1927 | 11,233,916 words
Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....
Barrister Parvateesam by Mokkapati Narasimha Sastry is one of the finest novels in world literature. It is, however, little known outside South India. Parvateesam, the hero of the novel, is an Indian Innocent abroad. The funny life that Parvateesam leads in England is told with such a kindliness that while reading it we laugh at our own absurdities, at our own incongruities. Apart from this, the novel provides us with an interesting insight into the English society, its culture and traditions of 1920’s.
The train was like our trains. The compartments were a little bigger than ours. There were cushions for the third class compartments too.
We reached Paris by day break. I finished brushing my teeth and went to the new train. It was overcrowded. Some compartments were vacant. I went in and sat as they were third class compartments. Within a minute a lady came, saw me and shouted at a peon and asked him to take me down. The peon said “Get down” in English and said many things in French. I said “I don’t get down”. He went and brought the guard. I didn’t get down even when the guard told me to do so. He showed me at the window pane. On it was written “Des Dames”. I didn’t understand what it meant. It was all right. I felt happy. He said “Get down” I said “why?” He could not find an alternative so he brought the station master. He knew little English. He told me (in English) that it was a ladies’ compartment and requested me to get down and showed me another vacant compartment.
We reached Boulon by midday. I got down from the train and got into a steamer. The steamer was very small. There was a lot of disturbance in the sea. So everybody felt nasuea and vomitings. Though I travelled by the steamer for many days, I never suffered so much. Everybody slept in corners. I wondered when I would be relieved from this trouble. It didn’t take more than two hours. But that period appeared to be like an age.
It was around 5 O’clock when we got down at Pokestun. I didn’t forget that I arrived in England. So I put my right foot first while getting down. There was some sort of disturbance in my mind. I felt dreadful. I came all the way stubbornly, I thought of the future. I prayed to God thinking that there is God who rules our destiny.
Whatever it is, I have told you I landed in England taking all precautions, I landed setting my right foot first. Though I put my right foot first carefully and scientifically. London didn’t appear to have noticed this. I felt it was not welcoming me. I felt like standing with an arati flame that had extinguished. If we are lucky it doesn’t matter which foot we place first.
I don’t say my enthusiasm has died out completely on landing in England but it has certainly cooled down. I can’t analyse the reason. No sooner did I put my foot in London than the mercury level in the barometer appeared to have come down. Slowly I brought down my luggage and stood on the platform. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know where to go. It was all confusing. If it was Moghulthurru many parents and my of my friends would have gathered around me as though I had come from a long distance (though I came from the school). My friends would have played with me for a long time. I need not tell about my mother. She would say “Have you come, son? First wash your feet and face. Get up. What! you look so tired”. After washing my feet she would serve me with snacks. Now and then she would ‘disenchant the evil’ (Dishti). I used to feel ashamed and say, “what mother? How orthodox you are! For how many days more you will disenchant this evil? Do you still think I am a kid? Now I recollected all this and felt sad. Wiping my eyes and shivering in the chilly weather I was thinking of taking out my shawl from the bedding. At that moment I found an employee of Cook and Company before me. He appeared to me like a god come down the heavens. He stared at me and with a smile said, “Ha Ha! Ah! Good evening. What is your name? Ah! Let me see. You are the great Mr. Parvateesam, Aren’t you? Fine. We were hearing a lot about you. Good. Fine day Bit chilly what?” I felt very happy at this. He addressed me as “great Parvateesam”. He informed me that he had heard a lot about me. It is very strange. How did he find out that I am great. It was not even half an hour after I got down here. But how could he hear about me? I felt it was very wonderful. I tried tobehave as though I was not in any way inferior to him I said (in English), “Yes, Sir, I Parvateesam. How you know me, Cook?” I wanted to hint to him that I knew English and he should not unnecessarily put on this ludicrous show ignoring my proficiency in English. He said, “Good lad, clever. Aren’t you? Come, hurry” and catching hold of my hand he began to pull me. I thought he was deaf and instantly freeing myself out of his clutches said; “My saman there. I go and get saman and come”, I turned and showed my luggage. He said, “Oh Oh! you and your bloody saman. What do you mean by samans?” I said, “My box, Sir and bed Sir” and showed them. He said, “Oh! that and laughed hilariously and murmared samans, samans, four times. He said, “it doesn’t matter. You will not miss your samans anywhere. I asked some one to bring them. He will certainly bring them. We have to go quickly and get into that train”. The people who got down from the steamer were hurriedly getting into the train.
