The Robot

Telugu: Dr. Venugopala Rao Kommuri


Autopsy was going on in the mortuary room of ​the General Hospital. Dr. Sridhar, Professor of Pathology, was conducting the autopsy. Deftly dissecting the body, he was explaining animatedly his findings, observations, and inferences, with reasons behind each of them to the students flocking around him. One of the students acting as his Asst. for the day, was briskly noting down his remarks the Professor had made.

“Look here! This is the rarest of the rare chronic Syphilis cases you come across in an era of antibiotics. We never had such a case before. Notice these patches on the kidney. You can all feel its consistency and firmness. I say it is wood hard. This is liver… this is brain… uterus… you can feel the lymph glands here… typical shot appearance… what a wonderful tertiary stage it is…!”

The autopsy was over after another hour.  He ordered his Assistants to safekeep each of the body parts he had removed and arrange them neatly in a box in the museum.  He came out after surgical hand antisepsis.

About four or five people, likely of the deceased woman, he saw loitering under the shade of a tree waiting for the body to be handed over to them. ‘Poor people! Until they inter the body in a grave or cremate it, neither they themselves rest in peace, nor feel the soul of the deceased would be. Crazy people. He had removed all essential organs of the body. They would be kept safe and on display at the museum. They only must carry on with that useless, hollow torso for funereal purposes,” he pitied.

Dr. Sridhar did not believe in God. He had no superstitions or irrational beliefs. He never allowed any idea, habit, practice, or custom in the name of tradition or convention to prevail over him.  He was immune to all kinds of mundane attachments.

Returning to his room and washing his hands once more, he set his table to take lunch and was about to open his carrier.

The phone on his desk rang. He went there and picked up the phone.

At the other end was Dr. Rama. “Congrats Dr. This is Rama.” she greeted.

“What for?” he asked, without concealing his surprise.

“I have just examined Sridevi.  She is pregnant. This is prime[i] you know. And she is physically weak. She needs healthy food and constant attention. I guess you might not be aware that she had come to me for consultation.  She said that she had suspected it and wanted me to confirm.  Third month…”

His ears lost their essence. Umpteen apprehensions seized him. The receiver shaking in his hands betrayed the agitation in his mind. “My God!” he thought recovering slowly from the shock.


He stopped the car in the portico. Taking no notice of Sridevi hurrying to greet him, Sridhar dashed straight into the living room and sank into the sofa.

She might have correctly gauged his reaction. Keeping silent for a moment, she slowly walked up to him and stood behind him.

“This news upset you. Didn’t it?” she asked.

He turned his head towards her and stared blankly at her. His looks were always like that. They seldom carried any passionate expression.”

“Take your seat,” he said first, to restore her composure.

“Don’t worry. I can hear you standing,” she replied.

“No! Take your seat first,” he insisted.

Sridevi sat opposite him on the sofa and looked at him quizzically.

“Sridevi! Look…” commenced Sridhar, her husband, a young professor at medical college and a materialist in a conciliatory tone.  “Don’t get upset with what I am going to say.  It has been only five years since we got married.  And two of those years had passed on my overseas tours. Our lives are at a threshold where they should flourish professionally first, and conjugally next. I shall be visiting the US again in the coming two years and this time you must accompany me.  I did not feel like begetting children so far.  I have no illusions that I would derive some inexplicable joy out of it or that we achieve something out of it. I don’t like to undergo all these troubles. It is a big hassle for our prospects now. Besides, we are still young. Let me ask you a straight question. Do you like this present happiness to cease?”

Sridevi struggled to restrain her sigh. After listening to what he had said, two questions flashed in her mind: First, which is more happier thing? The second, why was he telling  this all, after things had gone out of hand.

He looked at her with a sense of finality.  And then asked her, “What do you say?”

She feigned an uneasy smile and replied, “What is there for me to say?”

“You mean, you have nothing to say?”  he said with a sense of desperation.


