You play with the concept of resurrection
But I can rejuvenate any bodily section,
From the midriff to the mind
Both science and philosophy combined.
- from The Annals of the Lizard King 2:5
I met him under the strangest of circumstances. He was in the act of eating a lizard, a live lizard. A striking sight you might say. I had turned the Florentine bronze handle of his door one late afternoon, and since I was in a tearing hurry to catch the bus to the High Court, I did not knock. As I pushed my head in through the door left slightly ajar I beheld a strange sight. Professor Megaswamy was about to devour a live lizard! Nothing wrong in doing this, I guess.
I am given to believe that in the Far East, especially in the mountains of Phu Phan, the Isans eat deep fried locusts, lizards and silk worms, sometimes pressing them into sticky rice balls to create delectable dishes. Obviously the lizard stands for good luck in Spain and China. The Hindus feel that killing a squamata will bring ill luck. The Romans erroneously believed that the lizard was a hibernating creature and, therefore, made it to represent death and resurrection. In Mexico lizard divination through the use of jimson weed or meeting lizard women in a hallucinogenic trance has passed into folklore, though never scientifically documented. You might think all this is malarkey and poppycock but the best thing about a lizard is that it can dupe you by leaving a wriggling tail and then regenerate a lost limb secretly. Look, the ancients did believe in the magic that the body could disappear and like Osiris, Tammuz or Bodhidharma return again!
It was therefore a delightful enchantment to see Megaswamy swallow a live lizard. On the bus I thought about the incident and felt quite baffled. Later when I inquired from my friends and foes why should a person like Professor Megaswa'my eat a lizard most were nonplussed. Only a few could give some kind of explanation that failed to satisfy me.
"Megaswamy, who makes the megabuck?" inquired Muttu Raja.
"Yes, him," I said.
"Less said the better," said Muttu Raja suddenly frightened and secre'tive.
"But let's hear what you know of him?"
"No, no yanna, nothing that I know of will be of any help to you. And what do I know, simple Adyar shopkeeper as I am!"
"Come on Muttu Raja, I aren't going to sneak on you. Do you think I'll?"
"No you won't, but then one isn't certain these days who is enemy and who is friend," said Muttu Raja clearing his throat and dusting his colognes, Colgates, conditioners, cashew nuts and casseroles. His reading glasses were always pinching his nose and his white shirt was drooping from his shoulders.
"Yeah I'm waiting for enlightenment."
"Nothing much. He's the god man, godfather, god! Not like you and me, understand?"
"What do you mean?"
"Everything about him is mega, see? People come to him for all kinds of things. Women come with strange requests."
"Yes strange requests: 'Megaswamy may I conceive?'
'Megaswamy I want my husband to stop drinking arrack.'
'May there be more money at home, Megaswamy. And....'
"I know all this Muttu Raja. Tell me something new. Tell me why was he eating a lizard?"
"How do I know? I'm not almighty himself! Some exotic rite, something he's trying out'who can say? Maybe it is his search for some new kind of awareness! But sure is strange.... And my advice to you Amol, keep out of all this. You are always attracted to opulence; you always admire evil secretly.'
'This is a damn lie. I don't admire evil. I condemn it. And what's wrong with opulence? If you are smarter than the rest, and can afford an ostentatious life style, why not Muttu Raja, why not? But tell me more about him.'
'He has a lot of oomph and cunning. He has destroyed lots of important people. He's a hamadryad, given to histrionics, a vicious man, and a hypocrite. He'll hit a man below the belt. And he wields a lot of power. He thinks every man has a price. You keep his company and you'll hit the headlines someday. So...'
And that is all that I got from Muttu Raja, whose psychoanalytic ability and clairvoyance were quite respected amongst my friends.
