Monday, February 09, 2015

THE BEING AND THE BECOMING-I-1

TO MY MOTHER
AWAKENED TO THE MEANING OF MY HEART,
THAT TO FEEL LOVE AND ONENESS IS TO LIVE
AND THIS THE MAGIC OF OUR GOLDEN CHANGE
IS ALL THE TRUTH I KNOW OR SEEK, O SAGE.
(From Sri Aurobindo's Savitri)
-THIS BOOK IS ENTIRELY FICTION-

I 

I am writing about him. It should be simple seeing that I have lived with him all along; in fact, I was born with him. It should be simple, but then- it remains to be seen.

Krishna, they called him. For the first twenty years or so it was 'they' that really mattered. The family and friends called him 'Kittu'. The school and college entered his name as Krishna. He was not responsible for his name. Life did not really depend on it. Excepting that he had to print his name on admission forms to schools, or on answer papers at examinations, or scribble it illegibly on letters he occasionally wrote and never posted, it did not matter a cup of coffee if his name was Rama or Ravan.

But during the succeeding years it mattered very much indeed. It had to be his name. He had to sign his name on forms, receipts, pay-bills, often in triplicate and quadruplicate, often enough had to have his signature attested by others. Once or twice the bank returned his cheques for discrepancy in signature. It was his name in name only, it seemed; he couldn't even wiggle it a bit without someone objecting to it. He was getting forced to look at it. He practised long hours the exact flourish with which he should begin and end his signature. Krishna was good enough, but a common one. Mohan would have been better-the M and N would have provided for a more artistic twirl. There were other names, too, more exotic and more expressive of himself.

His parents should have known that a name was more than a mere word; it meant bread, it meant the very survival. Try changing your name on your own! People should have had the sense and decency to allow a person to choose his name on the first pay-day of his life. Not only a body gets born without being asked about it, it also gets a label before its first breath, almost.

There was no point in complaining, though. So, he stuck to it or was stuck with it and was never really allowed to forget it. There was nothing wrong with the name, he admitted to himself, the name of quite a lovable and popular household God. Only the K in the beginning and A in the end were less decorative. What really smarted and smouldered within him was the feeling of having been foisted with something so important in so cavalier a manner.

He did not let on to others how seriously he felt about this. It must have bitten him quite deeply, however. On occasions he would sign some fancy name or other in letters to friends, putting the initial K in brackets. Sometimes, the blotting pad on his table would show a variety of signatures. No, he did not truly reconcile himself to the imposition of a name. What is a name? What is in a name?

Well, the name meant the monthly pay-cheque, the house-rent, food and clothes. Then he had an idea. If he left government service he would not be tied to this. After all he could do his medical work,- I ought to have said that he qualified as a doctor-treat people; they would pay for his service. What then, would it matter if he called himself Mohan or Hanuman! He was toying with this idea.

At about this time, his parents selected a bride for him with the auspicious name of Kamala. Krishna's Saturn and Moon were quite in consonance with Kamala's Jupiter and Venus, and Kamala's parents offered enough dowry to send Krishna for further studies in the United States. That was the last straw, I should think. First, they brought him into the world without even a mere formal 'may we', then they labelled him without his leave; now they were going to get him saddled with another whose name was Kamala. Why could it not have been Malati!

I think that it decided it for him. He resigned from his job. His colleagues had often noted him to be a person of moods, a good and considerate doctor, but some what queer and getting to be more so. There were times when they wondered if he was deaf, for he would not readily respond when called. He wrote but rarely to his parents; at first he signed his initials, later he left them unsigned.

As I said, he resigned. I do not remember if he wrote to his parents. He bought himself a set of medicines and some instruments and disappeared from town.


2 comments:

sunaina sharma said...

This is somewhat reminiscent of Naipaul's House for Mr. Biswas. Have you read it? Krishna's mental agony is reflected well in the narrative.

Gita Madhu said...

Thanks for reading. I've not read Naipaul's House For Mr. Biswas - I'll look for it.
Hope you'll read this novel through.