Frisking and fidgeting with his fingers, he murmured within, “I never expected such a crisis would engulf us so soon.”

Despite the seriousness of the situation, his monologue triggered a smile which she concealed with effort, got up, and sat next to him. In her bid to put him at ease, she gently put her hand on his shoulder.

He turned his face towards her. His eyes reflected the same blank, emotionless, stare she was long accustomed to. In a firm and steady voice, he said, “Sridevi! Please listen. This overt display of emotions, love and falling head over heels does not suit me. I like a simple and straightforward life. A life that’s under my control and takes the course I desire. There is no room for chance events, and I hate others imposing themselves on me. You knew it quite well. I hate the melodramatic expressions of sweet nothings, love-sicknesses, or pangs of separation… and things like that. I don’t encourage such shackles that hinder our progress.  That is the greatest weakness that a man could possess upon earth. This is the age of industry and science revolutionizing our times. Our intellect should have the plasticity of a rubber but not the frailty of a cord to snap easily.

Despite her best efforts, she failed to restrain her flow of tears down her smooth velvety cheeks … leaving a dark trail behind them.

“Cry-babies always bewilder me,” he said.

“You are heartless,” she said. Her voice went hoarse in anger.

“Maybe you are just right,” he said standing up.

He did not change to casuals after returning from the office nor had his customary cup of coffee. He walked into the corridor and overlooking nature, he lit a cigarette.

“This heartlessness perhaps helped me. I could become a professor at ​my age. Had I failed to humble that weak emotion of love ruthlessly, I might have remained nameless like any other medical graduate. You know it better.”

She made no reply.  Her muted cries resonated through the ambient silence.

That was the onset of winter. A cool breeze blew in short bursts from the south occasionally. The land and the skies had long cooled off. Shadows of darkness were slowly creeping over the earth. Sweet fragrances were emanating from lilies, Gulshan, red-lotus, jasmine and jasmine-Sambac bushes from the garden in front of the Professor’s bungalow. And the aroma from the Eucalyptus and the camphor trees close to where he was standing by, spread all around wafting through the air. That bungalow was the professor’s personal choice, covetously built at a secluded place in the Maredpally area. The garden and the assortment of flowers, however, were the handiwork of Sridevi, a captive to sentiments. Sridhar could not communicate with plants and flowers as he would effortlessly do with the cadavers, their muscles, and the microscopes of his lab. His sensory organs were immune to the beauty and balm of the flowerscape. But it was his forte to keep the mosaic flooring of his inanimate bungalow spotlessly clean.

Tossing the butt away, and without looking back towards Sridevi, he said, “Unrelenting effort is my aim. And in the arduous journey of scaling challenging heights, these little obstacles are silly and negligible.  We can overcome them easily if you heed to my advice. After all, you missed your period.  Your health is very delicate. And I am not sure if you have the strength to give birth to a child. Wagering with your life for the sake of a baby is mere foolishness. Try to understand me. In the present circumstances I don’t like this. There is time still. I am a doctor. Terminating it is not a challenge for me.”

Like an earthquake hesitates before ingulfing the land into its furnace, like a tidal wave before overwhelming the hapless globe, or a volcano before exploding spitting fire as lava… there prevailed a fiery silence for a moment… no, for a fraction of it. Then, like the deafening sound that follows the event, he heard a loud sound.

He was startled and looked back.

Sridevi fell lying unconscious on the floor.


It was twelve past midnight.  The light from the head lamp spread intensely all around the room.  The tick-ticking of the wall clock was audible in the silence.

Sridevi was not asleep. Keeping her eyes closed and pulling the bed sheet up to her neck, she lost herself in thought. After what had happened in the evening, she was getting goosebumps whenever she looked at her husband or thought about him. He appeared more like a robot, or a professor than her husband. She could not get to sleep.

Her tears anointed the pillow.  They won’t get dry for this night.