I said, “We have come to England. Why this train again? Where have we to go?” He said, “This is England but this is the beginning. London is a few miles away from this place. If we travel for three hours, we get there around 8 O’clock. If we take you there, our duty will be over. Later, you have to fend for yourself”. Saying this he walked quickly. He didn’t leave my hand all the time. He spoke all this in English. You might be wondering how he could not speak in Telugu. He didn’t know any Telugu. Even for me born and brought up in Telugu land, it is difficult to pronounce lots of words in Telugu. How can anybody expect a foreigner like this English cook to speak Telugu. You know there are some words that even I can’t pronounce though I am in Telugu land, how can he speak them?
He opened the trunk and began to rummage article by article with tips of his fingers. I felt very angry at this. My friend understood that I was about to say something, he pressed my hand strongly not to utter anything. Later my bed was untied. He saw my orange coloured shawl and was stunned. He put his hand on his heart and leaned on the chair closing his eyes. I was very much terrified that he might collapse before us. Within a minute he was alright and said, “what is this?” I said, “My shawl”. He said, “your what?” I said, “My saluva”.
He pitied me and said, “Can’t you speak English my lord?”.
When I was about to answer his question, my friend said, “why? He speaks English well. He was continuously speaking in English in the train on the way. This is the rug used in their country”. The man said, “Oh! that”s it. It is very nice. Enquire from him whether he likes to dispose it of”. My friend hinted to him to keep quite. The man said, “it is not like that. If this boy has any idea of disposing it of, I want to make the government purchase it and keep it in the British museum. It is not for me. It will also be profitable to him. Let it be. I am not bothered”. He was about to complete the verification. But he found a packet containing tooth powder and some palm leaves. He opened it and said, “Is this any eatable? or medicine ? or poison?” My friend began to laugh boisterously. I overcame my grief and said, “Not anything like that. This powder is meant for brushing my teeth and these leaves for cleaning my tongue”. He could not understand what all I said. He left it to my fate and issued me a clearance card and permitted me to go away. As there was no other alternative I folded them up and packed them.
We came out and the luggage was brought behind us. I found lots of people hurriedly walking on all sides. Tramcars, Motor-cars, horse-drawn carriages in thousands were running. At once I wondered why they were going so hurriedly, I was thinking where I should stay as the man from Cook and Company would leave me here. I asked him to leave me in a small hotel. He said. “Don’t go to a hotel. Everything will be strange to you there. There will be none to advise you. There is a government rest house here called ‘India House’. You will find your country men there. I will take you there. Later you can make your own arrangements”. He called a horse-drawn carriage, and asked me to get into it. He told the cart driver to take us to Croywell Road. He shut the door to save himself from the chilly weather. Within a quarter or an hour the cart halted at India House. We got down and went into it. My friend introduced me to a man-perhaps, he was the proprietor. He advised the man to take care of me, shook hands with me and said, “Good-bye and good luck young man I wish you well”, and immediately left the place. I didn’t see when my luggage was brought in. It was put behind me. The proprietor slowly looked at me and said, “Which part in India do you come from?” I stylishly said, “Madras”.
He signaled to me to occupy my seat. I sat. He said “why did you come here?” I felt that it was a senseless question. Did he feel that I had come all the way to see his handsome personality. I said, “I have come here for studies”. He asked, “what do you like to study?” I said, “what is there to study-Barrister” as though there was nothing other than that. I was of the opinion that all people came here to study “barrister”. He asked, “Here?” I said, “perhaps in Edinburgh”. He asked, “How many days will you stay here?” I said, “I may be here for one or two days”. He enquired. “Have you taken your meal?” I said, “No”. He said, “Go into the dining hall and have your meal. Meanwhile, I arrange a room for you”.
When I was thinking where the dining hall might be, he understood my feelings and showed me a man who came there just then and said, “He will take you there. If you tell him what you like to eat, he will arrange it” and left.
Perhaps that strange man might be a bearer there. He took me in very politely. It was a very big room. It was also wide. A big table was laid from one end to the other. Chairs were arranged around it. Perhaps a batch of people had just finished their meal. Many plates were on the table and in them were remnants of the dinner. Waterglasses, spoons, knives and some other articles were spread on the table. Some young men stood in groups and were talking among themselves. All of them suddenly turned to me and looked at me as if I were a strange animal. They felt as through they were very civilized and I was a rustic. None had come to me. None also spoke to me, I wondered at their strange behaviour. In India, as soon as we come across a stranger, we enquire about his birth place and ask him where he is going to and on what business. It is our tradition to introduce ourselves to a stranger and advise him to have his supper with us when it is getting dark. But what is it here? These behave as if they are tongue-tied. Not even one speaks to me a few words. Will the pearls in their months fall down if they speak to me? It is below their dignity to speak to a stranger? Did I request them for any help? I don’t know what is it! Everything seems to be peculiar.
