Thursday, October 29, 2015


There were days when there was hardly any talk at all. Living with Swamiji was like living with the lake and the rocks and the trees the sense of being without need to ask or answer. One met things or many things came to meet one as one sat or walked. The thing that needed met the thing that would meet the need. One found oneself moving towards or moving away - was it Balu who said that some felt friendly and others did not want to be friendly, and he found himself moving accordingly. Friendliness, perhaps like kindliness, as Swamiji said, is as a thing, sort of person, who arranges introductions and meetings. And things happen, and one let them happen: Who makes them happen? What if unfriendliness meets you? “Shut up,” said Thimmy, “You haven't met unfriendliness or a tiger that wants to eat you, have You, now!” Thimmy lay crouched at the edge of the rock watching the lake, the moon and the shadows in the bushes.

We rose with the sun; went to the village; and helped where and when help was needed, and in whatever manner we could. We ate the little or much of the fruit or cakes or rice the villagers gave us and returned to the cave by nightfall.

Sometimes of an evening some villagers would gather at the hut to talk to Swamiji or sing devotional songs, and we stayed late.

Sometimes, some villagers would come up with a dispute. This day, it was two brothers, each claiming that a small patch of land that lay between their fields belonged to him. They were getting ready to go to court - to see a lawyer and so on. Swamiji patiently listened and told them the story of the two birds who quarreled about a piece of cheese, went to a cat for settlement, and lost bread and life. Then he got up and said he would very much like to see the piece of land.

The brothers took Swamiji along we, too, followed. Swamiji stood at the spot, and talked of the nice things that would grow there on that patch of land - a tree here and there - maybe Hanuman or Ganesh would love to sit here, at this spot, and watch over the lands of both brothers; or both Ganesh and Hanuman, why not - maybe a small well - a jasmine creeper or two for flowers for the Gods! As he talked and walked about, he picked up stones, pulled out weeds, marked spots for Ganesh and Hanuman. The peasants, Balu and I joined in the work. There was one small neem plant in one corner of this patch of land, struggling for existence, neglected. “Balu,” said Swamiji, “get some water, this thing is thirsty and asking for water.” And while Balu ran to a well in the offing, Swamiji prepared to dig a little around the plant with a piece of stick that was lying about. The villagers would not let him - they themselves did a little and said they would look after it. Swamiji poured the water which Balu brought and asked the tree to look after the place. He never once referred to the dispute: “Maybe you could allow me to come here, now and then, and work a little. My limbs are getting stiff - what a beautiful and holy spot you brothers have here!”

Now and then, we all went together to that spot and worked a little. Soon the brothers were speaking of “Our land”; “We have planted some bananas trees in our land”; “The lemon tree in our land is growing well.”

A Ganesh was installed under the neem tree; a Hanuman all by himself in another corner. The work on the well had begun; the patch was properly fenced to protect the trees against greedy goats. The patch of land became a bond of union.

As Subbu got better, more and more persons were coming up for medical help.

Things began to happen, as they do happen: Somewhere, sometime somehow I discarded the medical diploma, and I was feeling light and happy. Now, this doctoring was catching up with me, and a vague disquiet was eating me up. Of course, I remembered clearly the things I learnt - what to do and what not to do; what would happen if I did this or that; all the stuff. I seemed to have somehow started off on a stranger journey and landed myself right at my own back door that opened to the same old suffocating dump: signing names; giving pills; certifying; pontificating and prognosticating, from which I fled. I felt giddy.

Why can't I just be - why this name and label, doctor or another - memories - parents, school, lawyers and imposters, and monkeys whirled dizzily before me.

It is alright for Swamiji to call me doctor with that bland look of his - let him do his doctoring himself. What does he know - first, simply to dress a wound - then to make lists of medicines and things, then it would be registers and books and papers and signatures - just let me be! Let things be, it things happen, he says - Alright, let them be: Subbu happens; his wound happens; healing happens or dying happens - why bother me, except that I happened to be around - maybe if I didn't happen to be around - to be at the zoo, to walk with Balu, or to be just at the cave, anything but this - the label and its liabilities, and the endless, senseless involvements. Who wanted to be a doctor; I didn't - I was not even asked if I would like to be born - I throw the millstone off my neck, and here is Swamiji quietly tying it round my neck. Anything but this! It is alright for him, mooning about telling stories; sitting at the cave when he likes, walking out when he likes. No one blames him if things go wrong: “My son became worse after your blessings! Come to court! He need not sign his name, every time he opens his mouth. They give him bananas just the same. Only this morning, when we sent someone to buy some medicines and things from town, they wanted the doctor’s signature and address. Oh, no, never the same story again. I trembled and sweated; a thousand teeth and claws clutched at me; growls, snarls and demons lashed at me. No! This is the end. I shall not move from the cave, come what may; no doctoring for me - anything but. Like an avalanche of fire and brimstone doubts deluged me: doubts of old that I swallowed like sugar coated pills: about doctors, their practices and professions, pretences, paradoxes and posturings. Did I run away from my name - I am not certain if it was not from the clowning called doctoring, they forced me into. Now, I see it and all that it involved; so different from the things Balu, Thimmy and Swamiji seemed to do - things that filled me with peace and quiet. But why does Swamiji lure me back into all that I discarded?

