– Shortstory – S. Ramakrishnan- Trans. Latha Ramakrishnan
It was a completely unexpected morning that had to be confronted. The crowd, thick and dense, moved in rows. Where they were coming from was not clear. Sitting on the Gemini Flyover, legs dangling, many were conversing. Two people were atop the stallion warrior statue, taking photographs. News kept coming that the crowd was larger and thicker along the beach road.
Whose brainchild all this was, none could tell. Indeed, it is highly doubtful that a similar event had ever taken place before. ‘An assemblage of everyone endowed with the name “Ramasami”the first of its kind in the whole stretch of human history’ so the news flashed across the pages of all leading dailies. Ramasamis from every nook and corner of the world kept coming to attend the Grand Convention. You can’t dismiss it with the old line, ‘What’s in a name?’ How can any other name stand on par with Ramasami?
‘Ramasamis of the world, come together. Your world is coming into being at Seerani Arangam’1 so the clarion calls went out all over Tamil Nadu. There were posters and banners everywhere in the city. In the three-day Convention, literary, agricultural, medical, linguistic, political, philosophical, post-modernist, social, religious, realist, irrealist, surrealist, structuralist, intellectual and the tri-Tamilist Ramasamis were taking part in large numbers. As the news spread everywhere, those who were not Ramasamis were listening to it intently and agitatedly.
The special guests of the Convention were Umbarto Ramasami of the country of Kango, Edwarti Ramasami of the nation called Nuva, the popular super-star who was also the renowned linguist of Hollywood, Arnold Ramasami Wasnekkar, and also Ramasamisky, Su en Ramasami (U.N. Special Emissary). Thus, more than a handful of special Ramasamis were to come.
And, I would like to place before you, objectively as well as impartially, led by my inner vision and thirst for truth alone, historical truths of those grand days where lakhs and lakhs of Ramasamis gathered under one roofless roof. As information and data are brimming and overflowing within my senses, let me cast aside some of them and tell you some others with the help of my imaginative power.
The Ramasamis had begun to assemble there the day before, coming in lorries and buses. We had been informed that some eight thousand Ramasamis were apprehended in Tambaram Railway station for travel without a ticket. For the purpose of the Ramasami Convention all fourteen floors of the L.I.C. were vacated, and all fourteen floors were filled with Ramasamis. With the fluttering, freshly-washed dhotis hung up to dry, faces could be seen in all the windows. Right from one-year-old to too-old-to-remember-how-many-years- old, so many a Ramasami stood there. They were wandering, their faces changing colours and contours with time. When someone clapped his hands, calling ‘Ramasami’, innumerable faces of varying ages turned, swelling like a huge wave. The B.B.C. made an official announcement that four crores of Ramasamis had gathered. To maintain that revolving bed, two hundred Ramasamis toiled day and night.
Outside the convention tent, martyr Ramasami portraits were kept. Ramasamis themselves saw those portraits of Ramasamis, where all faces looked alike. Beneath every portrait a packet of salt was kept. Tasting salt, the Ramasamis remembered those salty days when they extracted the salt filling their minds, and they shed tears for the martyrs.
Bringing the torch for the convention from Andaman was the duty handed over to Aaravayal Ramasami. A thousand Ramasamis joined hands and set out in a ship from Andaman. Many Ramasamis had assembled in the port to give them a warm send off. They waved and waved to the voyaging Ramasamis.
Inside the ship, Ramasamis faces were everywhere. Sitting atop the roof of the ship the great freedom fighter, Aaravayal Ramasami, gave forth a spirited speech of independence. Some thought-provoking excerpts of it are as follows:
My dear Ramasamis, we had proven to the British in those bygone days that Ramasami was a name distinct from other names, that it was unparalleled. Ramasami is the symbol of Tamil identity. Even if he is at the other end of the world, a Ramasami would never lose his exclusive, special nature. Ramasamis alone have preserved Tamil life, politics, philosophy, and literature for centuries. The very first man who set foot on the moon was a Ramasami. History has concealed this veritable truth. But who can ever refute the fact that the pages of history are so full of Ramasamis. (Applause) As our dear genius of philosophy, Hegel Ramasami, claims, ‘Ramasami’ is a name that remains the same. And, this great convention will determine the future of Ramasamis , my dear Ramasamis
Before this speech could conclude, the sea’s rage had worsened and the waves began to lash higher than the ship. Caught in the sea’s grip, the ship lost its sense of direction. The Ramasamis who had to sleep listening to the roaming waves throughout the night were afflicted with yellow fever, with the result that by the next afternoon, 999 Ramasamis had breathed their last. With those bodies lying spread on the deck like wood blocks floating on the salty water, Aaravayal Ramasami, standing on the deck of the ship, sang ‘Behold, the precious flag of Mother’, in an effort to get rid of his gripping fear. The ship loaded with the bodies of 999 Ramasamis wandered aimlessly. Aaravayal, all alone with the corpses, stood staring at the sea. Wild birds hovered in circles above the ship.
