Aug 9, 2010

Ramaiah and Julie. T (Act V)

Act V: The Conclusion


Father Dorai chalked out a careful plan. He knew a friend in Madras who could provide a safe harbour for the fleeing couple. He advised Ramaiah to go underground for a year, till things cooled down. Of course, both men were aware that things might never cool down and Ramaiah could end up never setting foot in the village again. But the young man was ready for everything, love having blinded him to the practical difficulties of scraping out a livelihood in Madras with no employable skills. It was arranged that Father Dorai would convey the plan to Julie through her friend.

Jacob paced his room restlessly, angry at himself for not having chased the intruder the previous night. He had a hunch that his sister way lying to him, but all his threats hadn't elicited the truth. He headed to the local toddy shop, badly craving some sarakku (country liquor) to soothe his frayed nerves. He had already downed a bottle when Mayandi walked in. Mayandi, still smarting from the slap from his last confrontation, jumped at the chance to needle his drunk rival. He proclaimed to his friends, "Ooru kulla ore thiruttu bhayam vandhuruchu da... Periya edathu veetula nethu oru thirudan poonthutaanam... thangachi manasa thiruditaan nu sollaranga" ("Fear of theft has crept in this village. They say a thief entered the big people's house yesterday. And stole the sister's heart..."). The combination of his frustration, his drunken state, the derisive tone of Mayandi's "periya edathu veedu" and the allegation on his sister's honour, combined to drive Jacob into a murderous rage. He pounced on Mayandi and drove a broken bottle into his stomach.

Ramaiah rushed to the bar on hearing of his friend's death. And rushed out faster swearing revenge on Jacob. Rage blinded him to the consequences of his action, its effect on his family, to Julie love, everything. He scoured the village for Jacob, aruval on his back, a singular motive driving him. And before Mayandi's body had gone cold, Jacob's right hand had been separated from him. His head was spared as Ramaiah wanted to deny Jacob the ease of a quick, painless death.

The consequences were quick. For a force normally associated with lethargy, the police moved swiftly and Ramaiah was jailed. But Madasamy Mudaliar was a man of means. He had a youth confessing it was he who had cut off Jacob's hand within no time. The young man was one of many who had grown up on the crumbs of the Mudaliar household, and would have cut off his own hand had the Mudaliar wished it. And Ramaiah walked free, a bit reluctantly, because he preferred the police station to facing his father's wrath.

The senior Mudaliar announced a panchayat meeting for the next day, determined to protect his name as a fair leader, even if it meant punishing his own son. "Twenty lashes should teach him a lesson" he thought. The panchayat was the law as far as the village was concerned, the way it had been for a century, and the police and the government were modern nuisances that were grudgingly handled, with some money and some name dropping. The cops for their part, being largely drawn from the same village, wisely kept their noses out.

Julie, unaware of the harm that her lover had caused her brother, slipped out of her house silently at midnight as instructed by Father Dorai through her friend.  She couldn't bear the thought of causing so much pain to her parents, so she had written a letter on going away with Ramaiah, partly in the hope that her father's love for her might induce a change of heart and lead him to accept her someday. She had no idea that the letter would prove her undoing. Ramaiah had managed to give the security cordon imposed his father the slip, and was waiting for her at the railway station.

As the train started moving, the lovers looked back at their village teary-eyed, aware that they might never be welcome here again. Julie rested her head on his shoulder, and started dreaming of a life in Madras, free from her terrifying brother. Neither of them noticed that the station guard had seen them, nor were they aware that he was placing a call to the Mudaliar as the train was leaving the station...
****************

Ramaiah stood with his head bowed, hands folded, in front of the panchayat, dazed at the turn of events. One moment, he had been looking into Julie's eyes, envisioning a happy future, and the next thing he remembered was a blunt blow to the back of his head. His ears rang with the frentic cries of Julie, and a hazy vision of her being dragged away was the last thing he remembered before everything went black...

He had no idea where Julie was, save a strong suspicion that she was locked away at her father's house. He awaited his fate, as the panchayat deliberated the punishment for his transgression. While the panchayat members murmured among themselves, the crowd waited in suspense. He looked up at his father, the nattamai (head of panchayat), his eyes pleading...
*****************

Madasamy Mudaliar stepped into his house in silence. The sight of his son's limp body hanging from a tree returned to him. At the panchayat, he had been the impartial leader, proclaiming that the criminal be hung publicly, as an example to the youth of the village never to tread against the century old traditions of the village. As he contemplated that even the funeral rites had been denied to his son as part of the judgement, the body being thrown into the river, the father in him broke down. He went to bed sobbing, never to wake up again...

Julie's body was found hanging in her room. A suicide note was in place. Not even the most naive policeman believed it was a suicide, but the cops, as a matter of principle, did not interfere with family 'honour' in this part of the country...

Father Dorai sat on the train never to return, silently cursing himself for his hare-brained idea of encouraging the lovers to flee. He had foolishly hoped that tensions would cool down in some time, the marriage would unite the two warring families and peace would return to the village.

He knew that in spite of the 'example' being set, the story would repeat itself, as young lads would invariably be attracted towards forbidden love like moths to a fire...
*************************************************************************

Epilogue:

'One more honour killing' screamed the headlines.

News anchors shouted hoarse about the return to the dark ages and the arm-chair intellectuals decried the medieval thinking of the villagers.

A stray politician voiced his support to the panchayat, one eye firmly on his votebank.

The office-goers got a new topic to discuss about at their water coolers, and a few of them were found defending the village panchayat. "The guy had no education, no livelihood, no means of supporting her..."  - as if education and a good job were a pre-requisite for falling in love. "These good-for-nothing boys, they watch movies and get influenced... I am not supporting the killing, but how can they desert the family honour..." and so on...

And a blogger got inspired to revisit Shakespeare to note nothing has changed, 400 years since the Bard wrote the story...

6 comments:

  1. Anonymous10:42 PM

    Well written..good job in Vishal Bharadwaj-isation of Bard's work to a TN setting..but seriously, if such an incident occurs, will the two warring families reconcile..? WIll not the village erupt..? (rememeber the Marad incident in Kerala..?!)

    ReplyDelete
  2. naattamai... theerpai maathi sollu...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous3:45 AM

    From previous blog comment..
    "Anjana R
    the question im asking is:
    kadaseela idunga rendu mandaya poduma? "


    @Anjana - yes, idhunga rendu mandaya potudithu

    ReplyDelete
  4. @ Anon:
    Tnk you :)
    will the two families reconcile? From what I have seen of even educated, well-off families in urban places reacting to their children's marriages outside caste / religion, I'd bet there wouldn't be any peace!

    @ Monk:
    It took a 5-episode long story to bring you back here? Phew!

    and what theerpu do you want? I did give you a chance to come up with your own ending!!!

    @ Anon:
    Thanks for replying on my behalf...

    ReplyDelete
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