|This is my name 2|
The rising din from the crowd gathered outside the police station seeped into the room where the assassin sat. The policemen had opened the door once, and he had been able to steal a glance at the mob. Cold, hungry and thirsty, he sat immobile on a wooden bench. He heard the sounds of the mob growing shriller outside.
Are they going to lynch me? Any coward can kill a handcuffed man!
A young policeman brought tea for him. He took it gratefully. The policemanís neutral sympathy comforted him.
For him, I am only a criminal. He doesnít need to hate me.
The policeman waited till the assassin finished drinking the tea, picked up the cup and left. The assassin leaned against the wall and closed his eyes.
He woke up with a start. He couldnít make out whether he had slept for just a moment or for a long time. He glanced at his wristwatch. But it wasnít there.
So you think I have no use for time from now on? Fools, remember! I do not move through your ridiculous time! I move across yugas. My soulís chronicles of time arenít confined to the mere whiffs your chronometers record. I move in the master-flood of time. You wretches! Rabid dogs! Renegades!
The cold shook him like a gigantic machine.
The door opened and a group of policemen came into the room. They started making preparations to record his statement, ignoring him, as though they were aware of his presence in the room. The assassin sat looking at them, his eyes still.
You are going to extract my confession, arenít you? Oh, curse this Age of Kali! If you could, you would even get confessions from Arjuna, Abhimanyu, Lord Krishna and Lord Rama for alleged crimes!
Are you demanding to know my name? Friends, this is not a time to take names in vain. Why do you seek names? At a moment when my karma is at its zenith, should my name be bandied about?
You ask me whether I know the person I killed? Am I mad, that I would kill a stranger? I know him very well. I have known him for a very long time. I know his every word and every gesture.
And you ask me whether I know his name? What nonsense is this? If you were to wake me up at midnight and ask, his name would be on the tip of my tongue. But I wonít say it. What is the use of taking names now? The one who had to die is dead. The one who had to kill, has killed. The dead man has no use for his name anymore. Nor will he ever again hear anyone calling him by that name. If a tombstone is made for him, then the name can be inscribed there. But are the Hindu people such fools?
You are threatening me, arenít you? Alas! I beseech you. Please do not torture me. Mine is not the powerful body of a street goon. This is the body of a truthful, God-fearing, patriotic Brahmin. This body has no capacity to endure torture. Itís our soul thatís powerful; not the body. Please try to understand me.
The assassin sat looking at the police officers detachedly. When a handsome young officer lit a cigarette, he was disturbed and moved his eye away. He started wondering: How would they describe me to their wives and children when they go back home and relax? His throat was parched. He longed for another cup of tea.
O People of Bharat, my brethren, think about this. Couldnít the old man have managed to die earlier? So many times he had pretended to be on the brink of death. Why didnít he die then? Why didnít he give up the ghost? Why did he wait for these hands of mine to act? The crook! He definitely knew something! He was surely waiting for me to come and open the door to his salvation. Oh, if only the old man had not been born! I would not have had to waste my Brahmin birth for Kshatriya karma.
Who do you think I am? Where do you think I come from? What do you know about me? You can force this body to submit to your handcuffs and blows. But can you even imagine the soul that glows within? Oh, who will save you from the fruits of your actions?
O People of Bharat, hear about the most startling of my incarnations. I who had ended my life as the borer beetle in Ayodhya was reborn as a fish in the Sarayu River. Robust and arrogant, I became the leader of a school of fishes. I had total authority over all the food in the river. The others got their turn only after I had eaten.
One day, there came floating down the river a male body enveloped in a glow, looking as if it was still alive. My school and I followed it. When we were certain that the body was lifeless, I, the leader, bit first. I bit the right foot. At that moment I saw the blue mark in the middle of the right sole, caused when He, as a little boy, had stamped on me, a venomous borer beetle, in the palace garden of Ayodhya. I recollected fully my previous birth in Ayodhya. Shaken by profound grief and guilt, I dived to the bottom of the river. I shot like a dart into the slush of the riverbed and gave up my life.
I was Chhatrapatiís first horse. In my haughtiness, I unseated the young Shivaji, threw him from my back and reared up to stamp on his body. He drew his sword with lightning speed and sank it deep into my heart. I fell dead, bathing Shivaji in an avalanche of my blood.
I was Nadir Shahís favourite catamite. It was under my leadership that the Peacock Throne was snatched, even as blood flowed like rainwater in the drains of Chandni Chowk. The soldiers took out a mock-procession, carrying me, dressed up as a woman, on the great throne. That night I went to the camp of the eunuchs to celebrate our victory. In the blinding ecstasy of climax, a young eunuch performed the yamalakartari on my head. The crown of my head caved in and I died.
When Kannaki cut off her breast and hurled it, I was the street beggar who jumped up and caught it.
I was the man in Timurís army whose job it was to pull out the teeth of vanquished kings. I was the head that Brahma sprouted upwards, to ogle the goddess Saraswati.
I was the judge who sentenced Socrates to death. I was one of the lions that killed and ate prisoners before the crowds of the Coliseum in Rome.
I was the man who scooped up the entrails of a slaughtered camel and heaped it on Prophet Muhammad as he was praying, his face pressed to the ground at the Kaíaba.
I was the boy who, in the guise of a Brahmin, carried to Parikshitís royal court the pomegranate in which Takshaka the serpent had hidden as a worm to sting King Parikshit.
I was Rahab the harlot, who secretly helped Joshuaís army sack the city of Jericho, betraying her own people.
I was Khannas, the child of Ibliz, whom Adam and Eve killed, cooked and ate, falling prey to the deception of Ibliz.
I was Aadi, the son of Andhaka, who, assuming the shape of Parvati and clamping poison fangs to the vagina, went to Shiva to annihilate Him.
And I was the atom that exploded in the first atomic bomb like a million suns.
Translated from the Malayalam
by A.J. Thomas with TLM
p. 1 p. 2
Paul Zacharia is one of the leading bylines in contemporary Malayalam fiction