Opening her eyes partly, she looked towards his bed. As was his wont, he was sleeping in the lateral position. He might be deeply asleep.

This man was always like that! As for his nature and character… he was uninspiring. Sometimes, it feels like it would be better to fail than to catch up with him.

He was around thirty-five or thirty-six now.  A lean, tall frame but as strong as steel.  His sharp eyes never looked restless. Nor did his face show any fatigue. He had a thick crop of hair, and there were no silver streaks appearing in it. It’s no mean achievement to become a professor at that age.

Sridevi turned her looks away from him and closed her eyes again. Before consummation of their marriage, his mother Saradamba​, often said to her: “Look dear! He can neither choose what he wants, nor can value it. I am afraid he would become a loner in life. Grant this poor wretched mother a simple wish that would never let that happen. Promise me that you won’t hate this hard-hearted man.”

She reassured that old woman and stood by her word.

Whenever the conversations turned towards the subject of sin and merit in life, Sridhar used to declare, “I don’t give any importance to these things. Birth and death are neither the beginning nor the climax of life. What I am interested in is the way we live.  If it were a steel vessel there should be no dents and holes in it.  I have been a materialist ever since I came of age.  But that doesn’t mean that I am vacuous or inhuman. I have my own interests, choices, and prejudices within those confines.  But they are not blind beliefs. They enlighten me and my reasoning.”

“Like?” she asked him once mockingly.

“Say, like you. I cannot deny the fact that I like you. That very idea is so pleasant.  Something like that.”

She could understand a part of him. The other part, she couldn’t make out anything. And as far as she had understood him, she developed no sympathy. And as for the part she failed to understand, she developed no dislike.  He had no illusions about life.  He never reeled out romantic phraseology. He never built castles in the air. He was prepared to invest his effort to receive the benefit aimed. Laziness was not there in his dictionary.  He treated his people with love. At the same time, there was no overbearing in it. Instead, he was very ‘moderate’.  He never made a show of his emotions. He was never excited to the point of losing his ground. He was always rooted firmly to the ground.  Crying, lamenting, and emotional outbursts were ridiculous things in his reckoning. He could swim through life and if necessary, drill through the obstacles to achieve what he wanted.  He could relish the fruits of his effort. But he would never treat them as accidents or extraordinary.

Sridevi matched up to him. She knew how to keep her reserve. But, if she was grieving so bitterly at that midnight hour at the expense of her sleep, or trying to find a vent to her agony, it was because the matter was intensely personal to them both. There was no room for arrogance or one upmanship.

Contrary to Sridevi’s supposition, Sridhar was not asleep. He too was lost in thought.

Considering all pros and cons he finally decided, ‘let her have her way.’


Seven months passed.

“I am sorry doctor! This is a case of hydrocephalus,” said Midwifery professor after conducting all investigations.

Sridhar was ruffled for a fraction of a moment.

“Pelvimetry findings are very favorable. Fetus is healthy so far. Of course, it’s a rare case.  Let me try trial labor first. If it doesn’t succeed, I will go for craniotomy. What do you say?’

Sridhar nodded his head. Then, after second thoughts, “Why taking the risk of trial labor, doctor? How about proceeding with craniotomy straight away?” he said.

“Somehow, I feel normal delivery is possible.  I don’t put Sridevi’s life at risk. Rest assured,” said Dr. Rama Devi confidently.

He wanted to strongly insist her to conduct craniotomy and destroy the fetus somehow.  But he knew she would not listen. He bade goodbye and came out of her chamber.


Cigarette after cigarette was reducing to dust… and so with each cigarette, burned some anxious moments.

It was perhaps for the first time in his life, time was passing slowly for Sridhar. The realization why man was not a robot, and the life of Sridevi was so valuable to him was gradually dawning upon him.

“My god! How unfortunate is the man who could not grieve his heart out!!”

Telephone buzzed. He anxiously lifted the receiver.