The bearer who brought me in removed some articles on the table and requested me to sit on a chair. He said. “What do you want to take?” Meanwhile a man in the group seemed to pity me, came to me, sat beside me and said, “Where do you come from? When did you come?” I said, “I have come from Godavari District of Madras State. I am Telugu speaking”. He heard me and called another man in the group and said, “He has come from your district. Will you enquire what he needs?” He said. “I don’t know him. I never saw him. Nobody has introduced him to me. How can I speak to him?”. The man beside, me laughed and said, “That’s true, Nobody has introduced him to me. Even then I am speaking to him”. The other man left without a word.
The man beside me asked, “what do you take Sir?” Are you a vegetarian or non-vegetarian?” I said, “I am a pure vegetarian”. He said to the bearer who brought me in and standing behind me, “Arrange a vegetarian meal for him”. He brought and gave me some rice or some curry like thing. Later he gave me some bread, butter and some jam. As I was hungry–hungry people don’t know the taste–I ate it within no time. Later pudding – Sago pudding – a lump like thing, some hot milk and some sugar were brought in. I ate all this and stood up. The bearer said, ‘I will take you to your room’. The new acquaintance said, “I will meet you tomorrow morning. Tell me if you need anything”. He informed me that his name was Menon and said, “Good night” and left me.
The bearer took me into a small room, arranged everything and said, “Good night Sir, Sound sleep” and left that place.
My luggage was already brought into the room. I sat on the cot and when I began to remove my coat, shoes, and socks, I recollected that I had not washed my feet and hands before my meal. I felt that we need not follow this custom in this country. I recollected my mother admonishing me and saying to me, “do you take meal in Pariah Clothes?” I removed my pants, wore dhothi and lay down to sleep. When I was thinking of my future, I immediately slept.
As was my habit home, I woke up before 6 O’ clock early in the morning. I moved the window curtain. When I peeped through the window, it was all dark outside. So it was inside this lodging.
When I saw the mansion, the way of construction, chairs, sofas and carpets, I felt amazed. I never saw such things all these years in my life. There were costly curtains for all the doors and windows.
I didn’t know why curtains were hung and what was their use? I couldn’t imagine why curtains were hung without freely permitting air to come in. Would, it not be trouble some to breathe. In France and here too there were glass doors for houses, shops and other constructions. I felt that there was no fear of burglary. There would be no mischievous boys throwing stones on the glass doors for fun. Why is it so dark? Thinking like that, I was on the cot for some more time. “Why it had not yet dawned, has the Sun forgotten to rise. When do they brush their teeth and complete their ablutions. When will they attend to their work? When men and women get up so late who will cook food. When I was thinking thus, it began to dawn. I slept again for another hour and I could not wake up.
After my waking up, I didn’t know where I should go to brush my teeth. When I opened the door, there was no one around. So went in again and began to think what to do. On the wall I found the words “Press-Button-Servant”. I wanted to know what it was and so pressed the button. Soon a man came and opened the door. His dress and style made me feel that he might be an officer. When I was looking at him surprised he himself came forward and bent low with a smile and said, “Good morning Sir-had sound sleep?” When I was wondering why he dressed up himself in such lurid fashion, he asked, “what can I do for you Sir?”. Then I realised he must be a servant. I also recollected the words written on the wall “Press - Button - Servant”.
I stood stylishly and in their tradition I extended my hand to shake hands with him. He laughed and pressed my hand lightly and left saying, “Thank you, Sir” I said, “I want to go to Lavatory. Where”. He walked before me like a servant before a King and said, “Oh, this way Sir” and led me to a side room. He opened the door and said, “you can wash-here Sir” and showed me a wash basin and water tap. He showed me a big Vat and said, “you can have your bath here Sir – hot or cold” turned the two taps and showed me. Very hot water came out from one tap and cold water from the other. He said, “meet your later Sir” and left me. Everything was strange to me. There was no resemblance between this country and ours in any aspect. It would disappoint you if I go on narrating how much time I spent to finish my ablutions and how long I stayed in the room. I can’t tell you. But I must tell you about one thing. This will be a testing time except for those who can guess at and adjust themselves to new situations. Others will be in trouble.
I want to tell you about one more thing here. I thought of going into my room bring my towel. When I found laundry washed towels and soap in the bath room, I doubted whether they were kept there me or not. I wondered whether the management of the hotel supplied those articles for all inmates or I was specially treated by them. I could not leave the towels on seeing their Jasmine like whiteness. I thought I could clear my doubt later. When I entered the room, they supplied me with beds, pillows and rugs. So I recollected that there was no need of spreading my bed.
I felt delighted on seeing them. I stood staring at them for a minute when they were playing. Without my knowledge, there was a glee in my face. Some children went away on seeing me. One or two children came to me courageously, with wide open eyes and stood looking at me in wonder and in some fear.
