A derelict and dilapidated old nutrition hall stands like a den between the three Jule floras on the side of Coovam. A bleak and destitute building filled with stink is a place for immediate relief for the emergency needs; it is also the haven for the hooligans who roam day and night without any control over their life as of family and residence, a place for the local police to balance the monthly collections. The room was creeping up with yellow as the sun past the thorn tree and dripped through the holes in the hall’s broken cement roof. Moonji was asleep snoring in the depths of liquor intoxication on the old rag mat in the uneven bumpy floors. Bakthan also known as Batha used to loot money from the unconscious people like Moonji, sat at a distance of ten feet and waited for the right opportunity to rob from him. But he dares not to reach Moonji. On the other hand the reason for his lack of motivation was, when he came in, he found a green colored fifty rupee note half-sinked in the ground outside the dilapidated hall and trampled by the careless feet of the night. Batha had plucked the money from the ground and secured it in his inner pocket with a gleeful mind that saw the treasure. As a prelude to his action he piled up the half-smoked cigarettes that are scattered on the floor, piled them in front of him and he looked at them eagerly. As he waves the matchbox in his hand, he heard the laughter of heaven and he also smiled.

Many of them in that area are unaware of the existence of such place. Students, Family heads, Bank employees, Auto-rickshaw drivers, Taxi-drivers, Teachers and many others used to turn away their faces while crossing, not only of the stench of that place but also of a murder and a suicide that happened there. Moreover, the scattered excreta as old and new on the floor and like other cattle the pigs also don’t come there except a couple of goats. Beyond the hall the Coovam River is running and it is hidden by an eight foot wall. The stinky smell of a river is no way associated with the stench of the hall. The river spreads its fragrance after driving them out of the city to punish those who polluted the river. The big shots of the city, standing on its shores and went by filling their lungs. The riverine have named one half of the river as J miracle and the other half as Ka miracle.

An intense snoring sound came from Moonji and it floated on him like a layer of dust glistening in the sunlight.

Batha was happily smoking, not knowing how Masi has appeared there at this wonderful time. Masi bent down and grabbed Moonji’s shoulder and shook it to wake him up by uttering ‘Mamae get up Mamae’.

Meanwhile, Batha who is like wandering in a heaven came into reality by hearing Masi’s voice and his body started to shiver. He is unrest of the fact that Masi might have come after the lost fifty rupees. This commotion made him cough. Now, Masi had just noticed Batha.

“Hey, are you here, what Batha, are you waiting to loot money from the one who is intoxicated?”

When Masi utters this Batha felt panic and searched for the language to spit out the words. But already he has forgotten everything as the skull fell off from his head. Still he is searching for the words in his mind. But he couldn’t find anything and this is what he meant to say,

“It doesn’t seem to be for your friend to awake now. He drank until the dawn with the boys. Look at here; he is still sleeping without even knowing it was a dawn. But you have come to wake him up”, he thought. Batha knew that it is not safe to open his mouth and he just whine his stained teeth as if to smile where he couldn’t get the words he intended to say. The old expressions were piled up in front of him. So pity that the most insignificant retail thief had received too many gifts as his nine teeth were erupted and 14 scars witnessed all over the body.  In that fourteen, there are four dangerous scars only on the face. To a pity, he even forgot his own speech now. Time had taught him that talking is not so profitable. Of late, he just pretends to smile. Looking at Masi, who is still shaking Moonji, Batha gestured as if you can’t wake him up now.

“You see if I tell him the matter, he will woke up all of a sudden says Masi.” To this Batha thought of replying like this.

“Then what is the matter Masi” if he asks…

 He also assumed what kind of an answer that Masi would give.

He smiled himself thinking that Masi would spit out saying, “Yov… you need to know to put a Tandaro to reveal the matter to everyone.” 

For this Masi desires to answer like this, “look at here, a small boy, teasing me like he is going to do an assassin. I am the first witness of the work if you have trapped in anything.” He also thinks of the response of Masi to those statements,

“I will kill you within that.”

