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The Robbery
Jayant Khatri
Translation: Harish Mahuvakar

I had no work again.
Lifting my bag on the shoulder, when I was leaving the port, a sweet memory – a wonderful memoir didn’t go even for a moment from my mind, which was a warmth of my present two and half month’s job.
I was sitting all alone two or three miles away from the port keeping watch on a launch. Darkness enveloped everything, waves had also recessed. The north wind had just lessened its power and was quiet now. The sea surface breathed gently. Everywhere was quiescence, stillness and heart devouring calm loneliness. In such a paralysed surrounding, I hadn’t expected anybody’s company but then there out of blue came Ghelo.
To rear his camel he was wandering since a couple of days over the muddy bank with mangrove plants
Tall, huge, awful body with white beard and sharp eyes like a sword edge and strong line covered face, with cautious steps, when came to me, I couldn’t make up his arrival I was really scared.
And when the surrounding suitably muted to him he began to talk quite candidly. My heart filled when he offered and I ate his meal with a loaf earned and sweetened by his hard work. In this brief life of mine I had only a few opportunities to have meal of other comradely and occasions like this I have treasured with a great care.
Ghelo had only a solution of life: Comrade Pranjivan, for the secret of this life and its solution there’s only a way that is to be a bully. Be stronger than the strong and make him lick dust- do you follow what I say?
I understood his sense but couldn’t agree with him, yet fixing a smile on my face stared at him.
“Look” indicating mangroves Ghelo said, “Have you ever given a thought how they come up and grow upon mud and salty water, how they get life substance and survive? The roots of these plants first go deep in the mud and strengthen the trunk, but they come out as there’s no food substance and spread with thorns around the trunk and live through on the air.”
“Through air?”
“Yea, through air,” said Ghelo “and though grow up with great efforts and stand tall with manly respect. Our camels eat them and dry them up. This is what I call secret of life comrade Pranjivan, and kindness, sympathy, morals all are bookish tales. The reality is that one who is bully lives better life.”
Since then whenever Ghelo met me, cited mangrove tale and concluded the same belief. Sometimes he talked about the desert. It was a barren woman which never milk. Because I loved the land, any land in a way, I liked to listen to his talks of its dust, hurricanes, cold, heat, thorns, bushes, endless plains.
“Comrade Pranjivan, be at my village at least once. You won’t get the delicacy my land offers, till you are there and hearts of the people can only be disclosed amidst it.” And then on the next day Ghelo bid me farewell.
When I had agreed to him I hadn’t even dreamt that so quickly would I be workless…
And now while I am walking on the bank lifting up my bag on the shoulders, Ghelo’s warm memoir has turned an asset of my mean life.
And I walked continuously…
Vaishakha scorching hot noon days tanned the dry land. The gales coming over from the desert plains pushed the dust-storm over the hill-tops.
Towards that end the sights of the mirages cruelly and heartlessly consoled the man. A thorny dry babul twig pushed by hurricane waves scratched my feet and passed by. I saw a dove flying away with a shrill cry when it saw me and on the heath I found a sparrow disappointed in its food-search shaking its tail and uneasily moving its neck around.
As the dirty water gathers at the foot of the dry lake so I found Ghelo’s village mustered up at the bottom between two hills.
And like a last breath of life a sigh of relaxation slipped out of my lips. Bringing a dust-cloud along with him a hard wind wave hit me and went away swiftly and then as the dogs lay on haunches I saw the huts of this dispersed village.
Ghelo’s house, court-yards, and the fence were all neat and clean.
When I inquired about Ghelo a person at closed doors questioned me my where about and purpose of my coming and then the door opened.
A woman stepped forward and stood at the threshold. Such a pure and sheer her beauty was that I can’t describe, I was lost at it. Golden curly hair, a pair of blue eyes, body balanced and elegantly shaped like a stream running graceful, all this she possessed but there was something more which gave her beauty a lofty touch that my ever thinking mind got paralyzed for a while.
She took me to the guest-room and bringing a charpai spread coarse quilts on it and asked me to sit. After some time she served me meal with a loaf and buttermilk. When the meal was over she smiled a bit and told me to be comfortable till his arrival.
And then she left.
Here was joy and peace and wealth abundant. Ghelo was not hungry like those innumerable hungry people who during the day wandered and restless at night rubbed the bed searching for the sleep. I found that he had got the roof, the woman, the living, and the wealth all easily. I felt depressed.
