Sunday 10 June 2012

Short Story 2012 Longlist, Krishna Kumar

Precious Ugliness

Cutaneous leishmaniasis was a parasitic disease that caused nodules or sores to form on the skin, including the skin of the face.   Affected people suffered having a single lesion or many lesions.  Sores heal slowly over months to years and leave scars.  This fatal disease came to Stephen when he was just eight years old.  Though it was cured a year after, the fatal thing was that this disease affected his beautiful plump face and left scars on it.  This made his face look ugly and one; even he could not see his face for long.

But during that age he didn’t worry much about this because at that time he had: the eyes that saw his precious heart lying beneath his ugly face; the ears that heard every word he spoke; arms that always reached for him; a heart that always cared for him and offered the pure love; in all these forms he had his mother, who was very affectionate.  His father was a dipsomaniac and died when he was two years old due to over alcoholism.  During that time, his mother became pauper repaying the debts that were borrowed to her husband’s medication costs but she overcame that by working as a baby sitter.
Stephen then went to school but no one was ready to give company to him in the school.  Few found irritating to sit near him and only a few children talked with him.  When his mother came to know all about this she ceased him from going to school.  She taught him the subject of affection.  She told him the formula of love, “If you give love to the people, he will receive the same in manifolds.”
When she was near to him he never cared about anything.  He wouldn’t be concerned about his appearance, since she told him that, “The real beauty of a man lies in the way he loves other people and creatures in this world.”

 His mother would go for work and he would be there in his house: sometimes painting; sometimes arranging the things in his house; sometimes washing the dishes and sometimes nothing except waiting for the arrival of his mother and arrival of the chocolates, which she would bought for him every day.   His life went on like this. 

He listened to the stories told by his mother and he fell asleep in her lap itself.  Sometimes while Stephen had slept, his mother demented with worries by looking at his face thinking how he was going to survive in this world after her.  She always prayed to god to give Stephen another loving heart like her, when he wants to take her away from him. 

Stephen then began to have more faith in God, he felt as if some supreme power was always planning for his activities and watching him always.  But whenever he saw his face against the mirror he got angry with God for creating his face like that. 

The years went on, then Stephen celebrated his sixteenth birthday, sometimes he went out to the churches, sea shores, etc.   Perhaps, he hated travelling in the bus because whenever he travelled in the bus, no one sat near him.  Moreover he was afraid to sit near other people because few reacted to him violently.  They forget to see the humanity in him.   All they saw was the ugly face of him.  And even few said to him that this scornful disease came to him because of the sins that might be done by him in his previous lives. 

Yet he never cared about all those because he had his mother as a shoe to walk over the broken glass.  Though God had thrown away the broken glass on his path, Stephen was happy that he had given him his mother as the shoe.  But that didn’t last long.  God took his shoe away.  By an unexpected fall from the staircase his mother died leaving him to live in her house with solitude.  As this suddenly happened, he was first much depressed with it.  The seeds of hope she cultivated in his heart made him to clang on his life.   

He always remembered his mother’s words that, “Whenever you get much depressed by life and if you feel that, these were the worst thing that shall never happen to anyone.  Don’t get angry with God and hate your life.  But just look out for a positive way because surely there will be some light hidden somewhere in the midst of the darkness.  If you are able to find that, then that’s the end of the darkness”
He knew very well that both sadness and happiness of life were not permanent.  Few months run by, after getting the salvation by himself he joined as a servant to one of the houses, where his mother first went as a baby sitter, then she turned out to be the maid of the house.  This house was the same place where she breathed her last minutes.

The youngest baby of the house had then turned out to be a beautiful girl of the house.  He went to the house daily in the morning and returned to his house in the evening.  He felt comfortable working in the house as everyone in that house never cared about his appearance.  Nonetheless, one day he came to know that the beautiful daughter of the house was having some trouble in seeing his face as she never looked onto his face or eyes while talking, so he avoided to be noticed by her vision.
He usually had to cross a high traffic road in the evening in order to catch the bus on the other side.  Always before crossing the road he would see for a long time on the two sides of the road until he makes sure that no automobiles were coming against him, because he believed life was too precious to be wasted on the roads. 

On the next day as usual he went to their house.   He was surprised on seeing the photographer arrived to take the family photo.  He waited that they would be calling him because he believed him as part of their family.  He went to their house as a servant not because of the salary but because of the love he had for them.
He accidentally interrupted the photograph.  The lady of the family shouted at him as
 “You spoiled a nice photograph with your ugly face.” 

Hearing this made him to embarrass than ever.  He was much depressed and his agony rose.  For the first time in his life he felt it would have better if he had not been born in this world.   With full of hatredness towards his life he crossed the road without seeing whether it was clear or not.   That time he was hit by a car and he was hurt.