It was true that everything about Megaswamy was capacious and strange. He was gigantic in proportion and not dark-skinned. That was strange. "Blue'blood," somebody said. Positively fair, blue-eyed Megaswamy was undoubtedly respected as a smaller deity in the pantheon of Tamilnadu gods gathering devotees every year as apocryphal stories spread of his magic touch. Even his name Megaswamy was unusual. There were many surnames here of people called Swamy which was the honorific from Sanskrit meaning a person who has mastered the Yoga and ultimately mastered himself. The prefix mega as in large and surpassing was something that must have been added by him or some of his Anglicized devotees. Nobody was sure.
I had come to this primordial city rather reluctantly. As a northern'er whose roots lay in Uttar Pradesh it was far a field to find a job in Madras. Lonely and suffocating in the summer's sultriness I ar'rived at Madras Junction like a truant boy unwilling to go to school. The heavy woolen jacket I was wearing added to the strangeness and discomfort of my situation. The three-wheeler ride from the station to Adyar was quite exasperating, as I neither knew the way nor the language.
The irritation of the journey was soon re'placed by a resignation that was to last that entire winter, until I met Megasway and Bharati Murugan whom I mistakenly called the Magic Lady. I would not deny that the lonely beaches were not alluring. Yes, the beaches! Here the waves resounded upon the rocks and thundered into a quiet beyond the boundaries of human thought. Elliot's Beach was one of them, and so was the one behind the Theosophical Society beyond a primeval mangrove. But this is beside the point. You can't make narratives out of rocks and beaches unless you were writing a Tennysonian poem. Everything centers around one man and one woman, isn't it?
Professor Megaswamy was not an academic professor but his general demeanor, his sweet perfumed cigar, and his Cambridge background bol'stered his erudite image till he looked evangelical and esoteric. He could surprise you with his knowledge of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra or Bhartrhari's Paradox. He was graying at the temples and his throat was beginning to sag with saturated fats. He drank daily and an angry vein beginning from the tip of his nose descended to his left nostril like the estuarine ecosystem of river Adyar at Theosophical Society. It said more than he wanted to of his nocturnal inebriation and his tenebrous life.
When I came to the city in my dysphoria, Mega offered me a bottle of beer in his opulent house in Adyar.
"Come in, come in, my boy,' he said in a thick raspy voice, patting me on the shoulder, embracing me warmly and taking me forthwith to his study at the same time calling to his manservant, "Peter, one bottle jaldi, for sahib."
Peter appeared with a tray of cashew nuts and two chilled bottles of Haywards 2000 beer.
"Excellent stuff. You'll like the place after 2 p.m. Dainty squirrels nibble at the sessile figs of the banyan. Chomp! Chomp! Chomp! See?"
I looked at him inquiringly as I swallowed the first mouthful. I noticed his face twitched.
"Sea breezes, sea breezes bring freshness and nostalgia. Must go to the airport tonight."
"Yes. Could have taken you but you've just completed a long journey and you may not be....'
"...No, no nothing of that sort. I'm as fresh as a cucumber."
"Then, in that case we'll leave at eleven tonight."
And with that he left in a pother of smoke that made the hall fragrant. Biding my time, I began to study the cackled Delamain porcelain doorknob mounted on bronze. With a start I discovered two intertwined lizards in its cackled surface.
A friend from college, Mehrab, who had a somewhat questionable background, recommended Mega to me. Mehrab's wealth found expres'sion in small villas in the posh colonies in Delhi--from Vasant Vihar to Maharani Bagh with two farmhouses in Mehrauli thrown in. But being a friend from college was good enough for me and good enough for him. Mega was a distant relative of Mehrab. It was north meets south. One of Mehrab's es'teemed relatives had married a Southerner from whence stretched an endless line of cross-cultural connections till they reached Mega.
"Look Amol, meet him. He's a remarkable fellow and would prove quite helpful. To tell you the truth, nothing much happens with'out his blessings there,' said Mehrab.
"I'm anyway getting accommodation on campus, some place called Berlin Avenue. So there shouldn't be any problem, see?"
"But let's say in case you don't get accommodation soon enough then you'll have to stay..."
"I'll stay at the guest house."
"Why stay at the guest house when there is a palace waiting for you."
Since I didn't want to argue with him I agreed.