Unaware of this great tragedy in the history of the Ramasamis, crowds and crowds kept on alighting at Central Station, causing great tidal waves everywhere. The world-famous poet Theppa Kulam Ramasami, neo-critic Little Finger Ramasami, Waterfall Ramasami (who cares to pen international novels alone), and also Uproar Ramasami, Realism Ramasami, Romantic Ramasami, Extravaganza Ramasami, Ever-Your Ramasami and their near-and-dear ones, readers, fans, well-wishers, ardent lovers, suicide squads. Joining these Ramasamis, an abundance of Ramasamis kept on crowding the special Literary Locomotives.
In each and every station non-writer Ramasamis thronged to catch a glimpse of writer Ramasamis. There were placards bearing the name ‘Ramasami’ heaped everywhere along the entire stretch of the platform. The train came to a halt at the platform.
‘Hot-pot novel, sir, steaming short-story, sir, poems, sir novel, sir, story, sir”so shouting, the blueshade employees went along, selling the books. Waterfall Ramasami, who was sitting in his A.C. coach, spoke to his dear disciples: “The novels of this place read too well. the idiosyncrasies of the place are such”
No sooner had he spoken these words than his dear disciples leaped out to buy a novel each, and they began to read these novels the very next moment, breathlessly. When the train arrived at Kokkalanchery Station, spotting senior writer Pavalakodi Ramasami who was sitting there all alone, Little Finger Ramasami clapped his hands and called out, ‘Ask him to come in. He is the senior writer who used to write in Pavalakodi, long ago call him inside.’
Eighty-year-old Pavalakodi Ramasami boarded the train with his eighteen unsold books. Little Finger Ramasami gave him a place to sit. As the senior writer was in the habit of chewing Thangapaspam tobacco, he sat near the window. As soon as the train began moving he began pulling out tales and anecdotes from the pages of his old ‘Pavalakodi’ days. The Ramasamis went to sleep.
Uproar Ramasami at the next coach was narrating all his uproarious memories to his followers. His recent rebellion took place in front of Thaluk office. Along with a hundred and odd Ramasamis, Uproar Ramasami staged a protest outside the office rejecting the recent growing literary ‘isms’ in Tamil: magical realism, post-modernism and others. A petition to the effect was handed over to the Thasildhar. This uproarious protest took place in all the district capitals. The complaint made by Uproar Ramasami was inscribed on a tin plate and given to the Thasildhar which the latter promptly returned with a zero and so the rebellion was declared a resounding victory.
Proclaiming Seerani Arangam to be ‘Ramasami Arangam’, participants continued their preparations, including honoring Ramasami, the first fountain pen writer. Prior to him everything was written by dipping a peacock quill into ink. In those days, only Ramasami had the guts to start using the pen, an innovation for which he should get all the credit. At the Convention a huge painting of him with one hand on his cheek and the other holding a pen, was drawn. A gigantic ink bottle was spilled in front of his house as a mark of respect to his memory.
Sitting at the rear side of the Ramasami Arangam, Realism Ramasami was penning his new realist novel 17:17:17. The Agro-farming Association had come forward to publish it. While writing that novel which deals with the ways and means of harvesting cotton in summer, he sobbed and sobbed, unable to control his emotions, breaking three pen nibs.
Meanwhile, the ship, gone astray with its direction lost, dashed against the shores of TeluguLand2 and came to a halt. Ramasami, who had slept with the torch, set out on foot to visit the rural areas of Andhra. The dogs eventually began to chase him and so, changing his walk to a run, he came towards Chennai.