The body felt passivity as the stomach was filled after a long time. I slipped into sleep then. It was then on the next day morning Ghelo shook me and woke me up.
“Ah, Comrade Pranjivan!”
He hugged me and asked me all about my journey: how I set out, what difficulties I had on the way, and how I reached to the place. This is how he asked about me.
I noticed that Ghelo’s eyes had still that intact sharpness. His smile was as candid as it was. Not a difference was in his agility. I smiled and asked: Ghelo how are you?
He put a Pachhedi - a long white scarf on his shoulders which was lying on the charpai : “You know once I had told you that I would open up the secret of life of our people living in the deserts. I will tell you how skillfully we live up on this dry, waste, and barren land. I have talked to you our strength, sense, soil, soil-lump, sand, heaths, sand and storm. Perhaps I’ll show you all this today.” Thus he spoke and went away.
At noon he took meal and left the hut. Took no notice of me at all. His manner was not only strange and fanciful but also insulting and I can’t take them easily yet he left taking no notice of my presence. Shaken up by such kind of an insult and hot day I walked up to my room.
I couldn’t sleep.
Ghelo had four quarters in the hut: one was used as a kitchen second was occupied by his wife, third for himself and the fourth it seemed to me was for the guests. Babul grove stood around the hut. In the adjourning yard a cow, a camel, and a couple of goats were confined and amidst the yard lay a well.
Ghelo’s full house had so much precision of cleanliness and orderliness that it can’t be found anywhere in whole of the village. The dry grass orderly spread on the roof, artistic mud-work done with small round mirrors fixed at the windows and doors, beautifully coated and carefully managed passages no doubt were elegant but… but there lived a deformed minded spirit and it was saying something to me which I was unable to understand. I felt my heart sinking.
At a time I heard all my thought dispersing an anklet sound and with that there flashed the beautiful image associated to it!!
Turning my neck I looked back.
She was standing at the threshold and when our eyes met she didn’t but suddenly asked: So you are to go with him?
“Is it so?” looking at me with wide open eyes, restless, and stepping hurriedly a couple of steps back, turning away back to me when she went to her room I shouted: Hello! I say do you listen to me?
She stood where she was- still keeping her back towards me.
“What’s your name?”
“Monghi.” Without turning to me throwing a piece of her response she began to walk so I asked again: “but leaving the talk unfinished why did you go away? Shouldn’t I go with him?”
Without giving me any response she hurriedly went away into her room.
Whether all the men living on the restless land amidst dust-storms were so strange or only this man and woman were like this? : to this fact giving shape of a big question I buried it in a corner of my heart.
“Look, that’s my camel.” When we were taking tea late afternoon, he pointed out to the camel Monghi was massaging. “On it, I’ll take you today a score of miles and bring back. Comrade Pranjivan spit on me if my camel even once grunts. Or falters a step, or for any uncomforting during the ride. You’ll come to know how self-complementary kind of animal the camel is!
“But where are we to go?”
“To hell with me.” Thumping his fist on a hand of charpai, and staring at me, he asked , “ Coming?”
I kept mum.
“Not coming?”
Again I kept mum. And then, for a couple of moments between us hung the unease silence.
“So you aren’t coming, right?”
“But first of all, I want to know where are we going to and for what?”
He lifted his fist-clenched right hand not to hit me but to vent his anger out. There then I saw his hand muscles very tense. Earlier he had got up in anger but now took seat beside me on the charpai.
“Want to go for a great risk. But whenever I have a fight with a risk, the risk is always a loser, understood? Had anyone been here except you, I might have showed him the way to home after meal. For the cowards there’s no place on our dry-breasted motherland.”
A gale, usually blown in this region during Vaishakha, entered into our room through the window. The same gale at length howled over at the grass on the roof opposite to ours. On the third roof a band of sparrows flew up with a cry and amidst all of this I saw that beautiful woman running to her room, flapping her valuable attire.
After a while, once again returned that same restless quietness - though neatly kept surrounding but gave an impression malign within.
Ghelo laid his hand on my shoulder and lifted brows a little. Showing sharpness of his eyes said to me, “But to you Pranjivan…I know. You aren’t a coward; you’ll have to come with me because I need your support. I will take you, if necessary drag you forcefully.”