As things turned out I was Mega's guest for a fort'night as the Institute authorities took some time to allot me a family accommodation. Here I became acquainted with different aspects of his personality. Politicians, hoodlums, charlatans, film artists, poets and phi'losophers came to his parties or discussed urgent matters over the phone. Mega lived in style: most of the things in his house from curtains to toilet soaps were imported and once in two months he visited the Eastern metropolis of Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Hong Kong. Even after I moved to the campus at Madras Institute of Technology I dutifully visited him at his house. He was known as a wild life expert, a ventriloquist, a conservationist, a tantric, a suave statesman, an influential man in Delhi, a reputed writer in The Southern Mail and an expert on elapids and reptiles. Perhaps he was given to some kind of wrestling in his youth for his biceps rippled when he pulled a chair or pushed a table. However he had developed a tic in his face that was at times quite distracting.
It was rumored that his wife was a thoroughbred Brahmin had left him in disgust because of his ill temper and now found refuge in a temple in Mylapore. Therefore Mega stayed alone in an ornate house quite close to the Governor's Residence and threw lavish parties at night or gambled at the club. Given the tempta'tion of his company and sharing an interest in exotic food and herpetology I frequented his house after my lectures. All said and done his ability to excite your imagination and inform your intellect was phenomenal. He could seize the interest of an above average man for hours on end with his exotic tales of monitor lizards, scorpions, chameleons and bearded hamadryads possessing magical properties.
"Obviously, my good friend, there is no such creature. It's all a sham to dupe the dupable."
'You mean the bearded hamadryad?'
"But you told Sudarshan from Delhi yesterday that you did come across a king cobra with a beard."
"Oh that," he guffawed, "that was a truth and a lie all mixed in one."
"Now sir that isn't possible. How can you speak a truth and a lie at the same time? Pray explain yourself," I confronted him.
"Oh it's quite simple. I did come across a king cobra with a beard. That's the truth, honest to god. Ha, Ha, Ha."
"How was it a lie then?"
"It was a lie because the beard was grafted to the skin of the snake. This is business, my friend, pure business! If I can fool you and get away with it then I'm cleverer than you. And for that I deserve all the profit I can make out of you. Don't you agree?"
"If you say so."
"That's the trouble with you intellectuals. You want to have your cake and eat it too. You thought you caught me in a cleft stick, didn't you? The snake catching tribe is having a hard time. After all the things I've done.... See what happens?"
"The snake catching tribe?"
"The snake-catching tribe that lives around here. They are nice people. They live off snakes. They can't help it. And it can't be helped. They have a culture of their own. This is understandable. But then they refuse to stop catching snakes. That too is not correct. The ones we get refuse to stop catching snakes. And when they can't catch a snake they get drunk. The other day Arnold Holmes from the Serpentarium rang me up saying that a cobra bit an attendant thrice. Thrice! You need a fool or a drunk to be bitten thrice by a dumb creature like a cobra, the most harmless of the poisonous snakes, eh!"
"What's all this stir about snakes and tribe?"
"Oh Ernie is a good friend of ours. Married to one of my nieces. He's facing some problems in the Serpentarium with some of these attendants. Bloody show'offs. Imagine, I've been handling snakes for thirty years and not once, believe me not once, did I ever get bitten. And these fellows pick up one and get bitten within seconds. They must be really out of their minds.... Buf'foons, all of them! And imagine they are experts at catching snakes! Can smell a snake anywhere! What happens if you drink arrack and go to work?"
I soon realized that Mega's diatribe both shared and criticized their devil-may-care attitude. There was a touch of mild schizophrenia in his sentences sometimes.
"Well, Ernie's boy also got bitten three times in the last six months. And each time it was a cobra. Damn it, if you've to do sexing do it care'fully, not listen to Jethro Tull and handle snakes. Each time he gets bitten on the thumb or the index finger. What else should you conclude?"
"How is he now?"
"Okay. Wasted an entire evening for him. Let's forget him. Have you, my boy, eaten a monkey?"
