Authors: Mike Stocks
“Not going to marry me,” Mohan repeats fatly.
“Mohan, why are you saying this? What are these worries? Everything will be fixed, only yesterday I am speaking to the mother, you know how much she likes you; it is the mothers who decide
what happens, my son, not the daughters. I will have a daughter-in-law in a few months!”
“Likes another boy.”
“What Mohan? What’s that?”
“No my Son, all this is cleared up, I am telling you this already, the younger sister is a very naughty girl, she is making it up.”
“What’s that, my darling ?”
Mohan spins round and shouts, “
She is flying around here and there and everywhere with other boys in jeans, Amma! Everyone knows it! She is trying to make complete fool of
Having shaved their chins and trimmed their moustaches with extra-scrupulous care, and having chastised their wives to iron their shirts with extra elbow grease and backbone,
the off-duty and impeccably turned-out Murugesan and Apu are about to make contact with D.D. Rajendran. They are speeding along on Apu’s scooter, bouncing over the potholes of the illegal
road that DDR has built to connect his house to the main road more directly. They arrive – rather apprehensively – at the mansion on the outskirts of town. Murugesan steps off the back
and smoothes down his trousers as Apu parks the bike nearby. Two guards greet them at the compound gate of Mullaipuram Mansions.
“He’s at home?” Murugesan asks; he thinks he knows one of these guards, the fatter one with the badly stitched-up harelip. Murugesan racks his brains – he’s sure he
arrested him once, yes, for assault, three or four years ago. The fellow was sentenced to nine years, but Murugesan is neither surprised nor disappointed to see him now; it attests to DDR’s
“Give him this and find out if he can see us – we’ll wait here.”
“Saar,” the guard says, taking the envelope from Murugesan, “you can be coming inside and waiting there.”
“No, here is fine.”
Murugesan steps into the shade of the high wall of the compound and squats down on his haunches, looking at the horizon – Mullaipuram’s tatty skyline – across a mile or two of
wasteland, fields, scrub, building plots, light industry. Apu joins him.
“So hot,” Apu complains.
* * *
This is a time of great flux and personal development for DDR. With his slack pot belly in his lap and his snorting paraplegic dog at his side, he is sitting at a
snooker-table-sized desk in his office, fiddling with Bobby’s ears as he flicks through some paperwork. Bobby grunts ecstatically, sounding not unlike DDR’s mysterious and reclusive
wife on those rare occasions when DDR grants her some physical attention.
If this year had gone as expected and planned and financed, DDR would at this very moment be campaigning in the state elections for a seat in the Legislature. Yes, he would be hitting the dusty
election trail in a fleet of honking, tooting, speeding 4x4s, he would be standing on the backs of Maruti vans in godforsaken hellholes, declaiming his promises to slack-jawed villagers: lower
taxes, bigger subsidies, less corruption, cleaner water, cheaper gas, better crops, better cricketers, better politicians, fewer potholes, more happiness, computer access for all, supplementary
nuclear weapons and victory in Kashmir. There would be free ghee today and tomorrow and the day after tomorrow for old people, children, newly-weds, widows, married couples, pregnant mothers,
educationally deprived fathers, the disabled, the backward classes, the scheduled classes, the middle classes, the advantaged classes, the jobless, the workers, retired freedom fighters, reformed
criminals, tribals, pensioners, students, farmers, landless labourers, women, men, eunuchs and livestock. During such soaring flights of oratory – which will now never take place – his
henchmen would have been distributing pens and sweets to excited squabbling children, while his senior team would be in some village elder’s house, drinking tea and buying votes with hard
cash. Sometimes the backing of a village leader or a dominant family or a revered matriarch with a face like a jungle bison could sew up every available vote in the entire village. Sometimes even
more favourable results can occur: one astute local politician of DDR’s acquaintance is known to have secured the votes of 746 people from a village with only 545 registered voters –
is the kind of supercharged very best special turbo democracy that could once make DDR’s heart swell with pride: the democratic process in action, such as the heroes and
freedom fighters of India’s Independence fought for and suffered for and died for. And so, somewhere on this earth or elsewhere, there is a small and misty-eyed avatar of D.D. Rajendran that
regrets sacrificing his political aspirations – either for the TDTTM Party or the DTTTM Party, he was never quite sure which one he’d plump for – for the sake of Swamiji.
