali isn’t it!’

‘Dearest!’ Abdul Khader sahib said: ‘My heart you don’t enter into the kitchen. I’ll fix everything. Ok?’

‘Oh…Ok! Everyday you are saying it.’

‘Today also my maharaani enter the kitchen. From tomorrow this your servant…!’

‘Just like that don’t say something!’

‘Why did you call just now?’ He thought, must be to tell him to comb his hair and put powder on his face and go. But, Jameela Bibi bashfully and nervously and lovingly said:


‘What Poovanpazham?’ Will women ever say anything in a straightforward manner? He asked:

‘What are you saying?’

‘Poovanpazham! Will you buy and bring two?’

Havoo! Poovanpazham is it? Desires to eat it? Will bring. Will bring. It’s there in the riverside shop. Otherwise if it’s not there can go across by the ferry walk about two furlongs and buy it in the small bazaar there. He said:

‘I’ll get a bunch of poovanpazhams.’

‘Two is enough.’ Jameela Bibi said: ‘Don’t wander around here and there! Come back quickly. Don’t wait for it to become evening. I’m afraid to sit here alone. Don’t forget anything. Did you hear?’

‘Didn’t I!’ He said and walked away. Did everyone hear what the women say about not wandering around here and there! Abdul Khader sahib laughed. Immediately he thought of his love also. The first thing that Jameela has asked for. If it was some other woman, Yarabool Aalameen, Abdul Khader sahib thought, what all impossible things they would want! Gold, silk, choodis, motor car, dakota plane- Let those be they are after all small things. He thought, there are some: They want completely inexpensive things from their marriage partner: Two hairs from the face of a lioness with new born cubs in some jungle! If you don’t get it then sulking ‘Oh. I only asked for two hairs from a cat like lioness…Oh, it’s all worth nothing now!’ And crying their heart out! What will the husband do? There’s another type: What they want is a piece of ice from the top of everest mountain. If it’s not brought for them will say; with tear-filled eyes and sobs; ‘Oh, a man who couldn’t bring a tiny piece of ice I asked…Just kill me!’ What will the husband do? Is what Jameela Bibi wants anything as impossible as that? Just two poovanpazhams only! Abdul Khader sahib thought, after a bath, and taking oas, will go and buy a bunch of poovanpazhams. So he reached the river bank.

The rivers become a muddy brown sea. What a flow! On both banks the trees that had been leaning into the river have disappeared. What all things are floating by! The rivers become all bhayaanak!

Abdul Khader sahib got down into the river and had his bath. That is to say he just had a quick dip. The water is colder than ice. He forgot to take his oas. Quickly got up onto the riverbank. Dried his hair and ran to the shop near the ferry. When he reached there there’s Kannanpazham, there’s paalenkotan, there’s patatti. But no poovanpazham! What to do? He got into the ferry. The boat moved off. When they reached the middle of the river a strong wind started blowing. Also with that the world started darkening. The boatman somehow managed to get his boat over to the other side. Abdul Khader sahib got off and ran. Halfway to the bazaar the rain started. He ran into a shop in the bazaar. Very heavy rain! Lights started appearing in the shops. He waited like that for the rain to let up. Terrible wind also blowing. He didn’t notice the time passing. Sat around talking to some loafer friends from his past. Then looking noticed that it was nearly eight’o’clock! He got all hassled! Jameela Bibi will feel afraid alone at night. He got out. Asked in a lot of shops. But poovanpazhams only are not there! What to do? Felt very disheartened. In the end he bought a dozen oranges. Isn’t an orange better than a poovanpazham? More expensive also; More vitamin also. Put them all in a paper cover and walked. Rain and inky darkness. No light anywhere. Poovanpazhams and the rain are together plotting something terrible aren’t they? Abdul Khader sahib reached the ferry boarding point. Nobody. He looked into the darkness and called the boatman through the rain. Ten-twenty times ‘Poo…Hooii!’ he shouted. Who to hear? Lost his voice a bit that’s all, no other special news. Thought it out and decided to swim for it. Took off his shirt, tied the oranges in the thorthu and put it on his head. Tied the two ends firmly on his chin. The shirt and mundu he tied on his head over it. He thought, what will she be doing now? Look Jameela, Abdul Khader sahib thought, if I was not married couldn’t I have slept anywhere? Do you see the way the man’s independence goes! Yarabbool Aalameen, o god, I’m going to jump into the river and swim! You must save me! Thinking thus Abdul Khader sahib walked a furlong eastwards along the rivers edge. The river flows from east to west. If you swim straight the flow may carry you more than a furlong westward!

Abdul Khader sahib boldly got into the water. Yet if he should drown and die? But, isn’t it for Jameela Bibi? The water came up to the waist. The feet are not getting a firm grip. He just started swimming. Only the head is out of water. Paddling and swimming he moved forward. In the flood in darkness what’s forward what’s backward! Don’t know anything. Is going on by some guess. When the middle or the far bank will be reached can’t say anything. Hands feet started to tire. In the end, in something somewhere he got a handhold. The current’s strongly pulling him down! Didn’t let go. Drank some two three mouthfuls of water, Abdul Khader sahib understood, he’s got a hold in a bamboo thicket. Not paying heed to the opposition from many thorns and branches he climbed on to the shore. Sat and shivered. Thought and was afraid and shivered. What just sit like that? Through the thicket and thorns Abdul Khader sahib walked. Stark naked! The shirt and mundu are lost. The oranges and thorthu were not lost because they were tied to his chin. Abdul Khader sahib broke a branch with many smaller branches and using it as a stick walked. A banana plantation! He saw the world in a lightning streak. A house too, then he realised. He’s half a mile downstream to where he should have reached!

Through that houses courtyard moving blindly then over a coconut log bridge he walked. By then a dog barked! Then another, and like that every dog in the country! Must be barking in the name of sympathy! He thought. What to do! Crossing tiny paths, bridges and roads somehow he managed to reach his residence. Havoo! There’s a light there. Dearest Jameela is not asleep. Abdul Khader sahib thought, a wife who loves her husband! Jameela open the door- that he didn’t say. Let it be after wearing the thorthu he thought and got into the verandah. Then he looked in through the window. Although he was shivering with cold Abdul Khader sahib found himself laughing! A beautiful scene.

A light burning on the table. Next to it two large plates. Both covered with two other plates. Nearby four five smaller plates. They’re covered too. It’s rice and curries in them. Also waiting for the husband the wife. In her hand a terrible vettukathi! With that Jameela Bibi is sitting in a chair and tired has fallen asleep with her head on the table!

There’s other special things as well: The front door is latched from the inside. But what if some thief pushes the door and breaks the latch and gets in? Therefore a table has been dragged to the door and kept against it. And as if the table is not heavy enough a small pillow on it! Isn’t that enough?

See the brains of women, thought Abdul Khader sahib and was about to call and wake Jameela Bibi when another joke: There’s a lot of light falling into the courtyard from the kitchen door side! He went over. Good fun! In her agitation she’s forgotten to shut the kitchen door. All the thieves in the world can form a procession and just walk in thought Abdul Khader sahib and walked in. Without making a noise softly very softly he shut the door and latched it. He left the branch he was carrying in the kitchen and quietly went into the dressing room. His body is bruised in many places, blood is flowing too. Jameela for you how much blood I’ve shed! See! He put her perfumed powder liberally all over his body. Then dressed and combed his hair. Kept the oranges in the dressing room. Then thought of waking Jameela Bibi but remembered his prayers. He’s not prayed magreeb and eesha. So decided to do these. He went to the kitchen and got some water and made oas and prayed. He also thanked the Rabool Aalameen god for having spared his life for Jameela Bibi. That over he put the oranges in two plates and put it on the table and called:


Jameela Bibi started awake frightened and with the vettukathi in her hand opened her eyes!

‘Don’t cut me up!’ Abdul Khader sahib said:

‘I’m not some thief. Standing in front of you is a sadhu and brainless Abdul Khader in the flesh!’

‘So came back after wandering about all over the place?’ She said and looked towards the door and became angry: ‘How did you get in?’

Abdul Khader sahib said:

‘When this here lad comes all doors open by themselves: All hearts by themselves…!’

‘Don’t talk like an idiot, how did you get in?’

He said:

‘Through the kitchen!’

She asked:

‘Used some stick to open the latch from outside? If some thieves saw that? Now they will also come in! Now how will we live with peace of mind in this house?’

Abdul Khader sahib said:

‘O bloody fool! The door was open.’

‘O…talk with some semblance of civility. The door was open he says!’

‘Ya Rabool Aalameen!’ Abdul Khader sahib thought:

‘Is it possible to ever make women admit their mistakes?’ He asked:

‘Have you finished your prayers?’

‘Have finished!’ She said and got up and she saw the oranges. Her face reddened. She became angry. Will anybody eat this?

She looked at the oranges with revulsion: With an anger enough to burn them. Yet she didn’t express any opinion.

Abdul Khader sahib said:

Poovan is not available anywhere.’

Jameela Bibi didn’t say anything. What to say? Has brought and kept it here…!

She brought the water to wash hands: Both of them washed their hands and ate dinner.

‘The kootaan is very nice!’ Abdul Khader sahib said. In truth all the curries are really bad. No salt: some have too much mirchi. Yet is it correct to criticize the sahadharmini?

She made a happy proclamation:

‘I am going to sleep!’

He said:

‘Let’s sleep after eating the oranges. No poovanpazham anywhere. I had to swim the flood waters to get it!’

‘Don’t just tell some lie. I don’t like oranges! Let the people who brought them eat them!’

She raised the tip of the nose walked out stretched straight and just went and fell into the bed.