""Sir, no. No monkey business please."
"Have you?" asked Mega with a twinkle in his eyes.
"Are you aware of the fact that the gypsies here eat monkey flesh?"
"Ar...yes... I thought I saw a family of gypsies once...."
"Peter switch off the AC," shouted Mega seeing me shiver in the rather low temperature in the living room. The 1.5 Westinghouse turned the place into a virtual Andrew Marvell sepulcher.
"Got five Westings last year from Singapore."
"What about excise duty?"
"Duty? Eh duty.... That was managed, that was managed. Duty is such a bore, such an irritation. But I managed the duty..." and he guffawed finding it quite bemusing.
Mega had suddenly become pensive. Sensing a lull in the conversation I said, 'You were mentioning about monkeys a while ago. I saw an odd family of gypsies at seven in the evening near the Adyar Bakery, on that footpath, skinning a small monkey into a boiling earthen cauldron and four naked children milling about the makeshift fireplace.'
With a hidden sense of pride I continued: 'I was quite surprised to see the gypsy woman skinning the monkey."
"That's not unusual in these parts. Women are quite aggressive and work harder than men. Men are usually slothful drunkards but its their women, eh, their women who make the world go around. Do you have any girlfriends other than my niece and daughter?"
"No, not really, sir."
"My daughter doesn't like me, does she?"
"I think she does."
"Don't lie, Aymol!"
Megaswamy pronounced my name like some multi-spectrum antibi'otic but I let it go.
"Karen is disturbed about a few things, especially her leaving school in this manner but then it is natural..."
"Does she blame it on me?"
"I guess she does. She feels you could have remonstrated with the school authorities and they could have taken her back. Wearing a short skirt in class is no crime. One can't be so narrow-minded as that in today's world, can one?"
Megaswamy's face twitched but he nodded his head introspectively lighting a Cartier Vendome cigarette.
"Sometimes this is good too."
"A cigarette. It creates a different sensation in the spirit than a cigar. Cigar is sometimes boring. Here! See for yourself."
I inhaled the smoke and found it smooth.
'My family depresses me and much can be desired in that direction. Less said the better,' said Mega and sighed.
'I'm sorry,' I said.
'Don't be. Life's like that! Surrogates make the world go round. They take out the teeth from suffering. Surrogates are the sin qua non of society, and the world will be a lesser place without them. The world ' must find interesting things in it. If there's nothing interesting, create it. The past and the future exist eternally, just as the present exists. Create, my boy, create the world you want. What do you think of Bharati?'
'Yes, my niece. My most beloved and trusted of the nieces.'
'Well, I ' haven't met her really ' only once ' and...'
'Come on Aymol. You can do better than that. Don't think I'm na've. I could see that spark in your eyes when I last saw you looking at her.'
'No, no nothing of that sort,' I said looking at the crochet pink and blue violets at the border of the tablecloth.
Mega laughed then said: 'That's good work. Keep it up. Whenever you need my help I'm there. Okay? Remember that. I've a big heart. Surrogates are welcome. Simpletons are welcome and sinners are welcome too. But hypocrites ' I kill them.'
'Thank you sir. Thank you, thank you, thank you.'
I lit another cigarette.
'Ah, now you like it. Don't you?' said Mega.
I inhaled the smoke and remembered the quaint ritual enacted on the pavement last month. But Mega was not interested in the incident anymore. By now I could make out subtle shifts in his moods, his mercurial temperament.
'Someday we'll go snake catching near Mylapore or Thirumulliviyol. Do you like to eat monkey meat?"
"I don't know... I've never tried...ah...'
"It won't harm you, or corrupt your imagination or your diges'tion. On the contrary it will make it better.'
Mega's company was magical, as it always demanded unique decisions amidst impossible but exciting situations. The Westinghouse purred once more behind the black marble facade of the windows as the laced curtain fluttered and the greyhound growled from under the sofa. Peter entered quietly and stepped over the navy blue Persian rug with peacocks woven around the outer circle. The cuckoo clock struck nine times in the cluttered space rather loudly.