‘Normal delivery. Male child.  The condition of both the mother and the child is good,” communicated Ramadevi coolly from the other end. She did not congratulate him.  There was no trace of joy in her voice.  He knew the reason.

“Thank you, doctor!” he languidly said and put down the receiver on the cradle.


The boy was of pink complexion. His hands and legs were as thin as straw.  His body was hanging loose like a bellows sans air.  But his head was conspicuously large.  Matching the head, the eyeballs protruded out of their sockets and there was no order for the nose and his mouth. Such a child was growing up in that house.

Whenever he looked at the child, Sridhar was reminded of the fact that he had no such specimen in his pathology lab.

The boy surviving the labor was ​a wonder to Sridhar.  Often the fetus would die in the womb itself. And the doctors must destroy the head with various instruments to pull out the fetus. That his head did not grow to abnormal proportion saved him during labor.  He was growing… and smiling too.

Sridhar knew for sure that if they survive childhood, they lead a vegetable life.

He observed the child as he would observe a new specimen in his laboratory. He never took the child into his hands nor kissed it passionately.  He never even talked to the child. He never discussed with Sridevi his actual condition, the possible consequences, and his chances of survival.

Sridevi named him Karuna.

Though she was not fully aware of his condition, Sridevi had some knowledge about it. Dr. Rama had given her a brief earlier: That it was a kind of congenital anomaly and a result of fluid accumulating in his brain.

Sridevi was an inveterate theist.  She believed in the concepts of sin and merit and the ineluctable consequences of one’s Karma. For this very reason she could easily reconcile that the baby was a fruit of her previous sins.

She never put down the boy. She was so fond of him.  And one wonders the way she talks to him every moment.  How could a child know… for that matter how could anybody in this world know… the scores of tears lying behind the lips that give that gentle kiss?

She never consulted her husband about the boy.  She never asked him to take the boy into his hands.  She never showered her affections on her son in Sridhar’s was around. She did not like it. Just that. Her conjugal relationship with her husband had neither improved from what it was before nor deteriorated.

She bought many toys for the child.  And herself becoming another child, played with him.

She never exposed her child to the visitors. She would take him in and keep him away from the scrutinizing looks of the guests. Not out of diffidence, but their show of sympathy or condescending remarks upset her.

One day, Karuna caught fever and started groaning. Sridevi ran up to Sridhar anxiously.

“The boy is suffering from fever. Would you mind examining him once?” she pleaded in a shivering voice. He got up, and after examining him he reassured her, “Sridevi, don’t get anxious. It is only mild bronchitis. I will arrange the medicine!”

He attended on the child for the entire day … but​ it was ​more like a doctor attending on his patient.

Later in the night, he turned his attention towards the source of noise that disturbed his sleep.  He found Sridevi bottle-feeding the boy in the dim light of the bed lamp. Inadvertently his eyes turned towards the wall clock. It was twelve past midnight.

“Sridevi! What you are doing is wrong. You should not feed the child at night after ten till six in the morning. Please stop it.”

Stopping the bottle-feed, she tried to put him to sleep. But the boy was not relenting. He was crying hard.  Failing to pacify him, she appealed to her husband, “He will not relent. Let me feed him.”

“Are you doing it so every day?”

“Yes, when he was crying uncontrollably, I was doing it.”

“Sridevi! How could you do such things like an illiterate woman?”

Sridevi did not answer.  As the child continued its wailing, she took him out onto the verandah lest it disturb Sridhar.

The child regained his normal health after two days.


One day, while coming out of her room onto the hall, Sridevi observed Sridhar keenly watching her sleeping child. She could not make out what he was so seriously observing. But, when she realized that he was observing her child like he would observe the ‘gross appearance’ of any specimen of his subject, she was seized with aversion. Coming silently from behind, she completely covered her child with a bedsheet with the excuse that ‘It’s too cold.’

Occasionally, friends visiting Sridhar used to ask, “What Sridhar! Why don’t you show your child to us?”