One or two children who were behind me went running to their mothers, embraced them and said, “Mummy, Mummy, there is a black man mummy”. Another child said, “will the black kidnap the children? Another said, “Mummy, will he never take his bath?” Their mothers pressed their mouths and said, “It is wrong. You must not say like that. If you ever say like that, you will be beaten. Be careful” and threatened them. I felt happy at the courage of the boys who came to me and tried to say, “Hello”.
They were terrified and ran away from that place. I left the place laughing. There was no need for me to walk a long distance. As the bearer at the station said, I saw in a street “rooms– to let” boards. I went to such a house, pressed the button and stood waiting. An old woman opened the door, looked into my face and said “Ohh!” with contempt. She suddenly closed the door and went in. I went laughing to another house. There was a middle aged women. She opened the door, stared at me and said, “What do you want?”. I said, “I need a room”.She politely lied “No vacant rooms. very sorry” and went away. When I went to another house, the land lady of the house expressed her feelings that she didn’t like to let her house for people like me and quoted a high rate. I understood her feelings and came out.
At another house an old lady opened the door and said, “what is your nationality? Do you come from Africa?”. I said “No. India”. She said, “Oh! India. I feel happy. Are you a prince there? I laughed and said “No. I am not a prince but an ordinary man. I have come here for studies. I want a room”.
She laughed, expressed her inability and said, Now there is no vacancy. A room will be vacated within a week. If you come then, I will give you a room”, I felt very happy at this. When I was going ahead, one of our country men was coming opposite to me I felt very happy. I thought he had saved me. I stopped him and said “Good morning”, explained him of my trouble and asked him what I should do. He said “Follow me” and took me into a big house where the board “Indian Association” was hung. He made me sit in a chair and he sat before me and said, Tell me about you” in English.
I found many of our country men coming in and going out from that place. I narrated completely everything about me. He heard me leisurely. He said, “I am a Bengalee”. When he was about to tell something more a man, who was clearly like a Telugu man, came in. The Bengali man who was opposite to me said “Hello Raju, come here”. He came and stood. The Bengali man said, “sit down” and introduced me to him saying that I am Telugu man and come from his area. “He is searching for a room. Show him a room and leave him in the room. Otherwise he will be put to troubles. If we can’t help one another how can we survive here. What do you say?” and laughed.
Raju said, “Oh certainly. I will do as you said. You can go”. The Bengalee gentleman stood up andsaid, “we will meet again boy. This Raju belongs to your area. He is a good man. He will help you in what you need. I have some work. I am going” shook hands with me and left the place. Raju came and sat in the chair vacated by him and said, “What boy?, Which is your birth place? Where do you come from? When did you come? Tell me about you”. He told me that he was from Bhimavaram and so a Telugu man and a Kshatriya. He once again asked me to tell him about me. I narrated briefly what had happened to me until then. He said, “where is your luggage?” I said, “I kept it in the station”. He said, “Get up. Let us go. We will bring your luggage to my room. Until you secure a room, you can stay with me. You don’t have any trouble. Everything will be comfortable”. I went to the station, took my luggage and paid some amount to the bearers and reached Raju’s room.
I comfortably took rest for some time there. Even without my request, the land lady arranged me some tea and bread etc., on the table. I ate it. When I was looking at the books and sat for a while Raju returned home from the college. He said, “Have you taken rest leisurely? Have you taken tea? I said, “Ah! I have taken everything. I felt very comfortable here”. Raju laid the books there, went into the bath room. By the time he came after washing his face, the land lady brought us tea and snacks. I said, “I don’t want anything”. Raju said, “If anybody offers us tea, we should not refuse to take it. When a guest comes into our threshold in our country, the inmate of the house offers water for washing our feet, cold water for fulfilling our thirst. Similarly, in this country whenever a guest comes though the inmates may be happy or sorrowful offer us tea. We shall not say ‘No’. This was the first lesson taught to me by Raju.
After taking tea Raju said, “tell me everything about you”, He said, “Which is your birth place”. I said, “Moghulthurru”. He said, “What! Moghulthurru”. Then you are a man nearer to us. There are many of my relatives in that village. We were from Podouru in the Past”. When I clearly told him about me, he leisurely heard it. I said, “show me some room and admit me in a college”. He said, “Yes, I will certainly help you. Is this is a big help? If we don’t help one another in a foreign country, who will help us? we will go to the park for this session and speak to each other. We will see the room tomorrow morning”. Both of us started and went to a nearby park and sat. It was around 6 O’ clock. It was very dark. Even then it was overcrowded with many men and women. The children who were playing there until then were running home. Many young men and women sat in pairs. Some sat on the benches and some others on the grass. Some lay down and were laughing at me. They were speaking to each other. Now and then they forgot this world and were hugging and kissing each other without time to breathe in. It appeared that every pair felt that they were lonely in the park and enjoyed themselves. So we sat on the grass comfortably.