But only a small part. Since a long time ago, even before the coming of Swamiji, the starved and monobrowed inner ape of DDR’s conscience has been making guttural protests about its filthy
living conditions, jumping up and down angrily and evolving in crude leaps towards a new morality. One could argue that this new morality is as rank as a rotting fish in the hot, but at least it
represents an improvement on DDR’s old morality, which was as rank as two rotting fish in the hot.
From where does such affecting moral improvement spring? Perhaps it is from DDR’s metaphysical anguish. His deeply credulous inner longings have been tormenting him for a couple of years
with irksome physical manifestations: sleepless nights, a spotty back, and hard, knobbly, once-a-week stools. The doctor cannot explain these ailments – and DDR doesn’t expect him too.
DDR knows they are symptoms of his mental corruption. Sometimes he finds himself looking long and hard into Bobby’s blameless eyes as if to fathom how a paraplegic dog in a handcart, a dog
without the wherewithal even to wag its own tail, can be as happy as Bobby is – and with such frequent and unproblematic bowel motions.
The result of all this is that DDR has reached a stage in his life when he can hardly be bothered to get richer and more powerful. To most observers this might seem an obvious manifesto for less
anguish, more meaning, better happiness and extra fun, but if you consider the tiny proportion of rich and powerful people that tends to implement such a common-sense policy, then you may wish to
concede that DDR is a veritable saint among the filthy rich.
The coming of the guru Swamiji has advanced and accelerated the ramifications and intensity of DDR’s life changes. He has visited Swami five times already in Thendraloor, and experienced
with his own mind the blessed peace of the hour of silence – and a racing imagination afterwards. He has sought, and believes he has been granted, Swami’s permission to develop the
outline of a kind of spiritual business plan for the guru to follow in his teachings and dealings with devotees. He has sat down with an overawed Amma and sketched out these plans – the way
forwards, the ashram, the social work, the short-term steps, the long-term vision. He has not felt so energized and excited for years.
What about his old guru, Sri Sri Dravidananda Gurkkal? Pah, says D.D. Rajendran, Sri Sri Dravidananda Gurkkal is an ordinary human link to the godhead – good fellow, tries hard, but anyone
can get a funny tattoo and claim to have penetrated to the starting point of the centre of the spiral of all knowledge… being with the Guru Swamiji is in another realm of experience
entirely. DDR sits back in his chair and sighs like a lover; to be with Swamiji is to know, however briefly, that the truth behind things is peace in the present tense.
There is only one fly in the ointment. A white man was abused by the police in one of his hotels; he launched himself from a window on the seventh floor, and died in the street below. Anyone who
is serious about following the Guru Swamiji will, sooner or later, have to confront this little difficulty. For DDR, it is sooner.
* * *
He looks up at the two off-duty police officers standing respectfully in front of him as they stumble their way through an incomprehensible preamble. After a time he looks back
down at the note that they had written to him:
We are friends and devotees of the new guru Swamiji. We wish to talk to you in confidence about important super-extra-special matter.
Sub-Inspector K.P. Murugesan
Constable S.P. Apumudali.
“…is when I knew he was guiding my journey from afar,” Apu is saying.
“Guiding from afar?” DDR asks.
“Sir, I am ashamed to tell you my guilty action in full, what I did to Swamiji, but I have been going backwards and forwards and here and there and everywhere in my head, wondering what it
all means, wondering how to confront Swamiji with my filthy black deeds, how to pay for the deed I did, and then I started to understand, Sir.”
“No – I mean, what is it that you started to understand?”
Apu puffs himself up in a kind of vicarious pride for Swami.
“That there is no need for me to tell Swamiji anything like this – he is already knowing, and guiding me towards correct resolution.”