At Egmore Station innumerable Ramasamis were waiting to welcome the Literary Locomotive. The other popular Ramasamis who were to be honoured at the Convention were escorted to various lodges. Under the leadership of Pon. Ramasami, a hundred and eight or so had gathered and were busy preparing a memorandum.
Meanwhile Levistro Ramasami of the Department of Anthropology, inside the caves of Mainalla Draw, was writing by candlelight a historical document entitled, ‘The History of the Ramasami Lineage: The Hidden Truths’. An excerpt follows:
In the beginning, all the Tamil letters started with the first letter ‘Ra’. From that the Tamils came to be named ‘Ramasami’. Ramasamis from time immemorial have cultivated a civilized style of make-up and couture, and this truth was amply substantiated by significant archeological evidence gathered in Rappa, located on a small strip of land near Mohenjo-daro. The clay-pots excavated in this region bore the letter ‘Ra’ which could be seen distinctly. (See photograph, courtesy Rappa Archeological Research). Veteran archeological scholar Na. Altan Singalo Ramasami himself confirmed this claim. Therefore it is beyond doubt that the first name of the world was none other than ‘Ramasami’ (Ra.Va.Sa PR 24)
The very sight of Pavalakodi Ramasami, who spoke ill of modern stories with his mouth full of tobacco which he chewed incessantly, was disgusting to Theppakulam Ramasami. With the literary quarrel between the two reaching an ugly peak, Theppakulam pulled out the tobacco wad and threw it away. The senior writer then pulled the alarm chain, bringing the train to a halt. There erupted a bitter fight between the Ramasamis regarding the humiliating treatment meted out to the veteran Ramasami. At that point the train was standing half a mile away from Virudhachalam Station.
At the Ramasamis Convention, they turned Gemini Flyover into a dais for the purpose of conducting literary debates. Arrangements were made for the crowd to stand on the roads beneath and listen to the speeches. When the lists of the literary speeches were announced, the Ramasamis vied with each other to read the titles.
Under the title, ‘The History of the Universe and the Art-form Called Devarattam3’ Horror Ramasami spoke; Little Finger Ramasami spoke on ‘My little finger and Tamil Literature’, and Realism Ramasami delivered ‘Go Hang the Storytellers’. Thus, unheard-of varieties of international titles had found a place. For Pavalakodi Ramasami alone the exclusive freedom of selecting his own title had been given.
As soon as the train stopped at Egmore Railway Station, Ramasamis ran to receive the new load of Ramasamis. Giving each a fountain pen and a badge bearing the picture of Ramagirisami, they escorted them along with the dance of a Karagattam4 team. The Ramasamis of the ‘Tamil Readers’ clan who travelled atop the roof of the train wandered all over the city in search of water to bathe. Seeing the waterless corporation-taps making strange moaning and hissing sounds, they sat beside them and wrote complaining odes on the woeful state of affairs. Some Ramasamis were fast asleep in the Burma Bazaar Road. The religious Ramasamis multiplied their religiosity by having a mouthful of neyyappam5, sitting in the corridor of Mylai Kapaleeswarar Temple.
Apart from these, one Ramasami from Erichanatham, a remote area situated in the southern end of Tamil Nadu, sent a translation of his, along with a milk can, in city bus number thirteen. The Ottanchathram Ramasami, after completing his longterm dream of writing a four-thousand-page novel, divided it into two segments and hung the two on either side of a kavadi.6 He bore his Kavadi Novel from Palani to Chennai and some eighty budding poets accompanied him carrying his Kavadi Poem. In each and every village en route, throngs of women gathered to watch the ‘novel pilgrimage’ of the Ramasamis and welcome them with great pomp. They even arranged for a ‘Feeding of the Poor’ to mark the occasion, but all these events form part of a separate story.
Before Aaravayal Ramasami could arrive with the torch, the Convention had commenced. The welcome speech was given by Nunna Konda Pettai Kadhavu Ramasami, a Gandhian and the former Governor of Andhra Pradesh.
‘Ikkadalu, Ramasamigalu, Maanaadulu, Nassalu, Nadakkalu, Akkadalu, Kavidhailu, Sirukadhaiyilu, Vimarsanamilu, Raasilu, Nobalu Parisulu, Pettraarulu, Ramasamigalu, Edhir Kadamulu, Nammalu, Desathalu, Mukyamalu, Ulagaramasamigalu, uttrumaigalu, vallargalu”. [any meaning or pure gibberish?]