“He is not a healthy child. There is a rare disease called Hydrocephalus. It occurs one in five hundred cases.  You might have casually seen children with over-sized heads, protruding eyeballs, and disproportionate limbs,” he almost gave a lecture of ​s​orts ​before ​inviti​ng them to see his child.

“It’s okay,” said his friend once, feeling embarrassed for having asked.

“No. No. Please see the child,” he insisted and got up to take his friend in.

Sridevi overheard him and got annoyed, offended, and alarmed. Setting aside all norms of good manners and etiquette, she took the boy away into her room and locked herself  from inside.

“Sridevi! Open the door.  My friend wants to see the child,” he said knocking at the door.

But there was no response from her.

“I shall see him next time,” said his disconcerted friend.

Sridevi, sitting like a personification of grief with the child in her lap, overheard her husband saying to his friend: “She is an educated lady but a sentimental fool.”


Some more days passed. The boy grew and passed the milestone of rolling over. With such a heavy head as he rolled over, Sridhar stood watching him curiously as if he were watching an educational film.

Once the child rolled over from bed onto the floor and got a head injury.  The pain and suffering Sridevi underwent for the whole day after watching the blood was beyond description. Sridhar admonished her, “Sridevi! I regret to tell you this time and again: Don’t develop too much association with the child. You will suffer later.”

That was something beyond her. But she never argued with her husband. She kept quiet as usual.

One day, Sridhar called her to him as if he had something to say and pointing towards the child blissfully at play, he asked, “Don’t you think his head is growing larger and larger every day?”

Sridevi looked up to him. Her eyes were red with anger.

“I have been thinking for quite some time to ask you one thing,” she began.

There was unmistakable harshness in her voice. He had never heard of it before. Sridhar looked bewildered.

“When would it strike you that you father this child?”

She did not wait for his reply.  She never needed it. She disappeared from the scene taking her child in.

Sridhar, immune to extreme expression of feelings, stood aghast for a moment.


Finally, Sridevi’s worst fears came true.  Fate mocked her again. The boy’s condition started deteriorating. His looks lost their focus. His smile ceased. Complications developed one after the other … in his tummy, esophagus, and brain. And at a cruel moment he ​d​eveloped convulsions and started swaying his head in all directions. After suffering for three days that way, Karuna bade goodbye to that disfigured body searching for another.​

Keeping his lifeless body in her lap, Sridevi wailed her heart out silently.  She never blamed anybody.  Nor ​did she raise an accusing finger against any​o​ne.

After a long pause, Sridhar walked up to her. “How long can you keep wailing for him.  Let me perform the final rites.” He said.

She looked into his eyes once and handed over the body to Sridhar.

Sridhar took the body carefully into his hands. Took it up to his car, set it carefully in the back seat.  The car passed the bungalow.


For three days Sridevi was not herself. She did not eat or sleep. She did not talk to anybody. She suffered an inexplicable pain… an excruciating and undeserving pain she thought she was put to. Her condition was also on the decline.

In stark contrast to his nature, Sridhar was with her for hours together during that period consoling her. He tried to cheer her up and bring her back to normal. Finally, he said, “Grief is the number one enemy.  One should take note of this fact!”

Whatever corner she went in the bungalow she saw the same form… a large head, little disproportionate limbs, and a little mouth unable yet to speak… appeared before her eyes.

She felt as if it was calling out to her distressingly, “Mother! Mother!” and the very thought pierced through her heart like a bullet.

She would lament: “I was not destined to such good fortune, baby. I was not destined.”

“Is it my fault? Then why should I be punished this way?” the voice would seem to ask.

“Boy! It is not a punishment to you, but to me.  No! It was not a punishment.  You were fruition of my efforts.  My fortune,” she would say.

“Nay, mother! It was good that I had died.  Else, all eyes would be scrutinizing my grotesque form,” the figure would reply.