"That must be Saptasindhu. The way he sneaks. The way he announces his presence. Ace dodger, Aymol! You must meet him. He'll give a fillip to your aesthetic sensibility with his gory tales of death and violence. 'Come in Sindhu, come in.' said Mega without turning his head to a tall, somewhat sinister and positively ugly looking man in his late thirties.
"Come in, come in." Mega repeated at the same time. He managed to get up gathering all his muscle power in a matter of seconds. "Must you be so polite,' said Sindhu with an irritating familiarity. 'You wait and see, wait and see what I said about the IG. He's a cunning, shrewd fellow."
"Slimy you mean. Will wriggle out with the drop of a hat. Wise eh!"
Sindhu nodded in his white buttoned-down shirt, brown Quo Vadis Bata sandals, corduroy trousers and a cherry brown Cardin belt, eyeing me suspiciously all the time. He had a beard like a butcher, portions carved out below the thick cheeks turning the area blue. His blue eyes continued to look at me warily.
"I'm Saptsindhu, a friend of Mega boss."
"Oh I forgot to introduce you to each other. Here's Aymol Narain from America and here is Saptsindhu from Scandinavia. Aymol is a good friend of the children and the Missus."
"Oh then he's all right," said Sindhu slackening his lantern-jawed face.
"He is, he is."
With that Sindhu lost all interest in me and treated me as another piece of furniture whose presence was a necessary evil. Something about Sindhu irked me and I wondered what it was. Was it his beard, his blue eyes, which I associate with betrayal and therefore with cruelty, or was it his well-fed self-assurance or devil-may-care attitude? Was there a devil lurking behind him that made him furtive? If I was asked what was it that made me uncomfortable I would find it hard to say.
Suddenly the facsimile machine came to life printing grating messages to which Mega responded with alacrity. He read each page minutely bending his torso forward while keeping his right hand in his pocket. His golden Rolex had a lizard insignia on the chain strap.
"Ah, ha,' said Mega pulling out the thermal paper from the machine quickly. 'Your message is here Sindhu. You better take off to the airport, right away."
Sindhu got up leaving a deep depression on the navy blue velvet of the sofa and reached for the door.
"The man is always in a hurry. Busy as usual. Excuse me for a minute,' said Mega as he went inside. I could hear him talking to someone over the phone for a long time. In between Peter, followed by a reti'nue of attendants laid the dinner table.
"Sir, another drink?" inquired Peter somewhat tiredly.
"No Peter. What's cooking?"
"Ex-ho-tic stuff, sir. Very yum stuff," and he smiled.
Meanwhile I watched Mega's prize collection of lizards in bottles, snakes in liquid vials, pinned inside glass boxes. The mahogany and rosewood bookracks were lined with encyclopedias of vertebrae, bottles of venom and virulent diseases. I was playing with the remote control of a miniature mechanical monitor lizard when the contraption started singing Jim Morison's Peace Frog. It was then that Mega came back. His face looked tired and the tic was more pronounced.
"Long distance call, from Hong Kong. The consignment hasn't reached. Something is wrong," and he shook his head coming towards me with his hands in his pockets. On the lapel of his black Chanel coat shone a replica of a golden lizard with an unmistakable luster.
"The Moguls masterminded an attack on a fort by using monitor lizards. A lizard's grip on the wall is tenacious. A cornered lizard fights ferociously. Lizards are most adaptable, self-sufficient creatures. They can survive anything, regenerate a lost limb or a tail. They can reincarnate'Will themselves to be reborn. The other day a monitor lizard half swallowed a turtle at the Serpentarium. It took five men to wrench the turtle from its jaws. The tail. That's the most powerful and dangerous bit. And yet it relinquishes it when it feels threatened. Two men held its tail, one was sitting on its back and two were wrenching out the turtle from its mouth. The wretched fellow survived the ordeal."