The man, who drove the car after providing the first aid, carried him immediately to the hospital.  Since he was a doctor, Stephen was lucky enough to be saved with fewer injuries by his immediate attention and action. Then in the hospital he asked Stephen why he was careless while crossing the road.  Stephen narrated the story of him.   Hearing this, the doctor felt pity for him.  Even so, that was not the one which Stephen actually wanted.  

The doctor then told about the cosmetic surgery costing around $1500 by which his face could be made normal.  And he assured him that he would arrange it for him if he could provide at least half of the money.  Stephen felt some complacence in him because he realised that he had at last got a chance to make his ugly face a normal one.  He never wanted his face to look so beautiful all he wanted was that his face looking tolerable.  

After that, the doctor took him in his car to drop him.  In the middle of their travel the Doctor spoke to him about the new Alsace he had bought.  Stephen told him that he was scared of dogs as dogs usually barks on seeing him. And when he stepped out of the car in the doctor’s house an Alsace ran near him.  Stephen was scared but the Alsace came too close to him by wagging its tail.  The doctor lamented about the dog that it usually barked on seeing people and he wondered how the dog could be silent this time.  These words induced Stephen some form of fondness towards that Alsace.  Without a second thought, he requested the doctor to give the Alsace to him, but the doctor refused saying that he bought it just before a week.  

After spending some time in the doctor’s house Stephen was about to leave and he started walking.   The dog followed him until he left the house.  In that night all the thoughts of Stephen were surrounded with that dog.  On the next day he entered the doctor’s house in order to steal the Alsace.  When the doctor was out he took the dog in his hands.  The dog was silent in his hands, it hadn’t barked even once.   But unfortunately the watchman of the house saw him.   Seeing that Stephen started running and at last he was caught by the doctor. 

The doctor warned him and told him clearly that he was not in a mind to give away his new dog.  So Stephen left the place with dismay and humiliations. 
Few days went, then one day the doctor called him.   So he went to his house the doctor gave him the Alsace saying that 
“This dog always barks on seeing humans except you.”

With full of happiness and excitement he took the Alsace to his house and the Alsace as “Dommy”.
Dommy was silent in his hands but as soon as it entered the house it wandered around every corner to the entire place, which people had never entered before.  As the Dommy clearly knew that he was going to be the king of that house it walked in a swagger.  He became attached to the Dommy he gave food to it before he ate and he ate whenever Dommy ate.  Two days went like that.

The next day Dommy by wagging its tail jumped and broke the plates, which he kept for the remembrance of his mother, so he got angry and hurt Dommy.  After two minutes Dommy came near him as usual by wagging its tail; making his master to wonder how God had created these kinds of creatures, which didn’t possess any envy, anger, indifference and those like worse things, which were seen in ordinary humans.

On the weekends he prepared food for him and his Dommy.   They went to places, which they might never have seen before.  Together they walked large distances, explored some new places, had their food under some tree and returned only when they wished.   

He still had one thing disturbing his heart.   He wanted to earn money in order to change his face.  
Days went on and by the doctor’s recommendation a millionaire accepted to offer him the cost of the operation.  Then Stephen accepted that.   With his Dommy he went to the hospital.  He kept Dommy outside; though the doctor came near, it was not ready to go with him.  Dommy just focused on the stretcher carrying his master inside the operation theatre. Dommy once again started barking with abhorrence on seeing the ordinary people’s face.   Stephen asked the doctor a five minutes time to calm down Dommy.  He went leaving Dommy with Stephen. 

Few minutes later the doctor entered the operation theatre.  He found that, Stephen was not there.   He instead, found a letter on the bed.  He started reading that letter, in that letter he had written as
“All I wanted is a soul that surrounds me, a heart that purely loves me, and an eye that sees my beauty lying underneath my ugly face.  I have got the one.  God had given me all these in the name of Dommy.  Dommy recognises everything good in me.  Dommy barks on seeing the other people but not at me.  To Dommy I am something special that may be because of the appearance of my face. I am afraid that it may be difficult for my Dommy to recognise me or it may hate me, if I operate my face.  Why should I need to show myself beautiful for these people, who have never seen the inner humanity of me? I will rather remain the same for the Dommy that loves me so much as the way I am, than to become someone to  please others, who doesn’t care much about me.  I feel my ugliness as a precious one because it has attracted a beautiful soul that would surround me always.”
The doctor after reading this felt ashamed of himself and on the entire people who failed to recognise the precious humanity lying underneath his ugly face. 

Then doctor reached the window and saw Stephen leaving the hospital with his lovable Dommy. Stephen then took the bus and this time he had no enough time to look whether the people around him was feeling indifferent to him or not as he had only a scarce time to watch out his Dommy play joyfully.  

After this incident, while travelling in the bus he felt comfortable when no one sat near him.  It would be easier for his Dommy to sit over there. He cherished his mother’s words “There will surely be some light hidden somewhere in the midst of the darkness.”

The light came to him in the form of Dommy to end his darkness.

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