Before the speech was completed, Aaravayal Ramasami came on the dais with the ever-glowing torch which his men helped light. As the torch was lit a bit belatedly, it was then that Ramasami told the Ramasamis of the deaths of the Ramasamis. With tears welling up, those at the convention postponed it for half a day, in memory of the 999 Ramasamis. Also, Ramasami placed before the Ramasamis an appeal to the Central Government that a stamp with Aaravayal Ramasami floating in the ship along with the dead bodies of 999 Ramasamis be released.
As the convention was postponed, the writers dispersed hurriedly and went with their groups. Small-Magazine Ramasami went round amidst those Ramasamis present, selling small books with captions like, ‘You have made me a Ramasami to Ramasami etc.
If I were to narrate all that which took place between the Ramasamis, it would prove another ‘Angaputhran Tale’ of counting sand grains. I think it would be better just to give the self-introduction of the wireless and leave it at that.
Among the senior writers was Pazhath Thoettam Ramasami, who had so far waved aside all awards; he, the great warrior, is alone the Godfather of the world of Tamil Story. Beyond all doubt, no one can excel him in writing. This unparalleled writer was for a while the disciple of Piggymount Swami (Pandrimalai Swami) and then was deep in philosophical ponderings concerning Nietzsche, Soban Heera and others, and then got involved in the arts, putting his heart and soul into it. His inward silence had a distinct artistic clarity, said many critics. In an anthology compiled by them there is an article called ‘On Some Times in the Life of Pazhath Thottam Ramasami’; it would prove fruitful to you to read a portion of it:
There are different varieties of fruit trees all around the abode of Pazha Thottam Ramasami. His friends always call him ‘Sulthan’. He never writes when there is no fruit smell surrounding him. Every morning, after completing a story, he shows his excitement in his success in arriving at a real artistic peak by plucking and eating the fruits. In that over-joyous state would be a treat to watch. He also owns a publishing house called ‘Mukkani’ (The three primal fruits) (Some Times in Life Para 18)
Of the lot of neo-critics of Tamil literature who branched out from Pazhath Thoettam Ramasami, Little Finger Ramasami is quite important. For delivering the loads of books that came to his address every day to be reviewed by him, the postal department had reserved all eight employees who toiled day and night, running a kind of relay race from the Post Office to his house and back and forth.
Little Finger Ramasami never handled those books with his hands. He would turn the pages using only his little finger. If his little finger signaled that it was a good book then he would start reading it. The rest he would press hard with his little finger and force them deep beneath the floor where they would remain buried for ever. And, with books so buried the house swelled in size. The books which had the good fortune of earning a mention from Little Finger are but half-a-handful. As the little finger is crowned with the status of Class-A critic, it started viewing the other fingers with scorn and disdain, feeling so proud of its stature. The other fingers, taking note of the elevated position enjoyed by the little finger, became afraid of it. Still, every now and then there erupted literary quarrels, fights and wars between little finger and the other fingers.
The other fingers: You, Little Finger critic who is crowned with literary reviews, who tells tale to the scarecrows?
Little finger: You goddamned straw-scoundrels, don’t you dare blabber about such things as story, tale the beautiful blend of the inside and the outside is what is called ‘story’.
The other fingers: Then, what do you have to say about the ‘story of betrayal’ of the jackal called ‘Abandhaga’?
Little finger: Whatever the others say, I am the unparalleled emperor of criticism!
In this way the discussions and debates continued. From all the rural and urban regions of India, people came in large numbers and vied with each other to have a glimpse of the little finger of Little Finger Ramasami. He would always walk concealing his little finger with his dhoti. How he became the one and only one, unique ‘little finger’ in the entire gamut of the field of literature, is a separate episode.
Among the novelists, the skills and expertise of Waterfall Ramasami defy all description. With only the words that remained after not having been washed away by the waterfall, he would bring out a book. His most popular novel The Counterfeiters and the Hundred Little Lambs was an existential novel nominated for the Nobel Prize thrice but rejected due to errors in proofreading. In this, he constructed the central theme around a lamb that goes to an empty house every day and looks at itself in a mirror, thus dealing with the essence of life on a philosophical plane. His novel, A Big ‘No’ to Conversing with Cats, was going to be released at the Convention.