"The turtle. It scrambled over the dike and into the pond again. It was an uncom'mon sight, for usually both have a symbiotic habitat. But then vagaries of nature and vagaries of human temperament are not at all surprising. Take me for instance. People think I'm weird, my children mad and my wife raving mad. But do you think so too?"
"No sir not at all."
"That's the point. Depends from whose perspective you are pass'ing a judgment. That's the double vision for you. How's the book coming up?"
"You mean the one on the Egyptian village?"
"Let's move towards the dining room. Something exceptional and unique, something we've been talking about but not seen, you shall now partake of. And unique things, my boy, should not be left waiting.'
As we were about to begin our dinner, Mr. and Mrs. Murugan, with their daughter Bharati, joined us. Suddenly vegetarian dishes appeared from nowhere and the pink and blue violets embroidered on the tablecloth glowed. Red wine bubbled in the glasses and all waited for Mega to begin.
"Please start, don't wait. Take this. This is excellent stuff. In our family we stick to vegetarian food. Hindu food is excellent, though prepared in haste." Mega coaxed us magniloquently.
"We just came in to say hello. We were just passing by. Where's Karen?" said Mrs. Murugan.
'She's at her mother's house. She doesn't like this place, as you know,' said Mega to his sister.
"Please accept our apologies. We never though we'll end up eating dinner here,' said Mr. Murugan.
"It's good we came here. Mega Uncle is the Saint Julian of hospi'tality," Bharati bubbled.
Her flounced white dress became brilliant when it caught the light from the chandelier. Wow, I thought to myself: Madonna with the Mafia. No. No. No. Mega wasn't really running a mafia. Or was I thinking of Raphael's Sistine Madonna?
"Oh thank you Bharati. Did you like the gold necklace?" said Mega jolting me from my reverie.
"Thank you very much. All my friends got jealous. It was so good, especially the grasshopper pendant," cooed Bharati.
"That was from Hong Kong. The best that Sindhu could lay hands on. Anyway I'm glad you liked it."
Mega leaned and whispered in my ears: "One day we shall have monkey meat, my boy. You will find it tasty? And we shall celebrate our ancestors, eh!"
Suddenly it started raining and large droplets splattered on the roof of the semi-covered corrugated warehouse. The curtain across the window billowed, giving a fair view of the driveway and the white Mercedes of the Murugans. I wondered how I would go back home in this weather. Near the warehouse Peter was meticulously covering a black Studebaker van loaded with brown cartons. The russet Pomeranian bitch came into the dining hall dripping wet, breaking my reverie. Everyone looked at her. Then she went out into the hallway and shook herself on the scarlet carpet. But before she could do any further damage she was dutifully picked up by one of the servants and taken in for a shower.
The Murugans dropped me home. I lit a cigarette as the clock struck twelve and began to think of the day's events. Bharati had lovely canines like a Satyajit Ray heroine. The Sistine Madonna could carry a child in her arms, an immaculate conception, and still have an innocent, satisfied look on her face. When Bharati smiled the world brightened up. But a man's concupiscence does not always run in concordance with his circumstances. Bharati's vignette wavered before me and made me vulnerable. Mega was impossible to fathom. Each time something came up it was only half-understood before it retreated in a hazy anonymity. Who was Sindhu? And why did he go to the airport in a tearing hurry?" The Rigveda tells us that Indra could free Saptsindhu or the seven rivers when he slew the dragon. Who was Indra? And who was the dragon? These were questions that nagged me till I dozed off to sleep.