“Enough. Then there’s no question of my permission.”
“No need now.” Ghelo stood up and pushed me over the charpai. “I have always believed that mankind better accepts anything easily with the force rather than explaining. Slavery is a welcome drink Pranjivan.”
“May be so.” Without looking at him I responded heedlessly from where I was still lying.
Right at this time I found a big mouse made his way quickly into the room. With a cat-like leap Ghelo jumped over it and within no time crushed it under his feet. He had no time to let out even a death-cry. A blood-fountain gushed to the mud-coated white wall. Some drops also sprang to charpai-legs. Though horrified, I resisted my disgusting feelings.
Later on I realized I was shaken.
“O hello!” Ghelo called that woman.
She came running and stood up at the threshold. Firstly she looked at me though for a while and then she fixed her eyes on Ghelo. Without any utterance he pointed out to the dead mouse. From the corner she picked up a small winnowing basket, collected the dead thing in it and left the room.
“You are not as dull as I thought, but a mean creature.”
“No, I ain’t a mean one.”
“So you think yourself a sensible? But on this world many sensible turn out mean.”
The woman once again came into our room. With a piece of cloth dipped in white colour she wiped out blood-spots on the wall and stepped out in the same manner as she had come without any emotion on her face.
I realized that on this land violence meant nothing. Whether a couple of mice, camel die or men die in scorching thirst with a great pain, here on this infinite desert-land even God takes no notice of it. I looked up. Stretching his legs wide, wrapping the Pachhedi tight around, and hiding white beard under a masquerade Ghelo stood before me and looked into mine eyes.
And me helpless and weak, hiding darkness of reality under my gracious brows, now looked down. “Be ready. We leave in the afternoon”, said he and was gone.
I took a long breath and sighed and as I hadn’t to do anything I just looked out through the window. On this dry infertile and impotent land, the nature turning a vengeance foe, loosed enmity everywhere and the mankind had to fight with all his strength for life. Why did I forget this matter till now? For a real coward and weak like myself to rest there wasn’t even a piece of land for me. I had nothing matching which can survive me over this land.
When the nature is furious and the man is unfriendly who’s living and who’s dying is just a question of striking a dice in a game. Ghelo flung a shoe at a running dog that has just entered into the yard. The dog gave a loud cry of pain, taking a few rounds in the same manner ran away from the place. That woman mustered herself up and moved slowly to Ghelo. A smile, encircling eyeballs…and she tried to touch Ghelo’s shoulder.
“What’s the matter? You the woman, again demanding the same?”, said he and giving no thought of her fall, or injury he struck his large palm over her chest and threw her down. Before she gets up Ghelo lifted his right leg to kick. The woman quickly slipped aside like a dog that cleverly slips through such a heavy blow.
“Go. O Shameful thing go away from here.” The woman walked away arranging her clothes properly.
Ghelo wrapped the Pachhedi up over the shoulder and before leaving the outer gate he gave a look at my living place. And it was very strange that I couldn’t understand the hint it gave. There in it was perhaps his craving and force, camaraderie and hatred. For a while I stood speechless at the threshold of my room.
As the solitude of this four-hut residency among the babul-grove and with a well had a strange and varied life so was the solitude of my room confined in milky whiteness, cleanliness and arrangement in each smallest part raised some questions concerning the mysteries of the life and within the small span of time so many wounds on my feeling were made, and was put in such a helpless and paralysed situation that my power of tolerance broke down. As a result I stopped all thinking.
The sunlight now crossed my bed and jumping over the threshold entered in the camp of the house. Some moments flew up, and some still were flying and all of them hugged one another in such a way that it was difficult to tell what the time was. As if everything got trapped in a cobweb.
Monghi once again stood at the threshold and on finding me heedless when she was to return I called her “Monghibahen.” She made her eyes large and parted lips in a smile. I asked her: “Have you no children?” She nodded and smiling a little went away.
Once I wandered over this dry-land of the desert. I have seen happily singing water-falls in the monsoon strangled by the large desert plains and finally meeting their death. Where the death can molest the nectar of life itself anything is possible.
Who will be able to say that this beautiful woman’s life isn’t wasted under constraint of desert-like barren thinking?
The crows started crowing on the babul-grove lying at the back of the house. Doves, sparrows, and nightingales too, over other babul trees began to fly away.