“Sir, I am not fully certain yet,” Apu admits, “but I know Swamiji is leading me closer and closer to it. That is why I’m standing in front of you now.”
“And the same with me Sir,” Murugesan chips in. “I was not comfortable with my conduct in relation to the guru, and several times I am seeking him out and trying to tell him,
but all the time he is knowing my situation better than myself, and is guiding me towards my decision in very best direction.”
“But – what decision?” DDR asks
“I am not completely sure at this precise minute, Sir,” Murugesan admits. “We are coming here today to talk to you about this…”
DDR rests back in his chair, twiddling the tips of his fingers together lightly, glancing from Apu to Murugesan and then back to Apu again. There is much he doesn’t understand about this,
and something he doesn’t like. What has any of it got to do with him?
The three of them remain silent for a while, Murugesan and Apu standing in front of the desk uneasily, DDR looking up at them. At times Apu can’t help flicking his glance towards the
bloated hound marooned in its handcart next to D.D. Rajendran; and Bobby, as though to register a dirty protest at the arrival of these visitors who have distracted his master from tickling him,
distends his jaws in a foul-smelling yawn, which triggers certain processes within, so that a small coil of excrement extrudes from his back passage at a slow and regular speed. DDR watches it
– rather enviously – then shouts “Boy!” – and Bobby’s boy runs in immediately, wraps up the turd in scraps of newspaper, cleans up the cart, washes Bobby’s
bottom with an old rag and a plastic beaker of water, and exits. He feeds two TB-riddled parents by such skills. The policemen watch with a morbid fascination.
“But – I am just not understanding why you are coming to me to tell me all this,” DDR says eventually, after the boy has disappeared.
Apu rubs at his chin, says “Yes Sir” and “Well Sir” and “The thing is Sir” and falls silent.
“It is about the white man, Sir,” Murugesan offers, at last. “That is how this began, that is what connects us all, isn’t it…”
A frown steals across DDR’s forehead, narrowing his eyes. His heartbeat gets faster without him knowing why. “What about the white man? What has he got to do with
“Sir, this white man…” Murugesan hesitates – and yes, it is true that a seasoned observer of his moustache would detect the makings of a twitch –
“…this white man, his unfortunate death was creating the problems for me, and for Apu, and also for you Sir, little bit…” No answer from DDR, who seems suspended between
an admission and a denial, so Murugesan presses on. “Sir, we are feeling very anxious that we are risking your angry feelings, but this white man, this white man who fell on Swamiji on that
fateful day, his unfortunate case is not just a matter of right and wrong and what-all – that is what I am coming to understand through my meditations on the guru Swamiji—”
For DDR, it had seemed as though the white man ceased to be a problem long ago, when the heat of the case cooled down and the authorities lost interest; since Swami became Swamiji, he has hardly
thought about such ancient history, he has been absorbed in plans for the future. Are the repercussions of that white man plummeting from his second-worst hotel still reverberating?
“I am not sure how or why,” Murugesan is saying, when DDR shows no signs of replying, “but right from the beginning I was seeing something I was not understanding about Swamiji
and this white fellow, Sir. When Swamiji was Swami, I just hoped it was all a damn-fool business, I couldn’t understand why my old friend and colleague was becoming troublemaker to us all for
the sake of this dead foreigner. But now, when we know that Swami became Swamiji, well, if you think about it, and if you know what we know…” – he gestures at Apu and himself
“Then what, Sub-Inspector?” DDR asks, although he wishes he could be spared the information. “What do you know?”
“Sir, Swami started becoming Swamiji not when he died, but when the white man fell on him. There is some special link, sir. We thought we were trying to stop him from troublesome
investigations – but we were hindering him from his spiritual path. Death of white man and death of Swami linked together in cosmic pattern,” Murugesan says, as Apu nods with
conviction. “Everything is in the pattern!”
“But – get to the point!” DDR blurts, exasperated. “What do you want? Twenty minutes you two have stood in front of this desk and mumbled about this and that.”