01 January 1970
#WeekendReads

Short Story: The Cursed Man

The story of Yadayya from Tirupati Kiran's 'Sapagrasthudu', translated from the original Telugu by Sarada Uma.

Living with a curse
Living with a curse Shutterstock

It is midnight, there is an eerie silence at Narayanaguda crossroads with the homeless people, fallen into deep slumber, along the footpath. A convertible car raced past breaking the silence. Yadayya, who was sleeping peacefully suddenly woke up startled. In a confused state, he looked around with his bloodshot eyes. His fellow men on footpath are still fast asleep, snoring loudly. The empty roads reminded him of the round object he saw that afternoon in the market lane and made his eyes twinkle as he remembered.

There was too much crowd around him that time to pocket it. Now, he thought, is the right time to pick it. He is tempted to fetch it immediately. Should he go or not? What if it is not there anymore? His mind was in a fix between despair and hope. But his craving for the object won over all the doubts and he decided to go. As he suddenly got up, his legs gave in and he fell with a loud thud. Only then he remembered that he has  been burning with fever since past two days. He tried getting up again but his body did not cooperate, he felt extremely tired. The only object that can satiate his needs is calling for him, his desire is burning even more. Mustered by deep desire, he gathered the strength to get going and the anticipation while putting each foot forward filled him with great happiness. As he approached the market lane, his joy knew no bounds. At last, he is going to get it. Just when he turned into the lane, he heard the blaring siren of a police jeep. His heart started pounding and his energy-draining, he felt paralyzed. “Oh my God, it’s the police!” his mind became numb with fear. As the police jeep approached him, his thoughts raced, “What will the police think looking at my torn clothes wrapped around my body which is nothing but bones? They might consider me a thief and beat the hell out of me!” He trembled in fear, thinking of all the dreaded possibilities.

Yadayya looked around to find a way to hide from the police. The lane is empty except for a huge garbage bin overflowing with stinking garbage. He does not have any other choice but to hide in there. He jumped and bent himself in waiting for the jeep to pass by. The jeep came and halted right next to his hiding place, with police darting around in all directions hawk-eyed. Yadayya struggled to stop himself from vomiting inside the bin with the rotten food scattered everywhere, but his determination to get what he wanted made him put up with the torturous surroundings. For him, the object of his pursuit made all the pain worthwhile. The police jeep eventually moved on from there, probably because of the unbearable stench. Once he was confident that they moved far enough, he came out from his hiding and let out a deep sigh, trying to regain his senses he immediately began to walk towards his destination. The thought of him getting closer is making his face glow like a bulb of light and his fatigue disappeared as he stepped into the street blanked with darkness. He slowly walked forward careful enough not to make any sound.

Yadayya approached the destination in heights of excitement and he could see that round object, which he has been desperately trying to get, right in the sewer drainage next to an electric transformer. He got slightly irritated stopping for a moment in front of the electric transformer as he saw sparks flying off it intermittently. He picked up that soft, shiny, round object which was just the size of his palm and looked at it devouringly, this  is what he has put up all that horrible stench for, this is what made him escape the police, this is what is going to fill his stomach and rid him off  the painful hunger pangs. A bright red apple!!  He held  it in both  hands  and reveled in joy looking at it.

Yadayya has not eaten for two days. There is no one to offer  anything either. His life is like that of a broken kite. He sells handkerchiefs at RTC crossroads signal, for a living. He was suffering from fever for the past two days and there is not a soul in this world to take care of him.  Right when he longingly tried to take a bite, something hit him hard on his back and he fell flat in a thud from the impact. Totally shattering his bliss, someone is hitting him repeatedly with a thick stick like an object. Determined not to succumb, he tried to take a few steps away from the situation. But he could not escape as the person hitting him held him tightly by his shirt, then he got kicked twice in the ribs and thrice on the knees. But Yadayya did not cry out as the pain of hunger was much worse for him.

Yadayya’s silence enraged the other person and he started hurling abuses at him, “Why are you not talking you son of a bitch? You must have come to steal from these shops,” while hitting him hard. Yadayya still did not let out a sound as there is another reason for which he is unable to answer. He is not just an orphan; he is a mute orphan who never uttered a word in life. He understood that he must escape from there if he wanted to satiate his hunger, then he pushed his assailant away with all his might which made the guy lose his balance making him fall hard. Humiliated by Yadayya’s retaliation he shouted abuses at him angrily, “Bastard, how dare you hit a policeman?” Only then Yadayya could understand who his attacker really is! He struggled hard to free himself up from the policeman’s grip and ran as fast as he could as if his life depended on it.

Yadayya could hear boots chasing him as he kept running to get away as farther as he could. He is unable to bear the hunger pangs but could not stop himself from running, he must eat the apple and he cannotlet go of it for the brutal policeman at any cost, he ran and ran faster. Finally, when he reached a place where he could no longer hear the boots chasing him, he felt dazzled by the brightest lights shining on him at the crossroads. And then it is silence again; he could breathe in the cool air. He is incredibly happy that he is gone too far from the policeman’s reach and that he is not going to stop him from devouring his cherished possession. He sat down on a cement bench and reached for his apple. It is not in his hands. He searched his pockets; it is not there either!

Yadayya felt as if his world overturned, all the pain he endured that night was for that apple. He wondered, ‘Maybe he lost it somewhere in that dark market street while escaping the police.’ To satiate his hunger, he decided ‘There is no other way but to go back and get it, even if he has to go all the way back.’

He started walking again.

Yadayya reached the marketplace at last and is elated to see, from a distance, the object of his desire right at the base of the  electric transformer he had seen earlier. He charged gleefully towards it and on the way saw a man lying down flat on the road, ‘maybe drunk?’ with a dog beside him slurping on to something, which was suspected to be liquor. He felt a bout of anger towards the man and cursed him for whiling away his life when there are so many unfortunate people trying to live despite their life’s hurdles. He reconsidered his thoughts and went to check on the person lying down just to rule out the possibility of ill health and help him if the person needs any. The dog sitting next to the person saw him approach them and started barking at him ferociously. Though he got scared of the dog for an instant, determined to check on the guy he shooed away the  dog violently. As he got closer to the person, he found that the person is dead with his head buried into mud. He sat on his knees, staring sharply at the side where his face was tilted, he could not control his sobs. The pain he is going through is indescribable, the reason is that the man lying dead on the road is none other than himself. He had become the eternal soul.

He endured the all the pain for this moment? He reflected on what has happened earlier. A few moments ago, while he was running away from police, a bright light fell on his eyes at the crossroads which tried to block with both the hands, that is when the he must have collided into the fast-approaching truck. When all this made sense, he burst into tears, the dog in the distance barked again at the sight of Yadayya. He looked up and saw that the dog was still licking his blood. As he wept, his gaze fell on the hand still holding the apple crushed to a pulp. The surrounding sky- scrapers slept solemnly that night as if nothing had happened while a homeless man mourned his own death.

(Tirupati Kiran is a published writer in all leading Telugu magazines. Sarad Uma works as a software Architect and lives in Virginia.)