Raju said, “Babul what is your name”. I said, “I am called Parvatheesam. Our surname is Vemuri”, He said, “That’s well. I have to tell you briefly about the traditions and customs here. If you know the procedure and act accordingly, we won’t have troubles. The first thing is if anybody asks you your name, it is sufficient if you say ‘Parvatheesam’. You needn’t add your surname”.
“I have to tell the procedure to hire out rooms here. The people who let out their rooms are called lower middle class. They are poorer than our middle class people. Generally widows, aged spinsters, couple whose income is low let out a big portion or one or two rooms which are not useful for them. The room will be provided with chairs, sofas etc. Three are four chairs, one sofa, one table, one cot, a bed, pillows, a rug to spread, rugs to cover our body, towels to wipe the body will be given. The room rent includes the rent of these articles also. Not only towels but also pieces of soaps will be provided to us. Later in every room - you might have seen in my room - there will be a fire place. They make a hearth in the wall, arrange coal and lit it. There will be a chimney which will take away smoke and which doesn’t permit the smoke into the house. It will be always burning like funeral of Ravanashura for seven to eight months in a year. They will arrange chairs near the oven in winter and sit there. The whole room will be warm. You might have found it by now”.
“There is a top secret. The people of this country particularly the low class don’t brush their teeth” He said: I was very much stunned and said, “Do they wash that’ He said, “No body washes that” I said, “Then what?” He said, “In the lavatory there will be a paper roller. People take out a paper from the roller, wipe with it and throw in a China commode where we leave our secretion, if you pull the Chain there, much water flows into it and cleans the secretion and takes it down. As this is a cold country, foul smell will not come out. Needless to say that people who don’t brush their teeth don’t take their bath”. I said “Then what about us?” He said, “If you like you too can stop”. I said, “What is this? You say like that, I am a brahmin and Vaidik too, I feel sorry for not saying my prayers, how can I stop taking my bath - If so I don’t stay here for a minute. Whatever you may say, I consider that I have come to see this country and go away straight. I can’t stay here where people are uncultured and uncivilized”. “It is left to your choice”, I said. “Yes” “That’s right. There is no need of your whims and fancies. I haven’t advised you to stop. If you want hot water for your bath, if you tell the people of the house, they will supply you with water. Don’t bother”.
I said, “Then it is in a way good for me to bring powder of cow dung cake & palm leaves”.
He was stunned and said, “What’? Have you brought powder of cow dung cake and palm leaves. I said, “Yes. How could I spend all these days without them?” A word between us, I said, “Have you not brought anything? Are you following traditions of our country exactly?” He said, “Had you not sought anybody’s advice when you were coming?”
I said, “Don’t you know there was none who could advise me?”
He slowly looked at me and said, “that’s right. That is true. Such people are not there not only in your village but also in the neighbourhood. Let it be. You did a good thing. As they will not be spoiled, keep them carefully. You can use them on your return journey. At the time of going to our room we will purchase tooth cleaning material used here”.
“We needn’t go to any hotel for meal. If you tell the items wanted by you to the land lady, she will prepare’ and give them to you. They will charge some money for the meal. How much they may take, it will be cheaper than in a hotel. You are a brahmin and Vaidika too. You will not touch mutton, fish etc., which I eat. If you tell them that you are a vegetarian, they will bring you rice, salt etc. If you know how to cook the food, tell them. Otherwise, you have to eat according to their preparation. After ten days you will be accustomed to all this”. I said. “Oh! it is not necessary. I am habituated to all these. When my mother had her menses and if my father went to fields or to other village I used to cook food. My mother praised me that I cooked so well. After my settling down, once I will make you taste food prepared by me”. He said, “Very happy. It will be like going to my home and eating food there” and laughed.
Slowly we got up and reached the room. They gave him his routine food and I was given some rice, potato, curry and milk. Potato curry is nothing but mashed potatoes. My friend advised me to spread salt and wet chilly powder on it. I said. “I have already learnt it.”
The land lady had two daughters. They where somewhat aged. With Raju’s assistance, I brought my luggage and entered the new house. Though I came only a week ago, I observed that some changes were coming on me. I forgot to enquire whether it was an auspicious day to enter the new house. I recollected about it later. But whom could I consult here and who would advise me about it. If we asked someone about it, they would laugh at us. I didn’t see any almanacs. So like other people here we had to adjust ourselves to all things. If my father knew about this, he would create a lot of nuisance. I recollected the saying “be a Roman when you are in Rome”. I laughed to myself. Raju wanted me not to untie my bed as there was no need of it here. He took me for shopping and we purchased two pyjamas, howai and a dressing gown. I said, “Any how as I am wearing a dressing gown, can I wear a dhothi inside?” Raju said. “Leave it. Why do we trouble with it? There is no convenience here to wash our dhothi and dry it up. If we give it to a washerman, he will feel confused as he won’t be knowing how to wash it or what to do with it. So it will be better to follow the customs here”.