Apart from these, Realism Ramasami would prepare blank white sheets at home with his own hands, and, on principle, would only pen his creations on these handmade white sheets. He was a man capable of writing about anything and everything he comes across. His stories are being used in the U.N as ‘pocket-books’. He has the habit of taking snuff, and every cough comes out ‘realism’, ‘realism’.
Apart from these, some hundred more Ramasamis were honoured at the Convention. Kalladaikurichi Ramasami, Boli Ambur Ramasami, Nellivalai Ramasami, Thisayanvalai Ramasami, So.Pa. Ramasami, Ko. Ramasami (ex), Ramayya Pillai Pulimootai Ramasami, Ettu Veettu Ramasami, Moopan Ramasami, Thamizh Ramasami, Esthapan Ramasami, Britto Ramasami, Ramasamy Kumar, Kavik Kizhaar Ramasamy, Nadai Vandi Ramasami, and so the potential of many Ramasamis gained special attention at the Convention.
The next day at the Convention, thousands of Ramasamis kept wandering down to the beach in bikinis to bathe. Some Ramasamis lay on the lawns and sang poems. Other Ramasamis read and applauded themselves on their own reading. On one side, a christening went on for those who were not Ramasamis. The name ‘Ramasami’ was suffixed to their names and thus Britto Ramasami, Farook Ramasami, Alexander Ramasami, Mubaraq Ramasami entered directly into the Convention.
As the cry went on, soaring higher and higher, Alleluyah Ramasami, who lived in Gemini complex, was afflicted with verbiage-fever. Standing around him, the Ramasamis who went along with his ‘word-blabbering’ sang ‘alleluyah’ day and night. On the walls of his house, the saying, ‘Ramasami never leaves you’ could be seen. When the Convention reached its dizzy heights the torso of ‘Alleluyah’ Ramasami twisted and jerked and jumped and leaped in frenetic frenzy.
Though a Ramasami, a man in black was not allowed inside. Leaning against a signal post outside, he lamented: ‘What good things our reverent Ramasami made and made possible this day But for him, could we talk like this today? And, Mandhrasamis have become more powerful’.
Outside the decorated roof of the Convention some Spanish speeches could be heard, so some went in that direction. The Special Convener of the Ramasami Convention was giving a speech on how his fountain pen leaked and drenched his shirt. The crowd outside the tent turned delirious. In its midst, Counter-Culture Ramasami stood, while men circled all around him. Raising his hands to heavens, he said: ‘I am a fan of Umberto Ramasami. I have come here to listen to his speech. After he finishes I will leave at once. Please go away from here.’
When Umberto Ramasami was said to have come in his ‘Awaiting Rose-Tamil’ in some other’s name Counter-Culture Ramasami made a hasty retreat and left the place. Outside, a person was selling non-linear lollipops.
The memorandum of the Convention was read out. Resolutions were passed to the effect that Ramasamis, in order to stress their uniqueness, should wear dresses of a particular shade, that free bus-passes should be provided to Ramasamis, that Ramasamis should shun non-linear writings, that the residential areas where Ramasamis dwell should be renamed ‘Ramasamisthan’, and much more.
Many Ramasamis who disagreed with the memorandum discussed it near the Gandhi statue. Pavalakodi Ramasami spoke for more than four hours about his first-ever poem ‘Murugesan in the World of Fools’. The crowd wandered and dispersed. The moment discussion on the memorandum began, uproar ensued. With many staging a walk-out the Convention was postponed by half a day. That day, many Ramasamis left for Thirupathi and returned with tonsured heads. In the evening it was officially announced that the Convention of the Ramasamis was split into two owing to ideological differences.
There came to be two groups the moderates and the radicals. Writers, political personalities, traders, poets, publishers, doctors, historical researches, copy-writers, health-officers and so on, everywhere the two divisions came to stay.
‘This ideological split, both vertical and horizontal, is a historical event!’, cried both Ramasami groups. A statue along the beach road stood stretching its finger, asking ‘Are you Ramasami?’. ‘Yes, yes’, swayed the heads as they walked past. That day, when this great historical phenomena of Tamil Nadu took place, the city of Madras suffered nature’s fury in the form of a storm. Convention tents became de-constructed and papers flew away. The next morning those who were not Ramasamis came, saw thousands of books and photographs of Ramasamis lying scattered all over the beach, and then dispersed.