“I will kill them. Curse them.  Shall see their end if they did so,” she would say.

“No mommy! Why should you suffer a calend​ered life for my sake?”

“What a cruel and heartless creature am I? Had I been born the way you were, what would have been my fate?”

Such endless chain of imaginary situations tiring out her mentally, she would lie unconscious.

“My god! What our elders had said was true. There’s Hell indeed.”  Sridhar would agree and burn a chain of cigarettes.


The latest addition of Hydrocephalus by Sridhar stood out among all specimens on display at the Pathology Museum.

“Congenital Hydrocephalus… normally, the fetus dies during its intra-uterine life.  But this is a rare condition. He lived for five months after birth,” Prof. Sridhar explained to his students.

He had no sentiments. He had no superstitions whatsoever. Yet, he was very fond of that specimen.  Of late, he acquired a new habit of spending an hour in the museum looking at that specimen. While he casually watched all other specimens, his feet stopped at that specimen for five minutes inadvertently.  His eyes glued to the specimen keenly.  And that little creature with a large Cephalus floating in formalin was gradually gaining ground in Sridhar’s heart.

Standing before the specimen he used to feel as if the specimen was responding to his presence. He used to perspire at the very thought. That material on display, a specimen, a tool that explains science … shares his blood, his bone and is part of him.

He did not notice initially that such finer feelings were slowly cropping up in his mind. He took it was all mechanical. But gradually he realized his beating of heart, his sharp emotion… was a consequence of his thrall to an unknown force that was winning over him.  He was ashamed of himself and decided not to stop at that specimen henceforth.  He tried to quickly walk away from that place whenever he chanced to walk by the specimen. But his feet disobeyed him.  They stopped abruptly near the specimen. And his looks turned towards it unwittingly. They watched the specimen keenly for some time.  On the few occasions he succeeded in bypassing it quickly, his feet found some excuse to get back to it. Unable to reconcile to the conflict between his head and heart, he had decided not to enter the museum at all. But he miserably failed to implement his decision for a single day.  The more he wanted to avoid the specimen, the more his mind turned towards it.  It was as though the museum hall had held the reins of his heart. Gradually it cast such a spell on him that he lost his will and became its subject. “My god,” he wondered at his own weakness. And without his knowledge his eyes and feet in tandem walked up to the specimen each day.

He had never passed through such a state in his life before. There arose a conflict… a great conflict within. He was fighting with himself from both ends. He was grinding his teeth against his enemy. Frightening the enemy with the swish of his sword.

It all started with the love for knowledge. Then arose the conflict. Sentiment followed in its footsteps. There was tremendous attraction. Then an overwhelming attachment. Then infatuation ensued. Then loneliness. One after another these feelings played over his mind and shook his resolve to its foundations. The form started haunting him in his sleep.  He even started incoherent somniloquy.

It took weeks and months before Sridevi, who herself struggled to come out of her grief, to mark the change in Sridhar.

One night, he was looking at the ceiling sleeping in a supine position. There was some rustle beside him. But he did not notice it.  He was not even aware of the presence of Sridevi until she softly touched him.

He was taken aback at the tactile touch. When he looked at her, she asked him with empathy, “Tell me?”

“Tell you what?” he asked in turn.

“I notice some remarkable change in you. Something is worrying you. You have lost weight and even sheen on your face. You were never so absent-minded and a somniloquist before. What is all this? Won’t you share with me what worries you?” she asked passionately caressing his ​chest.

He was really surprised. “Is it?  Has there been such noticeable change in me?” he asked.

“As conspicuous as a historical event. There is indeed some change in you. I could believe my own eyes.”

“If it is true, honestly, I don’t know the reason myself, Sridevi!” he replied.

“You need not tell me if you don’t want to. But try to be yourself. Your usual self. Don’t subject me to weaknesses that shatter the foundations of my faith.”

He kept quiet, staring into her eyes for a long time. Then, he said, “Sridevi! Can I ask you something?’