I started to live my new life from that day onwards. I told the land lady that I was a vegetarian. So Raju and I prepared a list of the articles needed for me. Rice, dal, some tamarind, chillies - and gave it to her. On looking at the list she became pale. She doubted and said, “What shall I do with these?” Raju said, “If you bring them, my friend will tell you everything. We will show you how to do it. You will see our cooking and taste it” laughing. She left the place. Raju also stood up and said. “I will also go. Whatever you need, please ask me, I will try to help you “Good luck” and left after shaking my hands.
She brought all the articles and said, “What’ to do?” I said, “can you cook rice? She said, “Doesn’t matter. I can cook rice”. I said, “Pour some water in dal and cook it. After cooking, pierce it and add some salt”. Later vegetables are to be cut into pieces and cook them. I will tell you how the curry is to be seasoned”. I didn’t know equivalent English word for ‘Pappu’ Though I tried my best, I could not make her understand it. Later I didn’t know what I should say for ‘Pulusu’ in English. I said, “cook two varieties of vegetables in water”. She said, “Oh! you mean soup. I can cook it”. I said, “Yes. I will see it later”. She brought me meal at 12 O’clock in the noon. She forgot to call me to put seasoning for the curry. Dal was in fragments. She forgot to put tamarind in ‘pulusu’. I thought of God and wondered how I could eat it. I said, “where is ghee?” She said “what is ghee”? I said, “My grave”. She said, “what? what?” I said, “Nothing. Sorry bring me some butter”. She kept them on the table in addition to pudding and left. The rice was like ‘lie’ powder. Dal was like residue. She didn’t put salt either in curry or in soup. What could I do when I was hungry. I somehow swallowed it.
When I was taking tea in the evening Raju came. Raju said, “How is your new life” laughing. I said, “It is a new family. I have to tell her slowly everything.” Raju said, “Not all. If you tell about cooking, it will be sufficient”. We went out, saw the college and sat in a nearby park. In the middle of our speaking Raju said, “What about your studies?” I also questioned him, “What is your advice?” He said, “You have very little knowledge of English. Engage a tutor here and study for three or four months, and appear for the Entrance Examinations after summer vacation. If you pass in the examination, immediately you can join M. A., Later if you have patience you can study for Law i.e., the barrister examination.
Next day I started to teach her and her children cooking food. I sat near them and when I began to tell them the way of cooking food in my broken language, the land lady and her daughters began to laugh continuously. I thought, if they laughed, ‘Only their mouths would take curves’. So I continued my lesson. I taught her how to cook rice without having the water poured out. I showed her how to prepare paste dal. Later I made her cook potato curry. After cooking potato, when I tried to season the curry after carefully keeping pieces of chillies and mustard seeds, there was no oil. I said, “With out oil how”? She said, “We will get only fats but no oils are available here”. I felt I could think of it later, so for the time being, I boiled some butter and with that ghee I seasoned the curry. They could not bear the pungent smell and were oppressed. I cooked vegetable pieces for the soup and poured some water of tamarind after rubbing it with my hand, “they looked strangely at me. The land lady said, “Without rubbing with hand, can’t we take juice with a spoon”. When I said, “We can take it but it is not possible to take out all the juice with a spoon and this is an easy way to take out juice”, it was not acceptable to them. Their intention was not to touch any eatable item with the hand. Somehow, I completed cooking food and gave them some dal, curry and soup and I ate my food in my room. Later slowly she learnt how to cook food. She said, ‘The dal is very tasty, soup is also tasty. But we can’t eat so much of chilly powder. It is not advisable to eat so much of tamarind here. If you want you can add some lemon juice as we do in the soup”. I thought that her advice was good. As we are accustomed to all tastes, I wanted to eat pickles, I sought Raju’s advice in this regard. He said, “I write to my parents and now and then I get it from my home. Today or tomorrow I have to get pickles”. Immediately after receiving them he promised me to give some share. I recollected the newly learnt lessons and said, “Thanks”. Raju laughed and kept quiet.
The next day Raju and I went into the town and came after looking at the University. I was very much astonished at it. I couldn’t speak a word. I was stunned with a great holy impression. Within two minutes I came to my senses and went in. With the help of Raju when I was looking at class rooms, library, examination hall, auditorium, office room, I felt one was more beautiful than the other. With such wonderful feelings I reached home. That evening Raju engaged me a tutor. He spoke to me leisurely and slowly. He guaranteed “I will see you pass the entrance examination. If you gain knowledge in English other things can easily be learnt”. So he taught me English specially for two or three hours daily. Now and then he taught me other lessons. Though I started my studies without seeing an auspicious Muhurta, it continued well.
