Short fiction: Assert and Assuage

Ambika Ananth

A story in translation from the Telugu1

Telugu original by: Ambika Ananth | Trans. by: Atreya Sarma U

“Hello, is it the police station? I’m calling from Sanjiva Reddy Colony. I’m hearing a lot of deafening screams from a bungalow on the main road here. It appears that someone is being brutally beaten. Please rush up.”

“What’s the house number?”

Rattling it, Vasanta hung up.

***

The speeding police jeep came to a screeching halt. Swiftly the cops trooped out. Without trying to open the gate which could create a grating noise, they silently climbed over the boundary wall and slid into the courtyard. They were eager and anxious about what could be happening inside the building. Their visages reflected a determination to jump into action before anything untoward happened. Keeping quiet, they slunk around the building, but they couldn’t hear any alarming sounds that had been complained of over the phone. They wondered whether the murderer had finished his job and bolted out. They began to peep inside through the windows.

One of the cops who was at the window of the rear side of the building, whispered to his colleagues, “Shh! Come over here!”

They all peered inside.

The scene inside reminded them of a classical paint depicting Rati and Manmatha, the celestial romantic pair. The pair in the bed were lost in such a rapture that the unanticipated scene tickled all of them. The cops vied with one another in bending over one another and crane their necks to steal a glance at the titillating sight. The jostling impacted a potted plant on the window-sill making it topple down all of a sudden. The crash startled the couple out of their romantic realm, and they looked up toward the window with their eyes widening in disbelief. The policemen hung their heads in a furtive shame. Shaking his head gravely, the head constable toed toward the main road to enquire about the phone call.

Red-faced, the gentleman of the house opened the door. “Do you know you can be sued for defamation for invasively peeping into the windows?” he shouted in a harsh voice. The sight of the crowd that thronged the outside of the premises made his blood boil even more. The presence of the khaki uniforms and red caps was a compulsive attraction for the people to swarm around the area.

“We received a call complaining of shouts and screams smacking of a murder or rape. It’s our duty to ascertain the facts in such cases, then and there,” said the SI of Police.

“Nothing of the sort happened here. You can search the house,” grunted the householder.

“Then who could have called us? Do you have any enemies that wanted to play a prank on you like this?” queried the SI. 

“Let me answer it, sir!” a voice was heard from outside.

As the householder saw her opening the gate and step into the premises, his eyes blazed. He started at her threateningly, and she reacted with a defiant jerk of her head.  

“I am Vasanta. And this man was my ex officer. This building is not his own, it’s the office guest house. The woman inside is his steno.

“Sir, as long as I worked in his office, he used to harry me so much every day that I can’t recount all of it now. I got into the job only to eke out my living with self-respect, but not to sell my body. No matter how much I tried to dissuade him, he persisted in preying upon me with his leering eyes day after day. As I didn’t yield to his wiles, he subjected to me a lot of mental torture. He picturised me as an obscene creature and wrecked every marriage proposal that I got. When it comes to a woman, the society laps up every fabrication against her, though the concoctions are glaringly unauthentic. The society brands me as a soiled dove, but hails this man as a noble soul though he has converted the office guest house into his sporting house.

“If any girl – who joins an office looking upon the boss as a cool canopy, and upon the office as a salubrious ground – happens to realise that the office is a snake-pit and the officer is a cobra, she should at once let the cat out of the bag before the public.

“If I just babble it out in a run-of-the-mill manner, who cares about it? Now on seeing the present situation, you may have understood the gravity of the matter and the plight of the girl inside the guest house. What I wish is, this man should for ever remember this lesson that I have taught him before all of you, and at least from now on he should learn how to respect the girls. And you’re a first-hand witness to this.

“I am not going to say ‘sorry’ on the plea that I had disturbed you with my phone call. Wherever there is a stink in the society, it’s only the police that have the power and ability to uproot it. That’s why, I had to take this initiative...!”

And a burst of handclaps rent the air!

Notes:

1. The title of the Telugu original story is ‘sabala’ (a woman of strong character). It is a part of the collection of 14 Telugu short stories titled ‘manchu mutyaalu’ (Snowy pearls), written by Ambika Ananth. Published by Srirasa Srikrishna Devaraya Rasajna Samakhya, Bengaluru (2005).

***

Ambika Ananth

Ambika Ananth (from Bengaluru) is a bi-lingual writer, poet, journalist and a translator, who has 8 published works, both in English and Telugu. A Founder Editor of the Muse India literary e-journal  she had served as its Chief Editor or Poetry Editor up to Issue 94 (Nov-Dec 2020). 

A prolific translator, she has co-translated Saint-Poet Annamacharya's Sankirtanas and Life-story, Nectar Ocean of Annamacharya (TTD Publication, a book selected by the library of University of California, Berkeley and the Library of Congress, USA); co-translated Basaveshawara Vachanas entitled Basavanna Samagra Vachanalu (Kannada to Telugu); translated pre-nineteenth century Telugu lyrics into English, and also feministic poetry of Pakistan into Telugu. Her English poetry has appeared in many anthologies and in Indian Literature of Sahitya Akademi. Her Telugu short-story collection Manchu Muthyalu (2005) is taken up for study for the MPhil Program of the Telugu University.   

She regularly contributes to Deccan Herald and reviews books for Indian Literature and The Hindu. She is on the Editorial Board of two Telugu literary journals – Chaitanya Kavita, and Basava Patham – published from Bangalore. 

Her most recent publications include – Ambrosia, a rendering into English of 108 Annamacharaya Sankirtanas set to tune by Sangita Kalanidhi Dr Nedunuri Krishna Murthy, and Violets and Wounds: A Tapestry of Life – a compilation of creative writings, features and essays. Her translation work has appeared in Dravidian Poem published by Dravidian University. She is working on a translation project on Sri Krishna Karnamritam along with Dr TV Subbarao, Emeritus Professor, Bangalore University. 

Ambika has a Master’s Degree in Education and a PG Diploma in Journalism. She is a Life-member of the Poetry Society of India, Dhvanyaloka of Mysore, and Lekhini of Hyderabad. Her other interests include painting and Astrology. 

Email: ambika.ananth@gmail.com 


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