Pure Fiction

Telugu: Malladi Ramakrishna Sastry


[We often mistake that the noble (by birth or by knowledge) behave nobly and lead a life model to others. But, no! Seldom they do. It is the poor and the simpleton that display noble qualities, that too, naturally, and spontaneously. They make no airs about it.

Malladi Ramakrishna Sastry, a short story writer comparable to Guy de Maupassant, indulges and revels in exploring and exposing the tricky side of human behaviour without taking sides. He leaves it to the discerning reader. ]


That afternoon, all of a sudden bundles of dark clouds rolled and seized the sky. And then, it started raining relentlessly.

That day, night fell earlier than the usual. Like bouts of shivering, blanket darkness enveloped the surrounds and the world looked like a dungeon with nothing visible no matter how hard you pierce through it.

A child was hungry. The cow withheld its milk for the gust of cold winds. The woman hesitated to prepare the dinner by lighting the stove, for, the roof of the thatched hut was unsteady and looked like it might be blown off anytime.

Stretching its legs, the cow was groaning under the tree.  The child cried  and cried until he got hiccups and slept in his mother’s lap with eyes half open.  Subbadu sat idling with nothing else to do.

He got hungry. He caressed the tummy of his child compassionately. Ratti smiled at his gesture. Dismissing her with his looks, he pulled out a jowar stem from the stack, and started chewing the raw grain.

The child was disturbed in his sleep.  Ratti embraced him dearly, took a few jowar grains herself into the mouth, chewed them to a liquid paste, and fed her sleeping child through the mouth.

The wind blew off the palm leaves at the place they were sitting. And with it, sprayed rain on their faces. It lightninged as if the entire hut were aflame. It thundered as though the metal utensils on the Village Karanam’s attic had rolled down to the floor at once. The cow mewed. With the rope used as latch giving in, the bamboo tatty swung wildly in.

Subbadu got up to put a stone ledge as support to the tatty.  Making a grunting sound something rolled off the village road.

“Who is there?” A voice hailed at a high pitch.

Subbed looked out. He saw an eerie figure pulling over a car aside.  A mustached figure came forward, drying his moustache and asked,

“Who is there?”

The heaviness of the rain relented but it still continued to drizzle lightly.  Subbadu came out of his shack and asked, “What do you want, sir?”

“Untether the cow. I have to park my car under the tree,”  he said.

“There is no place for the poor animal to stand dry, sir. It has already soaked wet with the rain. If I leave her in the open, she might catch pneumonia.”

“I will buy you another one if it comes to that. But first clear the place under the tree. My ten-thousand worth car gets spoiled otherwise. Come on go…” that man goaded. Subbadu complied without demur.

The child from the car called out, “Daddy!”

“ Yes, Bob!”

“Isn’t it a cow?” he asked

“Yes, Bob.”

“Wonderful cow. Doesn’t it give milk?”

“Yes, dear!” said the mother sitting by.

“How nice! Mommy, I want milk.”

“Okay Bob,” she caressed her son’s head lovingly and called out her husband, “Darling!”

That man in turn called out Subbadu and said, “My boy wants milk.”

“Sorry sir, milk is not available.”

“Milk the cow.”

“It won’t give milk. We don’t have milk for our own child.”

“What do you mean? If there is no milk for your child, its okay. But how could you refuse it for my child? Make no pretensions. If you want I will offer you four annas. Milk the cow!” he insisted.

“Darling! Darling! Four annas is too much. Offer two annas… only two!” cried the rattled wife from the car.

“Madam, whether you offer her two annas or two rupees, it will not accept. What will the animal do with your money. You are perhaps not aware, but no cow worth her salt, shall give out milk at odd hour.” Said Subbadu walking up to the car. The lady felt nauseated and pinched her nose. And the man came in his way shielding his car and the lady from his smell.”

“Why does he stand there like a log? Ask him to tow the car, darling?” cuckooed the lady from the car.

For a sudden blast of wind, a branch broke off and fell on the car.  The cuckoo now shrieked in fear. And Bob started cursing nature in his choicest words.

The boy and madam got down the car and ran into the hut.  The driver followed them with the tote bag.

Watching the unexpected intruders, Ratti lifted her child on to her shoulders. Looking at Ratti, madam pinched her nose even more vigorously.

