A short story
*Consecutive Serial: How Much to Say?
Original in Kashmiri 'silsilûvàr- kyà kyà vanû? - *M.K.Raina
Translation: T.N.Dhar 'Kundan'
Once again the face of that mendicant was before my eyes. Frightening looks, tall stature, big eyes, ear rings hanging from the lobes of his ears, white turban, a snake-like muffler round his neck and a rosary of black beads in his hand. Whether he was a real mendicant or a fraud, I could not figure out. A shiver ran down my spine. His gruff and fearful voice resounded in my mind, ‘Not much time is left for you. Do as I said to you. You should get the treasure within two days. Rest all you know.’
I looked around. No one was there, either in my front or at my back. It was the shadow of this very Fakir that I used to perceive in front of me for the last four days. I mustered courage and mulled over what he had said. ‘Why after all am I agitated? What did he say? Whatever he said was in my interests, to help me.’ I pondered over his words once again. Four days back he had met me just outside the crematorium. He had said, ‘You have a long life to live but all your work is pending. How will you manage and what all can you accomplish? If you like, I will do you a favour. Within six days you must reach the mountaintop of Pakhlan early at the dawn. There you will find the biggest birch tree. Underneath it is hidden a treasure. It is guarded by a cobra but on seeing you it will go away. You have to carry the treasure on your back and bring it to me. We will share it half and half. I shall wait for you on the other side of the river. The job is arduous and so you should not go there alone. Take one more person along, for, the treasure is quite heavy. You have nothing to lose. You will get wealth enough to sustain your seven generations. Now it is up to you to decide. But remember, if you do the job within six days well and good, or else I will have to look for someone else to execute it.
I was delighted to know of the treasure but the warning that it was going to be arduous was rather frightening. I was greatly in debt and thought that it would take my entire lifetime to repay that. When I would be able to marry and have a family of my own was baffling. Thinking of the looks of the Fakir would make me tremble but the thought of a treasure would put life in me and my eyes would brighten. I decided to start my journey to fetch the treasure tonight itself.
The destination was far away. I packed about ten chapatis to sustain me on the way and left for the place early in the morning. I did not think of taking along a companion with me because if it involved taking a grave risk, why not face it alone? Am I not capable of facing the odds myself? Why should I make anyone else know the secret of this adventure?
I kept on walking through and over hills, forests, rivers and cliffs. At around mid-day I reached near the temple of Goddess Kali. I saw a host of people gathered there. First I thought the crowd must have collected to offer collective worship with lighted lamps and chanting of hymns. When I went closer there was no trace of such a thing. People were standing in a queue and pushing and jostling each other. A volunteer was guiding the people to form proper queue and even hit a person who would not fall in line. I asked him what the matter there was. He laughed and replied, ‘I think you are a newcomer here. Don’t you know anything?’ I nodded my head in negative sign, indicating that in fact I knew nothing. So he continued, ‘From heavens the Lord of Righteousness ‘Dharma Raja’ has sent his representative, who is distributing tickets for entry into the Paradise. Whosoever is desirous of going to heaven after his death, can purchase a ticket right here.’ The ticket was priced at a hundred rupees but I had only twenty rupees in my pocket. I was ignorant about the fact that tickets to heaven could be got here on this earth itself. I thought it was good for me that at the behest of the mendicant I had come that side; let me accomplish this task as well. What if I do not have the full amount with me, there should be no problem in securing a ticket on credit. After all I am not going to run away with this amount. More so from tomorrow I will be counted among the elite rich of the society after the treasure reaches my home.
I explained my financial position to this young volunteer appealing to his compassion. He said, ‘Don’t you mind. I shall recommend your case.’ On the strength of his assurance I also took my place in the queue. My face showed such elation, as if I was the only person to be granted entry into the paradise. To ensure that the person does not ditch me at the last moment, I befriended him. I learnt from him that this camp for selling tickets to heaven was going to function for five days. This man was from some other city and was brought by the representative along with himself. I was engrossed in conversation with him but the joy of conversation did not last long. As soon as he asked me where I was heading to after obtaining the ticket, I started sweating all over. My legs trembled and I was apprehensive that he may have known the truth. I thought why else would he bother to know where I was going. I did not reply but he insisted, ‘which ideas are you lost in? You are not replying; are you afraid that I may insist to go along with you.’ I retorted, ‘No, not at all. That is not the case. I was only thinking how to make good the deficiency in the cost of the ticket.’ Hearing that, the young man kept quiet and I also distanced myself from him.
I kept on moving forward. There was a dais in front on which was seated an elderly man. By his side there was another young man who would collect the money. The elderly man himself distributed the tickets. When it was my turn, I kept my twenty rupees before the young man. He looked towards me with a stern eye but I explained, ‘Look here brother, this is all I have in my pocket today. If you trust me I shall pay the balance tomorrow. In fact I will pay five rupees extra.’ My plea had no effect on him. He refused point blank. The elderly man did not speak a word. He would give instructions through gestures only. He forbade the young man from accepting the money. But I was not going to yield. I begged of him. Those behind me in the queue raised hue and cry. I was not prepared to leave without getting a ticket. This forced a few persons standing in the queue to intervene. Their decision was that by paying twenty rupees I could only make a booking but I would get the ticket on paying the balance. I felt favoured and thought that today I could make the booking and tomorrow when I return along with the treasure, I could collect my ticket. The representative gave his consent to this arrangement. He indicated his approval by nodding his head. He handed over a piece of paper to me. It was a receipt for twenty rupees and a note of booking the ticket. I pocketed the paper and left the place.