Of course, Swamiji is not forcing me. But he is slyly letting me down back into the well from which I emerged. I'll put an end to this.

Waves of disquiet and doubt rocked me like earthquake tremors. That damned Thimmy. I will wring his neck for him, had taken away my thinking, too. So I can't coherently set down the whats, ifs, pros and cons of all this. Only thing I know - I shall not allow myself to be trapped again.

That whole day I did not utter one word - just walked like a corpse - or was it again someone else's legs that walked me.

At the hut a few persons were waiting for us.

“Ramu, show your hands to the doctor,” said Swamiji.

Ramu’s hands were full of little pussy points and boils and he was desperately scratching himself all over. Suddenly I saw a number of white coated apes with bulging eyes, enormous claws and teeth standing around the boy; a frightened rabbit was burrowing itself into him.

“Gambies!” said one ape.

“No, jambitis!” said another.

“No, Gambies! I am certain,” shouted the first.

“No, you don't know, do you, you country ape! Take a scraping and prove that it is gambies,” shouted the other, seizing the rabbit’s hand and scooping out a handful of fur and skin.

Then the apes took turns, peering through enormous binoculars, and were chirping merrily to each other.

They yelled at one another with increasing emphasis: “Secondary invision” - “Blood poisoning” - “Kidney gone” - “Heart will go to dogs” - “Tail affected” - “He will die” - “Postmortem will show I am right!” With each pronouncement they grinned wider, their fur stood on ends; and their eyes glistened in ghoulish glee.

“No, no, you young apes,” admonished a large gorilla, “that is not the end of the story. You wait and watch - this rabbit’s sister will catch Gambies, then its mother, cousins, friends and then the whole village; rabbits uncle comes from next village to see them, he catches and then Gambies in the next village; and the next; rabbits write letters with hands full of Gambies, Gambies in post; just imagine - the universe full of Gambies, sores, decaying kidneys, blue-black livers, rotting hearts and gummy blood. I will just show you a few pictures of all these things - beautiful pictures taken with latest machine.”

Then he showed them things - kidneys, hearts - small size, big size; views through cylinders, prisms, microscopes, telescopes, radios; different colours and contours, and the apes clapped and cheered and whispered and giggled and wanted further discussion.

“You remember the rabbit we cut up, the one that died of Gambies; the final result. Gambies is no joke - You young apes must know all about it and how to decimate it.”

One ape with a little human face peeping out of it wanted to know how any rabbit could have survived at all if its ancestors had Gambies and no venerable apes were around to thoroughly degambie them.

“That's the point,” said the gorilla. “Exactly because those ancestors were not properly treated by the properly trained apes, we have the good or bad fortune of seeing this gamby rabbit in front of us, threatening the whole world with death and disaster.”

“If we were present in the old days, we would not have allowed Gambies to exist or even one gamby rabbit. We would have degambied and derabbited the whole place,” he rubbed his hands in great glee. “Read my paper on methods of disinfestation and timely liquidation by indirect oxidation with 2: 4: 6 gamma radiation. That is the final answer we have been looking for.”

Then he held the squealing rabbit up in his gloved hands, “And now what should we do with this?”

“Dibble-dabble it with gambiol,” said an young ape.

“Nonsense! Gambiol! You talk like a grocery merchant. By what secret name is it known to us? growled the gorilla baring its teeth.

“4.dasfytl: 3. lunyl.5.6.general messal, sir,” uttered an young ape.

“Good enough,” granted the gorilla, “pass marks - if you said messaline instead of messal you would have got distinction. It makes a lot of difference, you know, the correct spelling and ending. Anyway, you will dibble-dabble this rabbit. That's all? The gorilla questioningly looked around.

“No, sir, not all. We will round up the rabbit’s whole family, hunt them out of their burrows and dibble-dabble the whole lot on three successive nights and days. I shall go now and collect them, if you give the word” This was another young ape licking its chops.

“Is that enough,” persisted the gorilla. “You must be thorough and totally apific. Yes, come on! Haven't all day, have a lunch to attend, you know!”

“Ah, yes, sir; I know, we must boil the fur of these rabbits in tarpaline at a temperature of 296 degrees on the revised scale, also the fur of all these rabbits around.”

“It has no spare fur, sir,” ventured another ape.

“Serves them right,” growled the boiling expert, “the book does not say anything about spare furs.”

“ That's the spirit,” commended the gorilla, “So far so good. We will do all that and more. Still we are not being sufficiently apific. Are you all satisfied that this is all we can do? Ask yourselves. Have we done our job sufficiently honestly and efficiently, deserving the bananas we get. Can we rest or allow others to rest in peace without exploring further into the matter? What do you say, Dr. Chimp, you are going in for the red-ribbon of the high-grade apes - have we done enough for this poor suffering rabbit?” Here he shook the rabbit violently, holding it by its ears.