Hey, mind your work; I have seen many Dons”, thought Batha. The conversation between the two flashes in Batha’s mind. Now, with contentment he took a bit cigarette and lighted it.  The wet smoke and millions of tuberculosis came out loudly from his TB infected lungs.

Masi looked back at him angrily and shouted…

He chased him saying, “Otha,dei, why are you spreading the disease without dying yet? Run away from here.”

That’s it. Batha realized that the danger is approaching him. He thought that it is safe to run away from that place. He ran with the collected piece of cigarettes and a fifty rupee note like stirring the stagnant sunrays in that room. These tumlets awakened Moonji. He looked at Masi with irritation. Masi bent down towards Moonji and whispered in his ear.

“Mamae, there is perfect hunt for Gold, wake up Mamae.”

Even at the half-drunken state Moonji sat up quickly and stared at Masi. Due to the hangover he wallowed to see him. Masi’s eyes glazed over the flowing sun through the broken roof. He wiped his eyes with his passionate middle finger and looked at Masi again. Masi was standing like a piece of Gold. Moonji was the one who domesticated Masi to steal and to spend the money in a profligate manner that came through the theft.

“Gold…? Have you planned to trap me in anything and to escape yourself? Go away, are you going to tell where the gold is…already you are a fraudster not even disclose about the brass, said Moonji.”

Moonji snorted in such a way that the alcohol in his intestine returned to the stomach as if it is going to be pumped out of his mouth. His head which is in the brown rag mat had a pressure as heavy as four hands were pressing his head to the floor; the hands are like the threatening strong hands of Pacha. Pacha, who was born at the aluminum workshop, he was grown up stronger by doing the hard works. His hands were as strong as the iron rods. He died in the doorstep of the Aluminium workshop, as his life was started there; it ends there itself.

I couldn’t ignore Masi’s desiring words. Nothing associated with him in the past should have ended in failure and I should not have spoken like that, thinks Moonji. He wallowed to see him. The drug still lingered in his blood.

“The headache is unbearable Machi,don’t be angry.” Moonji said this while trying to get up to sit. “What are you saying da, like Gold, fold.”

“Mama… there is a matter in the old pumping store, come with me.”

“Where there is a pumping store? Now it has been built into a football ground?”

Masi cautiously turned his head towards left and right to see if anyone was there and said, “Please come with me. I will tell you the matter.”

“Yes Mamae, the boys were about to pit for a goal post yesterday. I bought and dug the ground for them as they were our boys. I have just dug three feet, alas!  Fuck, what a smell, it is the scent of gold. I think you know I can even smell it at ten feet distance. It was the pure smell of gold Mamae. I kept digging. Suddenly, the 7 and ½ feet crowbar went inside the soil.” He said in surprise. Moonji slapped on Masi’s cheek and bites his tongue as if he is threatening him, said,

“Hey, have you planned to trap me after selling the crowbar to drink, oatha, go away from here” said Moonji and turned back to lie down. Though Moonji has slaped Masi harshly, it is just out of love, thought Masi.

“No Mamae, yesterday itself I gave them another crowbar, if you want you come and see.”

It was only then Moonji remembered that thing. His aunty who lived 103 years used to tell him a story about the pumping store till her death. She used to tell a lot of stories about it. She said that there was a Whiteman’s bungalow which is turned to be a pumping store.

The Whiteman had lived with a local woman and she died of the difficulty in giving birth during her delivery. He had buried her in the backyard with all the jewelry that she has worn. Then only the pumping store came to that place and now it has been demolished and built as a football ground. All these things were running in Moonji’s mind and he thought that, it might be a real matter.

“Promisely, there comes a scent of Gold Mamae. Come let us see what is the ghost inside it” said Masi by lifting Moonji’s hand. Still, Moonji looked at Masi with suspicion. “I swear on you Mamae” says Masi and touches Moonjis head to make a promise.

Moonji believed Masi that he has found something, only after Masi swears on him and he decided to go there.

“Come on Mamae, we will make a try. If we get, it’s Gold. Else it’s a hair. But there is something precious. See, as our elders used to say, there lived a woman. Do you remember that, when she has died she was buried with her jewel.”

‘Damn, do you also know that story?’ Moonji thought to himself.

“Ok, come on, you are saying something. Let’s see. Is it possible for us to dig a ditch?”

“Come on Mamae, if we drink we can even dig the earth. Come, the boys will close the door at night and leave the ground. If we start then we will finish off the matter within 1 or 2 o’clock”

“Yes. That kujili’s(woman’s) skull is for you and that Durai’s skull is for me. Fuck…we are going to die out of fear by bleeding.” They are happily talking about their death and waited for the night.

Night surrounded them.

Thieves’ hands are soft. Their hearts are unlockable lock. The thieves waited until there is no sign of human…

After drinking the low quality alcohol, they were digging the ground alternatively. But they couldn’t find the pit that pulled the crowbar in. They dug deeper as even Masi can be hidden from the ground. The scent of Gold came from the abyss like a fountain. Masi shouted at the minute while Moonji experienced the smell. The tip of a crowbar was tapped. He took the crowbar from the pit as the tip is visible; they hit again in that hole and heard the sound of metal colliding. “Yes, it’s Gold Machi”, yelled Moonji.

The thieves are expert in knowing whether the crowbar collides on Gold or on Iron. It’s only known to the thieves who have learned theft from the devils. The smell of Gold pushes them intoxicated.

“See Mamae, it is like feeling the scent of Gold in our vein as a drug.”

“Masi, it’s not Gold’s scent, it’s a scent of a ghost. If it is a normal ghost, it will come with the scent of a Jasmine. It’s Kujili’s (woman’s) ghost. That’s why it came with the scent of Gold.” 

Masi doesn’t mind to hear anything. He is pouring out the mud from the pit like a ghost. At that time they heard the sound of the police vehicle in the distance. The two awoke and hid themselves in the abyss. The two dark-skinned dogs barked and ran towards them. Masi grabbed the clay and threw it at the dogs. They fled stampede through the pitch dark.

“Machan, have you noticed, they are not like a dog, but like a fox. They are seeing the police vehicle appears to be parked at the entrance to the grounds. The guard gets out of the vehicle and knocks on the door with the stick. Being in the abyss, they heard the ordering voice of a Sub inspector. “Yov, open the door and go in, see whether it’s been locked inside”. The guard opens the door and comes to the ground.

Masi is urinating in a tremor… The internal wounds that he got about ten days ago have not healed yet. He has remembered the horrific tortures and he doesn’t want such to happen again.

Moonji closed Masi’s mouth when he says, “Mamae, we will jump this wall and escape ourselves before he reaches us.”

He whispered, “Dei, they have come here as a normal visit, they will leave.”

At that moment Masi screamed, feeling as if someone was pulling his leg, Moonji closed his mouth tightly. As they were watching, the police feared of the barking sound of the dog, rotated the torch towards the ground and went back by closing the gate. They have started their vehicle and went. Moonji jumped up to the mound. Now, the scent of Gold has been reduced by the increasing smell of urine. Moonji spit out by frowning said, “Hey, even after getting such scars in your chest and abdomen, why are you so wimpish and urinating by seeing the police.”

“To you, you have someone to bring you back from jail, but for me? If they caught me, they will tear me like beating the drums. They are beating like anything. Even the membranes were torn and be loose after their beating Mamae”.

Now, Masi’s voice was heard as it is coming from the depth of the abyss. Suddenly he yelled shouting as, ‘Mamae’ and threw something out. He also jumped at the same speed.  It was the skull. “As I said, it is that Kujili’s (lady’s) skull. Next is that Durai’s skull” and he again jumped in the abyss.