After two days Raju came in the morning and said, “Good Morning. Mr. Parvatheesam, I want to convey some good news. Yesterday I got a parcel of pickles. I brought your share of this bottle of mango pickle made with mustard seed and oil and another variety of mango pickle (bottle of green tomato pickle). Eat them happily” and went away. I sat looking at them happily.
Specially I went into the kitchen for cooking food. The land lady said. “How do you do, come in, Mr. Sam?” I forgot to tell you that she could not pronounce my name and to her convenience she began to call me Sam on that day. I told her to call me as she liked. From that day onwards everybody in the house called me Sam.
I said “Today I got pickles fro n my birth place. So I came, Melt some butter”. When she was cooking food I boiled ghee. After cooking food she arranged everything in my room and when she was about to go. I called her and gave her some mango pickle made of mustard seeds and oil in a small plate. I said, “This is a famous pickle in our country. You apply butter well on the bread, apply this like Jam on it and taste it. It will be pungent but tasty. Don’t use more”. She felt happy and took it away.
I thought of eating food according to our tradition. It was not convenient to take our meal with spoons, knives andforks. I recollected our holy India and felt following our tradition. So I kept away spoons, forks, etc., and began to mix food with me hands and started eating. I finished eating food with dal. When I was mixing rice with pickle made of mustard seed and oil, I heard a sudden cry. When I was wondering what it was; I heard, “Oh! Mr, Sam”. When I was getting up with the mixed morsel in my mouth, the land lady came weeping “Oh! Sam” and her daughters followed her. I said. “What is the matter? What has happened”? When she was about to tell me something, she looked at my plate. Waiting for her answer. I was licking the mango pickle made of mustard seed and oil off my hand. I didn’t know her earlier suffering, but now on seeing my hand she madly cried, “Oh! Oh! Oh!” and suddenly fell like a patient in fits in a chair. The girls who were laughing and heckling me stopped it and forcibly got two tears into their eyes, reached their mother to save her. One girl brought water and another sprinkled water on her face. Slowly she opened her eyes. She began to show her finger at me with hiccups end said, “Sam! Sam! you” and was about to go to in fits. I went to her and said, “Don’t bother! Why do you worry like that. No fear. Tell me what has happened?” Slowly consoling her, I wiped her eyes forgetting that I mixed rice with the mango pickle made of mustard seeds and oil. Again a lot of trouble like burning houses happened. Her eyes and cheeks began to burn heavily. She cried, “Oh! Sam! you killed me”. I said, “Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter. Excuse me” ran immediately and washed my hands. I pressed her eyes and cheeks with a towel and applied her some snow that was generally used by me. Looking at all this, the girls could not laugh fearing her mother’s anger. Though they wanted to weep, they couldn’t weep. They didn’t laugh, but stood stunned and staring at me. For fifteen minutes I did her the civilities that I knew. Then her eyes and face became cold. She looked at me and said, “Oh! Sam! Sam! you are a bad boy. You really killed me and got a smile in her face, I said, “You lady! what have I done ? You didn’t tell me until now what had happened to you, what you were afraid of and what mistake did I commit? if I did anything wrong”. “You gave me the pickle with affection. I didn’t understand what all you said. Immediately after serving you food, I took a slice of bread, applied some butter and mango pickle. When I kept it in my mouth, it touched my skull. I couldn’t bear the pain and when I came into your room without knowing what to do, I found you eating and mixing food with your hand and licking the hand. I almost got fits seeing all this. As this procedure was strange, I lost movement in my body. There is nothing more than that. Unnecessarily I confused you. Don’t think otherwise. Excuse me” and went away. Her daughters followed her and looked at the threshold, laughed at me and ran away.
The next day I told Raju about the trouble the mango pickle made of mustard seeds and oil, bought, the disturbance created by it and the suffering of the land lady. Raju laughed boisterously. Both of us recollected the incident and laughed at the whole thing throughout the day. We told the story to Raju’s land lady. They too laughed boisterously. From that time onwards Raju told all his friends the story for a week, and made them laugh happily.
There was a good progress in my studies. My tutor whole heartedly congratulated me on my quick and good learning. Raju heard the good news and felt very happy. I cultivated the habit of going to Indian Association daily, sat there for one or two hours and read books and news papers. I spent my time like that happily. Later I slowly developed acquaintance with not only Telugu people but also Tamilians, Keralites and one or two Kannada speaking people, Bengalies and Punjab students. I felt happy on getting acquainted with so many foreigners and their treating me as their equal.
