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Friday, May 21, 2010

Progeny of Debt (Baakee Santhathi)

Original in Telugu: Satyam Sankaramanchi

Translator: GRK Murty

The Translator gratefully acknowledges the permission granted by Sri Sankaramanchi Ravi Sankar Garu, S/o the author for translating the story.

Rangayya is standing.

Pressing his chin against one end of the staff and placing a leg around it, he is standing across the entrance door.

He is standing like a snake standing on its tail.

Pantulugaro[i]!” shouted Rangayya.

It sounded like a thunder.

Sounded like the hissing of a snake burning with vengeance.

No response from inside the house.

Rangayya, leaning against his long staff, looked piercingly into the house.

There is no noise of men.

Shouted again like thunder, “pantulugaro!

A cry like the bellow of a bull.

Inside, pantulu, startled, shudders. Peeps through the window. Rangayya, there at the door, stands like a hissing ten-hooded snake. Rangayya’s eyes are shining like burning charcoal. Pantulu’s heart thumps fast. He sends the girl directing her to say, “he is taking bath, be seated on the deck.”

Yet, Rangayya doesn’t sit. Placing his leg around the staff, he stands across the door. Pantulu has indeed finished his bath a while ago. Looking at the stance of Rangayya, his entire body is drenched in sweat. His legs are shaking to go before him. Half an hour elapses. Rangayya doesn’t move. He continues to look in. There is an intense grudge, vengeance in that look. Those looks are piercing through like sharp knives. They, putting down pantulu, climbing over his heart and throttling his neck, ask him… “What pantulu! Having ruined my family and me, and as though it is not sufficient, will you cut off my hands? What wrong did I do! I am only a staunch believer in land! You, seizing my cattle for the debt, cut off my hands!”

“By the by, pantulu, of what time the debt is. Isn’t it of my father’s! Because of the word given to my father, am I not crediting to the debt every year! Right from the threshing floor, one-third of my harvest is being sent to your home every year! Even when the remaining produce is insufficient, me and my kids have been living all along on some gruel or the other! You never took pity on us! Nor stopped your crediting!

“Becoming a curse, your debt ruined my life! Did I ever abuse you? Forget about jewelry, did I ever buy even a good sari for my wife? No sooner did my wife’s necklace fall in your sight, than you got it credited in the debt the very next year! Even then the debt is not cleared? Even when my son-in-law visited, I carted everything to you without even retaining two measures of grain with me! Even then your debt is not cleared? I have only blamed God for my karma; did I find fault with you? Yet, pressing for the payment of full debt today, would you, by seizing bullocks, cut off my hands and legs? Can I live without ploughing my farm? It is cattle today and tomorrow are you contemplating to seize my farm! The land is mine, my farm is my breath. I will not leave you! I will pierce your heart! Come! Come out!

Pantulugaro!” From outside comes the cry like the thunder in the sky. Pantulu could understand. Rangayya will devour him today. He will tear him apart and drink the blood. There is no way out. Must surrender to Rangayya. Pantulu comes out. Rangayya standing across the door doesn’t speak. Nor does he question. Doesn’t open his mouth. As his very breathing in and out is hissing, he stares into pantulu’s eyes. Without looking at Rangayya, pantulu says, “Rangayya! If only I knew you would get hurt so badly, would I seize your cattle! It’s after all the debt incurred by your father! Thinking if it is cleared, his soul will rest in peace … anyway … whatever you have paid is enough … will I harass the defaulters … here is the pro note … treat the debt as closed … drive away your cattle…”

Leaving the staff, Rangayya tumbles down. Cobra-like Rangayya becomes a child. Melts into water. Becomes as innocent as a cow. Becomes a puppy. Becomes a fly. Becomes a mosquito.

As the tears stream down, bringing both the palms together, he says. “Ayya! Lord of righteousness, it is enough you have blessed me with the cattle back. As usual you keep collecting the dues! Can I stay without clearing my father’s dues? If I die, I shall die taking an oath from my son to clear your debt! But be a little considerate! That’s enough”, saying and saluting him profusely with bowed head he goes away with the cattle.


[i]   Pantulugaroa learned man, belonging to the priestly caste; usually in olden days he was addressed as “Pantulugaru” as a mark of respect.


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