Then the afternoon began to fade. Now Ghelo had come back. After taking meal we returned in my room. While he was smoking a biri he looked at the smoke-curls going up to the roof and found no worth there.
In the ominous time of late afternoon’s departure and evening’s arrival Ghelo wrapped tightly the Pachhedi of fine cloth around his vest. Adjusting the turban over the head and bringing the long beard inside the masquerade he tied up its ends with the turban. Then he said: “Come on now.”
When both of us rode the camel Monghi approached slowly to our camel. She placed a musket on his shoulder and holding the sword from its foot she handed it to him. The goats bleated then and a dust-cloud was seen hurrying near. Within no time our camel left the outskirt of the village and was running over the plains like a hurricane.
The darkness enveloped everything, and Vaishakha-winds were blowing over the bare plains. Riding on the steadily running camel in a perfect cadence I had no remembrance of place and time.
“Pranjivan,” said Ghelo “in such pathless flat plains, and in the dark night filled with dust-hurricane, and when not a single star is shining it is difficult to find out the right direction but this camel is trained in such a way that even without any word it led me out of the house and would take me to a river-bed before a hill-foot and from there I will be able to run at my will, understood?”
As I listened to him quietly he shouted and asked me: “Do you listen to me?”
“Yea.” I said.
“If it’s so, now onwards say something in agreement what I say so that I can come to know you’re sitting behind me and waking up.”
Then he began to tell me in details how such camels are trained and I continued to respond him: this type of a camel can’t make noise; while running no noise of its feet is reported: such a camel is known as “robbing” camel.
Suddenly I caught my ears. “It means…where are we going to?”
“To the hell,” shouted Ghelo “Already told you once still no end of your query?”
“But if you are to take me as your accompanier in the robbery, I don’t want to go. Unride me here Ghelo, anyhow I will spend the night and at the day break go anywhere.”
“A coward”. His voice was shrill and the word was clear, pure contemptuous and defiant.
The camel was heading in the same speed. Darkness deep and heavy covered us in such a way that we were attracted to it like a real object. Except the rhythmic cadence of the camel I felt nothing of this world.
I felt deep remorse. Under somebody’s power and tyranny never had I experienced helplessness and futility of life. “Ghelo,” I asked “is this your only work?”
“Yea. Got from the forefathers. This belongs to whole of our community. We have no shame of it.” My remorse broke all limits when he spoke only a little at this time where as he used to tell everything in minute details.
“Ghelo,” laying my hand over his shoulder said to him “I don’t want to be a partner of your work…. Not at all… get me down…please leave me free.”
Without turning to back, he extended his left hand and caught my wrist and pulled so forcefully that only with a great effort could I keep my feet at the stirrup and balance myself.
‘Only this much time,’ he spoke angrily ‘and on the fall, you will be a heap of crushed bones, you coward.’
He let go my wrist. I pushed myself a little back on the saddle and held its edge.
And the creature continued to move in the even speed.
Now the ridge of the hill was seen clearly. When we crossed the river and came at the foot of the hill I saw small lamps burning. Descending a big slope, the camel now slowed down. Even in the darkness I saw few foxes running from the opposite side and hiding themselves in a juwar field.
This is how we crossed two or three villages. Moist air began to touch my hot body. When I was passing from a tamarind and a banyan tree on our way, in a far distant farm I saw some trees swaying.
‘Now,’ after a long interval Ghelo spoke, ‘the place where we are to reach, we shall get off. You have to just come along with me. You aren’t to help me even. More than my words if you do anything, mind well, you will be no more.’
I kept silence.
The camel rather than running was walking now. I could trace many signs of our reaching close to a village.
Once again I felt the need of explaining to Ghelo of not involving myself in such a robbery. I had set out only to explore the world- I was only a traveller. And while wandering over the world my body had to merge with the dust. But what’s the use of saying such things to Ghelo? This is my own understanding and also my own restlessness. I was merely a victim to Ghelo.
In a ruined place of an old mosque, Ghelo led the creature, got him laid down and then we came out of it. At one place only the dogs barked at our back. We entered into the village, crossed two or three streets and stood before a well-built house. On Ghelo’s hint I came behind him and stood over there.
Ghelo shook the door at the courtyard and shouted: “Sethji…… O Sethji!...”
Even in such a late night as if he was awaiting someone’s call, the master responded quickly: “Who’s there?”