One day Raju came to my room and said, “A rich, well-to-do and educated woman of this town treats our people affectionately. Now and then that is twice or thrice in a year, she invites some of our people. some young men and women of this country and arranges a small party. Such party is arranged for tomorrow. She sent me the message to welcome you for the function. So we will go. Be ready”. I said. “Will there be meetings and lectures or something like that? Is there anything more? I want to know first the procedure and traditions of this place. So I am asking you”. He said, “No, there will be no meetings and lectures. We will meet some people, speak happily to one another. We take tea and snacks and again speak to one another happily. If anybody is able to sing, he will sing. If there is leisure we play in-door games and go to individual rooms. This is the procedure but there is nothing more”, or like to brush your hair or to pass urine, you have to say “Yes”. They will show you the bath room. You can do one or all things you like. If you don’t need any, you simply say, “No, Thanks”. Remember this carefully “I said, “Yes”, I went to my room, finished my meal and spoke to the land lady for sometime, read books for sometime and slept.
Next day, I finished my lunch and study by 3 O’clock washed my face, and sat waiting for Raju to arrive. He didn’t come for a long time. It was already 3-30. If I delayed further. I thought I would not reach the place in time. I kept the small note written by Raju in my pocket. I travelled some distance by tram and at the end I walked a little distance through a lane. Without any difficulty and without enquiring anybody. I could know the lane. When their house was about a fur long away at the corner of the road I passed urine as there were no people on the road and it was dark. I thought I could as well pass urine here in the street instead of using their bath room. After conforming to myself that it was the house, I pulled the chain. The butler came at once and opened the door. He spoke to me, took my coat and hat and hung them on the hanger in the hall. When he was taking me in Raju came to me quickly. Both of us went into the hall. The land lady expressed happiness on her face. She was speaking to some one. She came to us, spoke to Raju, enquired Raju about his welfare and said, “Is this gentleman your new friend?” pointing to me. He said, “Yes”. He told her my name and introduced me to her. She looked at me smilingly and said, “very pleased to meet you Mr. Par....Ba.....Tesem. How do you do?” shaking hands with me. I was stunned to see the splendour of the house, the people there, the beauty of the land lady and her shimmer. I was in some mood and forgot what all Raju had said. When she said, “How do you do?” without knowing what to say I said, “As usual like all people” and when I was about to say something more, she laughed at me and Raju pressed my hand at the same time. I was afraid that something had gone wrong. When I was thinking to be careful here afterwards, the land lady said, “would you like to have a wash?” As habituated I was about to commit the mistake. I recollected Raju’s words and said “No, Thanks”. Without keeping quiet and as I was not habituated lie, said, “I did it at the corner of the street” Oh! what is there! It appeared like falling a thunderbolt. She was stunned. People who were speaking at a distance and who heard my words were also stunned.
The butler who was standing at a distance kept his hand across his mouth as though he was suddenly getting vomit and ran away. It appeared as though the climate suddenly cooled down. I said, “God. Is there anything wrong in what I said? Why did they become so cold?” I shivered and almost wept. When I was staring at them, the land lady recovered first, came into her senses, looked at all the people. She brought consciousness among them and said, “Very good Mr..........Mr. Sam, come along” and introduced me to all the people with Raju’s assistance. All became normal within minutes. I didn’t recover from the fright. Somehow, I sat until the refreshments were finished. I took the opportunity at a proper time and said, “I have to study. I will go now,” Raju said. “It is very dark. Can you go alone or can I come along with you?” I said, “No, No. Not necessary, I can go. It doesn’t matter”, came out and reached my room. When my land lady asked me to narrate the incidents that happened I said. “nothing” absent mindedly, took the book and sat for study. She noticed that I was not alright and so she left without speaking anything. I understood that I did something wrong there. But I didn’t know what it was. Raju appeared to suffer as though he committed a mistake. I wanted to forget about the incident and liked to study. But I couldn’t study and sat thinking this for a long time. When I was thinking of lying down, Raju came straight to my room. Immediately after his coming, he said, “Oh! great Parvatheesam! you spoiled it. When I clearly told you about everything why have you done like this?” I said. “When I saw the scenes there, the cleanliness of the house, the arrangements, beautiful personality of the land lady, I forgot everything you said. I didn’t know until now the mistake committed by me. But I understood that I had committed a great mistake. What can I do? Excuse me”. Raju said, “It doesn’t matter. They understood that you were a stranger and a kid. You didn’t know the prevailing customs here. It doesn’t matter. When they said, “would you like to have a wash” you said, “No Thanks”. That was alright. Without keeping quiet why did you tell them that you finished it at the beginning of the street? Has she asked when you did, how you did it, standing or sitting? These will be considered vulgar in the society. There is nothing more than that. It doesn’t matter. Don’t feel sorry for this. It is late. I will go. We will meet again tomorrow” and went away straight.
(To be continued)
“A fine writer is the most genuine being in the world”