“Please do.”

“Am I a disgusting person?”

She was shocked and looked scrutinizingly into his face. The caressing had stopped suddenly.

“Were there moments you hated me bitterly and situations where you were disgusted with me?”

She stood up in hurry. God! It was not a query, but a sharp arrow released from a bow.

After regaining her composure, she said to him entreatingly, “I never expected that you would ask me this question.  I never imagined such a moment would come in my life.  I could put up with your behavior and the punishments, but I cannot suffer this question. Never ask me such questions again before I die. Forgive me if I hurt your feelings.”

And she left the place in a hurry.

Sridhar heaved a heavy sigh.  Sridevi was not aware of what he had done.  If she did, what would happen? Would a volcano explode?


That was the moment when the world was coming to its end.  The earth was giving in breaking to pieces. Volcanoes erupted with lava, and all places were on fire. Oceans breached the barrier and overwhelmed the world. Cyclones developed and started devastating the lands and uprooted the treescape. The four elements land, wind, water, and fire conspired to bring the world to its ultimate end…

Sridhar let out a frightening shriek in his dream.

Sridevi, who lost herself in watching the pleasant skies, came running to him and enquired, “What happened?”

Sridhar was sweating profusely. He was shivering violently. Her words, he felt, were coming from a distant world. He opened his eyes with a lot of effort.

“How do you feel?” she asked leaning over him. There was palpable concern in her voice.

“It was a nightmare, Sridevi! I witnessed destruction all around me,” he said feebly.

Her worrisome face reflected the gloom of an overcast sky.  “You are thinking too much these days. That’s the reason,” she said.

Moments rolled by.

“Isn’t it one week since I was bed-ridden?” he asked.

She nodded her head in assent.

“Oh! I had never been sick this long before. Perhaps that was the reason.”


“That’s why I am burdened with such thoughts.”

“Don’t get weary to take rest.  Unless you take complete rest for two more days you cannot get back to normal.”

‘Back to normal…’  He couldn’t help smiling when she said that.

“Why are you laughing?” Sridevi enquired.

“I was skeptical about that.”

“About what?”

Unable to decide what to say, he said, “About regaining my normal health. I am not so sure.”

She felt as if the earth beneath her feet was giving in.  “Please don’t say that” she appealed as her voice became heavy and hoarse.



“Look out into the open…”

She could not make out what he was speaking about.  “What was there?” she asked in turn.

“A lot. A film of cloud screening the setting sun. The itinerant breeze making fun of me and the assembly of trees jeering at me…”

Getting jittery about what he was speaking,  Sridevi pleaded, “For God’s sake, don’t talk that way. I implore you.”

She felt a lump in her throat.

A long spell of silence ensued.

As day came to its end, Sridevi hesitatingly asked, “Today is Saturday. I want to go to the temple.  Can I go?”

“By all means. Why do you hesitate?”

“Because I am afraid that you should be all alone in the house until I return.”

“Don’t worry. I have fully recovered.”

“But you are still weak.  Don’t get out of bed, then. I will be back within an hour,” she said and left.

Time was ticking out minute by minute.

Sridhar could not confine himself to the bed anymore. He slowly sat up. He felt at ease. He stood up. ​He felt even better. He walked up to the corridor and leaned on to the wall.

A genus of clouds started overwhelming the sky. The setting sun on the occidental sky was eclipsed by dense dark clouds. There was smell of rain in the air.

Sridevi went to the temple on foot. He was worried that she might get drenched on her return.

Exactly under similar circumstances… and at the same evening hour standing at the same place… he said something to his wife, that in essence conveyed that he ‘would not allow the baby to be born.’

But the boy was born… did grow up to five months… and perished.

“No. I did not perish,” some unknown voice seemed to protest vehemently.

Sridhar was taken aback. True. He did not perish. For the sake of his professional needs, he kept it before his eyes. But his was an insensitive profession. No sensitive man would opt for it.

