Her sorrows kept vigil with her in the darkness while, Meghanad sprawled, fast asleep, on the white bed spread. Before sleeping, Meghanad had told her that white sheets were something he insisted on, for all colours dissolved in white.To her, white was nothing but a vaccum. While being robbed of life, she could only sit in stunned disbelief.
Her research topic was the characters created by Meghanad. The dark fortress of his fictional universe was peopled by characters ranging from the father who stripped the clothes of his daughter, the brother who pimped for his sister, the wife who pushed her husband into the pit of betrayals, the husband who tormented his wife to death while he pursued his mistress, the brother-inlaw who seduced his brother’s wife, the nephew who committed adultery with his uncle’s wife and the paramour who crept into the privacy of the family and destroyed its harmony. The immense shadow of this monstrous fortress fell heavily on the reader’s mind. Yet the huge doors of the giant fortress held her in an enchanted thrall.
Before beginning the last chapter of the dissertation, she needed an interview with Meghanad. When she reached the house on the appointed day, she was greeted by a gaping silence.
Meghanad was in his library -alone, but for his bottle of liquor. The unspoken question that fluttered into her eyes while she hesitated on the threshold was waved away by Meghanad with an unsteady hand while he slurred:
I sent my wife and children away and am alone here. There is quiet here now. Now you can open my heart and find whatever you want.
When all the questions she wanted to ask lay fainting on the tip of her tongue, Meghanad’s hand crawled over her shoulders:
My dear, I created none of these characters. They are prototypes of those who came into my life. Let us not waste time. Come, lie down. Then you can go back and write the last chapter without a qualm. I will see that you get a doctorate.
Look, she is lying broken on the threshold of the last chapter. The fluttering and the twittering of the sparrows found voice in her. In the darkness their shapes, as well as their cries became clearer. They were not sparrows! They were a lot of fragments- a number of small, scattered organs of many children. Little eyes, noses, lips, ears, fingers, feet, little chests with holes, heads which were askew. She was sure that she had fallen asleep and that this was a strange, fantastic dream. The strange fragments in the dream began to twitter and to circle around her head. That was when she realized that amidst these mutilated organs there was a boy who was whole. He pointed her out to his companions and told them:
See? Should it continue?
The eyes, the ears, the noses, the lips and the finger fell on Meghanad’s bed. It was the healthy baby who began:
Look friends, I am the first born of this fine fellow. He married my mother in the Register Office. They rented a house and began to live together. After three or four months, the money he had with him ran out. Like a cockrel just beginning to crow, he had just begun to make a name for himself in the literary world.
He slinked off, using the quest of job as an excuse. My mother was pregnant then. She managed to exist for two more months due to the kindness of the landlord and his family. But there was no further news from him. My mother lost all hope and decided to end her life on a railway track. Her head was shattered, but the body didn’t have a scratch. That’s why you see me whole like this.
A tiny lip whimpered:
He betrayed my mother too. The doctor chopped me into pieces and threw me out.
A nose shaped like a tender gingelly leaf sighed as it remembered a blood-stained incident. A small fist beat the empty air. A crimson, tender foot stamped on the white bed spread.
The healthy baby gave the signal: Well, let’s begin our work.
A small hand hit Meghanad’s forehead repeatedly, rhythmically. A lone forefinger ran over the bridge of the shapely nose. A small finger slowly moved into Meghanad’s ear. A tender foot kicked Meghanad’s chest.
However, Meghanad was unaware of all this. He had slipped further and further down to the depths of smooth sleep. Then the healthy baby covered Meghanad’s nose and mouth with his ten perfectly formed fingers. Meghanad’s sleep was disturbed. The eyes fluttered open, releasing the mist of sleep that it had held captive. He felt that he was dreaming. On his lips danced the tiny wave of a smile. By then they had all joined to tickle him. Waves of laughter shook kim, made him helpless, made him shout:
But twisting and turning on the bed he had to continue laughing.
At last the laughter ended. Silence descended on the room as if some one had thrown it in.
Slowly the healthy baby put his finger on the tip of Meghanad’s nose and proclaimed:
The old man has kicked the bucket!
A hand examined the pulse and wriggled on to the bed. An ear pressed itself vigilantly against the chest and jumped down silently.
Then an eye shaped like the rose apple screamed: There goes his soul!
They all fluttered around twittering, as they had when they arrived and then took off in a great hurry after the departed soul.
What a dream! She pinched her wrist. It hurt her. With a start of fright, she jumped up. She switched on the light and bent her head to see better.
Tickles seemed to be frozen on Meghanad’s twisted and wound up body. A laugh lay smothered on his starting eyes and gaping mouth.
Translated from Malayalam by Hema Nair R.
A college lecturer based in Aluva, a district close to Ernakulam, the heartland of Kerala, Gracy has made a significant mark in the Malayalam short story scenario she has four short story collections to her credit. In the introduction to the second edition of her first short story collection, Padiyirangipoya Parvathy(Parvathy, Who Left Home), C. Radhakrishnan describes her tales as “hot” ones. He goes on to say that he calls them so, as a warning and not as a compliment. The warning is addressed to the reader who derives comfort from the short story and who is determined to forget the pain which the tale leaves.
A writer who was silent for a long period of her literary career- for nearly twelve years- Gracy’s works, when she began publishing again, show signs of neither hesitancy or haste. Gracy’s style is communicative and she avoids lengthy and complex sentence structures. Each sentence is simple and direct,each word,sharp and to the point
In the introduction to the third collection of Gracy’s tales, Bhranthan Pookal( The Mad Flowers), Sri. K.C.Narayanan calls her male characters better delineated than her female ones. It is undoubtedly true that unlike most feminist writers whose male characters are at the best shadowy and sketchy, Gracy manages to imbue them with vigour and vitality. However it is quite wrong to assume that her female characters are weak or apathic. Gracy’s female characters are those who have realized that as women they are constantly discriminated against. Society tries to keep them in thrall but they rebel against tradition. A cursory glance at Gracy’s female characters will reveal the power with which Gracy presents the stiffling restrictions of society and the woman’s response to them. The female angst that cause sleeplessness in the protagonist, (Padiyirangipoya Parvathy- Parvathy, Who Left Home) and the rotting vacuum in which the protagonist floats weightlessly like cotton wool ( Arundhathiyude Swapnangal- Arundhathi’s Dreams) are as well represented as the sobs that shake the shoulders of the economically independent, working woman( PoochaThe Cat) and the unvoiced cry that is too powerful to be contained in the throat of the heroine( Bhranthan Pookal-The Mad Flowers).
Revenge, one of the important themes in Gracy’s stories, assumes many forms. The revenge of the unnamed protagonist of Shubham(The End) is against one particular part of her anatomy, as is the revenge of Elizabeth of Para(Petra) or the revenge of the first person narrator of Oridam(A Space of One’s Own). In Ividam Ippol Shantham(There Is Quiet Here Now), one of the most striking stories of Bhranthan Pookal( The Mad Flowers), revenge is located in the sensibility of the unborn.
There Is Quiet Here Now presents a decadent author who is in search of new and novel experiences. The tale begins, dramatically, with the perception of a violated woman who remains unnamed. She is a researcher who has been raped by the fictional author, whose works have been the subject of her research. Overtones of lust and greed shade the fictional universe of Meghanad but the researcher dissociated the evil from the creator of the fictional universe. She realizes, too late, that the characters were the projection of Meghanad himself.
She literally breaks down on the threshold of the new chapter with which she meant to end her thesis. What chose to shape her response to the violence perpetrated on her was the energy of the many souls who had to die an untimely death because of Meghanad. They were the unborn children of Meghanad who were torn untimely from the wombs of their mothers. Apart from one well formed baby, the others were all fragments of body parts -eyes, nose, a small fist, an ankle- souls cut off ere they could attain a complete human form. What could these tiny creatures do to express their resentment? They could only tickle Meghanad to death.
The theme and the form are both original. The dream -like reverie that grips the protagonist, who remains unnamed because she is everyone and no one, is well brought out. The tale is rich with evocativeness and a sense of mystery. The writer skilfully links the smothered smile that is “broken off” by death to the various “broken up” parts of the body of the unborn who took revenge on Meghanad. It is also posited against the possible “break down” of the researcher.
The evocativeness of the name “Meghanad” which puts the reader in mind of the mythical “Meghanad”, the son of Ravana and the use of the word “monstrous” in relation to the fictional universe of Meghanad seek to highlight the fiendish attributes of the fictional author.
The prioratisation of the body in Gracy’s works also deserve mention. The violated body of the protagonist, the broken up body of the unborn and the body of Meghanad’s fiction are all apparent in the tale. The first lady love of Meghanad dies on a railway track. Her head is smashed but the body is unmarked. This finds an echo in the state of the researcher whose body is violated by Meghanad but whose mind is even more traumatized by her realisation that her idol had a feet of clay.
GRACY. A significant woman writer in Malayalam, Gracy’s stories depict the reality of the woman and seek to highlight the strong currents that constrain her. At the same time, they also speak of the fear that is rooted in the sense of inferiority a man feels when confronted with a strong woman. Her first collection of stories Padiyirangippoya Parvatiwas published in 1991. Narakavaathil (The Door of Hell), Randu Swapnadarshikal (Two Dreamers), Kaaveriyude Neru (Kaveri’s Truth), Graciyude Kathakal ( Gracy’s Stories) and Graciyude Sthreekal (Gracy’s Women) are some of her other prominent works. She was awarded the Lalithambika Antharjanam Award for women writers in 1995. Her story Bhranthan Pookkal (Mad Flowers) won the Thoppil Ravi Award in 1997 and Randu Swapnadarshikal won the Kerala Sahitya Akademy Award in 2001. Her stories have been widely translated into English, Hindi, Tamil and Oriya. Nineteen selected stories of Gracy have come out as a collection in Tamil (Ippothu Panikkalam).
R. HEMA NAIR. Teaches English at the N.S.S. College for Women, Neeramankara, Thiruvananthapuram. Her doctoral work was on Doris Lessing. A regular contributor to research journals. Interested in Women’s Studies.