The gentleman removed his coat and spread it out on the floor. The lady and the boy sat grumblingly on that. Bob opened his biscuit packet. Madam opened the lid of the flask gracefully.

Bob started eating his biscuits.  Ratti suddenly remembered her child’s hunger.

“Madam!” she said looking at the lady. “Please give two pieces for our child,” she appealed.

That’s it.  Subbadu slapped her violently.

“Don’t you have any common sense. They are meant for the rich and noble…”  he howled at her.

“Please get out of here for some time,” the lady asked. Subbadu and his family went out.  “Close the door behind you. Ask our driver to come in,” ordered the gentleman.

After the driver had walked into the hut, Subbadu as was his wont, tied the bamboo door frame with the rope tightly.

There was another round of fast drizzle. The wind blew heavily. It seemed the roof would fly off. Subbadu pushed the car into the open and tethered his cow back at a dry place. He got into the car with his family and pulled the door close.

The wind got wild. The roof was precariously perched on its walls, tossing to the vagaries of the wind. It looked it might give in anytime. The gentleman tried to push open the bamboo door but could not. He wanted to cut the rope but did not find a knife. He ordered the driver to bite it off. Unfortunately the driver was old and did not have teeth.  So he resorted to biting off the rope himself.

The rain grew intense. Fortunately, Subbadu and his family were warm inside the car. They sat closer and felt warmer.

At last the day broke. And with it, the raining ceased.

Subbadu wanted to get out and pushed the door. But, no use. He was unversed as to how to open the car door!

With bruised and bleeding lips, the gentleman finally succeeded and came out of the hut.  They all ran up to the car and opened the door.  They found Subbadu and his family blissfully asleep.

They woke up for the shouting and hullabaloo of the man and his family.  Ratti’s child woke up refreshed and yawned.

“Driver! Didn’t you lock the car door?”

“Yes, sir!”

“Then I dismiss you.”

“Alright sir. Pay me my salary for this month, and as per rules three months’ bonus.”

“Come to my house later. I don’t have the checkbook with me.”

“Alight sir! But until I receive my money, give one of madam’s jewelry as security. Otherwise the dismissal order is not valid.”

Ratti and Subbadu were listening to the exchange between the two with bewildered looks.

“So arrogant? Then go and complain to whomsoever you want. I am not going to pay you a pie.”

The driver turned to leave.

“Hey driver?” the man called out.

“Yes, Sir!”

“Where are the car keys?”

“It’s not meet for you to ask for the keys? Pay me my money.”

“Driver! Can you put us to trouble abandoning us midway at an unknown place?” The lady was short of tears.

“Give man, give them their rightful property.” Subbadu recommended.

“Then, what about the fruits of my labour?”

“Don’t have to worry for that. How could such rich people owning a car refuse to pay your salary?  Please give the keys back. You should at least give them back once that lady had entreated,” said Subbadu.  Driver returned the keys.

“After having worked long with people like us, it’s a pity that a homeless person’ advice should wisen you.”

“Because of your mindset, you always struggle to make both ends meet.”

After liberally cursing the driver, the man and lady left.

“Hey… You…” the man called out Subbadu, and as the lady handed him the coin, he threw a two-anna coin at Subbadu.

Subbadu picked it up from the dust and touched it to his eyes in reverence.

“Oh! How noble they are!” said Subbadu exclaimed to the driver.

The car hardly ran for a few yards before it suddenly stopped.  Bob was calling out “Driver! Driver!”

The driver smiled and looked at Subbadu. “Our Sir is only crazy, but he could never drive the car properly.”

“Brother! O dear brother! Listen to me. Forget about what kind of people they are. There is a child with them.  Please drive them safe and straight to home.” Ratti pleaded with the driver.

Like a boy straightened by his mother, the driver bowed his head, and walked up to the car silently.

“Please stop the car for a moment. I will milk the cow and send it through my husband. Poor child! He must be hungry,” said Ratti.

She turned to her husband, and said,

“ Hey, you man! Get me a coconut with that two-anna. Let us break it and pray Sun God to protect the weaklings like him!”


(Original: Suddha Abaddham, Malladi Ramakrishna Sastry Kathalu – Vol 2, Centenary Publication, Visalandhra Publishing House, AP March 2005)

Murthy Nauduri

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