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Monday, October 22, 2012

Soiled Diamonds (Malina Vajralu)

Original in Telugu – Hitasri

Engaged in writing ever since he got out of sleep and vexed with it, Ramamurthy, the young clerk in Taluk office, pushing all the papers into the drawer, comes out of the office. He starts walking towards the park.  Darkness is just spreading its tentacles. The cool breeze is struggling to get his numbed mind back to its normal state. Throwing himself on a bench in the park, inhaling deeply and exhaling air leisurely, he, raising his head, casually glancing at the man sitting by his side and suddenly remembering something, looking at him intently, “Hey Subbarao!” exclaims Ramamurthy, keeping his hand on his shoulder. Wondering, turning to Ramamurthy and seeing him, “Oh You! Thought somebody else”, says the other man.

“What are you doing?”

“Aren’t you seeing, right now I am sitting here on the bench.”

“Smarty! Studying or doing a job?”

“Studying Engineering—second year.”

Ramamurthy stares at him in surprise. He never thought that Subbarao would come up in education. Subbarao, who copied every solved sum from his notebook till the school final year, is today studying engineering! Ramamurthy could not believe it.

“Got first class in Intermediate!”

“No…of course there was a big recommendation. So I could get the seat easily.”    

“Lucky fellow.”

“What are you doing?”

Ramamurthy’s mind is pricked by it. What is he doing! What should he say! Turning down his face, he said, “Working in taluk office…” 

“Why? Given up studying?”

Reminiscing about the old days, Ramamurthy says feebly, “Yes”.

“What for?”

“What, what for? No money. Otherwise why would I stop”, says Ramamurthy sadly. He stood first in the school final examination. Tried his best to study further, but could not succeed. That very year his father died. So, out of compulsion he joined a government service. In the second year of the service, he got married too. All those days flashed in his mind vividly.

“Why would he speak to us, he is now an employee!” Hearing those words, Ramamurthy raises his head. Viswanatham, his classmate, stands right in front of them. Patting on Ramamurthy’s back, Subbarao says: “Remember Viswanatham?” Ramamurthy feels  amused at it. Why would he not remember? Has he become an officer to forget? Bringing a smile on his face, Ramamurthy says, “Hey! Viswanatham, what are you doing?”

“Studying MBBS.”

MBBS! So, in a few years he would become a doctor. There appears none amongst his classmates who isn’t studying further. One is engineer, another is doctor—what else others might be studying!  But, he is forever Ramamurthy, SSLC.

As though to quench the jealousy that he had developed while studying with Ramamurthy in the school, Viswanatham says, “Joined as a clerk in taluk office?”

Ramamurthy blushes. How scornfully these fellows, who copied the solved problems from his notebook from A to Z, are looking at him today! What is their greatness over me either in intelligence or in determination or in virtue? Could any one of them ever win a match of chess with me? These fellows, who stood on bench,  period after period, are today engineers, doctors. He is but a taluk office clerk! They are, of course, superior to him in one aspect—wealth. It is unfair and a crime that with that one superiority they could acquire an opportunity to crush him into silence. If only he too were endowed with an opportunity to study in college…! Why to think of all this? What can be achieved by building castles in the air? No alternative, but to be content with the given.

Determining to at least spend a few minutes with friends cheerfully, he says, “Please let me be in, in whatever you both are talking about”.    
“Hi…Hi…Hi… What can you understand about college affairs?” Laughs Viswanatham.

“Hi…Hi…Hi…”, Subbarao too joins him.

Ramamurthy, who, somehow swallowing the anger against his officer in the office came to park, not being able to put up with the insult being heaped upon him by friends, suddenly gets up and saying “See you”, starts for home.

*     *     *   *  *
As Ramamurthy steps into the house, darkness was ruling the roost.

“Why haven’t you lit the lantern?” says he peevishly to his wife.

“Lantern glass was broken”.

“Why broken?”

“Slipped out of hand”.

“Why?” questions Ramamurthy angrily.

“Ask the broken glass pieces”, says Janaki indifferently.

“You should have then lit the lamp?” says Ramamurthy.

“No kerosene in it”.

“Shouldn’t you fill up then?”

“No kerosene in the house”.

“OK, at least lit that buddi”.

“No matchbox”.

Fishing out matchbox from his pocket, Ramamurthy flings it at her with force.   

“At whom that anger!”

“Shut up”.

“That’s what I told you not to say, at least a lakh times. I cannot stomach such  harsh words….”

“Enough is enough”.

“Why do you unnecessarily prick like that? What gain by showing all your anger on the officer at home?”

“Move away for a while from here”.

“There is only one room”.