“Begging your pardon, sir,”said the Chimp, “you would have already thought of it, since I have heard you many times; as per your valuable teaching - which is not the same as that of the apes at the other places - I venture to say, sir, that we have only examined the rabbit’s skin and fur. We do not know what its tail has got; it may be gambies at one place and horrosis at another place; moreover, sir, what if its liver has latent ketosis; if so dibble-dabble with messaline will muck up the liver; the heart may be having sub-clinical gum-boils. Its blood, we have not yet tasted. The rabbit’s eyes are streaming with water, nose also; samples must be sent to Monkton for solographic estimates of butonium and ballium. Just now you shook it, it looked stiff - so anything might be happening in its head. A little punch of its brain should be cultured and cultivated and grafted into a dog, the only animal that is positive for gambies. In last month’s apical conference on Gambies I heard it said that Gambies produced macofts in the third tentacle of the hind-brain of a rabbit. Rare, but we cannot ignore it. Lastly, sir, if this rabbit does not survive such necessary investigation, we can always graft a new rabbit into it. They have succeeded in total rabbit-graft at the surgeries in Ghoulium. I can't think of anything more right now, sir.”

“Thank you, Dr.Chimp. Splendid. Very methodical,” complemented the gorilla. “Now, you fellows, attend to this rabbit, or better get it admitted, if the foolish rabbit consents. Damn nonsense, to have to ask a rabbit’s permission, and that too a gamby rabbit - a public menace.”

“What happens if we let this rabbit go its way, sir,” asked one lazy ape who was half-asleep throughout the proceedings.

“What happens! Good heavens!” roared the gorilla. “It will die without proper apical care. That’s what happens. It will die simply, and disgustingly simply in the hands of some lazy, quacky duck. Dying without apical care is illegal and impermissible or ought to be made so. Let the ducks quack, I say. Our duty is to see that things die under proper care. Our duty is to see and search out and label every single thing about decay and - everyone must be prevented from dying haphazard and in any manner they like. It must be so organised that finally everybody can only die in the prescribed manner under properly recorded and coded and scrutinized care of our brotherhood. Even after death we must cut it up and see through what door life has escaped; so that we can look out for alternatives.”

“You are all the time talking of diseases and death. What if this rabbit wants to go on living somehow - it has survived without us thus far, it seems,” said the sleepy but rebellious ape.

“Rubbish! You are reading too many duck-books; they are alright for passing time. We must be practical. Life is not in our hands, but death is and that is why we apes are most concerned with it, understanding, refining. Reading silly duck-books won’t get you any bananas, son. Letting things alone, indeed! We just don't know a bit about life and its meaning and all that quackery. But we know it goes out by the door called death. Rabbits and others are scared of death. We try to find and manipulate the doors and passages. We specialise in its tricks and we get bananas: the poor rabbits pay us for altering the doors; and in their fright any door is better than the one that confronts them. Fool, don't you see why you young apes, from the very first day of your training, are made to cut and kill frogs, toads and worms, and dead bodies, so that you get acquainted with death. You kill germs to get rid of worms, worms to get rid of something else and so on. Getting rid of things is our job. You have no business to talk of things that cannot be apically answered. Now I must be off.” The gorilla thumped his chest and walked out, saying, “Attend to this rabbit - he has been kept waiting, too long.”

There was uproar among the apes. Dibble-dabble was not possible because dibble-dabble was not available, and the rabbit could not be pincered and punctured or packed away, since it ran off amidst the the confusion. Anti-Gambies policing aides were or yet trained in sufficient numbers, and so were not there to track down the escaped menace. However, the apes gnashed their teeth and ran out of the hut in an untrained manner.

The big gorilla thrust his face close to me and shouted: “Quack, quack!” in my ears and glared into my eyes.

The smell of a thousand graveyards filled the air - hundreds of torn corpses, decaying limbs, decapitated frogs, sliced rabbits, and mutilated dogs and cats, some in bottles, others floating in tanks streamed forth, while white-coated apes tore and clawed and the whole became a huge book; Death - its causes, ramifications, modifications, perversions and possibilities: Introduction to Volume. 1. - A regal society of higher apes symposium.

The gorilla thrust the book in my face, and then turned it upside down. The title was “What is life?” A symposium of the Institute of Neo-Tormentory of the Society of Experimental Apes, and there was a picture of apes with gory hands peering into the stomach of a dog.

“Leave it alone, live Life alone!” You murdering ghouls,” I screamed, “Leave it to those who know it, leave it!” I beat my fists frantically, “Leave me alone, I have left your society and your ribbons, leave me!” And I ran out of the room, I thought, only to find myself in the arms of swamiji. Balu was splashing cold water on my face. Thimmy sat watching me.


Anupam Patra said...

This was delightful a read as it was enlightening. The echo of the lines still linger.

Gita Madhu said...

Thank you so much for reading. I hope you can read from start to finish. And I hope you will let me know if you find any typos or any other remarks are also welcome.