: “Me Sethji, me Valo Koli”
: “What’s the matter?”
: “O Sethji, our lorry laden with cluster beans is trapped in the river-bed. The lorry driver has sent me to tell you that there are two sugar filled bags of yours and unload them before the morning.”
“Oh, that’s the case?” said the Seth. “Will you go Vala, just now?”
“Of course. But the cart?”
“In the courtyard. But wait, I am bringing the keys.”
From within came the sounds of unlocking the chains and removing the stoppers. Hardly had the door opened a little, very quickly Ghelo thrust his both hand inside the door and caught hold of Sethji’s throat. Following his cue I stood behind him and we entered into the yard. Ghelo turned his eyes at me. I am now surprised how I could get through this robber’s eyes. So very quickly but with a least noise, I pushed the doors and looked them from within. In the kerosene lit lamps I saw Ghelo leaving Sethji’s neck and laying the barrel of the musket on his breast.
By this sudden attack the Seth was so stuck that he couldn’t think to shout for any help.
Pushing through the barrel, he took the Seth in the passage. I took the kerosene lit lamp and followed them. Sat him on the swing and cutting the matter short he said: “If you want your life, hand over whatever you have.”
When the Seth blinked eyes like a lifeless toy, Ghelo pulled his ear and gave a heavy slap on the face: “Are you a dumb? Haven’t been here to your son’s marriage, understood?”
When the Seth tried to give way to some strange words, Ghelo once again caught hold of his neck and raised him up. While he walked to the safe, the Seth struck a sleeping person. The person woke up suddenly, and seeing all three of us, was to scream but Ghelo pounced upon the person and it flung and fell into adjoining bed. I raised the lamp. The Seth brought a key-bunch, lying beneath his wife’s pillow.
“Oh me….” wakened from the kick, the Sethani-the Mistress cried out loudly. Ghelo jumped up to her and held her hair and pulled her away.
“Keep quite you… if a single word comes out…. and you…” he said to the Seth: “Why are you watching the show? Open the safe quickly, otherwise….. Within a flash you will see the unexpected taking place, understood?”
Seeing the Seth opening the safe and pulling out currency note-packets the Sethani couldn’t hold her tongue: “Oh! Can it be like this? How cruel you are!”
By such an uproar it seemed that somebody might have wakened up and began to descend the steps. Leaving the lamp on the floor I turned into that direction and when he came towards us I grasped his neck. Still I don’t understand even can’t dream into dreams that how could I do such a guilty deed making me remorseful. The person couldn’t escape but I couldn’t stop him screaming. By this time Ghelo had jumped over here and with a hand he pressed nose and mouth and with the other lifted him up and sat beside the Sethani.
The person was the young daughter of the Seth. She was young, healthy, and graceful and looked more beautiful by her big lips bulging outside.
“How long!” roared Ghelo and the Seth didn’t but jump when he thrust the musket in the back
“This much?” said Ghelo. “Only this much you have? And where’s golden jewellery?”
“At Mumbai, in the safe deposit.”
“And money?”
“In the bank.”
“O….O…..You greedy. Go to hell.” Ghelo punched him over the small tail on the head.
“You think I take up such a big venture for so small a quantity….. You bastard….”
The daughter, who was pushed just now beside the Sethani, got up quickly and said: “Why do you beat him without any reason?”
On her face was seen fearless wrath. Clenching her fist and straightening the body, she looked at us fearlessly... “Whatever we had we have already handed you and still you thrash us and make our mockery? No humanity left in you?”
From the courtyard a mouse crept into the room. On seeing it, led by his habit, in a blink it was under his foot and was crushed. Blood fountains shot up to bed sheet and the floor. I couldn’t stop shuddering. The Sethani, too, gave a light cry. The Seth stared at it like a dead. ‘Oh! How cruel a man is!’ said the girl.
Then some still moments heavy with blood-shed, hung for a while amid the mosquito-song and then dropped down.
The mouse, these blood marks, and Ghelo’s unease reflected through his trembling lips. Here I found history being repeated and there shone Monghi in my mind with her impatient, moving, searching eyes. How strange are the ways that things like this come into a man’s mind in awkward occasions and awful situations!
Holding the Seth’s shoulder Ghelo roared, ‘Tell them to hand over all jewelry on their bodies.”