Chi! You are making my life restless”, says Ramamurthy in abhorrence. Janaki stares at him angrily—revoltingly.  Involuntarily, tears roll down from Janaki’s eyes. She never thought that her life will be like this even in dreams. Four years back, all her aspirations, intentions had all been mercilessly thrown off. She was not uneducated—studied up to SSLC, though could not complete it. Reminiscing over her feelings, perceptions of those days, she feels sad. Despite her beauty, education and good intentions she was to marry a man, who had studied equivalent to her, an ordinary clerk, that too, much against her wish, for she was poor. In just a minute all her desires had become stars in the sky. She never thought even in dreams that she would one day lead a life full of troubles, impoverishment and abuses of the husband. Whatever might be the other things, if only her husband had treated her well there would have been no pain. But, having something working upon his mind, he, pinned by it, always displayed an irritating disposition at home. True, work might be heavy, but then, are all behaving like this? Why to show his anger against somebody of the office  here at home? All said and done, how one can own such a culture when one is not that educated! She had craved to marry a person who was at least a BA. But why now quarrying those longings and cribbing at them—what for? Whatever had to happen, had happened. Why this dirty thought now?

“Won’t you feel like serving food?”

Hearing Ramamurthy’s question, Janaki returns from her dream world. What is that asking? Her feelings which had just compromised again revolted. Mechanically, she gets up and serves food.


“No, exhausted”.

Staring at her irritatingly, Ramamurthy starts eating.

“Nothing else?”


“OK. Serve buttermilk”.



“Cat had turned it down”.

“What are you doing?”

“As if there is only one work—to keep a watch on cat”.

“So what to do now?”

“What am I to do?”

“What can you do? Jump into well”, says  Ramamurthy furiously.

“You are proving well that a clerk’s authority runs only at home”.

“What, uttering?” Getting up angrily, Ramamurthy spanks Janaki on her cheek with all the force at his command.  

Hitherto, it had only been her esteem, her heart, but today her body too had been violated. Tears stream down from her eyes. With a choked voice she says, “Whether I had food or not, I am having abuses and beatings sumptuously.”

Seeing on her smooth cheek the mark of his five fingers as an imprint of red ink, even in that blinking light so vividly, he questions himself within: “Oh brute! What have you done?”


 Holding back tears, Janaki turns her head aside.

“Janaki! Ask, who gave the authority to this hand that has been sold away to government for sixty-seven rupees per month to beat you?”

Janaki wipes away her tears with the hem of her sari.

“Ask Janaki, ask”, yells Ramamurthy.

 No reply.

“This body that has been leased out has no authority even to touch you. This clerk, who has no ability even to feed you, has no right even to look at you. For having done a job with no authority, this is the right punishment.”

Keeping his palm on the table, he hits his fingers with the ruler that he had brought from office for drawing statements, using all his force. Hearing the sound, Janaki, raising her head and seeing the swollen palm of Ramamurthy, shrieks. Looking at his hand, Ramamurthy laughs like a mad fellow.

“The other hand will henceforth behave”. 

Despite the struggle, not being able to contain her tears, Janaki quickly procures a wet cloth and tying it to his hand says in a choked voice, “What is this? Have you lost yourself?”

“Janaki, before marriage I used to pity myself, now I have to feel pity seeing you too. The despair of two living beings, the pain caused by my insatiate desires, have all made me restless. Merely due to lack of money, my intellect…my life is becoming useless. Similarly, your desires and beauty are becoming useless … merely for want of money. I know. You haven’t visualized even in dreams that a man like me would ever become your husband. I do know I am not a match to you. Nothing special in me. What I have studied had been studied by you too. You are more good-looking than I. So what, you don’t have wealth. Therefore, you have no joy. Same is with me too. For there is no money, I have no education. For I have no education, I have no joy. Because of the absence of these two, I have no peace.

For I don’t have peace, and there being no other way to quench the anger that I get on the world, I yell at you once in a while. Thus proving that the authority of a clerk runs at home only…”

“I would never again say like that”, says Janaki tenderly.

“Why you to say? Don’t I Know! Irrespective of feeding you or not, at least there is no dearth of abuses, beatings…”    

“What is this, I never thought that you are feeling so sorry of all this”, says Janaki sympathetically.

“It’s not possible for me to study further; nor is it possible for you to get married again. So …”,

Saying, “Chi! What are you talking”, Janaki shuts Ramamurthy’s mouth with her palm. As she comes nearer to him, seeing the red imprint of his fingers on Janaki’s cheek, suppressing his anguish in heart, Ramamurthy, smiling forcefully, says:

“With a spank the ghost ran away?”

“Oh! not me, the ghost has possessed you only", says Janaki.

*   *   *  *   *
First Published in Telugu Swatantra in 1950


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