“Machan, definitely the Gold will be here” said Moonji by throwing out the bones from the abyss. Hey Masi, “light the matches”, shouted Moonji. The gold chains glistened in the hands of Moonji in the flashing light as Masi scratched the match stick in the matchbox. Now Masi also jumps into the abyss. They threw out the bones, soils and gold by raking repeatedly. At that moment only Masi noticed that, Moonji is turning into a skeleton and falling to the ground. Masi screamed and tried to jump up from the abyss as he is also turning into a skeleton. There were two foxes above the abyss. He doesn’t know about the wolves. Even if he sees a wolf, he will say it is a fox. The skeleton of Moonji grabs him and pulls him down as he tries to go up out of fear. Masi shouted, leave me Moonji, leave me moonji and the beatings from the bone is much stronger in his back.

“What, can’t you be separated from your partner even in your dreams? Mmm…” Looking at Masi, said the Police Sub inspector by twisting his mustache.

Masi fainted and slept after getting the beatings for the whole night …out of this he had such dreams. Is even the dream has to be like that, thought, Masi. “Hey, if you have said this earlier means, you wouldn’t get such beatings near to the point of death for the past four days. Mmm.  Now you have opened your mouth out of the effect of ‘latti’ charges. Yov, drag that Moonji here.

Still, Masi couldn’t understand what was happening there.

As the dream shattered, he realized that everything that happened is just a dream and at present he is lying in the urinated floor of the police station. He spat of this.

Within the next one hour, Moonji alias Murugan was dragged from the textile shop located in the Kidangu Street. By looking at this, Masi burst into tears.

“Sir, he is so pity sir. I have not seen him for more than one year sir. Now he has transformed and working in Settu’s shop sir. I was the one who stole all the jewelry. Come with me sir, I will show you the place where I have sold it”.

He hits his hands on the floor and screamed.

“Moonji is so pity, leave him sir, he is innocent.” With joined hands like worshipping them he said, “at least leave him to be changed sir.”

The knees, foot, ankles are all like swollen with pus. He couldn’t move. He was tortured for four days. At one time, he was a thief. But for the past two years he is going for a painting work by leaving all this. Four days ago, they have dragged him on his way for a liquor shop, after getting his wages. They have dragged him before he drinks. Though the head mason told them about him, they didn’t even listen to him. They told him to take me after giving Twenty five soverigns.

Masi has to show someone and has to accept that he has stolen the jewel and sold it to him. But he hasn’t seen the jewels in his eyes. As the plan of justice is like this, than to be beaten to death by these demons, though his mind disagreed to point out a corpulent interest shopper, who is capable of giving a bribe up to three or four lakhs, now agreed for Moonji. Else he will also be tortured like this by them. The vehicle is ready as he has to point out the person to whom he has sold jewelries.

“You have not sold the twenty five soverigns to a normal man. You might have sold it in a big shop.”

The object that the Police sub inspector is asking for was well known to the old thieves like Masi. He only shook his sore head as much as he could. The vehicle goes only through the biggest corpulent stores. The work is very simple now.

Moonji left the place without looking back by putting the hot boiling tea and the four big butter biscuits in front of him. Masi desires to call his friend Moonji as Machan, who broke his contact some two years ago. But he goes as he had lost his ears.

  • Karan Karki

In English: P.Padmapriya

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  1. “Excellent work that exceeded expectation”. Really,you have done a tremendous job!I was amazed by your talent mam. ♥️♥️… I think you have effectively utilized this quarantine…keep rocking mam💥

    • A wonderful attempt by P. Padmapriya. A very good translation of a nice story.I am happy that this lockdown period has brought out your hidden talent that was kindled by the gentle breeze of the once clean and life giving long river that flows through the heart of Chennai city.I wish you may translate many more good Stories into English so that non Tamil speaking people can read and enjoy .


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