The Seth hinted them to submit to the demand; so the Sethani threw her chain at the neck, earrings and bangles in Ghelo’s spread Pachhedi. When the daughter had already removed ornaments from neck and ear, she refused to give her Chudala – the thick bangles
His unevenly moving fingers made a fist in an irrepressible rage. Vertical lines beside the nose grew very tense and stretched down and merged at the lip-ends.
“Do you think you’re gifting me, all this?” in his low, pressed voice there was terrible rage.
“I won’t give you. They stand for my husband. Won’t remove them though they cost nothing much.” Thus said she and began to weep silently.
At a time I felt that I kept mum much beyond my limit. Before I could think to stop, Ghelo ran and straightening her hand began to pull them out. With the other hand the girl seized Ghelo’s wrist and began to cry: “No, not them……. I won’t give them……”
An incident provoking to senses and emotions was taking place before my eyes. Yet Seth’s fat belly showed no sign of any reaction. Like an ignorant spectator he saw the incident taking place.
“I touch your feet O brother… please leave her.” The Sethani began to plead.
Pushing from the shoulder Ghelo felled her on the bed. Even though she trembled, she didn’t submit and tried to free her hand but Ghelo didn’t leave it.
“You whore… an ass” said he and as he raised the other hand to thrash her, his whole body shivered. I saw all his muscles going tense and were ready as if to congregate all the might there by. Realising its outcome was to be very terrible, I was taken aback, but before I think to re-shape the situation I found his hand movement coming to halt, and the jaw which had come out because of anger was suddenly thrown back. The veins quickly swelled on the forehead. Lines that stretched tightly on the face disappeared and eye-balls came out.
Now, Ghelo’s grip over her hand was gone. That hand slid from her shoulder and fell down journeying over her breast. I saw Ghelo struggling hard to stand properly.
Our all eyes got fixed over Ghelo. Vacant minded Seth, awful and frightened Sethani, the daughter crying impatiently on the bed and me standing with a kerosene lit lamp in my hand……..We all stared at Ghelo and there… He raised a hand and forcefully dragged his feet back and heavily fell upon the swing.
I ran up to him, laid my hand on his shoulder and when neared the lamp close to his face, I found that foam was coming out of his left jaw: ‘What happened Ghelo?’ I asked.
His ousted red swollen eyes searched me ……. .He shook his head.
When I raised his left hand let it go, it fell down and remained like a dead thing in his lap.
Ghelo was under a paralysis attack.
The Sethani sensed that some strange thing had taken place. I unburdened the musket from Ghelo’s shoulder and commanded her to be quiet. ‘If you end you bloody weeping, I’ll tell you a thing” I addressed the girl. She rose up over the bed and looked at me. How beautiful were the lips? and how were they trembling ?
I beckoned the Seth and directing the musket at them I said: “Raise him up.”
“What….”, the Seth’s daughter couldn’t control her emotions: “what’s happened to him ?”
I looked at Ghelo. Before a moment he was the master of the situation now the same person had become slave to it and was lying helpless on the swing. It gave me writhing pain.
The Sethani cunningly, the daughter with simple curiosity and the Seth with the same dull emotions were looking at Ghelo.
“Now listen to me” said I and directed the musket at them: “Take him to the place outside the village where I suggest without any noise and without anybody’s knowledge… otherwise…” Tapping my left hand nails on the barrel I said: “Mind well this knows not who you are…”
I saw the Sethani and the daughter got up enthusiastically, and for the first time I found the Seth’s eyes revealed a meaning. I felt I was wrong somewhere but then the daughter’s eyes quickly ran over the bag containing the loot. Three of them supported him well and taking outside, and no sooner I thrust that bag under my armpit than the Sethani’s pleading eyes followed it.
“Keep on moving and follow my order. I have no interest in your jewelry, cash and whatever the worth you have. And now lay him on the camel. Once it begins to run, I’ll throw at you all your possession. Did you listen to? Are you relaxed now?”
The night had gone far. I feared dog barking but nothing of this sort happened. Often hard wind waves passed through streets making terrible sound.
Exactly in the same fashion as Ghelo had laid the plan, everything had gone. But at the nick of the time Nature turned hostile and a tragic tale took place.
We approached the camel. I made Ghelo sit in the front saddle handed him the reign in his right hand I took my sit at his back. Ghelo pulled the reign and loosened the other ropes over the creature’s body and spurred it. As the camel began to gather speed I threw at them their bag of precious possession.