Abdul Khader sahib peeled the oranges. Filled the pieces in a plate. Then called:


‘Don’t feel like it!’

Abdul Khader sahib thought: ‘Immediately the nikah was over should have given the girl some six punches in the small of her back!’

‘Jameela! Get up and come here at once!’

‘I’m feeling sleepy!’

‘Is that so?’ He got up went there and with lot of tenderness said: ‘Jameela I’ve brought it with great difficulty. Look, what if I had drunk water and drowned swimming in the river?’

Jameela Bibi lying down pressed her face into the pillow.


Jameela turned her face a bit:

‘What I said was poovanpazham!’

‘There are no poovanpazhams anywhere around! Tomorrow from somewhere I’ll bring some banana plants.’

‘O…We’ll eat it all when they bear fruit and the fruit ripens!’

‘Ok never mind, eat these oranges; lots of vitamin.’

‘I don’t want!’

‘You’ll have to eat them!’

Jameela Bibi sat up in bed. With lot of arrogance in her best lady manner she asked:

‘If I don’t eat will you beat me and make me eat?’

Right! Abdul Khader sahib thought: A nice idea! Without saying anything he went into the kitchen and from the branch broke off two small branches and brought them back.

Jameela Bibi saw the stick. She sat there ‘Bhaa’.

He said:

‘Get up!’

‘Don’t feel like it!’

‘Don’t feel like it?’ He went and got the vettukathi.

‘Buskh!’ she sat there.

‘Come.’ He called. She said: ‘Don’t feel like it!’

‘Is that so?’ He gave Jameela Bibi two good swipes on her thigh. Then showed her the vettukathi:

‘Next time cut!’

She got up with tear filled eyes.

Those tears…when he saw them- What to say! His heart just melted. Isn’t he a man? Seeing the woman’s tears won’t he feel troubled? Yet for the time being Abdul Khader sahib turned his heart into a granite ball. Then said:

‘Jameela… don’t waste your tears! If you want cry into a big vessel. I’ll then take a bath in it later! Do you hear?’

Jameela Bibi sobbing asked:

‘H…are you going to kill me?’

‘H…yes!’ He said: ‘I’ll going to cut you into little pieces and am going to prepare biryani!’

He caught her hand and took her to the next room and made her stand in front of the oranges.

‘Take and eat!’ Abdul Khader sahib ordered.

Jameela Bibi appeared not to hear that. Just stood there ‘Buskh’.

Will not agree to what the husband says is it? He gave her six with the stick ‘Ftruckho!’ on her bottom! 

She took one piece and ate it.

‘Not enough! Again!’ He quietly roared. Then he showed the vettukathi also.

‘See? I’ll finish your story; Eat!’

She took and ate the pieces quicktime.

He said:

‘Can eat slowly after removing the seeds!’

Like that Jameela Bibi tears flowing started eating slowly removing the seeds.

Abdul Khader sahib asked:

‘Who am I to you?’

She said:

‘Don’t Know!’

‘See the vettukathi!… Who am I to you?’


He said:

‘See the vettukathi!…Will you now try to improve me? Quickly say no! See the vettukathi?’


He asked:

‘What’s that you are eating?’


He gave her one more on her bottom. ‘See the vettukathi?…Say; What I am eating is a poovanpazham!’


‘Do you want a ricecook? Quickly say don’t want. See the vettukathi?’

‘Don’t want!’

‘Are you a lady? See the vettukathi?… You’re my woman- Right?’


‘Motor drivers, rickshaw wallahs, poets, coolies, freedom fighters, Beedi rolling workers – can I speak on equal terms with them?… Can speak, can speak say!’

‘Can speak, can speak!’

‘What’s that you are eating?’


Throwing the vettukathi and the stick down ‘My heart!’ he said to Jameela Bibi, scooping her up into his arms and kissing her.

Marks of the beating on her thighs and bottom! He touched them and his heart broke.

‘Did it hurt very much my dear?’ He asked.

She heaving a sigh of relief said:


PoovanPazham Chapter 3

Yet his heart ached a lot. Isn’t he a man?

Thus that night passed. Morning came. Days turned into years. Many times the rivers water rose up again. Jameela Bibi gave birth nine times. There were many changes in the world. Empires fell. Crowns and courts and thrones flew away. New ideas got prominence. Man’s society advanced very much. Abdul Khader sahib and Jameela Bibi grew very old. Lost all their teeth. Both of them grew gray haired and bent. Old man and old woman and children and the childrens children. Although they are going on like this, can you help remembering at least some of your old things! Abdul Khader sahib laughing will ask Jameela Bibi:

‘Maharaani… long ago when you said you wanted poovanpazham what did I swim the river and bring?’

Jameela Bibi laughing will say:


He will ask:

‘How was it?’

She will say:

‘Like an orange. Round!’

‘Ha-Ha-Ha-’ Laughing Abdul Khader sahib will ask: ‘What did I get?’

‘Poovanpazham! Poovanpazham!’