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Aindhu Varuda Mounam (“Silence of five years) is an alluring collection of short stories ranging from the profound to the plebian. Author S. Ramakrishnan in 32 short stories takes his readers on a whirlwind tour of sacrifice, selflessness, avarice and absurdity. Edgar Allan Poe once famously said, “A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build towards it.” Aindhu Varuda Mounam is a resounding panegyric to the opinion of Poe with regards to short stories. S. Ramakrishnan adopts an arresting blend of logic and spontaneity to produce a wonderful bouquet of refreshing blooms.
Nizhal Kalaingnan (Shadow Artist) has a bemused Picasso waking up to find his car richly painted with colours and brush strokes that uncannily ape his own stye. When the same astonishing range of colours appear on his slippers, four cigarettes and a flying kite, the master artist’s nerves are put to the ultimate test. Who is the impudent individual responsible for such audacities? Is he an imposter out to prove a point or is he Picasso’s own shadow desperately seeking an element of substance? When the maestro and the mimic finally accost one another……
In Indian Cook, forest officer Walter Clavell is the epitome of debauchery and despicable decadence. Arriving from London in 1845 he is first appointed the warden of the jungles in Assam before being transferred to a forest area abutting the Kerala border. Instilling mortal fear amongst tribals and animals alike, Clavell molests and murders helpless women for fun. When Clavell murders Lord Kenning, an officer in the high echelon of power, mercilessly rapes his wife Dorothy for 7 brutal days before shooting her at the back of her head, Clavell’s wife Lara decides she has had enough of her husband. While she is wallowing in remorse, Clavell has an accidental fall from his horse that leaves him immobilized for a few days. During this period, the couple’s Indian cook, Sabesan prepares a rollicking delicacy for Clavell. But Sabesan forbids everyone else in the house from partaking this ‘special’ dish. After two weeks of consuming the addictive food, Clavell is found screaming in absolute pain and delirium. Boils erupt all over his body and blood spurts out of them. Even their doctor has no idea what has stricken the forest official. But a humble cook possesses answers to all questions….
A blind Jorge Luis Borges is surprised to find an Indian student named Tiruvadi take exception to Borges’ views on India. “Trying to understand India only through the medium of books is akin to an attempt to experience the dark by trying to reach out with one’s arms,” Tiruvadi boldly asserts in the classroom. Borges is fascinated both by the courage as well as the philosophy espoused by Tiruvadi and expresses a desire to meet the young student in private. Over cups of steaming beverages, master and student engage in an intricate gamesmanship that involves sardonic exchange of words, reciprocal show of respect and a search into one another’s souls. Thannerin Thiruvukol (Water’s Key) is a confession by S. Ramakrishnan of his penchant towards the Argentinian author.
Aindhu Varuda Mounam (Silence of Five Years) has Mahatma Gandhi paying a visit to a humble abode in the obscure hamlet of Lachmiapuram in Tamil Nadu to see Kadharkodi Kittu an indefatigable freedom fighter and a Gandhi acolyte who has now been reduced to a vegetative state. When attempting to dissuade a bunch of people from frequenting a bar, Kadharkodi Kittu is set upon by a few police officers who rain blows on him with their batons. A remorseless blow to his head sees blood spurt out of Kittu’s head and Kittu losing consciousness after falling to the ground. Never making a recovery from the unfortunate incident, Kittu is rendered immobile and vegetative. Reading about his plight from a letter, Gandhi, who is on a tour of South India, wastes not a single moment in traveling to Lachmiapuram. Entering Kittu’s hut, Gandhi takes his daughter Parvathi by absolute surprise. Gandhi then proceeds to feed and bathe Kittu in the most tender of manners. Kittu’s eyes begin to glisten as Gandhi whispers something in the stationary man’s ears. Before Gandhi takes leave of Kittu and the sparse inhabitants of Lachmiapuram, a virtual transformation overwhelms the villagers. S. Ramakrishnan’s adulation for Gandhi also finds mention in Irandu Kizhavargal (Two Old People), when septuagenarian Pattabhiraman undertakes a ‘pilgrimage’ to Rajghat to pay obeisance at Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial. The experiences which Pattabhiraman accumulates on his way from Chennai to Delhi also illustrates in a riveting manner, the incongruous relationship which modern day India bears to the Father of The Nation.
Both symmetry and asymmetry share symbiotic space in S. Ramakrishnan’s book. Flaccid emotions compete with restless sentiments. A medieval Chinese emperor, an idle caretaker of a neglected butterfly museum in the South Indian hill station of Kodaikanal, a resolute schoolteacher who on the very day she begins her 25th year of teaching, experiences an unimaginable altercation with a fellow teacher, are all reluctant protagonists and willing antagonists. Aindhu Varuda Mounam lays bare S. Ramakrishnan’s range of versatility as an innovative storyteller.
A book for all seasons and every weather.