“I did not perish, father! They encased me. Set me afloat in a lotion. They have been watching me through the glass cases. Their keen looks have been piercing my large head,” the voice seemed to complain.

One … long … week! Oh! How time flew! His life lay seize over his body.  How could he endure it? How did he survive?

It was no wonder that the tears he shed had a hue of blood.

“You are a petrified soul! A boulder-like, devoid of all feelings!” some voice seemed to accuse.

He was yearning to go.

“But I am weak. I am weak.”

“You are a rock.  A large heartless rock.”

“I am feverish. Ther’s not enough energy left to move.”

“Don’t worry. You are not a mortal.  Rocks are immortal.”

His mind and body conspired. His sense of discretion deserted him.  Surprisingly, he was sweating profusely in such cool weather.

“I will … I will …” Sridhar made up his mind. His ambassador​ car moved out of the portico.


He entered the museum and put on the light. The entire hall was aglow light.

“There he is… my… ”  Sridhar looked towards the specimen.

Suddenly the lights went off. There was a power outing.  It became dark all around.

“Boy! Where are you?” His heart moaned.

“Here I am.  Here., they kept ​in a case. I ​f​eel breathless.”

“I will be there in a minute, my boy!”

Professor Sridhar had the reputation of being immune to all sentiments.  But today, he was groping in the darkness,  walking falteringly towards that specimen.

In the surrounding darkness… lay his rich and rare collection … of strange and exotic specimens of all ages, gender, and disease displaying their prominent features. From cancer, Tuberculosis, to Syphilis, at all stages of development from primaries to the terminal. It was his collection. His mental property.

Sridhar seemed to hear the voice of his son calling towards him from all directions. He was clueless about his own direction. He was shuttling forward and backward.

Tuck…tuck…tuck… he heard a sound of footsteps.

“Who is that?” He screamed.

‘Was it the echo of his own footsteps that frightened him?’  he thought for a moment.

Silence reigned once again.

He reached the specimen​, finally.  Caressed it with his hands.  He was confident it was the specimen he was looking for.

“Is that you?” his heart seemed to ask.

“Yes, it’s me.”  He felt he had heard the answer.

He lifted the specimen. He felt it heavy.  It was his yearning to hug the specimen.  His hands shivered.

The specimen seemed to grow heavier and heavier by the minute. He was not able to summon enough strength to lift the jar.

Leaning the specimen to his chest, he tried to lift the jar with both hands. But his hands failed him. They surrendered to the weight and the jar fell on the ground making a violent noise.

“Boy!” he cried his heart out.

Suddenly, the lights came on.

What the shaking and shivering frame of Sridhar found was the glass jar broken to pieces, the formalin spilled all over and a strange mass of flesh that seemed to have died just a few moments before.

Sridhar leaned over the mass of flesh, looked at it keenly for a moment, made a strong resolution in his mind, and took it into his hands. “I will do justice to you,” he assured the mass.  He lifted the mass onto his shoulder and walked out.

The attender and guards looked bewildered as the professor took the specimen in his car.  The car moved towards the crematorium.


Narrating every detail, Sridhar cried his eyes out hiding his face in the lap of his wife.  Strangely, he found great relief in his wailing! What a relief it was!

Combing his hair silently with her fingers, Sridevi was all tears.

He opened his heart out to her narrating every minute detail since he took the dead body from her.

“Sridevi! I want to become a good parent.  A parent that has care and concern for his child!”

Had not things taken an unexpected turn like this, Sridevi might have said what she wanted to say to him, like this: “Let’s go in for an abortion.”

But it was all different now. Turning a new leaf to his desire, she said,

“Then… your wish shall come to fruition in another seven months.”

He heard a melody of Shehnai at play in his ears.


(First Published: Yuva Diwali Annual Number. 10.11.1965)

[i] Primigravida: First time pregnancy in doctors’ jargon.

Murthy Nauduri

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