Thursday, March 31, 2016

Story tellers are born ...

A few words go a long way in life. Jeffrey Archer's interview on radio was playing on Kannan's car loud and clear. The monotony of the daily commute to the office was broken by the only companion Radio. Questions and answers about his books, scam, politics and the most desired question from the interviewer grabbed Kannan's attention

"What would you suggest people who want to be writers"
and quick was the reply from Jeffrey "Story tellers are born"

There was a brief silence and it meant a lot. It was a blow to the question and Kannan's indelible marker in the mind wrote it down in the mind forever. He was  reminded of the story with vivid explanations and expressions given to it by Thatha... 

The smell of the night, the flowers, the familiar smell of holy ash and the freshness of the soap, Thatha chewing his pan, his dhoti after his prayers all rushed to Kannan's mind. He became the same kid who sat next to the easy chair where Thatha sat chewing the betel leaves and started

"Once there was a man who never wanted to work. He was married and his wife was sick and tired of the laziness of her husband. She shouted at him..." and  Thatha's eyes had all the expressions for Kannan and Akka to see the character in the story well in his face.

"Don't you feel like taking care of the family ... won't you earn a single penny" Thatha narrated wiping a drop of the red spit from the pan he was chewing with a hand towel he had covered his shoulder.

"Dum dum dum" he continued "And the person from the palace was announcing...." he changed his voice like the announcement from the court of the kind
“Lend me your ears of lover of letters ... The Royal court of Raja Raja Chozhan  hereby announce a sum of 1000 gold coins for the best poem about his majesty Raja Raja Chozan, the lover of letters" 

Hearing this Kannan and Pachai opened their eyes wide with hands on their cheeks with amazement.

"Hey you mannunnimaappilayae (lazy bones) ... listen... at least write something and get the prize money" the wife shouted and threw a pot at her husband,  said Thatha. Kannan chuckled along with Pachai.

Thatha continued with the story "... and he set out with packed lunch of thaiyir saadam (Curd rice) and  pickles. He walked to a nearby temple and sat in the shade. He started to try and write a few lines and wrote the first thing that came to his mind "Mannunni maappilayae" (Lazy bones) and looked up the tree and saw a crow and wrote "kaakrirae" (You sound like a crow), then he turned to see a nightingale sing and wrote "Kookirayae" (You hoot like a bird). And he was hungry and ate the whole lunch" Thatha said patting his stomach as if he had had the lunch. "The food made him tired and he slept off... woken up by a huge rodent which ran by him from the temple. He got irritated and wrote down in his poem as "Ungappan kovil peruchaazhi" (The rodent in the temple which belongs to your father). The poor lazy bones looked for more and more inspiration to find nothing. Finally by dusk he had reached the palace and he wrote the closing which came to his mind "Kana pinna thenna manna chozhanga perumaane" (Random words with a salutation as a closing to the king)

Kannan was on the verge of an excitement outbreak though he would have heard the same story many times. He asked "and then .. thathta". Pachai gave a nasty look to Kannan and ask him to sit silent and listen to the story.

"and where were we" asked Thatha and recollecting the point where Kannan had interrupted and continued...

"So the poem was ready and it read

Mannunni maappilayae
kaakiraye kookiraye
ungappan kovil peruchaazhi
kanna pinna thenna manna
chozhanga perumaane"

Thatha took another betel leaf and slowly applied the white chuna on it and chewed it with a few pieces of broken betel nut before he went on with the story"And he went and submitted the poem to the king. He was the last to reach and the piece of leaf in which he had scribbled the lines reached the minister. The minister had to read it out and was scared as he could lose his head for reading out this poem but he could not but read it aloud. And the minster said "Amazing amazing ... best possible ... simply divine ... oh what lines ... superb" Kannan and Pachai saw Thatha transform himself as the minister who announced it.

Thatha smiled and looked at the excitement of his dear grandchildren and went on ..."The king wanted to know what the lines where and the minister started...  "what was the first line" asked Thatha

"Mannunni maappilaye ...(Literally translated as the son in law who eats mud to mean lazy bones)" Kannan shouted with excitement

Thatha leaned forward to Kannan and Pachai and said "The minister said ... what an opening the son in law who eats mud...The son in law of the Lord himself... Lord Krishna who ate mud in his childhood... amazing amazing...kaakiraye ... you protect the world ... kookiraye ... you are the ruler of the world ... ungappan (Your father)  ko (World's) vil (Bows) peru(Big) chaazhi (Lion) ... means your father is a great warrior who was a lion in archery. When the minster stopped, the King Rajaraja chozhan asked ... wonderful... what's the last line. To which the minister replied"

"Kanna pinna thenna manna chozhanga perumane" was the turn of Pachai who could not hold back the excitement.

"Hmmmm thaththa said Kannanukku pin thennattukku mannanaakiya chozhanga perumaane ....(The only apt ruler for the southern land after Lord Krishna is you your Majesty" and the King was so happy to make him the courts poet and gift him the promised 1000 gold coins..And he lived happily ever after" thus ending the story, thatha hugged Kannan and Pachai saying "Muththu charam, thanga kudam" and take them to bed.

The story was so vivid that Kannan tries, even now, when he gets a chance to be with kids, to tell the story how Thatha had told him. But as Jeffrey said, Thatha was a story teller and Kannan could never match him in anyway. As he drove away from the traffic Kannan had those last lines in his lips "Kanna pinna thenna manna chozhanga perumaane ..." and repeated them like the young Kannan used to dance and say those lines and  smiled.

(The story has many lines in Tamizh and the translations are in the parenthesis. The language is retained to keep the authenticity and the way it is told)

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