On the way a thought came to my mind, ‘May be tomorrow these people play pranks with me and refuse to give me a ticket. Or it could be that by the time I reach this place, they may have closed their shop.’ I became anxious. I was on the horns of a dilemma. I knew if I returned home to fetch the balance amount, I would be late for the treasure. I consoled myself, ‘What can they do? Is there no rule, after all I have made a booking properly. If they cheat, there is always a court for redress. I will not leave them and take an account for the last penny.’
I reached the Pakhlan hill after the Sunset. It was dangerous to climb during the night but where to spend the night? The place was full of danger from the wild animals. I saw a pine tree. It was quite big and there was a seating space on one of its branches. I decided to spend the night on this tree. I crawled up the tree like a monkey. I made a space for rest. I took out the packet of chapattis and filled my belly. Thereafter I went to sleep on the tree.
At around four in the morning I woke up. The dawn was still some hours away. I thought it proper not to waste any more time. I came down from the tree. I took a stick in my hand and started my journey up the hill. Although the visibility was poor, yet I searched my way in that darkness and kept on moving forward. I encountered some thorny bushes. My feet and legs got scratched but I did not give up. Like a wild lion I proceeded forward. The attraction of the treasure was an impetus already but the ticket for the heaven gave my legs some more fillip. At a couple of places I slipped badly but then I had to muster some more courage. My eyes were centered at the top of the Pakhlan Hill and the treasure over there. Finally I was at my destination but my entire body was aching with pain. It was yet to dawn and so I decided to rest on a stone slab at the apex of the hill.
I reckon I must have been lying for about half an hour when I heard a violent noise, as if some lion was roaring. I was frightened to think, ‘So far I reached here safely. Now the lion should not eat me up.' I looked around but could see nothing. Finally I spotted a birch tree far away, that too withered. I rushed and climbed the same tree. There was no trace of a lion anywhere. May be it was a hallucination only. After sometime I climbed down and started looking for the huge birch tree. Now the dawn was imminent. I could not find any other birch tree. Finally I looked at the very tree on which I had climbed due to the fear of a lion. There was neither any treasure nor any cobra guarding that. I thought that possibly the cobra has already left on seeing me. Now the treasure must be under this very tree.
I picked up stone slab pieces and began digging the ground under the tree. My hands got bruised. In the meantime there was light all around and the Sun began shining. I dug up about two feet deep but there was no trace of the treasure. I did not lose my courage or cool. I kept on digging hoping that some effort now would result in a luxurious life in future. I went on digging, first up to three feet and then four feet deep but there was no treasure to be seen.
I was very thirsty by now. I searched for some water but there was no water anywhere. I saw a host of insects hovered around a thorny bush at some distance. The clay at that spot was wet. I lowered a big leaf in the pit and made another leaf into a small cup shape in such a way that water dipped into it drop by drop. It was indeed a long drawn affair but then there was no other alternative.
Once a few drops collected in the cup-shaped leaf, I emptied it on my tongue. It gave me some cool feeling and I felt some solace. Now the Sun was on my head. I rushed back to the birch tree to dig the ground further. On reaching there I was astonished to see a big cobra coiled in the pit dug by me. I thought that every word of the Fakir was coming true. I was waiting for the cobra to depart on seeing me as the mendicant had predicted but it did not move. I thought perhaps he has not seen me yet. So I made some sounds to drive it away. It did not move. Then I tried to push it with my foot so that it goes away and I take out the treasure. But instead it moved violently and bit my foot. I fell on the ground. My eyes turned into stones and I was gazing towards the birch tree. I had already died perhaps.
*M.K.Raina (MKR) is a civil engineer by profession and has been inclined to write short stories and poetry in Kashmiri since his college days. He is also fascinated by Kashmiri literature especially old classics, which he is trying to rew-write in Devanagari-Kashmiri for the net. In addition to his own works, MKR has put a plethora of Kashmiri literature of other authors on net (www.mkraina.com) after re-writing it in Devanagari-Kashmiri. MKR's self-authored and published material include 'Basic Reader for Kashmiri Language', 'tsok modur' - a collection of 6 short stories in Kashmiri, 'kenh non, kenh son' - a collection of 5 short stories in Kashmiri, and 'Pentachord' - a collection of 5 short stories in English. He has co-authored Information Digest Series of Project Zaan and has also developed a Work Book for reading & writing Kashmiri in Devanagari script. |
MKR was till recently editor of 'aalav' published from Bangalore and 'Milchar' published from Mumbai. He is currently the editor of monthly 'här-van', the net-journal of Project Zaan. MKR was instrumental in development of Akruti-Kashmiri-Arinimal software for writing Kashmiri in Standardised Devanagari Script in association with Cyberscape Multimedia Ltd. MKR hails from Chhattabal, Srinagar, Kashmir. Post-exodus, he is settled in Mumbai.
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A nice story and a beautiful presentation. Looking forward more like these.
Added By Priya Kaul