It still rained and I dreamt of Mega and the Magic Lady weaving a web of allure around me. I tried to get up but I couldn't. Tall wet banyan trees grew along the driveway and it was lined with white Mercedes, Studebakers and Land Rovers. Cartons of black boxes, or were they brown, were being loaded and unloaded and Bharati flashed smiles from the dining room window. She was wearing a pastel blue dress and purple lipstick. I asked Peter what the boxes contained and he found himself at a loss to explain. Even Muttu Raja shrugged his shoulders and walked out into the rain. I wanted to know where he was going and he said 'to Mylapore.' There was something in Luz Corner. There was a secret hidden in a second hand bookstore near the Mylapore Tank. Then I saw the book, The Wisdom of China and India by Professor Megaswa'my as some kind of phylactery. I told the bookseller that the author's name was wrongly print'ed and it should be Lin Yutang. The bookseller told me Professor Megaswamy was the author and if I didn't want to buy the book then I could go to hell. So I bought it. It was for three rupees and I got it reduced to two. In my dream I found it quite expensive. On my way back the Magic Lady was with me. She was guiding me back to my home and she smiled at me all the while. When I asked her why she was accompanying me she told me that I needed protection, and anyway she liked me so she found an excuse to drop me home. I asked her what were those boxes meant for. She just smiled. Didn't reply at all. All very well, I told myself, if no one wanted to explain let them not, I wasn't interested too.
Seeing that I was piqued she came and kissed me on the cheeks leaving a purple stain behind. But I couldn't be placated. She then told me that the bookseller was Saptsindhu and that I should read the chapter on "The Seven Rivers of Blood." I asked her if she was talking about the lyrics of Peace Frog, but before she could answer I woke up with a start.
Upon waking up I realized I had a headache. I smoked a cigarette and the headache became worse. Then the telephone rang. I felt a strong pressure in my bowels and instantaneously the doorbell rang. I rushed to the door as someone started banging the door violently
"Hold it, hold it. Coming. Who's there?"
"Open up. This is Muttu Raja."
Muttu Raja entered muttering something under his breath of how long he has been waiting.
"Learn to get up early. But then you're hobnobbing with big peo'ple, late night and all. Why should you wake up early for small fries like us.'
'Look, it takes time to come to the door. I was in the loo.'
"That fellow is a murderer," said Muttu Raja leaning against the banister and then jack-knifing into the lounging chair near the window over-looking the clump of trees where a lone antelope was nibbling at the bark of a banyan tree.
"Who's that fellow?" I inquired.
"The same man you came with yesterday."
"Now don't speak in riddles."
"Sindhu, that bearded rogue, that lackey of Megaswamy."
"I was dropped by the Murugans last night. Where does Sindhu come into the picture?"
"You mean to say you don't know who he is?"
"No I do know who he is because last night I met him."
"At Mega's house. Where else?"
"Well I was coming to your house last night and saw this Studebaker waiting at the gate. And guess who was in it?"
'What color was the Studebaker?'
"Don't keep on repeating what I'm saying. Anyway it doesn't matter. Are you going to offer me coffee or not?"
"Yes, yes, I clean forgot. Why, Muttu are you on leave today?"
'All the shops are closed. There's some general strike. Protest against some politicians. Don't ask me why. It's dangerous to open the shop today. So here I am. Good isn't it?"
"But Muttu tell me about Sindhu."
"I've told you. There's nothing to tell. Find out the rest from Mega boss himself. He'll tell you. Sindhu is rumored to have killed seven people. Why? Don't ask me, okay?"
Though at times Muttu Raja seemed like a mentally retarded child, his reticence was more revealing than his response. Soon he got a phone call from his wife and excused himself leaving me in a tizzy. Can every thing in this world and in our experience be named?
The Nyaya-Vaisesika school felt every thing was nameable while Buddhist philosophers felt language cannot name everything. How to resolve this paradox?
Since my headache had not improved a wee bit I dropped a Saridon tablet in a glass of water and watched it dissolve as a black buck, startled by a dog, leapt into the air, then crashed into the thicket. A cuckoo too, alarmed by the sound, flew away and the maidservant arrived with jasmine flowers in her hair. All of a sudden it started to rain and I drank the glass of Saridon-dissolved water.
The maid was a pretty young waif from Warangal. It wasn't clear whether she resided with her family or not. But all worked for someone or the other in the neighborhood. This morning for some strange reason she was annoyed with me and not a single jasmine blossom was thrown in the house after her mopping, as was her wont. When she left I realized what had nettled her. It was a photograph of Bharati on the table, which was now on the windowsill. I smiled.