I lifted Ghelo and the thought which gave me satisfaction was that I was on the way making a clever escape from the crisis. The streets, village outskirt, banyan tree, tamarind tree, well, precipice, and the landmark-like hill- these all we left behind within no time.
As a broken branch clings to the trunk, so hang Ghelo’s left hand to his body. For the balance tree-like Ghelo leaned himself to right side. As I felt the constant need of supporting him from the left, I too bent forward, and supported with my left hand. Then it was the same: the same wild wind moving on the boundless plains of no beginning or end, setting a tradition of uncontrollable storms; the same darkness, and midnight solitude; and amidst them were my efforts of pushing a tragic tale in its real form to the origin.
I felt deep, unbound hatred to this life.
When we came to the plains, it seemed that the camel lessened its speed and walked swiftly. So that Ghelo doesn’t fall down I had to continuously bend ahead. My left hand and my left thigh felt unbearable pain as they bore Ghelo’s full body.
When we went there, we wanted to shape an event. But when we were returning with a burden of another terrible event in addition to the earlier one a thought came into my mind that neither the wind freely moving over this wide world, nor the quiet and star-studded sky up above the dust cloud of this large earth nor none of the elements of nature had taken notice at all. We and greatness of our accepted activity were merely egoistic human beliefs.
Now Ghelo’s whole body fell upon my left hand and his bent head often struck to the front saddle. We reached to outskirt of our village when eastern light came out so little that it raised doubt of its being dawn.
The camel entered into Ghelo’s courtyard. Monghi was seen standing there holding an oil lamp protecting it with a sari- end. As its usual habit and its fixed place at the mid-yard, sat down the camel kneeling down on its front legs, and with that Ghelo’s body fell down in a heap.
Monghi ran close to him when she saw him falling. When I got off, she placed the lamp before me. I gazed her face. There were expressions of bearing much more pain than I had borne.
Hurriedly she unloaded the musket from my shoulder and placed it on her shoulder. Without any word she lifted Ghelo and took him into her room and laid on a charpai. Ghelo was lying there unconscious! Monghi tied to nurse his body with warm water. Though my body and mind exhausted no sleep I had.
I remained seated – awoke - and saw everything silently.
When the sun rays came upon to threshold Ghelo opened eyes. He saw Monghi sitting before him. When all his efforts turning to my side failed I stood up and sat beside him on the edge of the charpai. He put his right hand on my shoulder and then taking my hand in his hand, fondled it, and pressed too. It seemed he wanted to say something.
I told all story of our venture to Monghi who was sitting on the floor and pressing Ghelo’s legs. During my talk I saw Ghelo’s left body shaking many times, yet he often laid hands on my shoulder and backed me and continued to give gentle strokes.
Outside the home active sparrows, doves, crows, nightingales twittered continuously. A camel, a buffalo bellowed somewhere and goats too bleated.
Only this house that once made different noises was terribly silent now.
The time began to run. The noon began to go.
Leaving all beautifications and clothes and laying aside all her colourfull grace, the evening sank into dark hands of the night and began to heave.
At late afternoon Ghelo’s eyes were closed, and then they never opened. I found that Monghi’s staring eyes often revealed storm-less vast freedom of the desert plains. Leaning against the wall often I had ugly nightmarish sleep but she lay awakened full night without giving any relaxation to her body and guarded both of us.
On the third day Ghelo passed away. Before any ritual takes place I left his village.
When I was at the gate of the yard, Monghi came running to bid me farewell. On her face was the tale of tragedy but no tears. The pain of blue eyes conveyed a perplexing question which I couldn’t get. I think till today I haven’t got it.
To end piercing restlessness I shut the gate and as I turned myself to go away, in my fancy, I saw a cat killing a mouse. This creature’s stealthy ways, patience and the deliberate jump for the prey all this has been vividly remained in my mind till today.
At noon terrible wind began to blow. Mongooses, cats, and snakes started running from their holes among the bushes. Dust particles went up, accumulated and accumulated there in the sky and made it dirty.
Once again I set off for my wandering over the earth’s vast, scratched, and broken body.

Harish Mahuvakar, ‘Ame’ 3/A, 1929, Near Nandalay Havelli, Sardarnagar, Bhavnagar 364002, Gujarat, India Cell: + 91 9426 2235 22 Email: